Oh man, a jumbo-sized Music Station this week. Featuring all the heavy hitters. Buckle in folks.
AKB48 “Flying Get”
See the logo at the top of this page? That’s the new design/slogan for the “Cool Japan” campaign, the Japanese government’s attempt to spread soft power via culture. Basically, they want Japanese media, like anime and movies and whatever whatever, to spread everywhere. Remember “Cool Britannia?” Like that, but with more One Piece.
Musically, I’m not positive who the government will push…the logical answer would be the Cars-2-approved Perfume, the illogical answer being Arashi which is what I think they did…but it doesn’t matter, because AKB48 already owns that position, at least to some degree. This week, it was announced that Jakarta will be getting an AKB48 branch, called JKT48. This, coupled with official stores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan PLUS other potential imperialistic expansion (Taiwan? Italy?), makes them the most visible Japanese music outfit going today…at least in Asia.
“Flying Get”…almost as good English as “Japan Next”…pretty much sums up AKB48’s sound because all their songs sound the same. It’s pop as an afterthought, the image of the group coming first and whatever grating Chuck-E-Cheese leftovers they can cobble together second. Yet this sells, and may very well be Japan’s most known musical export around the continent. Hold me.
The saving grace, though, is this stuff doesn’t have a chance in the Western world. Save for the persistent rumors of an AKB48-like outfit in Italy, this sort of stuff always ends up the topic of “weird Japan” columns and Gizmodo posts about CGI members. Whereas K-Pop embraced a Western-leaning sound that could potentially grab ears on that side of the world, AKB48 stick to this very lame style that won’t make an impact in places where they think a Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament is stupid as hell. Los Angeles won’t be getting an AKB theater anytime soon, and thank goodness for that.
EXILE “Rising Sun”
“Rising Sun” will work as EXILE’s “charity single,” meaning all profits made will go to help out those affected by the Tohoku disaster. In theory, I should stop right their and give all of the group a nice pat on the back for doing a nice thing. You go, EXILE!
Of course, some charity should be scrutinized. James Hadfield of Time Out Tokyo pointed out how SMAP’s SMAP AID CD only netted relief efforts five percent of an individual album sale. So yeah, this could be a little less wonderful than we think.
But still, as Hadfield notes, the sympathetic view of this sort of move is that money is going somewhere helpful, even if it’s less than you’d think so EXILE probably still earn points. More points than this typical lukewarm R&B would. Ooops! Just go donate money to a real charity so EXILE don’t get any boosts, OK?
Koda Kumi “愛を止めないで”
We yuck-up on Koda Kumi a lot here…”damn girl, you looks like horny!”…but truth be told I’d have sexually idiotic Kumi ballerinaing around in an idiot daze than serious sappy ballad-spewing Kumi any day of the week. Usually she says something stupid. Here she just bores.
TVXQ “B.U.T (BE-AU-TY)”
Lot of great details in this song, let’s do it:
1. What sounds like a tea kettle going bonkers during the verses.
2. The chorus. Everything about it.
3. But especially the way they pronounce words like “me?????” They sound like how I’d expect Marmaduke to talk…until Owen Wilson robbed me of that fantasy.
4. The underground Fight Club video huh?
5. How they add extra “T’s” to “B.U.T.” as if to spell a drawn-out “buttttttttt.”
Ayumi Hamasaki “Beloved”
The second I heard those opening piano key twinkles, I knew where we were heading. “Oh boy…a ballad,” I thought, reaching for the Ume Chu-hi serving as my writing partner for this week’s edition. Against my better judgement, I sat through the whole thing, waiting to see if anything noteworthy would happen. Nothing did. Five minutes and 20 seconds of my life…gone, just like that, cruelly snatched by Ayumi Hamasaki’s especially bland mix of “emotion” wrapped up in some violins. At least I had a traveling partner for this week’s long trip down the road of make-it-stop-now-please.
Masaharu Fukuyama “家族になろうよ fighting pose”
Can’t even work up any emotion about whatever this is. Sounds a little bit like Alphabeat’s “Fascination” minus all the fun.
Hey! Say! JUMP “Magic Power”
So…these guys think they can be the Jackson Five now, do they? The 12-year-old set that buys this stuff will eat it up because they don’t know any better, but this might be the most grating thing they’ve released yet and that’s saying quite a bit. They’ve always forced these big, terrible, server-at-Applebees-quality smiles to their music before but this is like so forced happy you want to punch them in the face to make that grin go away.
Winner Of The Week – None of these jabronis, that’s for sure. Instead, let’s tackle one more song, one of much higher quality but absent from Music Station this week…
Berryz Kōbō “Aa, Yoru ga Akeru”
The fine folks at The Singles Jukebox reviewed this and gave it pretty good marks, and I agree. It’s hyperactive pop that flirts with what those great Korean groups do but importantly holds onto some of the cheese that sorta defines J-Pop (check those electro strings). Still, this song also does a whole bunch that no other Japanese pop acts would touch without a big, long stick…check the brief but boogie-tastic keyboard solo late in the song, and just the general speed of the whole thing. This is way better than anything above, and probably the best J-Pop I’ve heard since that one YUKI song.
One concern though…The Singles Jukebox crew, not well-versed in J-Pop, seem to come off as thinking all of Japan’s pop sounds like this. No gang…scroll up, that’s the stuff clogging the airwaves.