|Album Title:||Perfect Idol 04|
|Anime Title:||The Idolm@ster|
|Artist:||Asami Imai, Mayako Nigo, Rie Kugimiya|
|Release Date:||April 26, 2012|
|01. Slapp Happy!!!||Asami Imai, Mayako Nigo, Rie Kugimiya||4:08|
|02. arcadia -BOSSA NOVA Rearrange Mix-||Asami Imai||5:03|
|03. Kiramekirari -BOSSA NOVA Rearrange Mix-||Mayako Nigo||5:39|
|04. READY!! -BOSSA NOVA Rearrange Mix-||Rie Kugimiya||5:45|
Review: If you have ever been subject to me bombarding you with Youtube videos over any sort of instant messenger service and compare it to my usual rhetoric, you’d probably come to the conclusion that I hold covert sympathies for Idolm@ster music. From a musically meritorious standpoint, Idolm@ster music is plagued by the sort of sterile compositional processes that are akin to manufacturing. And yet, on a primitive level, it oftentimes has enough catchy hooks that fly under my radar and reel me in, whether it’s an upbeat atmosphere or addicting chorus; one needn’t look further than songs like “Go My Way” to hear prominent examples of such cases.
Perfect Idol 04, the album that comes packaged with Vol. 7 of the Idolm@ster Blu-ray/DVDs, tries to replicate that success through the opening track “Slapp Happy!!!,” featuring the likes of Asami Imai, Rie Kugimiya, and Mayako Nigo. Now “Slapp Happy!!!’s” instrumental section is great. The song is upbeat, dispensing a nice, pleasant mood as it opens with a series of claps to set the rhythm and follows that up with a bouncy atmosphere carried by the guitars. It’s only when the singers enter that this song unravels. Rie Kugumiya’s proficiency at navigating some of the passages leaves much to be desired as her notes are off-key and her expressiveness is downright dull. Also, count me in as not being too impressed with Asami Imai’s performance on this particular song; her lilting, dynamic delivery stands out just a bit too much from everyone else and doesn’t mesh well with the song’s lighter feel. Couple all of that with the repetitiveness and you have a song that’s just another buoyant, but ultimately forgettable Idolm@ster song.
But what “Slapp Happy!!!” does well is in the way it sets the tone, using the acoustic guitars to bring about a bossa nova (Latin/Caribbean-flavored jazz) feel that extends to the next three tracks. The result is a disc that packs more grace and class than what one would normally expect from Idolm@ster.
The bossa nova arrangement of Chihaya’s (cv: Asami Imai) “arcadia” illustrates this rather nicely. While the original is more dominating with its lyrical accents which translate into a desperate, emphatic feel, this bossa version is smoother and more introspective as the melancholy aura is more apparent. Asami Imai’s delivery brings it closer to a ballad as the lyrics flow wonderfully and the acoustic guitar bridge carries a sense of flair that left me feeling reflective and slightly blue.
On the other hand, “Kiramekirari’s” bossa arrangement, while better than the original, doesn’t manage to mesh the bossa and the upbeat nature of the original all too well. Plainly put, this song is capable of generating a laundry list of faults that befall lesser works. For example, Mayako Nigo’s singing ability is not all that expressive and in this song, she seems to be going through the motions rather than channeling genuine emotion into the track. And while the background instrumentation is decent, the vocal outbursts in the background are pretty distracting and feel more like a gimmick than a palpable addition that makes a song more enjoyable. Finally, the repetitiveness becomes grating; I can only stomach so much upbeatness and when the cycle repeats too often, I just become numb to the experience leaving me feeling slightly disgusted with this whole ordeal.
Thankfully, the disc closes with the highlight track: an arrangement of “Ready!!,” which serves as the anime’s opening theme. The original manages to be catchy, incorporating all of the aspects of cookie-cutter idol pop in a way that never feels trite, possibly because the “Are you ready, I’m a lady” wordplay gimmick overshadows just about everything else. Whatever it is, “Ready!!” is enjoyable in that earwormy way and has gotten a lot of playtime as a result. The bossa version, while it opts for just Rie Kugumiya, whose singing will never win awards for technical mastery, still manages to feature palatable singing, even if there isn’t much in Kugimiya’s delivery to really stand out. Her perfomance is not distracting, allowing me to take in the bossa nova arrangement’s class and elegance (fitting a classy lady nicely!) as the upbeat original takes on a more cultivated air.
For what it’s worth, all of the arrangements are an improvement over the Idolm@ster originals as manufactured idol pop takes on a cooler, classier vibe. At worst, it makes tracks like “Kiramekirari” marginally better and at best, it breathes new life into tracks like “Ready!!.” Given the source material, you can only do so much to improve matters, but mixing in bossa nova is excellent way to get extra mileage if you’re looking for a similar, yet different feel from Idolm@ster music.