In 2007, the Japanese beer brand Kirin Lager presented the Yellow Magic Orchestra in a one-minute commercial that is both beautiful and remarkable in many ways.
Imagine Kraftwerk in a Beck’s commercial. Ridiculous and unthinkable, innit?! Leave it to the Japanese to make a spot for the biggest beer brand in the country featuring the most famous electronic band of the country – and deliver something that isn’t cringeworthy.
The spot presents the well-aged trio – who in the late 70s and 80s were Japan’s biggest pop export – costumed as cavemen, in traditional Japanese attire and stylish black modern apparel, playing the melody from their hit “Rydeen” surrounded by a barren landscape.
What is it all about?! Well, there’s no plot or anything. As I understand it (without knowing the Japanese language), the clip pays homage to the band and its history in a most grown-up and respectful way, while doubling as a commercial for beer. And that’s it.
The music is probably the most stunning part, as it presents the originally hectic dance number in a timeless, hauntingly beautiful version that kills me every time I listen to it. And I have listened to it quite a lot of times now, not only while prepping this post.
There is even a two-minute making-of to the commercial which only adds to the graceful magic of it all. The atmosphere on set is relaxed, unhurried, professional. You can even hear the YMO playing live on the instruments, which include a Moog modular synth.
Naturally, the spot ends with the musicians pouring and enjoying a fizzing Kirin. Again, imagine Ralf Huetter and the lads, sipping a nice round of Beck’s. Ridiculous. But the Japanese can pull it off. Now I will listen to it again. And go have some Kirin very soon.