Impressions: UZA

AKB48’s latest single “UZA” is finally out in stores, and Chase here is gonna give you a really in-depth look at this bombastic entry! Click below and get educated, son!

 

Chase:

The long awaited 28th single of AKB48; “UZA” is bringing the yearly ‘cool’ theme back, and ‘cool’ it is indeed. I wrote a somewhat scathing review of the first live performance of “UZA” during the Janken tournament, and I found that 99%, if not 100% of my previous complaints were addressed once I heard a proper recording of the song.

During the premiere in the Budokan, the acoustics were obviously horrible. A huge echoey room like that takes all of the fine detail out of the song, and that’s what makes a song click for me – the little things. When I heard “UZA” the first time, I could hear nothing other than a somewhat distant drum beat and a searingly loud synth line. Combine that with uncertainty as to whether or not AKB was singing the debut of their new song live or not due to the massive amounts of autotune, and I had a pretty horrible first impression (I’m not bringing up Dance / Beat Buddy Boi again).

I decided to withhold complete judgement until I heard the studio version of “UZA”, and I’m glad I did. There was so much detail that had been lost in the TV broadcast that I could now hear, and it instantly bumped the song up a lot in my book. The synth line, although still very repetitive wasn’t overpowering everything, allowing my ears to hear the subtler details. There’s some nice electronic drum work going on, as well as these pretty, floaty, bouncing synth loops in the verse. In the break right before the prechorus, the chords and pad used sound very deadmau5y (for all the house and electronic fans). I also like the male vocal additions a lot, it adds direction and transitions in between sections, kind of like in pop/rap collaborations where the rapper spends most of their time just saying “yeah” or “come on, come on” at the end of a vocal phrase to help keep the song flowing. The autotune sounds a BIT more tasteful, now that the vocal quality isn’t as whiny or deep-throated (I don’t know how else to put it, for an example of what I’m trying to convey listen to Takamina’s voice), and works well with the style of the song.

If there was one critique that I had to pick out though, it would have to be that the entire song is edging between ‘cool’ and ‘depressing’. I’ve listened to this song now multiple times while I was in different moods, and depending on how I felt, this song was either a hot dance track or a really angsty, dismal song. The difference can be hard to tell sometimes, its not as easy to tell the mood of the song unlike others such as “Heavy Rotation” or “Wasshoi B” which can always be categorized as undeniably cheerful. Even the predecessor of the ‘cool’ AKB single, “Kaze wa Fuiteiru”, could always be noted as a cool, hip song, instead of toeing the line of melancholia.

However, the big details that can now be heard in the studio recording that really made the song pop for me were the stutter effects in the chorus, the buildup to the “Uza, Uza, Uza” part of the chorus, and just all of the new details in general. I said previously that I was disappointed when the song seemed to never reach the peak of its considerable energy, but all of these helped contribute towards a big climax that satisfied me and left me wanting more. I don’t know how else to describe it, but the details just made the song for me alone. Compare it to watching a video or viewing a picture in 320×120 definition vs. 1920×1080. You can make out the general shapes and maybe a few small details, but its NOTHING compared to the hi-res version, where you can see every hair in Maeda Ami’s eyebrows. THAT’S what I’m talking about. I’m so glad AKS hasn’t started skimping on production quality because for me, the music is the most important part of the single. More than the covers, the outfits, the PV or the member lineup. I probably couldn’t bear watching an amazing PV if I had to pair it with the idol equivalent of Nickelback, so thank you AKS for saving us from that particular horror.

 

Speaking of horror, the PV for “UZA” was like my own personal house of horrors. All I could think about was plastic ballerinas spinning on music boxes, windup toys, creepy, reanimated puppets bouncing around on their strings and long-bodied jack-in-the-boxes. How long could you stare at this before you start to have nightmares????

This is the PV Joseph Kahn was meant to direct, not “Gingham Check”. Much more suited to his style, the true creative genius that has been winning him top dollar contracts for the past decade finally shines through. The camera angles, props, video editing, dark lighting and fake dust all whisper of professionalism, and Aki-P hired the best in the business.

The PV takes place in what looks like a dusty old attic filled with various dusty relics and idols in suspended animation.

They all eventually start coming to life one by one until they all start dancing to the haunting melody and beat. As the PV progresses, the different types of reanimated fantasy characters get their own quick segment where they stare deep into the camera lens during the verse, and then during the chorus quick flashes of different members progress in a stop and go method using a blackout, making it feel like they’re jumping out at you from the dark.

The part of the PV that stood out to me the most, however, were the costumes. Like I said before, I really liked the whole ‘careless school uniform’ idea with loose neckties, unbuttoned blouses and sexy garters.

I’ve also never seen Mayu or Jurina lookin’ so fine.

Sadly, it seems as though my oshimen took the brunt of the bad luck regarding wardrobe this time, and was the only one painted with silver lips.

I really don’t like it unfortunately, it makes her lips lose all of their previous fullness.

I also noticed that Takamina literally only got two or three solo shots, and two of those were shared with Sayanee, who actually stole some of Takamina’s screen time in the first one. I guess its getting easier to tell who the favorites are now…

 

Overall, this was a strong PV and song. It’s hard to compare it to “Kaze wa” mostly because they’re so different stylistically. “UZA” is taking a big step towards entering the EDM genre that “Nante Bohemian” experimented with and that Morning Musume has already been in for their last three singles. I wonder if this is the new direction that J-Pop is now headed, but this is a subject to be broached another time. For now, let’s all just enjoy another solid, ‘cool’ AKB single, “UZA”.

PV:

Song:

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New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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3 comments

  1. Vocals are my favorite part actually. But that main repetitive synth melody sounds like the soundtrack to a soccer team taking the field.

  2. I agree with you, when I first heard UZA in the Janken Tournament, my opinion was UZA is UZA,
    But when I heard the clear version, the song became one of my favorite this year.

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