Tag Archives: tokyo incidents

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

Next Stop, Music Station: 11/27/09 (featuring GIRL NEXT DOOR and Tokyo Incidents)

Photo courtesy of Road Fun on Flickr under Creative Commons

Living in Japan offers a lot of perks yes, but also a handful of drawbacks. Chief among them, no Thanksgiving. That means no obnoxiously large amount of turkey, stuffing, corn bread or pie (oh how I miss it!), a trip to McDonald’s serving as a substitute for “American food.” No lazily sitting around watching football, unless refreshing ESPN counts. Hell, I’d settle for the parade at this point. So, all you folks who live somewhere they do gorge on poultry and athletics, be thankful you can do that instead of watching Japanese game shows like a zombie while munching on a Quarter Pound.

Positives to no Thanksgiving? Well, I have nowhere to be on a Friday night…so that means Music Station! Let’s get to this.

8:00 – Here we go! Before the swirl of bright graphics, though, Japan’s treated to an ad for “Romantic Christmas,” a compilation of, well you know, performed by J-Pop stars. The holiday season is finally here…even the creepy voice introducing the performers references it!

8:01 – The star of Buzzer Beat, Tomohisa Yamashita, gets to appear on this show for the second straight week, apparently to play the same song he did last week. These things happen when the audience is 99 percent female.

8:03GIRL NEXT DOOR perform their song “Orion” in the Peanuts Christmas tree lot with just enough room carved out for a violin section and a piano. The song itself starts up slow, the piano and vocals all but assuring we will be treated to a big emotional ballad. But then! A minute-so into the song a dance beat charges in to make this a slightly more hoppy affair, joined by some cheesy electronica squiggles far off in the back. “Orion” settles into this get-up for the next few minutes. The song’s got a great chorus that allows the lead singer to show off her impressive vocal chops, but that could be said for a lot of J-Pop songs so don’t get too excited. Ultimately forgettable, though the Christmas trees looked pretty!

(Video of song here. There is another, much worse Euro-technopop song tacked on in the second half, exercise caution.)

8:05 – Single rankings of the week pop up. One song is called “America” from a CD about…America? The case had some goofy anime dude flying out of the Stars and Stripes to hug the world. The rest of the chart features much more familiar names…EXILE, Arashi, Funkey Monkey Babys. The top three feature the Buzzer Beat guy at three, followed by…huh??? Two songs I actually like? The second spot goes to Bump Of Chicken for “R.I.P.” while the pole position belongs to LANDS, and their enjoyable dance-rock number “Bandage.”

8:12 – Tomohisa Yamashita wearing what appears to be a glitter coated snow cap stuns the audience by performing a song he sang on the same program last week. This programming decision forces me to rehash the exact same sentiments I had last time I listened to this tune (it’s not good), so I’ll spare you the leftovers. My only new insight into “Loveless” is that it must be full of emotions and feelings and stuff because Yamashita keeps touching his stomach with his hand like he’s about throw up.

(Video of song here)

8:17 – This week’s Music Station montage focuses on the rock acts of Japan’s yesteryear. I realize it’s seriously easy to rip on a generation for their fashion choices…but geez, the people from this montage are hilariously dressed. If the Whitesnake tour bus smashed into a ska concert, you’d see better fashion results. OK, cue up the video of Michael Ian Black deadpanning to the camera about Blind Melon.

8:25 – Montage still going strong. Hey, you guys remember Rainbow Brite? The ’80s, crazy am I right?

8:32 – Seeing Music Station live must be one of the most boring ways someone could spend their Friday night. “Next up, this singer will watch some old video clips and then answer some laborious trivia questions!”

8:33 – Ahhhhh, the next performer is up, and she offers the perfect opportunity to expand on a point. Read Becky’s Wikipedia page. Note how little music factors into her celebrity unless her appearances on Pokemon Sunday include busting out the Pokemon Rap. A fair share of J-Pop artists exist in a similar situation where they exist as “talents,” a vague term best translated to “shows up on a lot of variety shows,” who hitch their flashy wagons to whatever will sell best.

I think it’s safe to say Becky isn’t someone who loses sleep over the artistic merit of her music, which would explain why her Music Station numbers a Christmas-by-numbers song. If the bells joining her mid-tune weren’t clue enough, the set folks made it start snowing her performance to remind us “hey, the holidays are right around the corner, and here’s Becky with a new Christmas tune for y’all! She needs a new coat.” “心こめて” is a great reminder that one shouldn’t get to caught up in a J-Pop singer’s personality when said personality is all about selling product. At the very least though, the people behind these songs could give us something more lively than this.

(Video of song here, and it sounds slightly better. Video also has a really cute bunny in it, so big points.)

8:40 – See, this is cool design! Tokyo Incidents lead singer is surrounded by digital clocks counting down the duration of the song. Even better…the song is pretty good! “能動的三分間” starts off with some disjointed electronics before dropping in drums, guitar and (most importantly) a very smooth bass line. It’s a surprisingly funky affair that never overdoes it. And I say this for half the artists featured on Music Station., but the lead singer’s got a great voice.

(Video, featuring the Moonwalk, here.)

8:46 – The last performance of the night belongs to Remioromen. This one starts out incredibly intriguing – the group swirls various strings around before introducing a slightly off-kilter guitar. This blanket of backing music sounds downright dreamy, especially when the lead singer’s Ed Droste-ian voice falls onto it. The chorus, though, feels much more grounded, going for a sort of Coldplay-lite thing that ends up spilling onto the rest of the track. Remioromen promise a lot more than they deliver, but “恋の予感から” ends up a still solid song.

(Video here.)

Winner of the Week – A close race between Remioromen and Tokyo Incidents, with the consistently solid swing of the latter winning out over the inconsistent prior. Video below.