Any Hallyu act that has hit daebak or has gathered enough buzz on the local scene sees Japan as their first (and perhaps only) destination towards global relevancy. Because no matter how hard our hardworking idols work (work, work, work work), the charms of K-Pop will never be taken seriously in America (see BoA, Rain, Se7en, SNSD ;(). It is a good thing though because I’ve always seen the genre as an antithesis to mainstream American pop but that calls for another discussion some other time.
Ok, back to Japan. The Japanese music scene is arguably the second biggest market in the world, so it is really no surprise to see some of our idols working their way in the charts of the Land of the Rising Sun even though they can barely speak the language. Aside from that, the kind of concepts found in K-Pop can be easily marketed to Japanese audiences who are not new to supergroups dancing in sync to some great pop ditties.
So for this week’s Choice Cuts Throwback, we’ll be giving the spotlight to the K-Pop act which I believe has released some of the best pop songs in Japan – After School!
After School has done fairly well in Korea (although they have been inactive there since 2013, c’mon Pledis!) for them to warrant a career in Japan. What makes After School’s Japanese music slay is the fact that they are lucky enough to have worked with some fantastic producers – Shinichi Osawa being one of them. For starters, the guy is one of the best DJs in Japan (and in the world) and has been known to produce sugoi stuff for J-pop royalties such as Namie Amuro and Ayumi Hamasaki. AS scoring collaborations with the great Mondo Grosso has beefed up the quality of their discography in ways never thought of (overselling, but yeah!!). If you’re a devout K-Pop fan and you find Soshi’s Japanese releases to be supreme, wait until you hear After School’s.
“Do you believe this situation?”
Here are some amazing Japanese After School songs worth checking out (and stanning):
Heaven served as the group’s return to Japan after their Korean promotions in 2013. This was a crucial phase for After School as it was also their first release to not feature leader (and founder) Kahi. For those who don’t know After School, they have this “graduation” system where members can come and go, and it was a big blow for the group when Kahi decided to call it quits.
Thankfully, Heaven was successful in Japan by After School standards as it sold better than their previous singles…and it’s a fantastic track to begin with. To cut it short, Heaven is the “Get Lucky” of Japan and if it can’t get any better than that, watch the music video and marvel over the sight of AS girls pole dancing to this funky disco jam.
With Heaven’s success, After School and Osawa teamed up once again and released another single called “Shh” in 2014. I personally prefer this track slightly than the already marvelous “Heaven” primarily because of its vintage, underground EDM influences. The great thing about Osawa’s After School tracks is that the production takes its time to build up while making sure that it does not drag the song long enough. Shh has several pre-choruses and choruses coupled with seamless transitioning – a formula that can only come from geniuses like freaking Shinichi Osawa. Commercially, Shh did not fare well as compared to Heaven but not that bad to think that it actually tanked. One hell of a song, nonetheless.
Playgirlz and Dress To Kill
After School’s Japanese LPs are no joke as well. Both Playgirlz and Dress To Kill contain consistently solid pop jams that can rival against the releases of their Hallyu contemporaries. I’m leaning more on Dress to Kill though with its relentless and focused electric sound. Sadly, Dress To Kill tanked really bad but it doesn’t discount the fact that it is indeed a great album. Here are some recommended tracks for you to enjoy:
Rip Off (from Playgirlz) – also released in Korean as a part of their Flashback EP in 2012. Check out the awesome choreo as well
Dress To Kill – aka one of their best b-sides ever
Yes No Yes
In The Moonlight
Any thoughts on After School’s Japanese discography? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss. And oh, before I forget: