Momoiro Clover Z Becomes Bigger and Bigger

For a group that started out doing performances on the street and for small audiences, Momoiro Clover Z has become really big. As a long time fan of the group it’s exciting and interesting to see where this group has gone over the years. While I haven’t liked every turn they’ve made (i.e. my very poor review of their single Otome Sensou) this group has worked really hard to get to the heights they are at right now.

Momoiro Clover Z performs at Kouhaku Uta Gassen

Performing at the major annual New Year’s event has been Momoclo’s goal for quite some time, and this year they finally achieved it. This is an achievement only major artists make, so it really establishes Momoiro Clover Z as being a major force within the Japanese music industry. While of course AKB48 is there and SKE48 is there, no other major idol groups are there (though other young female artists like Perfume and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu were there). This establishes Momoiro Clover Z as being a force to be reckoned with, potentially second only to AKB48 and the other 48 groups.

The best part of their performance, however, was with their second song, Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo. In the song they famously chant their names, and since they became Momoiro Clover Z sing “Reni Kanakooo (elongating Kanako) Shiori Ayaka Momoka.” However, at Kouhaku they sang the original “Reni Kanako Akari Shiori Ayaka Momoka”, in honor of Hayami Akari. If you watch the performance they point to the camera during her name, as if they brought Akari with them to Kouhaku. This is a very sweet gesture as MomoClo remembers their roots and their most prominent graduated member.

Momoiro Clover Z has a popular wikipedia page

This is a bit silly, really, but recently on aramatheydidnt a list of the most viewed Wikipedia articles in Japan was posted () which shows that Momoiro Clover Z is the most viewed page after AKB48 and then a list of AV actresses. Still, being 3rd isn’t bad, and shows that a good deal of people have interest in them.

The future?
Today, Momoiro Clover Z declared their goal is to perform in the Kokuritsu Stadium, which will be undergoing renovation in a year so it’s a major race against time. This is a huge venue in Japan, where only four artists have ever performed. This is kind of a long shot and a really big goal, but Momoiro Clover Z is aiming to become more and more popular.

Can I see it happening? Yes. Momoiro Clover’s rise from small group has been astronomical, and in less than two years they’ve gone from their major debut single to performing at Kouhaku Uta Gassen and being one of the biggest acts in Japan. While I miss the days when they were a smaller, more personal group, I think if any current group can be the biggest idol group it’s MomoClo. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, sale-wise with their second album (which was confirmed today). While their single sales are good, their first album (Battle & Romance) sold very well. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s a trend, especially considering how much more popular they’ve become since Battle & Romance was released.

Still, despite a few small issues, I’m really excited to see where Momoiro Clover Z goes into the future!

My Top 25 Songs of the Year (Part 3)

15. Show Fight – AKB48 Future Girls

Badass idols incoming! While this song is really augmented by the fantastic PV where AKB48’s future girls beat each other up, this song stands out well on its own showing that AKB48 doesn’t just excel in cuteness, that the girls can be badass and have a cool vibe as well. The song starts off a bit quiet and I admit at first I wasn’t sure how I liked this song; however, the chorus is the real star of the show, with the strong vocals and the soft, but interesting counter melody. The rest of the song is a lead up to this strong chorus, and does so extremely well. Ultimately this has a cool, not very idol-like sound that I really enjoyed.

14. Kinenbi ni Aimashou – Station

My album of the year, for those who don’t visit Idolminded, actually came from a surprising source, and that’s Station. Densha de Go Go is an all around very excellent album, and all the songs on it were very good. However, Kinenbi ni Aimashou did a tricky thing with me, and that’s make an idol ballad that I absolutely love. While I like ballads, they’re most of the time not the type of song that I choose to listen to. However, Kinenbi ni Aimashou is a total exception to this rule. My biggest pet peeve with ballads is when there’s a lot of over singing, or trying to overdo things with their voice. Kinenbi ni Aimashou thankfully avoids this by having very sweet (but still very good) vocals over a really beautiful instrumental track. It’s simple, it’s sweet, and that’s why it works so wonderfully.

13. Next Flight – Passpo

Passpo’s just one of those groups I’ve never gotten into. I can appreciate why they’re beloved by some, but I never really got the appeal. Until Next Flight. Next Flight shows just how well straight up rock music and idols can mix if done well, and it’s done VERY well. It’s extremely polished (the mix of Passpo’s vocals and the instrumental is exceptional) and it doesn’t take the idea of Passpo being a rock oriented group lightly. This sounds like it could be a song from a band that just got an idol group to do the vocals, not the other way around, and that’s a compliment. Its guitar solos are really great, but the whole sound of the song is just fantastic. This song, despite not being very traditionally idol-like, also is catchy and addicting, and was one of the songs I came back to again and again this summer. While Passpo is not necessarily my go-to idol group, this is just flat out a great song and one of my favorites of the year.

12. Sabotage –

I really wish I could have been a fly on the wall the day that someone pitched that the group cover the Beastie Boys, and rap/shout it in English. It’s weird, it’s strange, it shouldn’t work. But it totally does. The reason most likely is in it’s fantastic arrangement that combines Sabotage with some idol elements including the MIX at the beginning and some very cutesy parts. This arrangement was done by the one and only Maeyamada Kenichi (Hyadain) who excels at writing some really strange genre-bending songs of his own and for Momoiro Clover Z, Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku and others. Another reason for its success is how into it these girls get; I liked a lot when I first encountered them in their single Future Diver, but they really commit to Sabotage, which is what makes it a lot of fun. This is another love it or hate it song, but I personally find it a lot of fun and a refreshing change from a lot of cutesy idol pop. If you have a low tolerance for weird this is something you probably won’t like, but if you want something definitely different Sabotage might be for you. Or if you just want to hear an idol shout “I’ve got a fucking thorn in my side,” that’s another good reason too.

11. Mousou Girlfriend – NMB48

Speaking of cutesy idol pop, here’s a cutesy song! This is just a lot of fun, again love it or hate it. It’s almost paint by numbers adorable, singing about girlfirends and boyfriends and love, but I love how unashamed of how adorable it is. With the song alone it was one of my favorites of the year. However, despite having a fun song, the lyrics are what make it really remarkable, because it’s about being in a relationship with an idol. The POV of the song is a guy who is dating an idol, but despite challenges doesn’t want it to stop because their love is too strong. The line that blows me away every single time I hear it is “A scandal would be bad, but our love can’t be stopped!” The song is also very blatant in saying “you are an idol” and not just implying it. This is really gutsy, and because of this is probably the most daring song of the year, which says a lot since it’s the B-side to NMB’s single “Virginity.” Also, the fact that this came out not even a year after NMB48’s big scandal really shows how ballsy this song is. So while I find the song very enjoyable and very fun to listen to, the lyrics are a good part of why I found Mousou Girlfriend to be so outstanding.

My Top 25 Songs of the Year (Part 2)

20. Seigi no Mikata Ja nai Hero – Team B

If you are an AKB48 fan, probably one of the news items that probably affected you most was the new team shuffle. While I was a fan of the old team B (both original and after the first shuffle), I was tentatively very excited for the new Team B, which contains almost every favorite member of mine in the 48 groups, but the thing that really solidified new Team B for me as being really great is their first original song, Seigi no Mikata Janai Hero.

It’s not quite as cutesy as Team B has been in the past ( a la Love Jump), but I think really works well with all the members currently in the team. It’s high energy, has some really good guitar solos, and I am a total sucker for anything that has a back and forth like this song does. All the members sound really good, and mix well together, which is an achievement for a song with so many people. It’s catchy and fun, and really succeeded in getting me pumped up for new Team B, which was really the purpose of the song.

19. Kari Keiyaku no Cinderella – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

私立恵比寿中学『仮契約のシンデレラ』Sub R/E/K by asahi2307

While I am a big fan of the entire Kari Keiyaku no Cinderella single (especially the song with some purposefully unenergetic rapping, Utae! Odore! Ebidada), ultimately it was the A-Side that I came back to again and again. Since this was Ebichu’s first major debut single, it did a really good job of taking a lot of the things that made Ebichu great on their Indies label and just did it a step beyond. In my opinion one of Ebichu’s biggest strengths is just the overall level of energy they bring to everything, and I really don’t think a different group could pull this really strange song off. All the fast singing really stands out (including Ayaka singing the first 15 digits of pi really quickly), as does the tempo/style changes. Quite frankly, this is a weird song. However, that’s part of what makes it great, and underneath everything is a really catchy, strong melody that makes this a really great song and a really great start to Ebichu’s major label career.

18. Parade – Aso Natsuko

Being the one idol I’ve seen live, I have a really strong soft spot for Aso Natsuko. Her music does back this up too; her first two albums are excellent, she has a lovely voice, and her A-sides are catchy and infectious (since she does a lot of anime openings). However, while I love the ballads she sings, Nacchan is at her best singing infectious, upbeat songs. So even though her other singles this year, Lovely Girls’ Anthem and Fighting Growing Diary, were very very good, Parade feels like a return to the style that made me a Nacchan fan in the first place, somewhat similar to Diamond Star and Perfect Area Complete in style. There’s the fast singing she perfected in More More Lovers, a great guitar solo and the whole song feels almost uplifting (singing about moving into the future and whatnot). So while I love when Nacchan tries different things, this was a welcome return.

17. Samba de Toriko – Hyadain

OK, a male artist on this list, but I’m counting it because Hyadain writes for idols, so he counts. Anyways, I’m a fan of pretty much everything Hyadain does, but Hyadain is at his most interesting when he’s genre-bending, taking all sorts of different instruments, styles and vocals. And while Hyadain is ready to admit that this song isn’t a Samba, the tropical theme is certainly a big part of the charm of Samba de Toriko. While he has explored this in Momoiro Clover’s Coco * Natsu, he takes this to a different level with lots of different tempos and sounds blended into one really fun, energetic song. While I know some people don’t like this, I think this really shows Hyadain’s mastery of songwriting and arrangement, and it works really well here. While Samba de Toriko wasn’t immediately as catchy as some of his previous singles (at least in my experience), it really grew on me and became one of my favorite songs of the year.

16. Kataomoi Finally – SKE48

The fact that Kataomoi Finally isn’t even in the top 15 of my list shows how strong a year 2012 really was. Kataomoi Finally blew me away at the beginning of this year, and continues to be one of my favorite songs and PVs. However, the song itself shines apart from the spectacular PV. It’s a mature, darker sound, but it definitely worked well with the normally upbeat and energetic SKE48. The song has a lot of impact, and the forceful nature of the song really sometimes makes me shiver. I’m a sucker for a good string sound, and the rest of the arrangement is fantastic. Kataomoi Finally really showed how strong that SKE48 can be, it started 2012 with a bang and is still remembered as one of the best songs of the year.

My Top 25 Songs of the Year (Part 1)

Initially when working on this top list I intended for a top ten songs I loved from 2012. However, when writing down candidates I realized that that was far too small. The fact is, the past couple of years have been really really great for idol fans. Idols have been popular in Japan, which leads to more acts, more work being put on idol acts, and more money being put into idol acts. So instead of doing a top ten (which would end up shutting out groups and songs that quite frankly deserve notice) I’m doing a top 25 list with some honorable mentions. And even then I feel like I’m leaving off excellent candidates (my tentative list was originally around 50+ songs!), so if you see a favorite song not mentioned here I might have wanted to put it on here. It’s a good time to be an idol fan.

25. Avocado Janee~shi – Watanabe Mayu and Sashihara Rino

As a whole I found the 1830m album to be pretty underwhelming, and I am one of the few that actually really enjoyed Koko ni Ita Koto. However, I really enjoyed Avocado Janee~shi. One of the things that I really like as an idol fan (that will become very obvious further into this list) is that I like classic idol songs. While I like idol songs of today, if something is in any way retro or a callback to previous idols, I will eat it up. Avocado Janee~shi really reminds me in a weird way of Matsuura Aya songs in the peak of her Ayaya idolly days. Things like Momoiro Kataomoi, Ne~e and Yeah! Meccha Holiday. The song’s cute, but has a good upbeat pace to it, and some really fun guitar solos in there. While Watanabe and Sashihara aren’t known for being good vocalists, their voices sound really good here and play well off each other.

The lyrics are also really cute, with the person in the song comparing themselves to an avocado being among more appealing fruits. The whole song is pretty standard idol, but is really fun for if you want an idolly song, and as a big Ayaya fan this really appeals to me, and I know for a long while to come I’ll be singing “Avocado janee~shi, avocado dashi~” to myself.

24. A~rin wa Hankouki – Sasaki Ayaka

Has anyone ever had to justify “no, I’m not into this song because I’m biased, I really like it!” to others? This is how things work as a Momoiro Clover Z fan. Sasaki Ayaka is my oshimen of the group and one of my favorite idols, but out of all the Momoiro Clover Z solo songs Ayaka’s are always my favorite. Perhaps it’s because both of them are written by the wonderful Maeyamada Kenichi, who, spoiler alert, has a decent presence on this top list.

The reason that A~rin wa Hankouki works so much is because it feels very tailored to A~rin as an idol. Lots of idol solos can be generic and sung by everyone, but both A~rin wa Hankouki and the fantastic Datte A~rin Nanda Mon are songs that only really fit her. However, A~rin wa Hankouki is both high energy and mature sounding (a bit funny considering the lyrics are about A~rin wanting to rebel from her mother who tells her what she can and can’t do), and is a lot of fun. Some people might be put off by the long spoken/shouted monologues, but I really like them, as well as the rap done by none other than the songwriter himself, Maeyamada Kenichi. This is the type of song you’ll either love or hate, and I just happen to love it.

Ultimately, yeah I am biased towards A~rin and this song. However it’s a whole lot of fun and really is unique in how well it fits the singer.

23. Giri Giri Safe – Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

OK, this is kind of cheating because I don’t REALLY consider Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to be an idol. However, Pamyu Pamyu Revolution was a really strong album and I really wish that I could put more of it on this list. One song I particularly liked was Giri Giri Safe. It’s one of the most mellow songs on the album that’s sugary sweet and energetic, but it’s really sweet and mellow sounding. In my opinion this song really shows the variety that Kyary is able to do in her songs. The instrumentation is fantastic in the whole album, but shines in Giri Giri Safe especially with the sweet flute/whistle sounding part behind Kyary at some parts in the verses.

While I enjoyed her other singles of the year, especially Tsukema Tsukeru and Candy Candy, this album song is really nice to listen to. It’s not as out there as Kyary has been done (which I do love) but it shows that Kyary isn’t just weirdness and flash, but that there’s a lot to enjoy in her musical releases. This is why Pamyu Pamyu Revolution is one of my most played albums of the year and why I love Giri Giri Safe.

22. Hatsukoi Butterfly – HKT48

Even though it’s a b-side of an AKB48 single, I’d wager that Hatsukoi Butterfly was more highly anticipated than the A-Side, Eien Pressure. This is because it’s the first original song recorded by HKT48 and it includes ex-AKB48 members Sashihara Rino and (one of my favorites ever) Oota Aika. The song and PV was really the first time we get to see what to make of HKT48, at least to get a sense of what their debut single might be like.

While Hatsukoi Butterfly is admittedly a very idol-y song and isn’t quite as out there as, say, NMB48’s song on the single “HA!,” it’s the type of song I really wanted from HKT48. HKT has had its host of difficulties since it was formed with the big scandal it faced and the group had to fit two older veteran members into the group. However, despite everything, this song is energetic, cute, and fun to listen to, which is very fitting for a younger group. Maybe I’m just overthinking this, but the song sounds downright triumphant at times (starting at 2nd generation member Tashima Meru’s solo), which fits.

Even if this might not be earthshattering groundbreaking music, this is idol pop as a genre at its best, and I love it!

21. Renai Higaitodoke – NMB48

Despite everything, I’d say NMB48 had a pretty good year. Yes, there were graduations galore, especially among lesser known members. However, NMB48 successfully navigated past the big scandals of 2011 and really shined as their own group, slowly having more girls enter the senbatsu election line-up (five instead of one!). They have also had their own image, continuing to impress with their strong dancing skills and slightly sexier image than AKB48. I honestly liked every A-side this year and a lot of the B-Sides, and I wish I could put more of these on there.

However, Renai Higaitodoke really stands out. One of the B-sides from NMB’s Kitagawa Kenji single, it’s sung by the group’s Akagumi, with the chorus primarily alternating between very short solos sung by the members. The result is slightly haunting and unlike most idol songs, reminding me of a faster paced Dokusenyoku (Morning Musume), which is a good thing. This is especially unusual in a 48 large group song, which tend to focus on large group parts with very few solos. This causes Renai Higaitodoke to really stand out among the other songs released by the 48 groups this year. The song also does a really good job in playing to the strengths of the girls in the song, with Yamada Nana’s lines standing out to me a lot. This was one of the most memorable songs of the year, and one I liked a lot.