Pop Cult: Sakanaction, Orange Caramel, G-Dragon
Knee-jerk reactions (the best kind) to pop culture happenings all over the world.Posted by Allen Huang
Pop Cult: Orange Crayons
Sakanaction – Yoru no Odoriko : A-
I put Japanese Indie-rock/dance band Sakanaction’s DocumentaLy on my favorite albums last year, and out of all my choices on that list I probably listen to this one more than the rest. They’re often lauded for being miles ahead of the rest of Japan’s rock scene, one of the few bands doing something particularly interesting and non-derivative. But I say that, given frontman Ichiro Yamaguchi’s uniquely Japanese stream-of-consciousness delivery and his willingness to strain into an effective falsetto at just the right time, Sakanaction is one of my favorite bands in the world right now.
I’m hoping somewhere out there, someone’s treating DocumentaLy like I treated OK Computer back in high school: wearing out the plastic, obsessively making copies for friends, utterly convinced that this is the pinnacle of rock music. There is just nothing out there as tight as this quintet.
Orange Caramel – Lipstick: B
“Aegyo” is the Korean version of “Kawaii,” the strange juxtaposition of sex and innocence without implying immaturity (when done right) that makes Asian pop music hard to swallow for a lot of modern feminists. Some groups definitely take it too far (I’m looking at you AKB48 and family), but melodically, the Aegyo/Kawaii paradigm allows producers and songwriters to explore strange new mindspaces and develop songs that rustle up these unique feelings of being Aegyo-ized.
I mean, it’s like noise music, or punk, but instead of riling up dronish fever or radical anger, Aegyo dives for that part of your brain that is easily embarrassed, not that you live in a world where something like this exists, but also that you maybe kind of like it. Whether riffing on the “Oh My Darling” melodic line or borrowing a tone or two from the generic Arabian snake charming theme (what is the original name for that melody, anyways), nostalgia and hypercolor imagery combine in this video to confound and break those mental barriers down. If you think this song is for 8 year olds, chances are it’s actually for you.
Anyways, Orange Caramel is the Aegyo sub-unit for K-Pop group After School, and their comeback song is highly addictive, in the most “Mr. Saxobeat” of ways. Eastern Europe is alllll over this track, with its accordion synths and its squeaky horn hook. Just an empirically fun tune. Also there is something about the dance they do, when they lean to the right and then lean to the left that is just otherworldly.
G-Dragon – Crayon: B+
Crayon. Cray on. Get it??
Ok, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the rest of the video. Imagery-wise, this thing needs to be put in a museum. There is some incredible, David Bowie as Starman, Kurt Cobain in a Sunday dress thing going on here. As the leader and most mercurial member of arguably the biggest K-Pop group Big Bang, G-Dragon’s used to playing games with the spotlight. But “Crayon” marks a new high in his ability to play with androgyny on a legendary level. From the Wonder Woman robe to the scene with G-Dragon in very convincing drag, the man continues to play with gender, sex, and race on a highly sophisticated level.
The song, however, doesn’t come close to the lofty heights at which the video resides. It’s a certifiable club banger but really not much more until the last 30 seconds. I’m really liking this thing that Teddy Park is doing with the choral chants at the most feverish parts of his songs, and, like in “Fantastic Baby,” the “ehhhhh” chanting at the end is the best part of the tune. “One Of A Kind” is a better tune as a whole.
But damn, that video needs to be preserved for eternity.