Released: October 5, 2016
ShuuKaRen, a sister duo consisting of Shuuka and Karen Fujii, is the first sub-group from the growing sensation of E-Girls (if you guys don’t know E-Girls, then… sigh). The Japanese duo released their first offering, Universe, which consists of three recordings and their instrumental versions. To state the obvious; this isn’t a new phenomenon or surprise, considering that many Asian groups have accomplished (whilst some haven’t met that higher mark) this strategy before, so, as far as announcement of a sub-group, the writing was written all over the wall. However, given the fact that E-Girls have managed to leave the J-Pop field behind a bit and focus on Westernized pop, EDM, and hip-hop, it comes to no surprise that Universe dabs into this realm as well.
But a surprise to the group is that member Shuuka, whom doesn’t provide vocals in E-Girls, actually sings for the first time, making her one of the first acts in the supergroup to be a singer outside of the recurring vocalists. She gives it her all, along with Karen, in the Europop club banger “Universe”, which also offers some agile rapping and sensual vocals through the verses. It’s a nice intro to the EP, but its obvious that the recording could have been pushed a little bit more. First off, in majority of the verses and chorus sections, the slick production and composition doesn’t compliment their voices exactly; it kinda sounds like they’re out of sync, and don’t meet the marks of the sound. Also, the composition showcases some bangs and pops but… really? Soft bangs and pops? It could have been stretched out a little bit more.
However, the following entry, “Tricky”, works completely in their favour. A Taylor Swift-esque track that mingles with some fierce synths and powerful choruses, “Tricky” manages to offer the goods for a normal top 40 pop banger. Both of the girl’s vocals complement each other, over the catchy sound, but still make the overall delivery playful and slightly cheeky (“Do you wanna play, wanna play with me?”). The last track, “Take-A-Shot” (a featuring track with PKCZ®), blends some typical EDM sounds and a bit of dub-realness, but it still doesn’t meet its match to a track like “Tricky”, mainly because their vocals still sound out of place and that the addition of EDM is a bit generic.
As a debut offering, Universe isn’t exactly a bad starter pack. You get your selection of electronic synths, clucky J-Pop vocals, and some beautiful faces to grace each music video and the artwork of the release. However, Universe is just a taster, so hopefully ShuuKaRen offer something that works as a package and packs on more solid sounds, workable vocals and consistent measurements of production. But for now, you can give this EP a couple of spins.