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.
Nishino Kana - Esperanza
Although pretty, there’s not a lot that I find special about this PV: Kana sings a catchy little song in an exotic location. So...exactly the same PV as she always does, but with a different adjective at the end. (“Distance” = “Kana sings a catchy little song in a sparkly location.” “Kimitte” = “Kana sings a catchy little song in a lesbian-friendly location.”) You know what? The best way to explain this PV is “just like ‘Kimitte,’ but without the lesbians.” Okay, so there are some actual differences, but they’re so superficial that I don’t know if they count: singing in front of a bonfire instead of trees! Singing outside the hotel instead of inside it! Underexposed shots instead of lens flare! Red outfit instead of white! Like all the other Kana videos I’ve seen, it’s super-saturated with color, and there’s heavy use of alternating (though not necessarily creative) lighting angles to make everything seem pretty and light. It’s beautiful to look at, but pretty short on content. Still, there’s a definite trend going on here, and I’m beginning to think that it’s purposeful instead of accidental. Although I certainly don’t favor this kind of PV, you can’t deny that there’s some pretty strong branding going on here. When you watch a Kana video, you know exactly what you’re going to get: a pretty set, a pretty outfit, a pretty girl, pretty singing, and little or no plot to draw the attention away from the pretty. Although I find it boring as hell, it obviously works for her so I’ll give her kudos for giving her fans more of the experience that they’ve come to expect.
Fukuhara Miho - Starlight
As beautiful as this song is, I wish that there was more to the video. The strongest feeling that I get from the “Starlight” PV is “trying too hard.” There’s a lot of slow motion feet walking, a lot of high speed sun-crossing the sky, a lot of hand cam, a lot of actors staring seriously/blankly to some point just off-camera. The song is gorgeous, but the PV should be scrapped. There are a lot of pretty elements, but pretty alone does not a good PV make. Miho sings about wanting to hold tight to a person that she’s lost, looking back on hopes and mistakes and love... So where is that person? Why does she want to be with them? Who where they to her? How does not having them make her feel? We don’t see any of this. Throughout the PV Miho sits on her stool and sings her heart out, but her expression is one of joyous singing, not the pain that comes with realizing that the one person you truly love is the one person you’ll likely never see again. The PV aims to seem very deep and sad, and because it’s only trying to seem that way, it isn’t that way at all. I wanted to see Miho crying, or interacting with that person (which would be a lovely counter-point to the lyrics, which tell us that that person is already gone). Or, if we just can’t get away from cliched artsy, then people with pictures or written descriptions of the people they’re missing. Unfortunately, the saddest part of this PV is that it isn’t sad at all.
9mm Parabellum Bullet - Atarashii Hikari
Yet another performance PV. (Come on, rock bands! I know you can do better than this!) I’ll grant, though, “Atarashii Hikari” is at least somewhat better than it could have been. There’s something about the way that this video was shot that reminded me a lot of old visual kei PVs from the 90s, though I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes me think of them. 9mm Parabellum Bullet certainly isn’t VK, though - plain outfits in basic dark colors. But because of the VK feeling of the video, the lack of costuming makes me feel like I’m watching a VK band practice in their street clothes rather than on stage; they’re just rocking out to make sure they’ve tightened everything down, getting ready for the fans that will arrive in a few days. The camera work, though, is something else: unending loops of the band members, or a line of them spinning slowly closer to the camera; all kinds of cheezy stuff that I both love and hate. It’s almost like an update of the cheeziness that was rife in the old VK videos. Still, there’s not a lot to keep your attention. On top of that, I wasn’t too impressed with the song. I really like 9mm Parabellum Bullet, so I was excited to review the PV if for no other reason than to hear the song, but I found it repetitive and perhaps a bit too old-school for my taste. If you’re crazy and like performance PVs, this should be right up your alley! But if you like PVs with something to keep your attention, stay away.
Superfly - Ah
Superfly sings a song that only has one word while the camera zooms and pans around her and her horrible teeth. Yeah. It makes me feel so bad to stoop to the level of insulting her teeth again, but between “Ah” and “Eyes on Me,” I get the impression that Superfly just has a thing for boring-ass videos. And how else am I supposed to fill up the word count if I can’t resort to insults? So here we go, an open letter to Superfly: Girl, how can you do this to yourself? Do you have self-esteem problems? Get a handle on these PVs, starting with never letting the camera catch you with your mouth open ever again. You’re so pretty, but as soon as I see the snaggle-toothed disaster inside your mouth, all I can think of is a Klingon warrior maiden. Also, I’m not sure if you really got the memo here, but “PV” stands for “promotional video.” Maybe you're a purist who feels like the song should be able to stand on its own without needing a video to make it interesting, but a lot of your revenue as an artist will come from people who only have a passing interest in your music but are really interested in PVs. Boring PVs like this will make those people stop buying your CDs, which will result in you making less money. It’s a pretty basic equation. That said, though, I don’t know what else you could have done with “Ah” PV-wise, so maybe it would have been better to choose a different song entirely for the video. Maybe a new director? Whatever it is, fix it!
Kreva - C’mon, Let’s Go
Despite myself, I really like this song. It has an old-school feeling, lean instrumentation, and gentle auto-tuning. (I’m a total sucker for well-done auto-tuning.) And best of all is the second half of the song where all the music drops out and Kreva raps and sings the rest of the song a capella! You can even hear the Tokyo traffic if you listen carefully. It’s a little surreal, and also proves that he doesn’t need the auto-tuning, he just uses it because it sounds good. It’s a really creative touch that endeared me to the song, and forced me to admit that I like it. Unfortuantely, the PV has very little going for it. It’s like “Ah,” only with more than one camera shot. We see a lot of Tokyo skyline, and a lot of Kreva doing hand motions. The only interesting bit is his magical sunglasses, which he uses to the turn the music off halfway through, then turn it back on at the very end. Those are the sunglasses my friends and I have been looking for our whole lives, the ones that will allow us to turn our lives into musicals and iPod commercials! I wonder where Kreva keeps them, and how easy it would be to hire Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and a zany band of misfits to steal them for me? In all seriousness, though, there’s little going for this video other than the song itself and Kreva’s cute little crooked smiles. If you’re not into cute Kreva smiles, come for the song. Or maybe just listen to it where you don’t feel the need to watch the video out of politeness.