Anyone else watch NHK’s annual Kouhaku Utagassen this New Years?
It was certainly a mixed bag. They trotted out the same decrepit Enka acts whose performances seem each successive year to be less about the songs than the garish costume oneupsmanship. But if anything the show belonged to Ohashi Nozomi who is just about the most angelic child performer I’ve ever seen. She opened the show and it was a smart choice. Also smart? Bringing on Nakama Yukie for hostess duties, although neutered of her usual character humor, she was competent and easy on the eyes. Her co-host Nakai-kun was also a cool choice because he spent most of his time ragging on the fly-by-night acts of the evening, suggesting in his dry manner that their fifteen minutes was up. Speaking of which…. the humor was painful. It’s hard to jump in when you haven’t lived with the trends for a year but, even still… this year seemed even more lowest common denominator than usual. Does Japanese comedy not evolve anymore? Is it just catchphrase after catchphrase combined with some kind of ridiculous furitsuke? I can’t choose the worst offender but the Gentlemen, or The Trannies (not the acts real names) were both unwatchable even in their limited roles. Again, thank you Nakai-kun. Now if only I could get you to stop singing.
Anyway, this was the third year in a row where the women didn’t have a single truly memorable act so the Whites walked away with the “championship”… yeah, it’s lame. I don’t get it.
-Mr. Children + Kouhaku = WIN. Strange choice to use a spinning crane which all but insured that Sakurai’s back would be turned to the camera 50% of the time but, the stage was cool, the big choral ending was sweet and it was one of their best live performances of Gift among a dozen this year. Also NHK allowed them seven freakin’ minutes… an eternity in NHK time. And where the hell were they? Was that stage set up in NHK Hall?? It was nice that they weren’t standing with the other acts in the doofy skits and emcee segments.
-This was a year of firsts really. In an emotional finale the torch was passed from Kitajima Saburo to the young prince of Enka Hikawa Kiyoshi who, presumably, will assume the show closing spot as Saburo once did. Kiyoshi lived up to the spot, turning out a lively performance of a comedic foot stomper which made Enka fun, something which no other act was able to pull off.
-Perfume look incredibly wrong on Kouhaku. Their dancing was… different. Also they were lipsynching -a Kouhaku no-no. At least they had an excuse though, their voices are pretty much just computer processing. Groovy little song tho’.
Enya on the other hand can suck a big one. She took the NHK money and hightailed it out of town. It was basically just the CD played as people pretended to strum instruments and it was pre-recorded in Ireland.
-The girl’s song choices were so boring. And Otsuka Ai’s outfit was hideous. Huge puffy white sweater that made her look all bloated, and bride of frankenstein hair right out of the 80’s. She looked like someone’s crazy aunt, at least ten years older than her age. Song was a drag. Nakashima Mika’s song was dullsville too. Ditto Kouda Kumi’s Britney Spears beat. Ikimonogakari = boring.
-Angela Aki was good but I can’t stand to look at her, she looks like a Monomane version of herself fake nose and all.
Also Takako and I hate her lyrics which are too “answery.” Takako says, “Don’t cry? no! Cry!”
-Also, Ayaka with SoulJa was tight.
-Hamasaki’s song was a loser but her performance owned. The kind of power that comes with experience. To think she’s a veteran now.
-Hitoto Yo actually sang a song not called “Hanamizuki,” and oddly I ended up wanting to hear Hanamizuki.
– SPEED played to a canned track. It was awful but Hiro has really grown into a pleasant singing voice, gone are her nasally strained piercing highs in their place sweetness. Nakai says, “Don’t you go splitting up now” LOL.
-There was one revelation however. Hirahara Ayaka. But it wasn’t for her song. It was when she started the vocals of the theme song from Laputa during the Miyazaki Hayao tribute. For about four lines I swear to god, she owned the world. I got chills. It was so goddamn beautiful and then they had to bring in two other singers who ruined it. Anyway, I realized when she sang her own material (another converted classical piece) Nocturne that I hate the way she sings English lyrics. It’s very auntie-like. She doesn’t have youth in her voice in English.
-The guys… first of all Jello? Who? Nice backstory about him promising his grandma that he’d be on Kouhaku, but the shirt with a silk screen of her and his mother’s hysterics was a little hokey. Also… he dresses like Exile but busts out with… Enka!? Lame. He just wasn’t very good. Granted he’s only part Japanese… maybe it was a disconnect between his life and the lyrics? Jell-o??
-WaT are cute boys and all but… they’re no Yuzu in the song department. No balls.
-TOKIO and Pornograffitti each had songs that failed to hold my attention and it begged the question what made Kouhaku think they were worth investing in this year? (Answer: Everyone else turned them down)
-Marty Friedman? Sure, why not. Takako says, “He’s not playing. He’s just their clown.” Ouch.