Puffy AmiYumi are a Japanese pop-rock duo that consist of Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura. Their commercial popularity began very early in their career, as their 1996 debut single “Asia no Junshin” quickly skyrocketed them to superstardom in Japan, there known as “Puffy-Mania”. They released several more records through the years with matched success, even crossing over into a variety show in their home country eccentrically titled Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy. Eventually, cross-over success happened in the US, including appearances at American concerts and talk shows, as well as recording credits for the theme songs of various animated series – including one based around the duo themselves, titled Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. Needless to say, they’re a pretty big deal in solidifying the potential for modern j-pop/j-rock groups to have mainstream crossover success in the American pop culture scene.
Even though the two are the primary performers of all their songs, their musical style is often referred to as a collaboration between the duo and producer Tamio Okuda. “Asia no Junshin”, for example, is largely defined by its prominent synthesizers and bombastic sound effects, over which AmiYumi perform their plainly pop hooks and melodies. However, another single titled “Korega Watashino Ikiru Michi” pretty obviously takes its influence from 60s rock, primarily from The Beatles’ early British Invasion era records. It’s clear to see the group is pretty eccentric in their style and sound, or at least they were in the early parts of their career. It seems that once the crossover success to the US occurred, the group experienced a greater degree of label interference to their sound (primarily due to their being signed by Sony Records), which unfortunately stripped them of a lot of the more free spirited elements that made them so appealing to young Japanese listeners in the first place.
Today’s single is “My Story”, which comes from their 2009 album Bring It!. The sonic stylings are very much dominated by slightly harder-edged power chords from an electric guitar. It’s still pop-rock, but less in the sweetly retro, slightly kitschy sense of their early stuff and more in the sense that it remains rooted in the popular sound of rock radio at the time. And let it be known that 2009 was the start of a dark time in rock radio that continues to this very day. I guess “uncreative” is the most fitting word that goes through my brain when I scroll through the rock charts – and it certainly defines “My Story” as well. The melody is alright, but it just hurts at how quickly the two had traded in catchiness for plainness and simplicity. Not that simplicity is a bad thing! I’m just not feeling very sold on this one. Tied up with an uninspired performance from the duo and lyrics that, upon translation, don’t amount to much more than a typical, cliché-ridden love song, it’s clear that this is a track from Puffy AmiYumi that I won’t be revisiting any time soon.