Monday, November 19, 2012

Let's Talk about Idol is Dead

So ignoring the awkward grammar of the title, is the idol dead? Let's find out.

Finally, after nearly a month of waiting for this album to leak Brand-new Idol Society's Idol is Dead has become available to the foreign public! I can't describe how truly ecstatic I am that this album has finally leaked; call me a scumbag thief who's too cheap to buy the impractically pricey album but I don't care! I have it and for me that's all that matters! This is probably the album that has held the highest amount of anticipation for me this year and I have literally been checking every day to see if a DL link was up yet. For the past month, I've been living off the previews of the album songs on iTunes Japan and I was reaching the point of doing an album review based off simply the snippets but now I'm glad I waited. I've been waiting for this PV the same way I crack addict waits for his latest delivery of crack and the previews of the songs had me really excited! I've always felt like Brand-new Idol Society is a bit overlooked in the idol world and I also think they get an unjust amount of hate. Of course, I can see why, especially if you just watch their music videos and even I can admit they're a little gimmick-y when it comes to striving so hard to be unconventional (this English interview gives you an idea of their... unconventional-ness). But the reason I like them so much is because behind that gimmick, the group has some genuinely good music and I've heard their lives are entertaining to attend. As long as the music's good, I could care less about their music videos hence my decision to review the music on their latest album! So I've got the album, my trusty Apple Rating System and a keyboard so let's dive in and find out if idols really are dead!


I will say, this is not the best album opener for me. In fact, I don't like this song at all. The thing is I'm not a metalhead so such a hardcore metal song is really out of my element to review. Give me rock, pop, techno, I can work with that but when it comes to metal I don't really know what to say. However, I can say that I dislike metal for a lot of reasons most people dislike metal: it's loud, too much screaming, vocals are indistinguishable and I'm not much of a head banger. This song has all of these traits and while I think a metalhead can enjoy this song, I can't really get into it. I know that BiS is all about being hardcore and unconventional but for me this was just a little too hardcore. I know I probably "just don't get it" and the song is more complex than I think it sounds but to me it sounds like a noisy mess. Metalheads, I'm certain you can enjoy this. As for myself, I don't like this song and I especially don't like it opening the album.

My rating:

2. ASH

Oh. My. God. Why couldn't this have been the album opener!? I know it doesn't match the title of the album but who cares!? This song is awesome. From the opening intro it is freaking awesome. I'd heard part of it from the edited PV on the Avex Youtube channel but hearing the whole thing is just... oh my god, I love this song so much. It has so much energy! I'm not sure how to describe the song in words; I guess you could call it... space rock? Of course, space rock immediately makes me think of David Bowie and obviously that's a bit of a far-fetched comparison. But the song uses a lot of synths and vocal editing and the resulting song comes off more electro-rock than electropop. Ash is really loud song but unlike Idol is Dead, I feel like it works better for me. Epic, that's a good word to describe this song, very epic! And all that musical epicness ends with... a fart. For some reason, I find that hilarious...

My rating:


So after that noise eruption, the next track tones down the loudness a bit with the group's A-side from their debut single. I feel like my enjoyment of BiS' debut single has grown over time and it's become one of my favorite summer songs and PVs released this year! Unlike the previous track, there are no synths or electro elements to speak up and the song is more rock with some pop infused into it. The best part of the song to me is the chorus because the whole it feels like the verses are building up to it in terms of energy. So when the chorus does comes, it's really upbeat and the repetition of the "pero-pero-chuu-chuu" lyrics opening each separate chorus was a really catchy hook. I like the song because it has... spunk! Or moxie! Or something of that nature! Whatever you want to call it, it's nice to have such a peppy and upbeat song that still rocks! PPCC is a really catchy song and the PV is also a lot of fun to watch to.

My rating:


Okay, when the song first started playing, I immediately thought of Scandal. I mean, this sounds exactly like something I'd hear on a Scandal album, especially the Queens are Trumps album. Blew was one of the songs I was really looking forward to from the get-go; the preview really hooked me and I like the nostalgic and pretty rock sound it carried. Blew is one of the softer tracks on the album in terms of loudness but I use the word "loud" very loosely in this case. For a song titled Blew, you'd think it'd be very soft and flowy and sweet but Blew is actually a rock song with a ton of energy. It makes you think less of a gentle spring wind blowing in the breeze and more of a giant tornado rampaging through the Midwest. But that works for the song really well; Blew is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album. I'm always up for idol rock and Blew is about as idol rock as you can gets; it's a pretty song that's rough around the edges and I like that.

My rating:


And just when I couldn't think of how the energy could be topped with Blew, Chelsea comes bouncing in and next thing I know it I'm dancing like a tree caught in a hurricane to it. This is such a fun song that just listening to it can put me in a peppy mood! Like Blew, there are a lot of guitars and drums in this song but I think Chelsea leans a little more towards pop-punk than the rock sound that Blew carried. And it's a nice genre shift; I feel like Blew was kind of a build up to the high-energy sound of Chelsea. This is one of those songs where I could possibly attempt at banging my head without feeling stupid or awkward, especially when that chorus comes in! Oh my god, the chorus is totally the best part of this song and then it somehow gets even awesomer when the key change happens towards. I swear this song is on crack but it's really good crack because I totally love listening to this song, especially when I'm in a good mood.

My rating:

6. nerve

Ah, nerve. How could you not love nerve? It's fun, catchy, the chorus is great, I love this song! Now what's interesting about this that differentiates it from the nerve on their indie album is that nerve was actually re-recorded to include the new members. Actually, a lot of the old songs on this album were re-recorded and I was a little worried about how they would sound. Luckily, not much really changes save for some new vocals and nerve is just as fun as it was with the original! What I love about nerve is that it has a lot of energy and the instrumentals carries this really bouncy electronic sound. My favorite part is those first opening notes and then the full instrumental comes in and the song just gets awesomer and awesomer. nerve is just one of those songs where everything seems to work and once again, I think that's because of the energy. This is probably one of my favorite songs by BiS and the re-recorded version is just as great!

My rating:

7. Our Song

So this is actually a cover song! And no, it's not a cover of the Taylor Swift song but the Shinchi Osawa one instead! To make a proper comparison between this one and the original, I did listen to Osawa's version and it's a pretty enjoyable song! The biggest distinction between his and BiS' is that his incorporates the use of more electronics and synths, giving the original a more upbeat tone. In contrast, the BiS version is much more murky and involves heavy use of guitars and other "jangly" instruments. At first the muddled sound might be a little hard to get into but after awhile you can catch the melody behind it. For a cover, I really like it because BiS did more than just cover the song and be done with it. Their producer managed to rearrange the song to fit the groups style by redoing the instrumentals. And combined with vocals that almost sound like whispers, Our Song proves to be a cover that can stand out from the original!

My rating:

8. My Ixxx

I remember this was the song that probably got BiS some relevance thanks to the music video of them running around naked. Naturally (Get it? Because they weren't wearing anything!) that sparked up a lot of controversy but on the up side the song in the video was what got me into the group. Of course, it was extremely hard to find anything about them since they were one of the more obscure indie idol groups at the time. But I remember liking this song because it was this combination of alternative and rock and pop that I hadn't heard from an idol group (and for the record I still haven't). And even today I still enjoy My Ixxx a lot even if I have no idea what the hell and "Ixxx" is and why BiS possesses one. It gives you a good idea of the sound that BiS tends to gravitate to! I was a little wary of how this would sound rearranged and with new vocals but to my happy surprise, it's pretty much the same, catchy song only more people singing it!

My rating:

9. I wish I was Special

What surprised me about this song when I looked up the lyrics was that it's entirely in English... or Engrish in this case. Yeah, the pronunciation is pretty odd to the point where I assumed they were singing Japanese. Then again, I don't expect them to have diction so perfect it puts people who actually speak English to shame. It also doesn't help that the lyrics are a little nonsensical ("even if I seem to gold life"... the hell does that mean?). It's not the worst Engrish out there but it's enough to make me cock my head and think "Who wrote this again?" And there were a few parts I could make out the English! I think what the song was trying to get across was that it's okay not to be perfect but frankly I have no idea. Nonetheless, it was still a very enjoyable song! It's one of the perkier tracks on the album and definitely falls into the pop-rock genre. My only gripe with this song other than the odd lyrics is that it's way too short!

My rating:

10. hitoribochi

This is the ballad of the album and this was one of the few songs I'd heard before the full album was leaked thanks to the accompanying music video. It's a nice cool-down after the hyper-rock sound of I wish I was Special and it's definitely one of the more interesting ballads out there. This song actually sounds a lot like an old alternative ballad to me, especially that opening guitar. It reminded me of The Cure of all things... so I guess you could say the best word for the sound has is very old and nostalgic. The song really sounds like something you'd hear in the nineties or maybe even the eighties. And for that, I like it! It's not every day I hear a ballad like this from an idol group and it doesn't drag! I think that's mainly because it's pretty much a rock/alt ballad but I can't stand it when ballads drag. hitoribochi has a lot of energy and it's directed toward a slower and more melancholic sound and it's a nice ballad for the album!

My rating:

11. IDOL

So this is in the vein of the album's opening track and if you hated that song with a burning passion, chances are you aren't going to warm up to this one any time soon. Idol pretty much mirrors the sound of Idol is Dead and it's pretty firmly planted in the genre of heavy metal. Once again, I'm not a metalhead. Not even a little bit. So yeah, I can't really jam to this song because it's just not a genre of music I enjoy listening to. If anything, the song sounds really, really loud to my ears and the screaming and hard guitars proved to be too overwhelming for my delicate little eardrums. I also didn't like it coming after the ballad because of the mood whiplash (but that might have been intentional considering this is BiS). I can give the song a few points for having a pretty catchy chorus but the chorus alone isn't enough to make me enjoy the song. If you're a metalhead, I think you can get down to this pretty easily but I'll stick to songs like My Ixxx and nerve.

My rating:

12. urge over kill of love

Well, isn't that one hell of a title? I was thinking this was going to be another metal song so I didn't have a terribly high amount of anticipation for it. I was still excited, just not quite as much as some of the other tracks. So... sorry, I gotta throw in a Western artist but the opening instrumentals (that exotic instrument I can't name) sounds a lot like the song Bad Girls to me. Of course, when the vocals start that's when the similarities end. There's a lot of... talking with style? I don't want to call it rapping because it's not but the talking bits sound very sinister and a little bit creepy. Overall, this is one of the darker songs on the album in terms of sound and vocals. I actually like this dark style of song over Idol and Idol is Dead because it just sounds better to my ears... maybe because I can actually make out the sounds! urge over kill of love definitely lives up to its title and is a really cool and dark follow-up to Idol!

My rating:

13. primal

Closing the album is another revised indie single and it's one of my favorites from the group. What's nice about all these revised tracks is they don't really deviate too much from their original besides the vocals. And I actually like the MP3 of this song better than its original because for some reason the audio from the original was really soft compared to the other tracks I'd bought by the group. I'm still not sure why but the new one is luckily very audible and equally as loud as its other tracks! I've always loved this song because you can hear the emotion pouring through the vocals; not a lot of songs can pull that off. To me it always sounded like the girls were crying as they sang this song and that shows even more in the new version. I can't explain how but you can just hear so much in the song that it doesn't even need a music video to stand out. It's a perfect song and an even more perfect way to end the album.

My rating:

The Verdict

So I think the first big question to be answered is are idols dead? Well, for BiS, I think they are! As for the rest of the idol fandom... not so much. Look, as long as AKB48's still selling millions and Momoclo is climbing the charts I think idols are a live and well. Now with that aside, what about the content of the actual album? I'll be honest, it's probably because I've been waiting so long with such anticipation for it but... I really, really love this album. It's probably my favorite album released this year. What makes this album so great is that there's such a variety of different styles of music: metal (Idol, Idol is Dead), pop-punk (nerve, Chelsea), rock (Blew, primal), alternative (Our Song, My Ixxx), I've never seen such a wide range of different styles all compiled into an album released by an idol group. I've never really emphasized this much on my blog since my main focus is Japanese pop music but alternative music is probably my second love. R.E.M., Mazzy Star, Arcade Fire, The Smiths, artists of that nature are pretty much all I listen to in terms of Western music. Seriously, if I'm not listening to J-pop, I'm probably listening to alternative. So when you combine two of my favorite genres of music together, I'm going to be a pretty happy camper. What I found interesting about this album is that the members of the group wrote some of the lyrics for certain songs! Yufu wrote urge over kill of love, Mitchel wrote Blew and all the members wrote PPCC, Ash, My Ixxx, primal. and hitoribochi. That's over half the tracks on the album that were self-written! Of course, someone else composed the music but that's still a lot of input from the idols themselves. It would help if I could find a translation of these lyrics to see if they're anything with substance... Another plus with the album is that all the songs have energy, so much that they each pull me in. I'm just... I'm really impressed with how this album turned out and I'm happy that I was finally able to review it!

If it weren't for Idol is Dead and Idol being on the tracklist, I would give BiS' first major album 5 out of 5 apples. However, I have to include my negative opinion on those two song and hence the album loses half an apple. Still, this is a really, really great album, especially if you're someone who's into alternative. If BiS so clearly wasn't an idol group, I probably wouldn't even consider this idol music. Idol is Dead takes a lot of different sounds and concepts and seamlessly blends them all together to create this perfect variety of music. I would highly recommend giving this album a listen ,even if you don't like the group's image. Look, here's a word of advice when you're approaching Brand-new Idol Society: don't watch their music videos. And if you do, don't let them cloud your judgement of the music itself. Because behind all those gimmicks and blatant attempts at standing out is a collection of incredibly diverse music for an idol group with a lot of creativity that makes it outshine the music videos that accompany them.

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