Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Candy Kiss's Sweet "Parfait"!

This is the most original and innovative Japanese idol album of the past few years!  Do I have your attention now?

Here is something unique: a Japanese idol album that actually offers originality in at least two ways.  The first way is that none of the songs on the album have been previously released, either on a CD or as a digital download.  Although a few of the songs have been performed live sometime during the 20 months prior to the album’s release, none of these songs have been available in a studio version until now.  Furthermore, there aren’t any plans to release these songs on a single. The second way this album is original is the format in which the album is set up.   The whole album is made to sound like a Japanese radio broadcast.  It starts off with intro music and then a voice that speaks “FM Candy Kiss…Parfait”.  This is followed by the three members of Candy Kiss, Fukushima Kotoko, Yoshizawa Ruri and Oguchi Ryoka, introducing themselves while the sounds of soft guitar playing and waves hitting the beach are heard in the background.   There is a real summery feel to these “interludes”, as they are labeled on the CD packaging.  The girls talk a bit about the next three songs you are about to hear, mentioning the titles as well.  The next three tracks, of course, are the songs.  Then another “interlude” follows, with the girls continuing their talk, promoting their new album “Parfait”!  Introductions for the next three songs are included, followed by those songs.  This format is repeated a third time.  Finally, the thirteenth track is a wrap up, with the girls thanking the listener.  Outro music is heard with “FM Candy Kiss…Parfait” included, this time being sung rather than spoken.  The music fades and the album is over.

As for the songs themselves, they are all excellent!  The newer Candy Kiss material is more mature than past songs, and the group also has a more mature image now as well.  Highlights for me include track 4, “Hot Summer”, which is primarily sung in English.  Track 7, “Open Arms”, was originally performed live on November 23, 2013, and I had to wait for 20 months for this song to finally make its CD debut!  Interestingly enough, this studio version is 68 seconds longer and somewhat differently mixed.  I think I actually cried when I heard the studio version for the first time.  Track 8, “First Love”, is a sweet love song that was originally performed live by Shimoda Kaede and Yoshizawa Ruri on March 2, 2014.  The studio version is sung by Ruri with Fukushima Kotoko.  Track 10, “Bara no Maho”, is a beautiful flamenco song, something that Candy Kiss has never attempted before.  Tracks 11 and 12, “Kanashimi no Burning Love” and “ to Ai Shita Hito”, both have haunting instrumental openings that actually gave me goose bumps when I first heard them!  I could tell right away that these would be good songs, and they are.    

I’m not sure how unique it is to release a Japanese idol album that contains all new music.  I’m also not sure how rare it is to release an album with no singles or music videos in sight.  (At least on YouTube.  The DVD included with the album does have a music video, for the song “to Ai Shita Hito”, at the end.)  But I’d say it’s very rare, as most groups would not consider doing something like this.  Setting up an album like a radio broadcast also seems pretty unusual for an idol group. Therefore Candy Kiss gets points for trying something rare, or perhaps completely new.  Not many groups would throw caution to the wind and dare to be this different.  Candy Kiss have also made a progression since their first single, the ultra cutesy “Koisuru Candy Kiss”, released over three years ago.  “Parfait” features songs that are much more mature sounding than any other Candy Kiss song of the past.  This is not to say I dislike the older Candy Kiss songs.   Actually, I love them! However, it is nice to see a group progress rather than stay the same for their entire career.  In another unusual move, the credits on the CD packaging, and also the end credits of the DVD, have a special thank you to former members Sakurai Maya and Shimoda Kaede.  It’s pretty rare for an idol company to thank the graduated members of the group in the CD credits.  These are among the reasons why I have lots of respect for Candy Kiss.

Most pop and rock music groups release mere albums.  “Parfait” by Candy Kiss is an unforgettable life-changing experience!  “Parfait” is an genuine album, one that requires your rapt attention from start to finish.  This is not an album that you can listen to as background music, because not focusing on the songs will cause you to miss something good.  The music is excellent, with nine well-written and produced pop songs, and four interludes that tie the album’s concept together nicely.  “Parfait” is not a “concept album” under the generally accepted sense, but the “radio show” format is definitely unique.  While the album is somewhat short (38:45 in length, due to the shortness of some songs), it is something that keeps the listener entertained throughout and holds up to repeat listens.  This is not only the best Japanese idol pop music album of 2015, it is one of the best albums of any genre of music in the world!