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Material Girls and Boys looking forward to Madonna’s Confessions shows at Tokyo Dome this week may soon get the chance to “strike a pose” on their own. Television producers are putting together a Madonna special as part of 15 Films, what they say is a new style of show that will “take the short film genre to another level.” Each week the one-hour program will present 15 different takes on the life of a celebrity that will be “surprising, original, funny, intelligent, diverse, sexy and provocative, but free of empty spectacle­: comedy skits, lifestyle features and fluff,” according to the producers. “One might be grainy, black and white, and look like a 1920s silent film, the next full color and filmic, the next a hip-hop music video, then a computer animation.” If you think you are the No. 1 Madonna fan in Japan, they invite you to apply to audition for this flagship program.

Contact Risa Morimoto of Zig Zag Productions: risa@zigzag.uk.com AV

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by Dan Grunebaum

Feist

A minor hit created the impetus for the Canadian singer’s debut tour

courtesy of Smash

With the recent Canada Wet independent music showcase and a slew of solo tours, it seems as if 2005 could be—if such a thing existed—Canadian Music Year in Japan. The momentum is coming not only from the top down, with promoters like Kyodo Tokyo and the Canadian Embassy putting their weight behind the country’s musicians, but also from the bottom up.

Toronto singer-songwriter Feist’s recent album Let It Die, for example, did so well in its import edition, becoming a word of mouth hit among the trendy Shibuya/Daikanyama demographic and selling out available copies, that Universal Japan decided to put out a domestic edition.

A clue to the album’s success here is the fact that Feist (a.k.a. 28-year-old Leslie Feist) has been chosen as the anchor artist for Universal’s new “lifestyle” imprint, Cherry Hill Records. The singer, who recently turned down a commercial contract proffered by McDonald’s, seems to represent a certain hip, independent, DIY esthetic—the same kind that might appeal to Shibuya youth wearing the latest neo-bohemian fashions churned out by the area’s innumerable independent designers.

Feist does in fact boast impeccable indie-artist credentials. Launching her career with Calgary punk band Placebo a decade ago, she’s recently been associated with electro club diva Peaches (a former roommate) and darlings of the Toronto indie-rock community Broken Social Scene.

Let It Die was recorded in Paris in 2002 and 2003, and was first released in France, where it was a moderate success with over 70,000 copies sold. The album bears the marks of dance music producer Gonzales (Uber Alles), who imprinted an electronic flourish onto Feist’s singer/songwriter-rooted approach.

While in the current era even individualism has been commoditized (“Just Do It!”), Feist has a certain unforced funkiness and disarming plainness that works its charm on the listener in gradual fashion. Let It Die is a creeper that Universal clearly hopes will sneak up on the public in the way that Norah Jones did.

That is not to say that the emotions expressed in Feist’s songs are always simple. The title track, for example, is an elegy to love lost but not yet firmly relegated to the past, and was recently picked up as background music for one of the hottest youth television shows of the moment, The O.C. But the album also has time for the froth of “Inside Out,” in which Feist and Gonzales rework the Bee Gees classic with a contemporary clubland touch.

With Feist getting the Big Push from Universal and also winning New Artist and Alternative Album of the Year prizes at Canada’s Juno Awards, this is clearly her moment. Will she break big like Jones, or slip back into the comfortable semi-obscurity of indie-land? Either way, one suspects she’ll remain true to her cause.

Recent reports have Feist performing both solo and with a backing quartet (including trombone). Promoter Smash doesn’t have specifics posted on its website, but to make a maximum impact in her minimal, two-day Japan tour, she’ll likely be bringing her band along.
Depending on how things go from here, this could be the first—or the first and last—Japan sees of Feist.

Club Quattro, Sept 21. See concert listings for details.

Discuss music with METROPOLIS readers at http://forum.japantoday.com


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