Blood on the Dance Floor - Kawaii Monster (Review)

Kawaii Monster

Hello everyone.

You are about to witness the amazing writing craft of the most unbiased reviewer of Planet Earth, unspoiled by rage or overly passionate fan craze, the user you know as Martin Canine. Since I have already read tons of comments going either extreme, and barely any differentiated and detailed text digging deeper into the music, I feel it is my duty to write just that. And yeah, no matter on which side you stand, you won’t like this review. But what has to be done has to be done.

Before anyone wonders: my review will focus on the musical aspect only. People are people and music is music. Every work of art - and art is everything that’s created - deserves to be seen as what it is, not by who made it. That goes for movies, and for music as well. Furthermore, I won’t focus in any way on relevance or what social groups it may be addressed to. Music is there for everyone, and success or what age or gender the majority of the fanbase is does not say anything about it.

In 2017, which many users view as a bad year for music while for me it personally competes with 2011 as my favorite music year of the decade - but yeah, without taking the German hip hop genre into account, which had its strongest year since existence, it might look a lot bleaker - an artist formerly known as Dahvie Vanity released two full studio albums. One is the second album by his Industrial solo project Sinners are Winners, the other is the “comeback” album by the infamous Blood on the Dance Floor, hated by many, trash talked by some, to put it with the chorus of his 2016 single “Zero F’s Given”, which I’d actually rank among the most enjoyable (and therefore as one of my favorite) songs of last year. In addition, he and his new bandmate / fiancé Fallon Ven Detta re-recorded two songs from BOTDF’s 2008 debut album, and released the lead singles of both a forthcoming Sinners are Winners record and the second album by Vanity’s dubstep opera Master of Death (I was very positively surprised by how professionally this was pulled off in 2015, the entire album was focused on one concept and storyline, and had great production and fitting performances; it was the best project Vanity ever worked on - I am kind of excited about how this will turn out next year). If there’s one thing you can’t call Dahvie Insanity, as he calls himself now, it is lazy.

For those who think my review was already too positive up to this point, let me tell you my general opinion of the project. Therefore you need to know that, probably due to the lack of success of MySpace in German language territory, I never had heard of scene before discovering this group. As you might know from my other texts, downloads and streams aren’t as popular as CDs over here, so I was first exposed to the group not by their older songs like “Sexting” or “It’s On Like Donkey Kong”, but by songs like “Unforgiven”, “Bohemyth” or “Where’s My Wonderland”, which can be found on their only three albums that had a wide physical release over here, “Evolution”, “Bad Blood” and “The Anthem of the Outcast” (the band is very underground and virtually unknown over here, but a friend of mine who studies biology right now and happens to be very much into outlandish lifestyles and especially anime introduced them to me). This was my first impression of BOTDF, and it was a good one, because the songs were made when the group already had great production, varied topics, acceptable lyrics and pleasant earworm choruses. Dahvie’s voice was significantly thinner than Jayy von’s, but on these albums, it wasn’t really needed to bring in great singing skills, emotion was more important. It was not until I knew these records that I dug deeper into the band history, found they are widely hated, and also listened to their old and panned material, and yeah… it’s not good. “Let’s Start a Riot!” has some cool Soft Cell-like beats, but lyrics and performances were very amateurish and unprofessional. A few cat in the hat rhyming words, more spoken than rapped or sung. Their “It’s Hard to Be a Diamond” album had the same issue, minus the good beats. Also I felt that the lyrics are even simpler. Dahvie sounds very out of breath throughout every song. This is the only album I can’t find anything positive about. It is just an inexperienced home recording. We all have recorded such, just that this one was released as a regular studio album. “Epic” is an improvement but underwhelming. It has much better and professional production strongly techno and eurodance inspired, Dahvie does flow much more fluently and Jayy von Monroe brought in something good, in terms of vocals and presence. But then… the majority of the lyrics are just bad. Not in any way that made me hate them, but they are just… not good. Jayy von actually delivers a great verse on “It’s On Like Donkey Kong”, showing a great hip hop flow and demonstrating gay independence and strength, something needed in hip hop, but the rest of the song is what you will remember best. It’s wrong wrong wrong like Gaga’s got a ding dong. And individual songs like “Scream For My Icecream” or “Candyland” appear to be taken straight from IHTBAD sessions. They just stand out negatively. “All the Rage!” was just all over the place but again an improvement. Songs like “The Loving Dead”, “P.L.U.R.”, “My Gift and My Curse” or the title track are very well executed pop songs. But for every good there’s a bad, and so there are songs like “Yo Ho” or “Star Power” that are in their own immature way kind of entertaining, but ridiculous to extremes and absolutely unfitting compared to the rest.
And everything after these four albums… was actually very fine. Their albums switched between pop, dubstep and emo, and they actually figured out how to pull it off well and managed to write songs more diverse in style and words. Even their more explicit lyrics were better used. Their previous album to the one I’m about to review, 2016’s “Scissors”, is absolutely clean and sometimes metaphoric pop music with stuck-in-the-ear choruses and often indie inspired verses that’s not bound to any mainstream expectations. There is nothing to hate about songs like “I am not in Love Anymore”, “Ringleader” or “Safe World”.

Now, what does 2017’s “Kawaii Monster” have in store for us?
First of all: Jayy von Monroe left in 2016, with contradicting reasons why. In fact, I am not sure who to believe, but it doesn’t matter for the review anyway. He was replaced by Fallon Ven Detta, who up until this point was a model and is Dahvie’s girlfriend. That immediately made me very sceptical, it being a choice based upon sympathy not musicality, but she proved to be a good replacement for Jayy, mostly because her dominant female attitude adds a new opposite side to the mostly male nature of their previous records. Some songs on the album could get close to misogynic territory… but then Fallon comes along and puts the boys in their place. She does much more rapping than singing, but seems to be capable enough to carry the song. She is memorable and has personality, and that’s one of the good sides on “Kawaii Monster”.

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: this isn’t “Scissors” Blood on the Dance Floor, this is “Epic” Blood on the Dance Floor. Instead of songs about cold hearted girls who put themselves in the center of attention, offbeat love anthems and Charlie Chaplin quotes softly sung over dreamy melodic beats, we get songs about pirate sex, using RP partners as toys, the Internet and coffee addiction, while using uber happy uptempo techno beats and rap verses. That isn’t quite what the first single “Resurrection Spell” hinted at, as it was a melodic ballad-like song about going on and coming back no matter how hard it may seem. Not the most creative idea, but again, it succeeded at being catchy, well performed and simply entertaining. The other singles however showed that this would be the exception on the new record. So, at first “Kawaii Monster” appears like a huge step back. If Dahvie hadn’t put out decent solo stuff, I might have thought that with Jayy’s departure, the craft was departing as well. But soon you realize that all of this was done very intentionally. “Kawaii Monster” is a nostalgic flashback to the group’s old days.

It is so full of self references that every song plays like a sequel to two or three older songs. Here are a few examples.
-The title track uses a dialogue sample of a “Frankenstein” movie, which was done on “Frankenstein + the Bride”, plus a common monster topic
-”Love Like Voodoo” is about a love story with a constant theme of magic, already done on their biggest hit “Bewitched”. Also, the structure is similar.
-”Yo Ho 2” is a direct sequel to “Yo Ho”, using the exact same structure and also starting with a ridiculously bad pun.
-”Ghosting” is about sexual RPs, using video game sound effects and crowd cheers, much like their most hated song “Sexting”.
And so on.

Once you got the joke and do not hate the group and/or are familiar with their older music, you will be entertained pretty well. That’s not to say that this is a good album. Honestly, it’s their weakest since 2010’s “Epic”, but with the slight but important difference that it’s self ironic. Often, you can feel Dahvie is trying to troll haters by exaggerating his own stereotypes. He tried to get recognition by improving his output but didn’t managed to be accepted through his music. Then he had a phase of pure anger and fury, which was probably his most honest one, and now, he simply doesn’t care. For some strange reason, many BOTDF fans prefer their first five albums (“Evolution” is often included, but I’d rather view it as the first one of their second phase), so Dahvie went back to the roots, often ironically, and put in all the trademarks he could find, while at the same time putting a special emphasis on the aspects most hated. I am sure many who have followed the group since their beginnings will have a good nostalgic time 9 years later, but personally, I did prefer the stuff that came afterwards. Maybe that style will be continued on his two side projects, on whom he is also joined by Fallon Ven Detta.

But “Kawaii Monster” is not all techno and goofiness, it also has some individual tracks that are very much unlike the rest, way superior. As I mentioned above, there’s the lead single “Resurrection Spell”. “Destroy” is a dark and visceral Industrial ballad that sounds like it was an outtake of the last Sinners are Winners album, and that’s positive because “The Invocation” was a good album throughout. Songs like this angsty synthie driven rock are one of the major hints that this album was intended the way it is. “Light My Way” is just cool downtempo electro pop about a terrible ex-partner. But the most positively outstanding song is by far “You are Enough”. It starts off with a country vibe, having a certain western feel to it, before its tempo and tone change, and we get a radical shift to a bleak and vulnerable indie rock ballad on which Dahvie’s thin and delicate voice perfectly merges into the soundscape. Really, forget who this is by, imagine an album cover showing two people standing in front of a house in the suburbs, a man with a taper cut wearing a grey shirt and jeans, and a woman with long black hair, a long cream colored dress and three daisies on the left side of her hair, the album title “The Houses That They Built” written in white typewriter font and the band name “The Dusty Cellars” in handwriting above it all. Would you seriously still hate this song then?

All in all, “Kawaii Monster” is not an album that will appear on my favorite albums of the year list, but it did manage to keep me entertained, whether by its use of self parody or the fact that I simply have humor stupid enough to laugh about a hyperactive eurobeat song about coffee or pirate themed word play. Especially when Fallon Ven Detta enters the stage and somehow always manages to sound completely cool and confident. It also has a minority of songs that work well out of context, which unfortunately also highlight that much of the album only works if this is your type of humor. It partly does for me, but for the most part I wished the amount of comic and serious songs was more balanced.