PV VS Round 6: Yamada Yu vs Shibasaki Kou
Two videos go head-to-head in shorts reviews, but only one emerges as the winner. This time it’s a battle between two actress slash singers: Yamada Yu and her eyecandy-heavy “Real You” versus the Strange matchmaking of the “Invitation” PV by Shibasaki Kou. Which will win, the easy-on-the-ears and even-easier-on-the-eyes approach of Yamada, or the more ambitious stylings of Shibasaki?
Yamada Yu - “Real You”
One thing is clear: Yamada Yu is gorgeous. A swan’s graceful neck, legs that don’t quit, perfect pouty lips, a hypnotic gaze… Sure, she’s twice as old as most of the idols I swoon over, but wow!
And she’s smart with the PV for her debut single, focusing on her hotness without making it too blatant.
It’s impossible to take my eyes off her, and the song is at least passable enough that I’m willing to leave the volume on and even tap my toes to the beat.
If there’s any issue I have, it’s some of the sartorial decision she makes for the PV.
Her dance sequence outfit is fine, some butch leather to play off against her gams and mane of hair. The backup dancers are clearly there for decorative purposes only - and completely superfluous, given how much attention Yu commands.
That said, the hat for the non-dance shots are mildly horrendous…
And from the knees up, this other outfit is great - real Daisy Duke-ish…
But what the hell is up with those fuzzy boots?
It’s like an episode of Dukes of Hazzard where some strange Japanese lady straps a couple of poodles to her calves. Or was that an episode of Enos…?
The song itself is low impact disco pop - it isn’t demanding by any means, it won’t stick with you for very long, but it’s catchy enough to enjoy for the moment.
In short, it’s the perfect pop vehicle for a geinou looking to stretch some, show some range… but not too much, lest she fall flat on her face.
Her PV performance makes clear she takes her musical career seriously, though not in a grating fashion.
One doesn’t get the sense of, “I’m an artist making a serious musical statement.”
If anything, her presence is more of a model working the runway with her attitude - professional, a bit aloof, but knowing she’s there to move product.
Yu doesn’t seem to be aiming beyond competent singing, shaking her booty to a groovy dance beat, and burning her audience’s retinas with her sheer hotness. It’s an idol-wota social contract I’m more than willing to sign.
Shibasaki Kou - “Invitation”
Shibasaki Kou is an example of a different kind of actress-turned-diva, one more invested in the artistic aspect and not just the commercial.
I must confess, my attachment to Kou stems from Battle Royale - her performance as Souma still leaves me awestruck. She’s of course moved on to bigger, better - and considerably less bloody - things. Along with dramas and CMs, she’s made a very respectable music career for herself as well.
As a result, she takes her music very seriously. “Kage” for example, was basically “Kiss From a Rose” warmed over somewhat, and the PV had her standing around in front of a moosehead or looking pensive / distraught as she ran her fingers through her hair. It was the kind of performance that’s supposed to convince you she’s an artiste, and that what she says has a deeper meaning you should appreciate, that she’s more than just a pretty face.
That exhaling sound you hear is me letting out a very long, very pained sigh of frustration.
“Invitation” isn’t nearly as frustrating or as pretentious. It had the potential to actually be a light-hearted romp - both musically and visually - and on surface inspection, that’s exactly what it is.
However, I can’t help but note an insistent self-satisfaction in the PV.
The premise is quite clever, actually: Kou is an emissary of love, a modern day cupid in a lovely sun dress, bringing two schoolkids together with paper airplanes and the occasional shove.
Imagine what a young Ayaya could have done with it! Or Otsuka Ai! Or even Koda Kumi, though the shoving would be coming from her crotch and not her palm.
It’s a generally upbeat performance and yet the underlying smugness - the sense of, “I’m doing something deep here” being flashed at you in tasteful neon lights - is unmistakeable in the way Kou over-emotes when she sings, in the way the camera rushes around her in a swirl of infatuation, and even in the urgency of the would-be teen lovers racing around as if on some strange scavenger hunt.
Why are these teens running around like this? Why do they look so pained? Why don’t they just call, or even friend each other on MySpace? The way they act in this PV, it seems less like a date-hunt than a desperate hostage situation.
But of course, in the world of serious art - the kind that betters you on purpose - this kind of high-minded po-faced earnestness is Standard Operating Procedure. Which is why I don’t have much truck with serious art.
It’s an ambitious PV, and the song is very good - the best from Kou I’ve heard, though I must admit to paying attention to her music only occassionally.
But like Yamada Yu, Kou doesn’t strike me as a particularly gifted singer. She may be more competent than Yu, but nothing in her delivery knocks my socks off or makes me think she should quit her other day jobs.
I usually give credit for more ambitious attempts but also tend to cringe at pretentious displays - that’s what kept me away from a lot of the solo artists I’m finally learning to appreciate now. I think I’m being harsher on Shibasaki Kou than I need to be, but I still scratch my head over “Kage” and find that kind of attitude in the seams of her new PV. And as frenetic and lively as “Invitation” tries to be, watching Yamada Yu being Yamada Yu is pretty damn satisfying as well. I mean, wow. So when it boils down to ambition versus eyecandy, eyecandy wins this time: Yamada Yu’s “Real You”.