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Kis-My-Ft2 “Good Ikuze!” (Avex Trax)

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Odds are, Japan Times reader, that you do not like Kis-My-Ft2. Maybe you’ve been unable to escape the bleating “Wanna Beeee!!!” while out strolling in Shibuya, or maybe they lost you at, “From the people who brought you SMAP and Arashi!” So this review should be quick, right? A nice hatchet job with a couple good jokes thrown in, and we’re out.

Nope, too easy and not fair. Johnny’s & Associates’ boy bands like Kis-My-Ft2 are easy punching bags and vessels for folks to bemoan the current state of Japanese pop. Yet those complaints mostly come from men … while this group’s fan base is predominantly women, especially teenagers. American music journalist Maura Johnston has written about how teen girls are often scapegoated as “ruining music,” and that’s what is going on here. “Good Ikuze!” may not be your thing, but it’s hardly terrible.

The group rises above the ballad-into-goof-pop formula of boy band elders Arashi by offering sonic variety on the album. “Black & White” and “xLunaSX” work in elements of contemporary electronic dance music, while “Strawberry Dance” channels disco to create its digital strut. “Unmei Girl” imitates fellow boy band (and unfairly loathed outfit) One Direction except moving at a faster tempo. There are a handful of boring ballads — and “Wanna Beeee!!!” is excruciatingly peppy — but there is enough material here preventing “Good Ikuze!” from being a slog.

Really, though, I can’t write about why this album matters to teenage girls because I’ve never been one. But I have plenty of friends who grew up obsessed with N’Sync and Backstreet Boys, bands I called “gay” and “the reason music sucks” when I was an insufferable 13 year old. Such pop outfits helped those teen girls figure out who they were as people, from what music they liked to how they defined their sexuality. Unlike the actively regressive idol-pop culture, Japan’s boy-band world is far less problematic and easier to understand.