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New Perfume: “Future Pop”

Four Disconnected Thoughts On “Future Pop,” The Song, By Perfume

1.) The hypothesis I’ve worked with over the last two years is — Yasutaka Nakata, after being way ahead of the curve in the late Aughts and influencing swaths of EDM and other corners of electronic music in the 2010s (I guess lo-fi house can’t be bundled in here), ended up trying to imitate a bunch of artists who actually got a lot of influence from him. It makes for a weird loop. But “Future Pop” is the one moment in Nakata’s 2018 output — well, I guess let’s see what that Kyary album next week brings — that shows him really zooming ahead once again. This is very much unlike Perfume music — or any Nakata-helmed J-pop — made in the past decade, anchored by an instrumental(-ish) chorus and playing around with an acoustic-centric verse that builds to a total electro explosion. He’s done this before, and done it well. But this is Nakata once again zooming out ahead, nailing the tension between speeds and finally getting how a wordless chorus can work down in 2018. This is the peak of Future Pop, and the strongest argument in favor of him making a successful pivot moving forward.

2.) I would argue the biggest shift from peak Perfume (2007 — 2014ish) to late-period Perfume is how comfortable the group has gotten with just letting their vocals hang out without any filtering. What felt like a huge reveal late on “Spice” now feels familiar on “Future Pop.” I don’t want to project on the digital masses here, but when people complain about Perfume’s musical changes in recent years, I feel this is the biggest departure making them feel uncomfortable, a move away from the digital submersion of the group’s breakthrough in favor of…well, regular singing on verses before they dive into an all-together-now style that still feels far from what they did do. I think this is the single element of Perfume’s music that is worthy of magnification over the last few years — Future Pop misses the mark because of this, more than anything else — but also it isn’t that big a deal on “Future Pop.”

3.) OK, this one is a maybe a little biased but…I swear, nobody anywhere is making mainstream pop music anywhere near this ecstatic and electronic. Forget J-pop, where Hoshino Gen discovering the MPC constitutes earth-shattering news. American music is pure misery, and even other markets pump out halftime pump-ups about how cool the artist making the song is. Music globally (in a “what people encounter when they aren’t seeking out music” kind of way) in 2018 kinda stinks, so the fact this still sounds so adventurous is worth celebration.

4.) Riffing off the above…next to nothing is excited about the future. Like, not about music, but anything, unless you are the Zozosuit billionaire flying to the moon in a few years to see what art in space would be like. Everything sucks in 2018, and if you think things are going to improve…gahhhhhhh! But god damn it, “Future Pop” the song and “Future Pop” the video actually make me feel like tomorrow might be OK, and that deserves some sort of recognition.