Over the past month, I’ve been digging deeply into the gargantuan discography of prolific j-pop group AAA. They’re an act I’ve been wanting to get into for years now, but never found the right entry point until hearing the insanely awesome double a-side Aitai Riyū / Dream After Dream, taken from their equally immense 2011 album Buzz Communication. Like most groups of their stature, AAA’s individual members have also embarked on successful solo careers. This music has been surprisingly diverse in style, but my current favorite is main vocal Nissy’s funk-pop output.
The Eternal Live was released along with Nissy’s newest album in December, but given k-pop’s Olympics-driven hiatus, now is the perfect time for a belated write-up on the song. And what a song it is! This is the kind of showstopper that captured me from the very first listen. It’s my favorite type of pop track — one that draws heavily from many influences but feels as if it could comfortably find a home in almost any era. Right from the start, its big, brassy energy crackles with an undeniable swagger. This comes not from the faux-hip-hop mold that so many k-pop and j-pop acts try to emulate, but from a sense of old school showmanship in keeping with the track’s retro influences.
With the advent of computer-based programming and looping programs, modern pop music can sometimes feel too beholden to a drag-and-drop sort of composition that leaves little room for improvisation. At its core, funk is all about breaking from structure just enough to feel organic and alive. The Eternal Live pulls off this sense of looseness, even if it never strays too dramatically from what we’d expect of a pop song. Nissy’s rich, powerful voice is its centerpiece, oozing playful charisma with every line. But that big, bombastic chorus is the stuff of legends — all roiling percussion and dramatic backing vocals. It’s an absolutely galvanizing sound, funneled into a song and artist that will likely find a permanent home on my playlist.