PV VS Round 3: WaT vs AAA
Two videos go head-to-head in shorts reviews, but only one emerges as the winner. This time, a battle between the pretty boys of WaT and the pretty boys and girls of AAA. Though apparently, some musical borrowing skews this round and makes it more of a tag-team affair…
WaT - “Hava Rava”
I first really noticed WaT when they were performing at Kouhaku and their microphone stands fell. They didn’t panic, they didn’t go all divo and storm off in a huff, they just kept on playing and laughed good-naturedly as the Kouhaku folks stood their mic stands back up. That instantly made them likeable to me, and their recent decision to collaborate with Hello! Project has endeared them to me even more.
So I decided to give the PV for their new single, “Hava Rava”, a try. And… well…
It was okay.
If good artists borrow and great artists steal, then WaT are artistic geniuses of the highest rank. The guitar riff they build their song off of is unmistakeably the Kinks classic, “All Day and All of the Night”. While a lot of the original British Invasion stuff sounds quaint and dated, this song in particular holds up as a solid rocker with just the right edge of sleazy suggestiveness.
It is isn’t just a case of borrowing or stealing, though, but also getting away with the creative crime. And for WaT, the results are mixed at best.
On the one hand, “Hava Rava” is fun enough and good enough that it can be enjoyed on its own merits. However, afterwards I don’t find myself humming “Hava Rava” or wanting to listen to more WaT. Instead, I want a good dose of classics Kinks, including “Destroyer” and “Lola” (a song WaT can more convincingly cover, all things considered).
Of course, your mileage probably varies and I’m admittedly a different gender, generation, and culture as WaT’s intended audience. I can’t help but hear the Kinks, and it affects how I react to the song. When WaT’s intended audience hears the word “Kinks” they probably expect a “-i Kids” to follow.
Inspirations aside, I’m struck by how anemic WaT’s singing voices are. I guess they’re going for the mid-range, sweet-sounding, inoffensive harmony approached epitomized by the Everly Brothers - but even that takes more singing ability than what WaT achieves here. It may just be that I’m not used to hearing that kind of singing from males - my idea of a good male singing voice is Black Francis and J Mascis, after all.
Musically, the song has some piano to jazz up the Kinks riff and make it more old time rock and roll. (As opposed to rawk, which is what the Kinks did.) There’s an actual guitar solo in “Hava Rava” - it’s okay, but won’t make me forget Thurston Moore or Joey Santiago anytime soon. If the word “innocuous” could be used in a positive sense, I’d use it for this song - I want to like it, but don’t feel all that compelled to do so. Ultimately, that makes them like SMAP and Gackt and Ueto Aya - geinou I like as personalities, but not as musical performers.
The PV is a good deal of fun, though, with WaT as loveable losers in the game of love. One of them apparently has broken up with a girl back home and so the antidote is summer at the shore with his best friend.
The guys do a funny if predictable jaw-drop, horny panic at the sight of every pretty girl they encounter. And of course, there are silly mishaps like being shanghaied into working for the beach diner, dumping ramen on a customer because of girl-watching, and being chased up and down the coast line after accidentally kicking some dirt into a guy’s face.
There is a hint of loneliness to this PV - the boys can’t get any girls and seem to rely on each other’s companionship a bit too much for a beachtime vacation. Not that I think they’re gay - though if they were, there’d be nothing wrong with that…
And they are cute, no doubt about that. I wouldn’t mind having either of them for a Friday if I was in a Robinson Crusoe situation, you know what I mean? Actually, an Oz burn-a-swastika-on-the-ass kind of situation wouldn’t be ruled out by me, either…
I do like how the PV begins and ends with train rides - going to the shore, and returning from it. It adds a nice melancholy touch, frames the narrative nicely, and reinforces how these are just a couple of very pretty boys looking for true love and having yet to find it… Which is the fantasy their audience likely wants, just as Momusu wota want to be the first to introduce their favorite idol to the joys of leather masks with zippers.
AAA - “Q”
AAA are like the Joyce Carol Oates of Jpop - obsessed with boxing and rape. No, wait, I mean they’re constantly releasing new material.
I often feel like I’ve never given AAA enough of a chance. I enjoyed “Friday Party” and “Hallelujah” a good deal, but for the most part I’d watch a AAA PV maybe once or twice before setting it aside. The last time I gave the group a serious chance was “Kimono Jet Girl” a month or so back - a title that sounds likesomething Perfume should’ve taken for themselves - and that was just… ewww. While the PV was both cute and a tad creepy (bonus points!), the song itself was this horrendously misguided bit of amphetamine-induced fever-dream. (”We wanted it to sound like Speed, not like you’re on speed!” someone probably screamed afterwards.)
Anyway, they’re celebrating their one year anniversary with this single, “Q”, which may be about the actual letter, the question part of Q&As, or that annoying character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don’t really care.
While it’s not as integral to the song as WaT’s single, “Q” has its own bit of love and thievery - I mean, sampling - recycling the distinct guitar riff from… “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins.
By Kenny Loggins.
Motherfucker. I’m sorry, but that alone decides this round for me: “All Day and All of the Night” versus “Footloose”? The Kinks versus Kenny Loggins? The decision is obvious. So now that this has been reduced to a farce, let’s just put AAA out of its misery as quickly as possible…
There’s a couple other similarities between the WaT and AAA PVs: first, there’s a “hilarious” scene where someone waiting tables drops their plate. Is it really that funny seeing people be incompetent in the service industry?
I do like how one of the AAA boys is seen reading at that eatery, intent enough that he callously ignores the waitress mishap… Except it’s a pop-up book that earns his rapt attention. Is that the level of literacy these guys have? Was Murakami unavailable in the local library? Translations of Pynchon were sold out at the Kinokuniya?
Another aspect the two PVs share are zany moments with the idols having fun. But where the WaT boys are doing the wacky summer thing, the AAA group just do random things like writing on a screen and dancing in circles and sitting in a giant Q and waving their hands.
One thing AAA’s PV has that WaT doesn’t is a funky black man - a kind of Hendrix-esque guitar player who’s two-dimensional (how appropriate) and plays his guitar with his teeth and between his legs. Unfortunately, this calls up the image of the real Hendrix playing that riff from “Footloose” and… motherfucker. That’s beyond appalling. Why not imagine Janis Joplin singing “Let’s Hear It For the Boy”, while we’re at it?
Back to the Hendrix manque - with something this broadly portrayed, one can only use the Locolotion Standard to wonder how racist this is. Specifically, is this more offensive or less offensive than a black man dressed up as a horny, squirting bottle of suntan lotion? In this case, the answer is apparently less.
Another thing AAA has that WaT does’t is the letter Q all over the freakin’ place. They float around like a swarm of insects, in various bright colors and varying fonts. It’s very much like Sesame Street, or like those squid-like things that attack the good guys in The Matrix films…
The Q isn’t only in the PV, it’s a big part of the chorus as well, with one line going something like, “Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q!” I may have gotten it wrong, that was a paraphrase.
That said, the singing in this song is considerably better than WaT’s, at least for the solo lines. They’re clearly a talented bunch, though maybe they should be a little choosier about what singles they release.
Misako looks adorably, consummately bangable when she walks around for her parts in the song, singing “choo choo choo choo baby” or some such… but doing train sound effects isn’t that much of a step above chanting a damn letter.
At one point, she emerges from between the legs of the black man - a less discrete reviewer than me would joke about how this may not be a new experience for her, but… oh wait, I said it, didn’t I?
Fortunately, AAA singles are just like trains: if you don’t like the current one, wait a few minutes for the next one to arrive. Conversely: if you get run over and mauled by the current one, you can just lay on the tracks and wait for the next one to damage your ear drums and eyes as well.
I think AAA have more potential as a group than WaT, and more talent to tap into. But the choice between the Kinks versus Kenny Loggins - I mean, WaT versus AAA - is pretty clear in the case of these two PVs and songs. The Kinks - I mean, WaT’s “Hava Rava” - wins hands-down. The riff WaT stole is catchier than the one AAA stole, and WaT’s actual song is better - fun and wistful, not dopey and over-caffeinated. While the bad Engrish of the phrase “Hava Rava” is silly, at least it’s not as annoying as shouting “Q” over and over again.
And quite frankly, the boys of WaT are considerably cuter than the guys of AAA… and maybe a couple of the AAA girls, as well, depending on how many Jeff Stryker films I’d seen recently. Though I’d probably pay good money to see AAA’s Misako in compromising positions with a variety of dead sixties icons. Wearing a black leather mask with a mouth zipper, of course.
But that’s just me.