Dispatch, Week 1

Cam’ron, COVID pop and the drama show I finished this week

Hello! I write about music time to time, mostly in my newsletter but also in other places. For whatever this is, I basically want to blog about random things I come across during the week to an audience of no one — or maybe someone? — in these times of isolation.

Cam’ron: “What Means the World to You”

(from the 2000 album, S.D.E.)

This song’s stupid-obvious sample flip of The Police, which was actually my introduction to “Roxanne” way back when, reminded me of Diddy’s No Way Out and that album’s also-stupid-obvious sample flip of The Police. Jiggy as an adjective is like jazzy at this point, where you can’t describe it without being tautological and you just know it when you feel it, but that guitar line feels… jiggy. “Something out of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance” might also work? Cam’ron seemed to feel whatever this flashy vibe is, too, sticking visual themes like cash-spending, jewelry and casinos to the song’s overall package. At the very least, I can imagine Diddy with champagne bottles, dancing in a hotel room party to this loop.

Cam’s rapping also sounds jiggy in that it reminds me a lot of Mase’s rapping. There’s a slipperiness to it that goes so well with shoulder shimmies. A lot of people took a piece from Mase, from the Clipse to 50 Cent, but my mind somehow doesn’t associate Cam’ron in this circle even though he literally grew up with Mase. If I think about it… “Hey Ma” is something Mase could’ve done.

=LOVE / Not Equal ME: “Tsugi Ni Aeta Toki, Nani Wo Hanasoukana”

“Stay at Home” is a good generic title for a 2020 song now, and more and more songs with that title seems to pop up on my feed. Gen Hoshino led the pack with this to amazing results, but I’ve not clicked on anything else because the title makes the point clear on what it sets out to do, enough to get an OK idea of what, like, Chromeo’s take on the advice would be without actually listening to it.

=LOVE and Not Equal Me’s new one hints at the next phase for songs responding to COVID. Rino Sashihara sort of reverse-engineers the phenomenon where people find old songs now reading different and more poignant given the current situation. She went ahead and wrote lyrics that grab at the thoughts and emotions surrounding the quarantined times without the direct lean in: for one, the title reads “what should we talk about when we see other next?”

More K.K. Slider Albums, Please

LOONA 1/3: “Sonatine”

(from the 2017 album, Love & Evil)

I slept on this hard when I was first getting into LOONA. I blame Kim Lip’s “Eclipse” setting a particular impression of what I wanted from the group, but really, I think I’m looking for something slightly different from K-pop now compared to 2017.

While We’re at It, A Quick Return to the Great LOONA-verse

I can’t watch the video for Hyunjin’s “Around You” now without thinking of the very gasp captured in this fan video. When I stumbled across this, it took me some searching around the comments to understand how this is a thread in the great LOONA-verse that may or may not still exist. Also, where is this “See Saw” video?

Please Don’t Ever Mention Pandas to Rio

Morning Musume’s Rio Kitagawa is visibly growing sick of her fellow member Mei Yamazaki’s shit. What’s worse, maybe, is that Mei knows, doesn’t care and happy to drag Rio deeper into these panda — I’m sorry, panda-san — power games. It is Mei’s world, and you will play by her rules: at the Regazze TV special, the 14-year-old didn’t hesitate to correct the poor host, who made the grave mistake of not adding -san at the end of panda when asking about her favorite animal. You will respect panda-san.

As painful it can be to watch these two maintain whatever relationship they got going on, sad to say, it is also entertaining to watch the tension unfold. Sometimes Rio catches Mei slipping in her own game, calling her out whenever her so-called bottomless love for panda-san starts to show its bottom — and then Mei starts bullshitting her way out, and the whole thing gets back to square one.

A mini update: the teaser of Morning Musume’s newest live DVD magazine shows Mei and Rio being adorable and affectionate with each other so maybe this feud regarding panda-san is a inside joke thing between the two. I only hope that is the case.

Lil F**k, Tohji, Gummyboy: “f**k yo tomo”

(from 2017)

Tohji re-uploaded this old video this week. If I just listened to it as an audio without the context, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference in age. It’s the shiny emo rap that still runs numbers; Gummyboy still makes great stuff with the style on his newest EP. I was also caught more on the nostalgic media in this video of Mini Moni and Beetleborgs. Those two are a lot less-obvious pieces to grab than the popular vaporwave-friendly references, like Sailor Moon or something. It actually feels tethered to the childhood experience of a Japanese millennial, which is a weirdly specific emotional place for me to revisit through a rap video.

Artful Dodger: “Re-Rewind” ft. Craig David

(from the 2000 album, It’s All About the Stragglers)

Yes, I read the Pitchfork’s Craig David Sunday Review. I already listened to Fill Me In, but I neglected a proper listen to the Artful Dodger and their garage-house-gone-pop until now. I blame it on Mike Skinner mentioning their name as if they suck or at least that’s how I interpreted it. For some reason it’s not on streaming services, but if you have a chance listening to It’s All About Stragglers, an album full of stuff like “Re-Rewind,” if not more R&B.

Three Stories About the Komuro Family

Let me explain this still from the last episode of the drama, Hajimete Koi Wo Shita Hi Ni Yomu Hanashi, that I spent the last week watching. Jun, the woman, is triple-checking with Yuri, the pink-haired boy, if he’s OK with dating her even though he spent three years by her side as a student with massive feelings for his tutor. She’s stupidly oblivious, a trait that drives the show’s entire story, of not only his feelings but literally everyone around her, but not as oblivious as the show wants us, the audience, to be while watching a 17-year-old try his absolute best to make a 32-year-old his girlfriend. Not as oblivious as the show wants us to be while watching the show not engage with the age gap as an issue until the very last episode for the show. It’s a fun rom-com to watch even though you have to fight hard not to think about certain things, I swear.

So yes, Jun is old, a very specific kind of old — an ara-saa (around thirty) in other words to Japanese folks. And the show ends on a cheap and very specific dig at ara-saa folks as if her being single and not having a career isn’t a joke in itself: “The songs I sing on karaoke are by the Komuro Family or it goes back to Showa, is that OK?” She asks, you know, because she’s too old to know pop songs of today. Yuri appropriately responds with a fat “huh?”

Are there any other instances in media where Komuro Family is shorthand for “ara-saa pop culture touchstone” in a way Nirvana is for Gen-Xers? That scene totally flashed back this panel in Akiko Higashimura’s manga Tokyo Tarareba Musume, another “ara-saa as a genre” piece that follows 32-year-old women, where main character Rinko sing her feelings out to Namie Amuro’s “Can You Celebrate?” on karaoke because she just got dumped a page before. Her two friends load Globe and TRF to support, only to realize, whoa, the Komuro Family are the only pop songs I really know now because I’m an old ara-saa.

I was talking with my cousin about karaoke songs and Japanese music we like when she visited last fall, and I will never forget her unknowingly dissing Komuro Family fans by sharing how she knows Tomomi Kahara, TRF and such but mostly because her superiors at work, who are presumably older than us 27-year-olds, sing them at karaoke. I don’t want to believe this Komuro Family thing is actually a true cliche, but it just so funny how it keeps popping up in the most unexpected places.

Congratulations Sailer, You Made It to Friday

See you next week!

music, etc.