Abe Mao “Lonely”
Let’s first talk about the video for Abe Mao’s “Lonely,” because it’ll end up serving as a solid writing device in the next paragraph. The clip works as a sorta meta-video wherein the (fake) making of one’s music video becomes the music video itself. It’s a theme plenty of band have played with, so it’s not getting any points for originality. Still, the “Lonely” video succeeds at being pretty cute – it’s one of the better clips I’ve seen all year at least. One of the reasons it works is because Mao always stays in the center of attention…regardless of what zaniness goes on behind her, she dominates the foreground.
Now here comes the aforementioned writing device. The video goes perfectly with the song because, though all sorts of stuff is going on in the back, the only element I really hear in “Lonely” is Mao’s voice. It’s high-pitched, squeaky singing making her stand out amongst other J-Poppers, for better and worse. On the verses, she just sounds captivating, a kinda strange-for-pop voice managing to beef up an otherwise bland J-Pop template. Hit the chorus though and Mao shines…the natural chipmunk-ness cracks a little as she pushes her words as high as they can go. She sounds desperate, and I can’t think of a better response to being “Lonely” than that. I understand next-to-nothing lyrically, but that voice tells me everything I need to know.
Go to 1:20 to get the actual song.
Pretty much the J-Rock equivalent of a J-Pop ballad. They even work in some violins! It’s every bit as over-the-top as the songs Japanese divas belt out on this show every week, but manages to do so without 75 percent of the bells and whistles usually bedazzled onto those karaoke-ready affairs. So, that’s something. The most praise I can give this song is it probably sounds nice playing over an anime which…hey, that’s actually why this song exists, to serve as music for Full Metal Alchemist. I guess they did a good job afterall!
つるの剛士 “Love Letter”
The weird trend for this week seems to be an especially harsh crackdown by the J-Pop labels of new singles sneaking onto YouTube/the Internet. As evidenced by the above live-only clip and “Love Letter” being only available as a 37-second long ad, they want you to buy this stuff and not just mooch off the Web. At least for a week. Japanese music labels…the big ones at least…approach the Internet very differently than their American counterparts. In the States, online promotion has become THE dominant form of hyping up an album. Viral-ready videos get released, fans can interact with the artists themselves and all sorts of crazy Web 2.0 stuff gets made to grab the customer’s attention. People still buy singles in Japan though, and the labels approach the Internet like total tightwads. Videos get taken down super fast, and promotion rarely goes beyond an artist’s web page getting a facelift. I see more advertisements for new singles on TV than online. One of the many differences between the music industry in the two countries.
I bring all this up because, based on the short clip linked above, this song is nothing but a syrupy ballad by a guy who can’t make it terribly interesting.
秦 基博 “アイ（弾き語りVersion）”
I was already to unleash the hate-cannons on this yawn-inducing acoustic song. I even got a little excited, because sometimes digging into a song as a reviewer can be really fun. Unfortunately, the “version” tacked on at the end here clued me in to the fact there must be an original version floating around. Sure enough, here it is. The original version starts off just like the above version, except studio crisp. Midway through…enter a lazy drumbeat and later some organ sounds. It’s way overproduced, sucking away any feeling the song could have by dropping it in a setting as sterile as a doctor’s needle. I now kinda appreciate…not like, big difference…the take featured here because though it’s kind of boring, it at least seems to be trying to be a bit more emotional. Hell, I even kind of like the busking-like vibe. Still kinda sad I couldn’t lay into it though.
Hey! Say! JUMP “スペシャルメドレー”
I don’t know how much the suits at Johnny’s paid to Music Station to feature their various boy-band thoroughbreds performing medleys on a weekly basis, but I’d like to organize a funds drive to try and counter that shady offer so I don’t have to deal with writing excuses every seven days. I don’t know what songs Hey! Say! JUMP will perform and I kinda don’t care.
YUI “To Mother”
“To Mother” actually sorta hits on all the same points I made for “Lonely.” YUI boasts a very nice voice, albeit one much more friendly (read: less interesting) than Abe Mao’s. It’s all I really pay attention to on this song, though to her credit “To Mother” never gets as sappy as you’d expect a song with a title like “To Mother” to become. A fine song…even if it seems like a Mother’s Day sorta thing. I hope YUI sent a card at least explaining herself.
Winner Of The Week – Abe Mao and her crazy good voice.