Thoughts on Babymetal’s American TV Debut

If you had told me five years ago when Babymetal first came to my attention that I would eventually watch them on a popular American late night show, I would have probably laughed. And yet, here we are.

Last night, Babymetal made their American TV debut performing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, promoting their new album Metal Resistance. Which, again, is strange to even write.

There were a lot of great things happening last night that were I think real wins for Babymetal. First, there was an enthusiastic Babymetal audience. I know there were some fans who went specifically just to see the group. So when Colbert announced them at the start of the show, they got by far the loudest cheer, showing some real enthusiasm. Another thing I thought was particularly great was that, even though there was a comment about “I’m not sure what I’m about to see” from Colbert, this was mostly just a straight performance/promotion, and didn’t feel entirely gimmicky. Plus, it was a good performance that also put a spotlight on the band as well as the actual members of Babymetal.

The biggest misstep of the night was the choice of song being performed. I totally understand why they chose to perform Gimme Choco – it’s the song that went viral around the world and has racked up 45 million views on YouTube. If the average American knows a Babymetal song (which, largely, they still don’t) it’s going to be Gimme Choco. That said, it is a misstep to be performing that song to promote their next album.

Right now Babymetal has gotten the viral hit, but their main goal is actual relevance beyond the gimmick and the novelty. Recently, The Guardian posted a review of their recent UK performance indicating as much. Falling back on Gimme Choco feels like falling back on the viral hit, the gimmick. I personally think they should have performed Karate, the song they’re promoting most off of Metal Resistance. Plus, this has the added bonus of focusing a lot more on Suzuka’s vocals. Gimme Choco’s great but it doesn’t show off just how strong of a singer Nakamoto Suzuka is.

That said, what does this mean for Babymetal? I think that this is another stop on their path to longevity. I’m not sure that this necessarily means mainstream success in the US, but it sure helps in their case for being legitimate rather than just a gimmick (this, along with their upcoming US tour and their other international performances this year). I doubt that Babymetal is suddenly going to go mainstream, but the fact that they’re performing on American TV two years after they went viral shows that they aren’t going away as quickly as some might have thought.

If you’re wondering if this will affect the popularity of Japanese pop idols in America… it probably won’t do anything. Babymetal has become fairly removed from idol culture (understandably so), and I can’t see this being a major gateway for idol groups to come perform on American TV. That said, I know that quite a few foreign Babymetal fans have gotten interested in Sakura Gakuin after becoming a Babymetal fan, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Review: Babymetal – Babymetal

I’ve been a fan of Babymetal’s since they were just a unit for a Sakura Gakuin album. Since then, they have become something of a phenomenon, helping inspire more and more alternative idol units. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that groups like Alice Juban have been helped by Babymetal’s relative success. Babymetal is also second to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in terms of Western reach of Japanese pop acts. I watch Comedy Central’s show @midnight regularly, and I was surprised to see Babymetal featured on the show. Even if Babymetal (and Kyary) are only really viewed in an “oh Japan” light, it’s still exposure that might increase the public perception of JPop. Babymetal DID reach #3 on the American iTunes charts, after all. I was trying to out-weird a friend in music tastes, and when I showed her Headbanger she replied “Oh I already know Babymetal.” It isn’t always helpful for the public perception to be “what weird stuff” but hey, look at how successful Kyary has been, doing a mini tour in the US.

Babymetal has finally put out their first album, which is, like I said, getting more international attention. It collects all their singles and songs through Megitsune and adds three new ones. While this means that if you’re already a Babymetal aficionado you will probably already like this album, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a successful one. So how is Babymetal’s first album?

1. Babymetal Death – this is the B-Side from Ijime, Dame, Zettai for the limited editions. For picking a pre-existing song, Babymetal Death is probably the best song to start things off. Since, you know, it is an intro song. This is nearly six minutes of metal guitar, metal vocals, and occasionally the girls repeating “Sumetal Death, Yuimetal Death, Moametal Death, Babymetal Death.”

This is the type of thing that is pretty appreciated at concerts; I can imagine getting really pumped up hearing this. As a non-metalhead, though, I don’t think I fully appreciate listening to it on its own.

It’s a good opener that has good metal elements; the choral vocals work especially well. It’s not the type of song you’d listen to on its own, but it does its job very well. It doesn’t quite have the appeal of some other idol group overtures just by virtue that this is metal and lacks the cheese that some of them rightfully have, but it’s still a good representation of Babymetal.

2. Megitsune – I considered Megitsune to be one of my favorite songs of 2013 and I stand by that. While Babymetal started the year out strong with their long-awaited major debut Ijime, Dame, Zettai, Megitsune remains a lot more compelling to me. Megitsune combines Babymetal’s standard blend of metal and pop with some more traditional Japanese sound. This blend shouldn’t work as well as it does, and Megitsune is a cohesive song that manages to be accessible, despite the varied elements that it brings together.

This song is a mixed bag; some people are much less fond of this than I am, and I honestly do not blame them. If you’re looking for the most metal experience, Megitsune is not your song. However, I think it ended up being one of Babymetal’s most successful songs for what they do in blending genres and mixing pop with metal.

3. Gimme Choco. – One of the things that Babymetal sticks with, for better or worse, is the whole pop song formula. Their arrangements, vocals, instrumentation may scream metal (literally), but the songs themselves, at their core, are often pretty standard pop songs. Ijime, Dame, Zettai for example – the instrumentation is metal, but it has a pretty standard verse –chorus structure. It’s a song that you could imagine as a standard idol pop song if it was done by a different group.

Gimme Choco is a different beast; parts of it sound pretty standard idol pop (the sung sections by Suzuka, mainly), but it doesn’t have a very similar structure. It’s mostly alternating Yui and Moa’s shouted parts and Suzuka’s shouted parts. In a weird way, Suzuka’s vocals almost sound like they should be a part of a different song, like they’re an idol pop song that Gimme Choco sampled. This isn’t the case, but it sounds that way at times.

Gimme Choco is the type of song that shouldn’t be catchy the way it is. The first listen I was unsure of what to make of Gimme Choco, with its unusual structure and how disjointed Suzuka’s vocals were with the instrumental parts. However, this is a song that will get in your head and not get out.
I don’t think this is Babymetal’s best song, but it is a good one. It’s the type of song I’m glad is an album song; I like listening to it, but I can’t see it getting marketed as a single.

4. Ii ne – Ii ne is a weird, weird song. I got hooked on it while studying abroad, so it has a level of nostalgia for me, but it’s still just odd. Rather than pop music, Ii ne veers into dance music while throwing a rap section in there, because why not?

Ii ne comes from Babymetal’s weird growth phase where they realized they could reach beyond their Sakura Gakuin fan audience (after Doki Doki Morning kind of blew up), but that they were still unsure of where to go. And it shows. There is a serious disconnect between some of the heavier parts of the song and the dance music, as well as the cuteness of the girls.
Yet, that’s kind of what I like about Babymetal; how absurd it can get. I will never not love the disconnect of Yui and Moa going “Kitsune da yo” and the background voice starting to scream. This is weird, messy, and it doesn’t particularly WORK, but this is why Babymetal is so wonderful.

Is this the best or most representative Babymetal song? Absolutely not! But Ii Ne is its own brand of fun and a song that I will continue to love, even though it is so unlike the rest of Babymetal’s discography.

5. Akatsuki – This is the B-Side of Megitsune, and while Suzuka sounds wonderful in Megitsune, this is the first track off of this album that really showcases how strong of a vocalist she has become. She’s always had a pleasant voice, but in the past year or two Suzuka has worked so that she has one of the most consistently strong and beautiful voices in the idol world. The opening of Akatsuki showcases just how fantastic Suzuka is.

The slow beginning of this song is really what you’re going to be listening to; the rest is just underwhelming after that. The song never gets much faster, but the instrumentation speeds up so that it sounds like Suzuka and the instruments are performing different songs. Suzuka is singing a ballad while the rest of arrangement wants it to be a fast paced metal song.

This is the type of dissonance that can work, but doesn’t really. If they had increased the tempo of Suzuka’s melody or if they had made it a more standard ballad it might have worked. If they were willing to go a little crazy they could alternate between these or change up tempos a la Hyadain. However, this never happens, and this means that Akatsuki falls a bit flat after the fantastic first minute.

I imagine this song will grow on me; I know I will listen to that opening minute more than once because I love it. However, this is the first real disappointment of the album.

6. Doki Doki Morning – Oh, the song that started it all. In a way, Doki Doki Morning sounds kind of outdated, because it is. This is Babymetal’s first attempt at mixing metal and idol pop and it’s a bit hamfisted. The chorus is just a straight idol pop song with no metal anywhere to be seen, and the metal influence is all in the verses and instrumentation.

Still, there is something fun about the opening of the song, which starts out like any other cute idol song before breaking out into heavy guitars.

It’s difficult to imagine this in any other context than how I encountered it. I listened to Doki Doki Morning right when the short PV hit YouTube for the first time, and it was a big surprise just how much I liked the metal and idols combination. Nearly every other Babymetal song after this is much more sophisticated with how it mixes these two genres, which makes me wonder how Doki Doki Morning sounds to someone whose first Babymetal song was stumbling across Gimme Choco. There’s none of that wonder and excitement of finding something new.

Really, this isn’t Babymetal’s best, not by a long shot. However, I still have a lot of nostalgia and fondness for Doki Doki Morning, and it’s still a very enjoyable listen.

7. Onedari Daisakusen – Onedari Daisakusen starts off a long line of what can be considered Yuimetal and Moametal songs. Suzuka dominates the vocals of the main singles (and for good reason, with that voice!) but Yui and Moa often get a B-Side to call their own.

The thing is, Yui and Moa aren’t Babymetal vocalists. They sing well enough in Sakura Gakuin, but they are considered the two “Scream and Dance” members to Suzuka’s vocalist. Which is all fine and good in a main song, but this has always lead to some interesting maneuvering for their B-Sides.

Onedari Daisakusen decides to have Yui and Moa rap with a little bit of singing for select parts. Yes, rapping idols. While Yui and Moa don’t have the rapping chops of groups like Rhymeberry and Lyrical School, they hold their own in the shouted sections. Even if the section where they chant “One for the money, two for the money, three for the money, money money money money” makes me laugh.

The arrangement of this song is a major standout; one of the noticeable Babymetal trends is that the arrangements prefer to make Yui and Moa focused songs a lot darker and a lot more, well, metal than the main single. This arrangement is a mix of metal guitar work, a real orchestral sound, and a faint sung chorus in the background. It sounds fantastic, and while it’s a bit silly with Yui and Moa’s chanted sections it still just works.

This is the type of song I’d play for someone if they were unsure of how ridiculous Babymetal could get while still being amazing.

8. 4 no Uta – This is another Yui and Moa heavy song that focuses on chanting over singing.

Unless you have a decent/basic grasp of the Japanese language, you might not appreciate just how great these lyrics are, so here’s the lyrics basically. There are two words for “four” in Japanese; there’s yon and there’s shi. Shi also means death. So Babymetal decided to both have fun with numbers and drive home the far too dramatic death themes.

So lyrics like “ichi no tsugi wa ni” (the next number after one is two) is basically counting up to shi (death) where they subvert your expectations with using the word “yon.” There are also lyrics like “SHIawase no shi” (the ‘shi’ of happiness) where they take words that use the syllable “shi.”

This is basically Babymetal being kind of silly, and in a weird way living up to their name. Combining kind of goofy counting lyrics a la Mini Moni with driving home the word “death,” in addition to the metal background vocals makes this song memorable, and takes both parts of “Baby” and “Metal” in fun ways. There’s also a reggae-light section where Yui and Moa sing over it. This is definitely what goofy is to Babymetal.

At this point the song is the most fun when you’re first hearing it and realizing what they are going for with the lyrics, but on its own it is a whole lot of fun, showing a playful side to Babymetal.

9. Uki Uki Midnight – and this is the B-Side to Headbanger. This is still very Suzuka focused, while being the B-Side. This song successfully incorporates some dubstep elements to Babymetal’s typical formula, with this affecting the instrumentation and having a full dubstep break. It works pretty well; I wasn’t very fond of dubstep before this song, but Babymetal makes this work.

The parts that stand out are Suzuka’s voice (of course), and the juxtaposition of Suzuka’s whispers to the background vocals shouting. This feels like the natural progression from Ii Ne without the rap break and without Yui and Moa; it’s a lot more electronic and feels like more of a dance song than a pop song.

Uki Uki Midnight isn’t as weird as Ii Ne and isn’t as stand out amazing as other Babymetal songs, but it works well and remains a pleasant addition to the Babymetal library.

10. Catch Me if You Can – Now we’re back to Yui and Moa focused B-Sides, and Catch Me if You Can is a particularly good one. This is one of the most ‘metal’ Babymetal songs on there, with the possible exception of the chorus in here. This is very dark and guitar/bass heavy, with a heavy drum beat. I find it a bit funny that they choose to make the Yui and Moa songs the most heavy ones, but it works well.

The only thing that is debatable is the chorus; it’s a bit of a jarring transition from the heavy metal before it and the fairly upbeat rock afterwards. And by rock I mean very poppy. It’s power pop, really. This isn’t bad, and it’s a good break for the ears from how heavy Catch Me if You Can is, especially if you came to Babymetal from the idol pop side of things (like I did). That said, the heavier parts featuring Moa and Yui are the standout bits, and the chorus feels like it’s a little forced in there.

This is the type of song I would play for someone who likes metal and isn’t sure about where Babymetal can go. This is possibly the strongest juxtaposition of cute vocals to metal instrumentals, and I love it.

11. Akumu no Rinbukyoku – Wow, do Suzuka’s vocals sound great here? Here she goes beyond standard vocal strength and sounds VERY interesting. She emotes, fits the song perfectly, and just sounds fantastic. This is the song that, to me, cements Suzuka as one of the top talents in idol pop today. This isn’t hyperbole; Suzuka is that good.

While I don’t think this is an actual rondo (the title is ‘nightmare’s rondo’), it is taking classical ideas and using piano and strings in addition to a heavy drum beat throughout most of the song. While I do like the heavy drum beat most of the time, there are a few times where it gets a bit tiring, especially with all the beauty in Suzuka’s vocals and the orchestral background.

This song is the stand out new song of the album; while Gimme Choco is fun and catchy and 4 no Uta is silly and goofy, this is a beautiful song that showcases Suzuka’s vocal strength perfectly. This is a song I wouldn’t hesitate sharing with music buffs who have no interest in idol pop.

12. Headbanger – This is one of my top five songs of 2012 and what cemented Babymetal as an act for me. Doki Doki Morning was a novelty (but a good one). Ii Ne was promising, but it was hard to know where Babymetal would go. Headbanger showcased Suzuka’s vocals and focused on the metal and rock elements over the idol pop to show that Babymetal was serious about what they aimed to do and were here to stay.

It sounds almost unimpressive now, especially in comparison to Akumu no Rinbukyoku, in terms of Suzuka’s vocals. However, it is still a very solid and listenable song. It’s not as heavy as Babymetal can get, nor is it as poppy as Babymetal can get, but it’s solid and fun to listen to. It’s not revolutionary now, but I can only remember when it came out and I was completely blown away.

Headbanger might not be as impressive after a really solid album, but it’s a tight, well-written, and ultimately very listenable song.

13 Ijime, Dame, Zettai – This is the song that just makes sense at the end of the album. It should be either at the start or the ending. And since Babymetal Death has to be the opening, the ending it is.

This is another song that was highly awaited; it had been played for a while before anyone online (not going to shows) was able to hear it. And wow, was it worth the wait. It’s Babymetal at its most epic, doing very dramatic, highly metal pop.

At its core IDZ is a pretty basic song; it’s done in a fairly standard pop structure of verses and choruses. It’s not hard to imagine this done as just a standard pop song. However, the way that Ijime, Dame, Zettai stands out is in the execution. All the arrangement is wonderful, Yui and Moa’s shouts fit very well, and Suzuka’s voice is just beautiful.

Ijime, Dame, Zettai isn’t my favorite Babymetal song. I love it, but I don’t seem to love it as much as some others do. However, it’s very well executed and is ultimately a great song.

Overall: Babymetal’s first album is a very good one. There are no bad songs, and the slight missteps it takes are very minor and easily forgettable.

If you are seeing this review and you aren’t already accustomed to idol voices, listening to the Yui and Moa heavy songs will take some getting used to. Likewise, if you listen to primarily idol pop music and you have no experience with metal, this might take some getting used to. However, if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, Babymetal’s first album is an excellent jaunt into new territory for idol fans and metal fans alike. 9/10.

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.

What Makes an Indie Idol Indie?

Recently, Ray of Idolminded and now Pure Idol Heart posted THIS on Pure Idol Heart. As a fan of Pure Idol Heart in general (having named it my blog of the year at Idolminded) and as a fan of Ray’s writing (at Intl Wota and now Idolminded) I was really interested to hear what he had to say.

A big part of this is because indie idols are near and dear to my heart. While I got into idols (like many people) with Hello!Project, and I have favorite idols in the current Hello!Project (Ishida Ayumi, Tamura Meimi) and in the 48 groups (Watanabe Miyuki, Oota Aika, Natori Wakana) as well as in Momoiro Clover Z (Sasaki Ayaka), if I had to name my favorite idol groups, or the groups I support the most it would be:

Team Syachihoko  (Major)

rev.from DVL (indie)

Rhymeberry (Indie)

Dempagumi.inc (Major)

BABYMETAL (major)

and MMJ (indie)

Notice that next to each group I put their status and they’re fairly evenly split. Rhymeberry, rev.from DVL and MMJ are all technically indie and Babymetal, dempagumi.inc and Team Syachihoko are technically on major labels. However, for me it’s almost hard to differentiate. To me, all of these groups have an independent feel to them, regardless of their actual status as being major or independent. Both Babymetal and Rhymeberry are really interesting in regards to genre-bending. Team Syachihoko still performs primarily locally in Nagoya, and are really local idols like MMJ (Hiroshima) and rev.from DVL (Fukuoka). My most recent favorite, dempagumi.inc, is technically a local group (for Akihabara), and, in my opinion, have done their most interesting stuff recently, after a roster change and spending some time on a major label (including their genre-bending cover of the Beastie Boys classic ‘Sabotage’)

All these groups have a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy, and a lot of excitement, moreso than some of the major acts I’ve encountered. In my head I refer to all of them as indie idols, even though that’s not exactly the case. As Ray mentioned, things aren’t necessarily very cut and dry.

To me, this reminds me a lot about independent films, specifically the current Independent Spirit Awards. As you might imagine, the Independent Spirit Awards is an award that is given out to independent filmmakers. This is something I really appreciate, given the power that the major film studios have. However, last year Silver Linings Playbook got four awards including best film, best leading actress, best director and best screenplay. Now, let me just say that I absolutely adored Silver Linings Playbook; it ended up as one of my favorite films of the year (though Moonrise Kingdom ended up being what I considered to be the best of 2012). However, I would be hard pressed to call it an independent film. It had a budget of over 20 million dollars (which to many films is a very small budget) and was partially produced by and distributed by the Weinstein Company, a major force in awards season films, especially. They distributed The King’s Speech and The Artist, both which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Again, I liked both of these films as well, but it’s hard to define these as independent films. Likewise, there are many films that come out from major studios that are almost designed to have an indie feel and appeal to the audience that likes that sort of thing. Indie, rather than a category for finances, has become almost an aesthetic and stylistic choice more than anything.

I also found what Ray said about pushing boundaries quite interesting. Because out of the six groups I named, the “safest” or most traditional (I’d argue) are MMJ and rev.from DVL, the two indie acts, whereas the major label acts are pretty eccentric. Innovation is happening both in the indies and in the now majors, so it’s exciting stuff.

I don’t know if I have much more to add other than agreement; it’s a tough and somewhat nebulous distinction to make, even if it initially seems cut and dry.

Top Twelve PVs of 2012

One of the things that I’ve found completely interesting with my idol fandom is how interested in music videos as a form I’ve become. As a fan of indie/alternative rock, I’ve honestly not paid much attention to it. If you asked me what my favorite non-idol/JPop PV was before I became an idol fan, I’m not sure I could tell you; probably Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers (If you think idol PVs are weird, this might beat them out). Still, that’s really because music videos aren’t really used that much in the US. Sure they’re viewed on YouTube and people rush to see the newest Lady Gaga music vid, but it’s not as heavily monetized and people just don’t care quite as much, as a whole. However, at least for idols PVs are part of the package that gets sold (on singles/albums), and are considerably more important, especially since idols focus a lot more on image than bands do. 2012 had some excellent PVs, which I’m ranking here (I’ll talk about some of the stinkers later).

Honorable mentions:

Manatsu no Sounds Good – AKB48:  I wanted to love this PV; the effects are great, it looks fantastic, and I like the tone. However, there was just too big of a disconnect between the dance shot and the main story. I don’t mind a tonal shift, or even that it didn’t make much sense, but I wish that it felt more cohesive; even editing some of the story among the dancing would have helped. The elements were there, but in my opinion it’s not as effective as it could have been.

UZA – AKB48: It looks incredible, but there wasn’t really enough to interest me in multiple viewings. It’s essentially a prettied up dance shot + close ups. And this isn’t a dig at it; it’s one of the best looking PVs of the year. But it’s not quite as ambitious as I would have liked. While I don’t need a story with my PVs, I do need something to keep my interest, and UZA didn’t have it.

Cha Cha Sing (flashmob version) – Berryz Koubou: It’s kind of sad when the best lit H!P PV of the year was done in a public area. This was a fun, interesting idea that I liked a lot, but can’t really justify to put on my top list.

Kimi wa Jitensha Watashi wa Densha de Kitaku (Maimi version) – C-ute: Similarly, I don’t feel I can really put a solo version of a PV on a list, and the normal one didn’t quite grab me. But I really liked the longer Maimi PV, where she’s basically dancing by herself after a breakup. It’s really sweet, and made me want more drama PVs from H!P.

12. Parade – Aso Natsuko

I know the “running on the street and people start following” PV was done by Mano Erina, and done very well there, but Parade did it earlier and IMO is a lot more fun. Nacchan is at her best here with a fun, well-made PV that spoofs karaoke videos and bad monster movies. There’s some visual effects, but they don’t get in the way of a really fun time. All the extras in the PV do great, and it really is Natsuko’s best PV of the year.

11. Guru Guru Curtain – Nogizaka46

Nogizaka46 Guru Guru Curtain PV from Japanverse on Vimeo.

OK yes I’m going there. This is my controversial choice of the list, and I’m sticking by it. Lots of people thought this was a boring PV, and it might not be the most interesting PV by any means (which is why it’s so low on here). However, it is a very well-made PV that is just beautifully shot. I really love the juxtaposition of the black and white classroom and the colorful dance shot. The contrast in the black and white scenes is really lovely and the close up shots look fantastic. It might not be the most interesting PV of the year, but it’s one of the most well made and is just beautiful, which is why I personally thought it was fantastic.

10. 20112012 – Hyadain

Hyadain’s one of the most charismatic figures in modern JPop; while he’s made a name for himself in writing a lot of fantastic JPop music, often I find myself liking his solo stuff more. 20112012 was one of my favorite songs of the year, and the PV is very well served by Hyadain’s natural charisma. Hyadain’s a lot of fun here, and his energy is contagious. Aided by the dancer TAKAHIRO, Hyadain goes through a busy schedule, what I assume is very loosely based off of its own. It primarily takes place in a fictionalized apartment, and it’s just a lot of fun, mostly because of Hyadain’s charisma and energy. He’s just fun to watch (and Hyadain waking up is way more adorable than it should be). I especially like the various places he dances with TAKAHIRO, and the changes in rooms to the house. It’s creative and fun.

9. Synchro Tokimeki – Watanabe Mayu

[vietsub+kara] Synchro tokimeki – Watanabe Mayu from jackybin01b on Vimeo.

Mayuyu kicked off her solo career with a bang this year. While I didn’t rank any of her songs on my top songs list (they just didn’t impress me that much, and Mayuyu’s voice isn’t my favorite), her PVs have been excellent. The thing that I loved about Synchro Tokimeki is that it combines something of Mayuyu’s (her manga drawing) to be personal to her. Adding some great costumes and the whole standard “warrior saving a beautiful woman” storyline is pretty cute. It’s a very beautiful PV, as well, and I especially like the color balance in the storylines, with somewhat muted colors and gold in contrast to Mayuyu as an artist with bright colors everywhere. This is a really well-made PV and is a lot fun to watch, even though I don’t follow Mayuyu very muuch.

8. Hanikami Lollipop – SKE48

I love this PV so much; I think that using “France” as a backdrop is a great idea, the set’s beautiful, and I love the cute concept of Jurina having to help the people turn from black and white to color (very similar to the plot of the underrated film Pleasantville). I really also like the choice of making the colors kind of muted instead of bright; it has a very unique aesthetic. It’s not perfect (I have an issue with some of the editing in the PV), but purely on the aesthetic choices of the costumes, the colors and the sets, it was one of my most memorable PVs of 2012.

7. The Stardust Bowling – Team Syachihoko

OK, I have to admit that there’s a bit of a bias in putting Team Syachihoko on any list, since they’re currently my favorite idol group. However, that favoritism’s for a reason, and this is what kicked it off. This is Team Syachihoko’s debut PV, and while it’s clearly made for not a lot of money and is kind of a cheaper PV, it’s just fun. The most notable and memorable parts are the grown men in sunglasses in bowling pins. It’s weird, but really what did you expect from Stardust (Momoiro Clover Z’s company) idols? Some found this a bit creepy, and it kind of is, but I liked the “story” of the girls fighting off the bowling pins; any other idol group would have had the girls go bowling for the PV, but this is a step up. In addition it’s edited well (Kind of interesting that they only add in dancing near the end), and the girls themselves are energetic and incredibly fun to watch (my bias is towards Yuzuki, the one in purple, but seriously all these girls are great). It just made me want to follow Team Syachihoko and anticipate their releases, which is a great thing for a debut PV.

6. Show Fight! -AKB48 Future Girls

This is just a great looking PV. I really like the dark look they have going on and the muted colors. However, where this PV shines is just how the girls look. Whoever made this PV wasn’t afraid to make the girls look dirty, bloody and absolutely ruthless in beating each other up. This PV wins because it’s probably the grittiest idol PV I’ve seen. The triangle set is pretty interesting (allowing for good fights between three members at a time as well as an interesting dance shot set up). This simultaneously has some of the best lighting in a PV I’ve seen (which is an issue for a lot of groups) as well as being really daring as a PV. It’s a very interesting PV and one of my most watched ones of the year.

5. Headbanger!!! – BABYMETAL

2012 was the year Babymetal really came into their own. While Doki Doki Morning was all fine and good, Ii ne and Headbanger really set Babymetal apart with their sound, and it’s looking like 2013 is off to a great start with Ijime Dame Zettai. Headbanger was a really excellent PV, though. The black, white and red aesthetic, while perhaps stereotypical, looks really great in the dance/close ups. Seeing the transformation of Suzuka from school girl to metal singer due to the magical neck brace (yes, a thing that happens in this PV) is very entertaining, and the rapid pace editing (especially at the point when Suzuka first starts her headbanging) is excellent. I especially like the lighting choices in the dance shot bits. It’s not the most elaborate PV in the world, but all the elements really came together to make an excellent PV for Babymetal, and Babymetal’s best PV yet (though Ijime, Dame, Zettai has since been a better PV).

4. Hikaru Monotachi – Watanabe Mayu

I admit, the first time I saw this PV I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. I think the song’s alright, but it’s not my type of song. And I really wasn’t into the opening bits with seeing Mayuyu on Youtube/NicoNico and just performing. However, once you’re past the first chorus, you get a really well done PV with Mayu as a cyborg. This is when the YouTube/NicoNico comes into play well, as you see the fan backlash at Mayu being “fake.” This is kind of brilliant in how it plays off Mayu’s existing cyborg persona (I can’t see another idol pulling this off like Mayu did). There’s cool parts when Mayu is animated, and other parts where you see real Mayuyu with pieces of her missing (an error with Mayu’s CG). It also pretty brilliantly uses pieces from Mayu’s past two solo PVs, and the combination of animation, CG and Mayu mix together extremely well and feel cohesive despite having these various elements.

3.Moretsu Uchu Kokyokyoku Dai 7 Gakusho “Mugen no Ai” – Momoiro Clover Z

Momoiro Clover Z really had a great release this year with their first one, and while I ranked DNA Kyoushikyoku over Mugen no Ai in my song rankings, one of the initial things that really blew me away was the Mugen no Ai PV. While I usually am not a fan of PVs that rely too heavily on green screened graphics, Momoiro Clover Z did it perfectly here. The space setting works perfectly, and I love the very stylized graphics when Momoiro Clover Z are on their bikes. The lighting feels a bit too strong, but they really make it work here. The costumes are also some of the best of the year, with clear thought made to the quality of the garments. Momoiro Clover Z is also one of the most energetic and exciting idol groups out there right now, so the girls themselves do a lot to make the PV really click. Like I mentioned, I’m not usually the biggest fan of too much computer graphics in my PVs, but this really did a great job of proving that you can have a green screen heavy PV while maintaining great quality.

2. Kataomoi Finally – SKE48

It hurts to put this so low, and I wish I could put this at number one. The top two PVs of the year were completely obvious to me in their excellence, and Kataomoi Finally really was on another level. All the elements really came together to create a fantastic PV. The story components are really fantastic, and are one of the few times that a lesbian relationship in a PV was really done in a tasteful and classy way, not trying to appeal to the male gaze. I honestly really admired SKE48’s willingness to do this PV, as it’s possibly more daring than any other 48 group PV (with the exception of Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou and Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru). The choreography, which I named my top choreography of 2012, really plays well into the the song, and really works well with the editing. Honestly, every single element, from the lighting to the editing to the cinematography really works and is done perfectly. SKE48 has been putting out a lot of quality stuff, but man it’ll be hard to beat Kataomoi Finally.

1. Gingham Check – AKB48

Like I said, there was definitely a struggle between Kataomoi Finally and Gingham Check. However, Gingham Check won just because of the fact I like it so much. I love the clever look at film genres and their trailers, looking at cop movies, horror movies and giant monster movies and exploring romance within those boundaries. It also helps that Joseph Kahn had a really good visual style within the whole thing, almost exaggerated within their respective genres (lens flares and shining lights in the cop movie, a muted color tone that feels straight from the 50s-60s in the monster movie, and a dark feel with the horror movie). Various shots are vary reminiscent of certain movies (Godzilla and the Ring come to mind), but in addition to all this it’s just a lot of fun, it’s edited well, filmed well, and is done incredibly well, which made it my favorite PV of 2012.

Internet and Idols

Hey; moving my album reviews for Monday, so I can have weekends to work on them.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot is how fortunate I really am to be an idol fan. Earlier today was listening to the two Nerdist podcasts featuring Gabe Newell of the video company Valve (which has made a lot of really high quality games, including the incredible Half-Life 2 of which I’m a big fan). One of the big questions brought up was that since there’s more and more content being provided, how there’s less of a sense of community. Gabe mentioned something that now, with the internet, there’s a lot more ways to find community, and I really took that to heart with idols.

The fact is, without Youtube and other content providers, I wouldn’t be a fan of idols. And before the internet, you almost had to live in Japan, visit Japan or know someone who liked Japanese music. It was a lot more difficult to find content that you like, and now music is more international. I mean, sure it happened before (see: British Invasion), but I’m grateful for the internet.

I also really connected to the idea of finding a community online, because I don’t know anyone offline that likes the music that I do (at least the Japanese music), but now I’m connected to people through Happy Disco, Facebook and other sites. Hell, the MomoClo Facebook book I co-admin has been a really great resource for both Japanese and foreign fans to meet up and talk. Twitter too; while I get that AKB has their deal with G+, but twitter is really a great tool for companies.

Certain idol companies also do it better than others. I think one of the things that makes Hello!Project so popular with international fans is that they have worked with international fans in the past; I can buy new H!P tracks off iTunes, they used to have Hello!Store USA (which I spent a bit too much money on), and they have done a fairly good job of appealing to international fans. This wasn’t always the case; I remember distinctly when Takahashi Ai (or someone) said that Morning Musume members didn’t blog, and they sure realized that that reluctance was a bad idea. BABYMETAL has actually done, IMO, the best job of it, with an official Facebook page that updates in English, an official merchandise store and all their stuff on iTunes.

Slowly it’s becoming more and more possible for international fans to enjoy things, which also makes it more frustrating that other things aren’t international. I absolutely hate when a YouTube channel is region-locked, or the fact that I can’t spend money on things like AKB48 LODs; it’s understandable that not every place will ship internationally, but it’s when things are region locked that I think that some companies don’t get it.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than the fact that without the internet international idol fans wouldn’t be where we are, and that I can see things only getting better/easier for us from here.