Goto Maki’s “Glass no Pumps”

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Am I becoming a Hello! Project prude? Because this is the second time this week I’m writing about an H!P act and thinking, “No, no. That’s not right.” This time it’s Goto Maki’s recent single, “Glass no Pumps”, where she apparently discovers she has breasts and that they’re fun to play with…

On the one hand, I can’t really fault her for that discovery. If anything, she seems a bit behind the curve in her appreciation of her own breasts. On the other hand, the PV just doesn’t work for me – it’s like she’s trying to be somebody she’s not. Ironically, somebody she beat out in the third gen auditions for Morning Musume.

For some Jpop watchers, it’s getting tiresome to immediately draw a connection between some previously tame act suddenly becoming hypersexual and the rising popularity of Koda Kumi. I’m guilty of it in at least one previous instance, with Melon Kinenbi’s “Eros”, and I’m going to do the same here.

But honestly, how can the comparison not be made? Ku-chan is a full-blown phenomenon in Jpop right now, pulling off that twelve weeks of singles stunt and selling millions of copies of her albums. As far as sales go, she’s the current gold standard, the diva of the moment, and she appeals to both males and females with her over-the-top sex kitten with claws idol persona.

Ku-chan’s rise in popularity must be the cause for some ironic amusement or anguish at Hello! Project.

I don’t think Ku-chan is petty enough to revel in this turn of events. I could be wrong, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how Gocchin feels about this obvious attempt at Kumification. Is she happy to be able to act – well, not more mature exactly, but in a way that isn’t juvenile? To finally admit that – unlike a good many in H!P – she’s gone through the other side of puberty?

Or is she appalled at having to perform in such a vulgar fashion? Is she uncomfortable with having to sex it up in this fashion? Or traumatized that she now has to take the cue of somebody she beat out in auditions so many years ago? An admission that the “Love Machine” days of greatness is long gone and a new pop order has emerged?

The song could’ve been stronger – but it’s certainly a marked improvement from recent solo work. The chorus is samey, generic: “Dance with me baby, baby,” about as trite as you can get. I think Amuro Naie could get away with it, but Gocchin certainly can’t.

The rest of the song is a little more interesting, at least allowing Gocchin to play dance floor drama queen in a highly affected, but engaging, manner. She’s in solid vocal form, and makes her singing effortless in a good way – when she brings drama to the singing, it’s not that she’s straining more than actually emoting. And it’s catchy as far as dance music goes, but not as distinctive as it could be.

Upon repeated listening, the song grows on me somewhat, but it still doesn’t excite me. If anything, the last Goto Maki song I really enjoyed was “Yokohama Shinkirou”, and that goes back a ways.

Like Ayaya, it seems her quest for seriousness made her fatally boring for a while. That said, Ayaya seems to have worked herself out of that rut. While not great songs or PVs per se, this and Gocchin’s last single are clear attempts to do the same. For that alone, she should be applauded.

And for the boob handling, I guess.

She seems to be having something of a crisis in the bathroom of a dance club… what kind of crisis is open to debate, though.

Boyfriend trouble? Well, we’d have to imagine that she has a boyfriend? Girlfriend trouble? She did do that lesbian role on that show… Alarm over low record sales? Existential angst on the meaning of life? Maybe her nipples are sore from all the rubbing?

Or maybe… just maybe… she has a deep secret to reveal.

That is, would this song pass the Lady litmus test that Melon Kinenbi’s “Eros” failed? That is, if I saw both this video and Lady’s “Attention” MV, then was told one of these videos featured post-op transexuals, would I guess correctly?

Maybe. But all that boob-handling has the whiff of somebody new to the whole female genitalia thing, don’t you think?

If anything, there’s a difference between dancing while you’re horny and trying to look horny while you’re dancing. Koda Kumi achieves the former quite convincingly – whether or not it’s real is open to debate – while Gocchin falls squarely in the latter category.

(Outside of the boob-handling, that is. Pawing at her funbags seems to come quite naturally to her, despite the look of anguished self-posession she sometimes assume.)

Actually, it’s just two kinds of embarassing: one shows too much of your state of mind and opens the dancer up to accusations of being a real slut, the other manages to be strenuously energetic and blandly lifeless all at once.

Gocchin seems to be floundering along with bumping and grinding this time around. The music’s in the right direction definitely, the image she projects… I need to take a wait-and-see attitude on this. It could be the right image for her now, but I haven’t been convinced yet.

Personally, I prefer Gocchin when she’s more regal: when she has that kind of preening, self-aware attitude that’s also a tad distant but extends a kind of pop noblesse oblige on her viewer. She doesn’t do smoldering as convincingly for me, but she can do a kind of haughty playfulness – trading with an earnest directness – that makes my heart melt.

Here, she’s got the self-posession, but there is no appeal to the viewer. She’s wrapped up in her own little world, in her own little dance, with her own sizeable breasts – and I wouldn’t be bringing them up so often if she didn’t so tirelessly tend to them in the video…

It’s a different kind of distance, and it’s a bit of a turn-off in her case. As I said time and again, Koda Kumi works because there’s an ironic wink and nudge in her sexiness – it’s a put-on to some degree, we just have to guess how much ofit is a put-on. And while Gocchin may have sorta-kinda nailed the ero of “ero-kawaii” – supposedly Ku-chan’s secret weapon – but she’s lost a good deal of the engaging, earnest kawaii as a result.

H!P is working hard to revamp its image and make itself more marketable – and at the same time doing stupid things like limiting the releases of Melon Kinenbi and C-Ute. I don’t know if I should feel optimistic or not, but there’s change in the winds… well, there always change in the winds, but by the end of this summer we may have a different situation for the Tsunku collective.

Which can only bode well for Gocchin. Despite never reaching the same pinnacle she had in her Momusu days, she’s still considered – and treated as – one of the premiere divas of the H!P stable. She’s earned it in her early years, but seems to squander that capital since…

She’s got a charisma, a starpower, that’s undeniable and often alluring. She’s getting in touch with what would make that allure marketable again. Sweet and playful, or smoldering and sultry? Or a combination of both? We’ll see how it turns out.

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5 Responses to “Goto Maki’s “Glass no Pumps””
  1. LOL about the sore bits and ‘litmus test’. I think she’s a tomboy because she used to be so close to her brother (and he’s a pretty boy because he used to be so close to her).

  2. Johnny says:

    She’s trying too hard to be sexy and it doesn’t really work for me.

    Btw…those are real, right?

    Not that it matters. But I just gotta know. ^___^

  3. erink says:

    I put the pv up on youtube and got 219908 hits. It went up to the most watched video chart in hours. It seems like this might have been a smart move career wise. Maybe mainstream Japan will start paying attention to her again, not just the wotas.

  4. HANABI.1984 says:

    I love your reviews!

    “Pawing at her funbags seems to come quite naturally to her…” LOL Hilarious!

    Anyway, I’m not a Goto Maki fan, but I like this song. It’s upbeat and I like the choreography. I can’t help but think of BoA’s Dakishimeru PV when watching some of those moves.

  5. Mark says:

    Man, that was LONG. xD

    Nice review on Maki’s style in Glass no Pumps. Can’t imagine how much more will you have to say if Maki’s next single is GnP II lol I think that if her current 20/30K sells can go up to Namie’s 100K or Ai’s 200K she would probably release cutesy songs again. So far, she has to put her face in all minds again, and is there a nicer way than acting sexy? :p

    I wonder if she’ll take out the fourth album after three singles (Suppin, InMyLIFE and Pumps) or if she’ll do a fourth. At any rate, the fourth one should have been scheduled already!! More releases close-to-each-other mean more tv time, which is what Maki needs. H!P can’t let Japan to forget her anymore. Maki, win Kumi again! (Someday, someday…).