After a few weeks off, Music Station thankfully returns this Friday to save me from thinking of one more piece of original content every week. Oh the humanity! It has been awhile, but let’s check in on the world of mainstream J-Pop, shall we?
Arashi “To Be Free
Arashi haven’t been on a winning streak as much as they’ve been on a not-losing streak. The boy band’s last few singles, though not far removed from the usual drivel Johnny’s puts out, at least came off as more charming, more fun than the company’s usual mush. Arashi, if nothing else, were sorta goofy about it all and hating them would be like hating a vuvuzela – sure, it’s annoying, but it’s also endearing. Plus, the game show they host every week is must-see TV.
Alas, all decent things must end. “To Be Free” finds Arashi slow-motion walking into the “serious” territory occupied by most other Johnny’s outfits. Even the title irks…I don’t doubt for a second the tyrannical nature of the Johnyy’s empire, but that doesn’t change the fact Arashi are pop stars starring in Wii commercials, not kids forced to harvest diamonds. The song itself trades in the bouncy cheese-pop of other 2010 singles for a grating “soaring” sound not far removed from more boring Country tunes. Even the video (now unavailable but trust me on this) gets way too serious and features an eagle flying around, presumably a metaphor for…being free from what exactly? Let’s hope this is just a pit-stop into obnoxiousness.
Koda Kumi “Lollipop”
As an English teacher in Japan (big reveal), I understand a lot of concepts commonplace in the West can get easily mishandled over here. That said…when Koda Kumi sings “lick my lollipop” at some unknown “boy,” she should understand that “lollipop” is actually a stand-in for “dick” and she’s basically saying she’s got a penis. Which, hey, if she does good on her for embracing it! But something tells me she doesn’t and she just never paid much attention to 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” which drove home the point that “lollipop=dick.” Remember Kumi, Lady Gaga never said she had a penis, she just never denied it. This just comes off as weird.
Oh, and the song is really annoying.
Oh, vintage J-Pop to the rescue! Well, sorta…if you’re Katakana skills aren’t up to snuff, I’ll reveal the above title ends in the word “medley,” thus meaning I can’t just tackle one song. TUBE, going strong since the 80s, have more or less stuck to one established sound for the past few decades, a sound best summed up as “summer.” Wikipedia notes the band mostly releases music between April and July, leading to the phrase “Summer comes with TUBE.” It’s a nice reminder that, in a year littered with indie artists making “beach music” you’d never play at the beach, summery sounds can be for everyone and not just Altered Zones.
The video above does a good job capturing TUBE’s sound (in Hawaii, even). Opening with a Beach Boys aping fakeout, they transition into a disco-tinged slice of tropical pop. They run through an assortment of other warm-weather tunes, all sounding similar and equally “beach-ey.” Nothing revelatory, but season appropriate.
Kana Nishino “Dear…”
Small clip in there, borrrrrrrring. Let’s move on to…
Scene: A meeting room in downtown Tokyo. The room is furnished with only a large round table and a few chairs. On one side of the table sits VAMPS, while on the other side sits REPRESENTATIVES from Summit Entertainment.
REPS: Thanks for taking the time to meet with us today VAMPS, we understand you are very busy people.
VAMPS: You bet we are! Are schedules are always filled with makeup sessions, rock-out sessions and makeout sessions! Later this afternoon, I gotta makeout with some goth chicks while playing the guitar! It’s for a concert DVD or something.
REPS: We won’t keep you long then. We’ve noticed that every year our company releases a Twilight film, you’re band does something big as well. In 2008, you formed and toured for the first time. In 2009, you released you’re first album months before we released New Moon. And now, after seeing another box office smash with Eclipse, it appears you two have another album on the way as well. Strange coincidences.
VAMPS: Yeah, man, crazy.
REPS: Anyway, we want to further develop the Twilight brand here in Japan. So, for the next film, we want to include you’re group on the original soundtrack. We like having bands with “vampires” or “bats” in their name appear on these things, connects to the kids. The latest soundtrack features Vampire Weekend and Bat For Lashes, you know.
VAMPS: No I don’t! Do they appear on the modern rock station? That’s what I listen to for inspiration, ya know, the new classics like Papa Roach and Hinder. They really speak to me, ya know? About fucking and stuff.
REPS: Good to hear. You’re song “Memories” would work for us. We picture it playing during a scene where Edward rides a horse around a forest.
VAMPS: Fucking great! Where do we sign? Love to throw some money around tonight man!
REPS: One second VAMPS. We have one condition. At its heart, “Memories” is a pleasant pop song…but you seemed to have slathered all sorts of needless guitars onto the song. You’ve taken what could have been a nice-enough track and turned it into an ugly rock track. That doesn’t gel with our brand identity. So if you could re-cut the song so….
VAMPS: WHOA WHOA WHOA. We are about ROCKING OUT, and nothing says ROCK more than LOTS OF GUITARS. The last thing we are is sissy pop dude. We rock and we like girls and we are vampires! You can’t change us, no matter how much money you throw at us. We will NEVER drop those ugly guitars from our music.
REPS: Fine fine. Will you at least where a “Team Edward” shirt during you’re next tour?
VAMPS: Will Twilight fans have sex with the VAMPS-man, man?
REPS look at each other worryingly. Meanwhile, THE AUTHOR wonders why he turned the rock duo VAMPS into a singular entity and shakes his head.
Winner Of The Week – TUBE