J-Pop Will Eat Itself
Three Little Letters (Part Two)

in this series, clicks’n’cuts dilettante Francis Henville describes his descent into the netherworld of Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean commercial pop. Track by track, he navigates deeper into the genre, searching for ever-more-toothsome morsels with which to satiate his jaded appetite…

Don't Start Now

Last week I waxed elliptic on my poor research skills and my eventual discovery that the band I knew as "Boa" was actually two distinct musical acts. The first one turned out to be an English five-piece (later four) named bôa who had the unfortunate distinction of being prophets in their own country. They were later adopted by Japan when they composed a delectable track called “Duvet” for a popular anime.

This week I'd like to resolve this "bias of communication" (a little joke for all you Harold Innis fans out there!) and describe an entirely different "Boa."

Like her gringo counterparts, BoA loves three little letters—but she too plays fast and loose with the ol' rules of punctuation. The Englishmen favor a weird pointy accent—this young lady likes to capitalize the last letter of her stage name. She also shares with bôa the characteristic of being hugely popular in Japan and also sings in English (although only during choruses, it seems).

But that's where the similarities end.

Once I figured out the mystery of the three little letters, I wondered why I had ever been confused. While bôa play conventional, occasionally acoustic pop-rock, BoA is all about the commercial ass-vibrating. While bôa are a mostly-white rock band, BoA is a completely-Korean R&B singer with a plethora of excellent dance producers.

And I have to say—although it's not a track I can really listen to over and over again, “Don't Start Now” is definitely a must for your selection. She leaves the likes of Timberlake and Spears in the metaphorical dust. Dust, I say!

“Don't Start Now” starts out with that synth that can't be killed—the original Lord of Acid, the TB-303—in a hellish menage-a-trois with a crunky kick and an electric bubble sample that sounds like something Stefan Betke made. A couple bars of this are summoned by a timpani before a wicked R&B drum program and treacly fake strings bash through a sexy, retarded verse. “Don't Start Now” is all sucrose. You can drop the liquid verse onto your eyeballs and a few seconds later you'll be stoned on the chorus. The snare and kick rolls are unrelenting.

BoA herself manages to sing all the vocal parts which are multitracked and processed in a million conventional ways—telephone vocals, stereo trickery, Sunship-style illegible edits, and ABBA-thick unisons.

(And of course, BoA has a lot of crappier pop songs than this one—another with an English chorus and nutrasweet production values is the bizarre "Peace-B," where she sings about her MSN Messenger pseudonym. No shit.)

The one part of BoA that I cannot do justice to here is of course her ethereal beauty. (I can hear some of you pundits out there suggesting that it's not justice that I'd like to do to her. You're right of course, but I make no bones about my hedonism.) And as for her dancing—well, let's just say she's the Korean Usher, and leave it at that.

So the Case of the Three Little Letters has been solved, and I will now go back to perusing the Gothic and Lolita Bible, having my petulant slaves fan me with peacock feathers, and drinking ice wine mixed with human blood. Tune in next week when I will review more irrelevent misidentified J-pop and smoke endless cigarettes made from hibiscus flowers.

By: Francis Henville
Published on: 2004-09-30
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