Oh God, it’s happened. It’s finally happened. I’m going to have to review an AKB48 song. I knew this dreaded day would come when I first started my tirade of music review, it had to be. With their intense popularity, numerous sister groups, and emersion in the American market bit-by-bit, there’s no way I can’t cover them. I can’t be a Hello!Project fangirl forever. I must be strong, and fair – that’s the reviewer’s code, and by God I’m sticking to it.
Let’s take a look at AKB48’s 29th single, Eien Pressure.
For those of you J-Pop aficionados like me out there, you either get why I dislike AKB48 or you think I’m crazy. I’m going to give you my reason, and there will be many of you who disagree with it. For me, there are just way too many girls in the group. Currently, this group contains 88 girls, and will have a total of seven sister groups (three of which are international, and one which was disbanded) and one official “rival group,” as of 2013. That’s in the ballpark of 500 girls under that franchise alone, not counting the graduated members and trainees. You just never really get to know any of their characters for the most part unless you’re really diehard about it. And it’s really easy to perform songs in big groups – where’s the challenge in that? They just feel like giant choruses more than girl groups. But there’s nothing wrong with that…really. Or that the management JUST demoted one of their members, Minami Minegishi, and made her publicly apologize for being seen leaving a male K-Pop stars house while bald. No, I am legitimately serious – she was lucky not to be fired.
So you might be wondering why I would cover them if I dislike them so much. Well, because their popularity is huge. If AKB48’s popularity were represented by a meteor, with one fan being one centigram of its mass, we would all be destroyed in an instant. Morning Musume barely registers as a blip on the radar used to measure the popularity of AKB48. Popularity doesn’t mean momusu is less talented than AKB48. I mean, Justin Bieber’s popular, and the majority of the Internet hates his guts. But I owe it to you all to be impartial and look at the biggest, most revolutionizing J-Pop girl group in the universe.
…and despite this, apparently, their production companies AKS/King/DefStar can’t put their music video on YouTube over two months after the single debuted. That’s ridiculous. I kept finding copies recorded by other people from their television, but those kept being taken down, so I can only link you to the preview, with translated lyrics here:
For this article, I won’t be talking very much about the video, sadly. Hey, if they can’t be bothered to put it up, I can’t really watch it enough times to judge it appropriately, especially when the other versions uploaded by fans consistently taken down. From what I did see, the video looks pretty nice. It has a plot, uses real locales, and looks clean and well-editted. In order to talk about the dance, which I will be basing it off this version which was aired on TV.
Let’s start with the lyrics. If you couldn’t tell from the videos, the theme of this song is “Old School J-Pop.” Well, not really but I can’t tell what the video is supposed to actually be about because I watch the whole thing anymore, but this is 1990s old school stuff. The song is about a guy who confesses his love to a girl, and her being worried about not being good enough for him and how its too much pressure to be perfect. It’s pretty cheesy, not exactly novel, but it fits with the style of song they chose so it’s pretty suitable.
If this were Dancing with the Stars, these girls would be knocked out of the first round. The thing is, when you have a big group (keep in mind, not all of AKB48 is present for this song, only 16 members are in attendance) it’s easy for any dance to look good. The problem is that this dance is too simple. Yes, it’s understandable, they need to be able to sing without sounding out of breath from the choreography but this is ridiculous. This is the type of dance you would teach to beginners – all arms and very simple steps. It looks fine all together but it just seems so lazy that it’s embarrassing. I understand why they chose it, but I was severely unimpressed – they may be pop stars, but they can do better.
The costumes are pretty classic in terms of the typical fashion – a school girl uniform with the group crest on it, but I have to say these in particular are pretty ugly. If you’re going to do a uniform, it’s usually a good idea to either have them all match, or to have members of the same team wear matching ones for the teams (AKB48 has teams, just in case you didn’t know). Having them be more or less random (at least as far as I can tell) makes the whole thing very distracting and sort of meaningless. Why pick uniforms in the first place? Plus, those deep maroon reds, darker-than-Navy blues, and Catholic school uniform green are just not cutting it. Though, hey, they’re dressed like school girls so at least the wotas are happy?
I will say the music itself is very pleasant. The soft piano intro is something I never thought I’d hear in all-girl-group J-Pop song again, and even the rock guitars sounds soft and mild in comparison to the typical K-Pop club fare. The overall tone of the song was light, and very bubblegum, all old school. The vocals are strong, though occasionally too high for some of these girls’ ranges, and there’s at least an attempt at fair line distribution. If anything, this is the song’s strongest features and was what really sold me on writing a review of it, rather than just ignoring them like I used to.
In the end, Eien Pressure has not turned me into an instant AKB48 fan, it certainly showcases why they are so popular, and how that popularity isn’t completely unfounded. While this probably wasn’t the best starter song for new fans, I must say that it was pretty cute and a nice detour of the beaten track. If you enjoyed the song, I’d recommend looking into their other songs. As for me, I’ll try to keep them on my radar in terms of reviews. Hey, just cause their management has no basic human compassion doesn’t mean these girls don’t deserve to be listened to.
– Good melody.
– Strong vocals.
– Good video (at least from what I’ve seen).
– Poor dance.
– Cliche and a little awkward costuming.
– Cheesy lyrics.