MAPA
四天王



Release Date: 11/09/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 4 queens・1 empress

MAPA’s debut 四天王 has already aged so gracefully as an easygoing comfort jam that I have to remind myself they’re a fresh project, let alone one entitled to idol sparkle and sensation. Its enjoyment is face-value, unraucous and remarkably noncontingent on a wider group image; as anyone with eyes upon its artwork can testify, this is perhaps fortunate. 四天王 is full of moments that feel pitched for euphoria or novelty, but its pleasures are so familiar and easygoing you’ll swear you’ve been hearing them for years.

For some of us, this is practically the case. MAPA was formed by Seiko Oomori (producer-writer) and Megumi Koshoji (performing idol; ex-Maison Book Girl), and rounded off by three debutantes (Mayo Ushiro, Yusura Shiou, Emu Jinzai) and Oomori’s arrangement wizard Sugarbeans. While Koshoji’s involvement is unaccompanied by her former group’s idiosyncratic math-pop, Oomori’s songwriting trademarks are absolutely all over this thing, to the point that this can essentially be considered her album as much as her roster’s. There’s a lot to love here for anyone fond of her feisty interplay between catchy jingles and hair-tearing throwdowns (“Koi wa baka no suru koto”), overwhelming spoken word barrages (“Idol wo yameru hi”), and ecstatic choruses built on near-desperate heights of openheartedness (“Ladies Clinic”). These tracks all sound like warm revisions of past triumphs - hell, “Idol wo yameru hi” references an iconic bridge from Oomori’s 2013 solo debut in full-on fan service - but the MAPA girls do a respectable job of making these highlights their own, and there’s nothing quite like idol’s plasticity for smoothing over creative expectations.

The core quartet are noafterthought; their performances and chemistry are well-rounded by idol standards, making dynamic work of talents that would doubtless seem more modest showcased individually. “Idol wo yameru hi” is a clear standout, tightly coordinated in its shifts from spoken word to singsong to raw mantras, the group seamlessly navigating shifts of individual focus, tempo, emotional resolve and dynamics. No doubt this track will prove integral to their live show. The same can be said of other cuts for less flattering reasons: “MAPA Ouen Uta” is the kind of are-you-really-into-this cheerleader-analogous chant predestined for either ditsy adoration or peak scorn; I’m sincerely sorry to anyone who cares, but I just can’t at this point. The title-track kicks off in the same territory for a worrying length of time; I’m still treasuring my joy and relief from the first time I heard it pivot halfway into an unmistakably Oomorine skytoucher of a chorus. Freshly-annexed heavens be praised, it stays there.

Wonderful as that moment was, 四天王’s more enduring delight has much more to do with its user-friendly happy-strolling tone of Great Ease. Shrill chants aside, this record rarely, if ever, feels like a struggle, and it winds up replayable far beyond the sum of its parts as such. Shrewd genre play deserves credit here: its take on pop-rock triangulated between ‘90s alternative, jazz and funk palettes is flashy at points, but most times it goes down too smoothly to posit anything ostentatious. Sauntering grooves and occasional jazz-pop chord choices add quaint yet unobtrusive flavour to the kind of hooks whose gratification should never be anything less than effortless.

As a counterpoint to this, it bears to remember that MAPA were founded as a sister group to Oomori’s original idol project ZOC, opening the doors to fanbase piggybacking and a little lowkey collaboration (ZOClette Nodoka Shizume reportedly plays trumpet here somewhere). However, the main takeaway - and relief - here comes through contrast. For both internal drama and perplexing restructuring reasons, it’s been an exhausting few months to have kept tabs on ZOC; much of this skirts the group’s aggressively independent charter and edgy image, hovering decisively around Oomori’s near-hubristic levels of personal involvement on- and off-stage. ZOC would be nothing without [stylistic] volatility, but MAPA’s perkiness and bittersweet charms rest on a refreshingly stable foundation, one that affords all participants a reasonable sense of role parity and scans as a direct antidote to everything draining about their sister project.

Contrary to ZOC’s subversion marathon PvP, nothing about 四天王 bears overthinking and it feels perfectly complete as such. It may call for an attitude more casual than critical, but it’s both craftful and infectious enough that this rests on well-placed faith in probably the most reliable songwriting matrix in pop today. Few artists make such inspirational work of simultaneous head-and-heart–ache as Seiko Oomori, but for once it’s a joy to see her hand over the mic and conjure something carefree. At this point, it’s easy to imagine she needs it as much as the rest of us.



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user ratings (3)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 22nd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

pretty quick one for a pretty great one. was gonna leave this for dead since i wiped out soon after it dropped, but it's eating up of my rotation now that it simply must be shared! hooray for cute comfortable kitsch bops

https://open.spotify.com/album/1H5vhzZMKHUCkjVY7DoKt5?si=N95eluZAT1CSrYa8TKwWSg

highlights are all multiples of 3 + the closer. the rest are good to ok but it is a coz full package

Digging: yourboyfriendsucks! - Episode 1

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
December 22nd 2021


16286 Comments


ctrl + f ... it's not here > : (

Digging: I Concur - Able Archer

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 22nd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

choose a name in the first sentence of the 2nd para for me to replace

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
December 22nd 2021


16286 Comments


seiko oomori obviously

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 22nd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

the producer or the writer ?

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
December 22nd 2021


16286 Comments


the -

SteakByrnes
December 22nd 2021


25981 Comments


Sugarbeans pog

Digging: Kaizo Slumber - The Kaizo Manifesto

Get Low
December 22nd 2021


11831 Comments


will check

alamo
December 22nd 2021


4516 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gonna check this and the new reol ep later

Mort.
December 23rd 2021


16979 Comments


you need to stop this sort of thing

Digging: Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

FadedSun
December 23rd 2021


2893 Comments


LMAO - I actually thought this was ZOC, as I saw no difference thematically. Two girl groups. Did she start a new project because of controversy surrounding the first project? Listening to this now, and I think I'd like more projects like this where she produces, but doesn't sing as much. I realized I grew off of Seiko herself a long time ago, but I always liked her songs.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
December 23rd 2021


16250 Comments


-giving 4 reviews to albums only 3 people in the world have heard-


Not a 4/5 rating: confused.

Digging: Krallice - Crystalline Exhaustion

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 23rd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Did she start a new project because of controversy surrounding the first project?

no idea tbh, but it was certainly conveniently timed - but then again, this release dropped so quickly after their formation that it might have been in the works for a while prior to the announcement. haven't explored this group beyond the music nearly as much as ZOC, but the difference between their vibes and images feels night and day to me

Digging: Arab on Radar

philosophy boi digging crypto-camuscore eww my pores

Kusangii
December 23rd 2021


3414 Comments


So this is like ZoC?

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 23rd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

a little bit! similar hooks and songwriting smile, but swap out all the metal guitars, supersynths and spoken word tirades for cutsier vocal chemistry, light jazz pop and a lot of alt rock nostalgia. you'll probs dig if you enjoy ZOC, but it's q a different fix

Get Low
December 23rd 2021


11831 Comments


yeah no this sucks

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 23rd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

damn i was worried it'd miss that particular validation

breathing rate restored

Mort.
December 23rd 2021


16979 Comments


'philosophy boi digging crypto-camuscore eww my pores'

crypto-camuscore??? just stop


JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
December 23rd 2021


44405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

kiddo you bring those dirty shoes into my house, you clean my fuckin rug capisci?

Mort.
December 23rd 2021


16979 Comments


im listening to that 2nd kayo dot lp you rlly like atm

it cool



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