Genie High makes a strong case that novelty can really win the day in Japanese music. This rag-tag group came together last year and scored one of 2018’s first left-field viral hits. Perhaps you recognize some of the people in this band from watching that video or looking at the picture on top of this post. Genie High consists of tabloid darling Enon Kawatani, tricot member Ikkyu Nakajima, comedian Kazutoyo Koyabu, TV personality Kukki and pianist Takashi Niigaki (best known for being the ghostwriter for deaf composer Mamoru Samuragochi, who wasn’t actually deaf).
A strange mish-mash of folks, right? It makes a little more sense when realizing this group came together through a TV variety show called BAZOOKA!!! What should be the J-pop equivalent of Jesse and the Rippers has morphed into something with actual legs in the Japanese musical landscape. The group’s latest release “Genie High Rhapsody” has been pulling in some serious numbers after coming out earlier this week, all while celebrating the oddball nature of this project. Watch the video below.
Now, the following comparison certainly runs a few risks, seeing as the main throughline between the two pieces of music boast accompanying clips set in Japanese bathhouses. Got to say though — this feels pretty indebted to the nervy twisting and turning of a WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA song, especially something like “Diablo.” Genie High move a little away from the Kawatani-appropriate rock in favor of something more electronic, while everyone involved — including the 48-year-old pianist — delivers rap-inspired singing. Genie High doesn’t go down any truly wild detours, but still offer up wackier ideas than most J-rock bands complete with nonsensical Ghostbusters shout-outs.
“Genie High Rhapsody” is fun, even if moments here raise an eyebrow or two about how much of this is an extended variety show gag come to life. Maybe, though, in the landscape of 2019, that’s a totally viable way to go forward.