On one hand, I understand the need to take music videos to the next level, to stand out, to be different; the music video has always been a kind of odd creation. Is it advertising? Is it art? Nevertheless, it seems PVs have been increasingly less about promoting artists and more about promoting concepts. But moving from Big Personas to Big Ideas has created some really poor choices, among them setting, effects, and choreography. Notable are the following recent promotional videos for Mitsuki Aira’s “BARBiE BARBiE,” MEG’s “SKIN,” and Chihiro Onitsuka’s “X,” which commit the heinous crime of making you remind yourself that not only is the choreography suspect, it was meant to be like that.
Chihiro Onitsuka / everyhome / May 30, 2007
everyhome / 02. MAGICAL WORLD / 03. Himitsu
I honestly prefer sticking to writing reviews of music that I enjoy because I’d rather someone attempt taking away something from the whole sitting down to read a whole album review before downloading the track to see if it’s all I’ve hyped it up to be experience (roughly 3% of the readers; according to my statistics, about 83% of visitors spend less than 3o seconds on the site at a time. I’m guessing they’re just scrolling to see what’s for download, then take the file and leave. Nice). However, about two months ago I did a short post about Chihiro Onitsuka’s big comeback, aka, her first single release since October 2004. With almost three full years of rest and absence from the media, I’d figure Onitsuka would offer something of “Rasen” or even “Beautiful Fighter” proportions of awesomeness, and thus, deliberately anticipated the days leading to May 30 and made a bit of a hoopla of the whole thing and now find it my obligation to report back.
It’s not that I just like Onitsuka; she has real talent. With a fantastic composition style, interesting and basic, sticking to organic instruments like the violin, piano, and acoustic guitar, she manipulates music to convey her sentiments in the style of, say, Jewel, but with enthusiasm and zeal that many in her field fail to muster. Sure, she branched out from time to time to compose some more rock n’ roll driven numbers, but for the most part, her forte has and seems, always will be, those heart-wrenching ballads, but on a lesser, more accesible scale. Unfortunately, Onitsuka’s latest release, “everyhome,” which contains three original new compositions, is lackluster and almost mundane in delivery. From the reluctant lyrics that lack the passion and ambition of songs like “BORDERLINE” where Onitsuka takes us to heights beyond reality in order to relate her bouts of sadness and make the listener feel empathetic towards the situation, regardless of whether or not the listener actually speaks Japanese or can discern the brief bits of carefully woven English. Instead, the title track leaves the listener with little discernible emotion aside from ennui. The second track leaves much to be desired as well: another stripped down melody based on piano and accompanied by Onitsuka’s vocals which attempt desperately to convey a feeling of perhaps anxiety, but leaves the listener grasping for a semblance to hang on to, something that can prove their time is gladly forfeited to care, but failing to find one worthy enough to even offer their condolences.
The third track, “Himitsu,” picks up the pace of the disc’s solemnity, retaining a classic rock vibe that brings to mind the struggle of the audience of VH1’s Rock Honors to rock out to the reunion of Phil Collins’s Genesis. What remained was an audience staring blank-eyed and unmoving at halfhearted guitar solos and a man frantically straining to capture his youth once more, but unable to catch the attention of a crowd Hell bent on watching Ozzy perform. And much like Phil Collins’s space in my music collection, Onitsuka’s latest single fails to make me want to have anything to do with it.
Chihiro Onitsuka has a bit of a sordid history with record companies, as I’ve mentioned previously. After leaving Toshiba EMI in 2004 after they released a singles box against her wishes, Onitsuka signed up with Universal. During her time at the new record label, she released only one single, Sodatsu Zassou, which was almost a complete change of her typical folk-rock musical style. Fans were generally shocked, though not at all appalled; the song was still quite good. Personally, though, it was a bit of a disappointment on my part; what made Onitsuka such a great musician was her unique melodies, consisting almost solely of compositions comprised of piano, drums, acoustic guitar, and violin, all which made for a very unique listening experience, especially with her somewhat twangy accent and nasal tone. “Sodatsu Zassou,” was, and I hesitate to say it, mostly because it really didn’t matter in terms of why I didn’t enjoy it so much, more commercially acceptable with its clean-cut production; it just mattered that the single wasn’t all that great, especially in comparison to the absolutely amazing work she had previously been putting out. It appears that one of the reasons Onitsuka changed her style so much was to get away from the image she had with Toshiba EMI, an attempt to start over after she lost all of the rights to her entire back catalogue.
Since this release in October of 2004, Onitsuka has been rather absent from the music scene on a whole, not releasing any material for two and a half years due to “mental fatigue” (her old record company, however, released The Ultimate Collection and Singles 2000-2003 in a last ditch effort to bank on a lost artist). Luckily, Ontsuka has been making apearances and showing signs of activity once again; on March 17 of this year, she performed a brief live of two songs and the new single her official site has finally announced, a single titled “everyhome,” to be released at the end of May. I’m very excited to see what the piece will sound like: if Onitsuka will turn back to her distinct, folk-rock sound or continue to expand on the rockier edge she hinted, nay, blatantly alluded to, with her last single. Furthermore, Onitsuka has promised a new “come-back” album of sorts, alongside a future concert tour. What do you know, 2007 is actually starting to look up.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to know a very special lady by the name of Chihiro Onitsuka. I know I boarded the boat late, but it’s been smooth sailing ever since (I know, nice word play). Her music can be described as folk rock, but her ballads are more hauntingly simple and completely amazing. Usually opting to go solo with her guitar and piano (sometimes a violin comes in, too) has not harmed Onitsuka at all.
Of course, with amazing comes a few mishaps. Like the very big one that I’m more fond of her later work and am not apt to buy a whole album of hers for one song from her older work that I do enjoy. However, I was planning on snatching up her latest album as soon as it came out. Yes, I was going to succumb to the lulling gentleness of said artist. Yeah. Doesn’t look like that’ll be happening anytime soon. Today I discovered that Onitsuka has been booted from her record company for refusing to comply with their demands to place copy protection software on her discs and release a best collection. See what happens? An artist stands up for her rights and refuses to let others tamper with her art and how they want it distributed and record companies go nuts. Not only am I sorely disappointed, I’m pissed that a record company (with such a serene name (c’mon, Melody Star is badass and you know it), and wow I just placed a parenthesis within a parenthesis (there’s gotta’ be a grammatical rule against this somewhere) and oh, crap I did it again!), would actually void a contract with an artist over such a thing as copy protection, the most needless invention since the cellular phone. Yeah, we all need it. Like a hole in the head. So all I have to say about that is bravo, Chihiro, stand up for your rights! And since you’re going, why not go to a new record company and continue to grace us with your music?
The MTV Japan Awards were held this week as well. Yes! Another prize-winning documentary of the stars at their best! I love these stupid awards they hand out. It’s like the people at all the record companies assembled together and decided they didn’t get enough recognition for their work…I know, let’s hand out awards to each other! Show-stopper Ayumi Hamasaki walked away with, count it, three awards. I agree that she totally deserved best female video award for one of the coolest videos this year, I’m almost absolutely sure Justin Timberlake has no business invading the island with his smut. Other international awardists (awardees?) included Missy Elliot for best video of the year (!) and Good Charlotte for best rock video (!!).
Supposedly, there were announcements of Morning Musume members graduating again. Good riddance. Maybe next year all the members can graduate.
In conclusion, say no to CCCD, say no to the MTV Japan Awards, say no to Morning Musume…hell, just say no.