Once upon a time, when I was a wee J-Pop fan in junior high and high school, there was no one I loved more than Tommy Feburary6. And wasn’t there to love? She was cutey, bespeckled, hard drinking girl, who inspired by 1980s synth-pop. She sang about bus stops, while making cheerleaders head blow up, danced around with Pikachu, all while chugging a flask like inside with coated in with liquid awesome. There’s a saying that “There’s J-Pop girl groups, and then there’s Momoclo” – essentially that Momoiro Clover (now Momoiro Clover Z) is the outsider of all these “similar-sounding-and-looking” group. If so, there’s every other Japanese pop idol, and then there’s Tommy Feburary6.
But not too long ago, Tomoko Kawase decided that the character just wasn’t what she used to be, and chose instead to focus on the much less original and fun J-Rock counterpart Tommy Heavenly6. I was devastated – yes, the music wasn’t always fabulous, and somtimes the videos were too extreme, but she had always been my retort to the Ayumi Hamasaki wave of fans. So now that’s she’s finally officially back, what’s her re-debut single like? Does it live up to my nostalgia or hit sour notes all along the way? This is HOT CHOCOLAT.
Here’s the music video:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a version with subtitles, but the lyrics are sadly the common “I love you boy, I need my Hot Chocolate” fair, so you’re not missing much. You can literally put in whatever generic mushy-gushy love lyrics about feeling blue and then needing some love. Honestly, it’s not the most lyrically original, but it certainly could be worse.
The music video itself is…very special. And by very special, I mean kind of weird and not the good kind we’ve come to expect from her. The positives of the video are really cute and has some great shots with lots of brightly colored set pieces. The costuming, while a little bizarre and strangely bright, is kind of appropriate for the theme of the video. And you might have noticed a second girl in the clip too – that’s the other character I was talking about, Tommy Heavenly6. There’s often cameos of February in Heavenly’s videos, so a reverse cameo seems pretty normal to me. However, Heavenly really serves no purpose, and just looks angrily bored (cause that’s her character trait) and it doesn’t do much to help this already drab, blase video.
Compared to the very last song she released (Strawberry Cream Soda Pop), Hot Chocolat is strangely reserved. See, Tommy Feburary6’s shctick is that she’s like how you are in your room by yourself – acting like a Grade-A dork, trying on clothes and shoes, playing with toys, but much cooler. Why? Cause she’s got graceful body movements, confidence and so much swag, you could actually drown in it. When she reads a trashy, powder pink 80s novel on a park bench in Everyday at the Bus Stop, we’re meant to recognize our impossibly awkward selves, but also to embrace it. Yes, she just hit a baseball with a golf club, but we’ve all done some stupid, weird, hilarious shit. So in this video when she is literally in her room, acting like the super dork she is, it’s kind of too meta and self-parodying. We haven’t seen this persona in a long time, so it would make since she’s just chilling out in her room, singing with her photo-taped-faced-dolls and drinking tea in giant sparkly wedge heels…if it didn’t look so home video.
Honestly, I was shocked with the quality of the video. I get that it wants to emulate that 1980s style, but after 30 years of technological advancement, there is no need for such a low quality. It looks like they just went to some intern’s gross-ass apartment and taped the whole thing after grabbing some random props. Not that the props are hideous – in fact they work rather well – but it all feels a little dirty and grimy. It’s more to say that it looks like an apartment someone actually lives in, not something put together by a studio. An apartment owned by someone who chose to never let the 1980s die.
What I do like about the song is the overall sound. It’s clear, smooth, the beat is fun, and February’s voice hasn’t lost any of its wispy sweet charms. Personally, if I could just ignore this tacky video and the less-than-stellar lyrics, I could grow to love it. The beat is catchy and the melody is very pleasing to the ear, with its soft ups and downs and airy quality. Personally, this is music that I would love to listen to before bed, or when getting ready, or just in a melancholy mood. It’s fun but not in your face genki like other acts. It’s graceful, and soft, and knows how to strike the right chords without having to scream them at you. And while I love cutesy high energy acts, sometimes it nice to just listen to something more subdued and mature. There’s lots of other J-pop idols out there, but there’s only one Tommy February6.
All in all, HOT CHOCOLAT is kind of disappointing for our reintroduction to such a beloved and fun persona, especially in terms of the video. I’m hoping this is just a hiccup in an otherwise unblemished career, and that its lack-luster release won’t further damage any chances we have to see further singles from this particular facet of Kawase’s ensemble of musical characters, cause I still see a lot of promise.