I can't think of a more patriotic way for an American like myself to spend the 4th of July than reviewing a technopop album by a Japanese singer. God bless America!
As I sit in my room listening to the sounds of either fireworks or gunshots, I can't help but marvel at how far Kyarypamyupamyu's come since her Moshi Moshi Harajuku days. She's only been around since 2010 and already, she's on her third album. I know I complain about her constantly releasing stuff too quickly for me to catch up, but that's still an impressive feat. Pikapika Fantajin won't be released for a few more days, but thanks to a listening stream on Nico Nico Douga, the entire album has leaked. Which is good! I'd like to get this album review out of the way so I can focus on BiS and Perfume! While Kyarypamyupamyu isn't my favorite artist/idol to review, I do enjoy her music videos most of the time, and her music's always catchy (for better or worse). My biggest drawback with Kyarypamyupamyu always seems to be her voice. I either like it or it completely grates on me, especially on her previous album. Well, I'm hoping that with Pikapika Fantajin, her third album, her new songs work better than the ones on Nanda Collection. Apparently, the album's supposed to have a "fantasy" theme which could mean a range of different sounds, but I will be the judge of how fantasy-like this album sounds. Now let us commence into Pikapika Fantajin!
1. Pikapika Fantajin
So as per Nakata's usual modus operandi, he opens a Kyary album with an introduction number a la the first tracks on Nanda Collection and Pamyu Pamyu Revolution. I never really know what to say about these album intros. In fact, does anybody actually like these? I've yet to meet someone who's said, "Oh yeah, The Opening is my favorite album track on JPN!" Pikapika Fantajin is way too short for me to have any real opinion about it. Well, the one thing I can say about it is that the intro sets up what kind of sound to expect from the rest of the album. Pikapika Fantajin sounds very fantasy-like and sweet. There's a little bit that serves as an introductory title drop. Other than that... look, the song is a minute and twelve seconds. I doubt I'll be replaying it ever again, but as an album opener, it's okay. Like with every intro song I've ever reviewed ever, I would have much rather preferred a full song in lieu of Pikapika Fantajin.
2. Kira Kira Killer
Wow, and to think I just reviewed the Kira Kira Killer! Talk about deja vu... I feel compelled to redirect everyone to my full review of Kira Kira Killer, but that's lazy. Besides, I spent half that review ranting about how one-note Kyary's A-sides have been. And yeah, Kira Kira Killer isn't covering any new territory for Kyary. It's another cute, catchy song that was also a commercial jingle. That doesn't mean it isn't a good commercial jingle, but it's a little frustrating reviewing the same thing several times in a row. Kira Kira Killer does have some strong parts, like the chorus! The chorus carries itself very well; maybe that's why the song works so well as a commercial jingle. I'm not a huge fan of how the song starts out with the chanting, but the rest of the vocal arrangement makes up for that. Although I could also do with less high notes. They're not really Kyary's specialty. Overall, Kira Kira Killer is a cute song, but pretty much what I expect from Kyarypamyupamyu.
3. Yume no Hajima Ring Ring -album mix-
I was a little surprised that Yume no Hajima Ring Ring got an album mix and not Kira Kira Killer. The latter seemed more album mixable. Well, there's not too much added to Yume no Hajima Ring Ring beyond a few added instrumentals and vocals. Other than that, you're gonna get pretty much the same thing you got out of the original Yume no Hajima Ring Ring. Now I liked Yume no Hajima Ring Ring, and I liked the music video even more. As a song alone, Yume no Hajima Ring Ring isn't quite as memorable without the music video. But I think it's a very sweet song, and I like that it's more toned down. Kyary's always getting these really cute, hyper songs, but Yume no Hajima Ring Ring is blissfully chill for her. I like Yume no Hajima Ring Ring -album mix- pretty much the same as the original song. I do like the extra vocals at the end, but again, I can do with either one. Yume no Hajima Ring Ring's probably my favorite A-side of this era.
4. Mottai Night Land
...Then again, Yume no Hajima Ring Ring didn't have much competition. Ugh. Mottai Night Land, we meet again. The third A-side in a row, and this one's not my favorite. Not at all. I will say I love the music video for it! My problem with Mottai Night Land is that it's so annoying. The chorus is especially annoying. I don't what it is but the notes Kyary hits in that chorus rattle my bones. And Mottai Night Land is a super fast song; the song runs for four minutes but it feels more like two. There was this cool piano cover of Mottai Night Land that I like better than the original. Once again, what makes me dislike Mottai Night Land are Kyary's vocals. Funny how that happens with a lot of Kyary songs I listen to... But yeah, I think she's too high-pitched in this song. You know, the more I mention Kyary's vocals in her songs, the more I think that maybe she's not the best artist for me to review... Oh well, I'll muse about that later. I've still got eight tracks to go.
5. Serious Hitomi
After that train wreck is something of a more serious nature... I'm just kidding, Serious Hitomi is the least serious-sounding song with the word "serious" in it that I've ever heard. The song starts out with a really fun little instrumental that's a little bit harder than what I expect from Kyary. But of course, the cuteness pops in when Kyary starts singing. And good god, her vocals in Serious Hitomi are catchy. The backing vocals especially, when they repeat se-se-serious... It will get in your head, and you will have a hard time getting it out. You've been warned. Other than that, Serious Hitomi is a really upbeat song, like some odd blend of technopop and a song I'd hear out of Grease. There are parts where Serious Hitomi drags out, especially the verses. But that lengthiness is picked up by a strong instrumental; the instrumental break is the best part of Serious Hitomi. So if you want some hopping electric guitar, definitely listen to Serious Hitomi!
6. do do pi do
Another staple on a Kyary album is a cover of a Capsule song! Why Kyary's covered like ten Capsule songs by now and Perfume's covered zero, I will never understand. But I like Capsule, and I love Toshiko's voice. Her voice being switched out for Kyary's is often hit or miss, with Kyary's cover paling in comparison to the original. But I think Do do pi do is one of the more fitting Capsule songs for Kyary to cover. Do do pi do is a perky song, and Kyary works well with perky. God forbid she ever cover something like Spider or Jumper. I do like that Kyary's cover of Do do pi do isn't just Nakata swapping out Toshiko's voice for Kyary's and changing nothing else. The instrumental in the Do do pi do cover sounds much cuter and fits better with Kyary's sound. If I have to pick, I'm sticking with the original; Toshiko's voice is too many notches above Kyary's. Still, Kyary's cover of Do do pi do is very listenable and keeps all the fun of the original!
7. Family Party -album mix-
Well, these album mixes are changing jack shit about the originals. Maybe if I produced electronic music, I could unveil all the differences between Family Party -album mix- and the original. Sadly, I'm not. But I can pretty safely say Nakata probably just changed bits and pieces of the instrumental. Point is I still don't like Family Party. This song was used for Crayon-shin chan and hoo boy, it sounds like it. Family Party is a family-friendly, childish song, because that's why it was created. I will say, I do like the instrumental of Family Party better. As it is on Pikapika Fantajin though, this album mix of Family Party does not redeem the song. Kyary's voice just sounds way too cute in Family Party. It doesn't help that Family Party has an irritatingly frequent tendency of getting stuck in my head. I've listened to this song once, and I'm tired of it. Family Party -album mix- may appeal to fans who like really cute Kyary music, but it's my least favorite A-side on Pikapika Fantajin.
8. Ring a Bell
I was wondering when an overly-repetitive album track would come. Ring a Bell is a special little Kyary song. Why? It's completely in English! Yes, because that worked so well for Perfume. Actually, Spending all my time is so much better than Ring a Bell. I mean yes, SAMT was super repetitive but... ugh. First of all, Ring a Bell is also very repetitive and gets very monotonous after awhile. You know, a common brainwashing technique is playing repetitive music. Just a fun little fact to share with your friends. Second of all, the English lyrics to Ring a Bell have more variety than Spending all my time. Unfortunately, the lyrics to Ring a Bell are painfully juvenile. Some deep and thoughtful lyrics from Ring a Bell include "Let's go to the studio!" and "I'm happy today," and the profound gem, "Where is my microphone?" But at least the poor lyrics aren't as bad as Avril Lavigne's Hello Kitty! The grammar's correct in Ring a Bell!
9. Tokyo Highway
So after that iffy album track is Tokyo Highway! And I think this is my favorite of all the new tracks on Pikapika Fantajin. Hell, I think it's my favorite track overall. All of the tracks on Pikapika Fantajin reach some degree of fun, but I find Tokyo Highway to be the song most fun to listen to. I might even try listening to it in my car one day while I'm driving! Because Tokyo Highway sounds like it should be a driving song, and the car should be a sleek, cute little sports car zooming down a futuristic highway. The chorus of Tokyo Highway reminds me of a higher-pitched Computer Driving, and the high notes in Tokyo Highway are some of the better-sounding ones Kyary's hit. There are still a few kinks in Tokyo Highway, the main one being the length. The song is five minutes, and towards the end, it starts feel longer than that. Overall though, I think this is a really good track and definitely one of songs I'd recommend!
10. Koi Koi Koi
This was the one album track I'd heard beforehand! Koi Koi Koi was used in a commercial endorsement (but of course) that featured Kyary posing in front of a giant fruit. It was a very fruity commercial. In that commercial, I heard the first snippet of Koi Koi Koi! And I like Koi Koi Koi; I'm not completely sure why. I guess I'm just relieved Koi Koi Koi isn't annoying. The title made it sound like it would be the Pikapika Fantajin equivalent of Mi off of Nanda Collection. No, Koi Koi Koi actually reminds me most of Meg's Kumiwari (but Kumiwari is much better... and Christmas-y). Koi Koi Koi has this very whimsical, enchanting sound to it. The instrumental's using triangles, and other cutesy little sounds. Kyary's voice fits pretty well with Koi Koi Koi. All the notes are in her range. My only complaints about Koi Koi Koi are that it gets a little monotonous, and Kyary's delivery is a little flat. Other than that, this is a decent song. Catchy too!
11. Sungoi Aura -album mix-
Well shit, I completely forgot that Sungoi Aura was the B-side on Mottai Night Land. In fact... I don't even think I listened to this song... I'm a bad reviewer. Very bad. While I may not have taken the time to listen to the original, I like this album mix of Sungoi Aura. It's a cute little number with a cute little flute in it. I would have definitely preferred this song over Mottai Night Land! I think what I like about Sungoi Aura -album mix- is that it's fun without being overly cute. The energy levels in Sungoi Aura -album mix- are just right. The song is very cheerful and peppy! Other than that... I got nothing. If you liked Furisodation, then you'll like Sungoi Aura -album mix-. Of course, Furisodation seemed to rely on more synths than this song. Sungoi Aura -album mix- has a variety of percussions and woodwinds and even some strings! Just imagine how neat this song would have sounded if all those instruments weren't made with a computer!
And closing out Pikapika Fantajin is a marching band! Obviously not a real marching band, but Explorer starts out like a marching band! Then it mellows out when Kyary starts singing. Still, there's a very steady beat throughout Explorer. Again, it conjures up images of a pink, sparkly marching band with Kyarypamyupamyu at the helm. Personally though, I'm not a huge fan of marching-band styles songs, and Explorer doesn't do much for me. The energetic percussion is a little fun at times, but vocally, I think Explorer is a little dull. And those high notes still aren't doing much for Kyary. I guess the song kind of works as an album closer? I can picture Kyary marching away with her Harajuku marching band of cuteness into the sunset. Overall, Explorer ends Pikapika Fantajin on a lower note than I would have liked. Explorer is a cute little song, like everything on this album, but for me, it's a weak track compared to the others on this album.
So you know how with Nanda Collection, Kyarypamyupamyu's A-sides were really strong and the album tracks were really weak? Well... with Pikapika Fantajin, that's kind of the opposite. Of the four A-sides of this era, none of them were great. Kira Kira Killer and Yume no Hajima Ring Ring were the better of the four, but neither one grabbed me like Fashion Monster or Ninjari Bang Bang. And I couldn't stand Family Party or Mottai Night Land. The A-sides on Pikapika Fantajin didn't set up a strong foundation for the rest of the album. However, the album tracks fared a little bit better. What worked with Pikapika Fantajin as a whole was the amount of new material. Not counting the instrumental opening, half the tracks on Pikapika Fantajin were new. The only two new tracks that I didn't care for were Ring a Bell and Explorer. Explorer just a meh kind of a song, and the Ring a Bell sounded too juvenile, even for Kyary. But the other new tracks were pretty good! My favorite song on the whole album was Tokyo Highway, and Koi Koi Koi and Serious Hitomi weren't half bad either. Even Kyary's cover of Capsule's Do do pi do was a fun listen!
But... I feel like there was something missing from Pikapika Fantajin.
I have no idea what that is yet. I think what was missing might be... something great. All the tracks on Pikapika Fantajin range from mediocre to good, but none of the tracks are absolute standouts. Every song sounds safe. It's kind of the same reaction that I had with Perfume's JPN. Don't get me wrong, I like Pikapika Fantajin better than Nanda Collection. The album has the same cute vibe Kyarypamyupamyu has with all her music, but there is an air of whimsical fantasy. I can see why Kyary said Pikapika Fantajin had a fantasy theme to it. And all the songs fit together very cohesively. The problem is none of these songs jump out. I mean, yes Tokyo Highway is still a great song, but even then, it doesn't compare to Ponponpon or Fashion Monster or anything off of Pamyu Pamyu Revolution. What I do like about Pikapika Fantajin is that none of the tracks are annoying, save for Mottai Night Land, Family Party, and kind of Ring a Bell. Yet the lack of irritating music also comes with the lack of anything going out of Nakata's comfort zone he's set for Kyary. So overall, Pikapika Fantajin is a decent album, but it lacks anything that really stands out. Or maybe that's just my taste in music. Either way, if you like Kyary's smoother, less hyper music, you'll like this album.
I've been going back and forth between three and half and four apples for Pikapika Fantajin, but I've decided to go with four apples. Because this is a better album than Nanda Collection, in my opinion. But there's still something missing in Pikapika Fantajin, despite the album having a nice variety of songs. All the songs on Pikapika Fantajin are nice enough, and I enjoyed listening to Pikapika Fantajin more than I thought I would! Now I think I'm gonna go dump some tea into the Boston Harbor.