Pop Cult: Dubstep Puppet Fight
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – “Invader Invader” : B
“Invader Invader” is a crab pot of ideas, both aesthetic and sonic. Nakata continues his fascination with good ol’ fashioned dub-step, continuing with his prior fascination in Perfume’s “Daijobanai”. This time around, Nakata commits to the drop, which in this song reads as kind of tongue-in-cheek but doesn’t go on long enough to wear out its novelty. The hooks still do the heavy lifting, thankfully. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s art team throws a curve as well, running a smaller scale production, building sets out of cardboard and slapping together costumes with whatever scraps of fabric they can find.
So it’s no surprise that the song/video fail to live up to the consistent peppiness of her earlier work. The main takeaways: the dissonant surf guitar that goes through the song, and the cube-headed Nakata avatar hyping it up in the background. But after the initial weirdness (and like two or three bridges), all the pieces come together quite nicely. It’s an extension of last year’s “Fashion Monster,” and about as party-anthem as Kyary chooses to get.
Vampire Weekend – “Ya Hey” : B-
Maybe a bit hypocritical from a guy who consumes an unhealthy amount of auto-tune in his musical diet, but those digital yelps in the chorus just do not do it for me. Otherwise, Ezra Koenig’s vocal melody is on point, echoing the same kind of wistful beauty that “I Think Ur A Contra” channeled, but with a bit more youthful resolve.
I also wished the song would stay small; tiny Vampire Weekend is the band I prefer. Come to think of it, “Diplomat’s Son” kind of did everything “Ya Hey” is trying to do but with less posturing. I think I’m docking the song an extra half-grade just for that. And the cheap, Brooklyn-outsourced choir.
Akdong Musician – “I Love You” : B+
Vocal duo, songwriters and siblings, Akdong Musician were pretty much a shoe-in to win K-Pop Star 2 from the minute they stepped on the stage. And win they did, beating out 12 year-old (!!!) Bang Ye-dam to take the top prize which, in addition to a nice cash reward, the coveted title of “Most Wanted, Unsigned K-Pop Act.” But even before the brother/sister duo has chosen an agency to go with (of which, given the success of Lee Hi and Park Ji Min, they’ll have their choice of any), they’ve already played huge shows both in and outside of Korea. In fact, many of their original songs were released as singles even while the show was still being taped.
“I Love You” is their latest and most well-performing album, packaged in the K-Pop Star collection as well as appearing on a Korean drama soundtrack. “I Love You” shows what’s most likeable about Akdong Musician: on-point harmonies, competent English chops and an innocent-yet-fun tone that’s just really easy to listen to. They’re basically Mumford & Sons, but they pander to the Korean obsession with innocence instead of the Caucasian obsession with being Caucasian. They also do a mean cover of “MMMBop”.