Start: pretentious stream of consciousness.
Ooh, pretty red outfits! Matrix style CRT graphics! Seele?! Riho, Riho, RIHO!
After hearing teases of “Password is 0” for a month (give or take), we finally get a PV and a full version of the Morning Musume ’14/Morisanchu/au song. The infectious “Zero! Zero! Zero!” sections of the song heard in the CMs for au are hammered repetitiously, and the melodic lines are short and catchy. Where “Toki wo Koe, Sora wo Koe” aspired to transcend the genre with its theme of eternal longing and sublimation, this song is firmly and assuredly a product of its commercial tie-in, synergistic origins.
I’m a product of Western culture. I grew up with the old guard mentality of “music should never be used crassly to sell goods. On the rare occasion that I watch American television, I am still off-put when I hear commercial music used as advertisement jingles. Part of me still believes the rampant commercialism now encouraged by Western music debases the artist. Speaking strictly of music as art, I need to believe that the artistic merits of a product (the song) intended as emotional expression carries more weight than the jingle meant to sell blue jeans or move sales units (digital downloads or CDs). When John Lennon chants ” Jai guru deva om, Nothing’s gonna change my world” like a Budhist monk in “Across the Universe”, it means much MUCH more than Chris Brown crooning “Double your pleasure, Double your fun and dance.” I know this strikes most people as old fashioned.
So, you might think that Morning Musume 14’s joint venture with a mobile phone company rubs me the wrong way. Actually, it’s the opposite. Perhaps the differences in Western and Eastern music makes the song easier to take. Idol output, by definition, is commercial and populist. They’re not fooling anyone. I am not under any impression that Morning Musume and “Password is 0” are anything other than commercial ventures. I don’t think anyone mistakes Morning Musume ’14 for artists, and this actually works to their advantage. As long as I know the nature of my consumption I can accept that consumption for what it is (notice that I called idol music tuberculosis just now). Of course, commercial or not, art or not, good music transcends its origins. Even as I write, the jury deliberates on the weight of Tsunku’s composition.
“Password is 0” is designed around the hook heard in the au commercial. The song builds around the jingle with repetitive melodies and an ever escalating, electro arrangement. Much of the rest of the composition feels inconsequential as the girls recite “Zero, zero, zero; Password is zero”. I’m left a bit disappointed that the song doesn’t offer much more than this collection shallow, albeit memorable, melodies. It seems Tsunku intended the song to sound as “fake” as possible. Almost none of the instrumental sounds resemble traditional instruments. As a result, some interesting sounds make their way into song: synthesizers bubble up through verses stripped down to kicks, vocals, and the undercurrent of synths. During the chorus as a square-sounding synthesizer whirs up a counter to the vocal melody and Tsunku cackles up “PASSWORD IS ZERO!” like the ghost in the machine. Like the PV implies, the song seems entirely composed from the inside of a computer.
Whereas “TokiSora’s” PV reflects the lyrical nature of the song with graceful ballet movements, “Password is 0” gives us powerful, lunging acrobatics. I enjoy the choreography of the song immensely. Throughout the jingle, pairs of girls leap in the air to form zeroes with their arms. It’s the kind of interesting movement that I crave from my idol choreography. Also, a new move works into the Morning Musume ’14 repertoire as the girls lean and rotate as a unit during the transition into the chorus. This (kind of) takes the sting away from the shots of the girls robotically walking into position. While many believe the oft-utilized hand movements tired, I think they work well in this PV’s chorus. I love seeing an enthusiastic Riho stepping into position with a smile as the girls’ arms run parallel like slope-field. When the PV doesn’t offer much more than dance shot and close-ups, the girls’ expressions make or break the video.
The girls dance enthusiastically in front of a white cyclorama containing a circle of monoliths that evoke either/both “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Neon Genesis: Evangelion”. Either way, both movies and this PV impart a mood and a theme of the relationship between man and technology. As if to hit the theme like a jackhammer, the screen intermittently fills with the digital rain seen in the Matrix movies. This theme fits the instrumentation of the song I mentioned earlier. The Tsunku pessimists also have their way with this theme since the message seems to be a question of who is in the driver’s seat: the music or the technology? While “TokiSora’s” strings and pianos steal the song’s arrangement, the cold unrelenting technology rule the arrangement of “Password is 0”. This time the faceless monoliths, those technological phantoms, dominate the balance of the song.
A little bit of the digital rain. This time, it looks like a bunch of locker combinations strung together.
Ishida Ayumi gets her time in the front. She has worked on her expressions and is looking a lot better of late. Remember her “Most Interesting Musume Alive” photo?
I like her expression in this photo.
I think Riho has message for you all.
This screen shot in particular looks like the girls are giving their 100%.
Here’s that lean that I wrote about earlier. To someone who is not a dancer (me), it looks very impressive. It looks much better in motion.
You can buy “Toki wo Koe, Sora wo Koe/Password is 0” at CDJapan