So, “Miyabi’s new group”. That’s what we were calling it for over a year, including five months after the audition winners were announced. Hell, even Miyabi herself got in on the joke, calling it “Miyabi Factory”. A year-and-a-half to name a new unit featuring one of H!P’s more storied idols? Who the hell is running this show? To make matters worse, as videos of early live appearances were released, the picture of an awkward, under-prepared and underwhelming trio emerged. If Up-Front had purposely set out to keep expectations low, they could hardly have done a better job of it.
My expectations were lower than a ‘66 Impala in East LA, so when PINK CRES. finally dropped videos for two songs five days ahead of the official release of their debut album, crescendo, I was pleasantly surprised. Both songs were good – really good – and the girls sounded great. “fun fun fun” has a distinct early-2010’s fun Kpop vibe, right down to the neo-R&B beat, to the flirty “oh ohhh” in the opening verse, to the rap in the second verse. Similarly, “Kirei•Kawai•Mirai” sounds like like a KPop song, but with a latter-day Buono! Pop-rock arrangement, and both of these songs would fit seamlessly next to the work of any number of cute KPop girl groups circa 2010 or so. “Kirei” could easily work as an anime theme, too.
After watching these videos I was encouraged by the music, but disappointed in the overall package. While Up-Front has clearly decided to tap this particular era of Kpop for at least some of PINK CRES’s (I’m gonna stop using the period, m’kay?) sound, they didn’t go the extra mile and make the most of these excellent songs by giving the girls a look to match. Neither did they produce a video with the polished look or narrative that one would expect with songs like these. I originally had misgivings about the arrangements, but I’m over that now. Still, the lack of a cohesive look to match the sound gnaws at me. I’m told by some at mm-bbs that their style is actually quite fashionable at the moment in Japan, which is all well and good, but not if the music feels differently than the styling.
Ultimately, I’m picking nits with the styling and the H!P quality videos, though, because crescendo is a fucking winner in every sense of the word. Every song here is at worst, good, a few are outstanding, and a few others are amazing. I’m trying to think of a group that I had lower expectations for that ended up blowing me away, and I can’t think of any. “fun fun fun” kicks things off, and is followed by the even more R&B KPop groove of “LOVE CANDY”. No, seriously, they lifted the beat almost directly from SNSD’s “Run Devil Run”, sped it up a few clicks, and went to town. It’s fantastic. The other KPop-channeled track is “Tell Me Why” which features a strong R&B/dance beat over an ominous synth line, and an almost Madonna-esque chorus.
Other stand-outs include “Warning ~Mirai Keihou!”, which could easily have been an A-side single for ANGERME or Morning Musume. We get heavy electro dance-pop with an ear-worm chorus, and as an added bonus they even got some guy to throw in a few Tsunku-like “oh yeah’s!” I think those disappointed with ANGERME’S most recent single would’ve killed for this over “Ai Sae Areba Nanni mo Iranai”. “Last Love” is straight Japanese electro-pop, and very H!P in its chord structure and melody. Think Berryz or C-ute at their best.
Speaking of C-ute, had they not decided to call it a career, “Summer Wonderland” would have been a great single track for them. It’s a perfect example of classic H!P arena-anthem-pop with just enough electro seasoning to make it perfectly spicy. It’s your next summer jam, and I’m shocked this was not released as a single A-side and given a serious promotional video. It’s so fucking good, and yet its relegated to closing out the indie debut album of a group only tangentially related to H!P.
I’m kind of worried that PINK CRES will get shafted in terms of promotion, what with them being 20+ year-old women instead of the pre-teens that Jpop execs seem to want to inundate us with. What M-Line artists get serious promotion? I would have preferred to see them roll out with a few well-promoted singles instead of a full album. There’s no shortage of single material on crescendo: “Summer Wonderland”, “fun fun fun” and “Warning” are all legitimate A-sides, and even “LOVE CANDY” and “Tell Me Why”, dated as they sound, are are worthy of consideration. I just hate this bet-hedging Up-Front engages in, especially after they’ve already gone all-in on the music. They’ve given PINK CRES a seriously good album with crescendo, and it deserves serious promotion.