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.
Sowelu - Let ME lead U
Oh my god. Oh my god you guys. *loosens tie she’s not wearing* Is it hot in here, or is it just Sowelu? I mean, DAY-UM. I’m not kidding - if you’re interested in women, let me introduce you to your new go-to fapping PV. This thing is like porn (especially the parts with the fur - holy shit). Watching this video for the first time, I thought that Sowelu was playing an exceptionally high-class (and actually sexy) hooker, but subsequent viewings reveal that she is actually, most likely, the guy’s wife. HIS WIFE, you guys. All I can say is more salarymen need this wife. Her being his wife, though, it’s confusing why he keeps looking so tortured. Does he have a painfully hard erection? Is he secretly gay? None of the above. As Sowelu reveals in the lyrics, this guy’s problem is that she “Wants to do it more, like every day and night.” So this guy is suffering because he’s exhausted from too much sex. *glasses steam up* The only annoying part of the PV is the fact that, when haggard hubby goes to buy some vitamin drinks to get him through the night, all the bottles in the store (a significant portion of the screen) are blurred out. It’s not a big thing, but it was confusing at first. Still, I understand why the director and producer didn’t want to claim a drink could give you the power for endless sex with Sowelu without collecting any money for the endorsement. And why no vitamin drink company would want such a promise associated with their product. The song is a bass-laden and catchy dance piece with some the occasional cymbal or synthed voice to keep it interesting and not too-too heavy. I could listen to the song looped (and did a couple times), and could definitely watch the PV over and over. I mean, I’m not gay, but I could be gay for Sowelu. Just sayin’.
FLOW - HEY!
FLOW performs in a wind chamber and are just generally crazy. Yup - a performance PV. But despite that, FLOW manages to take the same worn-out idea (“Look, we can play our instruments - we weren’t kidding!”) and spice it up a little. In addition to an interesting set, with pieces of paper and dust flying around the band as they play, they make use of clever camera tricks, props, and a little animation to keep the PV interesting. The camera is constantly moving and shaking, creating visual tension and giving the impression that the wind is blowing seriously hard (which, if you look carefully in certain places, you can see that it’s not - but they do a great job faking it), and there are even a few times where the camera shoots upside down. It’s a shot I’ve never seen in this kind of PV, and it really added to the crazy vibe. As far as props, during the first verse Koshi’s (the dark-haired vocalist) hat flies off, and others appear to fly onto his head via more fun camera tricks. During the second verse both he and Keigo (the blonde vocalist) are holding umbrellas against the wind, to “lol wut” effect. The animation is thrown in from time to time, occasionally to emphasize the wind, but mostly to highlight particular parts of the lyrics. During the animation sequences, only the background is animated; the members are not. The visual tension created by this really brings out the personality of the band and, combined with their energy throughout the PV, emphasizes that these are five charming bastards. Is this is best PV I’ve ever seen? No. Is is the best performance PV I’ve ever seen? No. But watching it made me like the band as people, which is something that’s hard to achieve. It doesn’t hurt that the song is really good, a very energetic rock tune that’s catchy without being annoying at all.
alice nine. - Heart of Gold
Now here’s a band that shows just how hard it is to make the members seem charming. Don’t get me wrong. I love alice nine’s music. “Heart of Gold” is a great song, and “Gemini” (which I reviewed in a previous PV Play) is so good that I’d listen to it a hundred times. Although I haven’t heard a lot of their music, they’re quickly climbing the ranks of my favorite bands. But they just cannot make an interesting or fun PV to save their lives, and I don’t find myself interested in the members, which takes away the last scrap of interest I might have had in their PVs. As good as “Gemini” is as a song, the PV is boring and ostentatious, and “Heart of Gold” is exactly the same way: 90% “Hey, look, I can play an instrument. Yeah, it’s cool, I guess. Whatever.” and 10% something mildly interesting. In “Heart of Gold” the mildly interesting part is slow-mo shots of the members playing in front of a back-lit red screen, with cherry blossoms flying in from off-camera. Oh, and sometimes a skateboarder or a break dancer shows up for no reason. I’ve got to admit that the slow-mo shot of the drummer is exceptionally cool (you can see the cymbal he hits flex and warp - it’s awesome), and the other slo-mo shots of the members do a good job of giving them a chance to display a little more energy and personality than the regular speed shots (thereby calling into question my original belief that all the members are J-rock playing robots), but overall the PV just isn’t that appealing. Watch it once? Sure. Watch it over and over (like “Let me lead you,” or the less fappy alternative, “HEY!”)? No way. If alice nine wants to make boring PVs, I guess that’s their business. But they really need to learn how to turn on the charm in their videos if nothing else.
AAA - Call
Now here’s a group that knows how to imbue a boring PV with personality so that the viewer feels a connection with the members. For “CALL” the members of AAA go to a sweet house party and dance a lot. (They also get a lot of pictures taken, which leads me to the question, what the hell kind of party host would let that many of the press in?) The dancing is decent, though not as tight as what you’d see with a Korean group, but the choreography is terrible, full of odd, disjointed moves. Meanwhile the camera zooms around trying to focus on each member equally, giving the same feeling as an AKB48 PV, where you don’t know who you should be looking at. But even with all that against it, the members have so much personality that it’s hard not to enjoy watching them all. There are fun little moments, like when Urata and Nishijima get flowers from the butler, only to hand them off the Misako, who jumps with happiness. Misako basks in the flashbulb glow of the photographers while Chiaki just walks along like they’re not there, choosing instead to sweetly look deep into our souls. Sueyoshi keeps laying on the cheeze, trying to look cool and sexy, Nishijima and Atae play the sweet and adorable ones, Urata plays the cool one, Hidaka plays the funny and cocky one. They’re each distinct and have their own way of expressing themselves so that no one is unmemorable. But more than that, everyone seems genuinely happy to be at the party, and by extension, to be performing in the PV. It’s like they’re looking through the camera to say “OH MY GOD YOU’RE WATCHING US YOU’RE SO COOL WE LOVE YOU.” Because of this, even though the PV itself is boring, I enjoyed watching it because I felt like I could connect with the group. Other performers could learn from AAA.
Sowelu - I want U to... feat. WISE
In “I wan U to...” Sowelu plays a deranged girlfriend obsessed with marriage. She and WISE appear on a couch, she in a wedding dress and he in a tux, and the PV follows them as Sowelu creates a love potion and tries to give it to WISE. It’s hilarious to see them sitting together at dinner when she gives it to him - she pulls the classic “Hey, look over there!” and pours the potion into his wine. But when he turns around, he sees that the wine in his glass is now sublimating, and, understandably cautious, smells it and is revolted by the odor. He looks at her like “What the hell?!” and she looks back at him like “Oh, that’s just my special smoke wine! It’s from Chile....You know, so it’s must be hot, right? Drink up!” This is unfortunately the beginning and end of the hijinks (though the rest of the time you get to watch Sowelu be smoking hot and playing with chemicals, so not all bad), but the real impact of the PV doesn’t hit until the end when WISE finally proposes. For whatever reason it didn’t hit me that they weren’t engaged, what with the clothes their wearing. But when WISE gets down on his knee to propose, it all hit me. They’re not even engaged. Which means that WISE has had to endure who knows how many months of Sowelu forcing him to play wedding dress-up and spiking his drinks with dubious concoctions amateurishly thrown together in her basement meth lab. You’d think that WISE would just have run screaming, but I think there are two good reasons that he didn’t. First, who the hell knows what Sowelu would have done if he tried to run. Second, see “Let me lead you.” Assuming she’s the same girl, I’m surprised WISE didn’t propose faster. The song is another catchy dance tune that’s just fun to listen to.