Well, the summer just zipped by and here we are…September. Unlike half the world, I wish summer could keep on going. Alas it can’t, and I only have this week’s Music Station to console me. And it’s a really short Music Station to! Let’s mourn summer by seeing what music the Japanese kids dig.
Mai Kuraki “SUMMER TIME GONE”
Oh hey, a song reflecting my mood about summer, how fortuitous. Well, at least a sample, as the folks at Mai Kuraki’s label have snuffed out any full-length streams of “SUMMER TIME GONE.” The above clip shows what sounds like the song’s chorus and, though it’s not nearly enough to pass total judgment on, it’s a good enough start. “SUMMER TIME GONE” sounds less like a wistful look back on the season and more like one last grasp – the beat explodes into a beach-parties’ worth of bongos and other “tropical” instruments. Kuraki’s vocals carry a hint of sadness for the season…and whatever came with it…coming to a close, but instead of moping she seems resigned to this and chooses to try to go out on a positive, albeit melancholy, note. I wish more than the chorus could be included in this preview, but what we’ve got is very promising.
Kobayashi Taro “美紗子ちゃん”
Oh Kobayashi Taro, you tease. This song opens up so promisingly – some simple guitar work leads into a moment where Taro’s voice sort of shoots in at lightspeed, the effect mimicking harmonizing. This intriguing little touch sadly gives way to a ho-hum bit of singer-songwriter wailing complete with unironic lighter-hoister guitar solo. If only the first 10 seconds could have actually lead to something of note.
This song and Kobayashi Taro’s above actually have a lot in common. Both are pretty straightforward numbers based on the styles they adhere to. Both songs consist mostly of guitar and look-at-me singing. They both go just a bit too long, and both boast cheesy guitar solos. So why do I dismiss Taro’s single but sorta enjoy Superfly’s song? A few small things go a long way – Superfly’s singer sings a tad better, and the guitars on “Wildflower” get much more prominent placement – but the major aspect making this song better than the previous one is just the extra touch of energy. Both numbers fail to really be anything beyond cookie-cutter J-Pop, but at least Superfly had the sense to give their exercise a bit of a beat to it. A little liveliness transforms “Wildflower” into a pretty OK single.
Another clip…don’t Japanese record labels want to, ya know, build hype…but whereas Kuraki’s snippet made me want more, SPEED pretty much show me everything I need to see in a minute. Feel-good group sing destined to be some group of girlfriend’s karaoke jam when they feel the need to be a movie trailer. The glittery Disney flourishes really drive home the point that SPPED’s latest thrives on sappiness. And hey, we all need sappy tunes in our lives…but they can be confined to our bedrooms.
V6 “Only Dreaming”
I came in fully prepared to just write “Johnny’s” over and over again, but V6’s newest single actually contains a few interesting mutations on the usual Johnny’s bland-sound. The beat, for one, leans a bit more to the electronic side than the usual boy-band fare. The woodwind flute thingy wafting into the song at various times adds a nice touch to the song, and the chorus isn’t half bad. The verses revert back to well-worn-bore territory, but for the most part “Only Dreaming” sounds perfectly OK. It’s no “Going!” in terms of shocking output by boy bands, but a pleasant little surprise all the same.
Winner Of The Week – Superfly and V6 give us some solid singles, but gotta go with Mai Kuraki’s preview. A little unfair, but still those 45 seconds beat out everything else. Or maybe I just want to cling to the summer some more.