Perfume: Magic of Love and Handy Man

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It’s a good few months late, and Ian Martin’s already got his usual snappy and insightful piece down on it, but since it’s finally made it onto my iPod–and since I want to try to update this stupid blog at least three times a month–I figure I’ll share my thoughts on Perfume’s (relatively) new Magic of Love single.

Ever since JPN, which was effectively a convenient way to pack away and forget about the group’s previous year of alright but not-quite-to-standard singles, Perfume has been back up to form this year (let’s forget about that fucking awful Mirai no Museum thing) with Magic of Love leading the pack. While not a deviation from Perfume’s bread-and-butter pop formula, it’s clear from the overall complexity of the composition and the song’s multiple extended instrumental breaks that Nakata wants us to know that he put effort into this one.

A far cry from the group’s simpler days of Chocolate Disco, Magic of Love‘s chorus is very involved with subtle touches in the instrumentals underscoring the lyrics, grabbing your ear that extra bit more. Yeah, it’s not that different from every other Perfume chorus where they say the English title of the song followed by corny Japanese lyrics, but there’s something more in there that’s compelling. The same can be said of the verses–it’s the same formula as usual, but there are a few interesting effects here and there that effectively complement the girls’ voices and emphasize key points in the lyrics giving the song a richer sound than your typical pop track. Speaking of the girls’ voices, while the music video makes it especially obvious, there is noticeably less distortion over the girls’ voices, allowing the natural differences in their voices to shine through, giving the track further depth. The big instrumental breaks Nakata shoves in do seem a bit extraneous, but pop music rarely has stuff like that, so they’re nice additions that keep things interesting.

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Much like the instrumentals, the lyrics are formulaic–typical lovey dovey sentiments that keep pop music in Japan afloat–but Nakata remixes those ideas into eloquent arrangements of words that are far more than a few steps above the typical Japanese, “I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU FOREVER!!”

Things close off somewhat abruptly, but overall Magic of Love recaptures some of that lost Perfume magic, and boy do I love it.

Handy Man, the single’s b-side, is another one of Perfume’s forays into near straight up dance music, utilizing sounds more on the abrasive side of the electronic spectrum, with some distorted violins thrown in–an exotic flavor rare in Nakata’s tracks (the bagpipes in Kyary’s Tsukema Tsukeru come to mind.) There are some echos of Player (I mean that in a good way… I think) in there, obviously drawing influence from the sorts of things Nakata spins at his monthly parties. As far as Perfume’s dance stuff goes, I prefer Daijoubanai over this song, but it’s cool that Nakata’s trying to sneak in some more aggressive sounds under Perfume’s usual sweet, easy-on-the-ear vocals. I ain’t crazy about Handy Man, but it certainly ain’t bad.

And honestly, considering how shitty that I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, FOREVER song I heard in a Sukiya that one time is, anything Nakata puts out is leagues above the giant sack of sappy and behind-the-times horse shit that makes up basically all of Japanese pop music.

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