Being the center girl of AKB48, I’m sure the announcement of Maeda Atsuko’s solo debut was long overdue for many people, even those who weren’t fans of her. While not possessing the strongest vocals, her skills have grown considerably in the past couple years, which was very evident in this year’s ‘Sakura no Ki ni Narou’ and ‘Kiss Made 100 Mile’. Though overdue, the single was met with great anticipation, from fans and detractors alike.
Some may have been disappointed by a ballad instead of an upbeat song, but I was blown away with ‘Flower’. I rarely gravitate towards slow songs unless it pushes my emotional button (I do have one, buried in me somewhere), and I found the melody to be hauntingly moving. Like Itano Tomomi’s debut, ‘Flower’ doesn’t have the traditional trappings of an “idol song”. It moves deeper into “artist” territory, with a fuller and more complex instrumental track that give it that high-quality sheen.
There wasn’t a single moment in the song where I felt ‘Flower’ was stretching itself too thin in its 4+ minute run time; on the contrary, I had the song run on loop for most of the day without it wearing thin. Better still, ‘Flower’ has four b-side songs, all of which are of impeccable quality. Without a doubt, this is among the most light and refreshing collection of songs I’ve encountered since Loveholic.
The PV manages to pull from a lot things I love: heavy narrative, cinematic presentation, use of actual film stock and an art-house sensibility. This is about as far from the standard idol PV as you can get. I was initially expecting something along the lines of a generic montage of Maeda Atsuko walking along the beach with the occasional close-up shot, so the ‘Flower’ PV was a very welcome surprise. It’s a fairly daring music video, featuring no stage or singing shots at all, leaving the entire duration of the song to the cinematic narrative.
But even with this luxury, I felt that there weren’t enough clues for the viewer to clearly understand everything that’s happening in the PV, and even now I have questions for a few characters that play a part in the story despite having watched it multiple times. There are definitely a few questions in this PV that were purposefully left unanswered, but there were some parts that I felt needed more clarity to to enhance the video as a whole. Despite these shortcomings, it’s a beautiful and compelling progression of events that lead to an unexpected and affecting ending.
I had no preconceptions of what Maeda Atsuko’s debut would be like. For better or worse, I felt like she was like a blank slate, suitable for almost any mainstream genre short of heavy metal. But upon hearing ‘Flower’ and its accompanying tracks, I feel that she’s created a great “sound” and musical identity for herself. While I expected this single to be extremely successful, I was doubtful of how good the song itself would be, and ‘Flower’ knocked it out of the park.
Releases June 22, 2011