V-ROCK Artists Took on Disney But How Did They Fare?
Theme-park fantasy behemoth Disney isn’t the first thing you think about when visual kei comes to mind, and vice versa, so when news of the V-Rock Disney cover album first came to ROKKYUU’s attention, we thought it was a joke. A certain staff member actually thought she had dreamedthe news, waking to find that the announcement had, in fact, been reality! This is Japan where anything goes, and men enjoy a bit of Lilo and Stitch as much as the girls.
If you think about it though, such a chalk and cheese concept is actually quite genius and counters misgivings about the dark gothic nature of visual kei by giving it a Disney sheen. Hopes ran high for it not to be a complete mess, but we can now impart the good news that this album is not a total disaster. Some renditions, particularly those by Plastic Tree and Sadie actually turned out well. However, there are others that will find you mashing the skip button.
V-Rock Disney kicks off well, with two very different pieces from NIGHTMARE. The first is a gothic metal version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” that is highly promising. It is a unique spin on a classic piece. This is followed by a dramatic change in style to bigband Aladdin in “Friend Like Me,” and NIGHTMARE rise to the challenge. Yomi’s lyrics may be indecipherable, but that doesn’t matter as this arrangement is just so much fun! The guitars and synths become the brass sections as the visual kei twist on a great Disney song is carried off with panache.
Kawamura Ryuichi’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” and Penicillin’s “Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride” are shambles by comparison. Kawamura Ryuichi’s effort starts well enough, and his vocals are lovely but the decision to turn the song first into hard rock then industrial is jarring and messy. Props for brave experimentalism but the result is barely listenable. This is not the worst song on the album, though that honor goes to Cascade with a version of “Hi-Ho” so unbearable that it risks spoiling the original. It sounds like it was written on speed, with infuriatingly annoying vocals and bad synth melody.
There are two songs however that are true gems. Both are radical re-workings of the originals, however they also enhance the piece and can stand happily alone, like a good cover should. Plastic Tree have made the relatively cheery “Chim Chim Cheree” into a melancholy, dreamlike piece. The melody from the original remains intact, but with Ryutaro’s introspective vocals and the restrained guitars, the effect is entirely different from the original and completely stunning.
Sadie, meanwhile, have gone full-
Special mention must be made of The Kiddie’s effort. While not a stand-out piece, their “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is theme-park sugary sweet while still being cool and rock-based. It will undoubtedly annoy some with its repetitiveness but you have to admire Yusa’s impressive pronunciation of the title, and their attempt at a barbershop quartet near the end.
It was brave of these bands to take on Disney songs, and there are some genuinely pleasant surprises by way of NIGHTMARE, Plastic Tree and Sadie. Disney purists should maybe stay away, but this is most certainly not the disaster it could have been.
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Fantasia) – NIGHTMARE
- Friend Like Me (Aladdin) – NIGHTMARE
- Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Beast ) – Kawamura Ryuuichi
- Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride (Lilo & Stitch) – PENICILLIN
- Chim Chim Cheree (Mary Poppins) – Plastic Tree
- This Is Halloween (The Nightmare Before Christmas) – Sadie
- Can You Feel the Love Tonight (The Lion King) – Aoi
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins) – THE KIDDIE
- When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio) – NINJAMAN JAPAN
- Hi-Ho (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) – CASCADE
- You’ll Be In My Heart (Tarzan) – DASEIN