The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Matsuda Seiko’s Christmas songs

It’s no secret that I like Matsuda Seiko a lot, or at least I hope it’s not a secret. Seiko is basically the idol of idols – while idol singers existed before Seiko, she really set the image for what an idol is. If you imagine a stereotypical idol, I’m betting it’s something similar to early Seiko. She’s also had the longest career of pretty much any idol. She’s put out 81 singles, 49 albums, 40 Best albums, and countless other things. Among all of these things she has released two best of albums focused on Christmas songs as well as one winter best of.

Most of these songs tend to be covers, however they’re still fun to hear. And since I can’t cover all of these songs reasonably, here are some highlights!4

First up, familiar to most American listeners, is Wham’s Last Christmas which Seiko covered for her album Christmas tree. I have to say, while I’m not too big on the original, I m enjoying this more than I thought I would. I’m also very impressed by just how strong Seiko’s English pronunciation is. I know she briefly attempted to bring her career to the United States (Which didn’t end up working) but her pronunciation, while still accented, is quite good.

Next up is Koibito ga Santa Claus, a cover of a song originally by Matsutoya Yumi. While it’s a cover there are quite a few performances Seiko did of it, which is part of why I’m touching on it here. Because really, Seiko’s performance is so good. Her voice is always great, but, as you can see here, she also had a very magnetic stage presence. The song’s great (I particularly enjoy the titular line of “Koibito ga Santa Claus!” that starts the chorus off), but Seiko does a lot to sell it, as well.

Want even more Christmas performances by Seiko? Well, you should! This is a great video that includes an 11 minute Christmas song medley performed by Seiko as well as a performance of her song Hoshi no Fantasy, which is a beautifully orchestrated and performed ballad. It’s a great chance to see quite a bit of classic Seiko performing.

Now I bet you’re thinking “Serenyty, you’ve gotten me hooked! Is there any more classic Matsuda Seiko Christmas songs I can easily listen to?” Well, you’re in luck! This YouTube user has compiled nearly an hour of Seiko Christmas tunes and performances into one Youtube video.

Seiko is a JPop legend, and these Christmas songs and performances prove it, by still being pleasant to listen to and view even today!

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Age Age☆Christmas

When coming up with my list of songs to cover this year, I came up a bit short. So, I resorted to searching on YouTube アイドルクリスマス(idol Christmas) and found this, and I’m glad I did!

Age Age Christmas is the first single from Nagoya idol super group 7☆3 – this group has members from OS☆U, Nagoya Clear’s, The Spunky, Star☆T and others. So it’s a bunch of idols from Nagoya coming together to do a Christmas song. On the beach. Because of course they are.

The song itself is really quite good – all of the members sound great, and there’s not a bad vocalist among them. The vocal mix during the group parts sounds great, as well, with some beautiful harmonies. The rest of the arrangement works really well, too – there are bells as expected by a Christmas song, but there’s often a light disco feel to the song. The melody works very well, and the chorus is particularly catchy. It’s not quite an instant classic, but for being a debut it’s quite good. My biggest criticism of the song, if there is any, is that it doesn’t sound like a Christmas song all that often. The lyrics are very Christmas-y, but if I wasn’t paying attention I wouldn’t think that it had anything to do with Christmas. That’s a very small criticism, though, because the song is very listenable and fun.

The PV is set on the beach, which should immediately seem odd. However, the members wear (slightly skimpy) Santa outfits in parts of the PV, there’s a fake snow effect laid over it, and there are Christmas trees in the background. It’s not the first choice many would make for a Christmas-themed PV, but I suppose it does give a PV for those idol fans who might be in warmer climates during the holidays. It’s a fun PV, anyways, even if it’s unconventional.

For being a song and PV from a group I didn’t know, Age Age Christmas is a whole lot of fun and works well despite it being a little bit unconventional.

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Merry x Merry X’Mas

E-Girls is one of those groups that I don’t pay attention to much, but hwen I like something they do I REALLY like it. Gomen Nasai no Kissing You is one of my favorite idol songs period, and I absolutely loved their Odoru Ponpokorin cover.

Merry x Merry X’Mas gives me, more than any classic Christmas or current song, ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ vibes. It’s modern and fun while still being cute and upbeat. Plus, E-Girls tend to be much stronger vocalists than any of the idols I’ve covered for this feature so far. Honestly, I’ve never quite liked All I Want for Christmas is You, but Merry x Merry X’Mas works better for me. I really like the melody (particularly in the section leading up to the chorus as well as the chorus itself) and it has a warm, pleasant sound to it. I like the melody a lot, as well as the pretty constant beat in the background – this melody could very easily veer into ballad territory, but E-Girls wisely keeps it upbeat here.

One of the things that is very apparent about Avex idol groups and singers is that the production value for their songs is generally high and Merry x Merry X’Mas is no exception. I’m not always so into this level of production, as I like the often real/fresh production that other idol groups utilize. Often Avex groups sound a bit overproduced and too glossy. However, this song very much deserves the extra level of gloss, and still manages to have a warm, happy sound to it. Both the melody, arrangement and the production work together to make a great song to listen to, and one I know I’ll revisit.

The PV is pretty typical E-Girls, but that’s not a bad thing. The set design is gorgeous, and the production value is high. There’s not much to it than that. At points, E-Girls’ dancing gets to feeling a bit over the top – I get that a big part of the strength of E-Girls is that they are all very very good dancers, but it might do them some good to tone down their performance. The biggest exception here, though, is the solo dancing section. The timing of the solo dances with the song works very well, and I like that it showed off members of the group that aren’t singing.

Merry x Merry X’Mas hasn’t even been released as a single yet, and I can already tell it’s going to be a modern idol Christmas song classic that I’ll be listening to for years to come.

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Jin Jin Jingle Bell

Yet another Jingle Bells centric song!

This time this song is a bit older – from the 90s, and originally by Moritaka Chisato who I don’t quite know if I classify as an idol. I mean, she was a very idol-y performer, but she wrote her own music. Anyways, Moritaka did write this, even though this is a fairly simple song – the chorus of “Jin jin jingle bell jin jin jingle bell Merry Christmas” is repeated a lot. However, it is a good chorus and not unpleasant to listen to. The verses aren’t anything special, though – they’re mostly the connective tissue between the repetition of the chorus. That said, it is a decent take on Jingle Bells as a song, because Jingle Bells is such an overplayed song that I’m glad to hear something different from it. Also, Jingle Bells is really kind of an obnoxious song, so having anything different is preferable.

Since this is an older, well known Christmas idol song it gets covered! The first up is from model Sasaki Nozomi, featuring Pentaphonic.

Surprisingly this adds a lot, including quite a bit of rap, some new melody, and more instrumental. It’s a much longer version. Which isn’t a particularly good thing. It feels very dragged out – Nozomi isn’t a particularly strong rapper (or singer, really), and there’s nothing that makes this deserve the longer run time. This just feels tedious.

Back in 2013 (wow, really, two years ago?) Super Girls formed subgroups to release covers of classic idol songs. One of the groups, Twinkle Veil, covered this. This is a much more traditional cover, and, as much as I’m a Moritaka Chisato fan, this is probably my favorite version. The production of this is very bright and cheery, and adds some much needed energy to the song. The original is much more subdued in performance, but Twinkle Veil did a fairly conservative cover (not wildly different like Sasaki Nozomi’s) with the production of a modern group.

Finally, Moritaka Chisato did a 2014 version as a self cover:

It’s not too different but with a bit of light rapping in the backround. It’s pretty good – it’s still undeniably a Moritaka Chisato version, and the weird hip hop addition is pretty unnecessary. However, it does have some more energy to it, which I like.

Overall this is a pretty solid Christmas song that really depends on the production/how it’s done.

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas -Aitai Lonely Christmas

From Hyadain’s bitter Christmas song to C-ute’s depressed one, both about being lonely on Christmas.

First, can I say just how weird it is that Aitai Lonely Christmas is five years old? Generally, when I think of idol music I think of “anything that came out before I was an idol fan” is old, however, as idol music continues to grow, that definition is increasingly archaic. So even though Aitai Lonely Christmas feels very recent to me, it happens to be already five years old. Wow.

I love just how overwrought and melodramatic this song is. It starts off with a darker beat and then goes straight into the chorus of “aitai no ni” that just begs to be belted out. I went off to do something else while writing this, and the entire way I couldn’t help but sing “AITAI NO NIII.” The verses are fine, but the chorus has a very catchy melody that is easy to sing dramatically.

That said, the lyrics do fit, by the simple reason of ending the chorus with “konna kimochi hajimete” (it’s the first time I’ve felt this) – the contextualization of first love makes the melodrama work. And the fact that it’s Christmas adds on to that – it’s not only that they aren’t with their love, it’s Christmas too!

The rest of the song is pretty typical Hello!Project, but I love that there is a melodramatic song about moping around during Christmas, unable to be with your boyfriend.

The PV, while not necessarily the greatest thing, came at a time when H!P PVs could be counted on to be fairly lazy and unimpressive. This actually looks nice. The interior sets have a nice, warm feel to them and the “outside” set utilizes cool colors. While there are some moments of unintended humor (Maimi looking dramatic after writing “Merry Christmas” and “suki” on a piece of paper mostly), the set design is pretty great.

While this isn’t something I listen to often during the holidays, I appreciate that it exists, and I still get “aitai no niiii” stuck in my head more often than I’d like to admit.

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Christmas? Nani Sore? Oishii No?

Yes, I know Hyadain isn’t an idol. However, since he writes almost exclusively idol music, I tend to put him on my blog. That, and I’m a big Hyadain fan, and I’d just like a venue to talk about his music.

Song: This song has a lot of the same elements as Momoiro Clover Z’s Santa-san, which I covered yesterday. For one Hyadain (AKA Maeyamada Kenichi) wrote both of them, and they are a modern take on classic Christmas melodies, most prominently Jingle Bells (though this song incorporates even more songs than Santa-San did). However, despite having the same DNA, they couldn’t be more different. Santa-san is bright, upbeat and cheerful, whereas “Christmas? Nani Sore? Oishii no?” is incredibly bitter. The lyrics are all focused on being a single adult at Christmas and the difficulties involved in it. It ends up being very bitter the round of Joy to the World in a minor key sounds so despondent and sad. That said, a lot of it is funny in that kind of way – a particularly memorable lyric is Hyadain describing what a “white Christmas” is, which is a bit off-color and not what I was expecting at all. Replacing “Jingle Bells” with “Single Hell” also works so well.

That said, as great as Santa-san is, “Christmas? Nani Sore? Oishii No?” is more of a feat. It’s combining more Christmas songs into one thing, and while it’s not quite as cohesive as Santa-san it is still very listenable. The song works up from a quiet start to a frantic end, where “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” are sung over each other. Of course, knowing that all the vocals are Hyadain (some with the use of voice modulation) make it all more impressive.

If “Christmas? Nani Sore? Oishii No?” Isn’t on your Christmas music rotation, you should amend that immediately.

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Santa-san

Oh yes.

Song: I absolutely adore Santa-san, and its been a favorite of mine since it came out. Momoiro Clover Z’s foray into Christmas songs (though they have had some venue-only Christmas singles), Santa-san is all over the place yet somehow coherent in a way that Maeyamada Kenichi can only do. Bringing together melodies from Jingle Bells, Joy to the World and MomoClo’s own summer song Koko Natsu, Santa-san shouldn’t work but absolutely does. In fact, for combining these songs, it feels remarkably cohesive.

Maeyamada Kenichi’s composition is, as always, an absolute joy to listen to. He’s become the master of composing the weirdest songs that somehow manage to make sense. He’s also great at writing songs for a specific group, and Santa-san feels like a perfect high energy song to fit Momoiro Clover Z very well. Because of this, MomoClo’s members add a lot to the song, using a lot of energy and making it all work.

I mostly love how goofy Santa-san is. Every member hams it up while singing, eschewing things like “quality vocals” to just play up the song (the over exaggerated way Kanako sings her last solo in the song is just perfect, as is Reni asking fans to send her presents). It’s a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is honestly just what I want from an idol song during the Christmas season.

PV: This PV does a great job of taking what was great from the PV and just doing it in PV form. The silliness quotient is high here, as it’s pretty much Momoiro Clover Z goofing around in a house. Momoka sings into a ladle, Reni air drums with chopsticks, all the members dress Kanako up with ornaments and garlands and a Christmas tree. A Facebook group I’m in votes yearly with the simple question: Shopping cart Shiori or Refrigerator A~rin (I’m always Team Refrigerator A~rin, myself). It’s obviously a constructed PV, but they capture the effect of Momoiro Clover Z goofing around.

The editing is pretty perfect, keeping a quick but not frantic pace. I think the slow motion works as well. The only complaint I have is that occasionally the color balance is a little weird – I wonder if the slow motion camera is part of that, as it looks strangest during the slow motion sections. However, the whole PV is a little desaturated for a reason I don’t quite get.

Still, this is a modern classic of idol Christmas music and PVs, and is probably the most fun one I’m going to cover in this series.

The Twelve Days of Idol Christmas – Pittari Shitai X’Mas

Recently, I was thinking of doing a feature about idol music. However, I remembered that I had in the past done a list of my favorite idol Christmas tracks, so I was unsure if this would be repeating too much. I looked back to see when I did that list and it was in 2010, so I think we’re good.

Also, I was talking with Chiima of Okay! Musume Time who reminded me she has been doing the exact same thing for years. Which, as a regular reader of that blog, somehow slipped my mind. Whoops! Sorry for stealing your idea, Chiima!

The idea of this post is to be a short but sweet look at Christmas-themed idol songs and music videos. Please note that all of these are going to be Christmas themed, not generic idol winter themed. While I like a lot of idol songs that have a winter theme (RYUTist’s Fuyu no Mahou, Dempagumi.inc’s Fuyu e to Hashiridasou, and Babyraids’ Koyomi no Ue de wa December being particular favorites) I’d like to be more direct with these posts.

The first song and PV I’d like to take a quick look at is Petitmoni’s Pittari Shitai X’Mas. The reason this happened to be the first is because for a lot of international idol fans it is the first Christmas-themed idol song we really were aware of, because a lot of idol fans (myself included!) started out as Hello!Project fans.

Song: I quite enjoy Pittari Shitai X’Mas. It has a retro girl group kind of sound (and this was retro in 2001!). But it’s held up very well in a way that a lot of old-school Hello!Project songs have held up. This has a great melody and a really solid arrangement that’s fun to listen to. The lyrics are a bit stereotypical (the good old “Santa, please bring me a man!” kind of thing) but they are definitely serviceable. All the members do a great job with the material too – while Yoshizawa Hitomi is the weak link to vocal heavyweights like Yasuda Kei and Goto Maki, she does a good job matching them here.

The one thing that I don’t quite get is just how often Tsunku has to do his additional vocalizations. I think this is one of those polarizing things about Hello!Project music. Personally, I don’t mind Tsunku being among the background vocals in H!P songs, but some of the weird grunts in Pittari Shitai X’Mas just sound weird and don’t quite fit with the rest of the song being so cute.

Overall, aside from not quite getting some of the Tsunku vocal parts, I quite like Pittari Shitai X’Mas. It’s not my favorite Hello!Project song and it’s frankly my least favorite Petitmoni single, but that’s in part because the rest of their singles were so great – this song doesn’t live up to the heights of Chokotto Love and Baby Koi ni Knockout. Still, this is a song I listen to every single year around this season and one I enjoy a lot.

PV: It’s almost amazing how terrible Hello!Project PVs have been and how low the production values have been. This PV is nothing but pure cheese, done either on green screen or on a very low-budget set. The green screen work is all with some pretty poor animation that was most likely slapped together quickly.

That said, while this is pretty much an objectively bad PV, I kind of love it? I think the thing that sells it are the three members – they ham it up in front of the camera, act silly, and somehow manage to make the terrible animation work. The editing isn’t terrible, either – the PV has a good movement to it, and doesn’t tend to linger on any one element (which is a good thing).

Is this objectively good? No. Is this very fun to watch? Yes.

Overall: If Pittari Shitai X’Mas isn’t one of your classic idol songs you listen to every holiday season, I don’t know if I can help you there! It’s cheesy but very fun.