Monday, September 30, 2013

Going Into Over Drive

Ah, Nakata Yasutaka. This is a man who is primarily the reason why I am into all the J-pop artists I am into today. Tell me, what artists come to mind when you hear Nakata Yasutaka's name? Capsule? Perfume? Meg? Suzuki Ami? Kyarypamyupamyu? And that's just a few. Whether you like his works or not, you can't deny that Nakata has put his name and creativity into a lot of different artists and produced a wide range of electronic music spanning across several years.

So what a better move for such a regarded EDM producer than to produce a Scandal song?

Come on guys, you know about Scandal! They're the group that specializes in electropop. I mean, this is such a technopop-oriented group, I'm surprised that they didn't collaborate Nakata sooner! You know with all that Autotune and electronic editing they use, I don't even think that Scandal uses real instruments in their songs! Wow, what a perfect collaboration: Nakata the electropop producer producing the most electropop girl group on the market right now. I get just a little choked up thinking about it. Actually, that's probably just me choking on the sarcasm coating those last few sentences. In all seriousness, what the hell led to this collaboration? You've got Nakata, the well-known producer that specializes in technopop and Scandal, the four-member girl band that specializes in pop rock. Where exactly do these two opposites meet, let alone decide to get together and collaborate? Tell me, is Akimoto Yasushi going to produce Morning Musume's next single? Perhaps the world has just finally turned upside down and a result of that is Nakata producing music for Scandal.

Well, if we are living in an upside down world, I'm still gonna review this odd little collaboration! The first time I heard that Scandal's final single of their Standard era, Over Drive, was being produced by Nakata, I must have done the kind of double take that's only supposed to exist in cartoons. It's just so... surreal. I legitimately want to know how and why Scandal and Nakata got together and Nakata decided he just had to write a song for Scandal. What kind of conversation panned out between the two parties that led to Over Drive? And since when did Nakata even produce rock music? I guess it's plausible but it's like seeing a group of basketball stars try to act in a feature-length film. And we got Space Jam from that happening! Before I'd even heard Over Drive, I was joking how the song was going to be a Dubstep dance track with all the members singing being so vocoded we wouldn't be able to tell them apart. But I was curious to see how Over Drive would sound, especially as a fan of both Nakata and Scandal.

Would two good things combine to make a bad thing?

That was the question on my mind when I first listened to Over Drive. After all, I like a lot of Nakata's work, but Scandal seemed like such a different field for him, I wasn't sure if he'd stumble and trip his way through producing a song that matched the group's general sound. But much to my surprise, when I put my earbuds in and hit play on Over Drive... it was actually a pretty good song. Like I'm surprised at how much I like listening to this song. Because it's by no means a great Scandal song, nowhere near as awesome as Shoujo S or Doll or BeauTEEN!! or Shunkan Sentimental. But there was something about Over Drive that made me keep listening to it a lot more than I thought I would. Was it because of my knowledge that it was produced by someone whose work I was a fan of? I thought so at first. But then I realized that Over Drive sounds like nothing Nakata would produce. If you'd played this song before I knew Nakata produced it, I can 100% say I never, ever would have even connected it to him.

I don't know whether to find it shocking or incredible that Nakata made a pop rock song so easily. Of course, there is some token Nakata-Engrish in the song. Just a word of advice from an English speaker: there's a better word out there than "clappy" to rhyme with happy. Hell, even "clapping" would have worked! Still, that doesn't by any means deter my enjoyment of the song. In fact, of the three A-sides Scandal released in the Standard-era, Over Drive is in my opinion the strongest. It's a lot better than Kagen no Tsuki at least! Sure, it may not be as awesome as some other Scandal singles of the past but Over Drive still holds its own pretty well. I guess what really appeals to me about Over Drive is that while it may not be the most creative song or the best Scandal song, there's something so gosh-darn happy about it. I mean, how could I hate such a happy song? I can bounce to Over Drive too, and nothing seems to get me in a better mood that a bounce-able song!  I guess overall, I give a pretty positive verdict on Over Drive.

Something I always have to ask myself whenever I'm reviewing a group I'm a particular fan of is whether I like a song because it's a legitimately good song or because I love the artist so much I'm very lenient toward their musical output. I have a tendency to do this with Perfume a lot. And while I'm not the biggest fan of Scandal, I am a huge fan of Nakata as a producer. So regarding Over Drive, is it a good song on its own or is my bias towards the guy who produced the song clouding my judgement? I will say, I can barely tell that Over Drive was produced by Nakata at all. The only hint that gives away any possibility is the brief harmonica solo during each instrumental between the vocals. It'd probably be a lot more obvious if it were bagpipes but still, I don't recall any member of Scandal being a harmonica player. Other than that, Over Drive is a song that stays true to Scandal's pop-rock roots, while still having a little bit of flair on Nakata's part. I can't help but wonder what a song from Scandal would sound like if Nakata went full-on EDM for it. I'll bet the fans would go apeshit if that ever happened!

I think it's good if Nakata just sticks to Perfume for techno; I like Scandal as an idol band more than I every would as a technopop group! Anyways, while some fans may complain that Over Drive is a sign of Scandal furthering spiral into more pop-friendly music, I still think Over Drive is a highly enjoyable listen. I won't deny that it's radio-friendly, but hey, a lot of great songs happen to be radio-friendly! Over Drive is a cheerful, upbeat, and fun song and my favorite A-side of the three released during the Standard era. Speaking of which, with the three singles of the Standard era released now, I do wonder what the rest of the album will sound like. I wager it'll be geared toward a pop-rock sound; I just hope it's not as pop-oriented as Baby Action. Really, I have no idea what Standard will sound like; these three singles haven't given me much of an indication. Still, I'll listen out for it and who knows? I might even actually review it!

But for the moment, all I'm aiming to review if the PV for Over Drive! So how about I put my review goggles into over drive take a look at it? And maybe I can squeeze more bad puns out of the screencap!

Well, the PV starts with a pretty flashy opening title drop!

Oddly enough those red jumpsuits remind me of the one Joel wore on MST3K...

...maybe the members of Scandal will be forced to watch bad movies too!

Unlike many other Scandal PVs, there are a boatload of details in this set.

And honestly, they make for a very fun PV!

So Haruna can levitate bolts and screws because... coolness factor?

Ah well, this set's cool enough!

I can't tell if these are iPads or not...

Okay, the CG's a little iffy in this shot, but I still like the floating effect.

I do wonder if there's meant to be some explanation behind this though. Do the girls of Scandal have the same powers Perfume did in the Spending all my time PV?

It looks like this quirky device has turned into a deadly device!

And now the rest of this set has become electrifying!

I don't care how cool you try to make it look, "clappy" is still a ridiculous word.

Haruna's like really super pretty in this PV. I think it's the hair styling.

Yes, show more stuff around the set! I need quirky gadget porn!

I love how during the harmonica solo they all just kind of dance around not playing their instruments.

Who cares about telekinesis when you've got a slam-a-jamming book to read?

Gosh, Rina looks positively luminous with the light bulb illuminating her face.

What a lovely stalker-shot!

I think Mami's one of the few singers I've seen who looks really good with blonde hair.

Oh, this is cool, Tomomi's honing in on her telekinetic abilities a la Spending all my time!

Playing with electricity! Ha! What could possibly go wrong?

Well for starters, the light bulb could crash to the ground!

Along with all the bolts and screws!

And now the electricity's malfunctioning! Yeah, what could happen now-


Rina too!? NO!!!

So... did they... die?

This isn't gonna be Spring of Life all over again, is it!?

I mean, everything in the PV is shorting and malfunctioning so it's plausible!

Then again, they look perfectly fine in this last shot so... I'll assume the best!

Can someone please clarify whether or not Scandal died at the end of this PV? No one? Am I just gonna have to speculate this one all by myself? Fine then! That's exactly what I'll do! Hell, I can come up with a whole backstory about this PV by myself! In fact, I did do that! No seriously, I got inspired and came up with this entire plot surrounding the events of Over Drive. You guys wanna hear it? Well, I guess that's kind of a rhetorical question since your answer won't effect this post... Oh well, I'm gonna tell you guys anyways! So you know how in the band shot, all the members of Scandal are wearing jumpsuits? That's because they've been kidnapped by Dr. Forrester and forced onto the Satellite of Love, where they're being forced to watch bad movies. Now, being band members and not movie riffers, the girls of Scandal did what they do best to stay sane: play music! This is why they're playing their instruments in the PV.

However, they had to make a bunch of makeshift amps and other musical instruments to have the proper equipment, which is why their playing room looks so messy. They only had the spare materials on the Satellite of Love to work with! Now what do the shots of them levitating nuts and bolts have to do with this story? Well, due to prolonged exposure to toxic fumes on the Satellite of Love, the girls all developed super powers. When not playing their instruments or watching bad movies, they work on honing in these super powers, hoping to develop them to get back at the evil Dr. Forrester and escape back to Earth! However, during the events of Over Drive, their poorly configured electrical wiring naturally malfunctions. This unfortunately leads to change in the magnetic fields on the Satellite of Love (because SCIENCE!) and all the members of Scandal get electrocuted! And then... well... eh... I haven't figured that part out yet because that's where the PV just ended! Look, I'm just working with the little bits of plot I got from a Japanese pop PV that probably wasn't supposed to be taken so seriously! Clearly I've been watching a little too much Mystery Science Theater 3000 lately...

In all seriousness though, this was actually a pretty good Scandal PV. You've got to understand that usually Scandal's PVs are... not that great. Don't get me wrong, they aren't terrible but most of them don't have much of a budget and just consist of the girls playing their instruments. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, the PV for Pin Heel Surfer barely featured the girls playing their instruments, and that's one of the worst Scandal PVs I've seen. Then again, it's terrible in the most entertaining way possible but still. I'm just trying to say that as nice as it is seeing the girls so into playing their instruments, the formula can get a little monotonous after awhile. That's why a PV like Over Drive is great to shake things up! I remember reading that the members of Scandal remarked that the PV for Over Drive had a slightly higher budget than some of their past PVs, and honestly that shows. There's a lot going on in Over Drive, and it's all really fun to look at.

My favorite part is that elaborate set where they play their instruments. It's packed top to bottom with a mishmash of gadgets all doing a bunch of random things. It gives off a very quirky science fiction vibe, and I loved seeing the camera zoom in on parts of this set. I really think the producers put in a lot of effort to make this a memorable set and it shows! The girls look great and they look like they're having a lot of fun playing their instruments in this set. And I love the lightning effects used in the set too! The telekinesis scenes give me strong vibes from Perfume's PV for Spending all my time, just different settings for each one. The gist is both girls in each PV are practicing their telekinetic powers. Of course, Perfume's practicing didn't end with their electrocution, just being locked in (or out...?) or a room. Overall, I actually really liked the PV for Over Drive, especially after screencapping it! There's a lot going on in the PV that works really well, even if the electrocution shots shock me every time I see them! They also send me into a tirade of bad puns! Anyways, the PV for Over Drive gets a thumbs up from me!

I don't know how the rest of Standard is going to sound, but Over Drive is promising! So I'll give the song and PV 4.5 apples out of 5. Again, the song's not the most creative Scandal song I've heard, but I did enjoy the happiness radiating from it. The PV is one of the better Scandal PVs and quite the visual spectacle! Then again, I'm a sucker for science fiction PVs... why else do you think I love the PV for Spring of Life so much?

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