Just when you count Enon Kawatani out, the singer/songwriter comes back with a vengeance. The past few years have found him mostly embroiled in various controversies — most notably the whole Becky affair back in 2016 — which took a toll on his popularity with mainstream audiences. But his latest project has started off strong, becoming a hit on YouTube and positioned to climb up the J-pop ranks. It’s called Genie High, and you can watch their debut video below.
The above number, titled “Katame De Ijyou Ni Koishiteru,” follows a formula Kawatani uses a lot with Gesu No Kiwami Otome. It’s a rock number featuring sudden shifts in time signatures and with splashes of jazz worked in, capped off by swift vocal delivery that at one point swings into spoken-word territory. “Katame” sounds like the end credits to a film (riffed on in the otherwise straightforward video) except the music constantly wants to zip away from those rolling names.
Genie High, though, finds Kawatani serving as producer and guitarist, and while he appears in the video and sings briefly, he’s not the focus. Rather, it’s the other members of the group who get the bulk of screen time. Ikkyu Nakajima of the band tricot handles vocals, comedian Kazutoyo Koyabu sits on the drums, TV personality Kukki and pianist Takashi Niigaki.
Maybe you noticed that a couple of those members aren’t primarily musicians, but rather TV personalities? Well, that help explains their swift success online. The four non-Kawatani members of this group all feature prominently — as permanent members or as memorable guests — on the TV variety show BAZOOKA!!! Genie High, then, appeals to not just music fans, but also more general media consumers who follow the show (or just the careers of the comedians and talents themselves).
There is also a healthy dose of controversy. Kawatani, of course, is defined by the various scandals he has found himself wrapped up in. But the pianist Niigaki, too, was involved in a huge music scandal a few years back. He was the ghostwriter Mamoru Samuragochi, a famous pianist who claimed to be deaf...but actually wasn’t. Niigaki parlayed the saga into TV appearances, which revealed him to be funny and charming.
Genie High’s future remains to be seen — is this just a special project for a pack of entertainers who have other projects to focus on, or will newfound success push this into something more? Whatever happens, they’ve give J-pop its first surprise hit of 2018.
Hear us on SBS PopAsia Digital Radio
Listen in 24/7 on Digital Radio, by downloading our free mobile app or by streaming live here on our website.
Download the app here:
Flying solo this week, Joey talks about his history with all things Otaku. Which manga and anime he grew up with. How he got so good at Japanese, and he reveals some of the hardships he faced going to school as a young anime fan.