Sunday, July 8, 2018

Kayo Aiko's Thirteenth Single...

was released on March 7, 2014. The artist credited on the single is the band name of Royal Blue. The title is '.~Period~' and the c/w track is 'Wish a star'. [Instrumental versions of both songs on track 3 and 4.]

It's hard to describe how it felt in early 2014 opening the box from Amazon Japan with new songs from Aiko herself, back from musical obscurity after nearly seven years at age 28. This time she brought a guy with a candy apple red Fender Jazzmaster (Keitaro), and rounded out the ensemble with a bassist (Munehisa), and drummer (Masaki). These were two songs that I put on endless repeat for a few days or weeks or months. This was again the real Aiko.

The title of the single is properly spelled with a stop or dot as . then Period in between a pair of ~ symbols so it tries to be unique but I can't search for that name or even 'royal blue period' without getting absolutely nothing related to this release. I got a hit from Spotify with 'royal blue wish a star' but that's it. Also, sometimes words can mean a couple of different things, you know. It's a completely obscure release which probably sold hundreds and there's probably a few boxes of them in the drummer's basement right now. It was about as underground as it gets. It was released by Alien Records and the item number is RBLUE-001. Don't hold your breath for the still-unconfirmed release of RBLUE-002, it probably isn't going to happen.

[EDIT 2018-07-27: Search "RBLUE-001" and find this preview of the songs I don't know if it's a safe site but it exists,]

The single included a DVD with a four minute music video of the A-side. There are shots of the band playing the song earnestly in a studio, and a sidewalk performance of Aiko and the guitar player to an audience of three guys. The video includes snippets of a drama named 'Bob and ...', yes really, 'Bob and ...' which is another name I have no luck searching. There is a nerdy guy [who is actually handsome, this is TV] on a bike who overcomes his tribulations in some way and may or may not get the attention of Tachibana Yurika, a lovely gravure model who also stars on the show.

Since I can't search anything I have no idea what this show is or how the song ties in, nor whether the show itself is one episode of a series or just a one-off. It looks about as interesting as a show that features music from an independent one-shot band led by a well-meaning but still very obscure former idol singer. I apparently found this while searching for Aiko's name in Japanese [I do that regularly, this is still S.P.A.K.A.] and found a video site that had a preview video (short version of the MV) and a link to Amazon Japan as a place to purchase the cd. I bought three copies just in case two of them break.

Four years have passed since then and all relevant information has been taken down from the internet. We are left with only the packaging to figure out what the heck was going on, as Aiko tried to relaunch her singing career and Keitaro hoped that standing next to one of the most beautiful girls on the planet would finally get him noticed. Aiko is a good singer and Keitaro is a very tasteful guitar player. They work well together. The A-side is an upbeat song and the B-side is a ballad; the two songs show the range of the band and they're pretty good.

'.~Period~' is a song reminiscent of old Aiko songs like 'Traveller' and 'ring!Ring!!RING!!!' but more laid back and there are no backup singers going "HAAAAAAA!" like in those songs. Aiko sings very clearly with a comforting and pleasant demeanor, which has always been the case for her. J-pop songs only have three topics: 1. love is great, 2. love sucks, and 3. do your best. This song falls in the last category and it sounds very hopeful and inspiring.

'Wish a star' is a ballad that features a piano part that is uncredited, or maybe not, and it builds from a light melody into a pretty rocking song. At the bridge Aiko really rises to the occasion as she sings a part with tricky intervals and some reasonably high notes, for her anyway. After I had heard this song a few times I finally realized what was different about these songs and her old idol catalog: post-production wasn't keen to make her voice sound shimmery and perfect like back in the Avex days.

The band and Aiko must have decided to keep the recording sounding more natural, because they chose to present themselves as more 'real' like an alternative rock band. But more likely the budget for studio time was a lot less than the old label; it's just easier to mix and master the recording without all the bells and whistles we got from the idol 'Kayo Aiko'.

So we get a much more natural sounding vocal on both of these songs as a result, and this proves at least one point: Aiko has a really good voice. She's never been the most amazing singer on the planet. Looks and image were very important to her performances (and sales) as an idol and they were a big part of why Avex promoted her from 2003 to 2007 and sold twelve singles in that part of her career. On the other hand, Aiko wasn't one of those idol singers who only put out three or four singles then never released anything else. Avex knew that Aiko was a talent that had good looks and all that stuff, but they clearly thought she had a good voice as well, or they definitely would have cut her off a lot sooner.

While it's easy to point out the positive aspects of the songs, as I often do, it's also kind of depressing that this release is pretty much it for the time being. Royal Blue made almost no impression on the listening public and as far as I know the band didn't continue, with or without Aiko.

However, there is one other reason that this release is unique in the Aiko catalog. She wrote the lyrics to both of these songs. So the lack of follow-up is kind of sad, as this is a talent she had never displayed before and might not again. Like I've said, these are good songs and I wouldn't expect her to be as prolific as Prince or as eloquent as Bernie Taupin but if you're an Aiko mega-fan (and you should be) all we can do is wonder what she might have done with that particular talent.

Looking into more technical details, the credits are shown in the picture below. Aside from having some issues with layout (commas and spaces), the guitarist is credited as 'guitar, manipulate' which makes me wonder exactly who or what he manipulated for this recording. It's possible that he is the piano player, as the root in 'manipulate' is Latin for 'hand' and no one may have bothered to look up the word for 'piano'. Otherwise this is a pretty straight forward recording without synthesizers or sound effects, so I can't figure out what else it would mean.

In the section hilariously misspelled as 'Special Tanks' Aiko gives a shout out to her dogs Cocoa, Cream, and Jyon which is as expected. She also mentions 'Yu' which is Hasebe Yu from 'dream'. She also thanks 'and you' which is actually me, because I bought this cd.

Getting this cd was a really nice feeling, knowing that Aiko still even existed after so many years. I really can't figure out why this even happened, whether they were an existing band that hooked up with Aiko somehow or maybe someone from the show made it happen entirely. The credits include nine names at the top of the credits labelled as "support" so it appears it was financed from a grassroots campaign.

What I know is that Aiko was making music again. After she performed for all the screaming wota she could have gone away entirely. Instead she chose to sing again and make a statement affirming that she likes making music, with no contractual pressure to do so unlike the idols who hustle on major labels. She wants to be known as a musician; she and I have a shared interest. I would not know this for sure if it hadn't been for those previous seven years of hearing absolutely nothing. I have always enjoyed the music most of all and it's good to know that Aiko does, too.

But the title of '.~Period~' now seems oddly appropriate. Full stop? Not me, but I guess I'll have to talk about something else.

Aiko Through the Years

Since my next post will probably be the last Aiko-related post I do for a while, out of interest I created a collage of Aiko photos from age 18 to 32. Now that this exists it's actually very cool. From one end to the other she definitely grows up but of course is still beautiful as ever. But it's also notable when going backwards how much she really hasn't changed. That's all. Thanks for introducing me to J-pop, Aiko.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Classic Post! Girl's Box: The Movie

This is extremely long but is being reposted in full so that all 6 posts are together in order in case you wanted that. Next I will do a post about the single which Aiko released (not by herself but almost) in 2014. After that this blog is a clean slate and I will continue to explore the finer points of travel, life, J-pop, and whatever else pops into my head.

Girl's Box Movie Synopsis
Note: *if* I understood the film correctly, this might contain spoilers.

Hasebe Yu has dreams of becoming a big singing star but she doesn't have any connections, and meanwhile, her mom has been nagging at her to do something with her life - but not showbiz.

At a hopeless audition she meets Nagasawa Nao; afterwards, they hop on Nao's motorcycle and head to a bar called (what else?) Girl's Box. Saito Michi works here as a dancing bartender and in a very pivotal plot point, she slithers around in almost a few inches of clothing.

We find out that the place is run by Akimono Naomi (I think they call her Mama, which is fitting), who hires Yu on the spot to wait tables, but from the outset, clearly Yu is not tough enough to rebuke the shameless advances of the male clientele. She practices her slapping technique on a very willing group of test subjects until she gets it just right.

Nao then takes Yu upstairs where we meet Aiko, who has been slaving away making beef stew.  

Hoshii Nanase (Nacchan) storms out with her guitar and says that she'd rather chop her own head off than choke down any more of Aiko's food. This upsets Aiko, who pouts and does some mock karate moves in a fit of defensiveness (and believe me, Aiko fans, this has to be the cutest damn thing that has EVER been filmed).

Yu follows after Nacchan and finds her writing "Dawn is standing on my back" (in the hopes that no one will ever hear it) in some industrial park area[1]. Nacchan expresses that she hates everything and everyone and that the bar should be called "Garbage Box".

Model Saaya Irie plays Mama's estranged daughter who breaks into the bar after hours and breaks a bunch of liquor bottles and glasses. Upon finding the mess, the girls think on their feet and decide to hold BEER DAY instead of their usual fare.  

Aiko carries an umbrella in this scene to avoid the abundant amount of beer flying around. Even though everyone else seems to be having a great time being hosed down with beer, Aiko apparently says that she can't even stand the smell. It's pretty evident that Aiko would be the last one in the room to do a keg stand.

Mama (apparently going for a world record in drinking and cigarette-smoking) collapses from having one drink too many and gets herself hospitalized for almost the whole rest of the movie. As most people aren't hospitalized just for blacking out, she apparently has Plot-Advancing-Disease (aka Movie Illness).  This causes a slick-lookin' dude to show up at the bar and say, "I've just bought the place and movie-cliché law requires me to turn it into a pachinko parlor."  

The girls use this crisitunity[2] to advertise a big show at the bar in an effort to rally community support. When the show doesn't quite live up to the racy ad campaign (the flyer sports a stylized drawing of three naked dancing girls), a couple of guys get upset and start a huge bar brawl. Yu screams at everybody to stop fighting but no one can hear her. She eventually gets a microphone and sings the first verse of "standing on my back" and, as everyone takes notice of Yu's wonderful husky singing voice -- and the happenin' new song -- the fight suddenly stops.

A producer in the crowd raises an eyebrow and has the girls form a group called Kingyo. They need a song to promote themselves, and it turns out that Mama once recorded a song called Lovers High. Saaya somehow gets a copy of the tape and gives it to Nacchan, who gives it to Yu, who plays it for the group, and they are captivated by it.

Saaya admits to her mother that she's given away the Lovers High tape and instead of getting upset, this gives Mama the oomph to reconcile with Saaya and get her lazy self out of the hospital and back to business. Upon her return, she confirms that the bar will indeed be sold and the girls, sullen as ever, decide to hold one last blowout.  

Yu's mom shows up and scolds her for working in showbiz. Yu stands up for herself and states that she's found a home at Girl's Box and wouldn't have it any other way.

The last night arrives and everybody shows up for the party, including Yu's mom. In attendance are a couple of suits from the music industry who are hoping to discover a new talent. The curtain comes up for Yu's performance but for a number of reasons she has lost the will to sing. She paraphrases her speech to mom and basically says, "it's gonna suck when this place closes because you've all been so good to me". The crowd, clearly unaware of the impending closure, says "ehh?"

After an extremely long soul-search on Yu's part, everybody finally begs her to sing instead of standing there for the rest of her life. Even 14-year-old Saaya can see that Yu is dead in the water and Nacchan stares at her like she's trying to start Yu on fire just to get some entertainment going. Eventually (finally!) Yu sings the introduction to Lovers High.

Nacchan, having graduated from the acoustic guitar, hits a play button on a sequencer and starts the 'real' version of the song, and Aiko and Nao join her on stage to finish the song.  

Then, (SPOILER ALERT) everyone is graphically executed and the bar gets burned to the ground.

Actually, I'll give you three guesses what really happens and the first two don't count.  Does the bar actually close its doors forever?  Well, everybody smiles until their face hurts (to the point that it even hurts my own face), so I'm guessing that it doesn't. 

I've left out a surprising number of details which you'll just have to see for yourself, like: What's up with Yu's little brother? Does Nagasawa get into several hilarious sparring matches with an overzealous fan? Who ends up producing Kingyo, and do they get a record contract?

COMING THIS WEEKEND (I do hope): you've read the plot, so read my review of the Girls Box Movie.

_ Wed 2008-08-20 8:31 PM CST

Girl's Box LOVERS HIGH Review, Part One
Okay, so when I said "review," I meant "reviews."  There's so much going on here that I thought it might be beneficial to split it up a bit.  I really REALLY enjoy this movie, so the more the merrier.

I thought that each of the lead actresses should get a post, in order of appearance (but I'll save Aiko for last).  So, let's スタト!


Perhaps the most prolific of the whole group, Yu was the focal point of dream and DRM[3] for nearly a decade (no, it's not the same group, I don't care what you say!). Also, if you didn't already know that she's really damn cute, may the photo above serve as exhibit 'A'. [Note there was a picture in the original post and 'photos' referred to in this article are not available in this post, just trust me or GIS]

In LOVERS HIGH, Yu gets the part of the 'plain-Jane' who wants to be a singing star. So, it's the opposite of real life, where she has sold a gajillion records and makes everyone look ugly by comparison. This requires some suspension of disbelief, of course, but the girl really seems to have kept some humility after all, and it works very nicely.

Her character Yua (or Yuwa) undergoes the biggest transformation in the film. Starting out as a normal girl with a nagging mother, she mails an audition tape and gets an invite to the finals. One just gets the feeling that somewhere down the hall are several girls with broken nails and bleeding eye-sockets -- a regular occurrence at talent searches like these. Yet Yua shows no signs of jealousy when Nao struts her stuff and clearly outshines most of the other girls with her coolness and fully-formed stage presence. The two characters don't speak to each other and it's doubtful that Nao even noticed Yua at this point, but nevertheless the wheels are set in motion.

After passing the first round, Yua shows up the next day to find that the audition-holders have vanished without a trace. Rather than get visibly upset by this (as some of the girls do), she realizes she's been had and calmly wanders off to be alone with her feelings. There, she is approached by a creepy guy who is a little too 'into' her. Enter Nao, who beats the guy up and offers Yua a ride on her motorcycle to the Girl's Box. If this club were real, I'd be filling out my change-of-address forms.

NEXT POST: Nagasawa Nao, the badass of the group.

_ Tues 2008-08-26 6:32 PM

Time for a break in our regularly-scheduled programming to make an important announcement. I've been watching the presidential race and wondering for sure what size of bomb shelter to build (depending on who wins) and I think I've got a much better idea: Aiko for President!

Seriously, I think I'm going to write her in despite all the "roadblocks" that the founding fathers threw into the Constitution (just to keep Aiko down, at that). So she's not 35, it doesn't matter in the least. So she's not American by birth, who cares? Anyway, that clause is open to interpretation.* It's better to stop looking at the negative side -- what they call "mudslinging" -- and think about some of the more positive aspects that Aiko could bring to the executive branch instead.

For one, she's never voted against Medicare or Medicaid. In fact, all the legislation she's introduced has passed unanimously. Ai Shite ne Motto? We do now. Hold on to love? Done.

Next, no scandalous past which might ugly-up the election.

Third, think how much better our foreign relations would be with Aiko at the helm. Peace talks would be a breeze. Aiko would say, "stop making nuclear weapons" and Middle-East guy would say, "but we like making nuclear weapons!" and Aiko would be all, "I'm going to pout, then," and Middle-East guy would say, "okay, we'll stop, no problem. That's the cutest damn thing I've ever seen -- why do we hate these people again?" and Aiko would say, "look at my new boots!"

So, with the way things are going, apparently anyone can be on the ballot. Go ahead and say that I'm throwing away my vote, I've got solid reasons for writing in Ms. Kayo. Potentially, it's a better deal, and everyone who votes for one of the "mainstream" candidates is making their own bed. I can at least say I didn't vote for whatever impending disaster is about to occur in our Aiko-less future.

*Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5: "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, or a cute Japanese girl, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, or twenty-two Years, give or take, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States, or Kanagawa-ken."  See, says it right there in the Constitution.

_ Fri 2008-08-29 5:24 PM

Girl's Box LOVERS HIGH Review Part Two

My words wouldn't do justice to Nagasawa Nao's legendary hotness. She stands out amongst the unbelievably cute cast as the girl who's been there and done that many times over. You get the feeling that she'd use you up and move on to the next guy without any awkward long goodbyes. (So, Miss Nagasawa, if you're taking applications...)

Picking up where I left off, Nao (as Nami) saves Yua from certain creepiness with a couple select hits to the creepy guy. Beforehand he explains, "I'll go easy on you", and after a thorough ass-whipping, he falls to his knees and howls with laughter like any crazy masochist would (he's a good actor!).

As I mentioned before, even though Nami is a Lone Wolf type, she throws Yua an extra helmet (probably normally reserved for her 'catch of the day') and it's off to Girl's Box. She shows Yua around, introduces her to Mama, and gets Yua hired on as a waitress. Yua serves a table of businessmen whose behavior demands a little tweaking. After they pat Yua on the butt (hey, that's MY job!) Nami points out the 'Girls Box Rules', which include "hands off the waitstaff" and "if you're not going to follow the 'hands off the waitstaff' rule, prepare to get slapped." Already she's got to enforce both rules and she slaps the offender to the ground, to the amusement of his companions (and we, the viewers). Nami has Yua practice up a little bit until Yua's technique also lives up to the bar's fine man-slapping reputation.

Nao first appears [earlier in the film] at the audition in full punk-rock dress and boy, does she rock 'em good. The auditioners cut her off a little too soon and she replies with something like, "So you're looking for a few new girlfriends, is that it?  What a crappy audition!"

Nao does such a good job with her role in this film, maybe because she really is the no-nonsense type, maybe because she's got a lot of acting experience, maybe because she had it rough growing up, I don't know. Her special talent here seems to be flipping people off, and she does so, twice! Whatever we did to push you over the edge, Miss Nagasawa, we take it back. Before that, you seemed like a really nice girl to take home to Mom, if Mom needed a few defensive karate lessons.

Nao has always been a darling of Girl's Box;  she has style, she has class, and somehow it seems that she'd be equally comfortable hangin' out with the boys. You know: spitting contests, poker games, working on beer number 40-something long after you pass out. Every side of her comes off equally strong here, and although Nami doesn't really change from beginning to end, she certainly gives Mama and all the others a good example to follow of a chick who's truly 'with it' and keeps a 'real cool head'[4].

In summary, Nao may not be my favorite but she's gained more than a couple of notches with this role. I had to watch her bring down the house on the Girl's Box Natsu-Matsuri DVD yet again last night. Worship her -- or face her wrath!

_ Fri 2008-09-05 5:41 PM

Girl's Box LOVERS HIGH Review Part Three
Okay, look out: that's right, it's Mi-chan's turn. A casual observer might confuse Saito Michi with Ms. Kayo Aiko. It's an even bigger possibility since Mi-chan does a dead-on Aiko impersonation. But, to hell with casual observers. Once you've seen these girls, you either go on with your life as before, or you become OBSESSED.

So, Michi has more than a few fans out there, and I'm sure they're just as damn dedicated (damn, damn, damn dedicated) as we Aiko fans, and why not? Her songs are catchy, her personality seems likeable (maybe a little *too* shy... oh well) and she's extremely pretty.

She's also the only main cast member who isn't involved with Kingyo in some way, and it's kind of awkward watching the group come together with no real mention why Michi doesn't get a part in it. You really feel for her and demand to know more. The English-language information available on her is just as scant, if not moreso, than what's to be found about Aiko.

It goes without saying, then, that I don't know enough about her to pass any real judgement beyond what's been put in the film. And that, while it's not 'enough' in the traditional sense, is plenty to go on for the issue at hand.

When Yua and Nami get to the Girl's Box bar, what's in store for the viewer? Mi-chan stealing the whole movie by dancing on the bar, that's what. This scene alone makes the film worth the price of admission, and yes, I have a one-track mind. This one appearance (a.) made me want to listen to the song 'HOLD ON' [which is playing during the scene] over and over again, (b.) proves that she's got what it takes to stand out amongst all the other girls here, and (c.) begins my full-blown obsession with Saito Michi.

So she plays Miku, the bartender. And a darn good bartender at that: all Mama has to do to get a new drink from across the room is to hold up an empty glass and point at it. Miku then immediately hops to it. Barkeeps like this are few and far between;  most make you wish you had stayed home so you could get served quicker. Also, she does that trick where full shakers are stacked one by one, turned sideways, and poured into every glass in one move. Maybe you'll just have to see the film to understand, and don't worry that they don't show her face while it's being done. You can't prove that it's another person doing the pouring, so don't even try.

Miku makes a game of luring men, promising them the world, and then letting them down without a thought after stealing their money or whatever else she can get. Personally, I'm not sure that anybody should be using this technique in real-life, but we don't have to suspend any disbelief that it works when watching the film. It would totally work on me. I'd give her all my cash, all my credit cards, take her to the ATM and drain my account, give her a map showing the secret location of all that gold I buried in the Grand Canyon, then wave to her as she drove off in my car. "Call me later!" I'd say.

But you know she wouldn't. Miku is calm and calculated, nice on the surface but greedy and jaded underneath. Through it all she sticks by her friends and makes sure they get enough to drink. The perfect woman? Probably not, but she thinks so, and I may someday agree.

_ Wed 2008-09-17 5:21 PM

Girl's Box LOVERS HIGH Review, Part Four
Why, oh why, did Hoshii Nanase have to play the 'bitch' character, save for the last five minutes of this film? She plays it WELL, mind you, but if this were your first exposure to the actress, you'd probably wonder what the hell she'd ever done before this and why she showed up for filming if she was just going to be a crab about the whole thing. Nacchan was one of the cast members that I was really excited about seeing and unfortunately, in my opinion, the writers left her out in the cold.

You WISH you were this prolific at age 19; trust me, you do.  

She started out in music with the single 'Glass no Kutsu ~Nacchan~'. The song is about being discovered; she, the 'every girl', somehow the song is also about the whirlwind of exposure she got from being the star of a popular orange juice commercial in real life. So the video for this song, THE BEST CHEAP VIDEO EVER MADE, is this: Nacchan walks down a dirt path in a school uniform with a bunch of other school kids in the background, as if she's late for something. She's not too hurried at the start, but as the song goes on, she picks up the pace, and is almost in a full sprint three minutes later, leaving the other kids in the dust behind her. It's all done in one shot, and the song plays, but she doesn't 'sing' it, she just keeps hurrying to some important encounter somewhere behind us. An analogy for something, probably 'heading towards fame', but still very open to interpretation.  

It's a religious experience for we viewers at the very least. We never find out what she is running to, she never gets there, and it doesn't seem to matter. This song is the perfect pep-talk for those times when we know we have to keep going despite all, but just can't seem to face the world.  

Sometimes when the mood is right I'll sing along with this song, and choke back tears when she gets to the bridge: "watashi wa Nacchan/utatte odoru/jyu go byo dake no Cinderella" and I realize that I'm crying over a f**kin' orange juice commercial, one that refers to 'becoming Cinderella in fifteen seconds', and I don't care, because it's really about something more, dammit! The next bridge is even more perfect for the occasion, "watashi wa Nacchan/itsu itsu made mo/kagayaki tsuzukeru Cinderella", (forever, a Cinderella shining endlessly), and it's you versus the WORLD! So if this twiggy little girl can face a seemingly insurmountable challenge, what's stopping you, eh?

Quickly bucking the orange juice image, she then released 'Renai 15 Simulation', which is a five-minute rap song. On first listen I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. Every listen after that I've been transfixed, bobbing my head like I'm Dr. Dre all of a sudden, and listenin' to her droppin' a flow over that slammin' beat.  

I've memorized this song, for godsakes, and once joked that I'd still listen to it "if it had been recorded with a boombox from a mile away". The song and the rap image (complete with Lakers jersey) that Nacchan conveyed gained her even more fame, and she had appearances on Hey Hey Hey and Utaban to promote the single, and the hosts were agape at her flow and gang-sign-flashing stage presence. A couple of years later, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that she's a little embarrassed about having recorded this song, maybe she's not, but had this been the only song she ever recorded, it would still be one of many high water marks.

I'll skip the next few singles and just say that each one was again very different from the predecessor. If you've never heard Perm Pavilion, quit reading this and find it and listen to it and watch the video! Same with Nana Navigation, which was the first Nacchan video I fell in love with, least of all for the building-licking dragon, an alien abduction thwarted by a magical wheeled suitcase, and, get this: Nacchan breaking into an already-soaring jet with a jackhammer! All while singing about a 'heart that runs on gasoline'.

She then turned a huge corner and is now in a punk/electronica band called Seventh Tarz Armstrong, my current weapon of choice when trying to blow out my pesky ol' eardrums (who needs em?).

Search her whole musical catalog, front to back, and find nothing but nails being hit on the head, from sentimental (Suki Desu) to cool urban kiddie-life (Famiresu Kousaten) to dance-pop (Nanapreme no Renai SO! DANCE! RADIO-7700), and all points in between.

Search her acting résumé, which I don't know very well, and find out that she's had more than a few gigs, and should be well up to the task at hand, the Girl's Box Movie.

And what does her character 'Nana' do here? Mostly she says, "Go away, I'm a bitch!" It can't be her fault... she's the real-life 'total producer' of Kingyo (propers!), a charming celebrity of her own merits, and as an idol she scores consistently higher[5] than Ms. Kayo Aiko (in a different age category, but still) so it's doubtful that in real life she's some alienated youth seeking refuge from stardom.

In subsequent viewings of LOVERS HIGH it's still unclear why she lives at the Girl's Box bar with everyone else, maybe she's related to someone, but she clearly doesn't work there and calls it "Garbage Box". So? Go find a bridge to live under, then, jeez... While she gets the pivotal role of handing a tape of the "Lover's High" song to Kingyo, and starts the sequencer at the end of the film to get the group a'going, I just wish they'd chosen a more upbeat and rounded personality for her character. Again, though, she plays it well. I'd been so stoked to write about Nacchan, as she just represents all that is hip and holy, and musically has been in every corner and still refuses to be pinned down to any one image, or any one genre. If there IS OR EVER WAS a more tuned-in 19-year-old Japanese girl, please let me know, and if so, she still couldn't have been this damned cute. This is fact, not opinion.

Her character's quirks (for me) lie mostly in her guitar-playing abilities. I'm a guitar player so I watched closely and have determined that she is NOT playing here, but only from one (1) cut of film can this be determined. I'd guess that in real life she is learning to play or knows some basics already, because it's believable, just not if you're watching very closely. Still, it's the little things... for instance, if you had written a song and were just banging it out for the first time on your acoustic guitar, you'd get to the end of the lyrics and stop right there to think 'should I add something here? did these words really flow? etc.' and instead, as I touched on earlier, she gets mad when Yua claps after having eavesdropped on the song. But again, if you were writing a song, you wouldn't end the verse, play for a few more bars, and then play the final resolving chord really strong as if it were a recording session (if you're just playing it to yourself). This isn't an 'error' as such, just a curiosity, because she seems to be playing the song for someone else. But Nana is CLEARLY loathing the fact that Yua had heard any of it. Later, when Yua sings the song to break up a bar brawl (and in the midst of this brawl, Nami is bustin' heads left and right), all the girls are impressed with Nana's 'secret' songwriting ability. But she didn't write it, really, she just belted it out to the fish in the river for no reason, and Yua picked up on it.

Next, we see Nana later putting a new string on her guitar, the fifth 'A' string. So I have too many questions, like: "are you going to do the last one, too?" because she puts the guitar in the case when she's done with that one, and if you restring the whole guitar, you usually go from one side to the other (basically, the middle strings are not the last ones you put on the guitar).  

Another question is:  "Did she just break the 'A' string?" as (a.) it happens, but usually it's the low 'E' or the high 'E', (b.) if it's been more than a week, you'll want to replace them all anyway (bronze acoustic strings oxidize (rust) very quickly, and you've got five rusted strings and one really twangy string in the middle), and (c.) if you break a string and your playing session ceases, you usually take the old string off and save putting on the new one for the next time you play. Maybe she's more in tune to the 'rusted string' theory than I am and will pick the guitar up again in a few days, nullifying the one-new-string's twang.

On the upside, she uses a capo on the fourth fret, and for all you aspiring -- or ol' pro -- guitar players, this is correct, I've checked.

(Image derived from Aiko's blog. Sorry I cut you out, Ms. Kayo, but you're up next, I promise.)

_ Wed 2008-09-17 6:57 PM

Girl's Box LOVERS HIGH Movie Review, Part Five
Finally, I get to talk about Aiko again.  I won't spend a lot of time talking about how cute she looks or how well she does with her part, as I'll have plenty of time in the future to do all this and more.  No, the issue at hand is LOVERS HIGH, the Girl's Box Movie, a film I've wanted to see since I heard it was being made.

In this film, Aiko plays 'Ai', a name which I'm sure took countless hours of thought, but I'm just kidding, that's not the important part.  She gets a much bigger role than Nacchan and like Nami (Nao) and Yua (Yu), Ai is a waitress at the Girl's Box bar. 

We get our first glimpse of Aiko in the "apartment" above the bar, slaving away making what looks like (at best) two helpings of beef stew. She offers Nami a taste test and Nami confirms that it's good indeed. This pleases Ai, until Nana wordlessly wanders off with her guitar. Ai says essentially, "where are you going, don't you want your thimble-full of stew?" and Nana replies, "lay off!" This does not please Ai, and their long-term rivalry is made apparent when Ai gets upset and starts throwing air punches and kicks, but the arrival of Yua is enough to lift Ai's spirits.

Throughout it all, Aiko plays the 'girlie' character that everyone likes, save Nacchan, who has issues with everyone. Ai cooks, she can't stand beer and she makes it known, and she gathers a crowd of would-be admirers when papering the town for the Big Blowout. Later, at the event itself, she's confronted by two men who say "hey, Ai, you said we could go out sometime!" alluding to some empty promise she'd made just to get them to the bar, and Miku (Michi) abandons Ai to deal with the situation on her own. Instead of standing up to the pair of guys, Ai wordlessly crouches to the floor with a panicked look as they lean in on her. Another hilarious/cute-as-a-bedbug's-ear moment from Aiko, and I laugh every time I see this.

It's soon discovered that Aiko has a singing talent and thus begins Phase 2 of 'Save Girl's Box', where a little bar becomes a big hit after showing off some local talent, courtesy of the soundtrack songs. She sings 'Runaway Girl' in a montage that shows the bar gaining more and more popularity, and in the end it's decided that Kingyo (Yua, Nami, and Aiko) should be formed and marketed. So they use Mama's old song, "Lover's High", and based on the strength of that one song, they are given the keys to super-stardom. And that's where the movie ends, you know, back where you bought the Lover's High single.

It's great to see Aiko in a movie, especially a good film like this. It was well-acted, well-edited, and well, everything else was enjoyable, and in repeated viewings it hasn't lost much integrity in this viewer's opinion. All the girls do a great job acting and singing, and at the end of the day, they have nothing to be ashamed of. I curse them not, and this movie has served its purpose in introducing me to the others to whom I haven't been paying attention. If only the marketing department[6] and the writers could be so lucky as to be spared the wrath of my rantings...

First of all, writers, that's enough! Stop pretending that Aiko needs to be coaxed into singing. Furthermore, stop perpetuating the myth that anyone can sing, provided you push on their stomach! She's been the featured soloist on 12 singles that date back to 5 years ago -- we don't need convincing! Even *if* it had to be done for delicate story purposes (i.e., to keep the bar in business), this is the one and only time you can play that card, and ever after, she's a singer! Not an "oh-my-god, I could have been singing this whole time" singer, but in reality, an "I can sing, I've done it before, it's no problem" singer. She sings; she's a singer.

Next, there's a scene in this movie where the girls first listen to "Lover's High" and we watch them fawn over the 'unheard' and beautiful song. This would've had more impact on the core audience, *if* we hadn't gone partially deaf in the last year from listening to it endlessly, waiting for the movie to come out. Kingyo really needed a B-side, you know, a 'c/w', which would have given the group a little more depth. Instead, you marketing geniuses said, "one song, that's all you get!" and it appears that the viewers have more insight into the group than the girls themselves. Please buy a clue and put the song out at the same time as the movie, not a full year before! Any of those who thought this movie might be slightly esoteric have already refused to buy a ticket based on the song they've already heard!

Last, when it comes to Special Features on the DVD, let's think about the market. If you offer a Special Edition for $20 more than the Regular version, please put features on the 'other disc' that the dedicated fan might like to see, and hasn't already been assimilated by the target audience.  The one feature which no one has already seen is a skit done by the lead actresses for the film's première, the rest are already in the collection of those who've paid a premium. The "Original PV Clip" of Lover's High... I already have. The "Movie Version PV Clip" of Lover's High... I already have. As I paid at least $10 more dollars each for the DVD versions of the single and movie soundtrack, respectively, I should get more from the "Special Edition" of the film. Is it too much to ask? Those who purchase the overpriced 'Special' film will undoubtedly have purchased the "Special Editions" of 'Lover's High' and the 'Girl's Box Movie Original Soundtrack'. Again, buy a clue... does it do any good in the long run, for Aiko's sake, to rip off hardcore fans while simultaneously alienating the casual fan?

I sigh deeply and admit that I'll buy anything which gives me more Aiko, anytime, anywhere. But it makes this fan wonder if the stone isn't exhausted from being bled dry. The future of Aiko depends on you marketing so-and-so's.  

A lot has changed since I first registered this site. She stopped putting out singles in favor of 'Cheer Up Indies!', another show which the Japanese can see but I can't. Her popularity could transcend Japan's coastal limits; her personality is so askew from the global status quo that we could use such optimism down here in the doldrums. And yet you squander it all for a quick buck.

Ms. Kayo, I have not lost faith in you. I'm writing you in for President, if only to see how the voting machines scan your name (嘉陽愛子). And the worst crime of all would be to let you fade into obscurity because your reputation has been besmirched. This site was intended as a counter to that possibility. 

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past[7].

_ Thurs 2008-09-18 8:39 PM


1 Not quite an industrial area, the location for this shoot is the southwest tip of Kōnan Park just southeast of the Rainbow Bridge (facing away from this direction to the southwest). The park neighbors Tokyo Kaiyodai Shinagawa Campus in Shinagawa (of course)

2 Explaining a joke might not make it funnier but this is a quote from Homer Simpson. His daughter Lisa asks, "Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for 'crisis' as they do for 'opportunity'?" and Homer responds "Yes, crisitunity!" in The Simpsons S6 E11 'Fear of Flying'

3 The girl group 'dream' consisted of three girls, and began in 2000. The main lyricist and performer Matsumuro Mai left in 2002 and an audition was held to replace her but resulted in 6 new members (8 girls total) and was rebranded as 'DRM' to note the change in personnel. The respective groups' musical output was starkly different and I hope most fans of the group would agree that the original group was more genuine and focused (also unarguably more successful) than the later version. Yu left the group in 2008.

4 Even though it looks like I was "going for something" here I was just trying to be cute in quoting the Beach Boys' 'I Get Around'

5 Naachan was usually 'ranked' somewhere circa # 20 - 30 and Aiko was closer to # 70 - 80 (as I recall) in magazine polls where they (I don't know who or how) gather votes about girl idols because of course this is 'a thing' in Japan

6 This film turned out to be (if not in fact the very final) the last major release by Avex for most of these idols, possibly all of them. As of 2018, Saaya Irie continues to work as a popular gravure idol as an old lady at age 24. Aiko and Yu continue to work in the entertainment industry (though much more off-camera) and have not married (someone else) to anyone's knowledge at this blog and they still hang out together IRL. In 2011 it was announced (supposedly by her talent agency, probably not Avex) that Nacchan was married with a child, and no other info is available about when either event happened. Nao married soccer player Koji Nakata in 2014 and they had a son in 2015 and a daughter in 2017. I kind of forgot about Mi-chan but in 2018 she is a somewhat active blogger with an interest (or maybe a career) in yoga, and does hella-yoga, and looks like she's doing FABULOUS. She does not publicly identify as having a child or partner but sometimes posts pictures of herself with other women and their babies, and she is holding a baby occasionally. If it's not altogether obvious that she doesn't have a child from the lack of 'mom posts' and a fairly active interest in cosmetics and her appearance to a degree that would require the time and composure of an individual with no other responsibilities, she once posted a series of pictures with her fawning over a cute baby with other women, and it's right plain who the mother is, as Mi-chan clearly seems to avoid any heavy-lifting when it comes to attending the child.

7 Plagiarized last sentence of the book 'The Great Gatsby' which some people think is pretty good (I mean the book and not just the last line specifically). Was supposed to read it for a class in high school. After getting an earful from the teacher about the book's wonderful symbolism (which seemed kind of obvious) and lacking a personal interest in stories about rich people having affairs - at a time, not much different from now, when I dreamed of someday being intimate with another human being - I decided that I didn't care and never really read this line (or anything else from the book) in context. It just confuses me. I mean, I GET it and there are a thousand explanations out there if you really want to learn what it means. So my intention was to be somewhat nihilistic, as in, "here's some more words, see you later."


Beside the fact that the movie ended a lot of careers, the plot is pretty dismal. The whole resolve of the movie is that the girls get to continue being barmaids in a rowdy bar, and that doesn't seem like a great reward. I suppose you could say that they keep performing at the bar and eventually get some better gigs but that's not what happened in reality. We watched famous singers pretend to be nobodies that become really minor stars who in real life kind of fell off the face of the earth for a while.

Kayo Aiko's Twelfth Single...

was released on April 4, 2007. The title is '勇気のチカラ' which is pronounced 'Yuuki no Chikara' and can be translated as 'Strength of Courage'. The c/w is 'Destiny ~未来という名の物語~' and the Japanese portion is pronounced 'Mirai to iu Na no Monogatari' and can be translated as 'A Story Called the Future'.

Only about 5 months had passed since the release of 'Cosmic Cosmetics' so it seemed Aiko was just going to keep releasing music, but this was her last solo single on the Avex label. They filmed a music video (PV) for the song and Aiko looked so grown-up at the age of 21. She was (and still is) a beautiful woman, but that doesn't sell records just by itself. Maybe Aiko thought it was time to take a break and even if she was let go (probable) she would have seen it coming. To be correct, she had another release June 6 (an album called 'POP') that contained 3 new songs including "Runaway Girl" which was included in the soundtrack for the Girl's Box: The Movie.

Whatever. Aiko showed up one last time all by herself for the ultimate power ballad that is 勇気のチカラand the world was richer for having it. From her debut single and all throughout her career, she made "sparkly" upbeat music that evoked pureness and a dream-like (almost magical) perpetually shimmering gag-me sweet wonderland on a foundation of solidly written tunes. And then there is 勇気のチカラ which takes all of those qualities up even higher and lands to thundering applause at the other side of the gorge.

This song became a part of my life, not because I chose it in particular but more because of circumstances. I started a ritual on New Years Eve where I played the Girl's Box TV Special Live concert from when Kingyo performs 'LOVERS HIGH' as a group before the lights fade at midnight and Aiko does a solo set which begins with 勇気のチカラ. Every year from 2008 to 2014 I made sure that this was the first song I heard at the stroke of midnight. Who needs Dick Clark when you've got Aiko taking the stage and saying "minna-san, konbanwa!" to mark the official beginning of a new year? Sometimes the timing was off by a minute or so but it wasn't time to celebrate New Years until she said this, and she always did. I was 25 when this tradition started and it lasted until I was 32.

This release was truly something you could point at and say, "why isn't there more of this?" So I guess it was some unofficial vigil for her return until she actually did so in 2014. But back in 2007 she still had a single with Kingyo (a trio also featuring Yu Hasebe from dream and Nao Nagasawa). They simultaneously starred in Girl's Box: The Movie.

I began blogging at a steady pace for about a little less than a year and a half starting with posts about the movie and I had a brief exchange between blogs like helloblog and intlwota that got me a little bit of traffic. People started reading S.P.A.K.A. (the Society for the Preservation of Anything Kayo Aiko), and what people probably don't know is that S.P.A.K.A. is an actual thing: it really IS just me but there are rules. These rules started to be written the moment I first held a Kayo Aiko cd, as it was so elegantly packaged and I wanted to keep it like new forever. I also got a poster in the package that I wanted to put on the wall. So I came up with something like this.

(These are not official rules but paraphrasing, consult an attorney for actual legal advice.)

1. Do not put holes in posters or affix them to walls with any adhesive that could potentially discolor, stain, or damage the poster. (This is why I started framing posters)

2. When unrolling the poster, do so slowly on a large prepared surface and use books to hold the poster down and tall books to pull the poster open, this is to avoid the poster creasing on the short edge and also minimizes contact with oils on the hands.

3. Open a cd by inserting an X-acto knife (with a clean blade) tip into the center of the "V" (bottom right corner) then slicing downward cutting to the exact edge of the lower corner and through the bottom. Turn knife 90 degrees and slice down the long edge (back of the cd), being careful not to rub the blade on the cd case. At the edge, make a clean straight cut through the left side so the case is now able to slip through the cellophane. Make a mirrored cut on the side where you started and slide the cd out.

4. Always hold a cd case by the top and bottom (smallest dimension) edges and also try to avoid pressing your fingertip too far over the edge where the case will fog from moisture. (The whole point is to preserve these things, and yes I'm crazy). When opening a cd, always place the case on a (confirmed clean/dry) flat surface like a desk or table and handle the case by the edges.

5. Rip the music from the disk at full quality and scan the artwork including the tray sheet (because they used to just use white paper to line cd's but Aiko's have pictures EVERYWHERE).

6. Repackage the cd and store in an archival box, as the materials are all now available electronically and the materials will be preserved in best condition. Incidentally I forgot to mention that you're not supposed to breathe while the cd is open, good luck with that.

7. Any and all available materials such as videos, photographs, books, cd's, texts of interviews or song lyrics will be saved in a manner most appropriate for that medium (physical or electronic).

Also, one time I took down an Aiko poster in anger and called her a bad name. I came so very close to smashing the poster, frame and all, over the back of my couch*. That probably would have ended S.P.A.K.A. but I have kept the idea (and the poster) intact.

The c/w of this single is a low-key disco-y number that I always thought reminiscent of Donna Summer, until I actually listened to Donna Summer and even I admit that Aiko's got nothing on her. Nevertheless it is a solid track as Aiko songs always are. If you're reading this to see if I'd recommend buying a copy for yourself, um, YES. But maybe you should have done that over 10 years ago, it would have helped out. You and thousands of other people.

If you've read this far, thank you. I will go get more words and put them on this site in just a bit.

*"Why did you do that, Jyoru?" Here comes my new catch phrase: Long story; tell you later.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Classic Post! #11

Kayo Aiko's Eleventh Single...was released on - what? Yeah, I skipped 9 and 10, I'll come back to those. This is MY site, I'll do what I want!

Kayo Aiko's eleventh single was released on 11/15/2016. The title is 'cosmic cosmetics' and the c/w is 約束の樹の下で... which can be pronounced 'Yakusoku no Ki no Shita de...', and can be translated as 'Promise Under the Tree'.

Aiko was continuing a string of upbeat A-sides, beginning with 'Kanojo', then 'Hold on to love', then 'HOME MADE STAR', and there was no video for this song or the previous one. I think by this point they decided that you were either *on* or *not on* the Aiko boat, and it was going to sell whether or not they made a PV.

I had pre-ordered both the limited and regular editions from CDJapan so it was in my hands but days after it was released. I really liked the songs from the first listen. Standard practice was to put the A-side on repeat for the first couple days or so. The first time I really listened to the c/w, I was moving my couch, not an easy task with a hide-a-bed tucked inside. Still, I was struck by how gorgeous the song really is.

So here's the deal, fans and readers... this single is, like, the polar opposite of 'Little planets'. Again, you get a seemingly-odd juxtaposition of quirky/beautiful songs, only this time, the performances are switched. Let me explain.

'cosmic cosmetics' is a fun and quirky song. Aiko's vocals sound very restrained, very cool and competent. She's not going wild singing this song, just having fun and being rather cutesy. 

On the c/w (again, a beautiful slow song) the vocals are free... not that she's going wild here, either, but by the end, there's eight or more layers of Aiko vocals, just killing you with beauty.

This isn't a case of 'if you can only afford *one* single...' BUY THIS! It's worth every penny or rupee that you'll spend for it. BUY THE G*DDAMNED SINGLE ALREADY! Lie, cheat, steal, pillage, and kill (if necessary). You *will* be able to afford it.

When this came out, I remember someone saying it 'sounds exactly like what I thought it would'. What the hell does that mean? Was that person so in tune with what Aiko was doing that when the time came to hear the single, he thought, 'I've already heard this.'? Now I suppose that if you're familiar with Aiko's work, and you know that the title is 'cosmic cosmetics', you could probably picture in your mind what it might sound like. But to write it off completely because it sorta matched your preconceptions, well

If I ever find the person that said that, I will tie them up and force them to listen to the A-side for a week straight. It wouldn't be so bad, actually... it's a damn good song, one of my absolute favorites, Aiko or otherwise. I'm not just being objective - there's a real and tangible reason why this is one of the best.Reason why: Nakata Yasutaka. Yeah, that's him, the guy who produces Perfume (YEAAAAHHHHH!) and also, a little outfit called 'capsule' (YEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!).

I don't know how they managed to wrangle him in to do this track and I really don't need to know. Guy's a friggin' genius when it comes to pop music. What's odd is how different this song is from his Perfume/capsule output. It's got his 'signature' all over it, to be sure... but I think that he approached it from a different angle, because he totally nails the 'Aiko sound'. If every one of Aiko's songs was top-of-the-heap, cream-of-the-crop (it's not a big stretch of the imagination), this guy (or someone with a similar sense) would have produced them. He got his vision across and at the same time put Aiko on a silver platter. This single made me into a Perfume/capsule fan, a die-hard one, in fact.

So are we clear? If these two songs aren't in your music collection, you don't have a collection yet, and I feel sorry for you. As a warning, it may sound exactly like what you thought... 'cuz if you're thinking, 'awesome', you're right.

If you can manage to get the limited edition, chances are that yours will come complete with Aiko's 'John Hancock'... like this:

[Original post date 2009-May-30]

Postscript: This is still one of my most favorite Aiko songs and it's hard to believe that it was released over 10 years ago. As I mentioned in the A Big Plug For Perfume post, "Hearing Aiko's 'cosmic cosmetics' these days, it's like, "this is the Perfume guy!" Perfume + Aiko = seriously, the best thing ever?" And you know, it could very well be the case. This song has really stood the test of time for this listener.

I also still listen to the c/w track quite a bit. I'm a big fan of harmonies and hearing the same singer layered over a big range (like Queen) and this is probably the richest example in Aiko's catalog.

Not surprisingly, the limited edition is no longer available but you can still get the limited edition of her next and final Avex single, Yuuki no Chikara from cdjapan as we go about 2017.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Classic Post! A Big Plug for Perfume

If I was to go back in time about ten years to tell my former punk-rock self that my new favorite music is Japanese techno-pop, I might catch a bit of flak.  On the other hand, the old me might be intrigued by the idea, and demand to listen to it.  As the music I love now would not have been made at that point, it might cause a rip in the time-space continuum and destroy the world.

Since I can't be a time-traveler, I don't spend too much time worrying about destroying my old habits.  Rather, I'm spending most of my time designing speakers that are 100 feet in diameter so I can blast the new Perfume record "GAME" and introduce everyone on the continent to its genius.

I first became aware of Perfume after their producer Nakata Yasutaka worked with Ms. Kayo Aiko for her 'cosmic cosmetics' single.  

Their style is almost always a mix of candy-pop and hard techno.  It didn't take me long to buy a few of their records, namely "Complete Best" and "Fan Service - Sweet", but I waited a long time to receive "Complete Best" because it was selling like crazy all over the world.  Despite having never been to Japan, my taste has matched theirs in the past couple of years.

Perfume put out a couple more singles, "Polyrhythm" and "Baby Cruisin' Love" before they released their second record, which is "GAME".  After I thoroughly exhausted the "Complete Best" CD and previewing the new singles, I thought that they may have reached their creative peak.  Everything after seemed to sound the same to me, and my opinion was that they were releasing the same song again and again, only with new words to fill the chorus section.  

So I held off on buying "GAME";  what a BIG mistake that was.  One listen and I've become convinced that this is one of the best albums ever made.  Every track is good, but the next track is even better!  Again, the Japanese share my sentiments:  the album and the follow-up single "love the world" both reached #1 over the summer.

I can't think of a group more deserving of such success.  Though I've become used to it over time, the first listening of "Electro-World" was an unforgettable experience.  It sounded as if a Nintendo had exploded, joined the Beatles, and channeled the spirit of 'Thriller'-era Michael Jackson.  In other words, an untouchable electronic hit!

It's notable and fitting that the girls are from Hiroshima.  Some 60 years after we caused unprecedented devastation to their future home, Nocchi, Kashiyuka, and A-chan rise from the ashes and show the world how music is supposed to be made.  The usual question of 'who is your favorite?' does not come into play;  to choose one is to eliminate two other perfectly capable (and desirable) girls from the wota repertoire.*  They're like the Borg.

But, like most girl-groups, they depend largely on their producer who deserves the musical equivalent of the Nobel Prize for coming up with this stuff.  I might be more inclined to go clubbing if they'd play Perfume songs at a deafening volume around here but, sadly, they don't. I'm so tempted to go sneak a song in, just to wake everyone up.

But for now, it's back to work on those giant speakers.

[Original post date 2008-Oct-11]

*So yeah, first I was an A-Chan fan, then Kashiyuka won me over, and now I'm really crushing hard for Nocchi.  All three of them, really, are unbelievable goddesses.  I had the honor of seeing them perform from up close and if only I could have stared at all three of them simultaneously the whole time, I would have.

Postscript: In the 6+ years since I wrote this post, Perfume has become my favorite group, probably of all time. I could go on for DAYS about all the things they've totally knocked out of the park along the way.

I think that the phrase, "they depend largely on their producer" was a little simplistic and slightly uninformed.  The girls themselves do seem to have a lot of input towards musical and theatric details and the whole group of people behind this amazing outfit deserve a collective accolade.  I would guess that Nakata probably gets final cut and is also probably the driving force in shaping their overall sound.

They have released 3 more albums since this writing, and musically, Perfume just kept getting better and better - when it was already supremely awesome to begin with.  Hearing Aiko's 'cosmic cosmetics' these days, it's like, "this is the Perfume guy!"  Perfume + Aiko = seriously, the best thing ever?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kayo Aiko's Tenth Single...

was released on August 23, 2006.  The title is '☆HOME MADE STAR☆ ~嘉陽愛子のテーマ~', the Japanese portion is pronounced 'Kayo Aiko no teemu' and can be translated as 'Kayo Aiko's Theme'.  The c/w is 'Orange road'.

Limited edition cover

Regular edition cover

Aiko's first album "Dolce" (really more of a collection of singles as both of her "albums" have been) was released in March of 2006 and with the only exception being the B-side of "Little Planets," they basically drained the well of all of her past material.  Which must have pissed off a few hardcore fans who'd been there since the beginning, having to buy a whole album for just 3 new songs.  Frankly, for fans like me who were just discovering her, "Dolce" was a godsend.  It featured all of the A-sides of her first nine singles so it saved me the task of having to track down all nine cd's at a time when I knew little (if any) Japanese and YouTube was still less than a year old so there were only 7 Aiko videos up for quite a long time.  (I still remember the shock of seeing that a new video had been uploaded one day, very much out of the blue.  It happened a couple of times as the site got more popular.  But whoever did that, thank you!)

So the summer came and was nearly over when HOME MADE STAR came out and it sort of was a resetting point as far as her music goes.  I wasn't really sure what to expect but once I hit play my stereo was going bonkers and I was just loving this song like crazy.  I couldn't wait to get it playing in the car and blast the crap out of it so that everyone could hear.  "Hey everyone!" I would say, "this is brand-fucking-new!"

The basic instrumentation of this song is a glossy, busy synth-bass, overlaid with horns (synth) and some wacka-ja-wacka guitar, topped with 15 layers of Aiko + the way-into-it backup singers (HAAAAAAAAA!) vocal tracks.  For being a Japanese idol pseudo-disco track it's actually pretty funky and really just a very unique and catchy song.

'Orange road' is a fairly mellow track about fall colors and just has a nice breezy mood about it.  Aiko's singing is rarely more earnest than her performance on this song, as she displays a strong grasp of some more difficult intervals and yet at some points nearly comes to a whisper.  There is an interesting vinyl crackling going on throughout the song and it's got touches of Magical Mystery Tour here and there as well.

I skipped over this single in my original reviews and it's taken nearly five years for me to come back and write this overview, but it's not from a lack of interest by any means.  This remains one of my most favorite Aiko singles after so many years and I loved it to death when I first listened to it way back when.  Not much has changed.  The A-side has so much power and the B-side is so contrastingly beautiful that I could probably go on for days and still have plenty to say about it.  I probably wanted to write a million words about this in the first place but was exhausted by the time I had written about all of the others to get to this point that I just gave up, thinking I had said everything possible about how great Aiko is and how much of a joy it is to listen to her music.

The downside of this release is that it was the first of her singles to not have an accompanying PV and that really kind of stung me.  It was a time of uncertainty -- I wondered, would this be her last single?  And other questions that were eventually answered as time went on.  No, this would not be her last recording, I have come to find out.  There was still a surprise or two to be revealed.