Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Way-Too-Sweet Refrain

For the record, I still think Sweet Refrain is lame. Maybe not as much as I used to, but still pretty lame. However, now that the single has been released along with the PV, I have also given myself the time to reflect on why I think it is lame!

Yeah, Sweet Refrain is probably gonna be one of those songs that takes awhile to grow on me. Maybe not as long as Spending all my time did but still not overnight. Already I don't dislike it quite as much as I did when I first heard so hey, baby steps! It probably helps that I have a clear file of the audio and some really spanking nice headphones to listen to the song on. That being said, I still do have problems with Sweet Refrain. I have already touched upon most of my main criticisms for Sweet Refrain, and much of what I said remains the same. But something else about the release of Sweet Refrain has also come to my attention. This has nothing to do with the song itself; it's the release date. As much as I love Perfume, I think now was too early for them to release another single. They should have waited until after their Dome Tour performances and released this single in January or February. I know Sweet Refrain was a drama song, but the release of it as a single so soon after Level3 was in my opinion, a bad marketing move.

Normally, I'd be completely down with Perfume releasing something really super soon, but I feel like Sweet Refrain was too rushed. However, the single's out, and I'm late to review it. Just now am I reviewing the PV! Anyways, as long as the single's been released, there's nothing I can do about it except do what I do best and review it. So yeah... Sweet Refrain... what the hell am I supposed to say about this song? I feel like everything I'm going to say in this review has already been said. Well, as we all know, Sweet Refrain was written for the drama Toshidensetsu no Onna. I think the drama has something to do with relationships; I read the summary awhile ago, but forgot so clearly it must not have grabbed me. Anyways, previously in the career of Perfume, their last drama song was Spice, a song that happens to be one of my favorites from the JPN era. Back when I was still excited for Sweet Refrain, I was hoping that it would be similar to the sound of Spice: smooth, calm, and sleek.

Instead, I got... well... Sweet Refrain. Look, I'm not trying to come across as hating Sweet Refrain. It's really not even a terrible song! But that doesn't mean it's without it's problems. My biggest problem with Sweet Refrain is that I don't think it knows what kind of song it wants to be. Does it want to be a happy and lighthearted JPN-esque song? At some parts it does. The opening makes you think it is. And the chorus sounds extremely similar to Kokoro no Sports; I even played the two songs back-to-back to hear how alike those choruses sound. Unlike Sweet Refrain though, Kokoro no Sports at least sounds more cohesive. There are parts where Sweet Refrain sounds like it's trying to be a cool, edgy dance song from Level3. Mainly in the instrumental. It's a little bit jarring hearing this sudden appearance of Dubstep over the girls' sweet vocals. I admit, I don't dislike the Dubstep quite as much as I did when I first heard Sweet Refrain, but I could still do without it. And if it was going to be kept in the song, I would have liked it to stand out a little less.

Sweet Refrain is trying to combine these two different styles into one which isn't possible, but the end result is something that could still use fine-tuning. I get what Nakata was trying to do. It's what he did in Shiina Ringo's Netsuai Hakkakuchuu, combing Dubstep and other EDM effects with a sweeter song arrangement, and that song is flipping awesome. However, something just doesn't click with Sweet Refrain and I think it's that the song is too sweet-sounding. What worked with Netsuai Hakkakuchuu was that it wasn't overly sweet and did have a bit of a sinister edge to it. Sweet Refrain is as sweet as the title, especially the vocal arrangement in the chorus. Maybe if the chorus had gone the route of Meg's Prism Boy... oh my god. I just realized how to fix Sweet Refrain. Sweet Refrain needs to have the same chorus of Prism Boy. It has the buildup for it! Come on, that's legal right!? Nakata can just tell the girls to sing along to Prism Boy and bam! Problem solved! No? He can't do that? Dammit...

I am being serious though, if Sweet Refrain's chorus sounded less like Kokoro no Sports and more like Prism Boy, this might have been a better song. Prism Boy starts out more-or-less in the same tone as Sweet Refrain, and what makes the chorus so great in that song is how the it just envelops the rest of the song like a wave. Sweet Refrain has a lackluster chorus that should have been more sweeping more... dramatic. Not some cutesy Kokoro no Sports-esque type of chorus. See? It's stuff like this that can be easily fixed that ultimately prevents Sweet Refrain from being a really great song. Okay... I've spent like two paragraphs bashing the hell out of this song, is there anything I do like about Sweet Refrain? Well... I actually do like the instrumental. I know I was complaining about the Dubstep, but I still do think the instrumental to Sweet Refrain is interesting. My opinion of Sweet Refrain's instrumental is pretty similar to the same as the one for the instrumental of Voice: it's better than the actual song.

Here, without the really cute vocals, all that Dubstep fits better, and I can get a better feel of what Nakata was trying to accomplish. And without the girls singing, I can finally hear all the little embellishments that make Nakata's music so interesting. There are a lot of really nice little moments in the instrumental for Sweet Refrain. I feel weird saying this, but it's really the vocals of Sweet Refrain that make it such a disjointed song. The vocals sound way too sweet and adorable and needed to be toned down in order to match with the song. And considering the girls of Perfume basically sing the song however they want to in the recording studio... it's their fault this song sounds so weird! I guess I do like the end of the song where "Refrain" is repeated over and over... all the other parts need to lay off the sugary-sweetness. Look, I still don't think Sweet Refrain is a bad song. I'd take it over, say, Speed of Sound or Mirai no Museum. But there are elements of the song that could have been handled better, so in the end, my overall opinion of the song remains mixed.

But something I can always expect from Perfume is that even if they have a lackluster song, they will usually get an interesting PV to go with it! Usually. Let's hope I didn't jinx it and Sweet Refrain is actually a good PV.

What time is it?

It's Perfume time!

Now we're off to the Perfume Museum! (and no, it's not the Mirai no Museum)

To the back, you'll see Perfume trying to recreate music notes.

And here, you'll see them performing a dark ritual to summon the power of Dark Lord

Ah, the Fall of A-chan! Quite a thought-provoking piece, if you ask me.

Aw, look at Mini!Perfume! Their outfits are so adorable!

Poor Kashiyuka, all alone while A-chan and Nocchi stare at each other.

This is Spending all my time all over again!

Time is but an illusion in the Perfume Museum.

Was... was that a dance move from Perfume no Okite?

Does this PV consist of homages to other Perfume dances? Because if it is, I'm gonna suck at figuring out which dance matches with which song.

Okay, I know this is the actual dance to Sweet Refrain.

Mini!Perfume dancing is adorable.

Okay, maybe this is a reference to...? I'm really not sure.

I love how each rotation features a variation on every action in the Perfume Museum.

Now there's a Perfume Line, the best kind of line in my opinion!

Meanwhile, this Perfume continues diving into the occult. Fun!

Check out the other Perfume peeking around the corner!

...if they're just gonna leave those shoes there, I'm taking them. Surely one pair will fit me!

Uh-oh. I don't think Nocchi would be pleased.

Time for another round of Ring Around the Perfume!

Perfumes, Perfumes everywhere...

The Perfume Guide to Sitting in a Chair. Groundbreaking!

More of snooping!Perfume! I like it!

Is anyone else experiencing deja vu, or is it just me?

Meh, probably just me.

Agh, I know I've seen these poses in other Perfume dances! I just can't remember which ones!

Now the ritual is complete. We will have another #1 single again.

All right, I definitely recognize that pose from Spring of Life!

Now if only I could figure out the 50 other dance references in this PV...

Oh no, I guess I'm out of time...

Thank goodness this PV is better than the song. What I always like about Perfume PVs is that watching them can magically raise my opinion of the song they accompany. Maybe not by much but just a little bit! Sweet Refrain is definitely a very interesting PV. After the colorful visual spectacle that was Magic of Love, I did wonder just what kind of PV their next single would have. Like Magic of Love, the PV for Sweet Refrain is one that relies on visual trickery. While there may be no overarching plot, Sweet Refrain is still a very engaging PV to watch mainly thanks to the technical effects. In fact, the more I watch this PV, the more in awe I am of the effects used in this PV. Sweet Refrain is shot so that it looks like one continuous spinning shot. There are a series of different areas in this shot: the chairs with clocks, the floating circles, the triangles, the music staff, the triangles, and a few other little sections before going back to the chairs in the opening part. The seamless rotation of the camera is awe-inspiring enough; then there's what the girls are doing during the PV. Each section has the girls doing something, whether it be dancing, bouncing balls, posing, etc.

What changes each time the camera starts rolling back around from the clocks on the chairs are the number of girls in each section. The number of Perfume girls increases in each rotation, with them sometimes appearing in larger numbers in one section or appearing in a completely different area all together. It's kind of similar to the effect used in the PV for Magic of Love, except on a completely different level (you might say it's on... Level4... sorry I couldn't resist). Much like the rotating camera, the multiple Perfumes look just as effortless. Even though I knew that obviously there weren't 10+ Kashiyukas in one room, it still looked real enough that I was able to suspend any disbelief I might have had. Even if nothing else in the PV for Sweet Refrain would have stood out, the visual effects are enough to make this an interesting PV. I don't know how they pulled off the technicals in this PV, but they're mesmerizing to watch on screen.

And then there's the concept of the PV for Sweet Refrain. I admit, I was a little confused about what that was before reading it. I thought maybe it had something to do with monotony? Turns out I was completely off. The concept for this PV was that it was a "museum" featuring Perfume. Funny how this PV had more to do with a museum than Mirai no Museum. Ugh, I don't want to dwell long on that release. So each section was like an exhibit featuring the girls doing something. And I think there are some parts where the girls are doing dances and poses relating back to their past releases. I could definitely see it with a few of the poses. I think a few hand motions were reminiscent of Spending all my time or maybe even the JPN Special from the JPN Tour. See, that's the problem with being a sucky dancer; you can never tell what choreography goes with what! I love watching Perfume dance, but even I can't figure out all the dance references in the PV for Sweet Refrain. I still think it's a really clever idea though.

I always like when artists with a bunch of singles under their belt references their past singles. It's fun to watch, especially for older fans! And of course the PV wasn't filled with just dancing! Perfume did a bunch of a random things throughout this PV like bouncing balls, peaking around corners, posing, you know, things people do everyday! Yeah, the PV for Sweet Refrain is definitely an artsy PV. As a result, it doesn't make a lot of sense, and the imagery can get a little nonsensical at times. But it's no different than some of Perfume's other artsy PVs! Some of my favorite Perfume PVs have been their artsy ones but admittedly, I didn't like the PV for Sweet Refrain as much as Voice, Magic of Love, or Fushizen na Girl. I think that's because there isn't a lot of color in the PV for Sweet Refrain. Nearly everything is some shade of white, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that was a kind of muted to look at on the screen. The dominantly black outfits the girls wore didn't help much with the color scheme of the PV for Sweet Refrain either.

Speaking of the outfits, I think they've finally grown on me. When the promotional image for Sweet Refrain was released, I didn't like the outfits that much. I thought they made the girls look really old and boring. But in the PV, they work much better, especially when the girls are dancing. Besides, I'm happy they finally managed to move away from that style scheme they've been using for the past what? Two years? I swear it feels more like four, but I'm pretty sure it's two years. You know, the Magic of Love-esque outfits except with the colors and patterns changed? Even though the outfits for Sweet Refrain do make the girls look older, I like that all the outfits look different from one another. Like Nocchi gets the snazzy pantsuit, A-chan's wearing the classy dress, and Kashiyuka got the elegant... robe? I'm not quite sure what to call Kashiyuka's outfit, but it looks nice! And they all get red shoes which are a much-needed splash of color in the PV for Sweet Refrain.

One of my favorite parts in the PV is when their shoes are placed in an empty area, and the girls pop their heads out for a brief moment. Another part of the PV I liked a lot was the inclusion of the miniature dancing Perfume. They were so tiny and cute! It's the little parts like that that make Sweet Refrain such a nice PV. It's not my favorite Perfume PV, but I do like the concept for it. The PV also has enough charm and grace that it's still an enjoyable PV to watch. While the PV for Sweet Refrain may not make me forget all the problems with the song, overall, it's still a pretty cool PV. The fact that it's an artsy PV is enough for me to at least give it a thumbs up. The visual trickery throughout the entire PV is what really makes it stand out. It adds to the whimsy in the PV, and makes for a very entertaining, if rather dizzy PV. Sure, I think the PV for Sweet Refrain could have used a little more color, but it was still an interesting PV. Even if I still think Sweet Refrain was released too early, at least I got to screencap and review the cool PV for it! I think that's enough of a consolation.

So Perfume ends the year with Sweet Refrain, and I end my last PV review of a Perfume song for this year by giving it a three-and-half apple rating. To say the song is not the best Perfume song I've ever heard is an understatement. However, it's not a horrible song either. The PV picks up the slack by being a thoroughly interesting, artistic endeavor that's a clever homage to Perfume's dances of the past.


  1. So no review on Koi wa Zenkeishisei? how dare you, lol
    It's much better than Sweet Refrain, i assure you.

    1. Don't worry, the single review of Sweet Refrain talks about Koi wa Zenkei Shisei! It was just *supposed* to publish last night but Blogger was being a butt and didn't do it. Now the review should be up though! I really should stop trying to queue my blog posts...

  2. I don't like fashion and normally don't look at clothing, but some pieces of clothes are art. The stylism in this video (and I include everything: outfits, shoes, make-up and hairdo's) are art. Noticed how the lipstick matched the shoes and the silver nail varnish matched the silver details of the outfits?

    I did also enjoy watching their outfits in "Nee?" (very elegant) and "Laser Beam" (very futuristic, well matched, with those red trims going with red soles for the shoes, red lips and red nails). A lot. But whoever did the stylism in "Sweet Refrain" should get promoted. Like, to top designer at Dior.

    1. I definitely agree; I saw a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit for clothes. It's amazing what people can do with fabric and styling! The clothing for Sweet Refrain is one of the strongest aspects of the single; the little details you pointed out highlight that.

      My favorite Perfume outfits were the ones they wore in Spring of Life (because how can you ever top light-up dresses?). Laser Beam's were cool too! But the outfits for Sweet Refrain look so refined and professional. The girls looked like trendy businesswomen!