Great news gang! College and pro football is back! Which means there is a very real chance I get distracted away from J-Pop at times. Just leave a snappy comment about how I missed the new AKB48 single or something and I’ll pry myself away from directional college versus directional college.
Meisa Kuroki “Wired Life”
I made the big mistake of reading the YouTube comments for this video, and unsurprisingly I was assaulted by the seemingly-mandatory dopiness of…whoever writes comments on YouTube. They aren’t that bad, nothing racist that I can see (another YouTube-comment requirement, least feels like it), but just a stream of “WOW SHES HOT” and something about anime. Yeah, sorta harmless but the thinking-train that goes “singer A is attractive, thus singer A’s music must be good” sorta makes me shudder. Pointing this out because I’ve had similar conversations a bit in the past few months and they always seem weird and this reminded me of that, though last time it was about CSS who certainly don’t make much good music!
ANYWAY “Wired Life’s” a strange beast because it manages to do a lot of interesting stuff and a fair amount of annoying junk as well. The opening’s an instant attention grabber, foggy electronics featuring some gurgling static noises underneath that transforms into…a bouncy-but-chilly pop song. Meisa Kuroki’s vocals get run through some vocal manipulation…Auto-tune? She sounds like Kanye minus the Heartbreak…which isn’t that annoying. Some of the stuff she sings, though, can be, like the repeated utterances of what sounds like “catalog.” The production is exciting for J-Pop, but “Wired Life” ultimately doesn’t go far enough to make this more than a clever-but-only-above-average single.
Man, Visual kei, I just don’t get you one bit. This song…translated, the title mean “Effeminate” and part of me thinks this could be a joke…seems like a more mainstream-appropriate take on the eternally goofy genre. For all the TV-scripted drama dude’s voice conjures up, this track still boasts a really prominent J-Pop skip, a fact mirrored by the silly up-down dance these potential male hosts do come the chorus. Speaking of the video…that’s probably the best part of this tune, especially the amateur-feeling segments that feature the band in on some sort of gag dancing outside of a bar. The whole track feels like it’s poking fun at…something…and considering how serious some Visual kei takes itself, this TV-friendly version deserves point for not being afraid to laugh at itself. At the same time, though, the song itself blows and divorced from the video ends up a real chore. Which, isn’t good.
Tackey & Tsubasa “Journey Journey～ボクラノミライ”
Can’t find a full version of this long-titled joint, and part of me is thankful for that after sitting through the 30-second preview above. It’s not aggressively offensive to the senses…but it sounds very much like Johnny’s which, even at its best, isn’t something worthy of trumpeting up to much. Going out on a limb and saying the world isn’t missing much if they don’t listen to this.
2NE1 “I’m The Best”
I’ve droned on…and almost certainly will again…about how K-Pop’s bear-hugging of Western music trends puts it leaps ahead of stodgy old J-Pop, so content to do the same stuff on repeat. So yeah, if you didn’t know, now you do.
That said, not sure how much longer I can draw out that talking point after 2NE1’s latest. “I’m The Best” is the neutron bomb of this cultural mash-up, a K-Pop song that buffets-out on Western trends without any remorse. Opening with a wonky Diplo-esque electro-house bit, 2NE1 slither through straight pop, hip-hop and some weird Orientalist-baiting breakdown bit. This is hedonism at it’s finest, a group gorging on the sonic treats to the extreme. I have no idea what anyone in this group is saying besides “billion dollar baby” yet 2NE1 make it clear this is a conjoined diss/hype-up track where everyone sucks in the presence of them. This is some dream-team Survivor Series shit where 2NE1 tag-team it up and clear the ring in record time. And just like pro wrestling, this seems really over the top, but also entertaining.
It will be interesting to see how Japanese audiences react to a song so balls-to-wall egotastic, though at this point I should mention the official Japanese version of the song. It’s pretty much the same minus two big edits…two verses actually get delivered in complete English, and it’s pretty entertaining. The first one is typical “in the club” bluster, but the second one (replacing “billion dollar baby”) finds 2NE1 member hating on some flirty dude and it’s pretty entertaining, though the line “throw it like a Frisbee” is doomed to go over the Japanese audience’s heads (the game doesn’t really exist here). Also, hope they keep the same insane video for the Japanese single, guns and all!
Ayumi Hamasaki “Special Medley”
Yeah, after 2NE1 powerbombing everyone through tables, I’m not gonna listen to an Ayumi Hamasaki medley.
Masaharu Fukuyama “家族になろうよ”
Uggggggggggggggh, boring acoustic-guitar-heavy balladry. This is better than the Jason Mraz-ish ditties that sometimes pop up in Japan, but not by much.
Winner Of The Week – Meisa Kuroki gave it a good try, and that one band had a funny video…but just look at which song got the most words devoted to it and you can guess who won.