Up there? That’s the new seasonal flavor of Pepsi here in Japan, the stomach-churning “Strawberry Milk” flavor. I’ve yet to summon the courage to try it, but the very presence of the word “milk” on the soda wrapper has me buggin’ out. Just a terrible combination.
Arashi “Meikyu Love Song”
AKB48 grab all the headlines thanks to international expansion and just plain weird shit, but despite the fact those 48 are having a massive year, I’d still wager Arashi beat them out by a bit for the title of Japan’s most popular group. I would have called it even or maybe given the edge to Akihabara’s “finest,” but after new single “Meikyu Love Song’s” sales I give them the edge. Thing just crushed everything else this week…including Perfume’s great “Spice” single. Speculating that Arashi and AKB48 have a lot in common which leads to chart success ranks up their with a college freshman learning what Fight Club is actually about on the “obvious epiphany” list (quick hit: ability for fans to connect with individual members, although Arashi are Backstreet Boys and AKB48 are Pokemon), it still seems worth pointing out how stupidly popular both groups have become.
“Meikyu Love Song” shoehorns in a bunch of different Johnny’s techniques into one strange single that actually has a few moments of OK-ness. The entire track tip-toes between basic pop jam and dummy ballad, the verses leaning towards the latter while the chorus jumps out as the most enjoyable element here, a fast-paced-little jog that seems livelier than other Johnny’s choruses in 2011. Elsewhere, a weird U2-aping guitar line darts through the beginning of the song, and the mandated sparkly sounds dust over this song, but overall “Meikyu Love Song” comes off as pretty harmless stuff serving as a chance for Arashi to act “cute” and set the hearts of young Japanese women a-flutter.
Shiina Ringo “Carnation”
Like the best J-Pop ballads before it, “Carnation” avoids falling into the schmaltzy lameness so often befalling this sort of song by giving itself over 100 hundred percent to being a ballad. Shiina Ringo plays the role of Disney princess, surrounded by theater-ready harp, violins, piano and a little guitar serving as the gorgeously animated backdrop. She includes a lovely vocal peak, albeit one that comes a tad too early and makes the rest of the song seem a bit anti-climatic, but one worth the lacewinged build. The other secret to “Carnation’s” success? Be thrifty with time, avoiding the gluttony so many J-Pop artists give into on ballads, and instead use just over three minutes to share something oh-so pretty. The best Disney tunes didn’t need five minutes to shine, and neither does a really good J-Pop slow number.
Sexy Zone “Sexy Zone”
Since Johnny’s work like rabbits in getting videos featuring their groups yanked from YouTube, this 13-second preview is all we really have to judge the company’s newest abomination Sexy Zone. Now I’m a fair man, so I’m not going to pass judgement on “Sexy Zone” the song (uhhhh ignore the abomination bit), but let me highlight two fun facts I found via Wikipedia:
– “Johnny & Associates’s CEO Johnny Kitagawa said, ‘The group name came from Michael Jackson’s sexiness.'”
– “He chose the members considering about ‘Sexiness of men’.” Let’s take this moment to point out the oldest member of this group is 17, and the youngest appears to be 11.
Kana Nishino “たとえ どんなに…”
Refer, first, to the Riina Shingo song once more. Now, listen to this and understand this is what I mean when I point to J-Pop ballads being drawn out for no reason. Kana Nishino, as she often does, tries to cloak the true nature of this song with beats a-plenty, and at times they push the song towards some enjoyable place. Yet, whereas in the past she could turn a sappy ballad into a good J-R&B song with some well-placed drum machine snaps, here it’s an obvious mask, meant to trick us into thinking we aren’t listening to a sub-standard J-Ballad when…well, we are. And at nearly six minutes, this doesn’t even duck out early.
The film Paradise Kiss comes out on DVD…uhhhh either soon, or like last week…so YUI’s song for the film is getting dusted off and making the rounds one more time to boost sales. Which is neat, because first time we heard “HELLO” it was in hyper-limited portions. Now we get the full version and it sounds pretty nice…in America, this would be playing in Starbucks, or at least a couple Coffee Beans. The song boasts a nice gallop and a general lightness that’s tough to hate, but also comes off like eating ice cubes for dinner…not filling.
Winner Of The Week – Shiina Ringo.