Many music videos are released every month in Japan to promote the latest single or album coming out. Though we often talk about the music videos that accompany the music we review, some PVs slip through the cracks. This week we task our lovely writer with the difficult job of reviewing some of the recent vids to make their way all the way from Japan to our computer screens in the US.
In “Saigo no Kiss,” the boys and the girls of Fivesta split up, and decide that they need to take a couple minutes to sing about it. Although this video could have been a trainwreck, it actually isn’t that bad. I loved the use of color in the bar (where the boys are hanging out) and the subway station (where the girls are getting ready to ship out) - the black of the bar and the grey of the station feel very sad and bleak; the bright lighting of the subway station is contrasted with the low lighting of the bar, visually separating them. There’s an interesting nugget of plot with the ring that one of the boys pulls out of his jacket, then magically appears in the female singer’s hand to be left on a seat at the subway. Ooh - maybe they’re the lovers in the song! It’s all simple and easy, but you know it couldn’t stay that way. Just when it’s clear that the girls are leaving the boys, they get together in a gold-colored club for the chorus and ruin the great atmosphere that they’d been creating with the colors and lighting just so they can get in their bling. Ech. The choice isn’t disastrous - the club looks lovely, and the color is subtle and pretty - but why thrust in an entire set and costumes and lighting program that says “look, we’re together and it’s awesome!” after working so hard to show us that they’ll be leaving each other and it’s sad? Also, in the pet peeve department, what is the point of the “Ah! Ah!” girl? She doesn’t appear to sing more than a line or two - unless there’s some “Ah! Ah!” to be laid down, in which case she’s all over it. She dangles off the PV like a well-dressed skin tag. The song itself is very pretty, and the video isn’t bad, it’s just living to its potential. Still, it’s worth a peek despite the flaws.
I was not excited by the prospect of watching this PV, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Okay, okay, I thought it was pretty okay. It has its good points: the set is brilliant and simple, with the characters of the title huge and black for the girls to dance in front of and climb around on; the use of the brightly colored backgrounds for the girls’ face shots ironically helps maintain continuity between the shots as they cycle past at light speed, and somehow isn’t jarring at all. The brightly colored jackets work the same way in the group shots, tying the girls together visually. Most impressive of all, though, is the editing: you’ll notice that you don’t really see very much uncut dancing, and yet you walk away from the PV with the impression that the girls are great dancers. Brilliant. The editor should win something for that. Still, it has it’s annoying points as well. For one, what’s with all the studded leather and skulls? These girls are not pirates, they’re not bikers, and they’re not hard core. Those are just the facts, friends. Hence, in my humble opinion, there should be nary a skull or stud in the whole video. Also, what’s with the Urashima Tarou girl halfway through the video? She doesn’t even fit into the lyrics, let alone the style or content of the rest of the video. And the music! Ska isn’t my favorite as it is, it’s just that much less appestising when you chop it into tiny bits, boil it in sugar and douse it with sparkles. The annoying sound effects sprinkled throughout the song do not help. In the end, the PV is as I said: pretty okay. There’s too much going for it for me to call it bad, but not enough for me to call it good. If you like Morning Musume, go for it; otherwise, pass.
Remember “Why” by 4Minute from the last PV Play? Remember how the girls were good but the director ruined the PV? “Jet Coaster Love” is that director’s assigned homework. This PV is brilliant! Although it’s far from being “high art” and although at it’s core it’s nothing more than a dance video, the video is so beautifully shot, choreographed, edited, lit.... You’ll have to excuse me; I’m getting the vapors. If more directors could put together a PV like “Jet Coaster Love,” I’d believe that Koreans could take over the world. The main focus of the video is the girls, who are so damn charming that I want to steal all of them, lock them in my basement, and force them to have intensely cute tea parties with me. They have an incredible ability to emote for the camera, and it’s clear that they’re not only having a great time making their PV, but that they also love working together and love being able to sing to YOU. The winking doesn’t hurt, either. They’re great dancers, and they’re working with choreography that doesn’t look strange or strained. And as if I wouldn’t already lick them off the floor, everything in the PV works to reinforce them and their cute sweetness: the sets are beautiful and simple; the camerawork subtly underlines the music and reinforces the atmosphere of excitement that the girls are already oozing out; the lighting plays well with the camera to soften edges, help them stand out from the background, and create interesting visual tension here and there. The music is poppy and sweet, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I really love it; the brass is great, and I love how the music moves easily back and forth between high and low tempo. Although this might not be your style of music, there’s no denying that the PV was brilliantly knitted together; I expect that it’ll be nominated for best pop video in the MVAs next year.
I want so badly to like this PV. It’s trying hard to be artistic and sweet, with lovely sets and a dreamy quality that enhances the “lover’s memories” angle. But damn if I can keep a straight face while watching it. There are so many poor choices sprinkled throughout that I can’t help but laugh the whole way through. The basic story is typical: boy and girl get together, fall in love, then something rips them apart. But then you get into the details: the boy is the girl’s hairdresser, which naturally prompts snarky comments, a la “Heh, yeah, saying goodbye to a stylist is SOOO HARD!” and “The final appointment is SOOO AWKAWARD! Hahahah!” Then, just when you recover and start to get into the story, there’s JUJU’s boob-grabbing shot at 1:39. We recover from our immature giggle fit just in time for the shit to really hit the fan when the lovers are chased down by a badly CG’ed raven the size of an airliner. Then they have to jump off a cliff to save themselves....and land on a bed, where they decide it’s the perfect time for sex. (Being chased by giant birds really revs up my libido, too - which I guess is why they just keep at it when the bird starts pecking at the window.) Once again, we start getting into the story again only to have the huge-ass bad CG raven appear from nowhere and drag the boy away screaming. I’m certain that this PV was supposed to be super deep, showing this poor girl who’s love has been cut short by the death of her lover, but I can’t take it seriously at all when every 30 seconds or so there’s something that takes away from the atmosphere its working to build and makes me laugh. The song is lovely, and the acting is beautiful, but this PV has been ruined by incessant poor artistic choices.
“VANDALISM” is the essence of the “conceptual video” with lovely colors, cool camera tricks and an interesting concept in place of plot. All kinds of visual devices are used to keep the viewer engaged: the PV opens with stop motion images of TVs that stack on top of and next to one another to form a rough equalizer four rows long, with each row displaying only images of a single band member. Later they mix it up and let the TVs go crazy, moving away from the equalizer trick to perform other complicated stop motion maneuvers while also displaying different kinds of images of the band members. Later we move on to the band members being projected onto the sides of buildings as they play, their images flowing over glass and concrete to create a literally larger-than-life sense of the band and the music. We’re also introduced to a man who has the ability to control the band with his iPhone: he points his phone where he wants to see them, and they appear in projected form to dance and sing and play for him. Although he looks a little like a white pimp from the early 70s, I have a hard time disliking him and his nerdy smile. Although this video is simple and doesn’t utilize any tricks that we haven’t seen before, the tricks are beautifully put together in unique ways that keep your mind occupied while you watch. I especially loved the use of lighting in this video: the gels on the lights create the perfect mix of color that create a surreal atmosphere without going candy-and-rainbows bright like Morning Musume and KARA. Also, the lighting is set low so that the whole video is dim, drawing our attention to the band and their small points of brightness. The song is good, too: rock that soars along and is catchy without going overboard. This is a solid video - definitely worth a look.