Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Power of C-ute

Five bucks says that The Power refers to C-ute's power to stick around longer than Berryz Koubou.

So what has C-ute been up to since Berryz Koubou dropped the disbandment hiatus bomb? Well, they released a single and... that's all I can think of. Actually, that's pretty much all they've been doing. That and Japan Expo but yeah. Traveling and releasing singles. And not the best singles I might add. Their one other single this year was Kokoro no Sakebi wo Uta ni Shitemita/Love take it all, and neither one of those A-sides was that great. The former as a decent song but nowhere near the top of my favorite idol songs this year. And Love take it all sounded like a generic dance song; the music video didn't help either. Honestly, I'd rather Tsunku/UFP lay off the double A-sides for awhile. The first few singles, it was cool, but now it's getting very formulaic. Yet here we are. So while the double A-sides are in full swing, I'll keep on sticking to just the more write-able of the two A-sides. For C-ute's The Power/Kanashiki Heaven (Single Version), that would be The Power. But before we get to The Power, a quick look at Kanashiki Heaven (Single Version):

  • There is literally nothing different about the single version of Kanashiki Heaven. However, Kanashiki Heaven still stands as one of my favorite C-ute songs. I'm not sure why UFP felt the need to re-release it for a third time, but I can't complain much. As for the music video, the only thing you really need to know about it is this: pole dancing. That is all.

Now onto to The Power! Not That's the Power just The Power. Yep. So The Power... it has a very strong-sounding song title! It's the kind of song that brings to mind pounding drums and loud voices, with a rousing chorus tying it all together! Or at least in my head, that's what The Power sounds like. In actuality, The Power is a funky sounding song with the same Middle Eastern sound of Perfume's Handy Man. I still prefer Handy Man over The Power. I am totally for experimenting with the sounds of other cultures; hell, I even encourage it. But... okay, I'm cutting right to the chase: The Power sounds like a Berryz Koubou reject. The arrangement has that same weird structure that I've heard in Berryz songs like Cha Cha Sing or Madayade or Munasawagi Scarlet. The girls of C-ute even sound like Berryz Koubou when they're singing together. It's weird! Despite the Berryz-esque arrangement, The Power still sounds weird and harmonically dissonant. That can work sometimes, but here The Power just sounds disjointed with none of the verses flowing together. I know I complained about Love take it all and C-ute's string of dance songs, but I'd take any of those over The Power.

Also, the vocals for The Power are poorly done. The girls' singing isn't off-key or anything, but everyone sings with the emotion of ⊿-era Perfume. I don't know what it is about that stilted, choppy style of singing, but it either sounds really cool or really bad. And I haven't even gotten to Mai's solos yet. Might as well now! So when Mai sings her first solo in each of the verses, it's Autotuned. Like really Autotuned. In comparison, the rest of the song has about as much song editing as you'd expect from a pop song. I think maybe it was a stylistic choice, but it's a god-awful stylistic choice. Mai already sounds like a chipmunk; Autotune does not help that. And that's literally the only time said Autotune is used, and it sounds painfully out-of-place in The Power. I know it's just two little solos that take up a few seconds of The Power, but those few seconds really bother me. And sometimes it's the little things that eat away at you. Maybe those two little lines wouldn't irritate me so much if the rest of The Power had more to offer, but there's just not much to the song.

Okay, I'm lying, there is something to The Power. I'm just not sure what it is. We do have Tsunku's "I recorded this grunt while I was pelvic thrusting," vocal samples in the song. Oh yeah, those are annoying too. Tsunku's voice has always been hit-or-miss with me, and his constant presence in The Power is annoying. Honestly, I'm not sure what type of sound Tsunku was going for here. I mentioned The Power having a Mideastern vibe earlier, but that's not anywhere near elaborated on as it could have been. The Power overall just has this blah sound with nowhere near the energy or zest it needs. It's like the poor man's Cha Cha Sing. I do appreciate C-ute getting something a little different from the generic dance sound they've been using for their past A-sides. But whatever The Power is, it's too lackluster to be a standout song. Maybe if it were a fantastic mess of a song, but it's not even messy enough to be that. The verses drag, the vocals are weird, the sound is aimless, and I am just about out of words to describe The Power. My advice? Stick to That's the Power. I'll hold out for C-ute to releasing something more high-quality.

Well, the one thing C-ute's been doing well recently are nice-looking music videos! Okay, maybe they're not as high-budget as AKB48's, but not all of us have a swimming pool of budget money to work with. Nonetheless, let's take a look at what the PV for The Power offers! I'm hoping it offers immense amounts of power. Maybe some pyrotechnics too.

So the PV takes place in the same area every J-pop Mideastern-themed song does!

Something about those vests remind me of those terry cloth robes they give you at those really nice gyms...

C-ute descends upon their fans in the form of birds! Caw! Caw!

And now for the sexual tension portion of the dance!

The hair and makeup for this PV are actually pretty nice... pity the outfits suck.

Whoa, what's this!? A decent-looking transition effect!? Do my eyes deceive me!?

Oh look, it's the direction Suzuki Ami's career went!

I think the girls are trying, but these outfits really don't work.

What are they even going for with the heels and the sweatbands and the weird vests? Are they supposed to be going to the beach or the gym?

Hello, transition effects from Gounn, my old friend.

I keep bringing back these Gounn screencaps a lot more than I expected.

If only this PV ripped off the outfits from Gounn as well...

There is a difference between these effects and Gounn's! They're slower. Much slower.

Damn, Maimi is on point during her close-ups.

Hell, everyone is. I need whatever shade of lipstick they're wearing.

The dance could be better. I feel like I've seen a lot of these moves in C-ute's past choreographies.

I think I just got screencapper's deja vu.

God, these effects look messy whenever I pause on them.

Maybe if the color scheme was brighter? The colors all look so drab. The black and white doesn't help.

To the light we go!!!

Just kidding, we just went back to the dance shot.

Okay, you can't do the leg-flapping thing from Dance de Bakoon! and not expect me to notice.


Look at all the mini suns in this shot! They're so oversaturated!!

...I've nothing of substance to add but Airi just looks really good in this screenshot.

Hold the phone, isn't that move from... Fushizen na Girl!?

That does it! C-ute's on double secret probation!

...was that fire always burning behind Maimai or are we just in hell now?

I don't know what choreography this move rips off but it must rip off something!

This all reminds me I need to get cracking on my rip-offs editorial...


How can I forget the iconic airplane choreography?

You know, the one they used in Heart Electric's choreography!

And that's The Power! No, not That's the Power just... nevermind.

Well... I think the PV for The Power had more of a budget than Berryz Koubou's last music videos! Of course on the Hello! Project budget scale, The Power is around the low end of the middle area. And unfortunately, there's not much with The Power I want to talk about. Let's go over the elephant in the room first: the transition effects! You know, the ones from Gounn! Okay, I know that idols rip off other idols all the time. It's bound to happen, and coming to terms with that fact will make your life so much easier. But... look, it's freaking Gounn. I'm gonna notice, and I'm certain other idol fans have noticed too. If they'd had some of the same Buddhist imagery that Gounn did, then maybe I'd be more critical. So the effects rip off Gounn; I hope we're all good and clear on that. But are they a good rip-off? Eh... for Hello! Project, yes. C-ute has gotten some scant music videos, and the extra effects on The Power do add a nice touch to the video. They bring some variety to the dance shot/close up formula that the rest of music video adheres to. But as nice as that is, visually, these effects aren't that pretty. The colors look dull and muted, and I don't like the decision to have the girls shown in black-and-white during these parts.

Still, I'll give the production team behind this video an E for effort, because those special effects are pretty much the only thing to talk about with this music video. Okay, yeah, the set is decent (and I think that other dance shot was filmed at an actual locations). The decorations are practically a splurge for Hello! Project. But like with the song, there's nothing to this music video. Everything has a vaguely exotic vibe, but nothing is taken advantage of. Everything ends up looking kind of blah. Again, like the song! I guess the one highlight is that the girls look really pretty in their close-up shots. The hair and makeup were all very well-done for this music video. But I have no idea what the hell is going on with those outfits. All I know is that I don't like them. They look like cheap swimsuits and terry cloth robes you can find at Walmart. Same goes for the jewelry. Again, maybe they were supposed to add to that exotic look, but the styling overall is just as befuddled as everything else about this PV. At least Aitte Motto Zanshin was shot in a really cool location. The music video for The Power can't even have that. Although I will say this PV's better than Love take it all.

Overall, I don't know what to tell you. The Power was already working with a drab and kind of irritating song. The music video doesn't amplify those qualities, but it doesn't smooth them over either. There's about as much energy in the music video as there is in the song. Even in the dance shot the girls look only half into it. Oh yeah, how about that dance? I'm not an expert, but I saw about 10 recycled dance moves in this PV, some from C-ute's choreography and others from other idol groups. Again, I understand that idols rip off idols all the time, but when it's noticeable I can't help but point it out. Besides, that's pretty much the last thing I can really talk about with this music video. Everything else you've seen in H!P music videos. The set-dressing is decent, the costumes suck, the lighting ranges from good to blinding, and the special effects were done brighter and better in Gounn. Did I miss anything? If you're a diehard C-ute fan, maybe you'll like this better than I did. As I said, the makeup was very nice. Other than that, I don't have anything else to add to The Power. Oh, expect that I hope for better from C-ute in the future, especially in the wake of Berryz disbandment "hiatus."

Yeah, I gotta go with 2.5 apples for The Power. I think someone made an effort at some point, but the song is a dull mess. The music video tries to give some power to The Power, but even then, that's done through ripping off Gounn and other various dances. The PV's not unbearably terrible, but if you don't watch it, you're not going to miss anything.

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