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Album review: Meg - Step

Album review: Meg - Step | Random J Pop

Meg’s fifth studio album Step was produced by one half of Capsule Nakata Yasutaka, during his super short window period of 2008 - 2009 where he was on an 80s electro, disco vibe and he was at his hottest. If you are a YSTK fan, you will definitely hear similarities between Meg’s Step and other albums which were released during this window period. Namely Ami Suzuki’s Supreme Show and Perfume’s Triangle. All 3 of these albums are so similar in style that I’d argue that you’d do yourself a massive service by listening to all 3 albums together, as they do form part of a Nakata tapestry - having been cut from the same cloth. But something this may highlight is that perhaps Meg’s Step is the weakest of the three, which is no slight on it - as it’s a solid album. But it presents something that I can’t shake with Step, and that is how difficult it is to look at this album in isolation and how to critique it as a Meg album, because it's barely a Meg album at all.

Album review: Meg - Step | Random J Pop

Step was the second of Meg’s albums to be produced entirely by Nakata Yasutaka, the first being Beam. I can’t talk about Step without mentioning Beam for a couple of reasons. First is that Beam and Step feel like 2 sides of the same coin. Even down to the visuals for both albums. Both albums share the same font, and the covers for the Step singles “Magic” and “Heart” look like a continuation of the visual theme from the Beam album cover. Songs could swap between albums and fit fine. In fact, they’d probably work better. “Girly Step” feels like a better fit for Step than it did on Beam, whilst “Magic” feels like a better fit for Beam than Step. And you wouldn’t even need to switch their placements on the album. “Girls Step” would have been a far stronger album opener than “Magic”. The damn song even has the word ‘step’ in its title.

Musically however, Step is a more consistent album than Beam, in the way that Perfume’s Triangle was more consistent than Game. There is a clear consideration of a theme and sound from start to finish. Comparatively, whilst Beam was a good top to bottom album, it had this sense of uncertainty about what kind of album it wanted to be. Step feels like a stronger body of work on its own, even if there’s no real growth being shown through Meg. The music on it is really fucking good, but Meg is really fucking replaceable on it.

The production on Step is top notch. By this point, those who had been following Nakata’s work either via Capsule or Perfume already knew he was an amazing talent, and he really shines here. Step maintains a great level of fun and energy from start to finish. The only weak moments on this album for me are when songs veer into Capsule territory for “Make Love” and “Supersonic”. They barely feature any vocals from Meg, and is another case of Nakata making the songs more about him and less about Meg. Looking back on this album in 2021 in the wake of Perfume’s Future Pop and Cosmic Explorer, it feels more evident now than it may have back then. “Make Love” and "Supersonic" fit the album well. They’re good songs. But on an album where Meg is already a non-factor, these two songs highlight that all too clearly. “Make Love” barely features any vocals from Meg, and you don’t even miss them because Nakata is giving you beats and PRODUCTION.

Album review: Meg - Step | Random J Pop

How much of Meg comes through this album is...A THING. Because sometimes she really does feel like the centrepiece of songs i.e “Heart” - with how she sings and the playful way in which she finishes words. But sometimes she’s barely present. And it’s a strange thing. Because whilst I would have liked Meg to have had a greater presence across every song and sing in more of her natural voice (as she did for much of Beam), the lack of such doesn’t make any of these songs worse. Nakata brings so much character to the music, that it pretty much leaves Meg little room to really do...well, anything. There's zero requirement for her to bring anything to the table, because Nakata took the table and said ‘It’s fine’ - which is why critiquing this album as a Meg album is difficult. Meg comes through less on it than she did on Beam, but the songs are better. But the songs aren’t better because Meg comes through less, but because Nakata stepped forward. So it creates this strange balance. One which had tipped in the wrong direction on albums which came after, and caused problems.

Some may think I’m being a shady bitch for saying Meg doesn’t matter on this album, but she really doesn’t. And it feels odd after an album where Meg did bring so much more of herself to songs and didn’t feel like such a non-factor. But the songs on Step are so good and the production is so damn tight, that most won’t even care. And not everybody is going to be listening to this album in the context of Nakata’s production discography, what he did for Perfume and Ami Suzuki and what Meg did before.

Step is a great Nakata Yasutaka album which happens to be a Meg album. That’s the best way I can put it. And you can see that as either a good or a bad thing. Regardless of how you approach Step, you’ll have a good time.

VERDICT: IS SHE GONNA JUMP FROM THERE!?

Highlights:
■ Magic
■ Kittenish 🔥
■ Make Love
■ Prism Boy
■ Heart 🏆
■ Supersonic

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