Happy Review Monday!
This week I review an act that’s not an idol, but she’s a young Japanese female singer who loves idols, so I’m basically saying it’s OK today. It’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu! She’s one of those artists I don’t mention much… mostly because I don’t think about her all that much. I really enjoy Kyary’s music when I hear it, but I REALLY appreciate it when it’s in album format. Pamyu Pamyu Revolution has become one of my favorite JPop albums. So when my friend said I should do Nanda Collection for this review series, I naturally used it as an excuse to purchase Nanda Collection off iTunes. So how is Yasutaka Nakata and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s second album?
1. Nanda Collection – like in Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, Kyary starts out with an opening track to introduce the album. It’s hard to review this, really, because it’s just an intro track. However, I really like the idea, because it really solidifies that this is meant to be an album, not just a collection of singles. While Nanda Collection doesn’t lead into Ninja Re Bang Bang quite as well as Pamyu Pamyu Revolution lead into Tsukema Tsukeru in that album, this is a nice opener. Choosing to start with more traditional Japanese sounds (chanting “Pamyu Pamyu” with drums, perhaps the connection to Ninja Re Bang Bang) the track opens up into more electronic sounds that feel a lot like Kyary. This, much like PPR, sounds like it should be played at Disneyland and, personally, encapsulates Kyary’s childishness and exuberance. Really good so far.
2. Ninja Re Bang Bang – Right off the bat, one of the best recent Kyary Pamyu Pamyu singles. This is Kyary’s take on attempting to have a more traditional Japanese influence on her very modern style of music (or is it an Americanized version? This is a really interesting review I’m going to write about for my Wednesday post). If you’ve read my reviews/posts before you should know that I love stuff that melds and mixes genres, and Ninja Re Bang Bang does this very well. It still sounds like the futuristic, high energy stuff that KPP is known for; this is undoubtedly a KPP song. However it mixes in this outside influence so well that it never feels out of place. Ninja Re Bang Bang takes a bit of outside influence, a lot of Kyary’s strangeness, and mixes it all up into being a catchy pop song. It’s never over the top (like some of her songs can be), but it’s mostly light and fun to listen to. The chorus is catchy to a ridiculous point, and it’s one of the songs I find myself singing to myself to occasionally. Very pleasant, this is one of Kyary’s best. 9/10
3. Kimi ni 100 Percent – OK this song. Before I got Nanda Collection I hadn’t heard it (mostly because I really only pay attention to the PVs until I get an album). However, this is one of the most addicting songs, while also being one of the most “normal” songs as well. While the arrangement fits very well into the rest of Kyary’s music (especially the background vocals being given the vocoder treatment), nothing sounds that out of the ordinary for a pop song. Because that’s what this is; a very tight (just over three minutes long), very polished, cute JPop song. It’s not too weird, it’s not too out there, it’s just a really good pop song. 10/10
4. Super Scooter Happy – This is a cover of a capsule song. In making this review, I decided to listen to the original, which is luckily on Youtube (just search the song title) and I was kind of disappointed to hear that the original and the Kyary version are VERY similar. As in, there haven’t been any big significant changes to the arrangement. I get that capsule is Yasutaka Nakata’s music, as well, but this is pretty disappointing. Despite that, this is a really fun song. The music/instrumentation really reminds me of music from Mario games; it feels like this song should be in Super Mario Sunshine or Mario Kart or something. This is kind of a common thing for Kyary’s music; a lot of the music from Pamyu Pamyu Revolution felt like it should be in Katamari Damacy. To the point where I would gladly shell out money to play Pamyu Pamyu Damacy.
Namco, you’re welcome.
But yeah, even if I’m disappointed in this not being too different from the original, and even though it’s not my favorite song off the album, it’s still really good and nice to listen to. 7/10
5. Invader Invader – This is a song at first I wasn’t sure of. It’s strange, sure, but it’s going in the whole dubstep direction which I’m a bit iffy to. However, this song has become a fast favorite of mine. The whole concept of doing a song like this really fits Kyary simply because she does such strange music.
For being one of the weirder, more dubstep influenced songs of the album, there’s a remarkable amount of mellow, slower parts, especially as she gears into the fast-paced chorus. There are a lot of strange sounds, but all of them work in a song called “Invader Invader.” This is the type of song that fits Kyary’s personality perfectly, and it totally works. The song’s addicting, strange, and all works. 9/10
On a sidenote, Kyary’s voice in here kind of sounds like Elmo’s. So should Kyary make an appearance on Sesame Street? As the Fashion Monster?
6. Me – Right away, this is a brash song. It starts out percussion heavy, and moves into being one of the most ostentatious songs on the album. There’s a (pretty annoying) whiny sound that goes along when she sings “Mi mi mi mi mi mi” in the chorus, and everything’s all brass and percussion. Looking up the lyrics, I can’t decide if this is completely intentional and a critique of ego-driven pop music or if it’s just being kind of irritating.
I can’t really decide if I like this or dislike this. Part of it seems to be trying to be a critique, but then I just have to stop listening to the annoying whining sound that goes along with her singing. I normally like weird music, and normally I dig what Kyary does, but this is just not my song, I’m sorry. 5/10
7. Fashion Monster – OK, can you imagine Kyary coming out as a cameo on Sesame Street, belting out “Fashion MONSTER!!!” as her entrance? No? Well, I can, so. PBS make it happen.
Anyways, Fashion Monster. I know people who love this song (hint, the person who requested this review, hi!), but it personally doesn’t live up to singles like Ninja Re Bang Bang and Invader Invader to me. I do enjoy the pseudo-Halloween feel to the whole thing, and I love every section where Kyary belts out “Fashion Monster!” To me, it feels like the whole song was built around that one line, so the verses feel underwhelming to the rest of the song. I don’t even think the verses aren’t good, because they’re fine, but they really only serve, to me, as connective tissue between “Fashion Monster!!!”
That said, the arrangement is very good, and I really like selective parts of it. I just think, as a cohesive song, it doesn’t really fit together as well as it should. Which is a shame, because I really like all the parts (maybe the song is the Frankenstein’s monster of songs? Oooh, I like that as a theory). This is a type of thing I wish I loved more but I just don’t. 6/10
8. Saigo no Ice Cream – This song, on the other hand, is weird but fits. The first bit is a organ solo before it breaks into synth straight out of the early 90s. The song gets weirdly epic and cool for being a song literally about ice cream. However, this really fits in well with Kyary’s style, so I don’t think I can really argue that it’s not a fitting song.
I really like this song. It may not be quite as catchy as Kimi ni 100% or as interesting as Invader and Ninja, this is really a nice synth song about Ice cream. It’s nothing earth shaking (though I do want more solos like the organ solo at the beginning) but it’s really nice and I’m definitely glad it’s a song on the album. 7/10
10. Noriko to Norio – Woah, do I hear a bit of enka influence in Kyary’s vocals? This is certainly not an enka song by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels like what enka could be if Kyary reinvented genre. This is such a strange sound/melody, with some dissonant sounds and a lot of minor (as opposed to major) tone. The result is a song that’s weird and not immediately catchy or engaging as Kyary’s other songs. The song’s just weird. With heavy drums and piano near the beginning, the instrumental has a bit of the annoying, whining sound from Me thrown in there, though thankfully not as much as that song.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with what influenced this, but this seems like a really good candidate for a song that would be created if someone sat down and decided to write the weirdest song. With strange instrumentation, vocal direction and occasional spoken “Noriko” and “Norio,” this is a strange song, even by Kyary’s already strange standards.
I like it, but beyond that I’m not even sure. I don’t know how much I’ll choose to listen to this in the future, and I can’t say if it’s likable to anyone else. This is just strangeness personified. Which, in itself, is pretty cool. 6/10
10. Furisodeshon – From the dissonant and “I’m-not-quite-sure-how-pleasant-this-is-actually-to-listen-to” Noriko to Norio comes Furisodeshon, one of the single songs (on the same single as Kimi ni 100 Percent, but promoted much more). Right away this is a much more accessible song, which is a very welcome thing after something like Noriko to Norio.
In my opinion, Furisodeshon is definitely a really good song and I really like listening to it, but it feels like one of the least Kyary songs on the album. There are bits of the instrumentation that lets you know “oh yeah, remember that this is being done by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu” but had this been arranged slightly differently, this is the type of song that I think could have been done by pretty much any idol act. This is not inherently a bad thing; I quite like this arrangement, as a sucker for strings and piano in my idol music. However, when I listen to Kyary music, what I want is Kyary music. She doesn’t do this poorly, far from it. I really like this. It just doesn’t have as much of the Kyary feel as some of her other stuff, which is a bit of a shame. 7/10
11. Kura Kura – From a song that doesn’t feel a lot like Kyary to a song that is VERY Kyary; if there’s one thing that can be said about Kyary albums it’s that they’re paced well. This is a very strange almost carnivalesque song that sounds like it’s a music box plus carnival plus Merry go Round plus Kyary. I really like how the song at first sounds like a happy, music box type song, but kind of degenerates into a dissonant, almost creepy sound.
This is a song that makes a bit more sense to me than Noriko to Norio, feels a lot more like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu than Furisodeshon, and ultimately sounds interesting. It’s chaotic and weird, but it makes sense and uses its dissonance and strangeness very well. It’s not immediately likable in the way that some of her singles are, but it’s still very good and is a song I like a lot. 8/10
12. Otona na Kodomo – Otona na Kodomo, meaning “an adult-like child,” is a lot like how Kyary really is; the mix between adult and child gets mixed up and mashed up in her music, style and PVs. So this is a fitting endcap to Kyary’s album.
It feels like a lot more of an accessible song than Kura Kura, but there’s a lot of really Kyary-like stuff in there, such as the overuse of xylophone. The arrangement, with a chorus of “ahs” behind, feels rich and full as Kyary sings. While by many standards this would be a mid-paced song, this is one of the most mellow songs on the album. While it’s not quite as nice of an ending as Oyasumi and Chan Chaka Chan Chan (the last two songs on Pamyu Pamyu Revolution), it feels like a really good mix of the two, almost. It’s a mellower song, a nice ending after the chaotic and strange album, but it still feels very Kyary-like. 9/10
Overall: I really enjoy this album. However, I have to say I prefer Pamyu Pamyu Revolution as an album. This isn’t to say that everything on that album was better; there are quite a few songs on this album that I think I enjoy more. However, Pamyu Pamyu Revolution was a nice, mellow, easy album to listen to. I’ve listened to it all the way through quite a bit, which I don’t even do with a lot of idol albums. This feels a lot more chaotic and disjointed; perhaps it’s makes for more interesting songs, and I know this was a well-paced album, but I’m not quite sure I’ll listen to it all the way through as much as I did Pamyu Pamyu Revolution.
Still, if you’re a Kyary fan and you haven’t picked it up or even if you vaguely like some of Kyary’s songs, definitely check it out. This is a really great album, and it’s well worth your time and money.