With Natsuiro Kiseki over for the time being, the summer of Sphere continues this week with their third album, titled Third Planet. Unfortunately the cheeky astronomical title didn’t help because I was listening to Red Planet all day long, resulting in a strong urge to make a Cowboy Bebop joke. It’s a jarring dissonance when you mash calming yet spine-tingling shrills from one of the best who’s touched an anime, against the popular yet generic idol pop that we have now come to know as Sphere’s music.
I think it’s safe to say that Sphere is a relatively inoffensive music operation, and by inoffensive as in if you don’t snob idol music per se. Simply put, that’s not their primary function. If easy-to-sing-to and easy-to-dance-to tunes can carry their image to the heart of their fans and uphold those wota calls and dances, as we have here, then that’s what Sphere will sound like. It’s not so much a testament of some extreme sense of savvy or some underrated skills the members of Sphere or their management are holding back on us, but simply solid, wise choices. To put it in perspective, I have heard better and worse.
In my Mars state of mind, however, I cannot quite fathom why anyone would take this particular, well, Earth-ly product, so seriously. Ever since their ATMOSPHERE debut Sphere has been pretty much that one thing we expected them to be: seiyuu idols. Their slow rise in popularity merely confirms their solid play and planning, not to mention simply being hard at work. It’s like opening up to that page of a particular monthly seiyuu mag and it said “MINAKO Good Job!” I had to agree.
The simple, artificial feeling I get from Third Planet comes across best when I put on, say, “Feathering me, Y/N?” Because they’re a quartet and their music necessarily need to reflect this, the arrangements often feel kind of constrained. Only a couple of the songs play to the strength of the 4-woman format…actually, other than “Hazy,” I don’t really think any of the songs did a good job at this. Musically, Third Planet is marginally and incrementally better than Spring Is Here, a year ago; unfortunately that means very little. Perhaps nothing, even, if you can’t get over “Now Loading… Sky!” like many of us.
So why do I keep buying this stuff? I don’t know. It’s kind of like how I keep buying, say, Coca-cola. It’s just a common man’s drink, you know? It’s nothing special, but just pumped enough of sugar to make it inoffensive enough. It’s a known quality and a known quantity, in that you know what you’re getting.
Well, that’s pretty much just for plebs like myself. The rest of you can either move on or just look at the unboxing of the super-limited version of this album.