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 group's name comes from the kanji 香 found in all three of the founding members' names (it's the ka in Ayaka, Yuka, and Yuuka); 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 Ōmoto): Highly conspicuous in her bob haircut. Pretty much always wearing shorts or pants. 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 women 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).
Chocolate Disco-graphy (LP's):
- Perfume~Complete Best~ (2006)
- GAME (2008)
- ⊿ (pronounced "Triangle") (2009)
- JPN (2011)
- Perfume Global Compilation LOVE THE WORLD (2012)
- LEVEL3 (2013)
- COSMIC EXPLORER (2016)
- Future Pop (2018)
This band provides examples of:
- Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: Naturally when speaking English, as it is their second language. This has started to fade over the years, as the amount of English in their songs has increased, culminating in the nearly-entirely English "Spending All My Time".
- On their 2016 tour across the United States, they conversed with the crowd in unassisted English.
- Their 2019 tour of North America featured even more unassisted English, though they still picked a translator out of the audience, mostly for KASHIYUKA.
- Adorkable: The same girls who come out on stage in light-up dresses to BAMF electropop music and tight choreography, end up leading their audiences through dorky choreography to their slower songs, and a cheery jingle about brushing one's teeth after each meal. This mentions nothing about their other on- and off-stage antics.
- After the End: "Future Pop" begins with a shot of what seems to be Tokyo Big Sight overgrown with vegetation in a giant field, suggesting this before everything starts being rebuilt.
- Animated Music Video:
- The story portion of "Vitamin Drop" is animated.
- "Mirai no Museum" is partially animated, with the girls and PTA-kun appearing in live-action.
- Artifact Title: The group's name comes from the kanji 香 (ka, "fragrance") appearingin all three of the founding members' first names. NOCCHi's first name is Ayano.
- Aside Glance: In the video for "If You Wanna", NOCCHi very clearly and quickly gives a "wel'p" look to the camera after singing the line, "If you wanna kiss me", to her bandmates within tight quarters.
- Audience Participation Song: Perfume have a catalogue of crowd-pleasers, where participation is highly encouraged:
- "Jenny wa Gokigen Namane", a cover of the 1980 power-pop song by Juicy Fruits that Perfume recorded back in 2003, usually appears near the very end of their shows, with specific chants for each singer.
- "Chocolate Disco" always goes off live. The girls sing "chocolate", the crowd screams "disco" and it goes on like that for the next three-and-a-half minutes.
- "FAKE IT" is absolutely wild live, with the entire crowd jumping along at A~chan's command during the recurring intro section.
- "Baby Face" and "STAR TRAIN" become full-on singalongs if not dance-alongs as the lyrics appear on screen behind the group.
- "Perfume", "Puppy love", "Kokoro no Sports", and "MY COLOR" all have varying ways to fist pump throughout the song.
- Author Appeal: Producer Yasutaka Nakata is also well known for making electro house, techno and future bass songs under the name of capsule, so he has created unique pieces for Perfume in this vein.
- LEVEL3 contained three "album-mixes", as well as the 7 minute "Party Maker" and 6 minute "Dream Land".
- Each live show has had an extended dance number sent to a banging club track, commonly referred to as "Perfumeの掟" (Perfume no okite; "The Law of Perfume".) Additional pieces have creeped into their albums, with "Party Maker", "STORY" and "FUSION" appearing on recent titles.
- Auto-Tune: The central gimmick of their sound, being a "Near-Future Technopop Unit" and all. Nakata used vocoders and 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.
- Every album following JPN features less of it, using it primarily on backing vocal parts or for effect.
- Arc Symbol: Triangles. It's not only one of their albums, but it's generally considered the official logo for the group.
- Bare Your Midriff: Exactly once since their major label debut* : KASHIYUKA in "Pick Me Up". Fans thought that she had done it again in the music video for "Let Me Know", but it turned out she was wearing an off-white undershirt.
- Band Toon: Happy!, Chandelier House, and Love Party were shows where the Perfume members interacted in both scripted and improvised scenarios, often with popular Japanese comedians.
- Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Loosely defined below.
- a~chan: Beauty. The Chick who plays the Team Mom role even though she's the youngest she was the driving force behind starting the group and especially in keeping it going after Kawayuka left. The most outwardly emotional (see Tears of Joy below).
- KASHIYUKA: Brains. Often the quietest of the trio, but very much in a Kuudere sense. A real life Meganekko.
- NOCCHi: Brawn. 100% Otaku Surrogate. Is the often the butt of jokes, so has a bit of The Woobie about her.
- Bears Are Bad News: In the "Laser Beam" PV, the girls get chased around by a giant polar bear.
- Between My Legs: Occurs in the "Laser Beam" PV when the girls meet the villain for the first time.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: On their television show, KASHIYUKA, the quietest and sweetest of the group, pulled out a baby python from a box and proceeded to chase the screaming cast members around the set laughing and giggling the whole way!
- Big Damn Heroes:
- KASHIYUKA and NOCCHi get one in the "Vitamin Drop" music video.
- PTA-kun in the "Mirai no Museum" music video.
- Bigger Than Jesus: One live concert had a sign behind them that read, "We more most populer than Jesus." Uh... okay.
- Bolivian Army Ending: The "Pick Me Up" MV (before it's revealed as All Just a Dream, anyway). NOCCHi (and her double) jump off a ledge into the abyss, KASHIYUKA (and her double) are surrounded by Murderous Mannequins, and a~chan embraces her double, followed by some kind of explosion.
- Book-Ends: Subtly used in the video for "VOICE". The girls are standing in the same positions in both cases but at the end, they're holding diamonds.
- Broken Record: The polyrhythmic bridge in "Polyrhythm". Don't you dare call it an interlude. Nakata doesn't like that.
- Played with in the video. Near-identical shots of the girls repeat over and over during this section.
- Call-Back: Several in their "Mirai no Museum" PV regarding their previous 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"
- The middle segment of the "Secret Secret" PV combined the "Computer City" choreography with the "Electro World" costumes.
- The PV for "Future Pop" contains the names and images of past albums and songs across the city's buildings and billboards.
- 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.
- Catch-Phrase: Their stage introduction: "KASHIYUKA desu." "a~chan desu." "NOCCHi desu." (or whatever order they happen to be standing in, left to right) "San'nin owasete Perfume desu! Yoroshiku onegai shimasu."note The phrase is so memetic that audiences will scream out "Perfume desu" along with the ladies.
- On their North American tours, they provided the translation of, "I'm KASHIYUKA." "I'm a~chan." "I'm NOCCHi." (or whatever order they happen to be standing in, left to right) "And we are Perfume!"
- Conspicuous CG: It's pretty obvious the giant fish◊ the girls pilot in "Monochrome Effect" is CGI.
- The girls are given CG hair in the PV for "Future Pop."
- 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 this includes every dance sequence. "Nēe" gets additional special mention for a section of leg-only choreography.
- Dress-Coded for Your Convenience:
- Their song "Electro World" talks about one. In contrast, "Computer City" talks about a Utopia.
- "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.
- "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?
- Early Installment Weirdness: Before Yasutaka Nakata started producing them and refining their technopop sound, Perfume's first two indie singles were idol pop. Even when he did start producing them, they fit squarely into the picopop genre basically, if chiptune music was used to create ultra-sugary pop music. The "Perfume sound" became codified by their 7th and 8th singles, "Computer City" and "Electro World".
- Their earliest music videos were more slice of life fare than what they became known for. The PV for "Sweet Donuts" has the girls sitting in a kitchen drinking bubble tea and giggling instead of lip syncing, even.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Even after forming at age eleven and working tirelessly in Hiroshima and 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 , 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). It's for this reason that they count "Linear Motor Girl" as their official 1st single.
- Epic Instrumental Opener:
- "GAME"'s intro goes for about 40 seconds.
- "1mm" runs on for nearly a minute before the vocals start (though the intro is shortened when performed on television).
- The hardstyle track "STORY" finally drops its beat in at 2:30 into it; the sole verse starts at 4:00.
- Several of their later singles, such as "Spring of Life", received large dance music intros as part of the album versions. The practice started with the ⊿-mix of "edge" and hasn't stopped since.
- The Cosmic Explorer album opening track "Navigate" is a minute of nothing but melodic and rhythmic beeping before leading directly into the album's title track.
- Epic Rocking: "edge (triangle mix)" and "Party Maker" are both over 7 minutes long and contain many long instrumental sections. Musically, they are considered among their "hardest" songs.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: Most of the PV for "Butterfly" consists of this.
- Everyone Went to School Together: The members all met & formed Perfume at Actors School Hiroshima. The original 3 were in "Class B" together but, after Kawayuka's departure, NOCCHi was recruited from "Class A". Their choreographer, MIKIKO, is from the school as well.
- Everything's Better with Llamas: NOCCHi loves alpacas.
- Freudian Trio: a~chan is the ever-emotional Id, KASHIYUKA is the calm quiet Superego, and NOCCHi is the very relaxed Ego.
- Frickin' Laser Beams:
- Their concerts feature liberal use of green ones, specifically. In fact, for their 2013 European tour they had to import the machines from Japan.
- Used liberally in the dance shot of the "Laser Beam" PV.
- Behold this jaw-dropping live performance of "Mugenmirai", from Perfume's Perfume x Technology series.
- Greatest Hits Album:
- Perfume's first album Complete Best was a compilation of all their previously released singles, plus one new song. What's telling is that the album 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. So, all three girls enrolled into university that year a~chan and KASHIYUKA completed their degrees; NOCCHi dropped out.
- The group released Perfume Global Compilation "LOVE THE WORLD" in 2012 to capitalize on their newfound global success and their tours to Europe and Southeast Asia. It features songs and b-sides from GAME, ⊿ and JPN.
- Idol Singer: Eventually subverted. They started as a straightforward idol group before being scooped up after two singles by producer Nakata. They're now an extremely competent technopop group.
- Intercourse with You: Usually averted: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 me." Its "Love me" not "I love you." It's too sexy.a~chan: But Im 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 harsher, more experimental sounds of the ⊿ album were drastically toned down for JPN was released. The same was repeated with LEVEL3 and COSMIC EXPLORER, though the latter album did have a hardstyle song called "STORY" right in the middle of it.
- Mirai no Museum was noticeably simpler and definitely softer than their previous work, though that may be due to it being made for a kid's movie.
- List Song: "Speed of Sound", from ⊿.
- Location Song: "Akihabalove", a single the group made with DJ Momo-i in 2005.
- Looped Lyrics: "Spending all my time" and "Take Me Take Me". The latter is entirely in Gratuitous English and the former mostly so. note
- 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.
- "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.
- 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 "Nēe" 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.
- Perhaps taken Up to Eleven with "Pick Me Up" and the Isetan department store, selling everything from clothing & heels to jewelry & accessories.
- They've had an agreement with major telecom company NTT Docomo for some time. Both "Fusion" and "Future Pop" have been used to promote Docomo's tech advances, with Docomo funding Rhizomatics, the tech company they regularly hire to deliver their mind-blowing live shows.
- Mind Screw:
- Modesty Shorts: a~chan and KASHIYUKA wear these under their skirts when performing since otherwise they'd be constantly flashing the audience their underwear. Especially KASHIYUKA.
- Mood Whiplash: On the ⊿ album, the sublimely inspirational "Dream Fighter" is followed by "edge", which is a creepy song told from the POV of a Stalker with a Crush.
- Music for Courage: People were initially a little shocked by the uncharacteristic sentiments in Nakata's lyrics for "love the world":My darling, dont give up
That precious little temper of yours
Its exciting, hey, and wonderful
The world we see is shining
Even though I stumble blindly
I think Im starting to understand a little.
- Nice Hat: The fezzes ◊ the trio wore while promoting "Nēe". a~chan also dons an Russian-styled fur hat ◊ on the cover of "Complete Best" and in the "Electric World" video.
- The large magenta hats the ladies wear in the "Tokyo Girl" MV are nothing short of amazing. So much in fact, that it's this page's image.
- 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 ⊿ (8:43). The ⊿-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 long-pants or hotpants.
- Obsession Song: "edge".
- Odd Friendship: With OK Go as of 2014, with each of them making cameos in each other's videos, Perfume's "Pick Me Up" and Ok Go's "I Won't Let You Down." They have very good and positive things to say about each other, too.
- Both bands eventually recorded the song "I Don't Understand You" together in 2016.
- Piss-Take Rap: "575". The song is about being unable to sleep because of feelings for a boy; the rap section is about trying to text them a haiku, but sending a clumsy, "Hey, what are you up to now?" instead.
- Puppy Love: Subverted. They have a song called "Puppy Love" albeit that one's less about childish romance and more about a Tsundere boy.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: A~chan lists Perfume's rules in the prologue of the music video of "575" as "Black haired, white skinned, positive, dream-chasing idols." As such, the members have agreed to not tan or dye their hair for the group's image.
- 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 and others). 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, with the exception being when 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.
- Robot Girl: The girls play robots programmed to deliver pop music in their "Spring of Life" video. Possibly a Take That, Critics! to those who call their music over-processed and robotic, the video has the Perfume androids discover love, only for the feeling to overwhelm them so much that they accidentally cut themselves off from power, ending their lives.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: a~chan reportedly 'confessed' her love to NOCCHi during a Yokohama live in 2008.
- Self Empowerment Anthem: "Dream Fighter".
- Shaped Like Itself: The lyrics of "575" (minus the rap section) are all in haiku form, aka 5, 7 and 5 syllable chunks.
- She's Got Legs: NOCCHi's and KASHIYUKA's legs get quite a lot of attention from fans (a~chan's not so much due to her slightly more modest skirts).
- 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. Perfume were invited to walk the red carpet at the premiere of the film in LA.
- "Chocolate Disco" shows up in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run as the name of a Stand as well as its user D-I-S-C-O (pronounced as "Di-Su-Ko" in Japanese); the song even influenced Hirohiko Araki to not have D-I-S-C-O talk much during his appearance to offset how many times the girls sing "Chocolate Disco" during the chorus. The song also holds the distinction of being the only Japanese song to be used in this fashion in all of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, with Author Appeal having led to use of Western pop music up until the Steel Ball Run arc.note KASHIYUKA is an unabashed fan of the series, and has incorporated JoJo poses in the band's choreography such as in the videos for "One Room Disco" and "Natural ni Koishite".
- Signature Song: "Polyrhythm" being the most definitive one, followed by "Chocolate Disco" and "Dream Fighter".
- Single Stanza Song: "Take me Take me".
- Something Completely Different: Instead of the usual elaborate choreography and costumes accompanying their videos, the PV for "I still love U" had the ladies don simple outfits and sitting in front of a single camera, which pans around to each member as they sing their verses in one shot.
- 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 (especially during "Jenny wa gokigen namane".)
- 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.
- The initial reaction to discovering GAME had topped the charts. This was the first time one of their albums had ever reached #1. When they open the box, you can see the uncomprehending shock on a~chan's face as she stares at the cake. All of them are overcome with emotion, a~chan in particular bursting into tears more than anyone else. Perfume had to struggle for eight years and almost disbanded before they could reach that very moment. What makes it even better is commentary from Perfume looking back at those memories after they've become famous nationwide, a testament to how far they've come.
- Textless Album Cover:
- Title-Only Chorus: "Perfume".
- Title Track: Both GAME and COSMIC EXPLORER have one.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: NOCCHi, with her short hair and shorts, and a~chan, with her long, curled hair and generally conservative dresses, respectively give off this vibe. KASHIYUKA falls somewhere in between.
- Tsundere: One of their early songs, "Jenny wa gokigen namane" ("Jenny's 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 as a 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. The perfectly quirky dance sequence that goes along with this section probably helped to seal the deal, and the radio edit without the bridge remains a relic of the original CD single.
- 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. They currently perform with safety straps in their shoes.