A popular meme floating around Japanese social media sites focuses on a news report devoted to Perfume’s “If you wanna.” Taken from a news program, the screenshot describes their latest single as boasting a new sound, better known as “future bass.” Twitter has embraced this, Photoshopping all sorts of other genre names (“future funk,” “chillwave” etc) into the description card. This attempt to connect hyperactive future bass to Perfume has gotten a lot of attention.
The twist is that Perfume aren’t doing anything new on “If you wanna,” which arrived yesterday. Rather, the world has finally caught up to Perfume. The term “future bass,” referring to heavily processed dance music often featuring chopped-up vocals alongside sonic peaks and valleys, wasn’t a go-to descriptor in 2010 when the electro-pop trio released “Natural Ni Koishite,” a fidgety pop tune boasting all the elements that have come to be associated with the sub-genre, but which only occupied a certain corner of the internet when the single dropped. Perfume, alongside producer Yasutaka Nakata, were ahead of the curve, and it only feels like now that this fact feels pertinent.
In many ways, “If you wanna” is a throwback to the JPN era of Perfume, when “Natural” could flaunt start-stop patterns and “Nee” could turn vocal snippets into full firework displays. The elements present in the trio’s latest single have long been part of their repertoire, but the digital nature of the song isn’t obscured or downplayed, but rather embraced. The hook is more drop than radio-ready creation, toying with tempo before giving way to pitch-shifted passages. All of these details have become common in the SoundCloud-centric style dubbed future bass (think Flume, or maybe Marshmellow, who is very Nakata in nature), and maybe they come off as a little more obvious in the song, but that’s only because Perfume have already touched on them before. This is just their sound - everyone else came around seven years later.
Yet central to “If you wanna” is emotional drama, another part of Perfume’s music that sometimes gets overlooked in favour of coats of Auto-tune and sci-fi themes. The titular come on is just that; a thought floated out. No answer pops up at any point in the song. The start-stop design of the song mirrors the weird tension of revealing your true intentions, and then waiting for another party to embrace or push away from them. In this moment, you’re helpless; someone else controls everything that will follow. The synth spin-a-round of “If you wanna” is less trendy electronic flourish and more earnest reflection of vulnerability; unpredictable, sometimes aggressive and something that always keeps you on the edge of your seat, and is more than meme.
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