Many music videos come out 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.
The plot of this PV can be summed up in four words: treasure hunt for porn. No, seriously. Hyde and K.A.Z. are hunting around an island paradise – tooling around in a sailboat, a convertible, and even a motorcycle sidecar – using a special number as their “X marks the spot,” only to find some porn buried on the beach. Hyde and K.A.Z., as great friends and bandmates that travel to exotic destinations together, have a clear division of labor going for this trip: K.A.Z. drives the car, fixes it when it breaks down, and finds their first clue for the porn stash. Hyde handles the other half of the work: stumbling around like a drunk, wearing too much make-up, hitting on chicks, and stealing stuff from fruit stands. Is it clear yet that I’m not a fan of this video? The song, I'll grant, is pretty good. "ANGEL TRIP" isn't what I'd call any kind of great J-Rock achievement, but it's not bad either, if you count out Hyde's voice. (Sorry, I just can’t handle his voice. It’s a personal problem.) It’s a good rock song with a fun, fast tempo that makes me think it would be best enjoyed from inside VAMPS’s white convertible as it races around the island. However, the PV isn’t anywhere near as good as the song. To be frank, this is the quality of video that I'd expect out of GLAY, who, despite being my favorite band, has committed more PV atrocities in their career than any three other J-rock artists combined. It makes me think of a cross between the “Shitto” and “Blue Jean” PVs, and trust me, that’s not a compliment. The video spends a lot of time trying to make Hyde look cool, and leaving poor K.A.Z. out in the cold, as though he’s just Hyde’s hired help. The quest angle is sort of fun, until you find out that the magical thing you’ve been waiting for this whole PV is a bunch of girly magazines that don't even showcase any boob. No wonder they throw them out of the convertible with such zest at the end of the PV. They could have saved themselves the expense of an island paradise and gotten Card Captor tentacle porn from Ikebukuro for a fraction of the cost. I recommend this PV if you’re a big fan of Hyde and don’t mind watching him act like a dick for four and a half minutes.
Koda Kumi wants you to lick her lollipop. But only if you’re a girl. And maybe not even then. The PV is one of those tiring choreographed things, with plenty of overdone costumes and sets, creating an overall effect that screams “Look! I’m rich and I can dance!” There was almost nothing about this PV that I enjoyed. The costumes were odd at best (Kumi as a parachute pants-wearing cowgirl visiting the beach), and disgusting at worst (can you say “leopard print leggings?”). The sets were fine, if overdone, but the camera shots should have been illegal: just one of those annoying reverse-forward-reverse-forward shots is bad enough, but three is criminal. Other shots, far from being interesting, are ridiculous: Kumi looks more interested in licking her grossly long fingernails than in her yummy-looking lollipop, or anything else in the PV for that matter. The only intriguing parts are the fun lesbian overtones. I mean, there are guys around, sure, and they’re slave guys to boot, but they don’t have a chance to get anywhere near Kumi’s “lollipop” – she pushes them away as soon as they appear, and they never come near her again. The other girls in the PV, on the other hand, get plenty of time with Kumi, even getting to rub all over her toward the end. Not that Kumi looks interested in any of them, either. Nope, she only has eyes for those yummy nummy fingernails of hers. To her credit, the dancing in the PV is very good; although choreography isn’t my favorite form of dance, the moves are interesting to watch and flawlessly performed. However, being as how the dancing only takes up about a minute of the four total minutes of video, it’s far from enough to make the video enjoyable. As for the music, “Lollipop” is more of Kumi’s urban pop, but not my favorite of hers: I found the song a little repetitive, and just didn’t like the sound of the strong bass. I think it’s supposed to make Kumi sound badass but instead just makes the song sound over-produced. With neither a good song nor a decent video to go with it, I can’t recommend this one.
BoA weighs in against Kumi with a choreographed PV of her own, and I really wanted to like it better than Kumi’s. BoA has done everything right (at least in terms of making me happy): the PV has a very laid back feel, with fun Lichtensteinian comic book art throughout and even incorporated in the costumes. Unlike “Lollipop,” BoA gives the boys a real chance to participate in the PV, and in fact, she’s the only girl in this PV. But despite these improvements, I can’t like “WOO WEEKEND” any better than “Lollipop.” The dancing takes up a much larger proportion of the video, but is much less impressive; throughout the video, the dancing feels robotic and stiff rather than fluid as in “Lollipop.” This wouldn’t have been such a big consideration if it took up only a minute or so of the PV, but because over 90% of the video is dancing, it’s just difficult to watch BoA and her dancers stiffly hopping around the set. Other than this flaw, the video does a reasonable job of being fun until about three minutes in, when BoA’s fun little “woo weekend” turns into a sad “boo weekend” as she and her dancers begin hanging out on exercise equipment. How exercise equipment says “woo weekend” or “dancing all night long” in the same way that dancing in a pool hall or darts arcade or heliport does, I’m not sure. Unfortunately, this addition isn’t just confusing, it’s sad, and it appears several times in the last minute of the PV. In the end, it’s not so much that the PV is bad as it is that the PV falls flat. The music helps a little – it’s not bad by any means, but it’s not that great either. It’s poppy and, like the video, should be fun but is distracted by some annoying elements (such as the repetitive “woo wee!”) that keep it from being all that it could be. In the end it is not a bad PV, but not anything to spend your time on, either.
Yet another choreographed dance video. But where both Kumi and BoA fail, Aoyama Thelma succeeds. I suppose that after reading the reviews for “Lollipop” and “WOO WEEKEND” you’d think that I have no room in my heart for the choreographed dance video. And until I saw this video, I would have said you were right. But Thelma takes this tired old genre and breathes life into it: rather than a handful of backup dancers, Thelma and RED RICE employ a virtual army of them, all dancing with a very small amount of their own flair. (Note that this is different from BoA’s dancers not quite matching, because with “Summer Love” you can see that the differences are on purpose, while in “WOO WEEKEND” you can see that they’re accidental.) This gives the entire video a less static feeling and ramps up the fun factor by about ten. The impression you get from watching the video is almost as though a club video and a choreographed dance video have joined forces, creating something greater than either of them alone. The hint of a narrative in the clips of a girl enjoying a typically Japanese summer love is just enough to break up the monotony, but not so overwhelming that you expect there to be a real story there – it’s like Thelma is giving examples of what she’s singing about rather than telling you about two specific people. The costumes are bright and bold, and contribute to the warm, summery feeling of the whole video. That’s not to say that this video is perfect: I would have loved to see more time with the dancers in the pool at the end – the fade out with Thelma walking away ruined what I had been hoping was the video’s climax. But other than this one oversight, I found the video engaging and fun without being at all pretentious. The music is just as poppy and fun as the video, sort of like a Japanese version of Aqua – which is ironic, since I hate the actual Aqua with a passion. This video is far from an avant-garde masterpiece, but that’s not what it’s aiming for; instead it’s trying to be a fun, poppy video about summer love, and it nails it. If you only watch one dance video from this review, “Summer Love” should be it.
This PV is hands down the most interesting of those in this review. Wakeshima Kanon wanders through a storyscape made up of Victorian-esque black and white prints, and messes up the stories she encounters. Although there’s not a strict narrative in this video, Kanon’s interactions with her surroundings make for interesting vignettes throughout the PV: in Alice in Wonderland she turns the (presumably fresh-painted) red roses back to white; in “Rapunzel” she cuts down the tower; in “Cinderella” she shrinks the glass slipper; in “Sleeping Beauty,” she wakes the princess with an alarm clock. I want to find a deeper meaning in the changes Kanon makes to these stories, but I doubt this deeper meaning exists. Despite the lack of a firm narrative or deep meaning, however, the video is nothing if not visually appealing. Despite that most of the video is black and white or sepia toned, the storybook world feels lush and almost alive, and the contrast between real-life Wakeshima Kanon and her printed surroundings helps keep up the visual tension throughout. The only bit about the PV that I didn’t like was the Lolita girl who’s reading the story: her expressions are so blank that she could pass for a well-groomed zombie, and although I generally like Lolita fashion, her feathered monstrosity of a headdress is just too ugly. (Kanon’s outfits, on the other hand, are great, so maybe the costumer needn’t be shot.) The music is upbeat but in a minor key, and consists of a drum machine, a synthesizer and strings, once again creating a fun tension between the modern and classical elements that makes the song interesting to listen to and reminds me, in a good way, of the visual kei music from the mid-nineties. Everything about this PV (with the exception of zombie girl and her headdress) is well put together, interesting, and stimulating. I definitely recommend it, both for the video and the song.