Make Believe Melodies For April 18, 2022
88Rising, Bring TRF To Coachella Next, You Cowards
meme tokyo. — “Animore”
If you’re going to hop on the HyperPop wave, best bring along some people who know what they’re doing. Idol outfit meme tokyo. have always been positioned on the edge of musical developments while maintaining a pop core — much like their “seniors” Dempagumi.inc1 — so it isn’t too surprising to see them go gecs. “Animore” loads up on the details associated with the style — their voices get coated in digi fuzz, a scream gets chopped and looped to turn the pre-chorus disorienting, sudden party-starting portions, moments where the song actually feel like it’s glitching out. The accompanying music video, though, really sells it, one wonky visual effect at a time.
“Animore” works and stands out as one of the year’s strongest J-pop singles thanks in part to the team behind the music. The meme tokyo. team brought in electronic artists Amane Uyama and Kabanagu for this one, both creators being adept2 at creating songs full of hiccuping, fast-changing sections. They’ve also dabbled in HyperPop, both part of the PAS TASTA project. Their attention to detail and ability to thread disjointed sounds together while still maintaining melody makes “Animore” a highlight, and one of the better pop experiments in this corner yet. Listen above.
Philosophy No Dance — “Waterproof Night”
Philosophy No Dance go 2-step on “Waterproof Night.” This is supposed to be a nostalgic glance back at early Aughts life for Shibuya teens, absolutely overflowing with specific references to the period (Miliyah Kato gets a shout-out, as does now-dead profile site Zenryaku Profile). The twist is this sound has now become trendy in pop, meaning the group’s attempt at sweet Y2K memory now fits into global sonic trends. Looking back to land in the present. Listen above.
CUBΣLIC — "“SBFM”
Whoops, this week turned into an idol update. Don’t worry, next mail will be focused on indie artists from a decade ago sure to alienate the other half of people reading this newsletter.
CUBΣLIC — one of the best Perfume imitations going in the niche idol market! “SBFM” offers a great impersonation of the mid 2000s boom in “electro-pop,” the pixelated pops and digi-twisted vocals not just a reminder of Complete Best but also like Beautiful Techno period sounds. A little rough around the edges, but that’s how it should be. Listen above.
PRIKIL — “SOMEBODY”
The debut single from the group emerging out of reality program Who Is Princess? didn’t have to be this good. There’s a surplus of K-pop-indebted (or managed) groups in the country right now, and it’s all starting to blur a bit together. Thank goodness for “SOMEBODY” finding a way to be something. The group just barrels ahead, adapting pop-punk energy and never letting the energy dip. Critically, they make sure the hook actually sounds good (“one day I’m gonna shine like sunny day” is perfect) and more than just a TikTok prompt. A welcome jolt, listen above.
Shingo Katori — Tokyo SNG
Former SMAP member Shingo Katori, last seen working with yahyel and BiSH among others, has gone and created…a jazz standards album? It’s not quite that big a step into the retirement home yet — he teams up again with WONK for a skittery sax-assisted number called “Catharsis” — but there’s also a straight-up cover of “Mack The Knife” that reminds me of all the “Rod Stewart sings the classic” albums they advertised on, like, VH1 when I was in high school. Wackiest of all, Atarashii Gakko! join Katori to…offer backing vocals on a lounge song about Tokyo Tower? Not sure how much of this is “good” and I will probably never listen to it again after this week, but I’m also kind of glad it exists. Listen above.
QUEENS — “mediQ”
This landed in the top 10 of Oricon’s physical singles chart, and honestly is a great reminder for its continued existence. Allow oddball, Yackle-produced idol numbers with wobbly rap sections to flourish. Listen above.
Oricon Trail For The Week Of April 04, 2022 To April 10, 2022
Back in the day, the Oricon Music Charts were the go-to path to music stardom in Japan. Acts of all sorts traversed these lands, trying to sell as many CDs as possible in order to land a good ranking on a chart choosing to only count physical sales, even as the Internet came to be and the number of versions offered for sale got ridiculous. Today, with the country finally in on digital, these roads are more barren and only looked at by the most fanatic of supporters needing something to celebrate. Yet every week, a new song sells enough plastic to take the top spot. So let’s take a trip down…the Oricon Trail.
Sakurazaka46 — “Samidare Yo” (393,215 Copies Sold)
Sakurazaka46’s “Samidare Yo” is plenty interesting — and quite elegant during the verses, holding back on pep in favor of pomp — but after yet another 46 group topped these charts, I’m running out of things to say. Solid tune!
News And Views
Coachella…what a weird event to think about! Simultaneously seen as past its prime but still dominating social media trends and music attention, achieving a global reputation that’s pretty wild when you really think about it. Like…why would a fest taking place in the middle of the California desert become such a yearly event in Japan, where it takes up just as much online space? Like, netizens just livetweeting every song of a Flume set.
This year’s installment of the gathering might have been the most significant — or at least prominently visible — for Asian pop ever. For Japan, that came via two artists, though only one put on a “proper” festival set. That would be Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who offered up a pretty fun looking show late Saturday night to an absolutely bonkers crowd split between “wheee!” and “whaaaaaa???” Sounds about right.
Poor Kyary, though, bound to be forever overlooked at this year’s Coachella because of the other J-pop act appearing. Hikaru Utada performed a ten-minute set hitting on some of their most classic hits along with “Face My Fears” at 88Rising’s “Head In The Clouds Forever” showcase, which is where all of the major Asia-related happenings played out (2NE1 reuniting being the obvious headline). All of this came as a semi-surprise too, as their presence at Coachella wasn’t announced until the day before.
I’m not going to wade into the muck of what any of this means or if Utada working with 88Rising signals anything at all — they also contributed a song to the post-fest EP, and my review of that one is “stream Bad Mode now on your favorite platform!” — but simply seeing it play out on such a large global stage cooled off some of the cynicism in my heart around any of it. It was a spectacle, sure, but that’s what Coachella deals in ultimately, and the exact reason it stays a force globally, at least on social media where !!! moments always triumph. So why not enjoy seeing Utada make their first fest performance ever on one of the biggest stages? Getting swept up in something rare can be worth it, even just for 10 minutes.
You’d think Kyary performing at Coachella would be the most buzzed-about moment for her in Japan, but she occupies a very…odd space in her home country right now. Abroad, she remains a sort of spokesperson for J-pop and stands as an ever-exciting musical act. In Japan, she went viral on Twitter because of a column she wrote for Hanako Tokyo about how wild influencers are.
Article on Lion in Shibuya, great cafe!
Kikagaku Moyo announced their final album and tour as a group, and you can pre-order it now. Rolling Stone has an online feature about the group, though I don’t have a subscription at the moment so…no idea what it says. Let me know if you do!
Lady Gaga to hold two shows in Saitama this September. Later this week, TWICE are slated to put on three shows at Tokyo Dome. While they aren’t technically the first foreign act to put on a large-scale show since COVID-19 started…last year’s Supersonic festival features a few big international names, while James Hadfield correctly pointed out that King Crimson played a pretty substantial show in the capital last year…we are now entering the moment where big pop stars come to a country learning to live with COVID-19 in an effort to…move forward? However you want to frame it, everything feels different, and we are going to have a lot of interesting test cases over the rest of 2022.
Dear reader, I’ll be honest with you — past few weeks have been pretty tough. Lots of work needs to get done before I go to see family for the first time in two years…which, surprise surprise, also requires a lot of prep. Have had a lot of errands to run, unpredictable weather means going to the coin laundry instead of hanging out clothes and yesterday I went to a cat cafe with my daughter and one of the cats bit me, which feels like some kind of anti-achievement.
What I’m getting at is…I haven’t had a chance to watch the 30-minute documentary DAZE made on STARKIDS, but I’m going to assume it’s good and post below. One of the best groups in Japan! They also just shared a new song which I normally would include up in the first part, but I guess it makes sense to link it here.
Probably should mention the forthcoming debut of LE SSERAFIM, the HYBE-backed girl group prominently featuring former HKT48 leader / idol legend Sakura Miyawaki. Their first release comes out on May 2, though they already have found themselves in some trouble related to alleged bullying from one member. That’s not going to derail anything, though, and it’s time to start preparing for one of the bigger debuts of the year.
Kyoto, lovely city! Also home to countless fantastic artists (always has been). James Gui has a nice look at the experimental community out in the ancient capital.
Variety interviewed Jackson Wang, which is a development I normally wouldn’t write about. Except midway through the Q&A, after being asked “will K-pop last forever,” he answers “K-Pop will definitely last forever. J-Pop will last forever.” That second sentence comes totally out of nowhere. Nobody asked about J-pop, Jackson Wang doesn’t have a connection to Japan in this context, the interviewer didn’t mention it (or, sorta understandeably, ask any follow up questions). Just like…OK Sasuke, gotcha. The only reference to Japan prior to it comes one of the stupidest quotes I’ve seen this year.
Did…did he buy the Fiji Water bottle in Japan maybe? Because otherwise…it’s definitely not from Japan, my man, double check the name.
But are we sure J-pop will last forever?
Written by Patrick St. Michel (email@example.com)
Twitter — @mbmelodies