J-Pop Sunday: Perfume

Last time I promised you something “The complete opposite of serious stuff for grown-ups.” Sadly, that original plan fell through when I struggled to find sufficient info/samples of “Machikado Keiki Japan” – an idol group whose gimmick is that their skirts get shorter as the Japanese economy improves. With a deadline approaching I decided to chuck that idea in the bin and dived into my emergency artist reserve. So here’s J-Pop Sunday: The Inevitable Perfume Edition – three lovely ladies from Hiroshima who delight with their dance moves and electropop anthems. Whom I love. A lot.

Especially Nocchi.

Perfume: Left to Right: A~Chan, Nocchi, and Kashiyuka.
Quick Guide:
Act Name: Perfume
Ayaka Nishiwaki (西脇 綾香). A.K.A. “A~chan” (あ~ちゃん)
Ayano Ōmoto (大本 彩乃). A.K.A. “Nocchi” (のっち)
Yuka Kashino (樫野 有香). A.K.A. “Kashiyuka” (かしゆか)
Years Active: 2001-Present
Genre: Electro Pop
Kaito’s Choice Tracks: ポリリズム (Polyrhythm) (2007), Dream Fighter (2008), Magic of Love (2013), Spring of Life (2012)

Our story starts in the year 2000, at a talent school in Hiroshima. Three girls – Ayaka Nishiwaka (A~chan), Yuka Kashino (Kashiyuka), and Yuuka Kawashima (Kawayuka) formed a group together and decided to call themselves “Perfume”.  The name was chosen due to each of them having the kanji香 (“Ka”) in their names, which can translate into English as “Perfume”. However, before the group were able to debut, Kawashima dropped out to focus on her studies and Ayano Ōmoto (Nocchi) joined to replace her. In 2002 the girls made their debut locally and released two singles in the Hiroshima area. It was during these early days that they met a choreographer, Mikiko, who has been with them ever since. In 2003 the girls moved to Tokyo where they joined a national talent agency and also met their producer – our old friend Yasutaka Nakata. (You remember him, don’t you?) However, it wouldn’t be until 2007 with the release of the single “Polyrhythm” when Perfume would hit the big time. And hit it big.

Crikey, they look young there… It’s weird, man!

“Polyrhythm” entered the public conciseness when it was used as part of a nationwide recycling campaign by Japan’s national broadcaster NHK; this gave the girls a new level of exposure. Following this, exposure continued thanks to “Polyrhythm” appearing elsewhere, including in a number of music video games (such as “Dance Dance Revolution”, “Pop’n Music”, and “Taiko no Tatsujin”), the soundtrack for Disney Pixar’s film “Cars 2”, and was later covered by former “Megadeath” guitarist Marty Friedman. Following “Polyrhythm”, with pretty much everyone in Japan aware of Perfume, the girls haven’t since failed to debut a single within the top 3 of the charts. And the album featuring “Polyrhythm” – “Game” – was the first by an electronic group to reach number one in the charts since the Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1983.

Although Perfume captured Japan’s hearts with “Polyrhythm” it was “Dream Fighter” that caused them to capture mine. An evening Youtube session caused me stumble across them accidentally and within the hour I had listened to the song 10 times and placed an order to import the album it featured on – “Triangle”.

That awkward moment when you realise you’ve nicked POLYSICS’ colour scheme…

From an objective standpoint I don’t believe that there is much that makes “Dream Fighter” stand out from the rest of Perfume’s back catalogue. However, nostalgia held a gun to my head and made me include it as one of my choice tracks. Having said that, just because it doesn’t “stand out” it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad song. Perfume’s repertoire is filled with fantastic tracks after all, with this one being no exception; placing at number 2 in the charts on release.

Speaking of fantastic tracks, here’s “Spring of Life!” A personal favourite, right from the start “Spring of Life” grabs you with its’ intro, gives you a catchy chorus and an joyful melody before a seamless switch to a cracking, house-like, bridge two thirds of the way through. Finally, it switches back to J-Pop mode to finish off.

The luminous clothing idea was also used by Austria’s 2012 Eurovision Song Contest entrant.

One more for you: “Magic of Love” appears on their latest album “Level 3” – which was released last month. Again, “Magic of Love” has all of the hallmarks of a Perfume single; an upbeat electronic tune, catchy (if slightly overly auto-tuned) vocals, and smooth dance moves. Usually I would only feature three tracks in a J-Pop Sunday piece, but I find the video so incredibly charming that I felt I had to share it with you.

Perhaps I’m just a sucker for bright colours and camera trickery?

Now that they’ve taken Japan, Perfume’s current mission is global conquest: Their last two albums “JPN” and “Level 3” were released digitally worldwide within a month of their Japanese release (exact dates varying depending on your region) and earlier this year the girls visited mainland Asia for a second time and they also visited Europe for the first time – during which I desperately tried to get tickets to their show in London, but it sold out within an hour. Much to my dismay.

With their international push I wish Perfume the best of luck. If there’s one J-Pop act deserves to be a true global success then it’s these girls.

More Perfume:
Official Website: http://www.perfume-web.jp/ (Japanese)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Perfume.global (English)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Perfume_Staff (Japanese)
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Perfume (English)

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