It’s 2PM, and 2PM is stuck in my head…thanks to Bach

A German dude who died 261 years ago is still influencing Korean boy bands.

I’ll explain: I have a bit of a problem. The ending theme to Ao no Exorcist has been firmly lodged in my head. Despite a strict regime of drum-and-bass Pandora, I can’t escape the four-on-the-floor beats and capable, if cheesy, vocals. I’ll also admit to being quite surprised when I learned that the music track, a single called “Take Off”, wasn’t by a J-pop group, but a South Korean boy band called 2PM. They also happen to be the first Korean band to reach the Number One spot on the USEN’s J-Pop Chart, whatever the hell that means. It’s three releases also ranked 1, 2, and 3 on the Tower Records Japan pre-order chart. To translate: I’m not the only person who thinks this is a catchy tune.

One of the things that I wracked my brain about was this: what is that electronic arpeggio running the whole course of the song? It sounded so familiar. That’s because it was. But from where? I traced my media steps. Did it play on Buffy? No…Hanna? No, that was all Chemical Brothers. King’s Speech? No; Beethoven’s 7th. Puella Magi Madoka Magica? BINGO. Sayaka’s would-be boyfriend plays the Romantic violin half of Ave Maria, whereby Charles Gounod superimposes the strings over Prelude No. 1 in C major by who else but Johann Sebastian Bach, part of his Well-Tempered Clavier. When a pal of mine from Cali came home for Christmas, he also played this Bach prelude on the ivories. It’s one of my favorite Bach pieces, and it definitely augments the hopeful energy of “Take Off.”

Mind you, it isn’t just the music that makes Ao no Exorcist’s ending a great one in my books. The visuals consist of a straight-up to straight-on, 90-degree vertical pan to a first-person drive along an extremely straight road that traverses a sea and passes under True Cross Academy Island. The sky also quickly but smoothly transitions from day to dusk to calm night. Characters from the series can be seen on video billboards doing the same choreography as 2PM, a clever touch, while other billboards display static images of other characters. The camera finally stops its relentless push forward on an isolated, grassy island, just before a blue-glowing katana.

It’s a great concept, very nicely executed. And even scoring the Bach reference, it remains firmly implanted in my head, likely impervious even to the auto-tuned stylings of Fraulein Black. Damn pop music.