I Review Things: PassCode | ‘MISS UNLIMITED’

Covert art of Japanese idolcore digital EDM clubcore idol group PassCode's MISS UNLIMITED single

I never thought I’d review a single; I just didn’t see the point. And yeah, “MISS UNLIMITED” is listed on iTunes as an EP, but it’s three songs and an air vocals version of the title track, and that’s a single in my book.

So why would I bother reviewing this one? A lot of reasons, actually: Because there’s an ongoing discussion around whether idols other than Babymetal can achieve crossover success in the West; because PassCode is among the most cited and seen when newcomers go looking for “what else is like this”; because I felt like it; and so on.

This is PassCode’s major label debut. It’s available internationally via iTunes (and probably other mechanisms, too, eventually). It’s already available in Europe and soon will be in North America. This might not be going all-in, but it’s a move aiming at international audiences.

The question then becomes whether it’s actually any good. 

Homicidols Album Review Scale:

Five Heartbleeds  One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: Both in relation to itself and music as a whole, this album could not possibly be any better.
Four Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: This is a very damn good record, and you should probably buy it and listen to it all the time and consider starting a website dedicated to the artists that made it and albums like it.
Three Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: More good than bad, but not great; one or two awesome songs can’t get it over the hump.
Two Heartbleeds One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: More bad than good, and lacks the kind of standout track that can take it out of the crappiness wallow.
One Heartbleed One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews: This is a bad, bad piece of work. Do not buy this.
Zero Heartbleeds: People associated with this should be ashamed of themselves; there’s pride to be had in any effort made to meet a goal, but that’s your only reward. Please don’t make music anymore.

This is not a record for everybody. That’s shocking, actually. VIRTUAL, PassCode’s second album that came while they were rapidly gaining popularity, had a few nice moments but was also overall kind of safe — it wanted to be a record for everybody.

“MISS UNLIMITED” has no such pretense. On one hand, it’s a piece for OG PassCode fans; on the other, it’s very clearly going after a specific audience, and that audience likes their shit heavy, and that speaks volumes for what PassCode’s management, Universal and every other meaningful stakeholder in this particular game sees as the next step.

The closest thing to a safe song out of the three full-on tracks is the title number, “MISS UNLIMITED,” and it’s actually surprisingly ambitious for the song that needs to get the radio plays and video views. If you know your All Is Vanity PassCode, you’ll recognize a lot of the moves that go into “MISS UNLIMITED,” a grrrrrl power clubcore anthem at its heart. What might stand out alongside that, though, is just how bloody much song is in here, and how liberally it takes from every style of music that PassCode’s ever touched. The overall product sounds like a song by Fall Out Boy that got covered by H.O.R.S.E. the Band. It really is good, and it’s going to get a lot of attention when the full video finally hits YouTube.

But I think that singles really need to be judged on their b-sides, and the two accompanying tracks, “TRACE” and “Cry Out,” are where people who like the fun, upbeat, pop-meets-clubcore version of PassCode will feel left out.

Sucks to be those fans, because they’re great damn songs.

“Cry Out” is the less purely powerful of the two, and I don’t say that to knock it at all — it’s taking its cues from “Never Sleep Again” and “Now I Know,” adding a heavier edge in general, being better than those either of those songs and … look, Yuna as a screamer was always one of PassCode’s quirks, sometimes charming and sometimes powerful and sometimes kind of weirdly tacked on; she’s absolutely at the height of her powers at this point, just crushing every part she gets from the pre-choruses to the sudden breakdown.

But if that’s great work by Yuna, her absolute magnum opus is “TRACE,” which veers between “oh, that’s PassCode” and actual by-Satan deathcore when Yuna’s put front and center. And, honestly, for all of that brutality, the song is legitimately beautiful in its way. You’ll want to split your time between raving and moshing and screaming and singing along. I’m trying to think of a single PassCode song I like more than this one, and I literally can’t. It’s magnificent.

Overall, this is PassCode’s strongest-ever release. In this particular flavor of idolcore that’s heavy on electronics and effects, nothing better has ever been released. You should buy it. You should set clips of it as your ringtone and scare the pants off of people. It’s very bloody good. I just wish there were more to it in general, or at least one more song in a different style (even a ballad like “Orange”!) to flesh it out, because while people like me who prefer their PassCode at the very edge of reason and accessibility will love the whole show, it may be off-putting to the people who came to the group via VIRTUAL and might have expected nothing harder than “Ninja Bomber” this time around.

But if not meeting every person’s expectation is the only weakness in your record, I’d say that you won. PassCode, you aimed solidly at a particular side of the audience, and you knocked ’em dead.

Score: One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One full Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews One half of a Heartbleed, the logo of Homicidols.com, used for reviews

Added to the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist:

Give it a minute.


4 thoughts on “I Review Things: PassCode | ‘MISS UNLIMITED’

  1. One question? Have they said that they are going to release full PVs on YouTube?
    Just wondering because that is something Universal Japan does not always do…

    • It’s a great question, and every hour that goes by without the thing showing up lowers the odds. They are pretty clear that they’re aiming for international fans here, though, so I’m still leaning toward yes.

  2. I’ve just managed to watch the live DVD that comes with the special edition of the single, and even if i really enjoyed all their previous lives, I must say that this one is absolutely mind-blowing-ear-bleeding-brain-melting-aaaaaawesoooome!!! XD

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