Totally extreme and truly outrageous Japanese idols group BiS don’t hold back at all when it comes to their music videos (see here and here for previous examples). And for their latest clip, “STUPiG”, to be featured on a new maxi single slated for release in early 2014, the girls – who together comprise the “Brand New Idol Society” – appear to have travelled to a bizarre biomechanical dimension made of pure crazy, a million laser lights, and very ear-bleeding sounds...sort of the like Tokyo Robot Restaurant as filtered through bath salts and a terrible fever.
No matter if you find “STUPiG” and BiS fascinating or just nightmare inducing, you have to admit, when it comes to idols, it sure is different from AKB48!
Bonus! Official visual and covers for the STUPiG maxi-single (produced by AA= of the The Mad Capsule Markets)
As the current Era of Warring Idols gathers momentum in
Japan, it seeks out new hosts around the world, mutating and evolving like a
hungry virus in order to survive. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the bizarre
“B-pop” inspired shenanigans of Brazilian-Japanese idol unit Linda III Sei.
Now, the girls of hy4_4yh (pronounced “Hyper Yoyo”) have set sail for Indonesia
and a new frontier in hyperactive sound.
Safeguarding their passage into these strange lands is DJ Jet
Baron, aka Mandokoro Takano, formerly of pioneering Japanese nerdcore group Leopaldon.
Ever on the hunt for bad taste and Asian trash culture, DJ Jet Baron
eventually tuned into the obscure Funkot (“funky kota”) scene happening in
Indonesia based around terrifying 180 bpm music that some house music pundits have compared
to Happy Hardcore. Back in Japan, Jet Baron became a prophet of sorts, holding
sweaty Funkot parties at his Acid Panda Cafe club in Tokyo and getting the
music out to the masses via appearances on TBS Radio. Funkot became something
of an underground sensation and took up roots in Japan, which have now borne strange
fruit and even stranger outfits...
Formed in 2005, Idol unit hy4_4yh (above) were already a crazy and
borderline uncontrollable bunch of zany girls to begin with (their live gigs are particularly exhausting), but now they have sold
their souls to Funkot in their new song and video “Ticckkeee Operation ~ YAVAY”, arranged by Jet Baron, and the results may just have you thrashing about on the floor and frothing at the mouth.
The song makes much use of the word YAVAY (which most people just
Romanize as “yabai”, but whatever… ), which the official hy4_4yh ministry of propaganda claims, “is a new Japanese slang. It's an adjective which means more than
CRAZY, COOL and ILL.” The video makes use of the only three known locations
that can visually match the fury of the wild Funkot beat: the synapse frying Tokyo
Robot Restaurant, the streets of Shibuya, and the Acid Panda Café itself.
Where Japan will go next in search of new sounds and gimmicks
to mine is anyone's guess, but know this: the Era of Warring Idols has gone
global and the prognosis is YAVAY.
Future generations will
look back on the current Era of Warring Idols (アイドル戦国時代) in pure wonderment and stark terror. Maybe there
will even be memorial buildings and military museums filled with hundreds of
bizarre and sparkly girl’s dresses hung up behind bulletproof glass, along
of autographed relics, and interactive
“survivor’s tales” from fans and performers alike.
The war’s inevitability will be one of the major study points for
visiting students, and how,
short of going back in
time to prevent the invention of the microprocessor, there really could have been no way to stop it: the Rise of the B-Grade Idols.
The flashpoint occurred the moment that indie producers
latched onto affordable tech which made it cheap
and easy to create idol music, idol promo videos, and, of course, idol groups. AKB48’s and Perfume’s marches out from the otaku underground into the mainstream helped to map out a new world,
and “Idol Units” became the coins of the realm.
It’s been this way for years now: every month, a new indie idol group comes down the line, buzzes up
the Japanese net for a bit,
and gets a shot at either becoming some kind of next big thing (Momoiro Clover Z
occupying that spot now) or remains stuck in idol limbo with regular gigs and maybe -- if they are lucky -- a TV theme song or two.
Either way, the idol scene is now crazier
than a cuckoo clock (neophytes
would do well to investigate BABY METAL, Team Syachihoko, and 9nine for proof)
and you either dig it, or you don’t.
I’ll be writing up a
piece about idol audiences later on (with a particular emphasis on
female fans, who have been totally ignored in the Western dismissal of idol
culture) but to these eyes, it’s like pro wrestling: you can either hoot and holler at the dumb show biz spectacle or take great offense to it. The line is drawn, and for some doubly so after the recent AKB48 “apology
video” scandal, but most "Japan pundits" probably stood on the sanctimonious side of
disapproval already. Even so, I have a sneaking feeling that history will sort
it all out for us and get the last laugh. Pop eats itself, and in 20 to 30 years, people will be “discovering” old indie idol gems much in
the same way that people
continue to “discover” obscure kayokyokusingles today. But seriously, why wait for an expiration date when
Linda III Sei is happening right now?
Pardon the long preamble and background set-up on
B-grade idols, but I think it is
necessary to try and explain how something as
spectacularly odd as the new idol unit known as Linda III Sei (リンダIII世) could even exist in the first place.
Let’s look at what we got here: Linda III Sei is five girls, ages 11-14, bound together by their
background as third-generation Brazilian-Japanese living in Gunma Prefecture. As a bonus to their
presumably working class backgrounds (Gunma is one of Japan’s major manufacturing centers, and has
a large, decidedly non-prosperous, Brazilian populace), they were hand picked by the fickle finger of fate to be idols performing near the exit signs at electronic
stores like Yamada Denki in Ota city (below).
Their official bio claims
that their sound is “not K-pop, not J-pop”, but “B-pop” influenced by Brazil’s Baile Funk party scene. But in truth, the
group’s first release, “Future Century eZ zoo” (未来世紀eZ zoo) is an ear
bending Frankenstein monster of auto-tune settings, 8-bit sounds, some English and mangled Japanese, that bravely remembers to include
a full-on samba interlude on the bridge. The result is something strange and shockingly new.
The song’s stylistic mash-up is the sonic equivalent of the inexplicable outfits the girls are forced to
wear: steampunk tops, medieval torture straps, tattoo tights, and sneakers. Again, we are in
the realm of indie producers, and the ones behind the scenes here are said to
have worked on songs for Johnny’s boy band V6
and some anime themes. But everything goes out the window once you see the video for "Future Century eZ zoo", which first erupted two weeks ago.
Linda III Sei look like
they put together hours before the video was shot; dance like the choreography
was taught seconds before. The sheep and chickens probably just wandered into the frame. I get the same feeling I get from Wassup Rockers, Diane
Arbus pics and early Harmony
Korine films: “I am gazing at something that cannot possibly exist, but the
world is so fucking weird that I guess it must”. The only major misstep in a
work of otherwise synapse rattling chaos, randomness, and literal darkness are the zombies. Is
there anything more plebian and ordinary than zombies at this
Lots of questions begin to whirl about, and the group is so
new that there’s just not a lot of answers. But decoding names can turn up some
clues. As mentioned before, the girls in the group are third-generation Brazilian-Japanese,
hence the name “Linda the Third”. Also, the girls have said in interviews that “they
want to steal fan’s hearts”, just like anime/manga anti-hero Lupin the Third,
and their use of a familiar-looking retro font for their official logo seems to
hint at this connection. And would you believe that Terry Gilliam is also part
of this goulash? His 1985 film is known as “Future Century Brazil” in Japan (未来世紀ブラジル), a reference
that bonkura fans will immediately pick up when considering the title of Linda III
Sei’s first single.
Either way, identity
politics and outsider status are the key to Linda III Sei’s gimmick and
could effectively be mined by academics for days. For others, the Brazil-Japan connection will be about as culturally enlightening as a drunken night out to a Philippine Pub. The Japanese net is intrigued for
now, and their facebook and YouTube pages are swarmed with comments in Portuguese. While it is unlikely that you will see them on NHK's Red and White Singing Contest anytime soon, seriously, how often
do you see Brazilian-Japanese people in the
spotlight, even one as wobbly as this?
Call it exploitation, call it trash, call it pre-apocalyptic performance art. It's a motherfuckin' ZOO and future history will
call them IDOLS.
BiS (the name is short for "Brand New Idol Society") are an intense Japanese idol group, sort of like a dark and dysfunctional AKB48 in serious need of shock therapy and/or happy pills.
With ham-fisted promo images like the one below, it is initially kind of tempting to laugh them off, but BiS music – which is a mix of metal rock and more traditional jpop songcraft – continues to be oddly compelling.
BiS: voted "most likely to bring nail-studded bats to an idol concert"
I've written about before for the slow motion face-slapping fest that was their “GET YOU” music video and now, BiS is BACK, clad in "Who Killed Idol?" shirts and fake yakuza tattoos, with a wet and messy PV for the song “BiSimulation” filled with all manner of pained facial expressions and body fluids carelessly flung about. Watch below.
Is it all a deep and meaningful metaphor for the pain of being in an idol band? Has someone watched Battle Royale too many times? Does someone need a hug? Hopefully some explanations are forthcoming when BiS release their new album in March.
Band Ja Naimon! (the name means, "this is not a band") are not exactly like other Japanese idols...
The fact that these two girls -- Misako (black hair) and Kachan (brown hair) -- get down and sweaty during live performances while pounding out a wild beat on twin drum kits immediately sets them apart from dozens of other acts now working the circuit.
Having seen Band Ja Naimon! perform once before at a club event, I thought they were a joke, but lo and behold, the girls are signed to Warner Music Japan (home of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) and have a new single on Feb/6 with the song “Chocolat Love”.
The PV below is quite a doozy, complete with envelope pushing yuri antics, "megane moe" galore, licking inanimate objects, and a whole lotta sticky sweet Hershey's Chocolate Syrup everywhere. It’s almost as if they are anxious to make an impression!
About the only thing the video doesn’t play up is Band Ja Naimon’s goofy idol twin drummer gimmick, so I’ve attached a live video of the gals performing “Chocolat Love” below. Enviormentalists take note: No chocolate syrup was harmed during the making of this clip!
It is a period of Idol Civil War in Japan. And in the race to sweep up the scraps left behind by bigger groups like AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z, b-level idols must either battle for attention with increasingly crazy gimmicks or seek safety in numbers by banding together via music collaborations.
Happily for us, there’s a bit of both strategies in the new music video for the song “GET YOU” which teams up two idol groups: the already extreme and now dunce-capped BiS (the name is short for “Brand New Idol Society” and their last record was called IDOL IS DEAD) and the clad-in-white, slightly more chipper Dorothy Little Happy.
In the clip, the two groups play the hardline fundamentalist version of rock, paper, scissors (aka jan kenpo) where the loser gets a big ol’ slow-motion slap in the face, and the result is one of the most painfully funny idol videos of all time. Enjoy!
BONUS! Sleeve art for the "GET YOU" single, which goes on sale 1/13 in Japan (slap not included with purchase).
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and her 2011 megahit PONPONPON video sort of raised the bar for models-turned singers in Japan. Nowadays if you want your song to get any attention, you have to make the most visually appealing promotion video you can, one that can target both web addicted otaku and magazine-flipping fashion kids alike or else risk getting lost in the deluge of PVs uploaded daily to YouTube.
Thus, 17 year old Popteen magazine model Shiina Hikari (nickaname: Pikarin) along with record label avex – have really hedged their bets by hitting all the buttons video for her debut single “Shinryaku Pikarin Densetsu☆” . This is less a simple music video and more like a shopping list containing multiple crazy costume changes, kawaii-guro styling (Look! She’s holding a human skull!), frantic visuals and editing, all capped off by a nose-bleed techno song by Vocaloid producer HachioujiP.
The cynic in me finds this all a bit too calculated to exploit the growing links between the fields of kawaii fashion and idol culture. Ditto the press release for the song, which makes a big deal out of how much of an anime fan Pikarin herself supposedly is (cue: fake geek girl debate).
No doubt there is a lot of crossover taking place between the realms of Shibuya, Harajuku, and Akihabara – which used to be totally separated until pretty recently, but my big question is: is this shift in Tokyo youth culture happening organically, or are a collusion of magazine editors, clothing brands, and record label pulling the strings? The correct answer is probably, “a bit of both”, but Pikarin’s clip bears big smudgy fingerprints of the latter camp.
Prepare to bang your head! The j-pop meets heavy metal idol unit BABYMETAL is BACK with a new song and music video: “Ijime, Dame, Zettai”, a hard rocking battle cry that translates to “No More Bullying”.
The track goes on sale January 9, but we can't imagine listening to it without viewing the very silly music video below, complete with expensive-looking hellfire, skeleton band, and a very puzzled looking beardie weirdy. If this song won’t stop Japan’s social problem of bullying…NOTHING CAN!
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that Julie Watai is the coolest, most well-connected female otaku in all of Japan.
From her Hardware Girls photo sessions, to her stints as a gravure model and her sessions as a club DJ and remix artist, Julie continually and nimbly crosses the lines between super nerdy and somethin' else.
Lately, she’s been busy with mishmash＊Julie Watai, a musical collaboration with T. Mishima, long associate of Japanese indie music tiki head Cornelius.
Oh...one more thing about Julie…SHE ALSO HACKS FURBYS!!
All of which leads us to mishmash＊Julie Watai’s latest song, “Go Furby Go”; an ode to the toy that Julie loves to “circuit bend” when dressed as a maid.
And while Momoiro Clover Z has been assigned the duty of delivering the official Furby 2012 endorsement deal via their new commercials, Julie and co. have a furry saga of their own to unfold before your eyes below...
The full length version of “Go Furby Go” will be available on October 26th from iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Up until now, Team Syachihoko have ranked rather low on the list of Japanese idol units active on the scene, hustling day by day to make a dime. But I’d say they deserve an international audience of millions for their awesome new music video for their song “The Stardust Bowling”.
Behold eye-bleeding colors with a hyperactive-as-all-heck ska beat providing the accompaniment for the rather startling sight of little Japanese girls beating the tar out of grown men dressed as evil bowling pins!
Based out of Nagoya, Team Syachihoko have been around since 2011 and belong to the Stardust Promotion agency, home of Momoiro Clover Z and Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku. So now you know. And knowing is half the battle, especially when your opponents are human bowling pins…