TV | Wide Angle

Pucker up for this year's 'Kohaku,' and brace yourself for a kiss to remember

by Jordan Allen

Staff Writer

For some of us, a kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is the perfect way to end the year. For everyone else, I suggest an even more memorable kiss: Yoshikiss. Take a moment to imagine what that word might mean … and then brace yourself for something better.

This year, Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, has seen fit to stride confidently down a new avenue of attracting audiences by bringing aging 1970s metal monsters Kiss to the 70th anniversary edition of its perennial New Year’s Eve show, “Kohaku Uta Gassen.” Wait, it gets better. The masked musicians will be joined by none other than X Japan drummer Yoshiki — thus creating Yoshikiss.

The merging of these two powerhouses came about after Yoshiki made a guest appearance with the band at a recent gig in Tokyo. One thing led to another and, hey presto, your usual stock of veteran enka singers and shiny pop groups now get to share a stage with Gene Simmons and his infamously long tongue. And the rest of Kiss, of course.

Historically “Kohaku” has never been the place to do this kind of thing, given its usual lineup of wall-to-wall pop (and the aforementioned enka, something of an acquired taste), but then the show has also been losing viewers steadily in recent years, so perhaps this is a conscious attempt to reach a new (more mature) crowd.

This presents the perfect opportunity to give all those around you — especially your impressionable children — an end-of-year education in the virtues of “real” music (you know, guitars and all that), against the backing of a family-fun pop-music extravaganza. You have two options: Either stay quiet, biding your time until Yoshikiss cranks up the noise and takes Japan by storm, or go full on Jack Black in “School of Rock,” filling your living room with instruments and microphones and making a proper night of learning out of it.

And, just to tempt you a wee bit more (as if you needed it), there are a few other acts attempting to bring guitars to the masses this year. Official Hige Dandism, a group currently occupying multiple places on the top 10 streaming lists, continues Japan’s odd band name trend; while King Gnu, which describes itself as a “Tokyo new mixture style band,” will bring a diverse slice of genuinely interesting rock to the table. Singer-songwriter Lisa, who won over this writer by citing Oasis and Green Day as her influences and who recently released her 16th single, will make her debut this year.

While Yoshikiss is sure to leave you with a moment to remember, beware of what promises to be an awkward first encounter. That would be idol pop group Kis-My-Ft2 — presumably pronounced how it looks, though it’s hard to tell for sure — which will make its debut on the show. And, given that this is a Johnny & Associates group, I sense theirs will be a kiss that is set to linger a little too long.

Anyway, scan the TV listings and your best choices are either kisses from “Kohaku” or an unhealthy dose of corporal punishment in the name of laughs from comedy duo Downtown on the other channel. Best keep the mistletoe hanging over the television.

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