Perfume wishlist vol. 1: 9 things I want from their music

Perfume wishlist vol. 1: 9 things I want from their music | by Random J

At time of writing, Perfume have been in the game for 17 years. Which is 17 years longer than I think many had thought they would last when they first showed up dancing in tutu's and Converse to Lil' Kim's "How many licks". It's almost unprecedented for a J-Pop girl group in Japan to last this long without the rotational member system that AKB-48 employ and even they haven't been in the game as long as Perfume.

Whilst Perfume's live performances have evolved significantly over the course of their 17 year tenure in J-Pop, their music hasn't quite mirrored this. Whilst each album Perfume put out features songs I love, I can't wholeheartedly say that I think their music as a whole gets better with each release. A new Perfume album is always sure to have a song or two which features a style or a sound that Perfume haven't done before and sounds great, but this never goes across an album. Perfume's music has become a jukebox of inconsistency. Perfume are in a place where the girls barely matter on the songs. They aren't being pushed as singers, songwriters or being given the opportunity to truly be 'artists'.

Good Perfume songs have been far and between for the past 5 - 6 years. There is a disconnect between the Perfume songs that many of us fell in love with years ago, the girls themselves and what we heard on their most recent album at time of writing, Cosmic explorer.

Perfume's music is in need of a shake up and things need to change. But what should change and what could objectively help it? Below is a rundown of 9 things that I'd like from Perfume's music both on and off the stage.

[Disclaimer: This rundown is only about the music. Not their God awful Super sentai outfits. I'mma need a whole other post for that shit].

1. New renditions of old songs
Perfume's 'live' performances are amazing. But no amount of jumbotrons, projection mapping, lighting and elaborate staging can mask that Perfume's older songs are in need of being refreshed for their tours.

I'm sick to death of hearing the same version of "Polyrhythm" that I'd heard back in 2007 and I'm done with "Chocolate disco". Completely done. These songs need to be remixed. Re-arranged. Re-produced. Spruced the fuck up. At the very least, the girls should re-record their old songs with new vocals.

Perfume simply having an engineer press play on iTunes for their tours is tired and it's lazy. It contradicts the effort which goes into the visual production of their performances. It's also causing the lines between their tours to blur. The setlists may differ slightly, but that barely means shit if the versions of the songs are always the exact same each time.

2. Remixes
Perfume need to commission more remixes of their songs. Not only would this give them additional material to perform should they choose, but it can bolster their discography. The DV&LM remix of "Spending all my time", the first official non Nakata helmed remix of a Perfume song, which featured on the European release of their LEVEL3 album was absolutely stellar. It showed that their original songs could be remixed and still retain the essence of who they are. It also allowed for them to switch up a performance of an old song, at a point when everybody thought there was no way for it to still be kept fresh.

As long as there is tight quality control on which remixes are made official, there's no reason for them to not exist.

The lack of remixes up until this point could potentially be because of the vice like grip that Yasutaka Nakata has over Perfume's songs. In which case, he needs to be reminded who these songs belong to.

3. Let Perfume write their own damn songs
A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka need to put pen to paper and give writing their own songs a shot. Nakata knows a good melody, but his lyrics are garbage. Perfume's 2013 B-side "Hurly burly" was a banger. But let us not gloss over the the chorus featuring the lyrics 'Juicy, juicy sweetie'. And chil', as hard as the beat on "Display" goes, the lyrics are about a television. Straight up. Blatant. I'd like to believe that Perfume have more to say than Nakata's lyrics do, and I'm ready to hear what this is.

Perfume wishlist vol. 1: 9 things I want from their music | by Random J

I often wonder how much money Perfume actually make, because so much of it must go to the mammoth team of personnel who run all of their shit. I'm surprised we've not had a TLC situation happen already. It may already be happening. But if Perfume tried to seek legal action, then their career would stop dead in its tracks and it would be an immediate wrap. Shout outs to Ami Suzuki.

Publishing and songwriting is one of the most secure ways to make money in music if you're an artist. These girls need to start lining their own pockets and not just Nakata's. Until proven otherwise, I refuse to believe that these girls can't write something better than he can. So they should be given the chance to do so. And if the opportunity isn't being handed to them, then they need to fight for it.

4. Sing about different shit
Only a handful of songs give us an insight into Perfume and are reflective of their lives. But for the most point its all nonsense. "Next stage with you" is a song about driving a car. "Cling, cling" is some playground bullshit. 'I will cling to your chest'. Which woman in her mid 20s says this to her man!? Nakata is an amazing producer when he's not phoning it in, but his songs sound like they're written from the perspective of a 10 year old girl. Perfume have outgrown Nakata's songwriting. Their songs need to be more adult. I'm not saying that Perfume should be singing about sucking dick, grinding in clubs and how their pussy is wetter than Seaworld. I mean, I would LOVE if Perfume gave me J-ho-antic-ratchetness. But their songs should be reflective of them as women. A group who has been in the music entertainment business for almost 20 years and are in their late 20s should not be singing nursery rhymes.

The subject matter of Perfume’s songs have been the same for a while now: The feeling of being in love, doubts of being in love, gestures alluding to love, and these feelings being tied to physical motions and actions. It would be great to hear Perfume sing songs which relate to their lives. Visually and conceptually, their tours always manage to capture the journey of their careers in some form, but their music doesn't always convey this.

5. Quality control on the album mixes
Perfume's third studio album JPN introduced what would be synonymous with Perfume album releases: the controversial album mixes. I'm not against album mixes in theory. Given the gestation period of Japanese albums, I like the notion of having the earlier singles re-worked to give listeners something new. But the album mixes thus far have been a mixed bag; either leaving you distraught over a song being ruined ("Glitter", "Spending all my time", "Flash") or wondering why Nakata even bothered ("Spring of life", "Magic of love", "Star train"). The only album mix to date which felt valid and justified was "Cling cling". That album mix tussled up my wig and put me in an arm lock for ever hating the single.

The album mixes seem to serve no purpose other than providing extra fluff for Perfume's live performances. In an arena performance setting, the album mixes of "Glitter" and "Spending all my time" work brilliantly. In the context of a purely aural experience with nothing visual, they're garbage. If a song is being reworked for the sake of a tour, then use the mix exclusively for the tour. Leave the original single mixes on the album, because in every instance they would have worked better.

6. Nakata Yasutaka's grip to be loosened
Nakata Yasutaka is a part of Perfume's legacy. This is fact. All of the Perfume songs which we love are because of him. But after 17 years and 5 albums, I feel that the time has come for his grip to be loosened on Perfume's music. I let LEVEL3 slide because it featured some great album tracks, following on from JPN which had some awful ones. But Cosmic explorer was the last fucking straw. Nakata is not invested in Perfume's sound anymore and I'd put a bet on whether he even cares about these girls and the legacy of their sound nowadays. Perfume's sound is no longer theirs, because it's also Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's, Mito Natsume's and whichever other cute young model turned singer ends up having her music produced by the fried haired musician with the shrapnel grill.

I get a sense that Nakata isn't wholly sure of where to take Perfume's sound outside of that which he cultivates for other acts he produces for. LEVEL3 threw a lot of different sounds up in the air for Perfume, a couple of which should have been touched on again and developed further. But as evidenced by Cosmic explorer, not one of these sounds stuck. And whilst Cosmic explorer also brought new sounds to the table, it was pretty much a by-product of Nakata taking sounds he'd given Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Capsule, but barely adapting them for Perfume. The album mix of "Flash" seemed to be a case of self-service, giving him a Perfume song to play in between Wave runner tracks with ease during his DJ sets - because Perfume ain't ever performed that shit. Ever. And they probably never will.

I don’t feel there is as strong of a relationship between Nakata and Perfume as there should be. Even though he is synonymous with their sound, there is still a distance between them as people that I feel is being carried into the music - more so now than before. In terms of his relationship with Kyary, he tailors her songs much more to her personal life and profession than he does with Perfume’s. You can see / hear that Nakata takes more of an invested interested in spending time with Kyary, which in turn helps him write her songs. Perfume? Nope. In one interview where Nakata was talking about Perfume, each of the girls seemed surprised that he even remembered their names. That bond that Justin Timberlake has with Timbaland? That Lady Gaga has with RedOne? That Mariah Carey has with Jermaine Dupri? That Janet Jackson has with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis? Perfume should have this with Nakata, but they don't seem to and it's a problem now. If he ain't willing to make the effort, then producers need to be brought in that will.

7. Perfume singing in their natural voices
The high-pitched monotonous singing was cool for two albums. It was acceptable for three. But no more bitch. NO. MORE. Perfume singing in those damned flat, high-pitched voices is limiting their material and ruining songs. It's even gotten to the point where I drop the pitch of certain Perfume songs, just to make them more tolerable to listen to. Other times I just outright listen to the instrumentals. Nakata's insistence on having Perfume sing in these high nasally voices is limiting the scope of what they could all deliver musically.

Believe it or not, Perfume actually have good voices and can hold more notes than their studio songs would have you believe. A-chan can actually sing and Nocchi's natural singing voice isn't the foghorn that "Magic of love" led us to believe it was.

Exhibit A: Perfume performing "Cutie honey" live with their natural singing voices. Catch A-chan hitting NOTES.

This leads me onto my next point...

Perfume wishlist vol. 1: 9 things I want from their music | by Random J

8. Give Nocchi more solos
Game and Triangle had the girls' vocals split pretty evenly. But from JPN onwards Nocchi began to get side-lined categorically on songs. LEVEL3 and Cosmic explorer saw clear favouritism towards a-chan and Kashiyuka. a-chan, I get. She is the best singer in the group. This is not an opinion. It is fact. Kashiyuka is not. Kashiyuka is the only girl in the group who doesn't have to put on 'that' voice when she sings, because that shit we hear IS her singing voice and how a bitch talks. There are many instances where Nocchi would sound better on certain sections than both other girls, yet a-chan and Kashiyuka get the parts regardless. And when Nocchi does get a part on a song, there's a high probability that she's flanked by a-chan (i.e "Display") or that she'll only get a line as opposed to an entire verse, as per the other girls (i.e "1mm").

Perfume wishlist vol. 1: 9 things I want from their music | by Random J

I wonder if Nocchi even bothers turning up to the studio anymore or if she just sends her contributions via voice notes on Whatsapp. Is it even Nocchi on the songs at all, or is it just Nakata singing those parts pitched up!?

Part of this is probably because Nocchi's voice void of auto-tune isn't suited for these songs arranged to be song in high pitched voices. Dropping the songs down a key or two and allowing the girls to sing in their natural singing voices would not only help the songs, but help Nocchi's vocals, which opens up more possibilities for songs. This leads me into the next point...

9. Produce the fucking vocals
I need Perfume's songs to feature actual vocal production and arrangements, and I do not mean slapping a filter on a vocal take and turning the knob for auto-tune. I want to hear harmonies. Blending. I want a-chan to give me NOTES. I want Nocchi to give me ad-libs. I want Kashiyuka to... Yep. Some Perfume songs do feature a little in the way of vocal production, but it's rare and basic. And even on these rare occasions you'd be hard pressed to notice it against Nakata's wall of sound style of production. Lack of vocal production is something that I toss at many girl groups of today. Purely because it annoys me when producers do not make use of the fact they have more than one voice to work with and decide to just have each girl sing in the same key stacked on top of one another and then call it a day. Meanwhile Beyoncé, Brandy, Crystal Kay and Hikaru Utada be up in the studio giving us 8 point harmonies and stacking their vocals like Jenga blocks. Perfume's songs musically feature so many layers. I want the same to be said for their vocals.

Perfume have been with the same set-up for so long that I can't imagine it changing now. But one can dream and hope. Although the list above being ticked off would involve Nakata stepping back from Perfume's music and I can't see that happening any time soon. He is, for all intents and purposes, the forth member of Perfume that Kawayuka still wishes she was. But if he and Perfume's team cared, they'd really start going back to the drawing board with the music, because it needs a greater level of care put into it than I've witnessed over the past 5 years.

How do you feel about Perfume's music? What are some things that you'd like from it? Sound off and speak your piece in the comments below.