Saturday, November 9, 2013

Perfume 2.0?

Sometimes I lay awake at night thinking about how Perfume's disbandment is inevitable. I don't know exactly when, but I know that they can't be an amazing technopop trio for the rest of their lives. I also know that Perfume is an irreplaceable group, and I don't think any other idol group will be able to capture the feel and style that Perfume so perfectly encompasses.

But if any idol group comes close, it's Kus Kus.

No, I'm not talking about the North African grain that makes for delicious dinnertime meals. I'm talking about an idol group that is new to the market! I have no idea where they got their name or why, but Kus Kus is a group under Universal Music Japan, the same label that houses the likes of Momoiro Clover Z, Kikkawa Yuu, and Perfume! It consists of three members: Maaya, Mai, and Yui. So as you can see, already they're at least a little similar to Perfume in that the both groups happen to be trios! But what else about Kus Kus reminds me so much of Perfume? Well, they're a technopop unit! You heard me! An idol technopop group! Not like Morning Musume electropop either. I'm talking straight-up idol technopop! How can you not find that at least a little intriguing!? I know I did when I read that Kus Kus was similar to Perfume, and knew that I just had to check them out to see if those claims were true. So is Kus Kus a reincarnation of early Perfume or a cheap ripoff attempting to cash in on the appeal of Perfume? I think the only way to truly answer that is to look at the group's debut single, Suteki na Takaramono. 


I will go ahead and say that the covers and outfits are the weakest part about this single. Honestly, if I'd not heard the song first and just seen the covers for Suteki na Takaramono, I probably would have passed over this single. I mean, what comes to mind when you see the three covers for Suteki na Takaramono? With the girlish and childlike pink font, the adorable outfits, the simplistic but cliche idol poses, you'd think that the songs contained on this single are the cutest, bubbliest idol songs on the market. And probably bland too. It's one of the prime examples where you can never judge a book by its cover... or in this case, a song by its CD cases. Suteki na Takaramono comes in three editions: Type A, B, and C. None of the editions contain DVDs or different songs, and the only real distinction is each edition comes with a randomly selected photo of one of the members of Kus Kus. There's not much of a distinction between the covers themselves; the font is the same on all them, and all three covers are pretty blase.

The Type A has them all posing closely together wearing white dresses and gloves against a white backdrop with pink cursive showing the title and the group's name. It is a positively boring single cover, and really lacking in color. The Type B (pictured at the top of this review) fares a little better with the color scheme and has the girls wearing polka-dot dresses against a slightly more textured backdrop. It's far from spectacular, but it's better than the Type A cover. And then there's the Type C, but it's basically a copy of the Type A only the girls are wearing yellow dresses now and are posed closer together. Really there's not much to talk about with that one. Of course, you can say with the other two covers as also; all three of these covers are incredibly generic-looking. How can UMJ expect to draw in a fanbase for Kus Kus with such unassuming and unoriginal single covers? I wouldn't have such a gripe with them, but they really undermine the quality of the songs themselves. Speaking of which, how about those songs? Are they any better than these covers?

Suteki na Takaramono

YES. Yes yes yes, a thousand times yes! And to think I wouldn't have even found this group had it not been for a lovely passerby on the Wonderland who directed me towards it. Suteki na Takaramono is a technopop song, and everyone who reads this blog knows my soft spot for technopop, especially when idols are involved. If there's one thing I wish this blog had more of it's idol technopop groups to review. Unfortunately, the idol market is a little short on that... unless you count Kyarypamyupamyu. So it's really refreshing to see an idol group singing technopop! And good technopop too. I love the sound of Suteki na Takaramono; I think it perfectly balances both the pop and techno sides of it. You can tell it's an idol song, and a really happy one at that, but it utilizes technopop well! Honestly, Suteki na Takaramono reminds me very much of an indies Perfume song, when they were more of an idol group than a performance group.

However, this song is not a carbon copy of Perfume music; the vocals are arranged differently, and the voices in Suteki na Takaramono sound a little more human than Perfume did. Like I can distinguish each girl's voice in Kus Kus whereas doing that with Perfume was a little more challenging. Both vocals still have robotic qualities, but Perfume sounds much more artificial, even in their indies. I think that's because Nakata used vocoders more than whoever produced Suteki na Takaramono. Do you what song Suteki na Takaramono reminds me of most though? Science Girl▽Silence Boy by that Sakura Gakuin sub-unit. Both songs have really similar tones, even if Suteki na Takaramono is a little more on the techno side than Science Girl▽Silence Boy. Point is I love both songs. I love that Suteki na Takaramono is a technopop song, and a good one at that. I think this song is such a sweet little A-side that has such charm and heart to it, and it brings me back to Perfume's indie days when they were just starting out. Who knows? Maybe one day Kus Kus will reach the same level of fame and recognition that Perfume has achieved!

Like the covers for Suteki na Takaramono, the PV is cheap. But at least it's not tacky and tries to be a little interesting. Still, it suffers from a lack of proper budget. The ideas presented in the PV could be kind of cute for an idol PV, but none of them are explored that much. Like there's a scene where the girls are communicating with cups and strings that's nice. Mainly the scenes where the girls are sitting down were nice, but they could have been better if there was a little more going on in them. Instead, the PV is mostly saved for the varying dance shots and close-ups though, all encompassed in one set. And I literally mean that this PV all takes place on one set. The set itself is all right; it's got that vaguely-futuristic-but-not-really look to it. If anything, it kind of reminds me of the PV for Perfume's Laser Beam. Speaking of Perfume, watching the PV for Suteki na Takaramono is where Kus Kus gets the strongest Perfume vibes. The dance is pretty idol-y, but some of the visual techniques in it are very reminiscent of Perfume videos.

You know the visual effect in Magic of Love and love the world where a series of shots are filmed within each other like a reverse Matryoshka doll? Well, that same technique is used in this PV, and naturally, I immediately noticed it. Do I think this is a blatant ripoff of Perfume's style. Eh, it's kind of hard to tell because the PV is just so cheap. Perfume has a tendency to get much more creative PVs, and unfortunately the PV for Suteki na Takaramono is very lacking in that regard. Not to mention the little visuals used in the PV aren't exclusive to just Perfume PVs, so it's very hard to give a verdict on how similar Kus Kus is to Perfume. Personally, I think Suteki na Takaramono deserved a better PV. It's such a lovely song; a truly fun and creative PV could have really highlighted just how good the song is. Don't get me wrong, this PV isn't terrible, but it's pretty cheap. Thankfully not UFP levels of cheap, but still pretty close. Who knows? Maybe Kus Kus will get better PVs in the future! I can only hope so!

Suteki na Takaramono gets a very enthusiastic five apples from me! You heard me, five apples. That's how much I like this song. Suteki na Takaramono is lovely, and it reminds me so much of indies Perfume without being a direct ripoff of Perfume's sound. If you're into Perfume as much as I am, I highly recommend listening to this song.

Suki Kiss

And I can say the same thing about the B-side! I wondered whether or not Suki Kiss would be a technopop song like Suteki na Takaramono or a more traditional sounding idol song. I mean, that is one of the most cutesy, cliche titles I've seen in idol music. Would my fears be confirmed that Kus Kus was just another generic idol group who happened to get a technopop song? Thankfully, no! Suki Kiss is also a technopop song! Nice to have that consistency in this single! Suki Kiss reminds me a lot of Perfume's Computer Driving, especially the opening instrumental. The rest of the song sounds more Vocaloid-esque though. I think it's the repetition and all the bleeps and bloops in the song. Regardless, I like it! I don't like it quite as much as Suteki na Takaramono, but I think this B-side still nicely compliments the A-side! Suki Kiss is a bit cuter sounding than Suteki na Takaramono, but with a title like Suki Kiss, what else should you expect? I do like that Suki Kiss has a little more vocal manipulation than Suteki na Takaramono did. Mainly just some echoing and repetition in the chorus, but it's the little touches that add to music!

I forgot to touch on this, but I really like the vocals in Kus Kus. I don't think any of the girls are Tokyo Girls' Style level singers, but they all sound very nice! It probably helps that their vocal editing is handled well. You know those aren't their real voices, but the editing is still very smooth and doesn't sound like a desperate attempt to cover up weak vocals. Unlike some groups that I review whose names will not be mentioned. Overall, Suki Kiss is a pleasant surprise of a B-side. I really had no idea going in what it would sound like, so I'm happy that it's a technopop song. It makes me think that Kus Kus is going to continue rolling with a technopop sound, which I would be more than okay with. Together, I think Suteki na Takaramono and Suki Kiss work well together. Both are happy, one's just slightly cuter than the other. Suki Kiss lives up to its name and is a very adorable, so if you're into the cuter side of technopop, I'd give this B-side a listen.

I'll give Suki Kiss four and half out of five apples. Again, not quite as good as the A-side, but still a pretty strong B-side. Suki Kiss is a pretty cute song, but it's a technopop song, which only adds to its charm.

The Verdict

I'm excited to see what this group does beyond Suteki na Takaramono! I hope they keep the technopop style of music they're riding on with Suteki na Takaramono, because I think it works really well for them! I will admit, on the surface, Kus Kus looks like a rather unassuming group. Not even their debut PV is that amazing. But if you can look past the bland outfits and cheap PVs, the songs on Suteki na Takaramono are absolutely wonderful, and I'm so happy to find an idol group that sings technopop. I hope that Kus Kus continues to release technopop music, because I think their style is not only adorable but sets them apart from a lot of other idol groups on the market right now. Suteki na Takaramono is a song that I can listen to a lot and not get tired of, simply because it's such a likable song. It's got a sweet melody, and not a bad technopop song either. Suki Kiss is almost as good as Suteki na Takaramono and matches the sound of Suteki na Takaramono perfectly.

I think both songs are really great, but it probably helps that they remind me very much of Perfume's music. However, do I think Kus Kus is a cheap copy of Perfume? No, actually! Look, don't go into this single expecting the second coming of Perfume, because that's not what Kus Kus is. Although with the member count, the technopop style, and even the outfits, they might be reminiscent of Perfume they are not a direct reflection of Perfume, especially current Perfume. If anything, they're more similar to indies Perfume, and even both groups' styles still have differences. Even if they are alike, I see absolutely nothing wrong with another Perfume-type group, as long as it's handled well. And I think so far, Kus Kus is being handled very well! I love the sound of their debut single, and I hope that in the future, Kus Kus will continue to go in this route for their music. And maybe when Perfume disbands, Kus Kus can be kind of a spiritual successor to them. I also hope that more people find out about Kus Kus; I feel like Suteki na Takaramono is kind of a hidden gem.

I was torn between giving Suteki na Takaramono four and half apples or five, but I ended up going with the former. Only because visually, this single is kind of lacking, and could really have used some fine-tuning. But the songs on Suteki na Takaramono are top-notch, and really lovely technopop for an idol group! This was a great debut single for Kus Kus, and I eagerly look forward to seeing where this idol trio goes next!


  1. Did this single get any promotion? I wonder what UMJ's goals are for this group.

    The PV looks like it was made by a group of people who didn't know much about making music videos and just put together a bunch of idol cliches.

    1. I don't think so. It's only at like #42 on Oricon...

      I do hope the group's future PVs are done better and preferably with less idol cliches!