Album Review: Tommy february6 - Tommy february6

Album Review: Tommy february6 - Tommy february6 | Random J Pop

Tommy february6’s debut album is so interesting to listen to in retrospect, because depending on how you look at it, it either feels like a foreshadowing of what Tommy would go on to do with her follow up albums, or it feels like a best release from the future. Tommy february6 literally came out of the gates and said ‘I’mma just do everything’ and then spent the next few years and albums channelling and honing her sound. But from the very start, Tommy february6 had a clear idea of the space within music that she wanted to occupy; which is what makes her debut album so unique when you look back on it. Because it’s more than just a declaration of who she is. It’s a roadmap of who Tommy february6 will become. Perhaps Tomoko had no idea if anybody would buy into this alter ego she had created, so she said ‘Fuck it. Let’s give them everything on this one album.’ But regardless, Tommy february6’s debut album is really good.

Okay. So, let’s jump back a little for those who are coming into this review with no clue of who the hell Tommy february6 is. Tommy february6 is one of the alter egos of singer Tomoko Kawase. And the plural on alter egos is no typo. Because there are two. Tommy february6 is preppy and likes pop, Sanrio, Sweet Valley High, the colours red and pink and anything pastel. Whilst Tommy heavenly6 is a miserable goth bitch who likes angst rock, Halloween, depressing shit and the colours black and purple. Tommy february6 is basically what Gwen Stefani wanted to be and tokenized for her debut album Love.Angel.Music.Baby. And she’s also a different take on what Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was known for early on, but at less of an extreme. Kyary was a take on fusion of Japanese sub-cultures, where as Tommy february6 was a Japanese take on popularised US culture.

Album Review: Tommy february6 - Tommy february6 | Random J Pop

Whilst Tommy february6’s debut album is clearly satire, the material is so good that you kinda forget that, because Tomoko understands the assignment. Sometimes a little too well. But Tomoko is also a fan of the things she satirises. She’s not doing any of this stuff to poke fun or be shady. She’s doing it because she loves and respects her sources. The entire experience of listening to this album is Tommy february6 saying ‘THIS IS SUCH A FUCKING JOKE’ and then saying ‘No, actually...this shit is for real’. And then hitting you with a song and saying ‘JUST KIDDING! IT’S ALL A FUCKING JOKE!’. The album opens up with “Everyday at the Bus Stop" which is so ridiculous. It’s like the originator of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Store”. You don’t need to understand a single lyric of this song to know that “Everyday at the Bus Stop" is foolery. The music. The production. The fact that the song has the line ♫ At the bus stop. At the bus stop. ♫ It’s foolishness, But I’ll be damned if this shit isn’t great. And this song is followed by “Tommy Feblatte, Macaron.” which is the dumbest of titles and puts you on alert for more ‘At the bus stop’ style shenanigans, but it never comes. You’re hit with this whole new vibe which doesn’t feel like a joke whatsoever.

The constant back and forth between songs which are winks to the camera and those which aren’t, and so clearly so, could be jarring, but it never is. The conviction and constant self awareness that Tomoko gives every single one of these songs is what holds the album together and blurs so many of the lines.

Album Review: Tommy february6 - Tommy february6 | Random J Pop

Some decisions made with this album are difficult to distinguish between what feels like a deliberate creative decision to make a commentary on pop culture, and what is just Tommy wanting to keep up with a current trend. One such thing is the use of English. Tommy february6 did not speak fluent English at the time she recorded this album, and yet there is so much of it here. Only the chorus of “Hey Bad Boy” is in English. And some songs such as “Bloomin’!” and "Where Are You? "My Hero"" are sung entirely in English.

The generous use of English could be a creative choice, given that two of the most prominent sounds on this album are reminiscent of Kylie Mingoue’s early Stock, Aitken & Waterman material and Madonna during the early 80s, both of which Japan LIVED for. And whenever pop stars would cover songs from these periods, they would either just be sung in English, or be flipped into Japanese whilst still retaining a hell of a lot of English. The popularity of the Stock Aitken Waterman and the Nile Rodgers and Stephen Bray sound of the 80s also led to many Japanese songwriters trying to mimic them, writing the songs in Japanese, but still including large amounts of English.

But it could also be Tommy wanting to be ‘hip’, as many Japanese artists in the early 2000s were starting to get braver with working English into their songs in a bid to appear cultured and show global appeal. Either way, the English adds a charm to the songs. It also shows how ahead of the trend Tommy was when it came to English in J-Pop, given how artists such as Namie Amuro would go on to record entire albums in English, despite not speaking the language. With artists such as Kumi Koda following suit by expanding the use of English in her songs. And now we have Hikaru Utada, who was always bilingual, actually putting an English song on her upcoming Japanese studio album - a first for her. Tommy february6’s impact.

Whatever the reason, one thing Tommy february6 has is the audacity. This bitch covers the Frankie Valli 1967 classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, and spins it into some Sonic the Hedgehog sounding mess. It’s terrible, but it’s amazing. Because if you are going to cover a classic and your whole album is a pastiche take on 80s pop, then why not flip that shit like a table in Vernita Green’s living room.

Album Review: Tommy february6 - Tommy february6 | Random J Pop

Tommy february6’s debut hit number 1 on the Oricon charts, so I can’t say that it deserved to do better commercially. But I do think the impact of this album grossly understated and isn’t spoken of enough. This album opened the door for acts such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and also how the likes of Nakata Yasutaka approached music. As an artist you can be a caricature who is clearly poking fun and playing a role, whilst still being serious about the artistry and the music. You will laugh at “Every Day at the Bus Stop” and “★Candy Pop in Love★” and ask ‘What was this bitch thinking!?’, but you won’t be able to write them off as bad songs - because they are great pop songs. Plain and simple.

I won't say too much on Tommy february6's vocals, because there are barely any vocals to critique. She sounds fine on the songs, and they work for the style - but they are nothing special. There were many singers in the 80s doing pop who had great voices, but it was the ones with the vocal range of an electric can opener who burnt up the charts and got love from radio. Shit like this is why songwriters and producers deserve credit. And credit where it's due. Tomoko writes all of her own shit, so there's that. And Malibu Convertible (a production duo made up of Shunsaku Okuda and Ryo Matsui) absolutely nail the production on every song.

Album Review: Tommy february6 - Tommy february6 | Random J Pop

At a time when everybody seemed to be trying so hard to be edgy, real and discard the credibility of pop, Tomoko was out here creating whole characters and going full tilt with pop. And not just any pop. But pop from an era where artists who started out at that period in time and were still around in the year 2000, were doing everything in their power to separate themselves from it. Meanwhile Tomoko was like ‘I’mma make this my entire sound’. Not only is there a fearlessness in Tomoko’s decisions, but she understands that good music is good music. She was able to see the timeless and the cool factor in this era of music long before everybody would come around to it years later. But Tommy february6 generally seems to have an ability to see into the future. Because even on her debut, she touches on dance and funk, which would be two styles she’d dive into on 2013’s Tommy Candy Shop ♥ Sugar ♥ Me and 2012’s february & heavenly respectively.

Trying to fully understand Tomoko’s mind and how she decided ‘Ya know what. I’mma create an alter ego and just do some straight up bubble-gum pop shit even though everybody hates it’ is pointless. Because what would we deem as a logical reason for her arriving at that thought? And why does it even matter!?

Tommy february6’s debut album works because at its core it is just a bunch of really good pop songs from an artist who got pop when many others chose to turn their back on it. Whilst they all lost sight of what made pop great and why it wasn’t a genre to be ashamed of, Tommy was seeing what they couldn’t and said ‘I’mma have me a good time’. Which is the best way to describe this album. A good time.

And for those wondering 'J, where would you rank this album?'. Tommy Airline is still that bitch. But the debut is no slouch, and is responsible for giving Tommy Airline its ticket to fly.

Verdict: Is the bus still runnin’?

■ Everyday at the Bus Stop 🔥
■ Tommy Feblatte, Macaron. 🏆
■ Bloomin’!
■ Hey Bad Boy 🔥
■ Where Are You? "My Hero"
■ Walk Away From You My Babe