Wednesday, February 20, 2013

So Long to Musical Creativity for AKB48

All right, I know I said that I haven't had the heart to review AKB48's latest single, So Long. Well, that's changed. Mainly because I am in a rant-y mood and there's nothing I love more to rant about than bland, uninspired pieces of shit songs. So let's rip into the bland, uninspired piece of shit that is So Long!

I don't think I really realized how much I despise this song until I started typing this review. It's kind of like having a giant thorn stuck in your abdomen and not realizing how much pain it's been causing you until you finally draw it out. I mean... I can't stand this song. I can't stand how whiny it is, how slow it is, how lifeless it is, this Sakura song is awful. Okay... I need to explain something about my expectations for AKB48 songs pertaining to their song formula. I always expect their Janken songs to be shit; that's practically a default by now. I also keep low expectations for their summer song because let's be honest, when you shoot a PV full of young girls prancing around in bikinis, the last thing a majority of your viewers will be focusing on is the song. I can even lower my expectations for the Senbatsu song, mainly thanks to the vortex of blandness that is Gingham Check. I almost always expect the group's fall song to be good, with UZA being the most mediocre of the fall songs. And even then, I'd take that song over Ue Kara Mariko, Gingham Check, Eien Pressure, and So Long! 

Now when it comes to Sakura songs... I'm pretty 50/50. On one hand, Sakura no Ki ni Narou was practically the song that convinced me to give AKB48 a second chance but on the other hand, Sakura no Shiori is one of my least favorite AKB48 songs. I think what I'm trying to say is the less energetic Sakura songs are the ones I don't gravitate towards. I think I'm in the minority of AKB48 fans that does not like Sakura no Hanabiratachi; yeah yeah, I know it's the group's debut song and everything but it's not an interesting song. It's got a nice-sounding melody but other than that, the vocals lack energy, the composition is bland, and the song puts me to sleep. I think I just prefer Sakura songs that are more energetic. What I liked about songs like 10nen Zakura and Give Me Five! was that they approached graduation with a more upbeat and cheerful outlook, seeing the future in a positive way. Even Sakura no Ki ni Narou was an emotionally nostalgic song but what made that song work so well was that it wasn't some half-assed ballad. It was a full-blown ballad that had a buildup of emotion you could hear as the song progressed.

Perhaps that's why I hate So Long! so much.

So Long! has nothing that I like about a Sakura-themed song. It's not energetic, it's not emotional, it's not creative, it sounds tired and cliched. In other words... this is yet another a bland song to add to the growing pile of bland AKB48 songs. And as you all know, I fucking hate bland songs. Sometimes, I even think bland songs are worse than bad songs, but then again, it's not like those two categories are mutually exclusive. Often, most songs I dislike because they are bland. Okay, maybe I need to elaborate on just what I think qualifies as a "bland" song for AKB48. A bland AKB48 song is a song that sounds like a bunch of their other songs, lacks energy and creativity, and is often a happy song but not too happy-sounding. Just enough to make it sound vaguely pleasant but not enough for it to stand out as an ecstatically cheerful song.

 A bland AKB48 song lacks energy in both the vocals and the instrumental itself; often the instrumental sounds like a boatload of other AKB48 instrumentals. The vocals don't take chances; in fact, something I like to do when listening to bland songs is a little game called "Guess the Note" It's where you predict how the next verse/chorus is going to sound. Playing Guess the Note with a bland song is astoundingly easy because the melody and vocals are so predictable because hey, the style's been done a bajillion times in other AKB48 songs! So Long! is an incredibly bland song, but unlike Eien Pressure which had at least a teensy bit of energy, this song has zero energy. You now how Sakura na Hanabiratachi sounds? So Long! sounds like Sakura na Hanabiratachi on Valium. And as I said in my last paragraph, I don't even like Sakura no Hanabiratachi that much and the fact that So Long! is in the same style as that song only with little to no energy makes my blood boil with hatred. What I hate the most about So Long! is that it is a slow song and not in a good way. So Long! really drags both vocally and instrumentally; if the tempo were upped a little bit, this song might even sound a bit better. But no, we're left with a bland, dragging Sakura song that frankly makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

I mean seriously, this is the fourth song in a row that I haven't liked from AKB48. And you know what those four songs have in common? They're all bland. I don't know what's going on; did Acchan's graduation just suck all the creativity out you, Aki-P? Is this what I'm supposed to expect from AKB48 from now? A collection of generic, uninspired songs that all sound the same? Because songs like this aren't what got me into AKB48. 10nen Zakura, Oogoe Diamond, Beginner, Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou, Iiwake Maybe, those are the songs that got me into AKB48, those are the types of songs that I want to hear more of. Not these bland songs that sound so very half-assed. Look, I don't expect Dark Side of the Moon level creativity from AKB48; I get that they're an idol group and that music isn't their strongest factor. But I at least expect a little bit of creativity and a little bit of energy. I'm not asking you to re-write Bohemian Rhapsody, I'm just sick of these bland songs! I'm sick of playing the radio rip from AKB48's latest single and hoping for a decent level of quality and songs like Gingham Check and So Long! come cranking out. 

I mean, what are you smoking, Aki-P? Do you really think that these are good songs? Okay, I'll bet there are fans who like those songs but for me, I'm unimpressed. Over the past few months I have been increasingly unimpressed with AKB48's musical output which is a shame because in the past, they've done some really good songs. But now it just sounds like Aki-P's half-assing all the songs and doesn't really care about the musical quality just that it sells well. Why should he put effort into a single when he's already got hundreds of thousands of fans who will buy it regardless of quality? I'm very disappointed with So Long! and furthermore, I'm worried that this is the level of quality I'm supposed to expect from future AKB48 singles. So Long! is a tired-sounding song that lacks energy or creativity, another bland and uninspired song Aki-P can add to his library. Because I'm sure he has a Bland Songs library next to his giant swimming pool of money. I'd say that I'll cross my fingers and hope that the summer single is good but let's be honest: we all know how that song's going to turn out.

Well, let's see if the PV has anything remotely creative going for it. And no, I'm not reviewing and screencapping the 64-minute PV; I'm not going to waste my time on looking at movie that I can't even follow. So I'm screencapping the short version... yeah, let's just get this over with.

Oh joy, the PV starts with the girls crouched in tornado-drill positions.

Because this might be the last time I ever get to screencap my beloved Miichan in an AKB48 PV, expect to see lots of beautiful, glorious Miichan!

Wow, so far the dance is so simple that I could do it.

I hope you like halved scenes, because this PV really likes to use those for -gasp- dramatic effect!

Oh yeah, that rain looks so real. You can tell by just how dry everyone looks it's really pouring down in that incredibly realistic set!

I swear to god that's the same set used in Eien Pressure.

But Eien Pressure would have been better with more Miichan!

I'm not sure which to look at: Mayuyu trying to look serious or Tomochin holding what looks like a gyroid from Animal Crossing.

What a dreary looking classroom... it's almost like... a real classroom!

Yeah, I think I liked Jurina better in the school-related PV where she played a philandering douchebag.

Isn't that transition effect from Windows Movie Maker?

Okay, this scene feels a little forced but hey, it's got Miichan in it!

You know, I actually think Paruru looks kind of adorable in this PV!

I'm guessing the black-and-white shots relate to the 64-minute film...

WHAT!? Why the fuck does this PV need a green-screen!?

And why the fuck are those green-screened!? Can't you just get pink fabric? This looks really out of place!

Wheeee!! They're skipping their hearts out and headed off to... I don't know, Narnia? Gosh, this PV would be so much more interesting if they went to Narnia...

Order your Mayuyu now for only $49.95! Plus shipping and handling.

And if your order in the next 15 minutes, we'll DOUBLE your offer with a free Jurina and Takamina!

A group of idols walk into a bar. And then... I got nothing.

You know, if that were an alpaca, Nocchi would be all over it!

D'aw look at Paruru.

I guess it's time for musical chairs!

How much you guys wanna bet that's Aki-P in 30 years?

Off Jurina goes to SKE48 because frankly, she'd much rather be kissing Rena than be in this boring PV.

So YOU'RE the people who thought the crappy green screens were a good idea!

Yech, these crappy green-screened pink shades makes me think of Pepto Bismal.

You lazy bums! You aren't even painting those cherry blossoms! They're just popping up and you're taking credit for them!

Okay, really? Really? You had to use a green screen for this? You couldn't just go out to one of the many public locations you clearly have access to and shoot it there?

Dammit, AKB48! I thought you had a money!

Wow! Objects in this PV that actually look colorful!

Eh... isn't a little early to be whipping out the bikini shots? This is the Sakura single I'm reviewing, right?


Yeah, I think if I were Jurina I'd be leaving too. This PV is drearier than taking a math test on a rainy day!

Wow, I guess I can see why those cherry blossoms were shopped into the PV.

Um... can someone please explain to me how the fuck we got to a marriage scene? explanation then? Well FINE THEN. I didn't care about that scene anyways!

The PV ends the way it began: with AKB48 preparing for a tornado drill that will never happen!

Well that was underwhelming. I don't know which I find blander: the song or the PV. Of course, when put together, the end result is twice as bland and twice as boring than either thing alone. All right, I get that AKB48's Sakura-themed PVs are supposed to be deep and emotional and somewhat mature/realistic looking. The recent trend with their Sakura PVs is to turn them into short films and have the promotional videos be the condensed version of the film. Give Me Five! had the 34-minute drama and just cut out clips from that and pasted them into the PV. Sakura no Ki ni Narou wasn't terribly long (only about 9 or 10 minutes from what I remember) and both Sakura no Shiori and 10nen Zakura didn't have long, sweeping PVs either. And honestly? I kind of just wish they'd go back to the 10nen Zakura and Sakura no Ki ni Narou format of Sakura PVs. Both those PVs had small but poignant storylines that could fit into a PV that was under 10 minutes! 

I don't see why the Sakura PVs have to be turned into these long dramas; granted, you get your money's worth if you buy the single but still. Screencapping and review these condensed version of the movie-style PVs is a pain because half the time, I don't know half of what's going on in said PVs. This was especially a problem for Give Me Five! in which the miscellaneous drama shots were confusing to me because I had yet to watch the 34-minute film version. So I guess one of the positive aspects of So Long! is that for the most part, the PV is pretty easy to follow. It looks like just a series of shots of girls being girls and living their lives but you could go without watching the long-ass film and not miss anything. But that doesn't mean there weren't a few confusing shots and images thrown around the PV. For instance... why the hell was Jurina getting married? And for that matter, who was she getting married to? The old guy next to her? Mariko? Was the old guy her dad? And why in the hell were those bikini shots thrown in? What, were the directors so excited to get the summer single, they couldn't wait to film the girls in bathing suits? I understand that those elements are most likely elaborated on in the full version, but I don't have an hour to waste watching a movie in which half the time I probably won't know what's going on.

Beyond the more confusing elements of the So Long! PV... this PV just looks depressing. Mainly because of the lighting; any time the girls are outdoors, it looks like it's going to rain. And even when they're inside, the lighting is still very dreary and gray. I think maybe the director was trying to go for a more vintage/classic feel but the end result is more overcast and sad. It's not a pleasant PV to look at simply because of the lighting. I know that sounds like I'm exaggerating the effect of lights but no, the lighting can really effect how I view a PV. And the way the lighting and tones are done in this PV make me either want to A) Go to sleep or B) Stare out the window and cry. There's something about gray that just puts me in a very downcast and sombre mood and every time I watch the PV, that's how I feel. That is the effect of a PV's lighting. Now gray lighting can work for a PV if the emotions trying to be conveyed in the PV match up with the lighting. Sakura no Ki ni Narou is a perfect example using more muted lighting because that PV was meant to be sad and make the viewer cry.

 But So Long! isn't supposed to make the viewer feel depressed; the song is upbeat and the girls are smiling and laughing throughout the PV but damn, it still feels depressing. And maybe that's because no one really looks invested in the PV. I wouldn't say the girls are doing a bad job acting but they didn't capture my attention. They didn't feel very energetic not even during the dance shot or when they were supposed to be cheerful. The movements and acting in this PV felt incredibly forced and scripted, like the directors were just trying to find nostalgic things for the girls to do. And do I even have to express how much I abhor the use of green screens in this PV? I mean, with H!P, I can see them using green screens since I think they have the budget of a student film project but a group like AKB48 is making tons right now. Were green screens really necessary in this PV? They just took away from the realism of the PV, particularly the green-screen pink fabrics the girls ran around with. Overall, I don't know what to make of this PV. I think it could have looked better and the shots are filmed nicely but it captures my attention just as much as the song does.

I'd give So Long! one apple and its PV three apples but together, they average two apples. I mean, damn, what a lackluster Sakura single. At least Eien Pressure tried to have a goofy storyline; this PV is just depressing. The song is bland too and as someone who loathes bland songs, I absolutely can't stand it. Aki-P, get your shit together and actually start trying to write stuff that doesn't sound like every other bland song you've written in the past. You're doing well with the Mayuyu center but give her a song that doesn't make me want to slit my wrists.


  1. Speaking of creativity down the drain, I suspect most of Aki-P's creativity had gone into SKE or NMB. I mean compared to this song, Choco no Dorei was at least fun to listen. As for the budget put into the PV, I bet the bulk of his money went into the 64 minute PV (or movie...). He could have at least squeezed a bit more for the shorter version, like at least at par with Give Me Five.

    BTW, alpacas are Mayuyu's favourite too :p

    1. I agree; SKE48 and NMB48's music has been so much more interesting than AKB48's. I really think these super-long, film-style PVs are kind of pointless. The stories often aren't interesting and PVs that should and -could- have great stories (i.e. Beginner, Manatsu no Sounds good!, Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou). And those PVs don't need 30+ minutes to tell a compelling story.

      Mayuyu likes alpacas!? YES! She and Nocchi should get together and become The Great Alpaca Chasing Duo! They could get capes and everything!

    2. Here's proof btw :3 :

  2. Wow nice review. Yepp I agree. So Long! was so boring and cliched that I think this is the first time I feel disgusted by Aki-p and the production crew. What I don't really get was the ridiculously long PV and the 3 episode drama movie. Okay it's their trend since 2011 but why not keep it brief and simple like GIVE ME FIVE? Even with a half an hour short movie, you understand the plot right away and then Baby Blossom takes center stage. Sakura Kara no Tegami was a nice series, I think. Now they're in a dilemma on how to promote the So Long! It's either to make a drama series or a movie. In the end, they made a drama-movie-series -_- oh Aki-p!

    1. Thank you! It is a boring and cliched song, isn't it? I don't get the long PV or the drama PVs either, especially since you can still tell an equally intriguing and compelling story with a shorter PV. Even Give Me Five! had a simpler plot than this! I say Aki-P just drops the drama-movie PVs for Sakura singles... hell, if he dropped his whole single formula, I think that would be a step forward for AKB!

  3. Personally I liked the song when I first heard it. I don't know if I like it now, but I know your and my likes are flipped.

    I hate personally hate Give Me Five and Sakura no Ki ni Narou. To those songs are boring as hell. I do like Sakura Shiori over that any day. It's something soothing about Shiori that makes me calm idk lol.

    But I think Aki-P is getting burnt out by songs and can't tell whats good anymore personally. He's losing his touch on "quality" single wise and playing it safe imho--- or he's trying to put out crappy songs and see if they'll sell well or not.

    1. Well, different opinions are what keep the world an interesting place!

      It's funny because I like both those songs and think Sakura no Shiori and So Long! are boring as hell! I guess because I'm not a huge fan of the chorus-style arrangement Sakura no Shiori has.

      Aki-P is totally getting burnt out. It feels like he's less focused on the music and more on keeping that million-streak of singles running. So he just thinks he can play it safe and crank out bad song after bad song because he's already got a bajillion wotas wrapped around his finger.

  4. Snow White's prince on white horse here.(See Tomomi Kasai-600 minutes English subs on Youtube)... The problem is the bazillion wotas are, like the first and second generation girls, going out on the tide. Interesting how Yukirin who can sing and has started her own record company is suddenly rumored to have been seen talking to an AV star and has all her cds and photos burned by former fans. Oh my goodness! Now the people who might have been spending their money on her will now go back to AKB. Tomomi Kasai (sorry to keep on about it but spending 15 hours a day working on the 300 page book I want to give her for her graduation does tend to focus your ideas) is degraded,forced to take off her clothes and have her breasts fondled by a kid in front of a creepo photographer,nearly thrown in jail for five years as the fall guy for someone's nasty little scheme gone awry, publicly humiliated, held up to public scorn ,contempt and ridicule, embarrassed in front of her family, made to lose all her friends(except Tomochin)and put through mental anguish and emotional distress that would make Stalin cry. Not the best way to boost sales of her cd. In spite of it all the dear girl,when asked about revenge, said that she would rather do something positive with her life instead of trying to get back at people. Don't ask why, as the hero of my novel says, "I would defend her to the last breath in my body,the very last drop of blood in my veins!" I have just preorderd a ton of her new cds with handshake tickets for any of my friends who will be going to Japan in May and June and want to meet her in Tokyo or Osaka. I'll give them the extra cds as well. As to the matter at hand; "So Long" is supposed to contain a "random" meet and greet ticket. It is to be hoped that does not mean one ticket in about 100,000 cds. So, at least this former AKB wota did acquire one of their products in spite of having been profligate with regards to Tomo. Perhaps I shall get to wink at Mayu and have Yuki hold my sleeve. I think there are ballots for the election as well. If so, Victim Michan is getting all my votes since Tomo is disqualified. Wouldn't it be something if the protest vote bumped Yuko from first place? The only problem there is that Yuko has guts and conscience and I much admire her as well. Yours Truly, The blogger formerly known as anonymous...

  5. Funny, I really like sakura no shiori! It's just peaceful and pretty... So long on the other hand was as grey as the pv. The song was bland, I agree with you 100% on the pv and I'm not a massive fan of mayuyu or paruru so basically this song+pv did nothing for me.
    Also, Jurina is fine by me as she actually has personality and energy, but to put her as 1/3 centre in a song like this is pointless; all her energy is wasted.
    More energetic sakura songs please aki-p!

    1. Meh, I feel the same way about Sakura no Shiori as I do Perfume's 23:30. Both song aren't bad but they're too slow and too soft to interest me. Personally, I like Paruru okay and Mayuyu's one of my favorites but they weren't enough to save this PV. I also thought the triple center idea was... well... kind stupid! I much prefer the energetic sakura songs too!