Tommy february6 has always been an odd ball. An artist who seems to live in a different world to ours and of a different time. I mean, pffft. Who the fuck else releases music and separate album under two different personas AND is in a group?
A bitch be crazy and losing her damn mind. But who am I to argue when she's giving me 13 tracks of back-to-back boppage.
Tommy's second studio album Tommy airline is a journey into this world of hers. Or at least one of them. A world filled with colour, candy, treats and all things sweet. From the intro it'd be easy to write this album off as a joke. And to be honest, it kinda is. But it's a joke that Tommy is in on and the punchline here is some really fucking good pop music that set a template that those who came after her would inadvertently follow.
Tommy airline is a concept album of sorts. Chronicling a holiday 'to space' as told by Tommy playing the stewardess in the intro. The album generally sounds like it could be the soundtrack to an 80s anime set across a variety of semi exotic locations. Some of the songs even sound as though they could be themes from video games. "Candy doll eyes" wouldn't sound out of place in a MegaDrive Sonic the hedgehog game and "Futari no seaside" could be a Koopa Troopa beach theme in a Mario Kart game or a resort themed world in Super Mario Odyssey.
With the exception of one song which is literally about chilling at the seaside, the songs aren't explicitly about being in specific places, but the feelings of love, affection and potential lust that you feel when you're on a vacation; whether it be with a significant other or a holiday side piece. Every song is rose tinted in a way that everything is when you're on the perfect holiday. It plays out really well and never feels stupid to the point of being off-putting.
This album is top to bottom, back and sides, 80s pop. From the intro right through to the album finale "Love is forever". The beats are 80s. The melodies are 80s. The vibe is 80s. Tommy airline vomits the 1980s. So if you live for 80s pop and Eurobeat, then you might ned extra underpants when listening to this album. Tommy swings her shit from four-on-the-floor club stompers like "Sepia memory" to cutesy keitai-ringtone bops like "Futari no seaside" to peak Madonna sounding bangers like "Dancin' baby". The album runs the full gamut of good 80s pop without feeling cliched or as thought it's consciously ticking boxes in a checklist.
Tommy does fall off on a couple of occasions though. "Candy eyes dolls" is a little too sickly sweet and treads into day time television theme territory, with a musical backdrop that couldn't be any cheesier if she squatted over the track and queefed out velveeta. And "Magic in your eyes" sounds like rejected 1981 children's anime theme, with a beat comprised of jingle bells mixed in with a bit of Mega man on the NES. The song is annoying.
But even in the moments where the songs aren't great, they work within the scheme of the album and its kitsch getaway narrative. It's full of whimsy and never takes itself seriously. But it delivers some great songs and at no point does it feel disingenuous. The most brilliant thing about this album aside from how well produced it is, is that it's pure, honest and unashamed. It's not trying to be anything else and it embraces itself fully.
What Tommy doesn't have in vocal prowess she makes up for in character. Her voice is as thin as a budget smart price maxi pad, but it works here because of the production of this album is so tight and well considered that it frames her voice perfectly. Plus, the 80s was much about chicks with zero vocal talent as it was those with power house vocals. Lisa Lisa having no vocal talent to speak of didn't stop her and Cult Jam putting out fire.
Tommy airline is a stand out album. The authenticity of the sound and the commitment to the theme makes this a joy to listen to from start to finish. But at it's core, it's just an album of fucking good pop songs. Tommy airline may not have been a huge seller on the ORICON chart, but its by no means a measure of its quality. There are many artists in J-Pop who owe a lot to the influence of this album, whether they care to admit it or not. There would be no likes of Nanda collection or Pika pika fantajin if it wasn't for this album.
■ Is this feeling love?
■ Je t'aime ★ Je t'aime
■ Sepia memory
■ Dancin' baby ★ J's fave
■ The rose fragrance
■ I still love you boy
■ Love is forever