Please forgive the dreadful pun, I just couldn’t help myself. Arriving a week late is my blog on the eight-piece outfit AAA (Attack all around).
The group’s release of –Black and White’ just three weeks before Christmas didn’t move me in any way whatsoever. I was always overly proud to admit I thought AAA were pretty average; the corners of the jpop world I had been treading saw a lot of AAA love, and feeling differently about the issue was always gratifying.
Black and White
Black and White is one of those records that decides its good enough to be a double A-side. On the strength of both songs, I’d say it was a mistake. –Samurai Heart’ is utter crapness, I’m sorry but it truly is. AAA are too clean cut to pull the song off with success– just imagine your dad buying a flashy red sports car – it feels like a bad midlife crisis and I don’t wanna be spotted listening to it. If you want to tackle guitar pop with success then at least put some effort into the sum of its parts, the music itself. Surely it’s a basic requirement as a musician or artist. Compare Samurai Heart to Nanase Aikawa’s –Unlimited’ and you’ll instantly see the gulf in class.
The other single on the record –Winter Lander!!’ is something else entirely. You know, I really wanted to hate this song when I listened to it. I was still getting high and mighty off branding these guys run of the mill. Looks like I’ll be changing my tune, well, for this release.
Before listening to Winter Lander!! I’d seen the PV first. Balaclava drawn, a carton of eggs ready to be thrown at the screen, I was anticipating something pretty dire. Those eggs will have to be used for another day, frankly, I was hypnotised by it. The type of eyes glued to the screen that BK’s –Munasawagi Scarlet’ drew out of me. I tell you, the beginning choreography to that song was terrifyingly good.
Winter Lander!! PV
I’ll be honest with you, although I had listened to enough of AAA’s music to pass my judgement on them; I knew nothing about the group and its members. So forgive me when I don’t call them by their names, I have a different system which relies solely on aesthetics. You could call it lazy, I do, but I think it’ll work out better for the blog this way.
The PV treats us with –the three pretty ladies’ doing a pre-emptive dance and its rather good. Both the pretty ladies and the dance moves hold up well, very well. It’s the type of cool that will make you utterly jealous. I’m not sure which I’d rather have, those moves or those ladies, wait, that’s a rather stupid comment. They’re dressed a little too urban for me though, not a look I really buy into. Still, their midriffs look healthy enough so I can’t complain.
Give it 10 seconds and the –guy with the unbelievably pretty face’ decides to walk into frame and share his vocals with us. He has the swagger of someone who knows he’s the world’s prettiest man, smug bastard. Later on in the song he’s able to stop and shatter objects with that face of his, takes some doing. When making a sandwich later on in the night I gave it a go with a block of cheese, no success sadly.
Next it’s the turn of the main male vocalist who, all things considered, does have a good voice. Not as pretty as most of the others but he’s got the lungs to make up for it. I’m sure the girls love him either way so we’ll just call him “lead male vocalist who’s good looking, but not as much so as some of the others” for now. As he wonders back off into the crowd with that stupid hat of his we’re building up to the chorus. The strength of the song is surprisingly good, I’m a sucker for anthems and the bridge and chorus certainly project the same kind of powerful feeling I fall for. It’s not quite power pop, if we’re being honest a lot of recent power pop records have been on the wrong side of cheesy and musically, waste of space no-brainers. Winter Lander!! Sits neatly in between. It’s rarely groundbreaking but it beats the right way, hits all the right buttons. I’m glad the Christmas theme wasn’t over advertised on the single both musically and visually. Though dressing them in Santa suits would have been pretty entertaining in a very cynical kind of way.
The camera drives in and out, up and down, a real interrogation of AAA as they all try and act cool (I hate to admit it, but they pull it off easily here) dancing to a rather brilliant piece of choreography. The camera will randomly cut to some of the members individually when it feels like it. We see “Spike” named because he looks like he’s been taken straight from the anime –Cowboy bebop’, “Guy with braded hair and goatee, the odd-ball, probably used sparingly as a vocalist, more for aesthetic diversity” and finally “Mr dark and handsome” nothing much to say about him, he looks good in that white vest and well, he’s just another good looking guy in a group of good looking people. Stick him in another group and I’m sure he’d make the main heartthrob. Oh and more shots of “the three pretty ladies” is always welcome. “Spike” looks a bit retro in that white suit of his, a little rebellious with his rolled up sleeves and bushy indie hair. He also seems to be a bloody good dancer to. I’d like a producer to give him a solo career, something less certain and more adventurous. I think he’s wasted in the comforts of AAA.
Sadly the song goes a bit wayward for ten seconds. Mr “Guy with braded hair and goatee, the odd-ball, probably used sparingly as a vocalist, more for aesthetic diversity” decides to lay down some bad ass rap. It’s neither bad ass or, for the life of me, rap. I’d get more talent from staring at a block of cheese all day, and I’ve tried it. I’m not having a go at this guy, in fact I feel a little sorry for him. The group can sing a harmony well. They all compliment each other vocally and although one or two are stronger than others they’re all pretty capable. But I guess if you’re going for the diversity angle, you’re gonna get stuck with the bits and pieces no one wants to do, like those crappy rap interlude parts. When the teacher asks if you’re comfortable playing the horse’s ass in the Christmas pageant you simply lie through your teeth “Nope, I usually play bigger parts” similarly, when a record producer asks what you can do, don’t try and be different “I can rap a bit” otherwise you’ll be badly exploited on it. The song also contains a rather annoying solo Saxophone which fails to really digress into the type of coolness that AAA show on screen. Thankfully it only pops up near the end. If it plagued the whole record I think we’d have something of a pantomime on our hands.
I’m in love with the AAA that showed up to record this effort. I guess it comes down to whether you want to buy into it or not. I really want to hate these guys – they’re too clean cut, too perfect, too mainstream with a whiff of that manufactured green making machine I hate so much – but this is the pop industry, making money is top priority (it’s a business after all). When I think about the rather forgettable past efforts of AAA I’m reminded how powerful –Image’ really is.
Winter Lander!! certainly has everything in the right places, all the pieces have come together beautifully and when AAA can do this, I really think they’re invincible. I hope this type of thing is here to stay, when the image fits the quality of the songs (rare for AAA in my opinion) the group elevate to a higher enterprise. They’re a great advert (you decide if it’s a good or bad thing) in that, they could sell pretty much anything when they’re on this form. The only thing missing from the PV was some iPods.
I’ve already said it, AAA are some of the prettiest people I’ve ever seen together as a group. The girls are good looking and the boys even more so. If one of the guys asked me out, I’d be stupid if I didn’t at least think about it. Now as a straight male, this is pretty scary stuff. But I’m a comfortable enough guy to admit when I see a good looking person, male or female. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, that’s what AAA have always done well. Only on this record have I finally seen some substance behind those pretty faces, and I admit I quite enjoyed it.
All eight, ok, six and a half of them make for perfect poster idols. I think that’s a pretty important attribute to have, and they’ve got it to spare. for god sake!!! I hope they keep their hairstyles seen on Winter Lander!! well, everyone accept the guy batting for diversity. AAA have seen some dodgey hairstyles in the past, they got it mostly right on this one.
Can they keep it up?
It’s like all the planets in the solar system came into line for Winter Lander!!, something as special as that but also as fleeting. I expect this type of grand gesture to be a one off. When you’re already the finished article it’s really hard to see where the ambition is coming from. How do you motivate AAA and the people behind them to better this record? I have a suspicion it won’t be. The song doesn’t break any new boundaries which comes as no surprise. As much as I love the jpop scene, it’s a tired and limited quota. But the song is perfect for its intentions, to draw us in and grab our wallets. It’s not all lost on profit margins however, I still see the thought being put into the song. Being less cynical, it’s a very good single. What I’m most impressed with is the coming together of all the pieces-the music, the visual image of the group and the individuals themselves.
Will AAA be a group worth talking about in 2007? We’ll see how it goes. Personally, I think they’ll slip back into old habbits-having their fingers in lots of different pies, trying to take on all the sub-genres but sadly failing to produce anything above bland. I can’t really add their just realesed second album to the equation, most of it consists of singles released in 2006.
Alright, I think it’s time for me to go down the pub and have a manly beer and buy a magazine where women and clothes don’t get on. Too much talk about good looking guys.