In theory, idol music should be My Thing. It’s a magical union of two things I love: beautiful women, and music. However, as is usually the case, reality is far more grim than the ideal. While idols typically are cute, the music they sing on top of typically isn’t “creative” or “interesting”, two key factors that allow me to classify something as “good.” This being the case, my idol intake is quite low. In fact, it’s limited to the work of a single producer.
That being my mindset, I tend to find myself receptive to criticisms of the idol culture that seems to be keeping Japanese music from being anything exportable. So naturally, my interest was piqued when Negicco–a no-name idol trio from Niigata–released a single with the title Stop Only Listening to Idol Music at the end of May. Oh, and it’s produced by Pizzicato Five’s Konishi Yasuharu!
I obviously jumped on this shit right away.
Within the opening seconds you’re instantly flung back into the late 90s. The track’s catchy strings and organ backed by a hot bass wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a late-era P5 record. Characteristic of Konishi’s faster compositions, the music is assertive and straight-forward, with the rapidly paced instrumentals punctuated by upbeat horns, disco strings, and sugary doo-doo-doos on the part of the girls. It’s crisp, tight and stylish–basically what one expects from Konishi Yasuharu, and not what one expects from idol music.
But while the instrumentals certainly are hot, the words on top are even hotter. Not only did Konishi do the instrumentals for this song, but he wrote the lyrics, too. I haven’t read any recent interviews with Konishi, but if this song is any indication, he may just have something against idol fans. The lyrics are brimming with several jabs against idol fans, that burn all the more when fired from the pink perky lips of the idols they so love.
The disses open up softly with the usual zingers–stuff like, “you can’t date that girl” and “you can’t kiss her.” However, as the song enters its final stretch, Negicco begins to beat down fiercely. In the visual parlance of anime, imagine one of those scenes where a character is getting struck through constantly by cartoon arrows that have mean-but-true things written on them. In what is probably no more than 30 seconds near the end of the song, the girls twist their knives, questioning prospects of marriage, taking shots at physical fitness, and finish with the classic, “shouldn’t you just grow up?” The girls also just full-on call idol fans idiots, and constant cheers of “TOO BAD” work as the perfect exclamation marks punctuating each diss.
Sure, at the end, Negicco reassures their fans that if they just stick to Negicco, they’ll be alright. But it’s kind of insincere.
So basically, the song is a giant smack to the face. Cute girls, mean lyrics, all topped off by slick production. I had alluded to this earlier, but what makes this song work is the fact that cute idols are singing these not-very-nice lyrics, and the juxtaposition that creates. While the lyrics are biting, the delivery doesn’t go over-the-top or harsh; remaining upbeat and poppy. It works beautifully.
The music video is also quite good, with neat design choices and snappy editing. I imagine there isn’t much meaning to the imagery, but shots of un-answered ringing telephones, and scenes of the girls looking bored, half-heartedly doing their idol dance in front of untouched fruit tarts effectively conveys the song’s core idea of real women being ignored for idols. Of course, the irony is that the girls in the video are, obviously, idols. But between the Tetris blocks, close-ups of wedding rings, and multiple shots of the phrase “TOO BAD” flashed in our faces, one particularly clever shot comes right near the end. When the girls close off on the line I mentioned earlier reassuring the listeners about listening to Negicco–they say it while reflected on a TV screen, shot from far away. In other words, even if one does decide to restrict their idol intake to Negicco, even they will remain behind a monitor, far away.
The question undoubtedly on everyone’s mind is: Why does this song exist? Unfortunately, I am unable to provide an answer to this question, but it’s clear that Konishi Yasuharu somehow found himself writing an idol song, and took full advantage of the chance to call otaku retards for losing their shit over handshake events and continuing to purchase CDs in this 21st century. Hey, wait… I bought the single for this thing…
Anyway, instead of me trying to beat into your head how good this song is, give it a listen for yourself, and follow along with the provided translation if you please.
The single has a b-side. When I first listened to it, I tried to pretend it had some Shibuya-kei magic to it, but that was in fact just the afterglow of Konishi’s song mixed with random P5 references in the lyrics. The lameness of this b-side is made more obvious upon sampling tracks from Negicco’s best-of album, all of which are mediocre.
So guys, don’t worry! Negicco aren’t special idols who distinguish themselves with good production and cheeky lyrics! You can rest easy just enjoying Konishi’s song! Thank God for that, huh?
Oh, the CD ends with some short tracks of the girls speaking, which are primarily made up of P5 jokes. It’s funny hearing them stumble on the “spectacular” in “a new stereophonic sound spectacular.”