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'Yowamushi Santa' Is Coming to Town

Flight Master/Pony Canyon

Was it like this in the 1940s with Sinatra and all the screaming bobby-soxers? Or in the late 1960s when four mop-haired Liverpudlians laid waste to the American pop charts? This time it began across the Pacific with a novelty act and a guilty-pleasure song. But in the ensuing eight months, the J-pop boy band Shuchishin has repeatedly recaptured that lightening in its bottle. Maybe its marginal talent is comparable to the Spice Girls at best, but Shuchishin has miraculously churned out one classic after another in such a short time span that it unequivocally qualifies as one of the best pop vocal acts ever, maybe the very best.

From three dimwitted D-list celebs guesting on the Fuji Television game show “Quiz! Hexagon II” to superstars appearing on the Japanese national institution that is NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve Kohaku competition, Shuchishin’s meteoric rise has captured an entire nation’s imagination. It’s hard to even fathom the punch-in-the-gut devastation felt by thousands of little kids who’d dutifully practiced the group’s every dance routine when “Hexagon” host and lyricist Shinsuke “Cassius” Shimada inexplicably announced that Shuchishin would cease its musical endeavors on Jan. 2, 2009, and that “Yowamushi Santa” – the group’s highly-anticipated third single to be released on Dec. 10 – would be its last.

While just as infectious and catchy as the group’s self-titled debut single “Shuchishin” and the impeccable pop-confection follow-up “Nakanaide,” “Yowamushi Santa” is an unexpectedly mature mid-tempo effort that forgoes the tongue-in-cheek 1980s Shonentai influence. While the holiday-themed ditty almost seems disappointing at first listen, it nevertheless sends chills up one’s spine on subsequent spins. But “Yowamushi Santa” has a double A-side single that should prove even more timeless and is sure to turn on the eye faucet: the solo effort of Takeshi Tsuruno, also known as Shu, “Nanimokamo ga Kimi Datta.” The two-time champ of Fuji Television’s annual Utauma comedians’ singing contest, Shu deservedly gets to bask in the spotlight on his own. Even Shuchishin’s biggest detractors will probably become converts once they hear Shu’s performance. This guy is the male version of Mary J. Blige, with pure raw emotion oozing through every note. Working with the group’s regular team of songwriters and arrangers, Shu delivers an unforgettable ballad. Here’s hoping that this rare talent will continue singing and carrying on Shuchishin’s legacy. And as for the group hanging it up after Jan. 2, say it ain’t so, Cassius! Say it ain’t so!


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