Here’s something I’ll never type again…reader, have mercy on the songs featured here this week. Due to a combination of moving woes (“what do you mean I’m out of boxes?????? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T FIND MY APARTMENT??????”) and the [REDACTED] (this sounded way more melodramatic when I wrote it Wednesday, let’s just move on). I’m looking to tear into something that can’t bite back…and that’s about a perfect description of modern J-Pop! So yeah, this might get unfair for some of these acts. Just have mercy on them.
Ikimono-Gakari “NEW WORLD MUSIC”
This…this reminds me of the Evangelion theme song I think? It’s not quite as punchy, and I might just be confusing similarity here with “features horns,” but this “NEW WORLD MUSIC” moves at about the same pace as that anime’s opening track, albeit with a better chorus and a completely unnecessary chorus. For Ikimono-Gakari, a band I’ve long associated with languid unfolders and junior-high-graduation ballads, this comes out of nowhere as a borderline party jam, triumphant horns mixed with a general air of revelry fit to soundtrack an honest-to-God party instead of the group’s usual preference of approximating a really sad school reunion. Like all Ikimono-Gakari songs, this burns a little too long (blame the guitar solo) but gotdamn this at least spikes the Coca-Cola Zero and breaks some pieces of IKEA furniture during its long stay. Ikimono-Gakari…being fun??? All it took was something vaguely resembling the title number to a cartoon about giant robots.
KAT-TUN “RUN FOR YOU”
Oh, you clever bastards, KAT-TUN. You think I don’t see what you’re up to with this “RUN FOR YOU” shizz, a flurry of Auto-tune and Z-grade Knife synths. You want to fool me into thinking this is your “Going! 2.0,” a similarly minded adventure into stupid electro-pop done so giddily that it just felt right, KAT-TUN pulling deep inside themselves to do the impossible…make a single that didn’t suck. So hey, bleeps and bloops and robo-whirls and low-key singing like all those superior K-Pop boy bands do, that’ll fool ’em! But nope…this is just every KAT-TUN (and, by extension Johnny’s) song of yesteryear turned into European Burger King techno with total computer abuse. Oh, and I see that space-station intermission, all laser-show blasts and wannabe-Timbaland stabs at video game touches. Trying to be cutting edge – problem is, the only thing it adds is time for an extended dance sequence.
Kaela Kimura “Kidoairaku Plus Ai”
Wrote about this before, but at least unlike some stabs at past glory (SEE ABOVE), Kaela Kimura at least knows to hold onto the elements that made previous triumphs triumph, so even if things don’t hit as squarely in the chest this time they at least still sound enjoyable. Remains a nice, albeit nowhere near prior, single with a goofy video to boast.
Keisuke Kuwata “Special Medley”
I’ve got nothing about Mr. Kuwata, who has some great material both by himself and with Southern All-Stars, but screw these medleys, which are impossible to write about. HOW DARE YOU NOT BEND TO MY SELF-IMPOSED WRITING DESIRES, MUSIC STATION!
moumoon “Chu Chu”
Though not nearly as strange as the still-baffling “Sunshine Girl,” “Chu Chu” confirms moumoon has a really weird way of delivering vocals. It’s not as immediate as it was on that nearly-zombie summer anthem, but you can hear it here and it isn’t just on during the English bits. She says words like they are lined with barbed wire, moving her lips oh-so-carefully as to not slice them open. Everything just sounds…cautiously delivered, despite the fact she sings about kisses and drums. Still strange.
Yet unlike “Sunshine Girl,” “Chu Chu” grabs attention not for being slightly weird but for being a legitimately catchy pop song. THIS is a song of the summer, not the overheated plasticity of “Sunshine Girl.” It’s bouncy and not all that serious and generally lighthearted, but with all the seasonally appropriate sentiments in tow. In a just world, this slice of balloon-animal fun would give moumoon…who lucked into success with “Sunshine Girl” and really hasn’t had any other big hits…would lock her in as at least a mid-level J-Pop star, someone capable of so-so to pretty good singles. If nothing else, she’s at least erased the general unease caused by “Sunshine Girl.”
Winner Of The Week – Remember the angry diatribe at the top of this entry? Yeah, sort of shortsighted in retrospect as the only things worth getting upset about this week were a medley and KAT-TUN which, well, par for the course. The other three songs sounded surprisingly good, two surprises mixed with a solid outing from Kaela Kimura. The best, though, goes to moumoon, who hit all the right summer-pop buttons.