Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Da Pump – U.S.A.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!


Iain Mew: Hearing this original and deciding that what it needed was to be 50% less cool is a stroke of genius. 

Will Rivitz: The fact that this song is good is absolutely inconceivable. It is nothing short of ludicrous that a washed-up version of Da Pump could mix the worst of ’80s guitar muscle, ’90s camp, and early-aughts neon and somehow end up with something that is genuinely better than passable. “U.S.A.” is like if Chris Kirkpatrick, Vitas, and the guitarist of any interchangeable ’80s hair metal band got together, snorted so much coke that none of them remembered the next three days, woke up on the other end with a half-mastered recording of “What Hurts The Most,” and said fuck it and posted it to SoundCloud. Whatever once passed as good music is now dead, and I couldn’t be happier. 

Andy Hutchins: I am very much unsure who the joke is really on here, because while a zombified Japanese boy band of dudes pushing 40 and singing a (semi-)facetiously pro-America song and doing every viral rap dance of the last five years and the Hammer Dance in the video is a pretty decent joke about America in 2018, it is also a boy band of dudes pushing 40 and making a hit by stealing fucking BlocBoy JB’s shine, which is a) laughable on its face and b) basically what Drake did with “Look Alive,” only with a decidedly non-Drake capacity for joy and sincerity in equal measure at the same time.

Alfred Soto: I love secondhand takes on most things, and Da Pump’s re-imagining of the Land of Trump as one in which synths that wouldn’t be out of place on a Stacey Q song sit beside stun guitar, stutter vocal, and a beat that would wind Lance Armstrong.

Tim de Reuse: There’s some charm to watching of someone in another hemisphere get sincerely enthusiastic about a version of your home country that was only ever depicted in the least contemplative of its cultural exports. Unfortunately, no amount of context could make this mess sound fun; its mix is heavily lopsided towards the vocals, the kick performs a grotesque pinch on the instrumentation around it, and the sound design makes far too much sincere use of the shrill, rough synthesizer tones that are more conventionally reserved for parodying the flimsiest dance music of the 90’s. The thing is — I don’t really detect any kind of ironic distance from the source material but if this were trying to act as parody, or make some kind of point beyond nostalgia — it’d still sound atrocious.

Anna Suiter: To be honest my knowledge of Japanese male pop groups has always been tenuous. Many of their labels have only recently and reluctantly started to publish music and videos in a way that’s more accessible to international audiences. Because of this, I don’t have a lot of context for Da Pump’s career. But U.S.A is inexplicably charming that it doesn’t even need that context. It’s so”meme-y”, for the lack of a better term, that it’s hard to believe that some of that wasn’t on purpose. But it feels sincere, at least as much as that’s possible. Maybe it ends up feeling like your uncle trying to be cool and failing, but you can’t stop yourself from doing the shoot dance with him anyways, or even just singing along.

Ryo Miyauchi: Suburban shopping malls in Japan gave me a light rush of culture shock when I visited my family a couple months ago. Every other menswear vendor stocked what looked like a foreigner’s interpretation of middlebrow American street fashion: Thrashers, Supreme, and the like admired from a far distance. This secondhand view of American cultural fixtures definitely informs the viral music video of “U.S.A.” though it’s also not entirely lost on the Eurobeat record, sourced from a Joe Yellow song. Not only are disco balls and convertible sports cars admired with nostalgic fascination, the group’s ISSA peppers in katakana phrases solely to borrow its Western cool. By the end of it, the imports feel so hollow as substance, only leaving their pure surface quality of how catchy it feels to recite them. The flattening and bizarre appropriation behind “U.S.A.” are a prime example of Weird Japan, sure, but this surreal thing is only a byproduct of incessantly consuming Weird America.

Reader average: [9] (2 votes)

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