Oricon Trail For The Week Of 7/14 To 7/20
#1 SMAP “Top Of The World/Amazing Discovery” (122,850 Copies Sold)
Note: Both songs are not available on YouTube. To hear the whole of “Top Of The World,” go here. For “Amazing Discovery,” here. Seem trustworthy enough!
One of the central quirks of contemporary boy bands n J-pop is how, despite there being dozens of outfits desperately in need of a sonic identity all their own, the only group pulling in intriguing names to write them songs is the dinosaur-pack who should be coasting from here to eternity. SMAP - arguably the most successful J-pop group ever, and definitely the most inescapable as you can see them pretty much everyday on Japanese TV - cemented their legacy long ago, and they didn’t need to try in 2004, let along ten years later. Yet here they are, in the summer of 2014, being brought two songs written by big-name players in the J-pop business, while every younger Johnny’s & Associates group puts up with relatively anonymous music makers just trying to hit lunch early.
At least it has been a constant - SMAP have courted the likes of Nile Rodgers and Tetsuya Komuro to work with them, and those are only just headliners in their own right. Just today, my girlfriend flipped away from a SMAP-centric TV show, because of how bad they have become. “But their music used to be so good in the ’90s, because they had real musicians writing it” she said, before rattling off names I didn’t recognize. So really, it’s just J-pop nature taking course on their latest chart topper, which finds popular guitarist (and future prominent-role-playing actor in an Angelina Jolie directed film) Miyavi and Yasutaka Nakata (Perfume, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Capsule) producing their music.
Yet the thing is, the producers themselves don’t have much of a reason to cough up their best material for SMAP…especially not in 2014. Of the pair, Miyavi probably has more to gain from this collaboration - he’s (slightly) younger and has never had a single or album top the Oricon Charts (well, until now). Yet this team up isn’t going to turn him on to the legions of SMAP fans…and he already has his own legions of supporters. The only people getting a thrill out of this hook up are the press, who have a fresh way to write about SMAP for once. And the end result certainly isn’t exciting - it’s a faux-dubstep dunked song that’s better than most modern-day SMAP, but still too clean-cut for the EDM crowd and bogged down by bad, bad singing.
As for Yasutaka Nakata…well, it’s his third go around with SMAP, and to his credit he strains out a good chorus from them on “Amazing Discovery.” It’s easy to get cynical about his auto-pilot mode for Perfume and Kyary, yet this song is far more standard-issue than anything he’s done as of late for either of those two, a merger between the electro pulse of Perfume and the cheery hop of Kyary. It’s alright, and the chorus is the best from SMAP I’ve heard since coming to Japan (a low bar), but still pretty uninteresting. Made even clearer by listening to the number-two song this week…Perfume’s “Cling Cling,” also produced by Nakata, and far more adventerous than SMAP’s glorified Universal Studios’ commercial.