An every Friday in a while look at the weekly Oricon Top Twenty Singles Chart.
East Asians love their ballads almost as much as they do their boy bands. Not power ballads, mind you, nor the restrained acoustic nonchalance that marks alternative, in case you didn’t start weeping yet here are some violins by way of example ballads, but the R&B trilling of rising cymbals and xylophone scales that appears twice as often as Ayumi Hamasaki channels Madonna. Newcomers to East Asian pop may be just as disappointed as longtime fans who should know better to find the beat-driven lead single off a new album to be the only song of its kind among the dozen other tracks that feature vocal arias and a piano solo. Take for example S.H.E’s new album SHERO where the first two tracks are fit for any Top 40 and further push the techno rock repertoire the Taiwanese trio has cultivated since their inception, while the rest of the album aims for Korean drama territory, the type where someone lies dying of a terminal illness while family members watch on in guilt and sadness.
Girl and boy bands are particularly susceptible, maybe because they have a reputation of catering amour via lullabies to their young male or female fans or maybe just because they have enough people to make some interesting harmonies. Regardless, all of the cliches are present in the video for this week’s number one Oricon single, Tohoshinki’s “Toki wo Tomete“: dolorous colors in tan, black, off-black, dark black, beige, and gray, imploring gazes with overwrought lip-synching, faces crumpling as if physical torture is being leveled off camera, crazy-wide, but gentle!, arm gestures, and of course, a love interest. That the entire video takes place in a planetarium only highlights the crucial cosmically devotional aspect in case the lyrics weren’t helping. “Sometimes even little tiny things make me want to cry” they sing. Hear that ladies: These sensitive dudes need your love. Never mind that one single ago, they held the keys to their future and anything was possible: nothing is possible unless your “hearts sparkle as one.”
If boy bands aren’t your thing this week, SKE48 are here to set your rooftop plaid fantasies to life with the equally traditional J-pop chart topper complete with trumpet and average choreography. Arashi hold on to the chart at number five with “Troublemaker” (perhaps a future article entitled “J-pop Graveyard” will better sum up my feelings about this). Newcomer this week, Miliyah’s “BYE BYE,” a mid-tempo road trip reminiscent of Mika Nakashima, offers the most potential in the top ten, even with its dramatic photo-flying montage. With the inclusion of #11-20, this week’s Oricon chart covers all of its perennial bases: anime character songs, boy bands, girl bands, the rocker’s aging comeback, the indie-spirational chick, even some visual kei. But with no exceptions to the rules, this week is about as exciting as watching five young spirit-men serenade an oblivious human woman.