Know Your BiStory #4: nerve

We enter Know Your BiStory’s home stretch with what may as well be the alt-idol anthem: You ain’t done shit if you ain’t done “nerve.” Our man boans steps back up to the plate; if you like him, this is how you make friends.

nerve is one of BiS’ best known songs. It’s a fan favorite that was performed at every BiS concert (as an opener, a closer, an encore, sometimes many times in a row), and there’s a good chance it was the first BiS song you ever heard. With multiple studio recordings, and official videos from the very beginning and very end of the BiS timeline, the different versions of nerve each have different nuances that mark different points in their career.

The first nerve video from early 2011 is the last BiS PV to feature Rinahamu, who left the group before the video was even released on YouTube because she didn’t like the un-idol creative direction the group was taking. Ignoring the fact that Rina’s current body of work is every bit as un-idol as BiS, there’s nothing scandalous about this video, especially when you consider its chronology between somewhat-racy “Paprika” and very-racy My Ixxx. Playing with the wolf kid in the park is actually pretty wholesome!

Ed. note: boans is being kind in describing “Paprika” as “somewhat-racy.” When you do a video tribute to tATu, it’s not really time for equivocation. Headbanging and head-banging and head and … look, the kissing is the safest part, okay?

For this video, BiS recruited fan volunteers to record with their iPhones. With their dedicated camera crew standing in a semicircle in front of Tokyo Big Sight, they attempted to create a “bullet time” effect with varying degrees of success. Even with their budget-conscious approach, I bet the video came out looking a lot cheaper than they expected. Maybe they were expecting a higher fan turnout. Perhaps the concept they had envisioned looked like Perfume’s video from SXSW, but the resulting effect just ain’t all that. To top it all off, the wind picked up and disheveled everyone’s hair.

BiS being BiS, they took it all in stride. They rolled with it, danced through the wind, and happily posted the video, warts and all. Even with their member turnover and budget (and attendance) limitations, BiS always made lemonade of it all, and I think appreciating that attitude is a core part of the BiS fan experience. Even three years later, with their sights on a Budokan farewell concert, BiS was still sleeping in their van and manually handing out flyers to advertise their shows. That’s actually pretty punk rock, if you think about it.

Like most songs on their 2011 debut, “nerve’s” production is kind of all over the place. They sound like they recorded on four different kinds of mics, like a rap song where one of the MCs is recording from a prison phone, but at least Yukiko “UK” Nakayama’s unabashed autotuning is less distracting on this track than it is elsewhere on the album.

For many BiS fans, this may have been their first look at the now-signature dance routine: enthusiastic, uncoordinated, iconic. BiS in 2011 was scrappy upstart, and their “nerve” video said, “Stick with us, and we’ll completely reshape your perception of what J-pop can be.”

Three years and several roster changes later, BiS was a few weeks from their final disbandment. Their last hurrah was one more official video, a reprise of their theme song.

A far cry from a volunteer iPhone film crew, the 2014 video is directed by NIGO. It’s filmed on a plain white background, probably where NIGO also shot parts of his star-studded video for Pharrell’s “HAPPY” (which also has a BiS cameo). The group reboots costumes from different periods in BiS history, including outfits from their original bullet time video. The video itself isn’t too exciting, it’s more of a nostalgic victory lap before they hang up their, uh, cockroach hats for good.

This “Perfect Best” version of “nerve” is the fourth studio recording of the song that I’m aware of. Two versions in 2011 (the album version and a limited-release single sans-Rinahamu) offered a glimpse of things to come, and the 2012 re-record for IDOL is DEAD captured BiS in full stride, actively shaping the anti-idol genre. BiS in 2014 climbed on top of their legacy and firmly planted six freak flags.

The four new members knew what they were getting into when they signed up for BiS, and they used their brief tenure to let it all hang out. In this video, Hirano Nozomi does her low-impact cardio version of the signature dance routine she’s probably performed hundreds of times over the past four years, and on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got First Summer Uika hamming it up and knowing this group would never tell her to take it down a notch. Incidentally, their celebrity director would later collaborate with both girls as executive producer for Billie Idle.

BiS was determined to go out with a bang in 2014. They released a short version of “nerve” and encouraged others to post dance covers on YouTube. Besides fan responses, they got videos from UK, Rinahamu, Miifuu (the song’s composer), anti-idols, pro-idols, metal idols**, sexy idols, AV idols, and living legends. Add that to their multiple CD releases, collaborations, farewell tour and countless other activities, and BiS even caught some attention from English-language publications like Vice. I hope this final promotion blitz snagged BiS some better-late-than-never new fans from Western countries.

**I believe boans was sharing NECRONOMIDOL’S dance cover, which … yeah.

“nerve” was re-released one last time as a double A-side with “FiNAL DANCE.” A perfect intro to BiS: An old song and a new song, inviting new listeners to investigate everything in between and get fascinated.

boans is a knowledge-hungry music nerd with a total disregard for genre boundaries. His fairly recent foray into jpop fandom has ignited an enthusiasm that surprises even him, and irritates his friends who have to hear about it. His calming presence can be felt on various message boards, where you can usually find him asking what’s going on to get some semblance of context for the captivating and often baffling world of Asian music.

He’s happy to talk about music with anyone who will listen, for as long as they can stand it.

9 thoughts on “Know Your BiStory #4: nerve

  1. Watching Bed In doing Nerve is the greatest thing I’ve seen today. Mainly just because I love Bed In.

  2. It’s amazing how the song itself became such a legacy. People are going completely nuts everytime the song is played.

    Here is a really fun cover by Stereo Tokyo:

  3. Damn!! That Necronomidol link worked as recently as last week! Hey, record labels? When is having fewer videos ever better?

  4. Fun Fact: this MV and the “Paprika” MV were both directed by Tanaka Koji, director/creator of BELLRING少女ハート

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