By S&M, I mean ‘Sleek & Minimalist’ of course.
Despite ‘No Sleeves’ (also known as ‘No3b’) being the AKB subgroup with the best combination of strong voices, it’s always had a chip on its shoulder. Ever since they were formed, they’ve only released 1-2 songs annually; which basically meant that if I didn’t like their latest single, I’d have to wait around 6 months for the next release. Luckily, I’ve enjoyed most of their songs (with the exception of ‘Lie’) so it doesn’t happen often.
What I end up with, however, is a fairly small discography that I wish was larger. Not including the songs they created for the drama ‘Mendol’, their total number of releases comes to five in the past three years from 2008-2010. But enough with my complaints, let’s talk about their latest single, ‘Answer’.
‘Answer’ was another song that made me nervous from hearing the short preview, but after having listened to it fully, there’s no doubt that is a strong entry. The song starts off sounding deceptively simple, the chorus immediately etching itself into my brain, but then reveals complex and delicately composed verses, which I completely fell in love with. The instrumentals are upbeat and keeps the pace going with its strong percussive beats and fluid music. It seamlessly switches from sounding melancholy to cheerful; no easy feat.
The PV was also a nice surprise. ‘No Sleeves’ seemed to be departing from typical idol fare since ‘Lie’, and this is another example. The visuals move away from bright colors completely, with the backgrounds, outfits and props all being in black and white. The concept is a lot more abstract and conceptual than usual; the No Sleeves members wake up, revealing that they’re trapped behind a frame. Tired of being static pictorials on a wall, and hatch a plan to escape by putting personalized statues in their place.
The PV also illustrates two different versions of each member, one representing them outside of the frame, and the other being inside the frame. It’s visually done very cleverly by switching the blacks and whites, and with subtle differences on the member’s makeup and hair. By cutting between this, dance shots, and the storyline, they’ve created a visual array of intrigue from beginning to end with very little. There’s also a very subtle use of computer visual effects that add a nice touch to the overall atmosphere. This is one of the very few times when I’ll say that bare white backgrounds are fine.
Almost everything about this PV is stunningly beautiful. Almost. I was thoroughly enjoying this music video until about 3/4ths of the way through, when I encountered the scariest thing I’ve seen in idol videos, bar none:
Yeah… fuck. Minegishi needs to see a therapist.
Overall, ‘Answer’ gets strong marks all around. No Sleeves releases are something I’ll always look forward to, as they have the most interesting combination of voices in all of AKB’s subgroups. If I could ask anything of them, I’d say that I want a super energetic single from them next, akin to ‘Tane’ or ‘Girls Talk’. It’d be a good change of pace, don’t you think?
Releases March 2nd, 2011