If, after seeing the first installment in GACKT’s ten-year-countdown campaign, you were like me and felt skeptical, and possibly a little disappointed, I have good news for you. My first concern when I saw GACKT’s most recent singles was that he was leaning too much to the mainstream of Jpop. Considering everything GACKT has on his plate right now (five singles, a nationwide tour finishing up, filming a movie in Romania, etc), it wouldn’t be unjustified to be worried about the quality of all these releases.
When I first heard the previews for first and second ‘heaven’s, Faraway ~ Hoshi ni Negai wo and 小悪魔へヴン, I felt like I was in for some disappointment. They were not the style I was expecting from GACKT, and, unlike Ghost and Jesus which had immediately striking previews, I was not possessed by the un-exorcisable need to pounce on these singles.
But I did the sensible thing, and took my own advice: I trusted GACKT’s unpredictable latest swing, and ordered 小悪魔へヴん [hereby referred, for ease of comprehension, by its Romanization: Koakuma Heaven].
Koakuma Heaven sounds like an unusual GACKT-song title, so let me clarify: Koakuma Heaven is named after the young-women’s fashion magazine Koakuma Ageha [小悪魔ageha], which is marketed primarily at host-club girls. This is the reason why, when looking at the lyrics, they are written in Japanese girl- txt-speak (the equivalent of our “L337”), full of emoticons and smileys etc, and sung from a woman’s perspective. ‘Koakuma’ means ‘little devil’. ‘Koakuma ageha’ translates as ‘little devil butterfly of the night’. We can all guess where GACKT is going with this.
Here’s something– after browsing around on the web for a while, I noticed one recurring theme in reference to Koakuma Heaven. Webbies appear to have created bandwagon codes they slap onto GACKT songs. Their all-time favorite is the ‘four words:’ one– “As. Perverted. As. Vanilla.” Before we continue, I’d like to address this. Two things. 1) why is it such a huge deal? 2) As perverted as Vanilla? As perverted as Dispar? As perverted as…No. I didn’t think so.
Let me explain. First of all, if the only reason anyone cares about songs like Koakuma Heaven and Vanilla is because they’re so risque, that’s just plain immature. (An almost laughable statement, considering it is webites we’re talking about). Secondly, sex is just not a big deal in Japan. In the US if people sing about sex, they tend to kind of whisper through it, like they know how bad they’re being and isn’t it so cool and all that. In Japanese rock, they love to sing about getting game. And they don’t pinch pennies either. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way!
When I was visiting Japan with Roukun, we went to karaoke with a group of middle-aged friends. Roukun opened the session with the oh-so-terribly-perverted Vanilla, and the only comment they had was on the quality of his performance. Nobody said anything about the musical content. This song would have been embarrassing to sing in English for our grandparents, though, yeah?
Here are the lyrics, so you can see the odd combination of katakana, hiragana, and emoticons that create Japanese L337:
巻き髪を かき上げて ☆
濡れたリップで Ｕｐ ａｎｄ Ｄｏｗｎ
欲張りッしユに ３回戦 ４回戦 ５回戦…
オシャベリゎ 上級者なωデス （＊＾ロ＾＊）
頑張ッてま～すゥ ハイッ （－＿－＃）
ブチアゲな 曲に合わせ ☆
濡れたヒップを Ｕｐｓｉｄｅ Ｄｏｗｎ ★
ハイッ、 脳脳脳脳天気… なんデス ∖（＾o＾)/
「本命のカレシ！？ wow 性してますゥ！！（＾＿＾）！！」
小股者デス、 ハイッ （¯ロ¯；）
頑張ッてま～すゥ ハイッ ｖ（＾＿＾）ｖ
頑張ッてま～すゥ ハイッ （¯ロ¯；）！！
Koakuma Heaven is a petite single, with only 2 vocal tracks + the complementing instrumentals.
Where Papa Lapped a Pap Lopped goes left and right, Koakuma Heaven goes up and down– as GACKT sings in the first verse. He uses the same voice-effects that he used in GHOST, and even though I usually prefer him au natural, it really works for this high-energy dance track, unlike anything in his repertoire so far.
One thing I thought on my own and later matched up with what other people were saying about Koakuma Heaven is that it has a very DDR-track feel. I would not be surprised if the Japanese versions of the game incorporate this song down the road. It’s utterly irresistible– even if you nailed yourself to a chair, you’d still find your head bobbing or your feet tapping. Interesting, seeing as GACKT has not supplied much dance-fare up till now.
Along with a moody melody, brought up to euphoric techno bliss by all the crazy effects, GACKT is accompanied by a female chorus of “hai!”s here and there that enhances the feminine pop feel. Similar to Vanilla (but only in this regard), Koakuma Heaven is upbeat with spunk, but has that particular dark thread in there– GACKT’s dark humor? Most likely. The yellow, pink, neon-flashing sparkle of a song is sung from the perspective of a hostess*. Nice.
[The general conclusion is that the song is sung from the perspective of a prostitute, but in keeping with the ageha theme, this seems unlikely. Japan, especially Osaka, is peppered with ‘host clubs’– places where men and women go and spend money to hang out with gorgeous, funny, cool “hosts”. Yes– there’s sex involved (for a high enough price), but basically one host-boy described the work as ‘faking romantic relationships with clients’. It’s therefore likely that GACKT is singing from the perspective of a hostess, and not a prostitute.]
So do it, look for the unlike-GACKT piece you were expecting. Put the CD in and crank it up, and expect to be blown away. It may take a few listen-throughs before you can begin to pick out everything you like about GACKT, but I assure you, once you do, you will be proud to add Koakuma Heaven to your collection.
The second track was also surprising, although not nearly as striking as Koakuma Heaven— which admittedly is quite something to follow up. Nonetheless, My Father’s Day is one of those songs you may think at first you can’t get into, but let yourself be surprised by this one, too. It starts up feeling like we’re in for another Marmalade, but My Father’s Day, even if it lacks certain ‘somethings’ at times, is cheer-ifyingly unique and uplifting.
GACKT loses the voice-alteration for more of a traditional rock piece. The melody is a carefully crafted blend of happiness and melancholy, another one of those GACKT pieces that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a sun-shower or something. It’s raining and you’re bawling your eyes out and yet there’s something about it that makes you feel happy anyway.