International Hits

International Hit Parade: Moumoon Is Japan's Guiltless Pleasure

This week's international hit artist is Japanese indie pop duo Moumoon, made of (from left) composer  Kosuke Masaki and singer/lyricist Yuka. i i

hide captionThis week's international hit artist is Japanese indie pop duo Moumoon, made of (from left) composer Kosuke Masaki and singer/lyricist Yuka.

Courtesy of the artist
This week's international hit artist is Japanese indie pop duo Moumoon, made of (from left) composer  Kosuke Masaki and singer/lyricist Yuka.

This week's international hit artist is Japanese indie pop duo Moumoon, made of (from left) composer Kosuke Masaki and singer/lyricist Yuka.

Courtesy of the artist

If Japanese indie pop duo Moumoon were a dessert, they would be a meringue. Fluffy, yes, but not as insubstantial as it seems (The egg whites, you see. Protein.) The comparison is specially sweet as the team of singer/lyricist Yuka and composer Kosuke Masaki explicitly link desserts and desire in their video for "Chu Chu," number 2 in Billboard's Japanese Hot 100. Finally! Pop acknowledges a truth universally acknowledged: that the lovelorn find solace more frequently in a tub of ice cream than another's arms, if only because less dialog is required. Early in his career, Boy George's British popularity rose exponentially when he confided that he'd rather have a nice cup of tea than sex.

The Japanese charts are all a-bubble with large, identically dressed groups of teens, some schoolgirl, some punk-Goth, that have their own synthetic charm. But Moumoon are different. While still living on cutesy Planet J-Pop (as Japanese pop is known), they have a faint waft of irony about them, like almonds. With Yuka's demure Peter Pan collar dotted with pearls and Kosuke's mod 'do, they fit right in on the L train shuttling between Manhattan and the designated cool zone of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Like all the best pop, the art of Moumoon's music is precisely in how throwaway they make it seem. The love lyrics are banal, but in this cushion-soft context, it doesn't matter. The words are there to operate like the music — an affectionate ambient texture, an enveloping tingle like being sprayed with a divine scent.

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The indie duo began collaborating a year after meeting in 2004 and took the name Moumoun from the French "Moue" (soft) and the English "Moon": Soft Moon, a playfully surreal juxtaposition that suited their first hit last year, the reggae-flavored "Sunshine Girl."

Nothing sends their message of blissful, mindless release better than Moumoon's videos, though. Subtle and minimal, their muted pastel palette and use of light evokes a subliminal relaxation.

Having tasted Moumoon's cotton candy charm, it may be no surprise to learn that the duo's music has already infiltrated the world of advertising, where everyone agrees the money is. Following the success they had with "Sunshine Girl" as the soundtrack for their Maquillage ad campaign last year, the Shiseido make-up giant in Japan is now using "Chu Chu" as their soundtrack.

The action is limited in "Chu Chu," but the atmosphere is giddy, a dream where you're picnicking on clouds. In front of a changing series of retro wallpapers sits Yuka, who looks like she's spun out of sugar herself. Delighted, she interacts with goodies moving before her on a conveyor belt, as sushi does in many restaurants; except that this conveyor belt is shiny white, and these adorable things that keep rolling along, look like jewels on it. Soon all the stuff becomes one big bundle of sensory bliss — the red satin Dali lips, the teddy bear, the miniature drum set and above all — the desserts. They roll on, the quivering blancmange, that heart-shaped flan so alluring that Yuka has to give it a little kiss, until finally a deluge of desserts of all sizes, shapes and colors fills the conveyor belt in a rainbow sugar rush as the song ends.

Go on, try it. Just this once.

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