Here we go, time for my favorite 5 songs of 2016!
5. Dempagumi.inc – Va! to the Future
Dempagumi.inc had a pretty solid year with, among other things, two big albums – Go Go Dempa, earlier in 2016, and then a best collection called WWDBest ~Denpa Ryoukou~, and I recommend both – if you aren’t super familiar with Dempagumi.inc, WWDBest collects a LOT of Dempagumi.inc’s best music, and if you use Spotify it’s on there too!
However, from Go Go Dempa came one of my favorite songs of the year, Va! to the Future. While Dempagumi.inc has some great ballads, they’re at their best when they’re manic, fast paced, and Va! To the Future is that to a T. Perhaps not quite as ambitious as some of their past songs like both WWD songs, Va! to the Future is one of the most enjoyable songs of 2016 to listen to. It’s perfectly paced, has a great melody, and is super catchy. The arrangement is great – the piano sounds wonderful in particular. It’s pretty straightforward Dempagumi.inc, but, considering Dempagumi.inc is one of the most consistent idol groups out there in regards to having quality music, that’s not a bad thing at all. Va! to the Future is manic, upbeat, and one of the most fun songs of 2016.
4. ANGERME – Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku
I don’t think I expected an ANGERME song to to get this high on a top list, but I’ve been listening to Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku pretty regularly since its release back in April. Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku is near perfect, and a lot of that comes down to its beat and how well it works with the overall song. This was written and arranged by Hirata Shouichiro, a long-time arranger for Hello!Project who, among other things, has aranged songs like Def.Diva’s Suki Sugite Baka Mitai, Morning Musume’s Renai Hunter, and so on. While he’s arranged some other, cuter songs, Hirata’s great at doing cooler, EDM sounds, and it’s great that he’s been able to take that history of arranging for H!P and make a song that’s cooler and more interesting than a lot of H!P songs. So the beat is great, the electronic sound is great, and the melody works very well with this. There’s a perfect interplay of vocals, spoken sections and rap, to the point where this is a pretty complex song. Just an anecdote, but I tried to sing Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku at karaoke and completely failed, not from the rap sections but from the chorus. The members of the group also sell this song with all of that. This is one of Kamikokuryo Moe’s first songs and she completely sells her spoken section. Surprisingly the rap sections sound great, even though idol song rap sections are often mediocre. All the members of ANGERME are on point. Every element of Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku just works, and it was one of the best songs of 2016.
3. Keyakizaka46 – Silent Majority
Yeah, I’m just as surprised as all of you that Silent Majority is up here. When I spoke about The World Standard earlier I mentioned that they had a pretty stellar debut, I also mentioned that there was another group that had a great debut, and that’s Keyakizaka46. In many ways, Silent Majority feels almost like an instant classic, like they put out something as memorable as AKB48’s Heavy Rotation or Nogizaka46’s Seifuku no Mannequin as their debut. Silent Majority is just wonderful in every way. The accoustic guitar heavy arrangement works very well, the melody is almost immediately catchy – after the first listen I was almost immediately singing the final “Silent majority!” of the chorus to myself. Even though the melody from the verses and the chorus are very different, they manage to work well together.
However, while the musical elements are pretty perfect and memorable, the lyrics are some of my favorite that I’ve heard from any idol song. While they’re focused on individuality and choosing your own path (which has been tread before), it especially calls out that silent majority who stick to the designated path society gives you, asking them “are you really OK with saying yes?” and telling people that they should think for themselves, even if it means travelling an empty path. It’s a realistic but compelling argument, and one that feels culturally relevant for modern society in a way that not a lot of other idol songs feel. Lyrics are rarely a reason I choose a song for this list, and I wouldn’t put Silent Majority so high on this list if the musical elements weren’t all fantastic, but Silent Majority’s lyrics are wonderful.
2. Morning Musume ’16 – Utakata Saturday Night
If I didn’t expect ANGERME to make my top 5 I certainly didn’t expect Morning Musume. Morning Musume’s output in 2016 was mostly unmemorable – they’ve hit a bit of a musical rut. However, Utakata Saturday Night has the double whammy of being just about a perfect song, being a perfect Hello!Project song, and being clearly disco-flavored (which you should know, based off the name of this blog, is something that I adore). Utakata Saturday Night feels reminiscent of old-school, golden era Hello!Project in the vein of Love Machine and Renai Revolution 21 without retreading or rehashing those old songs. In many ways Utakata Saturday Night feels like an instant classic – it’s a song I wouldn’t be surprised if Morning Musume was still regularly performing in 10 years. It has a great beat, the strings in the arrangement are great, and it has an immediately catchy melody. It also feels like a very relevant song for idols, focused on how ephemeral and short lived the experience is. While it may not sound immediately like a song for graduating idols, in a way it’s pretty perfect as being Suzuki Kanon’s big last hurrah while in the group. It’s one of the most fun songs of 2016, too, and the one that I honestly thought would be #1 for months until I got to November.
1. Momoiro Clover Z – The Golden History
I fought pretty hard over which song I should put at #1, this or Utakata Saturday Night. Both are fun, upbeat songs with a lot of disco and funk influence. However, The Golden History ended up getting it. It has a pretty fantastic, funky beat, the horns that start out the song immediately caught my attention, and it’s up my alley in a way that I didn’t quite expect Momoiro Clover Z to get. Earlier this year, I hemmed and hawed about whether I should fly out to see Momoiro Clover Z’s live show in New York – I had already gone on vacation to New York earlier that year, and it didn’t make a whole lot of financial sense. However, The Golden History’s PV came out and I immediately realized I had to go see this performed live. I think I would have eventually chosen to go, but The Golden History sped up that decision – that’s how good it is to me. This is also one of the best songs I’ve ever seen performed live, as it builds perfectly, gets the crowd pumped, and gets everyone jumping throughout the chorus. It’s one of my favorite concert experiences ever. However, even outside of a concert venue, The Golden History is a pretty perfectly written, arranged, and performed song and it definitely deserves being my #1 song of a strong year of music.