I love a good comeback. And I don’t mean “comeback” in the new promotional cycle sense (though I obviously love those, too). I mean an honest to goodness resurgence in popularity after years of increased obscurity. J-pop group Da Pump has been around since the late 90’s, though they’ve struggled to maintain commercial success ever since the majority of the group left in 2008. But with new single U.S.A, they’ve scored a surprising top five viral hit.
I can’t think of many territories where a track this unabashedly goofy (and unabashedly techno) could actually top the charts. But in this and many other ways, Japan is an anomaly. I’m curious if U.S.A was designed with an eye toward the 2020 Olympics (which will be hosted in Tokyo), but even if it wasn’t, I could see the song becoming a staple when covering American athletes. As an American myself, I’m not remotely proud of the state of my country at the moment, so listening to U.S.A brings about a complicated mix of feelings. Its lyrics are vague and slogan-like and come across as celebratory. However, I can’t help but think that Da Pump’s continual cry of “c’mon baby, America” really means “get your fucking act together, America.” One can hope.
Either way, U.S.A pounds with the kind of high-energy Eurobeat we haven’t heard in quite some time. It’s a pastiche of everything that makes this brand of over-the-top techno so much fun, and vocalist Issa Hentona’s resounding tone provides the kind of cheesy confidence needed to make the song soar. The repeated “U.S.A.!” battle cry is more than a little reminiscent of the Village People, and I mean that in the best way possible. As electric guitar chugs in the background and the tempo works itself into a fit, the track becomes harder and harder to resist. It’s easy to see why Japan is so smitten — even if the novelty will wear off eventually.
I really miss the old group, but I have to give Issa props for keeping things going like this. After Ken left I thought for sure they were done but if there’s anyone who can keep the fire alive with songs like *this* it’s him. For what it’s worth, I was actually a little taken aback when I first saw it (not feeling ultra patriotic myself either) but the goofiness won me over. Oh, Issa. Never change.
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The original was made by Joe Yellow in 1992, so it wasn’t written with those things in mind, likely. In the original, the lyrics were “C’mon baby, do it again”.