Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Capsule Reviews: Genie

Disclaimer: I am aware of Jessica leaving/being forced out of Girls' Generation. However, a majority of this review was written before the news came out. I understand this is probably the worst possible timing for a review, but Girls' Generation did win the poll. With that out of the way, onto the unintentionally ironic review.

So for the first time, the winner of the Time Capsule Review poll is Girls' Generation! Or Shoujo Jidai. Or So Nyeo Si Dae. Or SNSD. Whatever the kids call them these days. This actually works out perfectly because a reader requested many moons ago for me to review a Girls' Generation music video. Only problem is Girls' Generation hadn't released anything new in Japan (I know they released stuff in Korea, but this is a J-pop blog). Finally, all these months later, I can complete this request!

There's just one problem! I know nothing about Girls' Generation!

Okay, that's not entirely true. I know a little about Girls' Generation. I know that they're like the AKB48 of South Korea, only there are nine of them instead of 125+. I know that Gee was the song that made them popular; I even listed Gee as one of the few K-pop songs I listen to. I also know that Girls' Generation was one of the more successful K-pop groups during the Hallyu Wave. Remember that? Back in the late 2000s, a lot of Korean idol groups started releasing Japanese singles to cash in on Japan's more prosperous music industry. The first artists to do this were BoA and TVXQ or Tohoshinki, and then a few years later, groups including Kara and Girls' Generation found subsequent success in Japan. The Hallyu wave really started to pick up in late 2010 and peaked in 2011. The technique of these 2010-2011 Hallyu wave groups was basically taking a successful Korean single, re-recording it in Japanese, and repackaging it for Japanese release. Then in 2012, the wave started dying down, probably due to oversaturation. There are still a few K-pop groups releasing singles in Japan (some more successful than others) but nowhere near the intensity and success of a few years earlier. Depending on who you ask, this is either the best thing that ever happened or a bummer.

So that was my very, very abbreviated summary or the Hallyu wave. History lesson's over. Let's talk about Girls' Generation now!

Girls' Generation is one of those few groups that seems to be doing well in Japan post-Hallyu wave. They released an album about a year ago that sold pretty decently, and their singles do well enough. None of their later Japanese music has sold as well as their earlier stuff, but they've stayed afloat! Besides, Girls' Generation seems to be pretty popular in their home country. Back in late 2010 though, after they'd found success in Korea, they debuted in Japan. Their first Japanese single, released four years and thirteen days ago, was Genie. The original Genie, titled Sowoneul Malhaebwa (Genie) (or Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)), was the leading track off the mini album off the same name. I listened to the original Korean version of Genie and... I can see why it was so popular! Sowoneul Malhaebwa (Genie) is a dreamy dance song with a catchy hook, a smooth refined beat, and nice vocals. I especially love the harmonizing in the verses. There's something about Sowoneul Malhaebwa (Genie) that stands out; every part of the song is very instantly memorable. I've only listened to this song a few times, but already it's stuck in my head!

With that in mind... what does the Japanese version of Genie have to offer that the Korean version doesn't?

Remember what I said about Kara'a Mamma Mia? I'm not against translating an old song and releasing it to a new market. However, there's always this awkwardness when a song gets translated into another language. Phrases that fit into the original have to be reworked to accommodate a new language with its own grammar rules and connotations. I'm not holding Girls' Generation against this, because it happens with any song. That being said, I think I like the Korean version of Genie better. The song just flows more smoothly in its original language. Of course, I'm saying this as someone who speaks neither Japanese or Korean. Maybe to a Japanese speaker, the Japanese version of Genie works just as well as the Korean version! If Girls' Generation released an English version of Genie, that would certainly be advantageous to an English speaker like me. Genie is basically the same musically in both languages. So if I'm going to listen to essentially the same song, I'm sticking with the version that sounds more natural. I read that Girls' Generation released some original Japanese singles, so maybe I'll get to review one of those for another Time Capsule Review!

Both versions of Genie are available on the Japanese single, so which one you like is entirely personal preference. And the Japanese version of Genie is suitable! Had I not listened to the Korean version, I still would have liked Genie! I do think it's a good song; it's kind of what I'd expect a K-pop song to sound like but that's not a bad thing! It's also kind of cool hearing a K-pop song get turned into a J-pop song! Also a little surreal... I haven't listened to much of Girls' Generation beyond this song and Gee, but I feel like I should. I at least would like to check out some more of their Japanese singles. I really want to hear their original Japanese music! For the moment though, I give Genie a thumbs up. The song is cool, and the singers all sound nice! I like that none of them sound squeaky. I get a lot of squeaky voices in a J-pop. I still think it's kind of lazy re-releasing an old song and changing the language, but that doesn't make Genie a bad song. That's just SM Entertainment's fault. So yeah, that was Genie! It's a cool song and makes me interested in other music Girls' Generation has released!

So now let's look at the music video! I'll warn you, most of this screencap is just me trying to match names with faces. I tried really hard to figure out who was who, but if I made a mistake please let me know! I went into this only knowing who Hyoyeon was. Everyone else... well, let's hope I don't get too confused.

We start this PV in an attic full of lots of memorabilia from old radios to lanterns to the lost careers of idol groups!

What's that? You're telling me not every family has a magic lamp in their attic?

Hello there! You look gullible enough to summon powerful forces that could be used for evil!

Wow, this new American Horror Story: Freak Show promo looks fantastic!

Luckily for our hero, all that lamp holds in it is a girl group.

I wish Perfume would turn up in my attic.

Round 1 of Who's Who in Girls' Generation! So this is... Seohyun?

I know that's Taeyeon! She's leader of Girls' Generation too so we see a lot of her in this PV!

And that's Jessica! She's bilingual! And American!

I love these outfits! Not sure how military-jackets and shorts translate to genies though...

Oh look, more cute outfits!

So Girls' Generation are genies that double as electricians! How practical!

I don't like comparing J-pop and K-pop, but K-pop groups generally have much better choreography.

I mean I'm sure K-pop has shit dances, but most of the dances I've seen are very in-sync and sharp.

Anyways, back to the Girls' Generation Guessing Game! That's... Yuri?

Sooyoung! That's definitely Sooyoung! I recognize her face!

And that's Tiffany! The other American!

This is Sunny! The other other American!

Hyoyeon!! The one Girls' Generation member I can consistently recognize!

I'm also finding Sooyoung easily recognizable. She just has one of those faces!

Also, I like how K-pop dancers get these cute little solo numbers in the middle of choreography!

...I keep wondering how the guy's reacting to this long, elaborate performance by a bunch of tiny singers that emerged from a magical lamp in his attic.

Have I mentioned these outfits are also really cute?

There are just cute clothes all around in this PV!

Here, have another screencap of Hyoyeon so I feel like I know who I'm talking about!

This must be Yoona! And that concludes the Girls' Generation Guessing Game! Did I do alright?

Those legs... it's like Perfume*3.

An idol dance isn't an idol dance unless the final move is a group pose!

So did that guy ever get his three wishes?

I guess he did! Now he's in a parallel universe! Fun times for everyone!

So I went on Youtube and watched the Korean music video for Genie, just for comparison's sake. Aesthetically, both concepts are similar. The costumes are both military themed and the both music videos revolve around the concept of wish fulfillment. Except the stages used for the dance are different. And a giant sparkly lamp is in the Korean music video in lieu of a small, dingy magic lamp. There's also not so much of a story in the Korean version; there is something going on with an unseen guy going to meet the members of Girls' Generation and... party? Seohyun jumps out of a cake. The Japanese PV for Genie definitely has a more clear storyline. Guy goes up to his attic, finds a magic lamp, Girls' Generation comes out of the lamp, and bam, he's a superstar! I do like that the Japanese PV for Genie uses the genie concept a bit more than the Korean version. The additional storyline is nice; it's not a driving force in the music video but does give some context. Sure, the story makes absolutely no sense (I've yet to meet someone who keeps a magic lamp in their attic), but I don't think this music video was supposed to make sense. It makes more sense than the Korean version which the more think about it, comes off as a little creepy...

What stands most about me in the PV for Genie is how in sync everyone's dancing is. I know I keep harping on J-pop groups, but I have reviewed J-pop PVs with some shit choreography. Even the better choreographies are still somewhat simple. There must be this textbook of J-pop idol dances that every agency has, so the same moves keep popping up in different groups' choreographies. Perfume's obviously on a different level and groups like E-girls definitely have more high-end choreography, but generally speaking, J-pop idol dances are basic. So the choreography in Genie is a treat to watch. I love all the leg movements and not even because everyone in Girls' Generation has really toned legs. The choreography utilizes the full body, not just the arms like a lot of J-pop dances. And everyone is so sharp; I could pause the video at nearly any point during the dance, and everyone would be in the same position. I know that a lot of K-pop groups go through some hardcore training, but if this is the result, it pays off. Even Hyoyeon's little dance number in the bridge was nice!

I also like the styling for this PV. I will admit though, I'm a little baffled on how genies relate to the army? Or 50s style outfits? I guess I wouldn't expect something full-on Arabian Nights, but I was kind of expecting more genie-like styling. Nonetheless, the style the PV does do instead is cool too! I love all the outfits in this PV. I especially like the navy jumpsuits and hats; it's very retro, and all that sailor stuff looks adorable! The other two outfits are cute too. The styling overall is very cute and girlish. Actually, I think girlish is a good word to describe this PV. I guess that makes sense with the group's name being Girls' Generation at all... The shots Girls' Generation in them are bright and pop-y, and their outfits are immaculately put together. The styling is at a level at which I wish I could achieve everyday but cannot do so because I have no makeup team and live in an area where the weather is humid, windy, or both. I particularly liked the way Sooyoung, Yoona, and Jessica looked. And a random observation: there wasn't as much fanservice in the PV as I'd have expected. There are some leg shots, but most of Genie just shows the girls singing, dancing, or looking cute.

So overall verdict? I liked the PV for Genie! But... it's kind of standard. There is the story at the beginning and the end, but it's more of a footnote. Guess what most of Genie consists? A dance shot, close-ups, and another dance shot. Do you know what other PV had this same formula? Morning Musume's Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke! And we all know how innovative Hello! Project is! Genie does a good job with its dance shots and close-ups, but I can't deny it's a formula I have seen in many an idol PV. Formulas don't have to be bad, and I still enjoyed the PV for Genie. But I don't think this PV has very good re-watch quality, unless I become a die-hard fan of Girls' Generation. And as long as Perfume's around, that's not happening. Again, there is the nice little story interwoven into the PV, so that's a step up! And I like the Japanese PV for Genie better than the Korean one. Another step-up! The PV for Genie could have improved on a few things (mainly the basic formula), but for the most part, I liked this PV! It was fun to screencap!

I think I'll go with four apples! I'm still a little clueless on Girls' Generation, but Genie and Gee make me feel like I should look more into their stuff! Especially since I know at least one reader wants me to review more of their music videos! I'll definitely keep adding their stuff into Time Capsule Reviews, and if they release a new music video, I'll review that too! For now, I liked Genie! It's not my most favorite song ever made ever, but I liked it! And I liked the music video! Although I would wish that Perfume got international fame and acclaim. Also, I'd wish for money. Lots and lots of money.

Nothing's Forever (including Passpo)

So how about that Okunaka Makoto graduation announcement?

I swear I came up with that title before I read the graduation announcement. I'm not very familiar with the members of Passpo beyond Negishi Ai, Mori Shiori, and Masui Mio, but Makoto's graduation announcement did come as a surprise. I know they lost one other member a few years back, but I thought for sure they'd be a more stable group. I wonder what this will mean for Passpo's future endeavors. Will they add new members? Continue on as an 8-member group? Or disband entirely? Obviously, that last one's a little grim, but it could happen. Hopefully not though. I admit, Passpo's been waning from my interests again. They're so wishy-washy. Are they a rock band? An airplane-themed idol group? It's a mystery! Their last single, Perfect Sky, was a bore and not a good follow-up to their fairly good Jejejejet!! album. Still, I've not completely given up on Passpo, and since Himawari may be the last single with them as a 9-member group, I think it's only fitting I give it a proper review. Who knows? Maybe Himawari will be awesome!


Since Himawari means "Sunflower" in Japanese it's only appropriate that the covers for Himawari features lots and lots of... roses! Roses everywhere! No, Himawari is a sunflower-themed single through and through. All four covers have sunflowers either as accessories or background dressing or both. I like it; the sunflowers make the covers look very vibrant and happy. The outfits are basically the same thing Passpo wears for all their singles now except with a different color palette. Seriously, can they not mix things up every once in awhile? Maybe do 1960s era stewardesses or something? I feel a little bad since I know Masui Mio designed these outfits but... can she not come up with a different design? I don't expect Project Runway levels of creativity, but a little innovation would be nice. Oh well, the outfits don't really effect the quality of the song.


Well, Himawari is about as bright as I expected a song titled "Himawari" to be. I like this song. I don't love it, but I like it better than Passpo's last A-side. Himawari offers the pop rock sound I've come to expect from Passpo. The song is upbeat, rife with guitar chords, and has a catchy chorus. How many Passpo songs can I apply that same description to? Himawari is disappointingly consistent and offers little to nothing new to Passpo's sound. But pop rock is a decent genre of music to be consistent. And Passpo's an idol group, not Fleetwood Mac; I don't expect them to constantly change their sound and image with each release. Listening to Himawari doesn't feel like a chore (although I admit reviewing this entire single does a little bit...). And Himawari at least leaves an impression. Passpo's last song faded from my memory the moment I finished watching the music video. I couldn't hum Perfect Sky if asked to, not without playing the music video ten times. Ironically, Himawari sounds more like a "band" song than Perfect Sky did. Okay, I'm gonna stop bitching about Perfect Sky and get back to Himawari.

While Himawari is more-or-less a run-of-the-mill Passpo song, it's a good run-of-the-mill Passpo song. The song starts out strong and the girls sound much more energetic and into it than they did for their last single. I actually like the chorus of Himawari a lot; it has all the energy I've been wanting to hear in a Passpo single. The verses sound like mixes of other Passpo songs. The vocals are consistent; Ai and Shiori get dramatic solos in the bridge. Everyone else may or may not get solos in other parts of the song. I really need to familiarize myself with the faces of Passpo... Overall, I guess my opinion of Himawari is generally positive? Himawari is a good song, but it's not exactly the song I was hoping for from Passpo. It's a good song, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't stand out. Like the songs in The Airline Trilogy? They stood out. Himawari is a safe middle-of-the-road song that's the kind of thing I'd expect from Passpo. And it's a little bit of a bummer that's all Himawari is. At the same time though, Himawari is an enjoyable song and fun enough to not be a total letdown.

Like with Perfect Sky, the music video for Himawari utilizes Passpo the Band! Should I call them Bandspo or something? In this PV, the girls appear to be practicing or getting ready for a concert. There's not shot that shows all of them playing their instruments, just random individual shots. I liked the band concept better in Himawari, maybe because we don't see the band quite as much as we did in Perfect Sky. Instead, we get a dance shot! In a set! A black set with bright back lights! Very innovative, I know. Passpo really pushed some boundaries with this video. The dance shot is my least favorite part of the PV for Himawari; the set isn't that creative and the choreography feels kind of half-assed. The only person who looks into it is Mio and one or two members in the background. I don't get why they didn't do a dance shot outside; there are a lot of outdoor shots in this PV. A completely outdoor set would match the sunflower concept better. How about having them dance in a field of sunflowers? What do you mean that costs money and transportation!?

Like I said, the more interesting parts of Himawari are when the girls are playing their instruments or doing something other than dancing. The girls are wearing normal clothes, and there's kind of this sepia filter on the shots. It doesn't really go with the bright blue/yellow/black colors in the dance shot, another reason why the dance shot could totally be cut from this PV. There's this nice little intro in the beginning before the song starts; it's just a brief conversation between Mio and another member of Passpo. Nothing much, but we do get a nice shot of the titular sunflower. Then we see it again at the end of the PV. Again, not much, but the book ends are a nice little touch. Other than that, there's not exactly a story in this PV, or a clear concept beyond sunflowers. Even then, sunflowers aren't utilized anywhere near as much as I thought they would be. Also, I think this may be a summer PV? It shows the girls with sparklers on the beach, which must be a requirement for idol summer PVs. If Himawari is a summer PV, it's a poorly done summer PV. Even as just a regular music video, I'm not impressed with the PV.

I don't love Himawari, but I like it enough to give it four apples. The song tries, and that's what matters. The chorus is pretty strong, even if the rest of the song is a little shaky. Passpo's plays it safe with Himawari, but the song is good enough that I don't mind as much.

Shiny Road

The lone B-side on Himawari, Shiny Road is definitely less pop rock than Himawari. It's more of shiny, happy pop music, although there is a nice guitar riff in the instrumental breaks. Shiny Road reminds me of a Sakura no Hanabiratachi-type song. You know, those songs that are suppose to rouse your emotions and make you feel all warm and inspired? I either love songs like that or find them to be cheesy and forgettable. Shiny Road is a little more towards the latter for me. My problem with Shiny Road is I straight-up can't remember this song. I have to put Shiny Road on repeat to even write about it. It's a pretty song, but there are lots of pretty songs. I like songs that stand out. Shiny Road is just a generic happy song; if you're in the mood for that sort of thing, great. I do like how soothing Shiny Road is. Again, like Sakura no Hanabiratachi. But I'm bored when I listen to this song, and I'm bored trying to write about it. So bored, that I think I'm gonna spend just a paragraph on this B-side instead of two. Cliffnotes version: Shiny Road is okay but dull and not worth writing two paragraphs about. If you liked Growing Up, you might like Shiny Road.

Shiny Road is a meh song that gets the meh number of apples. It's not a terrible B-side, but there's just not much to talk about it. It sounds nice? And melodically pleasing? But man, throw in some trumpets, a triangle, a bagpipe, just something. Shiny Road is such a predictable song even for Passpo. The one advantage is that Shiny Road makes Himawari sound better! Not the best thing for Shiny Road though...

The Verdict

Well, if Passpo was trying to grab my attention again, Himawari was not the single to do so. Himawari overall is an okay single. I don't like okay singles; I like awesome singles that are energetic and zany and fun and weird. Himawari is none of those things. Well, maybe a little bit of the first one. I was really hoping that after Jejejejet!! Passpo wouldn't fall into another rut, but with Perfect Sky and Himawari, I think they are. And topped with Makoto's graduation, I really don't know what is going to happen with Passpo. Like Himawari says, nothing's forever. Himawari is actually a pretty good song, but not near the quality of the songs that spurred me to follow Passpo in the first place. I mean, if I was looking for new idol groups to review and I saw Himawari, I'd brush Passpo over. Shiny Road doesn't help the case either. At least Himawari had a lot of energy and a good chorus; the B-side is such an unimpressive song. Thing is, Shiny Road isn't bad in the way that's interesting and fun to write about. If it were like Avril Lavigne's Hello Kitty, then I'd at least have a field day reviewing it. By the way, Hello Kitty is now my go-to example for outrageously shitty songs.

While singles with only one B-side on them are easier to review, I feel like Passpo could have included another B-side on Himawari. Himawari and Shiny Road are both happy pop rock songs, and neither one has any standout qualities. This single overall offers nothing new for Passpo. Even the band concept is old now; Himawari and Shiny Road are both average Passpo songs. It's disappointing; when I reviewed The Airline Trilogy, Passpo seemed to dynamic and promising. Himawari is so... normal. I almost thing that reviewing Passpo might not be worth my time anymore, especially with newer and better groups on the market right now. The thing is if I say now that I'm probably gonna stop reviewing Passpo soon, then they'll release something interesting. It's like a carousel of predictability. Maybe what will happen is they release a string of mediocre singles, but then their next album has a bunch of surprisingly good songs on it! I don't know if I'll be able to wait around for that though. At the moment, Passpo is on thin ice. And it's cracking.

I'll give Himawari three apples. The A-side is good, but the B-side is mediocre. Even then, both songs sound like Passpo Bran. I like pop rock, but Himawari and Shiny Road make the genre sound so boring. The most interesting thing that's even happened with Passpo lately is the graduation announcement, but even that's been overshadowed by Jessica leaving Girls' Generation. Speaking of which, I think I need to fulfill the wish of a reader and get to another review... if you catch my drift...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mamma Mia! Kara's a Quartet!

You know what K-pop group I wish released J-pop more often? Orange Caramel. Catallena is one of my favorite music videos from this year, and My Copycat is pretty awesome too. Maybe I should just make an exception and review some of their stuff... I mean, I already review Kara, and I'm gonna review a Girls' Generation PV for this month's Time Capsule Review!

Speaking of Kara... how are they holding up after the departure of Nicole and Jiyoung? What's that you say? They added another member!? Who!?

...I honestly can't tell which member is the new one.

I actually feel bad for Kara. They've ended up in kind of a shit situation. In their home country, everyone's forgotten about them because they've been so devoted to promoting material in Japan. But in Japan, the recession of the Hallyu wave has slowly lowered their sales and relevance. So when Kara released their comeback single in Korea, response was lukewarm at best. Then they lost two members, alienating even more fans. The announcement that they were adding new members also didn't tide over well. So one reality show later, we now have Kara the Quartet! The newest member is Young Ji, a 20-year old I know absolutely nothing about except that her name is a flipped version of Jiyoung's. Coincidence? Or... conspiracy!? Yeah, I wasn't too invested in Kara's lineup changes. Honestly, I've been putting them on the back burner for several months now... They haven't released a Japanese single since French Kiss, and that was such an underwhelming song. I was busy with year-end posts, so that single ended up being forgotten. Now though, Kara's back with a vengeance, a new members, and a zesty new single titled Mamma Mia!

Yep, Mamma Mia! I am not joking, that is the name of Kara's comeback Japanese single. I may have laughed when I read that title out loud. The phrase either makes me think of an Italian twirling a piece of pizza or the Broadway musical. Both are equally silly. Still, Mamma Mia! is Kara's comeback song, and I'm going to treat just as seriously as I do their other singles! Contrary to expectations, Mamma Mia! does not sound like something you'd hear sailing down a gondola in Venice, Italy. Nope, Mamma Mia! takes its cues from 80s pop! Seriously, the synthesizers are bleeding out of my speakers. Mamma Mia! could totally be a Madonna song. I do like that Kara released a more dance-oriented song. Their past Japanese singles have all had that same cutesy, adorable pop sound that sounds the same after you hear it five times in a row. Mamma Mia! has more edge to it while still being a fun song! It's catchy too! I honestly thought this song would be much cheesier, but for a song called Mamma Mia!, it's pretty straightforward.

Of course, I can't glaze over the fact that this is the Japanese version of Mamma Mia! I'm reviewing. See, when Kara had their comeback as a quartet in Korea, they released a mini album called Day and Night. Guess what the lead single was? If you guessed Mister, keep dreaming. Mamma Mia! isn't the first time that Kara's re-released a single in Japanese and definitely not the first time a Korean idol group has done this. Their first two Japanese singles, Mister and Jumping, were re-recorded versions of Korean songs. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Mister is even one of my favorite idol songs! And since I only keep up with Kara's Japanese music and sporadically their Korean music, the Japanese version of Mamma Mia! shouldn't be a problem with me, right? Yes... in theory. And it honestly doesn't bother me. But I did listen to the Korean version. And... I like a little bit better. It flows better than the Japanese version. That's an inevitability when you're translating a song; re-recording a song in a different language is a huge challenge. It's even more challenging to keep the same energy levels and natural-ness the original has.

So does that mean the Japanese version of Mamma Mia! is worthless trash that should never be listened to again? Absolutely not! Mamma Mia! still has the same general sound in both languages. The Korean version just sounds a little bit better. My only complaint that applies to both songs is that I don't hear much of Young Ji. It's always a little hard to judge K-pop vocals given the slick, smooth editing applied to the voices. But Young Ji only sings twice, and both verses are incredibly short. Maybe she's a good singer, maybe she's bad, but I'd at least like the opportunity to make that assessment! Who knows? Perhaps in future Kara songs, she'll get to sing more! For now, Mamma Mia! (the Japanese version) feels like a bit of a lazy effort. I'm certain re-working a song into a different language isn't a walk in the park, but the final product feels very much like a rehash. The song is fun and energetic, so I can't say I wouldn't recommend it. But if you are going to listen to Mamma Mia!, I'd stick with the Korean version.

Well, even if the songs are the same, the music videos will be different! And considering this will be my first time screencapping Kara as a four-member group, I'm excited to see what Mamma Mia!'s PV has in store for us! If the PV consists of gondolas and pizzas and hot Italian men, I'll be more than satisfied!

Okay, here's a familiar face! Hara looks like Hara. As to be expected.

And here's the rest of Kara the Quartet!

You'd think by this dance shot they'd added ten members instead of one...

Young Ji's reading How to Fit In with Kara and Not Piss Off Fans.

Is it just me, or do these individual shots and dance shots look like they're from 2 separate PVs?

Look: the colors in the dance shot are bright and intense.

But then the individual shots look like they were put through Instagram filters.

I'm fine with either aesthetic, but at least be consistent!

Can someone please photoshop them holding pizzas in this frame? Pretty please?

What's up with the impractically bright lighting? Can we dim it down?

Ah, that's better!

Also, hello new outfits!

More new outfits! That look like something out of The Jetsons!

A butterfly! How quaint! And random, how the hell did we get here?

Filters! Filters everywhere! So many filters I can barely see Young Ji in this shot!

Honestly, Kara doesn't feel that different post-lineup change. They still seem... Kara-like.

Follow the butterflies: a much better alternative than follow the spiders!

The choreography isn't quite as memorable as Mister's or Go Go Summer's, but it's got effort!

Mmmm~ these shots really bring out my inner flower-crown wearing hipster self...

They're pretty too! A little heavy on the lighting and filtering but still pretty!

They also remind me a bit of that f(x) PV... which I definitely did not watch because I'm a J-pop blog and never ever ever watch K-pop PVs out of curiosity. Ever.

Give 'em the ol' razzle dazzle!

So many pretty shots in this PV, I don't know what they could do to make things any prettier!

...I spoke too soon.

I never object to pimped out ball gowns but this feels a tad random.

Oh well, music videos aren't about why! They're about why not! Right?

Why not throw Kara in dozens of pretty clothes that don't match up together!?

And add a party scene! Because parties are hip, right?

Maybe this PV is just about the world's strangest sleepover.

Done! Or keeping in the trend of gratuitous Italian, finito!

Something tells me that whoever produced this PV really wanted flowers in it. And ball gowns. And sexy male backup dancers. And butterflies. And somehow they wanted to combine all this together into one music video. Yeah, the PV for Mamma Mia! definitely has... variety! There were seven different outfit changes in this PV! Not to mention all the different areas that don't match up together. Some worked a little better like the flower shots and the individual shots. But the dance shot sticks out like a tin foiled sore thumb against the rest of the PV. The color palette is way too bright compared to the richer, more muted color palette the other shots use. Along with the fact that the dance shot is... well... Kara's Japanese PVs have a tendency to film their dance shots in wideopen ballrooms. Mamma Mia! certainly isn't breaking that trend. I get that this was supposed to be Kara's big comeback (or at least in Korea this was), so maybe that's why the PV has so much going on. However, the PV's trying so hard to be all these different things that it ends up being a clustered mess. Like I have no problem with hipster, flower-crown, sitting-in-a-field music videos, nor with intense dance videos but at least keep them separate. Unless you're f(x).

So I screencapped this PV not having watched the Korean version. Well, I have now. My reaction? It's great to know the good folks at DSP and Universal Music Japan recycle!

Like the song, the Japanese PV for Mamma Mia! is very similar to the Korean PV. Super similar. So similar that you might even realize the exact same shots are in the Korean and Japanese PVs. For instance, that party scene at the end? Korean PV. They just took out the parts where the girls are singing in Korean. Those pretty hipster flower shots? Korean PV. Just with some modified editing. Remember those pretty ball gowns? Exact same shots from the Korean PV! How about those individual shots? If you guessed Korean PV, you are right on the money! Your prize is the disappointment of knowing that! I'm serious, all they did in those individual shots was change the glare of the lighting. In fact, I think I like the Korean PV better because the lighting doesn't require me to grab a pair of sunglasses. Even the shots that are exclusive to the Japanese version of the PV mirror the Korean version closely. The dance shot is more or less the same only with different outfits. Come to think of it, the dance shot of the Korean PV actually works better as a color palette with the rest of the PV... In fact, the Korean PV fixes any of the problems I had with the Japanese PV.

Well there! Problem solved! I'll just go watch the Korean version of Mamma Mia! But see that circles me back around to the dilemma I had with the song. If the PVs for Mamma Mia! are more or less the same, what's the point in watching the Japanese version? Other than language differences? It'd be one thing if they'd simply re-done the PV shot-for-shot style, but there are literally the exact same clips in both music videos. The Korean version looks better too. It's hard for me to give a verdict on the PV for Mamma Mia! because it borrows so much from the original Korean version. Do I judge it based solely on the Japanese music video alone, disregarding the Korean version entirely? Because as much as I'd like to, I can't do that.For me, knowing that some of the problems I had with the Japanese version (i.e. the lack of consistency in the color palette and general look) aren't present in the Korean version puts me in a strange situation. Don't get me wrong, there are still problems with the Korean version; mainly the producers are trying way too hard to cram stuff into it without giving much substance even for idol music.

The one thing that is worth talking about in both PVs is Young Ji. I did not watch Kara Project. I do not know how Young Ji came to be selected for Kara. However, I very much okay with her presence in the group. Kara was never one of those groups where I was attached to the members. I did like their stable lineup, so hearing of Nicole and Jiyoung's was a big surprise. Hearing they were going to recruit new members was an even bigger surprise. Here we are though, and I think Young Ji fits in very well with Kara. She's conventionally attractive and seems like a pretty good dancer. I can't judge her singing since we didn't hear much of it in Mamma Mia! but I liked her scenes in Mamma Mia! She's a little awkward in a few random shots, but for the most part, she works well with the other members of Kara on camera. I was hesitant about Kara continuing as a group and not just calling it quits, but they've got a nice dynamic with Young Ji now. I just hope that for whatever their next Japanese single is, their agency throttles back on the recycling.

I've only got three apples for Mamma Mia! If this were the Korean version I was reviewing, I may have three and half or four. But that's the problem. The Japanese release of Mamma Mia! offers nothing that I couldn't find in the Korean version. Not even a different music video. Kara's other Japanese releases may not always have been hits, but at least most of them were original. Mamma Mia! is a good song, but basically what you'd find in the Korean version. Maybe Kara will get better for their next release.