Review

My Favorite J-pop: Perfume – Pick Me Up

Perfume - Pick Me UpWith such a busy slate of K-pop releases, I don’t always have a chance to rave about some of my favorite J-pop. This week, I’ll be giving an overview of some of my favorite acts and songs. Hopefully you’ll find a new obsession to add to your playlist!


Why I Love Pick Me Up (and you should too)

Perfume are one of the most popular and well-known acts in J-pop, but I still feel like I’m catching up with their discography. I always love the production in their songs, but the vocal approach is something I really have to be in the mood to appreciate. It’s so aloof – almost deadpan in its own way. This is obviously intentional and one of their biggest charms, but it doesn’t always jive with my personal taste.

Given this, it’s no surprise that the effusive Pick Me Up stands as my favorite Perfume single. Yes, that trademark vocalization is omnipresent. But, the big scale of the song offers a chance to unbridle some elements of the group’s framework and give us moments that reach for the stars. In this case, those moments appear in Pick Me Up’s chorus. We get a hint of this bombast in the opening instrumental, which cascades right out of the gate before pulling back for softer verses. The track builds back bigger with its extended pre-chorus and before we know it we’re scaling the heights of Pick Me Up’s immense centerpiece. This is one of my favorite workout songs for a reason. It just gets your blood pumping in a way only the most satisfying EDM can.

I enjoyed this! Where should I go next?

Well… here’s the thing. I’m open to suggestions. Perfume are a group I’ve checked in with here and there, but I don’t feel like I’m any expert on their discography. I enjoyed 2020’s Time Warp a lot and YouTube keeps feeding me Spending All My Time and Nee, which I also enjoy. But, I’m curious if you all know other Perfume songs that are worth diving into. They’ve certainly got a big discography to choose from.

Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 10
 Bias 9
 RATING 9.5

Grade: A

20 thoughts on “My Favorite J-pop: Perfume – Pick Me Up

  1. Honestly my first Perfume song is Tokyo Girl back in 2017, it remains my favorite after seeing their live concert by chance. While it’s not exactly what people think as their signature style, the cosmic sound and bass left a lasting impression on me. Ofc… Probably has something to do with the large budget that went into the release

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  2. My personal favorite Perfume song is Spice! There’s something very intricate and elegant about how that song was constructed… Perfume in general just has a really strong discography

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is my TIME!!!!!!

    Before I loved Kpop I loved Perfume and while I haven’t followed them super super closely in quite a while I have always adored them and continue to cheer for both their success and unchanging personal stylings (save for when Kashiyuka might want to sweep her bangs to the side every once in a while lol). Their music is ranges from very electronic to more easy listening.

    To avoid making this post super laggy I will just make a list of my faves and link to a few key musical moments that are more electronic themed:

    Lazer Beam
    Fushizen Na Girl
    Game –

    Linear Motor Girl
    Night Flight
    Secret Secret –

    575
    1mm
    One Room Disco
    Fake it –

    And lastly my personal favorite title, Love the World –

    With these songs you can’t go wrong as I think each both represents them well and showcases the varied ways their electronic side of music has so many varied colors. Happy Listening Nick!! 🙌🏾

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Nick , I got you. Perfume are my FIRST Jpop group. I’m wondering if you’re more familiar with their POST-Pick Me Up songs, the songs of their Cosmic Explorer album and onward? This might be why you’re not sold on them consistently, because Pick Me Up is widely considered to be their last GREAT song among the fandom. But there’s still over a decade of even greater music before that! Here’s what you must check out:

    Albums: Triangle (2009), because it’s a good album front to back with their best singles, and P Cubed, which gathers up all the fan favorite album mixes, bsides, and all the singles. It serves as a nice crash course.

    Singles:
    Electro World (The Single Mix) – the parentheses are important! Nakata, Perfume’s producer, has a habit of remixing the pre-released singles so listeners have an entirely new experience when playing the full album for the first time. Sometimes the results are good! (And will be designated on this list!) Sometimes the results are absolute shit from an butt and you wonder why he even touched it! Electro World is sort of in the middle of these! The single mix, which is heard on the EP simply titled “Electro World” and in their P Cubed Best Of Album omits the atmospheric intro in the Perfume Complete Best Album from 2006. Doesn’t destroy the song, but it IS a tight and punchy electro-rock fusion that probably benefits from getting to the guitars early! GRADE: B+

    Polyrhythm – Their iconic song that is the group’s calling card, they will always find a way to put this on a concert set. It has f(x) vibes with its experimentation, as it incorporates the eponymous musical technique of polyrhythm to compound a 5/8 hook over a 4/4 dance beat in the postchorus breakdown. GRADE: B+

    Love the World – their first #1 hit, and the blueprint/beginning of their imperial singles run phase. This entire era (the Triangle album) was 80s inspired, so you’ll love it. The chorus, and it’s a POP chorus, is the king of all these songs, and Love the World still reigns as one of their best. GRADE: A

    Dream Fighter – widely agreed upon in the fandom as their best single. This song is 90% chorus, I kid you not. Starts with the chorus, revisits it like 5 times, plays it three times in a row at one point: 4 minutes of the 5 minute runtime is dedicated to playing it. And you’ll love it cuz it is the best chorus Nakata has ever stumbled on. Not to say the verses are filler! Quite the opposite. Nakata even designs to completely different bass playing styles, and the second is just funky! GRADE: A+

    One Room Disco – another Triangle song! It really was their best era. It’s just 80s encapsulated. Even unfairly biased Jpop haters like Kpopalypse agree this song is great. It’s all about that bass, and I honestly think the postchorus is better than the chorus here. GRADE: A+

    Laser Beam (single mix) – the first single Nakata remixed for an album where the result is just… not great. So don’t listen to the JPN album mix, listen to the single mix. This song mixes chiptune and arcade synths with EDM to make a very light, bouncy dance beat. GRADE: A

    Fushizen na Girl – some will lay down their lives to insist THIS is the best Perfume single… and they have a lot of justification! The English hook “can’t. stop. feeling.” that starts the track will have you randomly singing it throughout the day, and the track plays on this by having the chorus melody do a stop/start sort of rhythm, before flipping that on its head for the end of the final chorus. It’s honesty great. GRADE: A+

    Spring of Life (Single Mix): ok no THIS is the best Perfume single… they have too much great music! This song is the most ebullient and joyful Perfume have been on record. It just pours over with happiness, and then THAT bridge happens… and that’s a positive! The bridge comes out of nowhere and it’s amazing experiencing it for the first time so I won’t spoil it, so go listen to it right now. This is also the era the fandom agrees the album mixes of singles goes to shit, and Nakata begins consistently ruining them all. Nakata, realizing how good the bridge was, tries to put the bridge EVERYWHERE in the song, which ruins the surprise and sonic contrast. We never talk about the Album Mix for Spring of Life. Never ever play the Level 3 Album Mix of Spring of Life. GRADE: A+

    Magic of Love (single mix) – people disagree on which one of the cuts is better, the album or single mix, as they are the MOST different of any single mix Nakata has done. I find the single mix better, but I encourage also listening to the Album version on Level 3 to make your own decision. This was the last time Perfume would do a pop chorus for a long time, so treasure it! GRADE: A-

    Future Pop: honestly, a lot of people thought Perfume (or rather Nakata, since he writes all their shit) had lost it for a long while up to this era. Cosmic Explorer (Where Pick Me Up comes from) era was a disappointment. The new era, of album Future Pop, would also turn out some uninspired music. But Future Pop had glimmers of songwriting smarts. The song has a nice build, a high-flying feel, and a great drop. Only problem is that Nakata wrote half a song, a saddening departure from Perfumes past 5-minute pop blockbusters. GRADE: B

    Album cuts:
    Perfect Star, Perfect Style – one of their early songs that was a new edition to their first Best Of, their first hit that saved them from disbandment, it became a blueprint for their early music, which was pop first, inspired by EDM, instead of the reverse that occurs around 2013. GRADE: B+

    Secret Secret – this is an advertisement song mean to sell chocolate-related goods, and like SNSD’s Chocolate Love, it’s really good! GRADE: B+

    Edge (The 9 minute Triangle mix) – this is where Nakata making a lot of remixes comes into play. Edge has gone through the most revisions, it’s notorious for having like a dozen different iterations. While it started as a bside for an EP in the lead up to Triangle, the longest one that pops up on the album is the perfect version. This is a club song first and foremost. The beat is NASTY and nearly sinister. There’s 3 different beat drops that shatter the ground. AND the song finds time to incorporate a transcendental chorus over 3 minutes into the song! This is what makes the mixes worth it. GRADE A+

    Night Flight – this is their best B-side. Everyone in the fandom agrees. 80s perfection that spins wayyyyy more runway out of a 4-note descending riff than you’d think possible. the slap bass… and then the postchorus that arrives out of nowhere and changes the harmony? Just go listen now. GRADE: S

    I still love U – I joke that THIS is what e.one, fullbloom and all the WJSN/LOONA producers are copying with the “cosmic” kpop songs… but I think it has a hint of truth and that this was a template for those original songs like Secret! This is a song that really puts the melody up front, and the synthetic yet orchestral chorus is breathtaking. GRADE: A+

    Glitter (Album Mix) – it just SOUNDS like glitter and fire sparklers falling from the ceiling. Euphoric festival EDM is the only descriptor that comes to mind. Definitely earns the minute buildup. GRADE: A

    My Color – a single that never was! Has the same DNA of all their imperial era singles, just no MV! But the chorus still comes in like a sledgehammer. GRADE: A

    Hurly Burly – this is why examining ALL of Perfume’s discography, the EPs and NOT just the albums, is necessary. Because Nakata would put some bomb ass b-sides on the EPs leading up to an album release, and then we’d get the tracklist and the… bside just wasn’t there? WTH??? Hurly Burly was one such bside that suffered this fate. This song will have you up and fist pumping, it’s a fun bouncy club track with a ridiculously stupid chorus you’ll have memorized by the third go-around. GRADE: B+

    FAKE IT: remember what I said about Bsides that don’t make it to an album? This is another one. The first one that made us think Nakata needed to have no hand in picking the album tracklists, cuz this is their best “lost” b-side. Sibling on the Nee EP, the song is all about the chorus and post-chorus drop. Nakata was in his bag during this period, and literally samples and chops the sound of a FAX/PRINTER into a beat for a song named fake it. Insane. GRADE: A+

    Handy Man: Nakata was at his most eccentric in Level 3 era, and Handy Man finds him trying to blend dance music and middle eastern tropes, with a very different result than you’d expect with the formula, compared to Blackpink and the YG template. GRADE: B+

    Party Maker – it’s difficult to sell this song. It’s a VERY good club song. It’s not really a pop song. It made for a career-redefining live performance that flipped the entire Perfume fandom on their heads. It’s sort of like edge, but not as good, but edge is a 12/10, so that’s hard to achieve. I highly suggest trying to find a live performance of this song where they are on the lifts the first time you listen to this, as it makes the song make sense and only then does it stand on its own. Even then, it works great as a workout song. GRADE: A

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    • Ahh! How could I have forgotten album cuts too?!

      All of your suggestions are great and I also recc Sleeping Beauty from the Level 3 album & Butterfly from the Game album. Both are largely/primarily instrumental extended mixes but so incredible and when the vocals come they enhance the vibe already presented so elegantly.

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    • I still can’t figure our why Hurly Burly is not in any album. I came across it by chance and I absolutely love it. And yes, I totally agree that the single mix of Magic of love is better than the album mix

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  5. Also, I highly encourage you to watch basically any MV they released from 2007 up to 2013 and at least ONE pre-pandemic concert. They are absolutely a visual act and were the best anywhere up until Cosmic Explorer era

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Aw yeah, Perfume, now this is my jam. Been listening to them since 2013, though I’m not as hardcore as some other fans. Pick Me Up’s one of my favorites too!

    Agree with the person who mentioned Tokyo Girl further up, that song gave me a lot of hope when I was depressed my first year in college, still makes me cry today. Dream Fighter is one of my favorites as well, super uplifting and also a personal tearjerker (it’s a fantastic song regardless of lyrical content).

    I think you might like these, Nick:

    Spring of Life (timeless to me, this one’s just so euphoric)

    Spinning Mirror (Mawaru Kagami; their recent releases have been kinda mid for me but this one reminded me of their golden era songs)

    Puppy Love (a bit mellow, but I think it’s a sweet sounding song)

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  7. Now you’ve hit a sweet spot with me. Love these ladies! If you want some great music to work out to, you can’t go wrong with some of their very rhythm heavy songs like:
    “Polygon Wave”

    and the aforementioned “Spinning World”:

    As AMETHYST stated above, their are a great concert “visual” group:
    Perfume “Edge” Live

    Any chance of a review of anything by ATARASHII GAKKO! or Tokyo Gegegay (Understanding that many of the members have left)

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  8. Perfume! My Jam!

    Absolutely agree with Amethyst that their 2009 ⊿ album contains their best materials. However, 2008’s GAME and 2011’s JPN were pretty great too. Please give them a listen!

    2013’s LEVEL3 starts to have a mix of average to good songs, some of my favourites are “1mm” (with Kashiyuka’s classic bangs styled differently yet elegaantly) and “Daijobanai”.

    Their singles run from 2005-2012 (“Linear Motor Girl” to “Spending All My Time”) were a perfect demonstration of classics after classics, even the B-sides are quality songs.

    Perfume were speculated to open for Japan’s Olympics, until the change of committee happened. I personally was looking forward to seeing them appear on stage because they sure are going to present some of their best concert settings to bomb the audience! Nick, if possible, please attend their concerts in the future, because you surely will be amazingly overwhelmed by how Perfume’s team incorporates people with technology to create such impactful performances!

    Some sneak peeks:
    1. When you think the stage is a normal stage, but in actual fact it is a huge floor LED display. How do they time their (fake) shadows so perfectly?

    2. Smooth flow of polygons on stage, controlled by MIKIKO’s team of dancers to match the visuals presented by the floor LED display.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. If you’re into bombast in perfume songs, I really recommend Miracle Worker on the Cosmic Explorer album. Such a brilliant anthemic song.

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  10. I actually got into Perfume last year with ‘Polygon Wave’. These are the songs I love include (from favorite):
    -Spinning World
    -Polygon Wave
    -1mm
    -Polyrythm
    -Fushizen no girl
    -Clockwork (especially that waa waa waa part lol)
    -Hurly Burly
    -Love the world
    -Android and
    -575
    -Night flight
    -Magic of love
    -Furikaeruto iruyo
    -Natural ni koishite
    -Dream fighter
    -I still love you
    -Foundation
    -Game
    -Nee
    -Point

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  11. The entire JPN album is a great start to finish listen and IMO contains a lot of Nakata’s most inspired songwriting. Among the best pop albums of the 10’s, from any country – I’d say it sits comfortably in the same tier as something like Love & Peace by SNSD, etc.

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  12. I remember finding Perfume because “Nee” was the #1 Music on a Most Listened in Japan list I randomly found when I was like, 12 years old.

    “Nee” was on my repeat for months and years! 9 years later, now having the habit of listening to an artist’s other songs, I came back to Perfume and then “Spending all my time” and “Flash” became my songs to repeat. 🙂

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