Yesterday I found out that the Stardust Promotion YouTube channel no longer was region-locking its content, so I went through and rewatched quite a few music videos on that channel. So the next few recommendations will probably be from that channel.
One of the groups I focused a lot on was Takoyaki Rainbow – Takoyaki Rainbow made the move to Avex for their major debut, but at this point they only have two singles and an album through Avex, and most of their best music is from their indie days. Genki Uri no Shoujo is probably my favorite indie Takoyaki Rainbow song (though tomorrow my favorite might be Meccha Funk).
Genki Uri no Shoujo is pretty much up my alley in every conceivable way. The song was written by my favorite composer, Maeyamada Kenichi, it has a disco sound/feel to it, it’s high energy and it’s just weird. A lot of the best parts of the song are either strange by design (the extended comedy routine performed by Ayaki Sakura and Negishi Karen for one) or hammed up by the members (Hori Kurumis’ solo afterwards). That’s the other great part about this song – Takoyaki Rainbow is just perfect at it.
Honestly, if you wanted to find the exact song that combines all the things I really like in JPop / idol music, it would probably be Genki Uri no Shoujo.
It’s officially Spring, so time to pull out the springtime songs! I mean, it’s not hard to see why Tabidachi no Haru ga Kita was the first song I thought of – spring IS in the title. However, it has a springtime feel to it in a way – at least in Jpop, I think of wintery songs to be slower, a bit more relaxed and/or melancholy. Summery songs are a lot more upbeat, fast paced and exciting. Tabidachi no Haru ga Kita, on the other hand, is a bit of both – it’s upbeat and happy but the strings have a more serious feel. It’s not quite summery and not quite winter.
I really like this song a lot – strings in the instrumentation sound beautiful and all the members of S/Mileage do a good with it (this was the first song where I begun to think that Tamura Meimi could be one of the best singers of Hello!Project). The melody is catchy and it’s a well put-together song. However, while it’s a great song on its own, the lyrical references and feel of this song just make me think of spring.
One of the hardest things about running this series are the songs I can’t share. I have so many B-Sides or album songs that just aren’t on YouTube or another easily accessible video site. I want to promote songs that you can listen to immediately, so focusing on some of the new album songs on Team Syachihoko’s latest, Owari to Hajimari, is difficult.
So instead I’m going to recommend one of Team Syachihoko’s singles from 2016, the lengthy titled Ultra Chou Miracle Super Very Power Ball. The thing I love about this song is that even though this song is in many ways a pop song (the melody and structure), the arrangement makes it a darker rock song with even some metal trappings. Syachi isn’t going Babymetal, not by a long shot, but it’s rare to have songs have this level of darkness or this specific kind of energy. The energy is what makes this song, which is part of why it’s a perfect song for Syachi – they can pull off a song like this.
While the entire song is great, I especially like the build up at the start of the song. The song builds up perfectly in that first 30 seconds or so, pumping you up. That’s what Ultra Chou Miracle Super Very Power Ball does well, and every section similar to this opening is stellar.
I have an appreciation for idol songs that really work to the advantage of the idols singing it, and Lalala no Pipipi is that for Michishige Sayumi. Sayumi took a while to come into prominence within Morning Musume – she was popular, she’s very pretty and has some great stage presence, but the biggest hurdle was that she can’t really sing. She’s definitely improved over the years, but Sayumi was for years either the weakest or one of the weakest singers in the group, and so for years got pushed to the back or given lines where she shouts (i.e. in Shabondama or Resonant Blue) rather than sings.
However, Morning Musume’s increased appreciation and use of EDM as a genre helped bring Sayumi forward, by purposefully autotuning her voice for effect, much like in the group Perfume. This allowed Sayumi to be front and center, like in Lalala no Pipipi which is one of the cutest and catchiest pop songs I think I’ve ever heard.
Anecdote time, but I think Lalala no Pipipi was the first time I really fully appreciated what a talent Sayumi is. I saw the Morning Musume concert in New York in 2014, and even though she sung along with the full vocal track she had an incredible stage presence. Even though I liked her well enough, I was in awe of her stage presence during this concert. It was extraordinary.
It may be difficult, but producers really ought to at least attempt to gear the songs to fit the performers performing them – it can make you see them in a new light.
While I’m a lot more lukewarm on the Platinum era of Morning Musume than a lot of people, there are quite a few songs that I consider personal favorites of mine from that era. Specifically, Moonlight Night ~Tsukiyo no Ban da yo~ has been a continued favorite since its first release. I’ve been revisiting a lot of Morning Musume tracks for my album reviews this year, and revisiting Moonlight Night in preparation has been a joy because it’s so great.
I love the energy of this song more than anything. It feels like it should be the opening theme song to a TV show or something like that – it has a lot of energy and pumps you up. It’s the perfect track to start off the album. I also love just how weird this song gets, distorting the vocals, all the drums, all the electronic sounds and quick notes. It has a lot of character, more so than most electronic pop songs or even Morning Musume songs from this era.
A little late for St. Patrick’s Day, but thought I’d promote a song from the best (possibly only) Irish-themed idol unit, Armor Girls. Where they perform music that’s half idol pop and half Irish inspired and also wear armor. It’s gimmicky (as is all of Alice Project, the company they’re from), but the thing that sets them apart is that lal of their music is great.
Sai Adventure is part of the adventure series, which is basically the same song but performed by the different groups under Alice Project and with their own spin on it. Sai Adventure has a lot of fiddles and whistles, but I love just how vast it feels. I’ve been playing a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it has a weirdly similar feel of pure adventure. It’s hard to describe how it does this, but it just feels vast, open and happy, with fiddles and flutes. It has an organic feel to it.
Armor Girls may be super gimmicky, as is Armor Girls, but their music is just so good.
Yes, another Rev song. I’m genuinely not ready for them to break up. Even though they haven’t been particularly active as of late, it’s still pretty heartbreaking, honestly. They were one of my favorite groups, and I think they were really underappreciated in the foreign community.
Ai ni Kinshai is pretty silly, at least compared to other songs like Kimi ga Ite Boku ga Ita and even Love Arigatou. It’s focused on Hakata, Fukuoka, where the group is centered, and has a goofy charm to it which is part of what made me love the group so much in the first place. It’s also a very catchy, upbeat tune. The goofy, upbeat and happy charm of it also extends to the music video, which features Hakata in more detail. I really like when local idol groups focus on how important the area they’re from is, and while Rev moved to being more of a national group with their rise in popularity I’m glad they still kept Hakata prominent.
I think I will forever be the sole member of the v-u-den defense squad because they are still one of my favorite groups ever and I don’t think a lot of people have given them a fair shake. Their singles are all really great, their album Suite Room No 1 was fantastic, and they have a lot of hidden gems that don’t get a lot of attention. They have a uniformly excellent discography, and it’s a shame they disbanded when they did.
Bi Hit Parade is a force of nature. It’s got a whole lot of energy, and starts out that way. I really like how the song transitions from verse to chorus – the verses have a darker feel, get progressively better, until the chorus is bright and happy. Even though the level of energy in the song remains mostly static, I really like how the tone of the song shifts. It’s also something that works very well – none of it feels forced or sudden.
Bi Hit Parade has a great melody and is just one of the many great songs by v-u-den.
I don’t know too much about Band Ja Naimon – I’ve heard of them quite a bit but I’ve never really sought out their music. However, a while ago I found this on YouTube and immediately loved it. It has an almost Dempagumi.inc quality to it, where it’s a bit of a weird song but at the same time is put together very well. The guitar at the beginning’s solo suggests that this is all a bit off-kilter, and while parts of it are fairly straightforward (the chorus, for one), it has that same feeling off being pretty odd.
For being a group that emphasizes that they’re not a band in their very name, they have a real rock band sound. While there are some weird sounds and possibly some electronic stuff layered in, the majority of the instrumental is drums, electric guitar, piano/keyboard, etc. It has a nice rock sound to it, despite Band Ja Naimon not being a band.
I don’t know how much I’m going to seek Band Ja Naimon out – I already have one Dempagumi.inc and I don’t know how much this sound would be my cup of tea if Kimi no Egao de Sekai ga Yabai wasn’t so good. That being said, it is a very good song so I plan on revisiting it frequently.
I have a big soft spot for idol songs that are in some way self aware, that are reflexive of the idol industry as a whole. While I don’t know if Yuumei ni, Nyaritai is entirely that, the fact that it’s literally an idol group singing about wanting to be famous is pretty rare. It also does this in really weird ways – they don’t just want to be on TV or in magazines (though they do sing about that), one of the biggest things is wanting to be in textbooks. They don’t just want to be famous idols, they want to be remembered for all time.
The song is also complete cuteness overload, almost entirely fanservice in that way. All that being said, it’s also one of the weirdest songs of the year. There’s an extended reggae section (even name dropping Bob Marley), an electronic dance section, etc. It’s just upbeat and weird, things that I definitely like. So even though I don’t necessarily want to be singing along to a song this fanservicey, everything else about it appeals to me on a basic level. It’s weird with some of the most interesting lyrics of the year so far.