The return of Mallory, flinging darts in pop’s eyes.
Patrick St. Michel: This is kind of the J-Pop equivalent to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” in the sense that many fans (in this case, mostly English-speaking ones) reacted to a stylistic change with shock. This is Perfume’s first single shaped by global ambitions, which explains why producer/mastermind Yasutaka Nakata embraced Euroclub synths that sound more “Welcome To St. Tropez” than Shibuya-kei and the whole thing is nearly in English. The repetitive keyboard is a sonic shift for the group, but the rest of the song isn’t the major departure message-board dwellers think it is. The majority of Perfume’s singles feature English in the chorus, and this song is basically one giant chorus repeated with a few variations. Repetitive, yes, but also deceptively catchy because, like all good Perfume songs, every sound works together to form a song full of great sounds. Some have compared “Spending All My Time” to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” or Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” but those songs dilute the pop hooks with abrasive electro freak outs. This song finds something irresistible and runs with it.
Mallory O’Donnell: If this wasn’t J-Pop many critics would be backhanding it for its indebtedness to (unjustly) hated west coast Hi-NRG and (justly) despised italo-house, but simply because it is, they will praise it for the same reasons. As for me, I could care where something comes from : as songs go, this is forgettable tosh. See, I’ve already forgotten it.
Brad Shoup: So Perfume’s gone full Harris. The in-the-round approach to verses and blithe harmonies still work for them, and I suppose Nakata’s baroque sequencing would get old at some point. But it’s still stale synths and about eight words.
Alfred Soto: For J-pop to absorb Western pop trends isn’t quite enough. The mystical devotion to saccharine sentiments welded to hard beats both beats Max Martin and RedOne at their own games but honors their achievements too. Calvin Harris as source material — a good fit, no? Perfume inhabit the track like Rihanna never does on hers but the hook doesn’t sink in deep enough.
Iain Forrester: I’ve compared the productions of Calvin Harris and Yasutaka Nakata before, but this marks the first time that the latter is consciously aiming for the same territory as the former. It pares down Perfume’s sound to the bare minimum as if the Japanese words and intricate verse constructions were inseparably linked and both had to go in the chase for wider acceptance. It’s not that much of a shock, since they still sound completely like Perfume, and while it’s not vintage stuff it’s not all bad either. The bubbly synth riff and the two lines of song are both enjoyable and take their sheer concentration well, an addition to being impossible to shift from memory. Also anything that might help steer Perfume to get to their website’s promise that they’ll appear in Europe (and North America) to fulfil their goal ‘to become the next global artist’ is fine by me.
Anthony Easton: A Valley remake of “Care Bears” or “My Little Pony,” with less Sondheim and more Hasbro.
Jonathan Bogart: Yeah, that synth hook sounds a lot like Calvin Harris, specifically “We Found Love.” But there’s no obnoxious build-and-supposed-release-which-is-actually-just-a-restatement; Perfume are too invested in subverting audience expectations for that.
Will Adams: Unless the joke is that they spend all of their time singing “spending all of my time,” this is disappointingly one-note. That this still scores high for me is a testament to Yasutaka Nakata’s strength as a producer. He injects a sweetness that is often absent in dancepop via sugarcoated keyboard lines and squelchy rhythm track. Best of all, it never ceases to amaze me how house tropes like heavy Autotune and syncopated synth stabs could be so enjoyable. Even the Calvin Harris-isms sound awesome.
Katherine St Asaph: That this sounds like RedOne playing a bucket of plastic pickup sticks is no surprise. Global smash attempts tend to sound this anonymous, despite this year’s actual global smash (Gotye, fun; Carly Rae Jepsen has extenuating Scooter Braun) tending weirder, and dance-pop for years has been reverse-alchemizing itself for years into the musical equivalent of a Ring Pop. It’s also unsurprising how this comes off vaguely morose or creepy; so much pop sinks rather than soars, and Perfume sing every possible gloss of “spending” like a collector’s ritual. They also sing like Perfume: vocal lines weightless enough to wind around each other like threads, processed just a touch too much. They can’t sound anonymous. That’ll likely kill the crossover, but it saves the song.