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Pop Genie Explodes from Aladdin's Lamp

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Yoshimoto R and C

“Preserve Japan!” “Soldier on, Japanese businessmen!” Slogans from post-war era Japan are hip again thanks to pop group Aladdin’s debut single “Hi wa, Mata Noboru,” released on July 30.

Aladdin is the latest musical act spawned from Fuji Television’s popular celebrity game show, “Quiz! Hexagon II.” In fact, it’s a super group that consists of two pop acts put together by “Hexagon”: female trio Pabo (Mai Satoda, Suzanne and Yukina Kinoshita) and boy band Shuchishin (Takeshi Tsuruno, Naoki Nokubo and Yusuke Kamiji). “Hexagon” host Shinsuke Shimada writes lyrics while regular guest Kei Takahara composes for the groups. The game show prominently features both acts as well as viewer-submitted home videos of children haphazardly mimicking their choreography routines.

Members of both groups are consistently the absolute worst contestants on “Hexagon.” But both Pabo and Shuchishin have done exceptionally well with their respective novelty debut singles, with the former’s “Koi No Hexagon” reaching No. 19 and the latter’s self-titled “Shuchishin” scoring No. 2 on the Oricon charts. Shuchishin has taken the island nation by storm, with its debut ultimately selling 426,000 units and follow-up single “Nakanaide” moving 280,000 units. The group’s success has even inspired a parody act named Hisokan. Mr. Kamiji, a former baseball player, has also become Japan’s heartthrob du jour, with Guinness World Records certifying his blog as the world’s most popular.

They can’t sing, can’t dance and are reputedly stupid. But they have the same appeal as the Spice Girls because they don’t take themselves too seriously. Indeed, Shuchishin and Pabo seem completely different from the robotic circus acts assembled by Johnny & Associates, the Japanese equivalent of the Lou Pearlman boyband factory. Their half-ass chorography is reminiscent of Puffy AmiYumi but musically they don’t have the same self-seriousness. Actually, the guys’ “Shuchishin” and “Nakanaide” are such impeccable pop classics that the catchy Aladdin single almost seems like a letdown.

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