踊Foot Works - Odd Foot Works
Listening to 踊Foot Works’ first full album “Odd Foot Works” (which is basically the name of the group in English and how you’d pronounce it in Japanese, so really this album is self-titled), I thoroughly enjoyed it start to finish as a pop record from a hip-hop group, who brings all the great elements of hip-hop (soul, funk, jazz). You can dance to this music, you can chill to it, it’s got some future sounds and great hooks. “NDW” has that bounce and vocal manipulation like Madeon/Porter Robinson, “時をBABEL” is a sweet slow jam, “Milk” is that relaxing hip-hop that Japan does so well. “Bebop Kagefumi” is the highlight, switching beats between future bass and four to the floor with latin vibes and breakdowns. It’s got real musical quality to support Pecori’s rapping with fanamo singing the choruses, Tondenhey on guitar and SunBalkan on bass – it’s not straight MPC produced sample hip-hop, and it’s much warmer and personal as a result. Definitely worth a spin…
2. Bebop Kagefumi
8. 19Kids Heartbreak
Usually when you don’t understand a foreign language, you tune it out. Your brain just ignores the random words and you’re left to focus on whatever it is you’re doing, be it talking to friends, reading a book, or eating food. In the case of music, the lyrics just drift past –they’re just voices providing the melody, and the rest of the instrumentation creates the mood and feeling.
Personally, even though I understand Japanese, whenever I listen to Japanese music it requires focus if I want to really understand the lyrics, so most of the time I just assume that what’s being sung about matches the music. Most of the time this works fine.
This album though, is a little like the Matrix.
You take the blue pill, this article ends. You put on your headphones and hear whatever you want to hear. You take the red pill, you scroll down after the image, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
So if you like interpreting foreign language songs in your own way, stop reading now. For real. Go and enjoy Odd Foot Works, it's a great album - I'm not trippin'. If you're a red pill person, keep going.
It actually transpires that their themes for the album were “world domination” and “revenge.”
The lyrics express sadness, loneliness and heartbreak, going kind of against the music which sounds generally uplifting and pleasant. But if you think about it, it really does match. That bouncy “NDW” isn’t some YOLO escapist thing with the ripping guitar solo and vocal hooks, it’s about being together but being lonely, getting sick of each other yet still holding onto a dream of a future. “正論” which sounds like a nice soul track is about believing you’re right but going crazy arguing with your partner, “Milk” sounds relaxing but it’s about a hole inside (spiritual/emotional), searching for something to fill it. “時をBABEL” adds bitter to sweet, singing about hoping to meet again, looking hopelessly to the stars. The final track “逆さまの接吻” actually is hopeful, bringing closure to the album by ending on at least a positive note, a catharsis of sorts.
With all that now in mind, it’s hard to unhear those emotions and feelings. While the album can be sufficiently enjoyed without knowing the content of the lyrics, arguably you get more depth and value from the truth. It’s just different. It’s something that Odd Food Works is good at, setting up this contrast so perfectly that you almost can’t tell. It gives the album a lot more emotional weight than what it sounds like on the surface.
It makes me wonder now about all the Japanese music that I listen to, I have always trusted that the expression of the singing and the accompanying music was a complete enough picture. But I guess if you don’t fully comprehend the lyrics, you’re not getting the artist’s true message or vision. And if you don't understand Japanese, you have to believe that my interpretation is correct when I could be totally screwing it up!
If you enjoy it anyway, does it matter? Or will you only enjoy it if you knew the reality?
For the record, if I were Neo, I would have chosen the blue pill.