Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trapped in a Savage Heaven

All right! Bump.y's still alive!!

I know, I know, they've actually been pretty active this year! But I still love to joke about how they always go for a long period of time not releasing anything, then randomly releasing something, then going back to inactivity.

Annnyways, don't I have a single to review?

You know, for a long time, I've been trying to figure out just why I like Bump.y. I guess there are a variety of reasons, like the fact that they have a small group number and a stable lineup. I think the members blend well together and vocally, they're very nice sounding. But a lot of idol groups share that same distinction and I could care less about them. So what is it that sets Bump.y apart from them? I pondered and I pondered, and then I pondered some more as a ponderous pondering ponderer ponds. And then after realizing that I'm writing a blog post and not a Dr. Seuss story, it hit me. The reason why I like Bump.y is because I feel like they're an idol group that adapts very easily to change. In music, that is. The song that first got me into Bump.y was Gotta Getcha, a cover of some K-pop song. Despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of K-pop, I really liked this song, and I thought that Bump.y handled K-pop pretty well. But they still brought their own J-pop style to it, which I liked a lot!

So as I delved farther and farther into Bump.y's somewhat small discography, I began to notice that the group had a nice variety going for them. They tended to stick to a happier and upbeat style of music, but it was like they explored different levels of happiness, like the lowkey content of Voice or the ecstatic enthusiasm of Kiss!  I'd like to think that this is how Zone would have sounded like if they hadn't gone in the "idol band" direction so early on. They weren't by any means the most original idol group I'd ever encountered nor the most kaleidoscopic in terms of style, but nonetheless they tended to generally work pretty well with the songs that were given to them. However, despite the fact that I felt like Bump.y had a nice range of music, I'd never really seen them go in a darker route. A lot of their songs are pretty happy and upbeat, never really straying towards a more serious.

Until Savage Heaven, that is.


Let me go ahead and say that I love the covers for Savage Heaven. All of them. The three covers for the three different editions of Savage Heaven all have the same concept. Said concept basically just features the girls posing and looking sinister whilst surrounded by mist under a certain color scheme. It's a simple idea, but sometimes it only takes the simplest of ideas to achieve success. What I think I really liked about these covers were the colors. There's basically just one shade for each of the three covers (blue for regular, pink for Limited A, and yellow for Limited B) but the way the lighting and shade is done for each cover really makes them stand out. I like how the smoke and shading gives off this very dark, almost intimidating edge and it even makes the girls of Bump.y look a lot more mature than they've looked in their past covers. Who would have thought you could possibly make adorable little Matsuri look that way?

I also think what helps with the visual aesthetic of these covers is the fact that the outfits are black in white; it provides a nice contrast from the color scheme of the background, and doesn't make the covers look too tacky or busy. I always think going black-and-white for outfits is a pretty safe move; and the outfits Bump.y wears for each covers look really good. They're not jaw-droppingly spectacular or anything (you can only get so spectacular with normal-looking clothes) but I still think the girls were styled very well. Of the three covers, I think my favorite is the Regular edition (which is the one posted at the top of this review). I like the shade of blue used for the background; it gives off that aura of darkness I was talking about earlier. And the blue and black in this cover look striking together. Not to mention I like the way the members are set up in the cover. The Limited A version of this single also looks very good, but pink and black are two colors that almost always match well together. The only cover I'm kinda iffy about is Limited B, but that's probably just because I don't particularly care for the shade of yellow used in that cover. But that's getting nitpicky when really I don't have a lot of faults with the covers for Savage Heaven. They look nice!

Savage Heaven

I was very curious to hear what Savage Heaven would sound like. In the wake of all the happy summer songs being released this summer, Savage Heaven stuck out like an aristocrat in Wal Mart. The cover art indicated that Savage Heaven was going to be a darker, edgier song from Bump.y, something that I had yet to see from Bump.y. Naturally, I was very intrigued. It probably helps that I've always been rather drawn to more serious-sounding idol songs; I don't know why. I was just going over a lot of my favorite idol songs and noticed a lot of them are darker in tone. Maybe to reflect the dark pits of my soul, hrm? Anyways, Savage Heaven is a pretty dark sounding song so this song should have been right up my alley. Notice I said should not is. I wanted to like this song. Even before I'd heard the song, I wanted to like it. And when I first pulled up the music video for it and heard the opening chorus, I was pumped. And then... the rest of the song just kind of fell flat. I don't really know how to explain what happened. It was like at one point I was listening the song, excited to hear how it sounded, where it went musically.

By the time the song ended, the only impression I was left with was... a dull impression. By now, I have listened to Savage Heaven several times to try and figure out what's it's lacking that's preventing me from liking it. After much self-deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that what drags Savage Heaven down is... wait for it... wait for it... its energy! Big surprise there, huh? Let me explain. What I think makes an interesting song is the energy levels. And something that makes a song work is a continuous, rhythmical fluctuation of those energy levels. You have your buildups, your pitfalls, your rests, your climaxes, it's like books in music form! Savage Heaven is a song that only stays at one energy level throughout the entire listen. There were a few times, where I thought there was going to be a buildup to an explosion of energy, but the song felt... restrained. Like it wanted to be darker, grander, and edgier but just wasn't. And because Savage Heaven doesn't take any risks with energy level, the song is a lot less memorable than it should be.

All right, so I'm not a huge fan of the song. However, does the PV for Savage Heaven worth talking about? Actually, I was planning on doing a PV review for Savage Heaven instead of a single review. I'd even done a screencap! But then the entire single came out, and as I was already reviewing a ton of PVs as it is, I opted for a single review of Savage Heaven. Because honestly, there isn't that much about Savage Heaven's PV to talk about. I mean, there was enough for me to write a PV review, but barely. The PV for Savage Heaven is what you'd expect from any idol group that doesn't have enough money to create a grandiose, over-the-top PV akin to AKB48 or Momoiro Clover Z. You've got your dance shot, your close-ups, and your token "creative" shot which features the girls doing something other than dancing or staring into the camera. For Savage Heaven, this creative shot has the girls of Bump.y wandering around a cavern (which is actually a pretty cool location) with nothing but a small flashlight to guide the way.

I will admit, I liked these shots a lot thanks to the lighting, or lack of it. These shots are very dark and shadowy; there are some parts where you can barely even see the girls. Then the cavern in the PV seems like it's almost trying to swallow each girl up. The girls look very small in a few shots, which only adds to the isolation projecting from the PV. Because other than the dance shot, the girls of Bump.y never interact with each other in this PV. Each girl is alone, trying to find her way out (or is it in?) or an unknown cavern, left to her own inner thoughts and demons whilst struggling to stay alive. In writing, I think that's a pretty cool premise. But the execution in Savage Heaven's PV is... well... not much happens. The girls wander, look pretty, and wave their flashlights around but that's pretty much it. Nothing else really advances the conflict forward; I almost think the director was trying to showcase what Limbo looked like instead of a Savage Heaven. Overall, the PV for Savage Heaven is decent but I think it could have been better.

Bump.y, as much as I like listening to your music, I can only give Savage Heaven three apples. Not a terrible rating by any means, but Savage Heaven just didn't impress me musically. It's a shame because I really wanted it to, but alas. Nothing can be done about it now. Next song!

Shoushi no Magic

Now the Savage Heaven was a dark song. Or it tried to be a dark song and how well it hit that mark is subjective. I was wondering if the rest of the single would carry that air of darkness Savage Heaven tried to convey. So I listened to Shoushi no Magic, the first of three B-sides for this singles, and found out that no, it was not! Shoushi no Magic is an upbeat, retro-sounding song. Think Cosmo no Hitomi, only slightly less... cosmic? To be honest, Shoushi no Magic actually reminds me of Kiss! I feel like both songs could blend into the 80s era of pop music, especially if Shoushi no Magic had some more synthesizer pumped into it! Now Kiss! is one of my favorite Bump.y songs so that must me that I think Shoushi no Magic is a pretty good song too, right? Well... eh. I don't hate this song, but I can't see myself bursting into my room and thinking "I have got to listen to Shoushi no Magic!" It's a nice-sounding song, but like with Savage Heaven, there's just something missing from it. This song almost sounds too nice. It has no punch, no bite. It's all sugar, no spice. Then again, there are songs like that which work very well.

So where does Shoushi no Magic fall flat? Well, like Savage Heaven (are you seeing a pattern here?) what keeps Shoushi no Magic from being a really good song is the energy levels. I feel like Shoushi no Magic does try a little bit to shake things up energy-wise, but for the most part, the song sounds like one sweet, constant note. There's nothing that really changes about it, no buildups, no pitfalls. It's just a nice-sounding song, and that's it. I almost want to call Shoushi no Magic easy listening, because it's one of those songs that you can tune out pretty easily if you want to do other things. I guess personally I have nothing against these types of songs (hell, I love easy listening when I'm trying to do homework), but they're not exactly at the top of my playlist either. Shoushi no Magic is an all right song, but it's also a rather forgettable song. There's nothing that really makes it stand out, and very likely I'm not going to listen to it again, nor will I have the desire to any time soon.

Well, damn, I think I found Shoushi no Magic to be more underwhelming than Savage Heaven. I feel like Savage Heaven at least tried to do something. Shoushi no Magic is a sweet-sounding song, but it's not an interesting song. Hence I'm only giving it three apples. You can do better than this, Bump.y.

Romantic Maybe

Well hey, just because the first B-side on the single wasn't quite up to par, that doesn't have to apply to the second B-side, right? Fortunately, it doesn't! I have to admit when I first read the title for Romantic Maybe in kanji, my first thought was to AKB48's Iiwake Maybe. Even though the two titles translate to completely different meanings... Anyways, comparisons aside, does Romantic Maybe work as a decent B-side that distinguishes itself from the A-side? Yes! Do I think it fits with the single? Eh... kind of. What I think constitutes for a "perfect" single is when the A-side and the B-side compliment each other. Now that doesn't mean they have to sound the same, but in some way they have to sound like they belong on the same single. The concept is kind of hard for me to explain, especially since it's so subjective. It's not really something I can put into words; you just have to listen to an entire single and when the final seconds of the last song play out, you just get that chill and you realize, "Wow, that was a really strong single."

Examples of what I find to be "perfect" singles are Perfume's love the world, Brand-new Idol Society's Primal, and Momoiro Clover Z's Mouretsu Uchuu Koukyoukyoku... eh... Mugen no Ai! And those are just to name a few. So why does Romantic Maybe not compliment Savage Heaven? For one thing, both songs are completely different in terms of theme. Savage Heaven is dark and moody while Romantic Maybe is perky and upbeat. I could honestly fathom Romantic Maybe being a B-side to Kiss! or Cosmo no Hitomi over Romantic Maybe. Because as a stand alone song, Romantic Maybe actually sounds really cute and adorable. It's got enough going on that it doesn't sound forgettable, and it excels in creating that lighthearted and happy tone that Bump.y always manages to get across with most of their music. In fact, of the four songs on this single, Romantic Maybe is probably my favorite. Actually, why couldn't this song have just been the A-side? That would have worked a lot better!

Well, while Romantic Maybe doesn't really fit with this single (but then again, none of these songs really mesh well together), it's still a pretty fun song to listen to. I really meant it when I said it's the best song off Savage Heaven! So I will give it four out of five apples.

Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix)

Ohoho, a remix of Cosmo no Hitomi? And an extended remix that happens to be 12 inches for some reason? What an interesting turn for this single. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this the first Bump.y A-side to get any kind of remix? Well anyways, as you all probably know, I listen to a lot of electronic music, and not just Japanese electronic music. And in a genre where a majority of the instrumentals are achieved through electronic manipulation, you can bet that there are remixes galore of electronic songs, both official and fan made. For example, Nakata Yasutaka (Perfume's producer) produces some really freaking awesome remixes from Perfume edge (⊿-mix) to MEG's Kittenish -ynnk remix- to Saori@destiny's My Boy (NewVo styling mix). Bottom line is I've been pretty spoiled when it comes to song remixes. Why am I bringing this up now? Because compared to all those other remixes I just mentioned, Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix) sounds... mediocre. Hell, I think I've heard better fan mixes. This remix sounds very amateurish, especially when you think about what they really could have done to remix Cosmo no Hitomi.

The original song is for the most, an idol pop song with some retro flair to it. But I feel like with the right editing, Cosmo no Hitomi could have been a very ethereal, almost futuristic sounding pop song. Ever listened to Mizuki Nana's Astrogation? That's what I think Cosmo no Hitomi could have sounded like with a remix done well. However, the Extended 12" Remix only comes halfway to reaching that level of quality. One of my biggest faults with the remix was the repetition of the vocals; already that's an effect I'm 50/50 on. When done well, it sounds freaking awesome. When done poorly, it sounds effing annoying. And believe me, there a lot of that vocal distortion in Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix). However, the song isn't a complete bomb. There are a lot of little bleeps and bloops thrown around the song's instrumental that actually work very well. Had there been more of that remixing in this remix, I might have liked Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix) better.

Unfortunately, there was not, and ultimately my final opinion of Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix) is very split. There are parts of the mix I like, but when I get to the parts of the mix I dislike, the song starts to drag. And believe me, when it drags, it drags. The song is 6 minutes long; if you can't really get into the song of that length, it plays a lot slower. Yeah, I can only give Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix) three apples.

The Verdict

So that was Savage Heaven. Huh. What a strange single this turned out to be. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to like this single. From the day I found out Bump.y was releasing Savage Heaven, I wanted with every fiber of my being to like this single. As I mentioned earlier, I have a soft spot for Bump.y, but honestly, I feel like overall, Savage Heaven was kind of a dud single. I don't know if that's because I built up too much momentum for it or because the songs combined into this single just didn't work together. Hell, even as a standalone songs, they didn't work very well. The only song that I really thought was a decent was Romantic Maybe, and even then, that's not the bestest idol song I've ever heard ever. Shoushi no Magic is forgettable, Cosmo no Hitomi (Extended 12" Remix) is all over the place, and Savage Heaven was flat-out underwhelming. Together, none of these songs blend together or transition smoothly from one to the other. If you'd made me listen to all these songs prior to knowing they were all on one single, I'd never guess it.

Savage Heaven promised something dark, and it barely delivered that. As an A-side, it had no punch, no life to it. Just darkness. The other B-sides on this single were also lacking too, mainly in energy and just... standing out. Ugh, I feel like this single just needed a giant injection of Red Bull to pump up the energy. And I know, I know, I bitch constantly about "energy" and how it can be the one aspect of a song that saves it from being a bore. But dammit, this is what happens when you get a single that's dead in terms of energy! Even now I'm having a hard time trying to type out a final verdict of Savage Heaven because I'm starting to reach the point where I just keep writing, "It's boring" in different variations. Look, if you're looking for something as good as Kiss! or Gotta Getcha from Bump.y, you're not going to find it in the Savage Heaven single. Not by a long shot. To think I was so intrigued to see Bump.y go a darker route. Now I think I'd prefer if they just stick to their lighter roots.

Overall, Savage Heaven, only gets three apples from me. It's an okay single, and if you're a fan of Bump.y, you can probably at least dig the B-sides on this single. But personally, I get the feeling Savage Heaven is going to be one of those singles I just forget about by the end of 2013. Sorry Bump.y, but I think I'll just wait until your next single. Well... if you release your next single any time soon.

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