Monday, January 21, 2013

Time Capsule Reviews: Danjo

"I dare you to review a Beckii Cruel song :{D" said Chiima as the two of us were chatting on Facebook about the randomest of idol topics. And so we're taking a break from reviewing the glorious Perfume PVs of the past and reviewing... this. Hoo boy.

Yes, the Time Capsule Review this month is a little bit different than from what I usually do. I'd planned to just review a Perfume song I drew out of my magic hat (which I will postpone to February now) but then Chiima gave me a PV Request, and not just any old idol PV Request. Chiima requested Danjo by none other than Beckii Cruel, that Youtube idol I wrote about and subsequently pissed off. Yep. Can you feel the enthusiasm bubbling within me? But since I never back out of a dare unless it's life-threatening and/or dangerous, I figured since I requested her to review so much Perfume stuff in her PV Request Chronicles, the least I can do is return the favor and review something she requests of me... even if this is the request.

When we last heard of Beckii Cruel aka Rebecca Flint on my little blog, it was in my rather infamous post about Youtube idols in which I discussed my impressions of her and her career choices and also a further analysis of other Youtube idols who have tried with varied success to make it as idols in Japan. Thanks to my own foolishness of trying to promote the article on Tumblr, she quickly caught wind of the article and unsurprisingly, was not very happy. Yes, my brief encounter with Ms. Flint was not a pleasant one and this time around I have the good sense not to attempt to promote this on Tumblr. But I digress. So today, we're going all the way back to 2009 when a 14-year old Flint was just starting to gain attention in Japan.

Now before we get too far into my review, I want to say as a little disclaimer that I am perfectly aware that Flint probably had little to no creative control in her management and was most likely just following along with whatever they told her to do. I'm also aware that this was over three years ago during a time in which Flint was only fourteen years old and that she has most likely matured as a person. And finally, I am aware that everyone makes mistakes and does things they're not proud of and that there are some things that we can never live down despite trying our hardest to sweep them under the rug. Like any other idol PV I review, I do not take any of this information into consideration when writing the actual review. I acknowledge it because let's be honest, hardly any idols have  any control over their career choices especially when they first start out, and since Beckii Cruel is an idol (a Youtube idol but nonetheless an idol), I intend to approach this review as though I were reviewing anything else by an idol who released something. With that out of the way... let's review this.

Back in 2009, when Cruel was just starting to gain Internet fame and attention, she signed on with Tokuma Japan (the former agency that housed Perfume before they moved to UMJ) and under that agency one of her first releases was a DVD titled This Is Beckii Cruel. On that DVD was a music video of popular Japanese meme song Danjo, accompanied by Cruel's own cover of the song. The significance of Danjo and Beckii Cruel, is that the original song was essentially what made her famous so it makes sense to cover the song as an homage to that fame. But the thing is... I don't like the original Danjo. When I was doing research for my Youtube idols post, I watched the original Danjo to compare it to the cover and it's not much better than Cruel's cover. Okay, it's not the worst song I've ever heard but it doesn't really appeal to me, kind of like an inside joke that I wasn't there for. I think the vocalist in the song is over-the-top and annoying, the song is really repetitive and it's just a silly song that I don't think is that funny. A lot of the humor of the song flies over my head due to not only the language barrier but also my lack of knowledge about the origin of the meme itself. I myself don't really give a shit about American memes so memes of other nations possess absolutely no interest for me.

From what I have gathered, I think one of the elements of Danjo's popularity was the dance because covering that very dance was what made Cruel gain attention in Japan. Why the hell not? Easy-to-do dances seem to catch on all over the world; just look at Gangnam Style! So considering that was the song that propelled Cruel into kinda-sorta-not-really stardom, what other song should she debut with other than Danjo? Now something I always say about covers is that I try to see them as rationally as possible because I know that most covers never measure up to the original. So what happens when I don't even like the original? Well... then the cover either goes one of two ways: A) the cover turns out to be a vast improvement that fixes everything wrong with the original or B) the cover sucks just as much as the original does. Can you guess what I thought about Cruel's cover of Danjo?

Danjo, Danjo, how do I even begin to describe Danjo? I think the best summary I can give this song is... it is the most fantastic train wreck of a J-pop song that I have encountered during my time as a blogger. Everything is wrong about this song from the vocals to the lyrics to the instrumentals, everything you expect is going to go wrong goes wrong. Does that mean it's so bad it's good? Pahaha, no, but if you're one of those people who loves to shock your friends with fantastically bad music you can all rip apart together, this song's for you! I'm not even sure where to start with what's wrong with this song... do I even have to point out what's wrong? I think one listen can let anyone with working eardrums know just what is wrong with this song. Then again, I review things for a reason so what are some of the main aspects of this song that sound so very, very bad?

Well, the most glaring flaw and the one that almost everyone has pointed out by now is the gratuitous Japanese lyrics and Cruel's highly butchered pronunciation of them. I get it. Learning a language is hard and it's even harder to master pronunciation, Japanese especially. Like every other language, Japanese is incredibly intricate with a variety of dialects and a completely different grammar structure from English too. And when you have a British accent that's heavy enough to carry over into another language, I'm afraid that's not going to help you in singing Japanese. Not only does Beckii Cruel have a very prominent British accent in this song, but she also sounds completely and totally uninterested. It's like she was just reading off a series of phrases in the recording studio. I'll give the original credit, that singer (whoever he is) was very expressive and you could identify with his over-the-top frustration. And then you have these random English phrases within the poorly pronounced Japanese and I honestly have no idea what the hell is going on. Mixing languages in a song is a risky choice to make and it really sounds awkward in this song that was originally all Japanese.

And even the parts in English, which Beckii Cruel should be very well-versed in, sound even more deadpan and emotionless than the Japanese parts! I mean, yeah, that could have been humorous but I don't think it was intentional for this song. You know how back in middle school English class, your teacher would force each classmate to read their little weekly essays out loud to the entire class? And do you remember how completely and totally uninterested everyone sounded? And how you just wanted to slit your wrists to pass the time of hearing these monotone students read as though the life is being sucked out of them from the sheer act of standing in front of the class? That's kind of how Beckii Cruel sounds! I think my least favorite parts of the song are when the lyrics repeat and somehow Cruel manages to pull off the amazing feat of never breaking an octave during these little repetition bits! And for some reason it just grinds on my ears; I don't even know why because it's not the most annoying thing I've ever heard. It's high up there, but not terribly high.

The most annoying part is when the "Danjo" phrased is repeated over and over and over and over and over again until my mind is one giant pile of mush that I have to scrape back together. I mean, it feels like that one goddamn word goes on forever despite the song being less than 3 minutes long. Even writing about how much this song annoys me puts me in a pissy mood. The shock value of the bad pronunciation and Cruel's accent quickly wear off due to the monotony of the song and it's just not an enjoyable song. I couldn't ever see myself bobbing my head to this or thinking "I should play Danjo right now!" Even if this song was sung by someone else, I still don't think I would like it. Overall, Beckii Cruel's cover of Danjo is simultaneously annoying and dull thanks to her unenthusiastic vocals and my own lukewarm reception of the original song. I'm sure the song could have been worse (it could have been longer...) but it was a huge misstep in marketing Cruel as a J-pop idol.

So on the DVD, their were actually several different filmed versions of Danjo like a Kitchen Version, a Street Version and so on. The PV I'm looking at is the All Mix Version and it's... something. I'm not sure what but it's something! Let's take a look!

Okay, the PV starts with some nice text, a decent set giving homage to Cruel's homemade dance covers, so far this isn't so-


And now she's dancing in the kitchen. Because I know I always bake food in my frilly pink dress and equally frilly knee socks too!

I will say, there are a lot of different places this PV was shot and a few of them look very nice, like this one.

My, what big earmuffs you have!

Are you sure it's a good idea to sing out loud on your iPod walking amongst bunch of strangers you don't even know? Because trust me, I've done that and people do NOT like it.

Oh god, this outfit takes me back to freshman year and the school courtyard filled with insane Hot Topic scene kids -shudders-

The hell are you wearing now? A psuedo-kimono? I swear each outfit in this PV gets weirder and weirder...

Wait. Cruel got famous for her dancing but this is... not good. It's like she took five Valiums then went to shoot the dance shot.

I really can't get over this outfit. I mean the socks, the voluptuous tutu, the hoodie... I don't even...

I really love the facial expressions of the people passing by. I wish there was a better quality PV of this song so I could get a better look at them.


Oh my god, another random passerby wondering what the hell this Caucasian girl is wearing. You know, I think if you wore that outfit just about anywhere, you'd get a handful some weird looks.

Finally! An outfit that doesn't look weebish!

You know, I noticed that her face really doesn't change that much in the PV. I mean, there's like one facial that really stands out but the rest of the time she looks really passive and bored.

I know that move! That's the lawnmower!

That woman's face. You can practically read the contempt on her face!

Okay, PV, you've been going for over two minutes now, end before I finally snap and-

Oh sweet, the song's over!

...what are you doing? The song's over; wrap the PV up already!

The hell are you looking for? Your career? I'm sorry I couldn't resist.

What are you doing now? Grabbing a chocolate bar? End the PV already!

And so because no one clapped for her debut PV, Beckii Cruel was left alone to clap for herself. The end.

Well. That was fifty shades of awkward. Eh heh... now where do I start with this? I will give the Danjo PV this: the idea is cool. I've said in several other reviews how cool I think it is to just have an idol wandering around a variety of different locations because it gives the viewer a lot to look at. It's a simple idea but when done well, it can look really cool. At its core, the concept of a girl listening to music and walking through a location filled with people can be taken in a variety of different directions. You can go a more natural route, where the both viewer and the girl can simply take in the background scenery or you can take the PV into a more surreal route, in which the girl can walk through a strange world and observe all sorts of fantastical and imaginary things. Bottom line is, the concept of this PV is pretty simple but it could have been a pretty entertaining PV but it just falls so very flat.

The only thing I found to be entertaining in the PV were the city shots and even then it's only entertaining because of everyone's reactions to Beckii Cruel. I'm serious, the faces of some of these civilians are priceless and they pretty much sum up my initial reaction to this PV. They don't know what to make of this Western girl decked out in a huge-ass tutu and hot pink cat hoodie any more than I do! Yeah, the outfits in this PV ranged from strange to normal to "Were you high when you picked that out?" and it's just odd. I think the producers were trying to give Beckii a "cute foreigner" look but the end result is extremely awkward. Actually I think overall, the biggest feeling I got from watching this PV was awkwardness. The Danjo PV is extremely awkward from the costuming to the dance to Beckii Cruel herself and I still don't really know what to make of it. It reminds me of those home videos I'd make when I was a kid with my friends at sleepovers of us singing to Disney songs and trying to make "music videos" only this PV had a budget whereas we had a $20 video camera from Wal-Mart.

Another element that adds to the awkwardness of this PV is Beckii Cruel herself. One of the most challenging things about shooting a PV as a soloist is the sheer fact that you're alone; the spotlight is on you and if you can't handle that, then the end result is hard to watch and doesn't captivate the audience. A good soloist should be able to capture the attention of the people viewing her and Cruel lacks that charisma and I found myself very bored by her presence. It was much more interesting to observe her surroundings (again, those unintentionally hilarious people walking by in the background) and she more or less faded into the background. I wouldn't say she looks uncomfortable in the PV... she just looks like her mind is in a different place. It's like that feeling you get when you're performing and even though you're doing one thing, you're mind starts drifting to strange and unrelated thoughts. She looks very uninterested, almost bored, but I don't really think she is bored; I just think she didn't know what to do in front of the camera so she reverted to a more neutral and comfortable face. Unfortunately, that neutral face fails to capture my attention.

So what about her dancing? After all, that's what made her so famous! Well... Cruel's strongest point is her dancing but even then, I wasn't that impressed by her dancing in this PV. From what I've seen of Cruel she seems like a pretty decent dancer but even I can tell that this is... not good. Her movements are extremely loose and she lacks sharpness; the looseness in her dancing might have been intentional as a throwback to the Danjo dance but even so, I still don't like the way it looks. Overall, I'm still not sure what to make of the Danjo PV. On the surface, it seems like a stereotypical bad PV to an even worse song but the more I think about it... I kind of feel sorry that Cruel released this and that it got so much negative backlash. So from a more empathetic standpoint... I do feel sorry that Rebecca Flint got so much crap for her cover and the PV. However, from a more critical standpoint... Danjo is a pretty bad song and PV and there's no point in you wasting your time to look at it.

And so I'll give Danjo the song and PV an apple for effort and... yeah, that's all I can think of. I can't think of anything else I like about this song. As for you, Chiima, you devilish blogger, I hope you're happy. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to some Perfume.



    I have a feeling that filming in a crowd was also a ploy to show her off, like 'oooh IDOL HERE WE FILMING HURRR' and basically get her image known to the general (disgusted and uncaring) public.

    I love you, Nia. I love your review. You did so well, thank god you survived it all! And also; when she speaks she sounds bored and looks expressionless. I think she talked her way through this song.

    1. YES IT'S DONE.

      Well, the general public had a REALLY enthusiastic reaction toward her, huh? I think the public might have had a slightly warmer/normal reception towards her if she was wearing something normal. But nope...

      Yay for survival! If I can survive reviewing this... I can survive reviewing ANYTHING!

  2. Gave a chance to her.She ruined a legendary Japanese meme.Chance lost,back to the normal programming.

    1. Ouch. Sucks for you... and me. I didn't realize the Danjo meme was that popular!

  3. I'm glad you actually gave her a chance. Unfortunately, there's just too much bad to notice if there's even a bit of good. She's so vanilla! ECK.

    What's even funnier about this is...just after you posted this, her new Japanese single was announced. Go figure.

    Entertaining review! :D

    1. Believe me, if she actually released good music then I wouldn't give her so much flack.

      I know. I burst out laughing when I read the news XD