Pop Cult: Momoiro Clover Z, Psy, Daft Punk

Allen Huang / April 18, 2013

Pop Cult: Up All Night To Have Fun

Promo image from columbiarecords.com
Promo image from columbiarecords.com

Momoiro Clover Z – “BIRTH Ø BIRTH” : B+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TddL31RBOZo

Momoiro Clover Z’s newest album, 5th Dimension, stretches the J-Idol group’s horizons beyond their already-lofty present state. Battle & Romance is one of my favorite pop albums of the last few years, and after sitting down with the new one I’m hard up to prove that 5th Dimension isn’t better across the board. Without even bringing visuals into the equation, the melodies are tighter, the influences run deeper, and the idea of MomoClo being an intergalactic sentai superhero idol group already floats my junk culture bubble, so seeing them commit hard to the act is just pure pleasure.

And then, the visuals. MomoClo is never afraid to get down, dirty and conceptual. The video for “BIRTH Ø BIRTH” is the second in a series, documenting the five in their trippy Star Wars meets 2001: Space Odyssey meets Cremaster Cycle pastiche of a visual spectacle. They cover their faces but, yet their colored trimmings make them recognizable, removing possibly the most important part of an idol’s character from the equation without compromising their identities. Just a beautiful piece of next level work.

Psy – “Gentleman” : B

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASO_zypdnsQ

Psy’s singles work on the levels of skits. With his own sense of humor, he fleshes a joke out into a full three minute pop opus, and either the joke hits or it doesn’t. “Gangnam Style” happened to hit big. “Gentleman” will definitely not hit as big. But Psy is still playing the game as hard as he ever has.

Instead of the “horse-dance,” this time we get the “butt-dance,” which is a silly reference to his partner in crime, Ga-In. Ga-In’s main gig is as a member of the group Brown Eyed Girls, whose hit song “Abracadabra” had a too-hot-for-tv dance labeled as the butt-dance. Psy lifts the beat and the hip-sashays directly from this this four-year-old tune, re-appropriating this feminine, sexually signifying Korean Pop image for his own (rear) ends. It’s kind of like that “Hawkeye poses like a woman” thing going around the internet. It pokes fun at the ridiculousness of what is found sexy.

What “Gentleman” isn’t: “Gangnam Style Pt. 2”, it’s way too in-jokey and specific to play as a “here I am world” kind of single.

What “Gentleman” is: a jab at the censors, who years ago tried to smush out Ga-In and her group’s hit single, and have crossed swords with Psy multiple times. He’s been around the world and he knows that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family don’t really know what to make much of anything these days.

Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” : A

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7GfQ1RprOg

I thought about this song. Thought about the collaborators series, thought about Pharell and Nile Rogers and Giorgio Moroder. Thought about what it’s like to get old, what it’s like to reach the peak. And then my friends and their friends and friends of friends, all they talked about were the ancient feelings unearthed by the arrival of “Get Lucky,” and what it meant to them that a new Daft Punk album was on the precipice. And they made fan videos. And many of them told me, in detail, how they wanted to experience the new album: dancing in a club, on headphones on a jog, in the bedroom wearing pajamas, on a car trip down a long highway.

I realized it wasn’t about pushing an envelope. That had been done, with Homework, with Discovery, with their world tour (which remains the best, most joyous shows I had been to in my life). When Homework came out, electronic music was still a fringe movement, inaccessible, avant garde, drug-filled, subculture. Now we have arguments about EDM and Skrillex; rock bands feature synths and drum programming de facto. House DJ’s tour the world to thrilled crowds; dance music is serious business.

Random Access Memories could be thirteen Gap commercials and it’d still be a net positive. Daft Punk can do as much tossed off disco as it wants to.

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