Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ending Summer with Fireworks and Sparklers

Well figuratively speaking, that's the way I'm ending summer. Really my summer ended with me lying in bed and only emerging from my room to go see a movie. But I'm ending idol summer with a final PV review of the last summer PV on my schedule!

Now when I say "idol summer" I'm actually just referring the period of time each year in which many, many idol groups active in the J-pop industry release singles focusing on the themes and aesthetic of the summer season. A quintessential summer single is AKB48's Ponytail to Shushu, a song about ponytails accompanied by a PV filled with idols prancing around in bikinis... and wearing ponytails. As many a regular idol fans knows, the summer seasons provides an opportunity for an idol group to present a more fanservice-y single thanks to the fact that summer in the northern hemisphere is typically pretty hot and a lot of people spend some portion of summer on the beach and... well, you do the math. As I have stated in this past, very rarely is a summer single my favorite release from an idol group. Most of the time, the songs are generic and safe-sounding enough to sell; the real focus is on the visual, and by visual I mean the chance to milk a little more money with the oft-used technique of pandering to the lowest common denominator: fanservice.

There are some pretty creative summer PVs that I've had the pleasure of viewing in this lifetime, but a lot of them are just four to five minutes of happy, smiling girls frolicking around some summer-y location in bathing suits for the wotadom to ogle over. My favorite summer single (and just one of my favorite idol songs in general) is Go Go Summer! by Kara, released waaaaay back in... 2011. But hey, age doesn't always dictate quality! Before this K-pop-turned-J-pop group released Go Go Summer! I was vaguely into them. I liked Jet Coaster Love, and I did keep a tentative eye on them. The hallyu wave was booming back then, so I didn't really pay much mind to the waves and waves of K-pop idols flocking to the J-pop industry for some quick cash. But when the PV for Go Go Summer! came out, I surprisingly enjoyed it. And when summer of 2012 began for me, it was on my playlist. Go Go Summer! is such a bright and joyful song, and it's sort of become a summer anthem for me.

Hence I decided that it was only appropriate that I close my season of reviewing idol summer PVs with a PV review of Kara's latest summer song: Thank You Summer Love. Personally, I would have titled the song Thank You Summer Vacation but that's just my personal take. Anyways, how does Thank You Summer Love sound? Like... most of Kara's Japanese discography. Don't ask me about their Korean, because my knowledge of that is limited. A flaw that I don't think I've pointed out with Kara is that at times, their music can sound... really similar. Like this song sounds really similar to Bye Bye Happy Days! and I don't think that's only because these singles were released next to each other. The verses, the buildups, the choruses, the energy, even the openings to these songs sound similar. I even played both these songs at the same time just to make sure that my ears weren't failing me. The structuring and the instrumentals to Thank You Summer Love and Bye Bye Happy Days! are disappointingly similar.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Bye Bye Happy Days! but I don't need two of that song. Thank You Summer Love is such a rehash of that song, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Surprisingly, I'm not livid which really is a surprise because there's nothing that gets my blood boiling than a monotonous song style. See anything I've reviewed by AKB48 to get the gist of why I hate that so much. I guess it's because I'm not tired of this style of music yet? At least Kara's music is always very peppy and energetic. I always feel very refreshed whenever I listen to one of their songs, and Thank You Summer Love thankfully continues that trend. But I still can't overlook the fact that it's the summer version of Bye Bye Happy Days! no matter how nice it sounds. I feel like Kara's been really restricted to this one style of music with their J-pop discography, because it sells. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't sound bad, but it's started to wear on me. Especially when their Korean discography is more diverse. Like that new song they released in Korea, runaway? That's a cool song and different!

Gosh, I really have quite a mixed opinion of Thank You Summer Love. I guess I don't hate the song, but when I compare it to Go Go Summer! it's a pretty underwhelming song. What I liked about Go Go Summer! was that it had a hook. Thank You Summer Love doesn't really have a hook. It's one of those songs that plays through and just... ends on a pleasant-sounding note. In fact, I think I can describe Thank You Summer Love in that one word: pleasant. It's pleasing to my ears and that's it. It doesn't really stir up many emotions in me beyond that feeling of pleasantness. For a summer song that's... pretty mediocre. I've repeated myself a bajillion times now, but what I look for in a good summer song is a song that can get me excited for summer. The kind of song that gives me feelings of nostalgia, happiness, ecstasy, just some kind of strong emotion. Go Go Summer! gave me that feeling of excitement, which is why it's stuck with me since 2011.

Thank You Summer Love is probably going to sink into that pile of summer songs that I just forget about when I'm done listening to and/or reviewing them. I guess I could say that it kind of gives me a... passing outlook towards summer. I mean, this single was released towards the end of summer. Still, I feel kind of bad that I'm ending my series of summer PVs reviews with such a fizzle of a summer song. Because overall, this has been a pretty decent year for idol summer. Sure, I've listened to duds like Sayonara Crawl and Koi no Love Sunshine, but I've also found gems like Candy Room and Kaigan Seisou Danshi. I think musically, this hasn't been the best year for summer songs. But for summer PVs, it's been pretty awesome. I'll get to that later. Back to Kara, I think Thank You Summer Love falls about in the middle on the spectrum of summer songs of 2013 ranging from good to bad. I've heard better from Kara, but by no means, is Thank You Summer Love an awful. It just didn't make much of an impression with me.

Thank You Summer Love makes me wonder what the rest of Kara's upcoming album is going to sound like... I'll have to keep an eye on its release. So just because Thank You Summer Love is a mediocre song, that doesn't necessarily mean the PV which match that level of mediocrity, right? Kara always seems to get nicely done PVs, so I've got my fingers crossed that this is a good summer PV!

I feel like every time I review a Kara PV, the members have changed their hair.

Cute outfits! Give them some pom poms and they can pass for cheerleaders!

Wow. I don't know whether to be enchanted or jealous of how picturesque this set is.

Seriously, I feel like I'm looking at cutouts from a PB Teen magazine!

So Nicole went blonde? Well, we blondes do have more fun...

Silly Kara! You can't play rock-paper-scissors with five people.

This dance is cute but it's not quite as entertaining as the Kara-para was.

I really have no idea how to cook this... I guess I'll just wait until smoke starts rising from the oven!

Dear diary, I'm so hungry. Nicole's cooking is terrible.

There goes Hara, snapping pics for Instagram.

Uh, Jiyoung? I think you'd fare better if you used a water can for that teeny-tiny pot.

But hey, now you get a free shower!

Heeheehee, we rigged the sprinkler to EXPLODE!

A mysterious letter, hrm? Wasn't there a plot thread like that in the last Kara video I reviewed?

Is The Robot just a really popular dance move in Kara's choreography?

Doused by a sprinkler, and Jiyoung's hair is barely wet. Gotta love the magic of editing!

Hara, you are now my table. The rest of you will be my chairs!

Is that a shower on top of that trailer? It's kind impractical but cute at the same time!

I think it's pretty groovy that the members of Kara jam with a record player!

It amazes me how in some PVs Seungyeon can look really sweet and adorable and in other PVs she looks fierce and intimidating!

Gathering around a campfire? You know what that means...

...telling ghost stories and sharing each other's deepest, darkest secrets!

Oh yeah, and roasting corn. Or marshmallows. Take your pick!

By the power of Kara, we shall RULE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY!

Okay, call me crazy but do these shots remind anyone else of Aruiteru?

I guess because the scenes as a whole are pretty similar.

Oh, they're watching their last summer PV, Go Go Summer! That's a nice little shout out!

Hey guys, remember when Nicole actually had brown hair?

Are you sure we should be reenacting a scene from Mythbusters?

There's nothing more fun than shooting fireworks! Especially if they're the illegal kind...

Of course, sparkler are always fun too!

Can Jiyoung even play the guitar?

And so the PV ends on a very starry title drop. How nice!

I think I've started to notice a pattern with Kara's PVs. They either get really cute, adorable PVs or really fierce and sexy PVs. There is no middle ground, it's one image or the other. I don't know, maybe their K-pop songs I haven't listened to deviate from this formula. Not that it's a bad formula! Something I like about Kara's PVs is that they're always pretty high-budget. That or I've been really desensitized to cheap PVs thanks to all the Hello! Project PVs I've reviewed. But yeah, I think Thank You Summer Love got a really good PV. It falls into the category for cute Kara PVs that I mentioned earlier, but then again, it fits with the cuteness of the song. I really like that they were able to do so much with the set for this PV. It's basically just one set other than the dance shot, and the dance shot doesn't have much to it. Well, it does have a lot of giant pinwheels, but I'm still trying to figure out why. Beyond that, the set for the dance shot is pretty basic, with a white background and... yeah, a white background.

The real meat of the PV lies with the outdoor shots, and thankfully, those are focused on more than the indoor dance shot. There are so many angles that this outdoor area was filmed from such as the trailers, the top of the trailer, around the campfire, the sprinkler... I think they got just about every angle possible to make this PV. The strength of Thank You Summer Love is that its set is so elaborately done, that you want them to keep focusing on it. I don't know who does set design for Kara PVs, but whoever they are deserves a gold star for the sheer details in this set. I almost want to spend an afternoon walking around this little outdoor area and seeing what's in it. I also like that they show the set in both daytime and nighttime, and the mood is completely different for each time of day. During the day, the atmosphere in this PV is very energetic and happy, but at night, it's much more mellow and nostalgic. While the set obviously wouldn't work if the girls of Kara were really camping in the great outdoors, in the PV for Thank You Summer Love it's so scenic, I can't help but like it.

Something I also like about Kara is that they all seem to like each other. I guess that comes from being together for several years, but they always have really good onscreen chemistry. They interact with each other a lot in this PV, and it never looks forced. And even in individual shots, they all look very engaging. They have the kind of onscreen comfortableness that comes from experience. I think the girls themselves along with the really great set for Thank You Summer Love already make it a pretty good PV. Now how does Thank You Summer Love hold up as, you know, a summer PV? I actually like that it's one of those many summer PVs that takes place on the beach. That concept has been done to death in the idol industry, and I still think the PV for Thank You Summer Love gives off a very summer-y air without really showing anything directly related to summer. The girls camp out, talk around a campfire, shoot fireworks, it's a lot of stuff you see people do during the summer, only it doesn't look quite as glamorous as Thank You Summer Love makes it out to be.

Even though from a practical standpoint, this PV is highly unrealistic (where are the bugs?), I think there's something appealing about it. It's an idealized version of a summer camping trip, with none of the hardships shown onscreen. Thank You Summer Love is such a scenic and sweet-looking PV and probably in my list of favorite summer PVs I've reviewed this year. But... how does it hold up against Go Go Summer? I think you can probably guess my answer: it's not quite as good. While Go Go Summer! didn't have such an amazing set, the visuals were still very striking, and there were a lot of elements of Go Go Summer! that I really liked. In the end, the two PVs approach summer very differently; I just happen to like the approach Go Go Summer! took slightly better than Thank You Summer Love's. Comparisons aside, I think Thank You Summer Love is a nice, high-budget summer PV, and I'm glad that I saved it for last. It's not Go Go Summer! but it was still a very enjoyable summer PV.

I think I'll give Thank You Summer Love four out of five apples. Overall, this summer single isn't as good as the last summer single Kara did. But it still holds up pretty well. The song isn't my favorite, but I like the PV a lot. I love how elaborate the set it is, and how much stuff the girls are doing in it. It's a very cute PV, and pretty typical from Kara but hey, if the formula works, why not use it? And with that, I end the season of idol summer. To celebrate (or lament depending on how old you are) the end of the summer season and idol summer, I decided to make a poll! What is your favorite summer PV? Now these only include the summer PVs I reviewed but there is an "Other" option (along with one more for kicks and giggles).


  1. Hello, loved your review (as always). I guess I haven't commented here before so this is a first. Just to let you know that nicole is the blonde one and, in another pic and that the girl holding the teddy bear is Seungyeon (my fave actually). :)

    1. CRAP! Thank you for pointing that out! This is why I don't review K-pop groups that much; I always mix the members up because their hairstyles never ever EVER stay the same! And I always get Nicole and Seungyeon mixed up; not sure why...

      On a side note, welcome to the Wonderland and thanks for taking the time to comment!