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Next Stop Music Station: 11/06/2009

Music Station is one of the longest running music TV shows in Japan. Every week, the show counts down the top selling singles and albums of the week, while also inviting several artists on to perform their respective hits. Many American artists even pencil in appearances on this show to promote their music. In an effort to learn more about Japan’s mainstream music world, I plan on tuning into Music Station every week and blogging about it. I sometimes have a social life so this might get called off every once in a while, but I’ll try my best to watch this show and share the most popular music in Japan with you.

Photo courtesy of kimubert on Flickr under Creative Commons

Seeing as this is the first installment of this series, let me reveal the origins of this feature:

1. I don’t know much about popular Japanese music.
2. Music Station counts down the most popular songs of the week in Japan and lets all sorts of artists perform live.
3. Hey, I should be watching that!

My hope in documenting Music Station is not to just rag on bad music (though, that’s bound to happen), but to find good artists…heck, just a good song or two… in the Japanese mainstream. OK, clear? Lets get started!

8:00 – Here we go! The intro of all the bands might be the highlight of Music Station’s hour, because they have this hyper-fast English voiceover introduce all the artists saying stuff like “they are ready to rock Music Station for the first time!!!” It’s usually the only English spoken on the show unless they nabbed an English guest, and it’s always so awkward.

8:03 – First performance of the night comes courtesy of Hilcrhyme, two dudes wearing some sick sunglasses. One guy takes the mic while the other sits behind a DJ table…doing something. They’ve brought an entire string section in for this performance so all the DJ had to do was hit “play” for the beats. They perform a slow jam, always tough to judge because they all sound the same (slow) so it’s up to the lyrics to set it apart. But guess who doesn’t know Japanese! This guy. Save for the outro of the song which sees the lead singer list all four seasons as confetti falls all around. Song gets a push, though it sounded far from interesting and the rap vibe they tried to sneak into it sounded off.

(Song, featuring bros looking contemplative, here)

8:07 Top 10 CD single rankings for the week! The noteable placements – AKB48 came in at #9. A bunch of people performing tonight placed (including Hilcrhyme). The number one single, though, goes to a group wearing the most obnoxious suits imaginable. The band in question is 関ジャニ∞ . They are completely sparkly and look like disco balls. It’s like Mika exploded onto them.

8:13 – Now sparkly suit disaster take the stage to perform their #1 single “急☆上☆Show!!”. Everyone in 関ジャニ∞ (all eight of them) start out by holding a guitar and letting out a squanky riff. The guitars quickly found their way back onto their stands about five seconds in as the group spent the rest of the song singing and making odd gestures. At one point there was a drum solo, but otherwise this was Brian Setzer meets Jersey Boys. So, if you are a Glee-obsessed girl this songs for you!

(Video of the song, with sparkly suits!, here)

8:18 – Music Station can’t resist the “interlude where celebrities watch a video intently” feature ever present in nearly all Japanese TV. Thank goodness, I need time to think of more sparkly suit jokes.

8:23 – Next performance…guy dressed to work at a Christmas tree farm corporate office. It’s actually 遊助, who’s website plays the song in question at ear-piercing levels the moment it loads. It’s a slightly weirder affair…like a cheesy Christmas song meets rap, but not like that Dipset Christmas album. The chorus is kinda stupid catchy with it’s rinky-dink piano and lifting vocals. The verses sound boring as heck, but the hook is pretty strong. His performance features a dance troupe busting out some Jabberwocky-worthy moves…against a glorified mall Santa beat. A little weird to see.

(Listen here)

8:28 – Next onto the stage is BREAKERZ (what’s with J-Pop websites just assaulting you sonically). You got to love literal song performances – the tune they are playing is called “LOVE FIGHTER” so of course they’ve got backup dancers wearing boxing gloves fighting an invisible opponent. They also worked a boxing ring bell into this song so they are quite serious about this theme. Unfortunately, the boxing noises and imagery trump the song in the interest department, the music being a ping-pong of vocals and guitars complete with an unsatisfying chorus reminiscent of bad Eurodisco. Plus, they throw in a pointless vocoder for the chorus which seems like a lame attempt to latch onto whatever vapor trails Perfume’s left behind. Song had a pretty sweet butt-rock guitar solo though.

(Clip of the song, which should show you everything you need to judge, available here)

8:34 – A segment on…’80s wrestling? Now you’re talking my language Music Station!

8:38 – Dang, the wrestling break lasted longer than anything else. They go to commercial break with everyone in the audience and on stage clapping along to a beat. This seems like a good point to note everyone in Music Station’s live audience is female…I’ve yet to spot a single man parked in the Music Station seats.

8:41Mika Nakashima performs next and she’s got a sweet set-up. She’s surrounded by a sea of tiny blue lights that eventually fade away to reveal a set of bigger blue lights. She sings a slow song, so I can’t judge too much, but I will say it’s better than Hilcrhyme’s jam because she isn’t trying to wedge a hip-hop feel underneath it. Nakashima also looks like she could burst into tears at any minute, so there might be some serious emotions flowing through this one. Hey, take this down – this is the first time I’ll say a Music Station performance was good!

(Song in question, which sounds better on this YouTube rip, playing here)

8:47 – Taking the stage wearing a (not colored, resembles a) slice-of-watermelon dress is alan. Her song “Swear” is a pretty laid back pop number, featuring plenty of strings but off-setting it with a moderately paced beat. Little electronic ripples skip through the song every once in awhile and they perk “Swear” up. Best part of the song is the ending, which features a collection of cute bell sounds taking the song away. This song is straight out of the Mariah Carey playbook, and alan does a good job with it.

(Video here)

8:50 – And that’s Music Station for the week. Roll the credits.

Winner of the Week – alan had the best song by far, an unhurried piece of Mariah-ish pop. It’s a bit too cutesy at times but overall a pleasant little listen.