First Station To Station of 2012, rejoice rejoice! Been a long time since we have journeyed into this sketchy sonic territory, but Music Station doesn’t disappoint this week, giving us a surprisingly wide variety of J-Pop (and K-Pop!) to sample and eventually stick our tongues out at. Let’s get the rust off.
Moment of honesty – I am not remotely pumped for mainstream Japanese music in 2012. Blame this on a budding obsession with K-Pop which, though littered with duds, even sounds interesting in total flaming wreckage mode. Oh, and the Japanese “indie” (used sorta loosely here) scene, which seems poised to be really exciting this year. J-Pop, though…not exactly filling me with much hope, just more images of people shoveling coal into a furnace on loop. Funny, because last year actually saw some really good mainstream stuff in the form of Kaela Kimura, Perfume and Sakanaction just to name a few. Nothing -and, yeah, only being January plays a part, who knows what will come out – gets me giddy the way even a dumb looking Wonder Girls movie does.
This new single from Ikimono-gakari does nothing but making me feel gloomier about J-Pop in 2012. The opening knocks off the same intro used in at least eight Arashi songs – not the best inspirational jumping off point in the first place – before diving into an inoffensive but also uninteresting bit of chirpy pop that confirms Ikimono-gakari only exist in two modes – happy-bouncy version and sad-but-accepting-of-it version. This wouldn’t be so disheartening if it weren’t for the group behind it – Ikimono-gakari have morphed into a sales juggernaut, their last 16 singles all peaking somewhere in the top ten of the Oricon charts, meaning this one will probably perform similarly and the album it comes off of will most likely debut at the top spot. Which means more groups trying to sound like this which means more bland bland bland pop. This isn’t remotely surprising, but still pretty weak.
Jun Sky Walker(s) “Start”
Why does the “s” have to be in parenthesis? Were they not sure how many people were in the band?
Jun Sky Walker(s) are a rock band that formed in 1986 and saw relative success up until their breakup in 1997. Now, they are back! The music of “Start” is pretty harmless, just some safe guitar playing that at least has a little bite to it, even if it comes via baby teeth. But oh man the lead singer’s voice, ruins everything. He has this weird warble that comes out when he’s trying to sound dramatic – which, turns out, is a lot – and just in general sounds like he’s forcing himself a bit. Maybe you had to be around the first time?
Sexy Zone Special Medley
If that isn’t one of the worst combination of words in any language, I don’t want to be on this planet anymore.
Tokyo Jihen Medley
The big news in the Japanese music world this week was the announcement that Tokyo Jihen would be calling it a day following the release of one more album and a small farewell tour in February. This development has been met with sadness (but acceptance) from fans and snark from others, Ringo Shiina’s band clearly hitting a lot of emotions over their nine-year career. I have to cop, though, that I actually am not as well versed in Tokyo Jihen as I probably should be. I really liked 2010’s Sports and the singles leading up to and following that album have all sounded, at worst, “good” to me, but I haven’t dug into their back catalog all that much, checking out singles here and there but nothing extensive. Which blows now, seeing as they are going away. So, instead of writing a big sappy tribute in this spot now, I’m probably going to start working my way through their history and probably write something later. Consider this a rain check.
One of the more persistent shots fired at K-Pop is that it’s just an imitation of Western pop, the Korean music industry doing nothing originally and just borrowing ideas from America for their artists. This is a very dumb argument – nothing on American radio sounds like “Bubble Pop!” or “Be My Baby” or “Gee.” Even something like 2NE1’s “I Am The Best,” which does take cues from maximalist Western pop, blows everything up to a level nobody in America is doing. It’s a dumb claim most of the time, but not in the case of BIGBANG’s “Tonight,” which bites from the club-inspired European sound that has been a staple of the American charts for the last two years. Think Black Eyed Peas, or maybe “We Found Love,” and you will have an idea of how “Tonight” sounds.
Which isn’t a bad thing either, regardless of what some dipsticks think! BIGBANG get a slightly unfair push as “Tonight” sounds miles better than any of the Japanese music above – which, I admit, was two songs and the memory of Sexy Zone – but the club-oriented sound hasn’t pummeled Japanese pop into submission like it has in other places, so this feels like fresh breath to me.
Winner Of The Week – BIGBANG