So... long time no see?
I wish I had a really cool story to explain why I haven't posted anything in six months. Maybe something along the lines of preventing an apocalypse or being kidnapped by fairies. But nope, I've just been really, really busy with schoolwork. I'll elaborate a bit later. Now that I'm done with this semester though, let's not dwell on my absence and bounce right back into J-pop! Starting with what else? Perfume!
For the record, Perfume went a longer time without releasing a single than I did releasing a blog post. But their return to the music world was an anticipated one! Return they did with a double A-side, their first one since 2011. Relax in the City/Pick Me Up came with two music videos and a B-side, so there was a lot to look forward to with this single. The release also included an edition that came with a cube to put CDs in. If I were rating this single solely on presentation, that cube bumps the rating up to five apples! While I did not express my excitement on the Wonderland, I can assure you I was very excited. Of course, with great excitement comes great apprehension. The A-sides of this era (whatever that era may be) have been very hit-or-miss. Sweet Refrain was a drag, and Cling Cling was enjoyable but lacked long-lasting impact. So with two A-sides, which one hits the mark this time around? Let's start with Relax in the City. I'll get to Pick Me Up later.
When I first saw the promotional picture for Relax in the City, I immediately thought, "Kasuka na Kaori. This song is going to sound like Kasuka na Kaori." But to my surprise Relax in the City turned out to be- oh, who am I kidding, this is Kasuka na Kaori 2015.
Remember Kasuka na Kaori? That A-side everyone chooses to forget in favor of Laser Beam? I know Nakata is an active member of the recycling community, but I don't think most Perfume fans wanted him to recycle the blandest sound of the JPN era. Look, I'm saying that as someone who likes Kasuka na Kaori. I really do. Is it my favorite Perfume song? Not even close. But I think it's a light, soothing song, and I love listening to it on days when I have nothing to do. Unfortunately, not many other Perfume fans share my same enjoyment of Kasuka na Kaori. Relax in the City has the same calm sound as Kasuka na Kaori along with the same lack of energy. If I were to pair this song with one of Perfume's albums, it would fit right in on JPN. Relax in the City brings little new to Perfume's sound, and if you listened to JPN, you know what you're in for.
I could end the review right here, but... I really like Relax in the City.
Objectively, I know it's not a great Perfume song. Relax in the City has a great instrumental but lackluster vocals. The style is reminiscent of Perfume's JPN-era songs without offering anything new. When I first heard Relax in the City, I did not care for it. I didn't hate it, but I thought I would forget about it and skip it over whenever it came up on my shuffle. After its release though, I started listening to it. Of my own free will, might I add. I don't know what it is about Relax in the City, but it's such an easy listen. As much as I love intense, energetic music that I could cut down zombies to, I also love relaxing music. And that's what Relax in the City is: relaxing. Those music box notes that start off the song set the tone, and from there, Relax in the City is a sweet, simple song. It's almost like a technopop lullaby. That's why I wish the vocal arrangement reflected more of the dreamlike quality of the instrumental. I think had the vocals been different, Relax in the City might have been a more popular song. Or it could have been even worse, but who knows?
If you end up not liking Relax in the City, I completely understand. Relax in the City is not Perfume's best A-side, even if I personally enjoyed it. What may also contribute to my enjoyment of Relax in the City are the other two songs on this single. Without getting too ahead of myself, Pick Me Up and Toumei Ningen both have more energetic, dance-oriented sounds. While Relax in the City would have paled on an album like JPN, on this single it ironically stands out because it sounds calmer compared to the other two songs. So even if you don't like Relax in the City, you can at least have something to compare Pick Me Up and Toumei Ningen to. Now which A-side is the better of the two? Well, in my opinion- there I go again, getting ahead of myself! I really need to pace myself; I haven't even entirely reviewed the first A-side.
For those of you who don't like Relax in the City, you can just watch the music video on mute. Or you can look through the screencaps I lovingly put together!
As you can see from the opening shot, we will not be relaxing anywhere near a city.
I know that pose... it's from Electro World!
Wow, I guess they literally grew out of Electro World.
After getting up, the girls walk to the cube and Kashiyuka grabs a cup.
Wait, no, A-chan grabs a cup! What sort of witchcraft is this!?
I do like the setting of this PV, even if it's very reminiscent of... guess. Just guess.
Did you guess correctly?
But unlike Kasuka na Kaori, Relax in the City has shots of the girls flying!
Probably on broomsticks given the earlier incident.
I can't tell if I like or dislike these outfits.
In some shots, they look really pretty but other shots... not so much.
The hair and makeup looks beautiful though.
It's so nice seeing the girls with slightly different hairstyles; I wish they'd do waves more often.
I guess you could say Perfume really thought outside of the box for this PV.
Did you miss my puns? Admit it. You missed them!
Ooh, I love the lighting in this shot. Very ethereal.
I wonder what happened to that cube after they wrapped shooting. There's no practical reason to keep it standing, but I'd like to think it's still there.
Oh my god, this looks beautiful. It looks like the cube is glowing!
In this lighting, the outfits look really pretty! See my dilemma!?
Wait... are those eyeballs on A-chan's sleeves? I changed my mind.
Nocchi gazes out the window into the great unknown...
I guess they're just gonna leave them out there in the dark. No worries, A-chan's got eyes on her sleeves.
The cube was my favorite character in this PV. A giant glass cube in the middle of nowhere is not realistic by any means, but it makes for some very pretty shots. And the decoration inside the cube is adorable; it fits with the spring/summer look the PV's going for. So yeah, the cube is great... but I feel like it was underutilized. Most of the shots inside the cube just show the girls standing there and posing. Sure, there was that bit with the cup, but otherwise, the cube shots were basically glamor shots. I think that was the idea behind Relax in the City: make a pretty music video showing the girls being pretty and doing pretty things. Okay, great. But "doing pretty things" basically amounts of posing and looking at the camera. On an aesthetic level, that works. The cinematography and lighting of this PV are gorgeous; I love when the little lights come on outside the cube. It looks very fairytale-ish.
Relax in the City is a pretty to look at, but that's pretty much it. There's no choreography, the girls are pretty inactive for most of the music video, and a lot of the shots are long and slow. This isn't the first time Perfume's had a music video like this. Macaroni and Kasuka na Kaori were also very lowkey music videos, and Macaroni is one of my favorite Perfume music videos. Like with the song, Relax in the City's PV is very similar to Kasuka na Kaori's. The only problem is Kasuka na Kaori got a better PV. Relax in the City's pitfall is a lack of variety. While it is a beautiful music video, it does not hold my attention. Kasuka na Kaori, while still a calm PV, had a lot of different shots showing the girls doing a lot of different things. Relax in the City lingers on its shots for too long. Trying to screencap this music video was challenging because there's so little in it.
I don't want to write Relax in the City off as a bad music video, because it isn't. From a technical perspective, the shots where the girls look like they're flying are amazing. The one-take in the beginning, while a little forced, was also really cool. I wish they'd kept that up for the entire music video. The girls look beautiful, and for some people, just looking at Perfume doing nothing may be enough. Wow. That came out creepier than it meant to. With all the positives of this PV in mind, it is still not one of Perfume's best music videos. Of all the music videos of this era, Relax in the City is the weakest one in my opinion. Relax in the City is a pretty music video, and watching it won't make you feel like you've wasted five minutes of your life. Perfume can and has done better though. Luckily for me, there's still one more music video on this single...
I can easily give Relax in the City three and half apples. Again, not one of Perfume' best A-sides, but I have a soft spot for it. The music video is also nothing to go crazy for, but if you just want to watch a nice-looking music video with some decent cinematography and a giant cube, watch Relax in the City. Also, you know what bothers me? The song is called Relax in the City, but the music video was was off of the coast nowhere near a city. What are you trying to tell me, Perfume!?