Tag Archives: boa

Station To Station: Music Station For Debember 9 Featuring AKB48, Kis-My-Ft2 And SMAP

If you follow our Twitter (which you should!) or our recently minted Tumblr (which you should!), you have probably seen the above video. It’s basically propaganda for Korean food…with a song by great K-Pop group Wonder Girls. I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures” but I feel a twinge of shame admitting “K-Food Party” is the song I’ve listened to the most in the past week, considering it is an ad for kimchi (which is delicious!). If nothing else, please jump to the 2:33 mark to hear the rapping member of Wonder Girls just make the clip with the following:

1. the way she raises her eyebrows when she sings “I gots to eat good.”

2. “I’m K-swaggin’ it,” doomed to be the words I get engraved on my back in Comic Sans when I decide to get a drunken tattoo.

3. the implication I am some how angry at K-Food. I love it, I love it!

I fear none of the following Japanese pop songs will wow me the same way this apple-filled tune did.

AKB48 “上からマリコ”


Member Shinoda Mariko won the rights to be the main attraction of this, AKB48’s 24th single, by winning the group’s annual rock-paper-scissors tournament a few months ago. This storyline…look her name is in the title, and she plays the role of giantess on the cover art…conveniently distracts from the fact that the actual music sounds virtually the same as the music that appeared on most of the 23 previous singles, complete with gratuitous guitar solo. By now, it has been well established the actual music of AKB48 plays but one role in their success, the draw of individual members and their storylines (see, Mariko’s run to get to this point) doing just as much.

All that said…I kinda like the actual video for this song. I wish I had the HTML skills to make the font for that sentence really small but…I kinda enjoyed the story (basically, the group’s rock-paper-scissors tournament played out in a high school) and even the portion featuring the song was fun in a ridiculous way. I’ve reached the point where the insanity of AKB48 makes these clips kinda fun – like, how the shots during the actual tournament go from these sorta dramatic matches (featuring members of the group dressed as…nuns?) to them dancing around like idiots. Next time you see me, smack me in the jaw.

Kis-My-Ft2 “We Never Give Up”

Ahhhhhh, the ol’ Johnny’s tease strikes again. After a corny DRAMATIC GUITAR opening, Kis-My-Ft2’s latest properly starts up and…sounds pretty good??? Yep – the group’s all-together-now singing actually works over a really bare backdrop, the chanting of the chorus being kind of silly but in a surprisingly listenable way. Then come the dollar-bin techno flourishes and for a bit, Kis-My-Ft2 stay on the path. Then the stomping and shouting go away and it turns into typical Johnny’s pulp, this time stabbed with the sort of sounds you hear in all those European music videos featuring a CGI animals singing kids songs. Like this piece of work. The chorus still works better than the verses, but the recycle bin electronics hurt it. The best song I have ever heard these guys do, but not exactly worthy of much beyond this paragraph.

SMAP “僕の半分”

Another Johnny’s song that doesn’t sound like typical Johnny’s crap, but whereas Kis-My-Ft2 teased with something potentially interesting, SMAP just deliver this rudderless acoustic joint. Other than watching members of SMAP dancing awkwardly in the above clip, there is really nothing of interest…either to love or hate…present here. Just an archaic pop group doing what they do.

Emi Takei “恋スルキモチ”

Only a short clip above, but the ballad-like nature leads me to believe this isn’t a bad thing. Only thing worth noting – Emi Takei sounds vaguely like the lead singer of the really great band Asobi Seksu, a factoid that makes me want to listen to Asobi Seksu! Instead of the above video, go listen to their song “Perfectly Crystal,” one of my favorite tracks of the year. Dreamy but never languid!

Flumpool “Present”

Yawn, did you know you can take the letters in Flumpool and rearrange them to spell “Lump Fool?” It’s true! That’s how I feel.

Because that song left so much to be desired, let’s hand out an award for the year, this one for the best performance on Music Station. It’s a landslide win for Sakanaction, who made their first appearance on the show count courtesy of this performance. I love how electronic it is. Needless to say, not the bit of praise I’m going to throw this band’s way this month.

BoA “Milestone”

The original Korean crossover into Japan, BoA now exists in this weird limbo as the new Korean wave sweeps over Japan. Her sound, for the most part, has always seemed more in line with what J-Pop is all about – a lot of ballads with a few curveballs thrown in for added measure. The latest crop of K-Poppers, at least initially, played by their own rules and introduced the sounds they used to wow their native country to Japan. Now, BoA “returns” with a single that doesn’t find her trying to imitate any of Korea’s new generation…no mid-verse rapping, no Diplo-inspired beats…but rather sticking to what she knows. “Milestone” is a ballad, but a surprisingly good one because of her decision to stick to minimalist sounds, at least early on. It’s just her and some simple piano, a lonely sound that works well with her hushed singing. The chorus adds some cliche strings, turning “Milestone” into a bland workout for a bit, but she quickly revisits the starkness. It’s flawed, but overall “Milestone” is a good bit of simplicity from BoA.

Winner Of The Week – BoA

Self-Promotion Plus: Writing About K-Pop In Japan For The Atlantic

In which I finally get a big platform to share my love of Girls’ Generation…sorta. I wrote an article for The Atlantic online about K-Pop’s growth in Japan over the past year, which you can read here. It features a bunch of videos which you’ve probably seen around these parts since last August…though the T-ara clips (the Japanese one at the top of this page, for example) haven’t been shared here yet though both are…something and the closest you’ll get to a sociological study from music videos.

Station To Station: Music Station For 02/19/2010 Featuring AKB48, BoA And Ai Otsuka

AKB48 “桜の栞” – Rejoice rejoice! We’re only a few figure skating finals away from Winter being over with. That means warmth! And flowers! And, in Japan, cherry blossom season. Which also means it’s time for Japanese artists to release songs about the country’s prettiest part of the calendar year. The small mercenary army of AKB48 enter the arena with this, a nearly A capella single that would sound right at home during a school graduation ceremony (guess what else is coming up soon in Japan…). Save for a few piano keys, this song focuses on the vocal abilities of the big group. It’s pleasant enough though a far cry from being truly captivating. Still, a big improvement over “River.” That’s like the bronze medal in my book.

(Note on the video: skip ahead to the two minute mark to get the song. Otherwise, you can watch AKB48 put on clothes and talk.)

Ai Otsuka “LUCKY☆STAR” – The Internet tells me this song serves as the theme song for Fuji TV’s coverage of the Olympics. I’ve only watched on NHK so I can’t verify this. Ai Otsuka’s song exceeds the expectations usually given to glorified jingles, as “Lucky Star” (sorry pointless star) is a very enjoyable slice of J-Pop. There is a lot going on in this song – tons of electro noises, record scratches, a mini-rap breakdown – but Otsuka’s voice threads everything together into a very shiny piece of pop. Beats whatever NBC cobbled together, I’m sure.

近藤真彦 “心 ざんばら” – Can’t find this one online. Whooops. The dude’s part of Jonny’s Entertainment though, so I think you can guess what this sounds like.

湘南乃風 “ガチ桜” – You know what’s worse than a J-Pop ballad? A J-Rap ballad, that’s what. Imagine all the over-the-top instrumentation and forced emotional crooning…joined by some sick raps! Funky Monkey Baby’s do this sometimes and it’s shit, but not nearly as putrid as what this song manages to accomplish. Opening with some schmaltzy strings and that “star wipe” sound effect that manages to find it’s way into nearly every J-Ballad, some typical ballad singing leads into…yikes. If you’ve ever wondered “where did Bobcat” Goldthwait go,” this song answers that question: a Japanese rapper ate him. But wait, this song has even more surprises! The group raps over the fakest-ass reggae beat imaginable. It’s as legit as a pouch of Capri Sun. The type of “reggae music” they play in a Spencer’s Gifts near the shelf with all the weed ashtrays. 湘南乃 manages to embarrass hip-hop, reggae and even the J-Pop ballad with this stinker. And it lasts like six minutes! I’ll give the group credit for fitting every terrible trend in mainstream Japanese music into one stupid long single. I just won’t listen to it ever again.

Tokyo Jihen “勝ち戦” – Big ups to Tokyo Jihen for doing this single entirely in English, allowing me to understand what’s going on. And it’s pretty good English at that. Lead singer Shiina Ringo elevates “勝ち戦” from “so-so rock throwback” to “whoa, that was pretty good.” Her voice slinks along in the verses, occasionally trailing off or taking a detour into higher pitched places. On the chorus, though, she’s all business: she takes on the voice of a commanding diva who knows she owns the song she’s currently towering over. It’s not as good as the group’s last Music Station single, but this one definitely has charm. Also of note: this song carries a Beck circa Midnight Vultures vibe to it. That earns some points.

BoA “まもりたい ~White Wishes~” – BoA is kinda a big deal. Real name Boa Kwon, she’s one of Korea’s most successful pop singers and has had pretty substantial success outside of her home country. Japan loves her – she’s the only non-Japanese Asian to have two albums sell at least a million copies. She even released an album in America. So she has a new single out for her latest Japanese album and predictably it sold well, plopping down at #2 on Oricon. How does it sound? Pretty much what you’d expect from any pop diva, regardless of geographical origin. It’s a hybrid R&B/pop joint tricked out to include all sorts of Timbaland-era flourishes (club-worthy squeaks, hip-hopish beat) against sentimental strings and BoA’s strong singing voice. It features all the ingredients found in many of the Ought’s chart-topping pop hits, but doesn’t do anything particularly fresh with them either. All in all, a decent-enough pop hit.

Best Of The Week – Lets continue with this labored Olympic theme and go to the Music Station podium for the medal ceremony.

Bronze – BoA
Silver – Tokyo Jihen
Gold – Ai Otsuka