It really looked like After School had lost their mojo last year after Kahi left. Their music wasn’t as good, their sales were lower, and their subunit had suddenly become more popular than the main group. All that changed this year when the almost has-beens returned with a vengeance — bigger, better, and sexier than ever before. They made every other girl group on the planet look like a pack of fat ugly slobs with their pole-dancing performances for the divine “First Love,” and then followed it up with one of the greatest Japanese K-pop singles ever released, “Heaven.”
After “Heaven” smashed the Oricon charts (it was After School’s highest-selling J-pop single since 2011 — an amazing feat considering the hallyu wave has been on the decline in Japan for the past two years), AS have wisely returned to the song’s producer, Shinichi Osawa, for their follow up single, “Shh.”
Now, y’all need to understand that Shinichi Osawa is no fucking joke. He’s one of the biggest DJ’s in the world, and he produced one of the hugest hits of Namie Amuro’s career, the wig-snatching “What a Feeling.” He’s the guy you wish your fave would work with.
“Shh” shifts away from the Daft Punk disco of “Heaven” into ’80s and ’90s EDM — the kind of thing you’ve heard done to death by countless hipster dance acts over the past year, but not yet from an Asian girl group. “Shh” is gloriously mechanical, serving up slippery vintage house beats and Hot Butter “Popcorn” synths as a mildly-aroused After School sing robotically like a bunch of sexy replicants. The first chorus –a spluttering Engrish shoosh sound that eventually forms the words, “secret love”– is genius.
The accompanying video is a total ’90s throwback, and looks like how you might imagine some old behind-the-scenes footage from an Interview magazine shoot to be like. Some of the choreography looks sloppy and rushed, but it just adds to the intentional low budget style of the clip.
“Shampoo” will probably always be my personal favourite After School song and “First Love” will always be their best video solely due to the spectacular pole dancing, but objectively speaking, the group’s never been better than they are now with “Heaven” and “Shh.” The artsy fashion-forward visuals combined with the sophisticated pop throwbacks are unbeatable — it’s so fucking good it makes me feel embarrassed for recently raving about some of SNSD’s new J-pop songs.
If After School keeps this up they’ll be in my main bias list by next year.
P.S. Before getting yo’ life to “Shh,” please take a moment of silence for Kahi’s flawless flop, “It’s Me,” which deserved to be one of the biggest K-diva songs of the year.