A Tokyo Girl Life According to Perfume

Couple thoughts on Perfume’s single from February

*Edited from a post on Tumblr

Perfume’s new single is… Good, but the group has put out far better singles. Yasutaka Nakata, too, has released more interesting songs from this past year or so. Keeping up with today’s trends, his productions have foregone words for entirely musical hooks for the chorus. He’s much more showy in “Nanimono” with him splicing the voice of featured singer Kenshi Yonezu like his older material. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “Harajuku Iyahoi” goes with a more hard-hitting center while writing a fun, silly shout-out like her other strong songs.

The music video tries to channel the listlessness expressed in the song to mixed results. Anonymous people run through the night streets of Tokyo without a clear direction to search for something in guidance of some shining crest. It’s basically a generic EDM video from a group whose visuals are far from generic EDM.

“Tokyo Girl”

All that said, I’ve been listening to “Tokyo Girl” a lot since I started watching Tokyo Tarareba Musume, the manga-turned-drama series that commissioned “Tokyo Girl” as its theme song. The single sounds exclusive for such a show: a group of three thirtysomethings in Tokyo tries to stave off loneliness by finding the right boyfriend in the big city. While the episodes are mostly silly with humor really fit for the manga format, the more serious moments opens the floor to explore what a woman might want out of her life as she hits 30.

While the beat of “Tokyo Girl” treads along the motions compared to their other singles, the song’s energy isn’t necessarily a bad fit as the backdrop of the drama series. The three friends’ situations are supposed to be examples of what happens if you spend your entire 20s wondering what you could and should have done but never quite redeeming those regrets. Such a life of unfulfilled daydreams should sound like a question mark.

The show saves the song for the end credits. The song’s booming drums nicely cues the cliffhangers, either a wrap-up of a cat-and-mouse chase or a discovery of a new information about a character. The purpose of Perfume’s single, then, is less to boost excitement for something new than carry on a subject’s curiosity. Like any good drama, it leaves an underlining feeling like something is afoot in a never-ending search. In a way, it’s a vibe fit for a Perfume song.

“The song touches on that feeling of getting distant from your original goals by getting distracted by being too busy, or that moment you notice, ‘hey this isn’t what I wanted to do,’” Kashiyuka said in conversation about the single during Perfume’s radio show.

She points out how the title of Tokyo Girl doesn’t have to refer only to people originally from the country’s capital. Perfume themselves moved to the city from Hiroshima when they were teens to pursue music. And the single connects a lot with young fans in transition who’s currently trying to claim Tokyo as their new home.

“The song made me want to work harder like you three who fulfilled your dreams after moving here,” one fan wrote on the radio show’s message board. She apparently moved to Tokyo for college for hopes of a more exciting life, but she shared how she’s disappointed at the lack of progress her life has taken since.

It’s easy to dismiss Nakata for the passiveness of “Tokyo Girl.” Perhaps there are a dozen of more inspirational Perfume songs to turn to. But I don’t listen to “Tokyo Girl” for a full high, just enough to feel OK. With its synth-pop beat less like a firework than a few crackles, the music feels more honest as a song to accompany a rather normal life of casual highs and modest lows.

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