Impressions: UZA-First Live Performance

After I finished cleaning up the mess I left on my chair when I realized Paruru was crowned Janken Queen, I settled back in my now-sterilized seat and prepared to watch the first performance of AKB48’s 28th single: UZA.

Before the song even started playing, Matsui Jurina and Oshima Yuko were named the double centers, which I think is an interesting but conflicting concept. On one hand, sharing a center will help promote both members (as if either of them needed to promote themselves further) and share the spotlight. It’ll also give more chances to exhibit the talents of both members. However, what’s going to happen to the sacred ‘0’ spot that is marked off on the stage to signify where the center stands? The ‘0’ position was described as the place that members dream of standing in (although a certain Maeda Atsuko has been hogging it for a while), and if more AKB singles begin to be created with double centers, what’s going to happen to the sanctity of standing alone at ‘0’?

Jurina and Yuko make an explosive jump entrance onto the stage, stride to the front, and the show begins.

The beginning of the performance is immediately very showy, involving the centers gesturing toward pyro cannons and the use of lots of lasers and fog. UZA’s intro gives the first hint of what the ‘cool’ sound Aki-P hinted at would sound like. What it turned out to be is a very trancey, dark sounding dance song.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this song yet. All of the members’ vocals are auto-tuned; a first for an AKB single, making it sound much like an Itano Tomomi song. I personally find it a bit irritating, but it’s something I can excuse for now. The chorus melody seems a bit weak and forced, and maybe either because of the audio quality, the autotune, the members’ voices or some combination of the three; the vocals sound very nasally. I found the main synth line to be very annoying as well. It’s a very simple pattern of notes that is repeated over and over again with no variation throughout the instrumental breaks and the chorus, it starts to grate on you eventually.

In addition, UZA sounds like it could have a lot of potential, but it never peaks high enough to reach it. The verse builds up a bit to the chorus, but the energy in the chorus is flat and doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s as if you’re about to go in for a kiss when your phone suddenly rings and you are foolish enough to answer it, breaking the spell. Come on Aki-P, stop answering your calls and kiss me already.

That was a bit awkward. Ahem.

So far I’m not impressed with the song. However, I’m reminded of when I claimed I hated Gingham Check when I saw the first performance, but ended up really liking the studio recording. So I plan to withhold total judgement until the single is released.

 

What The Furage Is A Dance / Beat Buddy Boi???

If you noticed that the stage seemed to be really crowded once the song had started, that would be an additional senbatsu-worth of men dancing with AKB. A select group are on the main stage performing with the members while on a secondary stage behind them there’s a lot more providing background. I actually think there were more backup dancers on the stage than there were members. I was fine with the idea until someone suddenly decided they should have their own solo dance segment called, of all things, ‘Dance / Beat Buddy Boi’.

At this point, the song completely stops. Switching to a drum kit solo, all of the members kneel and the guys take the front, showing off their moves and completely stealing the show from AKB for a whole 1 minute 26 seconds. I really hope this part was a special ‘Janken-only’ feature meant to be a treat for the fans, and not actually part of the song. While the guys are dancing, sounds of masculine grunting and airplane transmissions are played over the drum beat until finally some AKB members stand up and join in the dance royale. Once the dance solo is done, there’s silence for a whole second while the members stand back up and the song awkwardly resumes. My reaction: I don’t even know what I just watched. Even after rewatching the performance several times so I could write about it, I still don’t know exactly what I think of this.

Aside from the Buddy Boi and the song, I quite liked other parts of UZA, such as the outfits. The members all wore leather jackets over open blouses, loose ties, skirts and combat boots. Several of the higher ranking members had their own customizations such as necklaces, lace, etc. The outfits seemed kind of defiant, which fits well with the theme of the song. The choreography wasn’t bad either, lots of sliding and flailing, which is standard AKB choreo, with the addition of strange head bobbing.

 

So far, UZA has failed to make a lasting impression on me. I haven’t decided whether I like it or not, especially because this was a first performance where not everything is completely together yet. Although Aki-P announced that the feeling of this song would be ‘cool’, when I watched this performance the song to me honestly sounded a bit depressing. Hopefully with the release of the single and PV, I might enjoy the song more and get a better perspective. I have only one request: get rid of the Dance / Beat Buddy Boi.

About Chase Lim

MWP Composition student @ University of Miami. New School Kaidan Writer & Podcaster. Nihongogo Press Representative. HKT: Murashige Anna//TGS: Shoji Mei Email: chase@newschoolkaidan.com

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8 comments

  1. What was interesting for me was watching the Heyx3 performance where they sung river right after Uza, that really showed me how much of a superior song river is to it.

    It’s not so much that Uza is a bad song but it just seems to be carrying on a recent AKB trend for me by just not feeling as though enough has been put into it to make it like a ‘River’ level song……

  2. After reading this and watching the HeyHeyHey performance and the revealing that the hiphop group was just a one time thing, I got the feeling that this article is already kinda stale.

  3. I think the 0 position will come into play when this AKB School starts off next year. Even still, I dont mind a double center

  4. Live performance impressions, I like this idea!

    It’s strange, I agree with you in terms of the song being flat and not having impact, yet I still feel like I do enjoy the song very much. Maybe it’s just because it’s new and it’s a different flavor. It will have to stand the test of time. Also, kool-aid is delicious.

    As for the b-boying, I was 100% confident that segment would not be part of the actual performance / release. It’s just a logistical nightmare and wouldn’t fit for a release. It’s kind of like Kpop MVs / lives where they have dance interludes.

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