Perfume is a three-person electropop Girl Group hailing from Hiroshima, Japan. Formed in 2000 as trio of standard fare pre-teen Idol Singers; it was the influence of Record Producer Yasutaka Nakata (of electro house duo capsule) that gradually transformed them into a self-described "near-future technopop unit", although it was several more years before that translated into commercial success.When success finally came, it made history - Perfume were the first techno act ever to debut at #1 on the Oricon weekly charts with their single "love the world". And the album GAME was only the second-ever techno album to reach #1 in Japanese pop music history. note (The first was Yellow Magic Orchestra-óa band often called the Japanese Kraftwerk—in 1983, but their biggest single, Kimi ni Mune Kyun, only went as high as #2.)The group's name comes from the kanji 香 found in all three of the founding members' names; it means 'fragrance'...so yeah.The members, easily distinguishable by their different hairstyles and way of dressing, are:
A~chan (Ayaka Nishiwaki): Has mid-length hair which is typically curled, and is never not seen wearing a dress.
Kashiyuka (Yuka Kashino): The one with the heavy bangs and long straight locks; wears skirts shorter than A~chan.
Nocchi (Ayano Oomoto): Highly conspicuous in her bob haircut. Pretty much always wearing shorts. Joined the group to replace the spot vacated by Kawayuka.
Kawayuka (Yuuka Kawashima): Left the group in 2001 before their first professionally recorded song. Eventually showed up in another group called Risky.
Perfume are noted for their energetic and charismatic on-stage performances complete with coordinating costumes, intricate choreography executed with military-like precision, and more recently, advanced technology. And because they're seen as wholesome, naturally beautiful girls singing technopop that is accessible to the masses, they appeal to a wide segment of the population, from young girls to middle-aged men. (And whoever's in between.)Not to be confused with The Other Perfume, or Perfume Commercial.
Auto-Tune: The central Gimmick of their sound, being a "near-future technopop unit" and all. Nakata used vocoder/Auto-Tune for their major-label debut in 2005 and the effect has been used—to various degrees—on most of their songs since. When taken to extremes, the girls almost sound like Vocaloids and it becomes difficult—even for them—to tell their voices apart.
JPN and LEVEL3 feature less of it, used primarily on backing vocal parts or for effects.
Band Toon: 'Happy', 'Chandelier House' and 'Love Party' are shows where the Perfume members interacted in both scripted and improvised scenarios, often with popular Japanese comedians.
Played with in the video: near-identical shots of the three girls repeat over and over during this section.
Butt Monkey: Nocchi has traces of this, especially in Perfume no Chandelier House.
Call Back: Several in their "Mirai no Museum" PV regarding their recent singles:
They first appeared in the video as the androids from "Spring of Life"
Later on, Nocchi uses "Laser Beam" eyes
Kashiyuka uses the same hand movements as part of the choreography in "Spending all my Time"
Canon Discontinuity: In 2005, they released a song with Halko Momoi (operating under the name DJ MOMO-i): "AkihabaLove". Not produced by Nakata and coming shortly before their major-label debut, it's frequently overlooked in discographies.
Costume Porn: The girls have some of the most outlandishly gorgeous matching outfits ever committed to fabric. On top of the clothes that they normally wear, each video provides us at least two new outfits.
Special mention go into the four inch pumps that the girls are always wearing Ė this includes every dance sequence. "Nee" gets special mention for receiving a section of leg-only choreography.
Dystopia: Their song "Electro World" talks about one. In contrast "Computer City" talks about a Utopia.
Two of their music videos portray some form of dystopia: "Secret Secret" played off of Perfume's earlier robot image and their sponsorship by Pino Chocolates by having the girls appear as the stars of TV channel PTV, dancing robotically to their own song and requiring chocolate to retain their motor functions. It's implied that during their off-stage time, the girls both reminisce about their lives before becoming corporate slaves, as well as dream up a fantasy in which they climb up a spiral staircase to escape. And all the sad faces and real thoughts are wiped away with a bite of chocolate. The other video, "Spending all my Time", features the girls locked in a room wearing farm-inspired dresses. Then you see the number tattoos on their forearms. Then they start showing off their abilities in spoon bending, divination and telekinesis. Just why are they locked inside?
Earn Your Happy Ending: Even after forming at age eleven and working tirelessly in Hiroshima then Tokyo, they weren't making any inroads and were about to be dropped. But as the girls enrolled in university, their label let them release 3 singles as a "good experience" to go out on. Those singlesnote ("Linear Motor Girl," "Computer City" and "Electro World"), featuring a radical new sound by Nakata, eventually did well enough to allow them to continue... With "Chocolate Disco" finally netting them the attention of music insiders, followed by breakout hit "Polyrhythm." (See Tears of Joy, below.)
Everyone Went to School Together: The members all met & formed Perfume at Hiroshima Actors School. The original 3 were in "Class B" together, but after Kawayuka's departure Nocchi was recruited from a "rival" class/performance team. Their choreographer, MIKIKO, is from the school as well.
Greatest Hits Album: Perfume's first album Complete Best was a compilation of all their previously released singles, plus one new song; what's more telling is that it was initially limited edition. At the time (2006) they had only made the transition to a major label the year before, but both management and the girls themselves were unsure that Perfume had a future; hence all three girls enrolled into university that year.
The group later released Perfume Global Compilation "LOVE THE WORLD" to capitalize on their newfound global success and their tours to England, Europe and Southeast Asia.
Idol Group: Surprisingly subverted as that the group started with a more idol-y feel (even doing non-techno songs) but as they've developed their style of technopop the girls have managed to successfully transition to a techno group.
Interviewer: What was your reaction when you first saw the lyrics to "23:30?"
Kashiyuka: Nakata-san! What were you thinking? (lol)
Nocchi: I know. Why does he make us sing these kind of songs? ...Because we say "Love meĚ." Itís "Love me"Ě not "I love youĚ." It's too sexy.
A~chan: But Iím not singing the song while thinking so.
That being said, a few songs such as "Take Me Take Me" and "Kiss and Music" have rather sensual lyrics/implications. The choreography for the former is even more so.
In the lyrics of "One Room Disco" there's one line that talks about how the singer can't turn on the shower alone ever since her messy breakup, implying that they showered together.
Lighter and Softer: The harder and more experimental sounds of the ⊿ album were drastically toned down by the time JPN was released. The success of this change in direction has varied with fans. LEVEL3 was a partial return, however.
Looped Lyrics: "Spending all my time" and "Take me Take Me". The latter is entirely in Gratuitous English and the former mostly so. note The girls had insisted that Nakata include some Japanese lyrics if it was to be released as an A-side.
Loudness War: Nakata's production has been pushing the limits of what compression can do with every successive single. Their 2011 album JPN hit Californication levels of distortion, to the point where melody lines that are supposed to be dead centre are wobbling around the stereo field from all of the other instruments momentarily hogging frequency range.
Lyrical Dissonance: "Electro World". The song is very upbeat in tempo, and the choreography is energetic. But check the lyrics and you'll discover this song is a poetic but depressing tale of dystopia.
This street continued to run ahead It should have been written in a map but I can't find the town And as I turned around to look at that place, the scenery changed This world is our last electro world The ground is shivering and broken and the sun has fallen from the sky lightly into my hand.
This has become standard across their music, as the lyrics are exclusively written by Nakata (and before he began working with them in 2003, his childhood friend Emi Kinoko). Songs like "edge", about being obsessively in love, and "One Room Disco", about pushing past a nasty breakup, aren't exactly normal subjects for an idol group.
This was a recurrent theme with their B-sides in the singles leading up to their third album JPN, with '575' being about uncertainly in relationships and 'FAKE IT' about a girl who can no longer pretend that the feelings she once had for her boyfriend are still real.
Merchandise-Driven: Considering just how amazing their songs are, it's really hard to remember that, like many Japanese pop stars, a large chunk of their singles are songs commissioned for use in commercials. Their most important hit song, "Polyrhythm", was for NHK's recycling campaign. "Natural ni koishite" and "Nee" were used to promote two separate lines of clothing from NATURAL BEAUTY BASIC, and the song and video for "DISPLAY" were commissioned by Panasonic as a test of 4K resolution effects processing.
Music for Courage: People were initially a little shocked by the uncharacteristic sentiments in Nakata's lyrics for "love the world":
My darling, donít give up That precious little temper of yours Itís exciting, hey, and wonderful The world we see is shining Even though I stumble blindly I think Iím starting to understand a little.
Nice Hat: The fezzes the trio wore while promoting "Nee" ◊
Non-Appearing Title: edge. The 'edge' is implied in the lyrics, however ("Throw yourself upon the most solid and sharpest part of me'"). But considering the downright eerie repetitive lyrical content, the 'edge' in question may be a mental one as well — i.e., the speaker is going "over the edge" and into possible insanity due to his or her obsession with their object of affection.
The Not Remix: There are three versions of "edge" - the original (track length 6:31) and the extended mix (8:41), both included on the single for "love the world"; and the version that came on Perfume's third album Triangle (8:43). The Triangle-mix incorporated some of the elements used in live performances.
Non-Uniform Uniform: While all of their outfits have the same motifs, colors, and/or patterns, Kashiyuka is usually wearing a miniskirt, A~chan wears a dress, and Nocchi wears either pants or hot pants.
Puppy Love: Literally. They have a song called "Puppy Love" albeit that one's less about childish romance and more about a Tsundere boy.
Record Producer: Yasutaka Nakata, who also does double-duty as their songwriter and composer, exclusively producing them since 2003 (he would later perform the same duties for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu). Nakata's influence over their sound and even their image is undeniable, but he insists that the girls sing the songs pretty much the way they want.
That last part about the girls singing how they want is subverted in that he was unusually controlling and specific about how they sang their B-side song "FAKE IT", even to the point that he caused A~chan to cry because he was being so overbearing.
Shout-Out: The song "Monochrome Effect" appears in the American Dad! episode "May the Best Stan Win", where Stan's future cyborg self comes back in time. While driving around with Francine, Cyborg Stan produces a CD of "future music," declaring the song to be Japanese funk. The song also plays as the episode is closing, showing Stan and Francine's skeletons happily lying together in the grave.
Polyrhythm was used in Cars 2 when Lightning McQueen and Mater were in a Japanese club. The inclusion of the song allowed Perfume to be invited to the red carpet premiere of the film in LA.
Stage Names: Kashiyuka was initially known as simply Yuka (her real name) to differentiate herself from Kawayuka. She eventually reverted to her current stage name, but in early "Monochrome Effect"-era promotional material she is still referred to as 'Yuka'. A~chan still calls her "Yuka-chan" during MC segments, with the crowd chants following suit.
Stepford Smiler: In "Secret Secret": "You lied with your sweetest smile. You're always secretive."
Stylistic Suck: Near the ending of "I still love U", the track goes slightly off-beat and scratchy like a broken record then suddenly returns to normal.
Tears of Joy: Given their long and difficult climb to fame (see Earn Your Happy Ending above), A~Chan especially is prone to providing this trope during some of their concerts' MC segments. Perhaps the most epic example is the final MC segment of their first ever concert in the famed Tokyo Dome — a lifelong dream for the group, and a performance designed as a celebration of their first 10 years together. A~Chan delivered a very passionate speech and then closed out the show with "Polyrhythm", fighting back tears the entire time. Nocchi and Kashiyuka start to well up when they notice A~Chan shedding tears again after fireworks went off in the equally explosive middle section of the song. "Stage of dreams," indeed.
All of their LP covers starting with GAME feature the album's title, but not the artist name. One could argue that ⊿'s cover◊ is a straight example.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Nocchi, with her short hair and shorts, and A~chan, with her long curly hair and generally conservative dresses, respectively give off this vibe. Kashiyuka falls somewhere in between.
Tsundere: One of their early songs, "Jenny in a Bad Mood," is about one. Another would be "Puppy Love."
Uncommon Time: "Polyrhythm". The bridge has 5/8 and 6/8 vocal parts over a 4/4 drumbeat that switches to 3/2 after the vocal 'hiccups'; the low synth has a 7:6 polyrhythm. It was such a radical bridge for what is essentially an Idol Group that the company initially requested that the bridge be cut altogether. Yasutaka Nakata saw that the song was allowed to stand as is (although a radio edit without it was made in concession) and it became Perfume's first top ten hit, as well as the song that got most people into them in the first place.
Wardrobe Malfunction: A Running Gag with Nocchi is the frequent number of times she loses a shoe, gets her clothing caught on something, has her belt come loose, etc. in concerts. Currently they now perform with safety straps in their shoes.