French Kiss is an AKB48 subgroup consisting of popular members Kashiwagi Yuki, Takajo Aki, and Kuramochi Asuka. If you don’t know who AKB48 are – they are simply the biggest girl group in Japan (both in terms of members, currently at 59 full time) and sales (a quarter of a billion dollars last year just in CD sales). From this single release, French Kiss to me feel like a subgroup of AKB48 that could easily take off in the West. The three members look amazing together and their style, both in terms of looks, CD covers, and music is fairly similar to Western (well, British anyway) girl groups.
As usual for AKB related releases, many versions of the single were released. I plumped for Type A, which contains two tracks and a DVD containing the PVs (music videos) for both tracks. Firstly – the CD cover for this type is amazing. All three girls look gorgeous, and that hat in the middle is a great centrepiece. As a nice bonus, I received a B2 sized poster of this cover for free with the single.
The lead track, Saisho no Mail, starts off with some Christmassy chimes before the beat and music kicks in. From here its a fairly standard pop song, with piano, guitar, synths and a big beat. However, its fairly laid back and really pleasant. All three girls get solo lines before coming together on the catchy chorus. As mentioned before, I think its more like a British girl group feel than the standard JPop idol fare. The song also has quite a nice feeling of longing. The PV is really nice – it portrays each girl struggling at their job (Yukirin as a primary school teacher, Mocchi as a dancer/actress(?), and Akicha as an office worker). Akicha looks great in a suit btw. They then all text (or “mail” as the Japanese call it, hence the title) each other and meet up for a great girls day out, including a snatch of that mini Statue Of Liberty in the Odaiba area of Tokyo. They then all return to their jobs and succeed where before they failed. Really uplifting stuff, its a great looking video with a nice tale to tell.
I was disappointed that each version of this single release only contains one b-side, rather than the standard two. They decided that each b-side will only contain two members, so three types covered all the combinations. Type A features Yuki and Asuka on the song Candle no Shin. This song has the same kind of feel as Saisho no Mail, and I think it would again go down well with a Western audience. The PV is plainer and more darkly atmospheric and is a nice inclusion on Type A, as the b-sides for Types B and C don’t have PVs.
Overall, Saisho no Mail is a really strong single release. I feel French Kiss look and sound like a complete pop group that would appeal to Western audiences and stands separate from the standard AKB48 look and sound.