Monday, September 30, 2013

Get the Star and Last Forever


Say, what's been going on with Tokyo Girls' Style lately? Have they been doing their lovely thing as usual, being all vocally talented and whatnot? I'd like to think so! The last time we saw our lovely Avex idols was in their sultry PV for Unmei, a hot, funky jam with an equally hot PV. But now we return to look at TGS with a new single, a double A-side to be exact. That double A-side consists of Get the Star and Last Forever. Of course, knowing how shit Avex is with promotion, only one of those A-sides is probably going to get any kind of promotion. I'd bet on Get the Star. Nonetheless, I'm always in the mood to review TGS, and what a better way to do that than a single review? That way I can review the entire single and not just the song that gets a PV! Of course, I do need to clarify that my single reviews don't look at remixes, so I won't be looking at the Orland Mix of Get the Star. I'm sure it's a fine remix and all; I just don't like reviewing remixes. With that aside, let's stop the stalling and take a look at this single!

Covers/Outfits

The covers for Get the Star/Last Forever are pretty minimalistic. Like... super minimalistic. Like I could probably duplicate these covers if I had enough people. All you need is either a roll of black, red, yellow, or blue tape, depending on which cover you want to imitate. Then you just need to find a corner of a room with white walls and gray flooring. From there, all you do is spread the tape around said corner in one of four shapes. Voila! The covers for Get the Star/Last Forever! So yeah, the covers are minimalistic in the cheapest way possible. But... I kind of like them. I mean, I've seen much more creative covers, but the concept is still nicely executed and a somewhat clever idea. I like that the girls are all placed inside the tape, with some parts of their bodies just barely sticking out. There isn't much variety with each cover, save for the colors and shapes of the tape along with the positions each member is put in. All in all, the covers are a really simplistic idea, but I don't think they look that bad.

At least they didn't add like shitty puke yellow font to the covers either unlike some singles I've reviewed this year that start with "Sayonara" and end in "Crawl." Tokyo Girls' Style has gotten much tackier covers in the past, so I'm not complaining much about the ones for Get the Star/Last Forever. And then there are the outfits for the single, which really gave me my first indication of what the songs were going to sound like! The outfits for Get the Star/Last Forever are lot less polished and sleek than a lot of Tokyo Girls' Style's previous outfits. The girls are all dressed like members of an 80s rock band... if there was an 80s rock band consisting of Japanese girls. They're all wearing acid-wash jeans or fishnets gloves or combat boots, you know, grunge-y looking stuff! As someone who likes wearing grunge-y clothes (when I'm not in a girly mood), I think the outfits for this single are pretty cool. I like that the outfits all look different from each other and that they're not so uniform. It works when the songs you get are all pop-rock songs. Speaking of which...

Get the Star

What's this? A song by Tokyo Girls' Style that is... not funky and fresh!? Be still my beating heart, for I have looked into the abyss and it has stared back! In all seriousness though, Get the Star is a different A-side for TGS. Hell, it's a different sound in general for them. TGS has always been Avex's callback to the 90s, with groovy beats and rhythms you could have sworn you heard in a 1970s exploitation film. Unmei, their last A-side was just about as funky as TGS gets. Get the Star on the other hand is a pop-rock song of all things produced by the bassist from a band called Luna Sea. Being the diligent reviewer that I am, I did a little bit of research on Luna Sea and listened to a few of their songs, just to get a feel of their overall style. And they seem like a pretty cool rock band with some good songs. They reminded me a bit of The Cure, only a lot less New Wave and a lot more rock-oriented. From what I can tell, they're a pretty prestigious rock band so an idol group like TGS getting a member from the band to produce a song for them is a pretty big deal, for them at least.

The song the bassist (whose stage name is just the letter J) produced for TGS is definitely much more pop than any of the stuff this guys does with Luna Sea. As I said before, Get the Star is not only a pop rock song, but a definite change in style from Tokyo Girls' Style's... eh... style. However, the real question is if this is a good change or not. Personally, I found Get the Star to be an incredibly refreshing song. Don't get me wrong, I love TGS and their own funky 90s Avex sound, but it's nice for a song to shake things up for them, and Get the Star is perfect for that. Even as a standalone song, Get the Star is still great. It's very refreshingly upbeat but not dissonantly upbeat; it still sounds like something TGS would do. It's a happy song, but also an encouraging song. There's just something so... joyful about the chorus of this song; I feel like the girls were really into singing Get the Star. If you're looking for the groovy TGS, Get the Star does not fit into that mold but is still a wonderful song that's a breath of fresh air for Tokyo Girls' Style!

As usual, I'd considered reviewing the PV for Get the Star, but in the end opted not to. It's more because I wanted to talk about Last Forever than because there isn't much to talk about in the PV though. Still, I don't know if I could have made a full PV review for Get the Star. I mean, the PV pretty much consists of the girls singing in a garage-type set. It's definitely a bit grittier than some of the other PVs they've been in. The girls are surrounded by amps and wires and spotlights and ladders, all the stuff you associate with cool rock PVs! Or at least what I associate with cool rock PVs... The girls spend most of the PV singing around in a circle, looking happy, chilling out together. And then there are a few miscellaneous shots thrown in of them dancing individually. Really there's not that much going on in the PV. It's almost like the girls just got together in some random abandoned warehouse to record a jam session with no instruments. In fact, I wonder what this PV would have looked like if the girls were playing instruments... It'd probably look more awkward than AKB48's Give Me Five! PV, but in my head, it'd look pretty cool.

Man, can you imagine Scandal playing in a location like that? In fact, I think they've already done that... several time.s Okay, okay, I digress! So yeah, the PV for Get the Star isn't by any means the most interesting PV I've looked at this year, but it's not blatantly cheap or gaudy looking. The editing is nicely done, and the visuals match the tone of the PV well. The setting's dark but the girls' cheerfulness creates a nice contrast. There are a few layered effects spliced into the PV that look like illuminated dustballs, but those are pretty tastefully edited so they look like stars! Kind of. Use your imagination, okay? One thing I noticed about this PV was the attention focused on Yuri. She got both the opening and ending shots entirely to herself! It's probably nothing much to talk about, but I think it was kind of cool she "got the star" in the ending shot of the PV. So yeah, other than that the PV for Get the Star is cool, even there's not much variety in it.



I've got to give Get the Star five out of five apples. I like that it's a pop-rock song, a genre of music that TGS rarely approaches. But I also like that it's such an encouraging-sounding song, with a lot of energy and a very positive, if rather abstract message. Definitely one of my favorite TGS songs.

Last Forever

The other A-side on this single is Last Forever, despite the fact the Last Forever wasn't anywhere near as promoted as Get the Star. Unlike Get the Star, which is energetic and jubilant, Last Forever is much more toned down. Mainly because it's a ballad. That alone should give you a pretty clear idea of how Last Forever sounds. Now Tokyo Girls' Style has done several ballads before, the most recent being Tsuioku. Personally, I've found the few ballads TGS has done to be pretty underwhelming. Tsuioku was pretty but I've always found it to be a rather a dull song to my ears. In my opinion, it's way too slow. So I wasn't exactly jumping up and down to hear Last Forever. Luckily, all my preconceived hesitations were blown away when I finally listened to the song. Last Forever is a ballad, but it's the best kind of ballad: one that feels genuine. The members of TGS wrote the lyrics to Last Forever themselves, which I found to be very interesting. I don't think the girls of TGS have ever written a song, so I do like that they were able to contribute a little creative input for once, especially as an idol group.

While I've yet to find a translation of Last Forever, the way the girls sing the song give it such... emotion. I've said before that my favorite ballads are the ones that sound emotional, and Last Forever excels in that. It's the first ballad I've heard from Tokyo Girls' Style that really works for them. Funny enough, like Get the Star, Last Forever is kind of a different song style of TGS. It's a ballad but it's more of a rock ballad, very loosely speaking. However, the stylistic change is done well creating what's probably one of my favorite J-pop ballads. Yes, one of my favorite J-pop ballads. I think my favorite part (of several favorite parts) of Last Forever has to be the outro with the amazing guitar riff. And the chorus itself is the vocal highlight of the song. What else is there to say about this song? Last Forever is not only a great ballad, but an absolutely wonderful song, the kind of song that I can see myself listening to a lot. I highly recommend listening to it.



And it looks like another 5 apples are going to the other A-side of this single! For a ballad, Last Forever is one of the strongest idol ballads I've listened to and not just because of the good vocals. It's a heartfelt, emotional song

The Verdict

Well, this just might be the best single I've reviewed all year. That or Magic of Love. Get the Star/Last Forever consisted of two songs that are both a little different from what Tokyo Girls' Style normally does but different in a good way. What I really like is that both the A-sides on this single compliment each other. Get the Star is a very upbeat pop-rock tune while Last Forever is a much slower rock ballad. What ties both these songs together and makes them mix so well is the fact that both songs have emotion. The emotional levels of Get the Star and Last Forever are high, and there's something very genuine I felt from each song in both the instrumentals and the vocals. Get the Star felt like a very encouraging song to listen to, and I liked the collaboration between TGS and the bassist from Luna Sea. I think every now and then TGS needs to be pulled out of their comfort zone of groovy 90s Avex. A pop-rock song that sounds like something you'd hear from BiS or Scandal is in my opinion the perfect genre for such a mature idol group to deviate to.

Get the Star was a fun song while not sounding like something completely out-of-style for TGS. And I think the same can be said for Last Forever. This is probably the first ballad from TGS that I've really, really liked in part due to the genuine emotions from the song and the fact that it's a rock ballad. Overall, this single is absolutely amazing, and I try not to use that term lightly. Both songs represent a change in style from TGS that is a great change. I don't know if Tokyo Girls' Style's next single is going back to their traditional style of exploring this one more, but if it's the latter, I wouldn't mind in the least. I can't recommend listening to this single enough, even if you aren't a fan of Tokyo Girls' Style. When I say I'm a fan of TGS, songs like this are why I'm such a huge fan of them. The songs on this single are some of the best Tokyo Girls' Style songs I've heard, probably as good as Limited Addiction or Kodou no Himitsu. I don't know how TGS is going to top this, but Get the Star/Last Forever is probably one of my favorite singles they've released.


I said I thought this might be the best single I reviewed all year and I wasn't exaggerating. Get the Star/Last Forever gets a perfect five-out-of-five apples for me. And well-deserved apples are they too! Both songs on this single are top-notch, with each one distinct in sound yet complimenting the other nicely. It's singles like these that make me truly happy to be an idol blogger. So since the end of 2013 is coming soon, do you guys have any favorite singles that are so wonderful they make you cry sweet tears of joy? Obviously, I do...

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-


OH GOD DID TOMOMI JUST GET ELECTROCUTED!?


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?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Retro Idol Smackdown!!!

Welcome back to the idol smackdown, where I pit idol groups against each other and see which group comes out on top! Ladies and gentleman, I want you to put on your heart-shaped sunglasses, grab your record player, and step into a DeLorean because we're going back in time...

Well, kind of. I've yet to build a time-traveling DeLorean or acquire a blue police box to travel across dimensions. But that doesn't mean we can't look back on history and appreciate it. I enjoy learning about history very much, especially the cultural aspects of it. I just think it's amazing to see a nation's culture grow and evolve over the years. For that reason, I really like old things. Not like 2 month-old loaf of bread type of old but... antiques. Relics from the past! There's the expression I'm looking for! I love going through little antique stores full of all these objects and clothes and magazines made in a time period long past. It's like going in a museum and being able to touch everything! I think doing that has given me a certain fondness for "retro" things, particularly American media from the 1920s to the 1970s (even the 1980s but that's bordering on retro more than the other decades I listed). That and watching a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 but that's beside the point. I should clarify that just because I have an appreciation for the pop culture of the 1920s-1970s does not mean that I want to live during that time period. Believe me, I'm very happy that I'm alive now instead of during say, the fifties. There are still a lot of elements of this era in history that I don't like. I don't like the racial discrimination, the inherent sexism of the 1950s and 1960s, the threat of nuclear meltdown prevalent throughout the Cold War, the spike in drug use that occurred in the 1980s, and many more events that you can ask your local history teacher about. My point is you can't look at history through rose-tinted shades, okay? Just like now there are both good and bad elements of history and society that will always be prevalent as long as human nature exists. However, I can still appreciate the aesthetic of decades gone past, and that is where retro media has its appeal for me. Visually I find it to be a very interesting and different time period.

With that in mind, how in the hell does my little history spiel relate to idol groups? Well, I'm not the only person in the world who has an appreciation for retro things. Retro concepts have been thoroughly explored in music, in countries all around the world, including idol music. From groups like Morning Musume to groups like AKB48, taking styles and visuals from music of the past is a popular technique that I personally find very charming. Hence the two songs I'm comparing on today's Idol Smackdown both explore the theme of retro-ness. One in the song, the other moreso in the PV. So today on this Idol Smackdown, I'm pitting a song from the biggest idol group in Japan right now...


...against an idol group so lacking in information I'm not even sure it's considered an idol group.


Makes perfect sense, right?

But hey, I always seem to review groups that may-or-may-not be classified as "idol" groups depending on who you ask. The group you see above is Jusyo Futei Mushoku or Jusho Futei Mushoku depending on whom you ask for the correct spelling. And contrary to what you'd think going off only the cover to their latest album, this group actually consists of four members! It's just that they added another member just before the release of their next album, Gold Future Basic, so I guess they just wanted to give her a feature on the album. Her name is ℃-want you! and unfortunately, she's the only member whose name I can even find. Yeah, it's that obscure of a group. The information I have found on Jusyo Futei Mushoku is very scarce, but from the few music videos and shady discography websites that feature them, I can at least gather they're an idol band. Maybe. Look, they all play instruments, with one of the four members solely playing the instrumentals in their songs with the other three girls splitting the vocals. Or two when their were only three members in the group. I've also gathered that Jusyo Futei Mushoku is a group that leans toward the retro pop-rock music of the sixties; even one of their songs is called I Wanna Be Your Beatles! What caught my eye about Jusyo Futei Mushoku was their PV released for In Da Gold, the promoting track off Gold Future Basic. I immediately realized that I wanted to talk about the PV, but I didn't know if I wanted to take on another PV review or do something different. Then an idea came to me. Why not knock out the review of Koisuru Fortune Cookie lingering at the back of my review list and take a look at this group at the same time? And what a better way to do that than with an Idol Smackdown where two idol groups will fight it out to see which one succeeds in one aspect of a song or PV. So today's Idol Smackdown features one retro song from an immensely popular group and another retro song from a ridiculously obscure group. Which one will come out on top? Only one way to find out! Let the Smackdown commence!

Round 1 - The Styling

Warming up the Idol Smackdown is the styling! Were the outfits cute? Were the album covers decent? Did they match the tone set by the song? Did each group look like a cohesive idol group? All these questions and a little bit more are covered in Round 1! Although personally I find this to be the most trivial of the three rounds it nonetheless is vital in determining who will come out on top as winner of the Idol Smackdown!

AKB48



So the first challenger is AKB48 because I'm doing this in alphabetical order! I guess technically I have two sets of outfits to judge for Koisuru Fortune Cookie: the ones used on the covers and the ones used for most of the PV. I remember way back when shaky photos of the outfits used in the PV shooting were first leaked onto the web, before we'd even heard what Koisuru Fortune Cookie sounded like. My first impressions were... mixed to positive. I thought the red, white, yellow, and blue outfits were very bright and colorful, and none of the Senbatsu members looked bad in them. But they also looked kind of circus-y. Not to mention that they're styled the way many of AKB48's performance outfits are. They look like the "school uniform with a stylish twist" kind of outfits that have become a staple with AKB48. They're a lot like Iiwake Maybe's outfits only with less plaid. So yeah, they're cute, but I've seen this look before. In fact, I've seen this look a lot of times from AKB48, along with a lot of groups ripping off said look. And then there are the other outfits used on the covers for the single. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of these outfits. I think they look really tacky, and don't really match with the song at all. If anything, they make the girls look like walking Christmas ornaments. I guess in comparison, these outfits aren't the worst I've ever seen, but they just don't work with a single like Koisuru Fortune Cookie. I might like them a little better if the other aspects of the covers worked but honestly, these covers are pretty bad. The Photoshop is painfully evident, and the color schemes used for each cover look kind of nasty. I don't know, something about the shading doesn't strike me as very appealing. Ugh, for such a loaded idol group, you'd think AKS would put some real time and money into making some nice-looking covers for their group's singles. I guess not! Overall, the styling for Koisuru Fortune Cookie is iffy at best; the only outfits I really like are the ones used in the PV, but even then those aren't that original. Everything else is pretty tacky, especially for AKB48.

Jusyo Futei Mushoku


So the styling for Koisuru Fortune Cookie was just about as retro as the "retro" section of the yearly Halloween costume catalog. Does Jusyo Futei Mushoku fare any better? Let's take a look. I have no idea what kind of budget Jusyo Futei Mushoku has, but I'm willing to bet that it's not a very large amount. Still, there are plenty of idol groups with small budgets that manage to make creative visuals and concepts with what they've got! And I think Jusyo Futei Mushoku does a pretty decent job of creating a retro look to promote their album. Three of the four members are all wearing pastel-colored dresses that you'd swear were stolen from the set of Mad Men. But I think they're really cute! Like I said, I enjoyed many aspects of the culture of the 1920s-1980s, especially fashion! I really like how simple but elegant the dresses look, even if they are on the rather simple side. Besides, the accessories help keep the outfits from being completely dull! Like the hats and the jewelry are absolutely adorable; they look like something I'd be able to find at an antique store! I particularly like how the lacy gloves they're wearing match with the dresses; it just adds to the classy rock vibe I'm getting with the visual style for In Da Gold. Of course, I'm not sure how you can play an instrument with gloves, but I'm just speaking as a piano-player. Speaking of instruments, I really like the ones featured in this promo shot. They all look very old-timey, and I like that they're different colors too! Actually, I really like the entire color scheme used for In Da Gold. The colors are all very bright and different and help each girl stand out, even if I don't know the names of any of these girls at the moment. There's not really a single cover for In Da Gold since it's just a promo track for the Gold Future Basic album, but I can at least take a look at the album cover! The cover for Gold Future Basic is pretty minimalistic; I guess you could look at it from one perspective and see it as pretty retro. It's a classy but stylish cover, matching well with the style that was used for the promo shot!

And the Winner Is...

I think I can pretty easily go with Jusyo Futei Mushoku for the winner of Round 1. They really encompass a retro style with their outfits, and I really dig the accessories they used. They look very much like an all-girl rock band you'd see in the late 50s or 60s!

Round 2 - The Song

Of course, even the best dressed idol group is nothing without good songs. The most pivotal and important of the three rounds is how the song sounds. And whether Koisuru Fortune Cookie and In Da Gold hold up as good songs will determine just what kind of lasting values they'll have on my iPod.

AKB48



All right, as many of you already know, I've had a... somewhat critical opinion towards AKB48's musical output regarding their A-sides since last year. In fact, the Gingham Check, last year's Senbatsu single, was the first in a bland string of generic A-sides that continued throughout 2012 and into 2013! Bottom line is I've gone on and on about how AKB48's leading songs have basically sucked since Acchan's graduation. However, Sasshi winning the Senbatsu Election meant a change in center, and considering Aki-P purportedly writes his songs around their centers, I had a small glimmer of hope still overshadowed by my storm cloud of pessimism. And so Koisuru Fortune Cookie came out; or KFC is you want to snicker about that abbreviation. Amazingly enough, Koisuru Fortune Cookie is probably the first A-side from AKB48 that I've liked since Manatsu no Sounds good! I will admit, the song took some time to grow on me. I thought the first live performance of the song was rather lackluster, but the studio version turned out to be much more lively! It's still not straying towards anything terribly creative in terms of idol music, but at least Aki-P finally tried a different sound from that "cheerfully bland" song-type he's been defaulting to lately. KFC has that retro late 70s, early 80s feel that made me decide to pair it with In Da Gold in this Idol Smackdown. To be fair, this isn't the first time that AKB48's explored an older-sounding musical style; Virgin Love and Korekara Wonderland also had the same feel KFC has. Especially Korekara Wonderland and by the way, you guys should totally listen to Korekara Wonderland if you haven't already because it's an awesome song and kind of the only reason I really got into AKB48 and yeah I'm getting off topic. Personally, I think Korekara Wonderland explored that retro sound much better than KFC does, but KFC is still a pretty fun song to jam to. It's got a smooth beat and a simple but catchy chorus, and my own personal love for retro media probably contributes to my opinion towards this song.

Jousyo Futei Mushoku



Up to challenge Koisuru Fortune Cookie's retro-ness is In Da Gold! Which kind of sounds like "indigo" if you say it out loud. Just a fun fact. Like with any group I listen to for the first time, I was a little worried as to how In Da Gold would sound. Like what if it sucked? Well, my first impression of In Da Gold was what the hell does "Get up and tiny warping!" even mean? My second impression was... mixed to positive in a nutshell. When I was first listening to the song and the vocals came in after the drum beats, I noticed how... distinct the vocals were. Which is a nice way of saying they were a little off-key. Like very off-key. At least the opening vocals were that way; the vocals got better as I heard more. But as opening notes, the iffy vocals of Jusyo Futei Mushoku could turn you off from the song. I think it's kind of like jumping into a cold lake; once you get over the shock and get acclimated to the temperature, you find said lake is much better than you thought in the first place! That being said, the vocals are still overall the weakest part of In Da Gold. The rapping bits are probably my least favorite parts of the song, because the members of Jusyo Futei Mushoku aren't exactly the best at rapping. Then again, I've noticed that most idol groups suck at rapping. I really think if you're split on In Da Gold on your first listen, play the song a few more times. That's what I did and much like with Koisuru Fortune Cookie, I found myself liking In Da Gold the more I heard it. That or I could have just been brainwashing myself into liking the song. That's what I have to do when listen to Momoiro Clover Z and Dempagumi.inc! In Da Gold is a lot groovier than Koisuru Fortune Cookie, and definitely has a lot more hooks. It's just very rough around the edges; with the right polishing, In Da Gold could be a really awesome. Even in its current state though, I still find something very endearing about the song's flaws; I think the members sound like they're having a lot of fun, especially in the rapping bits. So while In Da Gold has its flaws, it still makes me want to get up and tiny warping! Whatever the hell that means...

And the Winner Is...

I gotta go with Koisuru Fortune Cookie, and I think it has to do with production values. AKB48 is a highly manufactured idol group, but a highly manufactured group with a very smooth sound. In Da Gold is fun but just a little too unpolished for me to really get into it. KFC encompasses that fun, retro feel of the 70s and 80s while also being the first AKB48 A-side I've liked in over a year. 

Round 3 - The PVs

AKB48


Much like with AKB48's musical output this year, I've been a little underwhelmed by their PVs this year too. So Long! was pretty dismal and cheap, and Sayonara Crawl just didn't do it for me. Considering last year's Senbatsu PV was freaking awesome and I gushed about how awesome it was, Koisuru Fortune Cookie had quite the standard to achieve. In fact, all the Senbatsu PVs have had a track record of being really distinct, with visuals both entertaining and appealing. Hell, Heavy Rotation is AKB48's most (in)famous PV!

So did Koisuru Fortune Cookie's PV follow in this tradition? Nope. Not even close.


I can't believe I'm saying this about an AKB48 PV, but this PV bored me. Like really bored me. This wasn't a bad PV by any means; the camera work was nice and the settings were well-done. There's just nothing I can talk about with it. Even with the bad PVs by AKB48, they've always been entertainingly bad, in ways that I can mercilessly poke fun at them. But Koisuru Fortune Cookie wasn't even a PV that I could really talk about or make fun of. I wasn't sure if I could even make a PV review out of it. And technically I didn't because this is an Idol Smackdown instead of a normal PV review...


So where does the PV for Koisuru Fortune Cookie fall flat? The PV is pretty much a dance PV with a few close-ups thrown in of the girls. Does that sound familiar to another well-known idol agency that starts with Hello! and ends in Project to you guys? Same here. Where Koisuru Fortune Cookie deviates from the H!P formula is that there are shots showing the girls teaching the dance to civilians of all ages along with shots showing various people performing the dance.



And in my opinion, the dance is one of the main elements that makes this PV so dull. This is such a simple, slow dance that even I, someone who dances like a tree caught in a hurricane can learn it. Do you know what other dances share the distinction of being so simple a five-year old could learn them? The Electric Slide. The Cha Cha Slide. The Cupid Shuffle. Do you know what all those dances have in common? They're more fun to do than watch.


The dance for Koisuru Fortune Cookie shares that characteristic. I think this was more of a fun PV for the people who were in it than the people who watched it online after it was filmed and edited. Because everyone does look like they're having fun in the PV. But it's the bland, generic kind of dopey fun you have when you're dancing to a song so easy you could probably do it in your sleep (but I don't recommend trying that out). This might not be so terrible were it not for the fact that Koisuru Fortune Cookie's PV is pretty much based around the idea that this dance is going to be entertaining for five minutes.


There are a few ideas in this PV that could have worked well under the right circumstances. Take the idea of using a giant mob in the background for the main dance shot. That could have been really cool if the song matched the tone a giant mob could set. SKE48's Banzai Venus perfectly executes the mob-setting for their dance shot because Banzai Venus is a freaking energetic song that makes a crowd wanna jump up and down. Koisuru Fortune Cookie has a much more laid-back, swinging rhythm. Not exactly the kind of song that gets a crowd going.


I do need to at least touch on the subject of Sasshi as a center. Because the big deal about any Senbatsu PV is always the center. Hell, the "battle of the centers" theme has been prevalent for three of the Senbatsu PVs. But if you were to show this PV to me without me knowing it was a Senbatsu PV, I'd have no idea. It doesn't feel like Sasshi's being highlighted or emphasized as a center; she's just there. I don't think it's her fault since she's makes a fine center; there's just no focus on her, no emphasis saying "HEY! Look at this victorious idol who clawed her way to the top of Senbatsu!" that I found in previous Senbatsu PVs.



There were a few fun shots like Yukirin's weather forecast and a few civilian shots were a little entertaining, but for the most part, the PV for Koisuru Fortune Cookie left me extremely underwhelmed. Funny how the first kinda-not bland song AKB48 gets since last year is the first song to get a surprisingly bland PV... Look, I don't know what else to say about this PV. There's not much with lasting entertainment value, and in comparison to Senbatsu PVs of the past (and AKB48 PVs in general), Koisuru Fortune Cookie got saddled with one of the most boring PVs I've seen from AKB48 in a long time.


How this giant mob of people managed to look like they were having a boatload of fun is beyond me.

Jusyo Futei Mushoku


Well, maybe Jusyo Futei Mushoku can spice up Round 3! Keep in mind that the PV for In Da Gold is basically the entire reason that I wanted to make an Idol Smackdown featuring Jusyo Futei Mushoku in the first place. So you can probably deduce that I this PV at least managed to catch my eye enough to make me want to write about it, which is a huge feat. And yeah, personally I think this is probably one of the neatest and quirkiest PVs that I've had the pleasure of viewing this year!


In Da Gold embodies the concept of a retro PV. I almost wish I had just done a full PV review for In Da Gold because my god, there is so much to screencap in this PV. I feel a little guilty just showing you guys only a few shots from the PV...



In case you haven't noticed yet, this PV wasn't exactly one with a lot of budget. But a cheap PV does not always equal a bad PV. Unless it's Hello! Project. But anyways, what the PV for In Da Gold does is splice a combination of clips from old movies and television shows of the 40s, 50s, and 60s along with cheesy green-screen graphics and visual motifs for the shots Jusyo Futei Mushoku is in. So yeah, there are many parts where the special effects are blatantly fake, but I honestly think that just adds a very endearing appeal to the PV for In Da Gold.



I think it's because a lot of old movies, especially B-movies, weren't made on big budgets either. They were filmed off of shoestring budgets, with special effects that could probably be duplicated by a bunch of ten-year olds with a handheld in today's times. But the way the effects are done with In Da Gold is the girls of the group are shopped into these old movies clips in a paper-doll kind of effect. They clearly don't match with the rest of the set, but personally, I think that's very charming. It reminds me of all the bad green screens they used back then (and some poorly done green screens are still used today, as many an H!P fans knows).


The special effects for In Da Gold actually remind me of the effects used in the PV for Mizuki Nana's Cosmic Love. Since I'm wagering a lot of you guys have probably never seen that PV, here's a link to it. By the way, you should totally watch it because it's awesome and Mizuki Nana is awesome. Both PVs use a lot of green screen and in a very similar way too.


The only shots in the PV that don't feature any green screen are pretty barren, but these shots are usually edited with little text bubbles and random pictures at various points in the PV! While not as eye-catching as all the vintage movie clips, these shots are nice too. The girls' outfits all look very bright and happy, and I like the disco balls! I do wish they'd actually done more than just held onto the disco balls, like maybe tried to hang them on the ceiling or... I don't know, just something else!


I really don't have anything to comment on with this shot other than the fact that it's totally groovy and I freaking love it.



Here's some of the effects I was talking about earlier. The other non-green screen shot shows the girls playing instruments in a room full of balloons. What amazed me most about this shot was that none of the balloons popped! And the "Get up and tiny warping" text is overlay in this shot. Another little fun thing that added to the retro nature of In Da Gold was when about halfway through the PV, the girls started dropping a bunch of rock bands in the song from The Clash to Paul McCartney, with each band logo appearing on the screen. I thought that was a really cool nod to some really influential and famous bands of the 60s and 70s; there were even a few band references that I didn't catch!



Just some other fun shots with the band members edited over them. I really wish I knew the names of all the band members of Jusyo Futei Mushoku. They all seem like a group of pretty cool people, and I'd really like to just find out more about them. Maybe someone in the comments section will descend like an angel from above with information about them!


Check it out, a title drop! I do hope I'll be able to listen to Gold Future Basic when it comes out. I'd really like to hear more of Jusyo Futei Mushoku's material, even if the vocals of the group are a little shaky.


Something to note is this shot is from one of their older PVs back when the group still only had three members. This was the PV for I Wanna Be Your Beatles. I just wanted to mention that I watched this PV too when trying to find other music videos from Jusyo Futei Mushoku, and I liked it! It was a fun PV, and I liked that it was shot in black and white. Of course, the font edited over this shot definitely gives the PV a splash of color! Pretty groovy if you ask me!


Ending the PV for In Da Gold is yet another retro effect you'd see at an old movie theater. I really wish I could have shown you guys more of this PV, but you can always check it out on Youtube! And trust me, if you're into retro media, I'd totally take a look at this PV.

And the Winner Is...

I think it's pretty easy to tell which of these two PVs I preferred. While Koisuru Fortune Cookie was a better song, In Da Gold have a PV that was right up my alley. Sure, it had really cheesy effects, but there were also a lot of references and clips to older bands and movies and celebrities. It was really cool seeing Jusyo Futei Mushoku combined with said clips in such a paper-doll style, and I really wish I'd see this visual style more explored in idol music.

Well Jusyo Futei Mushoku won two of the three rounds of the Idol Smackdown. But AKB48 won Round 2, what I personally consider to be the most important of the three rounds. What to do, what to do... Well, after much debating with myself and consulting the highest professionals (which happened to be my dog), I have concluded the group that I find to have been the most victorious!

And the Winner of the Idol Smackdown Is...

This is mainly because I was basing this Idol Smackdown on how well each of these two idol groups pulled off a retro concept. Jusyo Futei Mushoku completely excels in their retro look, both musically and visually. I admit, it might have been a tad unfair pitting AKB48 against a group whose whole schtick is doing retro-style music, but AKB48 has had its fair share of retro-sounding music too! Korekara Wonderland and Virgin Love are two songs that come to mind, and I'm sure a lot of their stage songs do as well! It's just that for today's Idol Smackdown, In Da Gold won against Koisuru Fortune Cookie. Although I do at least have to commemorate that Koisuru Fortune Cookie was the first AKB48 song of this year that I've actually liked. It gives me hope that AKB48's A-sides haven't completely spiraled downward into perpetually bland and unoriginal idol music. While In Da Gold as a song definitely has its flaws and can take some getting used to on the first listen or two, I think it's also a really fun song. The "Get up and tiny warping" hook is a lot of fun, even if I have no idea what it means. And what really enhances the song is the PV. I can't emphasize how strongly enough that you should totally watch this PV, and that you're missing out if you choose to ignore the advice of the great and powerful Nia. There are a lot of really fun moments and clips in this PV that I didn't get to point out to you guys. The editing is corny and cheap in the most entertaining way possible, and the low budget of the PV only adds to its charm in my opinion. I don't know if I'm ever going to review (let alone find) anything else by Jusyo Futei Mushoku, but I'd really like to keep an eye on whatever they're releasing next, be it an album or a single! And again, AKB48's Koisuru Fortune Cookie really doesn't fare badly; the song just had the misfortune of getting a really lame and lackluster PV. Overall, I'd check In Da Gold out for the PV and listen to Koisuru Fortune Cookie if you're in the mood for a laid back and funky retro song. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm in the mood to go dig through an antique store!