Happy news for Tomoko Kawase fans! Not only has this solo artist revived her first alter-ego, Tommy February6, but has done an entirely new album with this persona, mostly with songs in English. While there haven’t been any singles released off this album, there have been videos made for two tracks. The first is one an English-only song called Runaway. The second track, which is also the title track, is in a mix of English and Japanese, and is the one we’ll be examining today.
Let’s listen to SUGAR ♥ ME.
Here’s the video, with translated lyrics here:
The lyrics match the easy, sort of lazy vibe of the music, as they are about the morning after a breakup and half-heartedly partying afterwards. The song also makes references to hypnotic behavior and attempting to forget all the bad things that have happened with sugar. What it comes down to is that the singer wants to be full of energy and to hang out with her friends, but still stuck in a subdued state. The mix of Japanese and English lyrics work well together, since Tommy’s English is strong, and incorporates the theme of candy well into the lyrics without making it making it seem like she’s going to start eating her feelings.
Tommy February6 must really love food though, because there are always sweets in her videos (though we know she is fond of the drink). This whole video is dedicated to showing off food big and small, from sweet tiny treats, to a table made to look like a fried egg. The concept goes back to the idea of “sugar me” – getting a massive sugar high and becoming cheerful to the point where you forget the bad stuff. There is a lot of pink this video, which makes sense for a song about all things sweet, but it feels a little forced for the persona. After all, the Tommy February6 character was not exactly a girly-girl, but more the pastel-wearing dork who drinks a bit too much and sings in her room to embarrassing music. She is decidedly more “traditionally feminine” than Heavenly6 or Kawase herself, but this feels a little much. Still, the video’s quality is really high, with great shots and lots of detail put in – a huge improvement on the video for Hot Chocolat if only because it looks like they actually tried this time.
There’s not much of a dance involved, but there are several background dancers, both men and women oddly enough. They are dressed in black and pink outfits respectively, and dance around the swaying Tommy in several shots, which is the way it usually is for February6 videos. In terms of costuming, we continue on the sweets theme as the girls are dressed like waitresses and the men like waiters or butlers, and at one point, one of the three male backup dancers dressed up like a soft serve ice cream cone. There’s no plot to the video, just goofing around indoors as is the M.O. of Tommy, which is weird for someone who says she wants to go out on the town; the video isn’t a perfect match for the song, but it does make an entertaining watch.
Sometimes it can be hard to judge a Tommy February6 song accurately because it’s goal and audience are completely separate from most of the other J-Pop songs I cover. You might think a song’s ultimately goal is to make money, and while this is true, but this isn’t music that’s supposed to get you on your feet and dancing. This is synth pop – think more Cyndi Lauper than Lady Gaga. In that respect, it works well – its got that 80s easy-listening vibe. In terms of vocals, she retains that breathy, almost disinterested voice that has made her popular. The singing here doesn’t require a lot of range, but she does manage to enunciate her English well, so I’m happy about that. Having listened to the whole album (that my friend mostly generously and awesomely bought me during her visit to Taiwan and Japan) and I can accurately say that there are better songs on this album that show off her singing skills.
SUGAR ♥ ME signals the re-emergence of the Tommy February6 persona and while not the best song off the album, is still a fun and catchy tune. If 80s synth pop isn’t your thing, you’re probably not going to care for this song, but I feel the style has a certain melancholic charm that J-Pop fits really well into given the right artist. I hope this means that Kawase will be producing more work with this character soon, so we can one day get another Lonely in Gorgeous or Everyday at the Bus Stop (hopefully, with exploding cheerleaders too!).
– Good song.
– Good video.
– Small mismatch between song and video.
– Okay vocals.