Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spirited Away to Perfume World

Move over Cupitron, Perfume is back and ready to cling!

Wow, it's been over seven months since I had the opportunity to review a current Perfume release... Come to think of it, I've completely forgotten their last single. Did Sweet Refrain actually happen? That wasn't just some delusion everyone collectively had, right? Sweet Refrain started the post-Level3 era with more of a fizzle than a bang, and a new single from Perfume was long overdue. Fast forward through yet another long break between singles, and here we are at Cling Cling! It's always so much fun riding the momentum of a Perfume single, from the fan speculation to first impressions to final verdicts. And Cling Cling was an especially fun single with four different tracks! I'll get to reviewing the overall single later. For now though, I want to talk about just the A-side. Visually, the single has an Oriental feel to it, and that's reflected in the song itself. Cling Cling is an upbeat Perfume song with Oriental overtones. Think Handy Man except instead of Middle Eastern, Cling Cling sounds Oriental. It's an interesting sound for Perfume and definitely leaves a clear impression.

Admittedly, the short version of the song didn't have me falling for Cling Cling. But then I heard the full song. After hearing the full version, I slowly began to like Cling Cling each time I listened to it. Cling Cling sounds so fun; it's a song you can dance too without being too heavily EDM. I don't even mind the little bits of Dupstep in the song. And the vocals are done really nicely too; I love all the vocal embellishments in Cling Cling, like the repetition of, "I will cling to your chest" throughout the song. By the way, that's a pretty sensual statement from Perfume. Overall, Cling Cling got better for me with time, and I think Cling Cling lives up to the hype I held out. However, there is something disconcerting I've noticed with the release of Cling Cling. Actually, this isn't a first-time occurrence. I've noticed something that tends to happen when Perfume comes out with new music. There's a varying percentage of fans who think that the latest Perfume song sounds like a Kyarypamyupamyu song. And that Nakata's just giving Perfume Kyary reject songs. I've especially noticed this with Cling Cling. As a reviewer, I feel I need to clarify this mishap. So I'm going to say this in all bold:

Cling Cling does not sound like a Kyary song- okay, it sounds like a Kyary song.

I really hate making comparisons between Kyary and Perfume. Yes, they're produced by the same person, so it's only natural that sometimes their sounds would converge. But I still think Nakata gives Kyary her own distinct music style and Perfume has their own. Really, the only characteristic Kyary and Perfume share is that both parties release technopop music! And lots of J-pop singers release technopop! I don't see anyone comparing Curumi Chronicle to Kyarypamyupamyu! Now that I've mentioned Curumi Chronicle, let me take this moment to remind you all that she's releasing two new singles that you should all listen to! Where was I? Right, Perfume and Kyarypamyupamyu. On the flip side, I can't say to someone with a straight face that Cling Cling sounds nothing like a Kyary song. Because... it kind of does. I think because the pitch of Cling Cling is a little high for Perfume, akin to the pitch Kyary uses for many of her songs. I can easily imagine switching Perfume's vocals out with Kyary's in Cling Cling. Doesn't make the song sound better, but I can see where people come from when they say Cling Cling sounds like a song Kyarypamyupamyu would get.

But if I have to pick between Kyary-songs-that-sound-like-Perfume-songs and Perfume-songs-that-sound-like-Kyary-songs, I'm sticking with the latter. I like the way Perfume sounds better; their voices sound smoother, less squeaky and adorable. So yes, Cling Cling may sound similar to a Kyary song, but it is not a Kyary song and I am thankful for that. I do extend a wary warning to any other listeners who happen to be Kyary fans, because it is a little jarring when you hear Cling Cling for the first time. The vocals are high-pitched compared to Perfume's usual pitch, but if you can get used to that, then you might find a very fun song! I find Cling Cling to be such a breath of fresh air after Sweet Refrain. That song, while not terrible, was way too laidback for my tastes. That single overall was very light; call it the bran flakes of Perfume's discography. Cling Cling is a lot more energetic and bouncy, and the song leaves a much clearer impression! After seven months since their last single, Cling Cling is more-or-less what I was hoping to hear from Perfume.

But only half the fun of a new Perfume single is looking at the song itself. As always, I can look forward to a Perfume music video that's sure to grab my attention! The promo art for Cling Cling and the covers piqued my interest enough. They gave off an Oriental feel. So did the song itself, so does Cling Cling go for three with an Oriental-looking music video? Let's find out!

Down the stairs we go into the mystical land of Perfume!

In Level3, we entered the sphere. In Cling Cling, we enter the black market!

Someone in a Perfume PV that isn't Perfume!? What a miracle!

Is anyone else getting Firefly-vibes from this set?

I'm also getting Spirited Away vibes. I'm just gonna call that little girl Chihiro.

I'd know those legs anywhere!

I wonder who that mysterious person is! It's Aira Mitsuki, right?

Fried snake skin tendons? How delectable!

What a lovely plot device... it would be a shame if something were to... happen to it.

Nocchi looks amazing in this PV. Especially her hair.

I swear Kashiyuka could make a paper bag look glamorous.

So are Perfume the only three people working at this market? Tough crowd.

I don't know what to marvel over: Perfume's costumes or people other than Perfume in a Perfume PV.

Then again, those costumes are pretty exquisite...

A-chan spies with her eyes Cupitron trying to copy Spring of Life!

Alas, the plot device has vanished! Who could have taken it!?

Whoever took it, A-chan has much more pressing matters to attend to. I don't think she's stirred those noodles enough!

The Japanese Artful Dodger!

I'll bet Kashiyuka's cat Lyon stole the plot device!

If you steal my noodles, I will rip your head off and send it to Kyarypamyupamyu.

Egads, I love this set so much.

I love the colors, the atmosphere, the set decoration, the whole gorram thing!

The culprit's revealed! Wait... who is this person again? Oh well, that doesn't matter!

However will Perfume stop him!?

By sending a thousand volts through every nerve in his body!!!

No, A-chan just pulls a lever and that magically saves the day.

I need one of those "That was easy!" buttons.

This triumphant victory clearly calls for more dancing!

And a victory pose!

Not without one last look through the telescope though...

Part of what helped Cling Cling grow on me was listening to the song a lot. Another part was this music video. I love Perfume's clean, artsy videos; Sweet Refrain and Magic of Love were both wonderful PVs. But you know what I also love? Sets with character. I love sets packed top to bottom with props and decorations and signs and quirky little details that no one will ever notice. And that is basically what Cling Cling's set is. The PV takes place in what looks like a marketplace tucked away for only the truly curious to find. A truly curious little girl comes along, finds a magic telescope, mayhem ensues, and the good guys come out on top in the end. It's a simple story, but the story isn't the main highlight of Cling Cling. The most distinctive characteristic of the PV for Cling Cling is the sheer atmosphere. I said in my screencap that the set reminded me of something I'd see on Firefly, one of those grittier sci-fi TV shows with a lot of charm. But the PV also reminds me of Spirited Away, especially with the conclusion of the little girl and the host of hooded figures that are never explained. Are they spirits haunting the marketplace? Has the little girl wandered into the spirit world much like Chihiro did? And where does Perfume fit in to all of this?

I'm not sure what the producers of Cling Cling were going for storywise. But aesthetic-wise, Cling Cling's PV has a very clearly Oriental look. And like with the song, it's a very refreshing look for Perfume. A lot of their recent singles have been very clean and classy. Cling Cling has a gritty, but still refined, flair to it that's flashy and colorful. The girls all look beautiful in both costumes; I think the styling was extremely on point for Cling Cling. I particularly like Nocchi's hair. It looks like her stylists flat-ironed it to hell and back, but it's a good look for her! A nice variation of her usual bob. Both outfits are gorgeous, and my favorites are the ones used in the dance shot. The dance shot in general I think was well-done. I like how the girls are performing on a makeshift stage surrounded by spectators. It looks like they're giving a street performance. That's just another thing that adds to the gritty, urban feel of the music video. Also, the signs in the dance shot are all cool. I love how they're all in different languages such as English, Arabic, Mandarin, etc. It's embellishments like that that make me enjoy the PV for Cling Cling even more.

Another standout of the PV for Cling Cling is the fact that Perfume aren't the only people in it. How long has it been since we had a Perfume PV with someone else in it? Okay, yes, Mirai no Museum kind of counts, but they were cartoons half the time. Other than that release, we haven't had another person show up in a Perfume PV since Laser Beam. And in Cling Cling, there are tons of people wandering around. There's the adorable little girl who plays a pivotal role in the PV and the hooded villain who steals her telescope and then everyone else! I don't think the PV for Cling Cling would have worked as well had Perfume been the only ones in it! Then we wouldn't even have our major conflict! Speaking of, the conflict that pops up in Cling Cling is a little sloppily handled. The guy steals the magic telescope then A-chan pulls a lever and that gets the magic telescope back somehow? I'm not sure how that works. I'd actually heard a rumor that the PV for Cling Cling was going to have a fight scene, but that obviously was not the case. Doesn't mean that the music video is irredeemably terrible. But I was kind of expecting Perfume to battle all the hooded figures...

So there were a few things about Cling Cling that I wish could have been handled better like the storyline, but overall, I'm a happy Nia. The PV for Cling Cling is just about everything I hoped for. I do wish there could have been a full-blown fight scene, but my heart will go on without that. Besides, the lack of a fight scene does not diminish my enjoyment of Cling Cling's PV. This is such a wonderful PV from Perfume with a look that I don't see very often in Perfume's music videos. Cling Cling is a PV that relies on atmosphere and excels in that. Cling Cling has a messy, vibrant atmosphere with an Oriental theme, and it works so well. The dance is just as much fun as the song, with a lot of bouncing and even some head bobbing. The outfits look great, the set looks great, I am really going to miss the visuals of Cling Cling. Maybe Perfume's future singles in this era will continue this Oriental style! But I'm not holding out on it. The PV for Cling Cling is a treat to review, and together with the song, I couldn't be happier about this Perfume A-side! What did that Sweet Refrain sound like again?

Oh dear, I've been flitting back and forth between 4.5 and 5 apples for Cling Cling. I did end up going with 4.5 apples. Cling Cling is a great Perfume song, with a few tiny flaws. It's not my favorite Perfume A-side, but it is one of their stronger ones. Cling Cling's PV is what really stands out. The music video for Cling Cling is one of my favorites for 2014, and I highly recommend it.

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