List Saturday: Top Idol Acts I Want to Follow More

Happy List Saturday! For the month of February, I have plans nearly every Friday, so I’m putting out this list on Saturdays instead!

I follow a lot of idol acts. Part of that is because I want to be up with all the major idol acts for this blog and Idolminded (as well as the indie acts for Pure Idol Heart) but part of it is that I’m genuinely a fan of idols as a whole, and I want to like more groups than I can really reasonably follow. So here is my list of groups that I wish I could follow more or for whatever reason I like, but I just haven’t been hooked yet.

LinQ

It’s honestly kind of inexcusable how I don’t follow LinQ. I really like a lot of their music (Sakura Kajitsu, Calorie Nante and HANABI are particular favorites), I have a favorite member (their leader, Amano Natsu) and I’ve liked just about everything I’ve seen from them. Their album that I reviewed for Happy Disco was REALLY good. I really enjoy their live performances as well. I just haven’t really given them the time that they deserve.

But seriously LinQ is great.

Idoling!!!

I reviewed Idoling!!!’s latest album, Gold Experience, recently and I really enjoyed it. Idoling!!! Is a very professional group with a lot of good music, good members, and a good variety program. I honestly don’t know why Idoling!!! Hasn’t captured my attention more; they’re a very good group. Just for whatever reason I can’t seem to follow them.

Babyraids

I really like Babyraids’ debut self-titled single. I think all the girls have a lot of energy, personality, and I like the sound of the group. Unfortunately, I haven’t been that enthralled with the rest of their music. If everything they did was on the level of Babyraids, I would probably be a much bigger fan.

Bump.y

I like Bump.y a lot. Like. The only song I absolutely love listening to is Gotta Getcha, which is already a cover. The rest of their music just doesn’t do it for me, unfortunately. Which is a shame, because the members seem great, and I do like that their goal seems to be more acting and less full-time singer. However, music does matter, and I can’t seem to keep following Bump.y.

Kikkawa You

I once said on twitter, and I stand by this, that if all Kikka songs were like Konna Watashi de Yokattara, I would be a much bigger Kikkawa You fan. Which is true. I want more idol soloists to be successful, and I think that Kikka really benefited from her years in training before débuting. Say what you will about Morning Musume’s 8th gen auditions, but Kikka is much better now. However, I really only like Kikkake wa You and, especially, Konna Wabasha de Yokattara. Which is kind of a shame, because she’s a talented girl who deserves good material.

Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari)

For years I was a fan of Sekine Azusa. She was my favorite Egg and I rejoiced whenever she had even something small to do like being a back dancer for Mano Erina. Now she’s doing an actual group and I can’t really follow them. I’m not sure why I haven’t followed them, but I wish I did because I still think Sekkii is fantastic, and I’m happy for her.

Review: Idoling!!! – Gold Experience

This weekend I asked on twitter if anyone wanted me to review anything. Steve from Selective Hearing suggested Idoling!!!’s latest album. Idoling!!! is a group I’ve always liked, but never got into too much. So I’m actually pretty happy that I have a chance to revisit this group. I’ve liked a lot of their music in the past (Me ni wa Aoba Yama Hototogisu Hatsukoi is one of my favorite idol songs) so let’s see what I think about this new album!

1. Shokugyou: Idol

Immediately the opening reminds me of the opening to AKB48’s Futari Nori no Jitensha. Which is a good thing; that’s from AKB’s best stage, and this is the type of song that fits really well as an opener.

This track is a bit unusual in that it’s an older single that was already featured on an Idoling!!! album; this is a single from 2008, and the rest of the singles on Gold Experience are very recent. While this has been revamped with vocals from the current generations of members, the fact that this song was chosen means that they’re thinking about this album as an album and not a collection of singles + non-single songs. At least, I hope that’s what they mean with this, because there are far too few idol albums that actually try to be successful as albums.

This is the type of song that I would play for someone if I wanted to tell them what idol music is like. This feels like an “idol” song, in the best sense. I like music that’s considered ‘idol-y,’ so this hits the spot. There’s a pretty good drum beat and a nice guitar section, adding some rock flavor to the song. The song itself is pretty catchy, though, and like I said I do enjoy idol music on its own.

Despite being an older single, this fits very well as an opening track. Of the recent albums I’ve reviewed, this and LinQ’s “Hajimemashite” fit the best as openers. This is a fun, well written song that fits very well as an opener to the album. 8/10

2. MAMORE!!!

This immediately feels more like the Idoling!!! I’ve become familiar with; this and Dont Think! Feel are the types of songs that I’ve come to associate with Idoling!!!; songs that pack a punch. MAMORE!!! is probably the single I’d think of most when I think of this type of Idoling!!! song.

For some reason I remember disliking MAMORE when it first came out, and for the life of me I can’t remember why. This is a well-paced, energetic song that packs a punch. I just think that these cooler, more powerful songs that tend to be favorites with some take longer for me to get into. I think another part of it is that the chorus is far more immediately appealing than the verses; they aren’t bad, per say, and have a lot of good to them, but the chorus is the real attraction to MAMORE!!!. However, at a closer listen, there are some good layered vocals in places that I don’t know if I appreciated at first.

This is also a song that shows off the deeper, strong vocals of the Idoling!!! members. Everything sounds really good and serious; a group with higher pitched vocals might not sound quite as good doing this type of song. The instrumentation is really great, too; I feel like it’s easy to give this type of song a fairly generic rock sound, but this feels like a complex, well-made track.

MAMORE!!! isn’t the type of song I naturally gravitate towards, but goodness I’ve gained an appreciation for it. 8/10

3. Ichigo Gyuunyuu

And Idoling!!! returns to a cuter style. This is a pleasant, mid-tempo song that feels even slower after following something like MAMORE!!!

Pleasant is honestly the best word I can think for something like Ichigo Gyuunyuu. It’s not a bad song, but there’s not much that really feels extraordinary. The best thing I appreciate is the arrangement; if I’ve learned one thing from these past few tracks I’ve learned that I like the instrumentation in Idoling!!! songs. The strings and piano sound lovely, and I appreciate the clear effort that went into that.

There’s also some really beautiful vocal work in the bridge. The vocals for this track are largely unremarkable (again, especially in following MAMORE) but there’s shining moments of realization that there are beautiful vocalists in Idoling!!!

It’s hard to say anything bad about Ichigo Gyuunyuu, but beyond a good arrangement there’s not much I’d call home about. It’s not bad, but it’s not a song I think I’ll be returning to anytime soon. It has the potential to grow on me, but for now it hasn’t. 6/10.

4. Akogare Adoration

Here’s a faster paced rock song! This is much more of the older school, lighter rock than something like MAMORE. Like always the vocals and instrumentation are very good; in particular there’s a section of harmonization later in the song that sounds really fantastic.

The instrumentation is well-done, like always, but there are a lot of sections that sound too busy. I like having multiple things going on at once in a song as a general rule, but here it felt like there was a bit too much going on at once. I also don’t know if I quite like the mixing of the song; sometimes it sounds like the vocalists are a bit too quiet. It’s nothing extreme, but these touches in comparison to the other Idoling!!! tracks just feel off.

I do like the clapping in the song and the harmonization is gorgeous. This is a fun song, and I like various elements. However, it’s not quite interesting enough and not all the elements come together as well as I wish they would. 6/10

5. Kaniko

When pitching me this album, Steve mentioned that this album felt like a bit of a tribute to idol styles through the year. While I listen to some oldschool idol music sometimes, I was nervous that I wouldn’t really get it. But yeah, this song is definitely getting some of that 70s idol vibe. The first song that comes into my head with this is that this reminds me of an updated Southpaw by Pink Lady; there are probably other songs that fit this better, but I got some Pink Lady mixed with Nakamori Akina (because this does sound darker) in there.

The thing is, even though this does feel oldschool in flavor (especially with the melody) it’s not necessarily obvious; the production and arrangement is modern and it’s produced very well. The members they chose to sing this song perform it well, as well, and it sounds nice all around. This isn’t necessarily my favorite type of oldschool sound, but I do like retro idols fit into modern music a lot so this does make me happy.

This is a fun, upbeat song with a bit of a darker sound to it. I love it. 9/10

6. Sentō Renai Shōjo Robo B Gata no Yūutsu

I had Pink Lady on the brain when listening to this because the siren at the beginning made me think of UFO from Pink Lady. The rest of the song has a lot more energy and doesn’t make me think of a specific song like Kaniko did, but the strings still remind me of retro music, which is great.

This is unfortunately not quite as memorable as Kaniko to me, but it still sounds good. This song does something that not a lot of songs do but that I appreciate whenever I hear it; it combines rock with strings and adds on some electronic effects. Not quite as effectively as the best songs that do this, mind you, but I appreciate songs that have the ambition to have this.

While all the members sound fine here, there are some shouting parts that don’t really appeal to me as much as they could. Ultimately this is a fine song that does a lot of interesting things, but doesn’t appeal to me quite as much as it should. 7/10

7. Bon Voyage!

To be honest I put off reviewing this song because I just don’t know how to approach it. The song feels like it should be a mid-tempo, slower ballad (like the opening), but then it suddenly goes faster and has an upbeat arrangement. The chorus in particular is a slower melody, and, just singing the melody back to me, it sounds like it would fit better as a slower song.

The song isn’t bad; it continues this string of good songs and good arrangement. I’ve just listened to it over and over and just can’t pinpoint what it is about this song. The ending where parts start to overlap is probably the most successful section, and I like the ending chord which sounds like it’s from an organ. That would have been cool, an organ-focused song.

I think I like this, and there are sections that I like more than anything, but for some reason this song is baffling to me. It hasn’t stuck in my head at all, and I doubt I’ll be thinking much about this in the future. 5/10

8. Sakura Thank You

This is a graduation song. From years of conditioning I’ve come to expect that songs about graduation are uninteresting and boring. Unfortunately, Sakura Thank You doesn’t stray too far from this precedent. The guitar solos sound good, and the arrangement is very solid, like always. It also goes without saying that the vocals are strong. However, this doesn’t really stand up to some of the more interesting songs on this album.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the worst graduation single I’ve ever heard. It’s far better than AKB’s awful So Long which also came out this year. The strong production makes up for it. Really, I’d rank this pretty highly among similar graduation themed singles. It’s just a disappointment that when Idoling!!! decided to go for a graduation single that they went for a more generic sound than they had done before this.

That said, I do like the production on this quite a bit, and there are really great moments in the arrangement. It’s just that this is arrangement is on something fairly uninteresting, which is a shame. 6/10

9. Natsu no Ojousan

When I first heard this song I was sure that this was a cover of a Candies song or something; this reminds me way too much of stuff like Haru Ichiban and Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu. While this isn’t a Candies song, this is in fact a cover of a song by Sakakibara Ikue, released in 1978.

Taking a quick listen to a performance of the original, it doesn’t sound like Idoling!!! changed too much with their arrangement. And here, I think that’s a good thing. The song is very fun on its own that I’m glad it seems like they left the original framework but just modernized it.

I wasn’t aware of this song before the cover, but now I’m glad that they covered this! It’s a fun song that Idoling!!! does a great job of covering. 9/10

10. Namida no Freesia

And wow this feels like 90s era idols, in a good way. This reminds me in a way of something like White Love by Speed, that kind of sensibility that you don’t really hear in a lot of idol music lately.

I like how piano heavy this sounds, even with the synth in there. It does a good job of adding some darkness to the track, and mixes well together. The one thing that kind of stumps me is the member choice for this single; I know this is a unit song, but it feels like they chose the highest-pitched/cutest voices of the group when it might sound better with a stronger voice. Some of the higher notes sounded like they were a bit of a struggle. I’d love to hear a Yokoyama Rurika cover of this song, for example, just to hear the difference.

This is a nice song that brings me back to a kind of idol music style that doesn’t really exist that much anymore in this post-Speed/SweetS era. It’s nice to hear. 7/10

11. Samui Yoru Dakara

Now here’s a song that’s legitimately from the 90s; this is a cover of a song from 1993 by the band TRF. This gives me serious vibes of songs like Get Wild, which I enjoy but aren’t necessarily my go to songs.

This is a song that I honestly don’t care for as much as I cared for Natsu no Ojousan. It’s fine, but there are sections which feel like they’re stretched out too long. And I feel like it’s hard to criticize this when I praised Idoling!!! for sticking with the original song when I talked about Natsu no Ojousan, but honestly I just don’t like this as much.

It’s a fine song, and it has a lot of the elements of this 90s era JPop that I enjoy, but it doesn’t hold up as a classic-sounding song like something like Get Wild does. Idoling!!! does a great job of modernizing the song and arranging it like I mentioned for Natsu no Ojousan, but unfortunately I just don’t love this as much as other songs from this relative time period and from this album. 7/10

12. Puri♥Kyun Survival

This is about the cutest idol song title I’ve ever heard. This is sung by Idoling!!! Neo, the newest members of the group who released their own single earlier.

This has a surprising amount of rock in it; this is pretty dominated by guitar and is generally a fun power pop song. If you like stuff like the first Babyraids single and some of the other rock-inspired units out there (but not the heavier stuff), this might be up your alley. It’s catchy and fun but has a bit more of an edge to it than your typical idol song, which is nice to hear.

I still haven’t even watched the Idoling!!! Neo members in action (that’s how far behind I am on Idoling, you guys) but the girls all have really solid voices that sound very assured and confident despite this being released in their first year.

This is really a fun track that utilizes the new members of Idoling!!! very well. I really enjoy this. 8/10

13. One Up!!!

This is back to Idoling!!!’s singles and it’s back to being the punchier type of song that i mentioned during my section on MAMORE. This is a funky, fun song, which is something I appreciate. I really like disco/funk back in my idol music, and One Up!!! definitely fits the bill.

One thing that is pretty distracting is just how busy the arrangement is. I think there’s a really fine line between what’s too busy complicated and too simple. Some songs have very empty/hollow sounding instrumentals, but others just have too much going on. Listening to One Up!!, there are a lot of good sections, but there are also sections where it feels like too much is going on in the background. While in general I think Idoling!!! does a good job with the people they get to do their arrangements, some of them err on the side of too busy, and this is the track so far where I feel like this is a big problem.

The thing is, I like this song a lot – in theory. The melody and overall songwriting really appeals to me. It’s just that a lot of this song should have been pared down to a less complicated track. This is so much fun that it’s a shame that there’s an issue like that keeping me from loving One Up!! like I want to. 7/10

14. Promise
Oh hey, a ballad! Every single song on this album so far has been pretty upbeat and fast. While I’m not a ballad person and I like my songs upbeat, listening to songs go at the same pace has been kind of exhausting. A ballad is a breath of fresh air at this point.

That said, I’m not a big ballad person, so while I want a track like this it’s not going to be my favorite track on the album. While the song itself doesn’t interest me all that much, the vocals do. The members sound gorgeous. I swear, I need to follow Yokoyama Rurika more, if only to hear more of her voice. The other members on the track sound nice, though a couple of voices aren’t as strong as the others. There’s some harmonies in there, which sound nice.

I do like the strings in the arrangement; I know that it’s at the point in idol music where we’ve heard a lot of strings lately, but I think I’ll be a sucker for a good string section. The song feels kind of cliched, in a way; it isn’t really an interesting ballad, beyond some strong vocals and some good instrumentation. The arrangement feels a bit busy here, as well.

Ultimately this is a very solid ballad which is made even better by strong vocals. 7/10

15. Don’t Think! Feel!

This is one of the feel Idoling!!! songs I’ve listened to over and over. While it’s not my favorite Idoling song in that it’s not Me ni wa Aoba, it comes pretty close. It is just a well-composed pop song; most of the Idoling!!! songs I’ve listened to on this album are well-paced, but Don’t Think! Feel is very well paced and never feels like it drags or moves too quickly. In general, though, I really like the melody and the overall tone of the song. It’s very pleasant, and at this point what I associate with Idoling!!!

The one thing that I don’t know if I like is the sound mixing;t he vocals sound kind of weird and echo-y. It’s not terrible, but I just wish that the vocals sounded a bit clearer and less strange. It’s distracting from an otherwise really nice song.

This is a solid song that I’ve listened to a lot on my own, despite not particularly paying much attention to Idoling!!!. I just wish the audio mixing was a bit different. 8/10

16. I no Standard 2014

If you hate repetitive songs, I no Standard is not your song. The words I no Standard are going to be burned into my brain after listening to this a few times for this review!

This is a very cute song with clapping and spoken/shouted parts. This is much cuter than a lot of Idoling!!!”s other stuff, but I do like it. It doesn’t quite fit my current image for the group, but the fact they have a song like that somehow works. I’m assuming (though kind of unsure?) that this is a song that allows for every member to sing; an intro song of sorts. If that’s the case the length makes sense. However, if that’s not the case then this song needlessly repetitive. It’s already a song that’s a lot longer than it needs to be.

This song is cute and fun, but drags on a bit too long. I appreciate a song that allows individual members to get spotlight, though. 7/10

17. Shine On

Ah, the ending track. This is a fun, funky track that feels like it’s ending the album on a high note. The melody is very reminiscent (intentionally?) of Don’t Think! Feel, but the whole song is a lot more upbeat and positive sounding than Don’t Think! Feel!

This is a compact, fun track that does a nice job of ending the album on a good note. Like the rest of the album it’s well made. I don’t know if it’s as immediately memorable as some of the other singles, but the chorus is definitely a bit of an earworm.

This does a good job of ending Gold Experience, a very good album, on a high note. 7/10

Overall: All the songs on this album are good. I like the individual tracks a lot. However, I’m still working out how this flows as an album. I have listened to all the tracks multiple times and in order, but I haven’t just sat and listened to it. 17 songs for an album is a bit much, though; I don’t know how they would cut any or which ones they could cut.

However, if you want to listen to well-produced, well-sung and overall just well-made idol music, you could do much worse than checking out Idoling!!!. This album had a lot of good stuff on it, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to give it a listen! I recommend this album!

My Top 15 Songs of 2013 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe 2013 is about halfway over! And so, it’s a good time to look back on the year in idol music, as well as pick some of my favorite songs of the year.

The idol boom has been going on since late 2009/early 2010, and I keep expecting idol groups to suddenly start disbanding or fade into obscurity. However, things are going better than ever, all things considered. AKB48 broke records and sold massive amounts with Sayonara Crawl, Momoiro Clover Z keeps climbing up, and even Hello!Project groups are doing very well. Indie groups are growing more popular, and gaining traction. Groups are becoming diverse, with alternative acts like BiS, Alice Project and Babymetal growing in popularity. Honestly, I can’t think of a better time to be an idol fan, based almost entirely on how many groups there are out there. There are a lot of groups I’m not even putting on this list but are really good groups.

And so, my top 15 songs of the first half of 2013. Note that this is just songs that have been on a release through the end of June; Koisuru Fortune Cookie’s going to end up pretty high on my full list of the year. Honorable mention goes to Oomori Seiko’s Mahou ga Tsukaenai; not quite sure I’d classify her as an idol, but I love this song to pieces.

15. Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya – Juice=Juice

Can I put a song on this list for one sentence? If so, that sentence is “just listen to that saxophone!” Because seriously, I love every second that a saxophone plays in this song.

In all honestly, I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel about Juice=Juice. I didn’t follow any of the Eggs/Kenshuusei that made the group, and I hadn’t seen the hype about Karin. I thought (and still do) the name was silly to a fault. The early pictures had all the girls in white and it looked kind of boring. And while I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be a super fan of Juice=Juice, I am a huge fan of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya.

While I was just being silly with what I was saying about the saxophone, that’s actually pretty close. The sound’s so unique, and I can’t think of another idol song like it. Underneath, Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya isn’t that unique of a song. It reminds me strangely of Melon Kinenbi’s Amai Anata no Aji but sped up. The structure feels kind of similar, as does the tune (though I definitely don’t mind H!P bringing back Melon Kinenbi songs). I don’t think Juice=Juice is anything like Melon Kinenbi, mind you, but the overall song isn’t completely new. However, the entire thing put together with the saxophone arrangement, it feels fresh and interesting.

So yes this song is pretty much on my list because of the sax.

14. Kawasaki Junjou Ondo – Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

As I’ll be writing a bit more about later, I love songs where there’s a lot of genre fusion. While I like standard idol pop songs, there’s something really interesting about putting together genres like that.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi is a group you probably haven’t heard of, unless you follow Tokyo Idol Festival and/or read my TIF posts religiously. But I found them from doing my TIF research posts, and was initially unimpressed by their concept of promoting Kawasaki, mostly because another group I wrote about had a very similar concept. However, Kawasaki Junjou Komachi really shines with their music and performances, the music being a really excellent fusion of traditional sounds with a modern pop sensibility, complete with a rap section. I don’t know Japanese instruments enough to tell, but it sounds like they’re using a lot of traditional instruments in there. In addition, it’s really catchy and fun to listen to and the vocals are really mature and lovely.

I think another reason I’m so impressed by Kawasaki Junjou Ondo is just how good it is for a local indie group. Lots of great music comes from indie idols, and I don’t want to put down indie idols. However, this is the type of song I would be very impressed if I heard it from a big, major label act. If KJK is able to continue this really great mix of traditional and pop and have this general level of quality, I predict they could grow and grow in popularity.

13. Brainstorming – Morning Musume

Late last year and early this year was when I first started to like Morning Musume again. I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi, I started liking (but not necessarily loving) the music, the other new members grew on me. I didn’t like the Help Me! PV, and the song was good, but I didn’t quite love it. However, because of Ayumi, I decided to listen to and watch Brainstorming as soon as I could. And I couldn’t get enough of it.

I think the biggest strength of Brainstorming is how fired up it works to get you. The instrumental works together with the vocals very well to make sure that there’s always something going on. Even in the slower solos (i.e. the solos Sakura does), there’s stuff going in the background. While Morning Musume has used dubstep influenced sound in Renai Hunter, and I really enjoy that song a lot, here the sound feels really integrated.

While I’m one of those people that misses old school Morning Musume a lot, really one of the strengths is in the arrangement. One of the biggest thing that makes me dislike a song is when the instrumental falls flat, and feels empty. Here, that’s not a problem, with so much going on in the back. However, nothing feels extraneous. There’s a lot going on throughout the song, but it feels warranted.

It’s also a great song for the group; it features a lot of the members doing shorter solos and mixed group bits. I don’t want to be one of those foreign fans who always complains about the line distribution, but varied groups like Morning Musume work at their best when everyone gets at least a little to do. Brainstorming really utilizes the members in a really great way.

Ultimately, this song is what brought me back and got me really excited about Morning Musume again. I actually preordered the single, because this is just that good.

12. Haste to Waste – BKA48

When I first heard there was going to be a unit of the members who scored low on the Mechaike special, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be something silly and not quite serious. And there are slightly silly parts. However, it’s a pretty standard mid-tempo song with a good deal of guitar and piano in there. A really good standard song, mind you.

Listening to the song and knowing the lyrics, though, it feels right that this is the BKA48 song; it’s silly, but it’s about being happy even if you aren’t necessarily smart. The thing that interests me is just how strangely epic the chorus feels. Perhaps it’s the lyrics mixed with the song, but it feels like it should be the theme song to the anime/drama about Kawaei Rina. Which I would definitely watch, by the way.

Honestly, this song isn’t necessarily the most interesting song on this list. But it’s solid, has a catchy melody, and I really love the lyrics. Especially the line that actually mentions Haste to Waste, taken word for word from the Mechaike special.

11.Sekaichuu ni I Love You – Rhymeberry

When most people got interested in the new Rhymeberry single, they really liked the song R.O.D.. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a great song. However, I was really taken by Sekaichuu ni I Love You, just because of how different it is. It’s 30s era swing/jazz (not sure if this is sampling or not) mixed with rap. I’ve never heard something like this before, and if you know of any other songs even remotely similar please tell me.

The instrumental is really entertaining; I love hearing all the instruments featured, especially the clarinet (which I play), but the piano is really what shines here. Miri, Hime, and Yuka all shine and they are really improving their skills. They really sell the song, too, putting a lot of energy into it, which is a marked improvement from their last single (where the live version is a lot better than what was recorded). There are also some fun lines in here; I appreciate the Han Solo reference, and I always giggle at “Dope the shit!”

I think I mostly like this because it’s such an experiment. It’s fresh, new, and something I personally have never heard before, which is really rare for music.

10. Walk my Way – Yokoyama Rurika


Yokoyama Rurika – Walk My Way by oshiruka

I think every time I talk about Idoling!!! I mention that I want to follow them more. Which still stands. I think they’re a really solid, interesting idol group with some great music, but I just don’t follow them. I heard about Yokoyama Rurika getting a solo single, but I didn’t need to read it. One thing changed my mind. Hyadain.

When I heard that this was a new Hyadain song and that it was good, I raced out to listen to it. And oh yes, it is good. The thing about this song is that it really works because of Rurika’s really strong vocals. From what I’ve heard Hyadain really wrote a song for her strong voice, and you can hear it. Hyadain, like always, writes a really strong melody, but here it fits Rurika perfectly, and her strong voice compliments the strong instrumental, or rather the instruments compliment her. This isn’t a very subtle song; this is something that’s meant to be belted out. That’s why Rurika’s voice fits it perfectly.

Steve from Selective Hearing wrote a very good analysis of Walk My Way here, and I suggest you all read it because I’m not going to write something this great about the song. One thing I can say is that, as a Hyadain fan, I love almost everything he does. His music really fits my tastes. However, since he writes almost exclusively for idol acts, I rarely get to hear music by him from an artist with a voice as strong as Rurika’s. So this song is really a treat for me, and I know it’s something I’ll listen to quite a bit.

9.Maji Kansha – Team Syachihoko

If you haven’t noticed, I really love Team Syachihoko. I wanted to put all four songs from their latest single on here, but I was able to narrow it down so that I’d have a more varied list (though another one of theirs is coming up).

One of the things I really like about Stardust groups is just how energetic their songs are, but that’s a bit of a curse as well; there aren’t many Stardust group songs I’ll break down crying while listening to, whereas I’ve cried at many AKB48 songs. And while I don’t think Syachi is going to move into serious ballads any time soon, I have to say I love their first song that seems a bit more serious, which is Maji Kansha.

I’m a sucker for strings and idol music; it’s actually something you could probably notice in this list. So when I first heard the swell of strings of Maji Kansha during a livestream of a Team Syachihoko event, I was hooked. The thing about Team Syachihoko is that if you’re looking for a polished performance with strong vocals, you’d best look elsewhere. However, the thing that I personally love about Syachihoko, that you can definitely hear in this song, is that they really work hard and push themselves. Their voices might not be strong enough to carry a song like this, but they give it their all.

It’s a really lovely song in general, and one I think could become a favorite to perform at Syachi concerts. It’s definitely the most normal Syachihoko song, but that, in itself, makes it the most usual. In a really good way.
8. Bokura no Eureka – NMB48

The easiest way to describe NMB’s summer singles is in comparison to other 48 groups. Whereas Nagiichi was much like songs like Ponytail to Shushu; happy and upbeat, Bokura no Eureka feels a lot more like Manatsu no Sounds Good. It’s a bit darker, more serious in tone, but still retaining a summer feel to it. Bokura no Eureka is a bit slower, very strings heavy (yes I do love that), and it just works.

NMB has had more mature sounding songs before (i.e. Virginity), but I didn’t really expect this song when I saw that it was an NMB48 summer song. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so unexpected that makes me love it so much. It allows for something like their full PV, where the NMB girls are on a deserted island; even though it’s a summer song, and has fairly typical lyrics, it has a lot more emotion to it. It’s a bit darker, slower and more serious than I expected from this track, and I have to say I love it.

7.Megitsune – Babymetal

Babymetal keeps surprising me and taking themselves to new levels. Every time I hear a new Babymetal song it’s exciting, because I never know what it’s going to be like. Megitsune is a new direction for Babymetal, now incorporating traditional instruments and themes into their metal/idol pop hybrid. It completely works. It’s still one of the most ‘metal’ songs Babymetal has put out (though perhaps not as metal as Ijime Dame Zettai), utilizing Suzuka’s strong vocals and a lot of drums.

It’s kind of amazing, really, that all these elements work so well together. I’m constantly impressed by how innovative Babymetal’s music can be, in incorporating Suzuka’s voice, Yui and Moa’s shouting, the metal sound, while still being accessible to people who may not necessarily enjoy metal music. I know I never really listened to metal before Babymetal. And perhaps I wouldn’t be so fond of this if I was a metal afficionado. However, Babymetal does a really great job of creating accessible music for everyone that blurs the lines of genre in a really fantastic way.

6. Den Den Passion – Dempagumi.inc

2013 is shaping up to be the year of Dempa for me; I’ve known about them for a while, but I really got into them this year. Den Den Passion does one of the things I wish more idol groups did, and really plays off the fact that this is a group effort. Especially in the chorus, there’s a lot of vocal overlap, which fits really well. I really like what they did with the vocals in this single; the voices in the chorus often sound almost vocaloid-esque, or a high-pitched Perfume, but in a way that really fits Dempagumi.inc.

That’s the thing that I really love about this single. Everything about it fits dempa’s identity as a group, which, as a fan of the group, is something I love. The quick pace, the high pitched vocals, the focus on the group, the entire song feels very dempagumi. Even the rap section really fits the song (perhaps it’s the edited vocals in that section). Sometimes when writing reviews for this blog, as an exercise, I try to imagine another group tackling a song. This is a song that I can’t imagine anyone other than dempagumi doing.

It’s frenzied, energetic, and fun. While another song on this list convinced me to start following demmpagumi.inc (spoilers), Den Den Passion helped keep Dempagumi.inc as one of my favorite idol groups out there. It’s not one of their strangest offerings, but it’s a worthy addition to the dempagumi discography.

5. Te wo Tsunagou – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

Who else has spontaneously started crying during an idol song? Because uh, that’s the first thing I did when I listened to Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku’s latest, Te wo Tsunagou.

Ebichu is another one of the Stardust idol groups a long with MomoClo and Team Syachihoko. However, for whatever reason, Ebichu hasn’t quite clicked with me in the same way as these other two groups. However, I can’t deny how great their music can be (especially since they work closely with Hyadain a lot), and Te wo Tsunagou is just incredible. Instead of taking the usual energetic route that Stardust group often does, Ebichu does a really great job with a sweet, heartfelt song (though they have done some of this before, to be fair).

The song starts off on a great note with the strongest vocalist in the group, Kashiwagi Hinata, singing a capella. She sounds really lovely, and is a really great start to the rest of this song. This song has a really great pace, helped out by the strong percussion in the background, but ultimately it’s just how earnest this song feels, both with the song, the vocals and the lyrics, that makes me really love it.

This song isn’t quite as unique as the others on this list. It’s not even as unique as the other song on this single, Kindan no Karma, which is a much darker song. However, this song does pretty much everything right in being a really lovely, heartwarming song. As groups search for the next gimmick or style, this proves that what you need more than anything is a good melody, charismatic performers, and a strong arrangement.

4. Ijime Dame Zettai – Babymetal

I remember distinctly the first time I heard this song. This had been a very long awaited song for Babymetal fans, so I was very excited. I was doing a project for a class (auditioning people to be in a project I was managing), but I had to listen to this as soon as I saw the PV had been posted. It was completely worth the anticipation. I sat alone in the room I was holding auditions in, mouth open, completely in awe of what I was listening to.

I’d argue that Ijime Dame Zettai is the most metal of the Babymetal songs; you could potentially make a good case for the song Catch Me if You Can, but I’d argue the chorus gets too pop-y. IDZ, on the other hand, is pure metal, without the pop influence of other Babymetal songs, and it’s just good. One of the things that I love about IDZ are the slower sections; the piano-heavy section at the beginning, the slower section right at the beginning of the second verse, and the section before the big guitar solos. These do a really great job of pumping up the more intense sections, and making them exciting. All the guitar solos in this are incredible, as are the rest of the instruments; they do a really excellent job of pumping you up, and having a lot of energy.

Suzuka’s vocals, while they’ve since improved again for Megitsune, made a really big leap from Headbanger to Ijime Dame Zettai. She sounds amazing here, her strong voice really fitting the great instrumental. Yui and Moa take a bit of a backseat from their already limited roles, but their presence mainly serves to remind you that yes, this is actually Babymetal you’re listening to.

This isn’t metal-pop. I’d go so far as to say this is just metal, with pop performers. Suzuka sounds great, the instruments sound great, and everything about this track is phenomenal.
3. Shuto Iten Keikaku – Team Syachihoko

Figuring out which two Team Syachihoko songs made this list was a bit of a difficult decision, because the whole single is pretty amazing, but it came down to Maji Kansha and Shuto Iten Keikaku. Let’s just get it out of the way: I’m biased towards Team Syachihoko. They’ve quickly become my idol group of choice, and I can’t think of a song they’ve done that I haven’t liked. However, this is because they have really high quality music, and this has continued with their national major debut single.

This song was cowritten by Japanese hip hop artist SEAMO, and that’s pretty obvious. Even if there’s only one actual rap section (done wonderfully by Haruna), you can hear the hip hop influence throughout the whole song, which features a lot of spoken parts and a whole lot of attitude. According to wikipedia, one of SEAMO’s influences was MC Hammer, and I do get a bit of an 80s/90s hip hop vibe from this. This is honestly not a song I expected to hear from Team Syachihoko, but they really put a lot of effort into this song, with Chiyuri rolling her R’s and Nao putting in a lot of energy. All the girls really fit in this well.

The lyrics are one of the most fun parts of the song, featuring Syachi’s plea to make Nagoya the capitol of Japan. It’s a silly topic and the lyrics are silly, but Syachihoko actually sells it pretty well. There’s a pretty good translation on the PV on the official Syachihoko channel, so I recommend you check that out.

Otherwise, all the parts come together for a really fun and entertaining song.

2. W.W.D – Dempagumi.inc

W.W.D stands for “worldwide Dempagumi,” a very fitting title given Dempagumi.inc’s recent announcement of performing at Japan Expo USA this August.

W.W.D is weird. And this is coming from someone who loves weird music. Can you guess who wrote this song? If you guessed Hyadain, yep you’re right. However, while some people may criticize W.W.D for being kind of disjointed, in actuality it really fits the group. The song centers around the group of six girls, their individual stories and how they all came together to become one group. Therefore, the fact that the song has so many different styles in it actually makes a lot of sense, because it’s reinforcing this narrative found in the lyrics. I’m really glad they decided to work with Hyadain to write this deeply personal song for Dempagumi.inc; Hyadain is the master of writing very eccentric songs that somehow work, and W.W.D is one of those songs.

Because this song is based off the histories of the girls in dempagumi.inc, they perform it really well. The girls all have an interest in Akihabara culture, and as such really play up the shouted parts well. Groups in the past have called themselves ‘otaku groups,’ but you really believe it with dempagumi.inc. This song is so weird, but Dempagumi.inc manages to sell the slow/serious section as well as the energetic sections. They do well with a song that I imagine would be difficult for most idol singers to get.

If you don’t like your music weird, I doubt you’ll like W.W.D.. In fact, I have a feeling it’s the type of single that would be very polarizing. However, I really like Hyadain when he’s at his wackiest, which he is here. Combine that with the personal stories of dempagumi.inc, and you have a classic idol song on your hands.

1. Hai to Diamond – Momoiro Clover Z

If you read my review of Momoiro Clover Z’s album 5th Dimension, you’ll already know how much I love this song, so I’ll keep this brief. Hai to Diamond is incredible. It’s not necessarily the most idol-y song out there, but it’s a really beautiful song featuring orchestral instruments, many different sounds, and some really nice performances from Momoiro Clover. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, written very well and arranged even better. It’s gorgeous, epic, and has been an instant favorite ever since I heard it.

This is one of the most beautiful pop songs I’ve ever heard, and I know I’ll keep coming back to it again and again in the future.

One Hit Wonders: Favorites from Non-Favorite Groups

I like a lot of idols, and follow a lot of groups out there. However, some groups just don’t appeal to me very much for various reasons. The members might not click for me, I might not like the style of the group, or I might not like the management. However, despite this, I find that some of my favorite songs come from groups I don’t follow (hence why I will eventually get started on that review project I keep putting off.) In a weird way this almost makes these songs more special, and will occasionally drive my interest in the group (this was originally the case with Nogizaka46 and Hashire Bicycle, but I’ve since become more of a fan of that group in question).

So here’s a list of songs that have become some of my favorites without being one of my favorite groups; note that if I list a group/artist you like, please don’t think I have anything against said artist, but just that they haven’t clicked with me.

Don’t Think, Feel! – Idoling!!!

I’ve liked Idoling!!! songs in the past; I really like Me ni wa Aoba Yama Hototogisu Hatsukoi and S.O.W. Sense of Wonder. However, Don’t Think, Feel really stands out to me. It has a kind of unique sound with some vocals that at least sound more mature than your average idol vocal, and the whole group sounds really great together. Other than that, though, it’s hard to explain why I love this as much as I do. It’s the right level of upbeat that tends to make me like a song, but it doesn’t have some of the other things that make me really like a song. Still, this is a ridiculously catchy fun song that is one of my favorites.

Hatsukoi Cider – Buono!

If you’ve seen my top songs of 2012 list you know that I loved Hatsukoi Cider to an almost ridiculous degree, despite generally not being a big fan of Buono! I don’t really fan over any of the girls in the groups, most of their stuff is just not my taste in idol music. However, Hatsukoi Cider was one of my favorite things to come out of 2012 because it was just a really good song, and beat the odds of coming from Buono (if you want a more detailed explanation, see my top 25 list).

Konna Watashi de Yokattara – Kikkawa You

There’s a pseudo joke one of my friends and I have about this song, in that we go “oh, Konna Watashi time” and basically marathon the song. I like Kikkawa You just fine, but this song alone made me briefly consider saving my money to go fly to see Yuu in concert. That didn’t happen because I’m not nearly a big enough fan of hers. But seriously, this was one of my favorite songs of 2011 (if I had ranked 2011, this would absolutely be in my top 5). The way the whole song fits together, from Kikka’s main vocals to the harmonies, to the various instrumentation, is perfect. The song keeps up a great pace, and builds up perfectly, especially in the section before the last chorus (“kimi no yaeba mo, etc.”). Also, not talking about it really now, but this is seriously one of my favorite PVs of the year as well.

Pera Pera Perao – Not Yet

Not Yet’s one of the AKB groups where I like all the members, but none of them are even close to favorite status (probably my highest ranking girl here would be Yokoyama Yui). Most of their other songs I like, but don’t love. This is possibly one of my favorite idol songs EVER. And I have no idea why. I only really discovered when it was performed in a shuffle at a concert featuring one of my 48 group oshimen, Oota Aika. And I was hooked. I think some of my friends got sick of just how obsessed I got with Pera Pera Perao. And even still, I have trouble quantifying or explaining just what I hear in the song. I think this is a situation where the sum’s greater than its parts, because everything about Pera Pera Perao just works for me. Also, I completely kill at this song at karaoke, so there’s that.

MAX Otome Gokoro – Super Girls

I have issues with Super Girls. The girls themselves seem fine, but I’m not super fond of certain things doing with the management and Puri Puri Summer Kiss bugs me in many many ways. But man, MAX Otome Gokoro was pretty much on repeat all of summer 2011 for me. It’s just a good/fun song, full of energy, and is a perfect song for the summer.

Feel Free to Correct Me!

Just a little note before I get ready to go to work.

I make mistakes.

For some reason I’ve had it in my head for literally a year that AKB48 producer Akimoto Yasushi also did Idoling!!!. Idoling!!! is one of my big idol weakpoints; I know they’re big, but they’re just usually off my radar. I like them a lot, but my knowledge of them is limited. So I’m really glad that the comments have set me straight.

I’m just posting this to let people know, that if you see me screw something up, LET ME KNOW. I’m just an idol fan, but even as a fan I’m not the biggest one I know. There are some groups I follow more than others, partially out of time constraints.

So if I make some comment about an idol group you hold dear that you think is wrong, please don’t hesitate to correct me! I’m fallible. I just like idols.

30 Day Idol Challenge Day 14

Day 14: Your favorite Idoling!!! member.


Ah, Idoling!!!. If I pretended to know more than the basics about them I’d be lying. I do know, however, that I LOVE their song Me ni wa Aoba Yama Hotogisu Hatsukoi 

However, of all the members, the one that really catches my eye and that I’ve enjoyed seeing once in a while in AKBIdoling!!! stuff is…

Yazawa Erika!

While mostly known by non-Idoling!!! fans as the one with the really big breasts, she just has a really fun attitude. In the PV for Me ni wa Aoba… she does wotagei and ends up really having fun with the whole thing. I once heard that she hurt herself and couldn’t do a concert because she was HEADBANGING too hard.

She’s the energy queen of Idoling!!!, which makes her a treat to watch, whenever I watch something with Idoling!!!