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.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 3

Especia

Especia’s a group I’ve heard of only by name, but I never knew anything about them. They come from Osaka and were formed June 2012, and have six members. Since the name means ‘spice’ in Spanish, their goal is variety in fashion and in members. While I don’t immediately see it (the group itself seems pretty fashionable in a similar way), it’s a nice idea.

What interests me is that their aim is to have 80s/disco themed songs/music. I’ve enjoyed this idol/disco fusion whenever I’ve heard it before (this blog isn’t called Happy Disco for nothing!), so when I saw this I was intrigued.

Right when I started to listen to the title track off their latest EP, Amarga (they have two EPs so far, the second one considerably longer), I immediately heard the 80s influence; synth and saxophone. They immediately go for that 80s feel which is pretty interesting; while that’s not necessarily the part of disco-influenced music I enjoy (this feels a lot more 80s than 70s, that’s for sure), Especia’s music is unique. I can’t think of an idol group that’s ever sounded like them, even when thinking back to older idol artists.

So while I’m not quite sure how I like Especia’s music (it’s not doing all that much for me, I’m afraid), I really admire that this group is so unique among all the other idol groups at TIF. In fact, if I was going to TIF I would probably go see Especia at some point, because I bet it would be a refreshing experience. The members also seem pretty talented, which is good because the music is so different that it would be a bit strange to hear lesser vocalists do it.

So I definitely recommend you check out Especia; I can’t guarantee you’ll like the music, but this group is really different in a great way.

Electric Ribbon

Electric Ribbon’s a pretty unique group as well! There are three members but only two are up front performing; the other member, asCa, is the leader and is in charge of the music/producing. So, from what I can tell, they’re mostly self-run (or run by asCa) which is a pretty interesting and fairly rare group set up. Usually idols tend to be very corporate and run by big companies, but at TIF there are a few groups that are run differently, and that’s always refreshing. The girls also seem older than your average idol, so that’s another way they stand out from the crowd.

They have a very electronic/techno sound, presumably based on asCa’s interests/abilities. So far there are two singles out; Docchi mo Docchi and Repurikapuriko, and both have been performed as early as 2011, so they have a bit of experience but not a lot of new singles. I definitely prefer Repurikapuriko, but so far I’m not quite into the music. One of the most interesting things is that on the second single fans are encouraged to send in remixes; in fact, there are separate tracks of each instrument in Repurikapuriko so fans can remix their stuff. So if you’re into electronic music and make remixes you should definitely check this out.

I can’t say I’m going to follow them too much; it doesn’t feel like they’re a very active group, and so far the music isn’t really grabbing me. I find myself less interested in the idols up front, and with the woman in the back doing the music. So even though I might not become a huge Electric Ribbon fan, like with Especia I can definitely appreciate what they’re bringing to the table.

ALLOVER

ALLOVER is a bit intimidating to me. I’ve heard of them before, and I know of them, but I’ve never bothered to take much of a look.

The reason I’m slightly intimidated is that they’re a super group of indie idols dedicated to spreading Akihabara culture. Members from indie idol groups including asfi, Doki Doki Dream Campus, Nato*Kan, Candy Go Go, Smile*Pocket, Anna*S, and Cover’s Doll have come together to create one giant idol group ALLOVER (Alice Project has also participated in the past, along with a few other groups). It’s really smart, in a way; I had only heard of a couple of these groups before learning about ALLOVER, so it promotes multiple indie idols. Further, ALLOVER is becoming more and more known, from what I’m aware, so it brings up every group.

Currently there are 18 full members on three teams with 3 “support members.” The group formed last year, 2012, and have so far released 3 singles. The other great thing about having all these members from different places is, I imagine, it allows for a lot better production values than if these groups were doing something alone. I was immediately impressed when I saw their latest PV. It’s simple, but it’s definitely good looking. I am also impressed by their voices; usually the (unfortunate) bias I have is that an indie idol group isn’t going to have vocal training, but ALLOVER is very listenable.

Ultimately, while I was intimidated at first, I’m really glad I found ALLOVER because now I know that they’re actually a pretty group, and one I’m going to keep my eye on for the future!

Ogawa Mana

OK, mini history lesson. Back in the day, Hello!Project was pretty much dominating the idol scene (other idols existed, but H!P was definitely pretty big). So, back in 2007, Tsunku created a rival project called Nice Girl Project, primarily by his own label TNX, as a rival to Hello!Project. So he took some Eggs and made The Possible (a group we’ll get to later), and Canary Club became one of the groups. Ogawa Mana was pretty much the star of Canary Club and of Nice Girl Project. Unfortunately, NGP has never really taken off, and eventually Canary Club stopped doing much and fell into obscurity. Their last single was in 2010, Ogawa Mana’s last solo release was in 2010 (a joint single with Berryz Koubou’s Sugaya Risako for the anime Gokujou! Mecha Mote Iinchou!).

So it’s really interesting to me that Ogamana is suddenly doing TIF. She hasn’t really released anything lately, as far as I know she’s not doing much of anything. But really, Nice Girl Project, in my opinion, mostly came around at a rough time. 2007-2009 wasn’t exactly the best time for idol acts, before the current idol boom. Ogamana has some good charisma and is a good star; she only came around at the wrong time.

So it seems that she has a new Youtube channel (Ogachannelofficial) with some new uploads and new songs. So it seems like she and The Possible are really trying to revive their careers. Which is definitely good for her; she’s cute, has that charisma, and is a really good singer, so I could see her having a good career resurgence with a little promotion and some good songs. I haven’t followed her that closely in the past (though I have a strange fascination with Nice Girl Project, so I check in on them now and again), but I’m really interested to see where she goes now, and I hope that this doesn’t fizzle out like last time.

Okite Porsche

Okite Porsche is from the new wave band Roman Porsche. But beyond that he’s worked with Vanilla Beans, and DJs. Last year DJed at the Idol Club Night, the show for the sexier, adult idol groups. I would honestly be surprised if he did something different this year.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 2

More groups have been announced! My work is cut out for me!

ICT Lovelies

A group I haven’t heard of yet! These girls come from the “Happy Super Generation,” which, from what I gather, gets girls to become full-fledged idols, and supports/trains them. A lot of focus is on the idea of them becoming “real idols,” and working hard to debut. So these are five girls (one generation) from a project aiming to get girls with no stage experience to become real idols. (One of the things that I always thought defined an idol was that they didn’t really need experience and were new to showbiz, but that’s another blog post).

ICT Lovelies released their first mini album “Dare ga Debut Dekiru no?” (Who can Debut?) last November and have since released another mini album. So even though there’s not too much about this group out yet, they have a surprising amount of original music out there. Most of what I found is rehearsal videos, and I haven’t seen a PV yet.

They seem to have a more rock-themed sound and are actually pretty good performers so far. The whole “we want to debut!” theme is a bit stale at this point, and there are plenty of groups doing that whole thing. Still, for all their emphasis on the group being new and fresh, they’re actually pretty strong already as a group, and I find myself interested in them, despite my skepticism at their concept and and at Happy Super Generation as a whole.

I have no idea if they’ll go anywhere from this, but I like them already, so I’d recommend checking them out.

Afilia Saga

Afilia Saga is one of the many groups that I feel like I should follow more but I don’t. And it’s a shame, because they’re definitely a solid group that’s worth paying attention to.

Afilia Saga, formerly Afilia Saga East, is formed of maids at the Afilia Saga maid cafe chain. The chain itself is set in an imaginary Afilia Kingdom, with a role-playing, magic concept to it as well. Needless to say, the ins and outs of the maid cafe chain are a bit irrelevant to fans outside of Japan (though I know I’d be all over this if I was in Japan), but it does explain why members have unique stage names, like Louise Sforzur and Laura Sucreine. It’s all a part of the maid cafe.

So far the group has released multiple singles and two albums (the most recent release was their album Archism, that came out in April of this year). If you aren’t familiar with idol groups other than the main mainstream ones, Tsunku (of Hello!Project fame) wrote their song “Knee-high Egoist.” He’s also producing the Akihabara Backstage Pass cafe and their idol group with the Afilia Saga producer Chiyomaru, and Afilia Saga is considered to be a part of that massive group.

Like I said earlier, this is a group I wish I’d follow. I like the concept (though I wish I’d see more of the whole fantasy world in their PVs, from what I’ve seen at least), and most of the songs/PVs I’ve heard are quite good. This is a well-produced group with really good production values, so if you want a group that’s not quite as indie as the rest of Tokyo Idol Festival, Afilia Saga might be a good group for you.

Victory

This is a hard band to look up. Victory is not a very good idol group name if you want people to be able to easily look you up.

That said, I’m not finding anything on them, and if you know anything please tell me. There’s no webpage linked, and all I can find is this picture on the TIF site. They’re holding guitars so I guess they’re more of a band? Perhaps they’re a self-composed idol group, like Kurikamaki, and just picked a name that’s really tricky.

Otherwise I’m stumped. Sorry guys.

EDIT: This morning I was alerted that Victory created their official site.

http://anagashima.wix.com/victory-

They were a band of five girls created when they were in their last year of Elementary school. Now they’re a high school age band, and have participated in Teens Rock Festibal in HITACHINAKA as well as Rock in Japan 2011. So as opposed to be more idol focused, it feels like they’re going the route of SCANDAL and other bands.

In 2011 they released their first single “Niji” (rainbow) and have since released another single, “Home.”

They have some videos on their website, and I have to say that even though I wouldn’t classify them as idols, they kind of fit into my alternative/indie rock genre that I like to listen to when I’m not listening to JPop. These girls are clearly talented (the vocalist is wonderful and there’s some great instrument playing in Home) and I can see myself becoming a fan. So if you’re open to rock and bands as opposed to strictly idols, take a listen.

Usa Usa Shoujo Club

This is the group behind one of my favorite idol groups, Rhymeberry. While Rhymeberry was a subgroup, they’ve become their own separate act so I’ll cover them as such.

The group currently has 11 members that perform regularly at the Akasaka Genki theater. The average age of the members is a very young 13 years old, because they (like Sakura Gakuin) graduate the girls once they hit high school age. Personally it’s not my favorite tactic, and I think it’s one that ultimately hurts groups (especially since they have to graduate some of the popular members), but if you like really young idol singers then Usa Usa Shoujo Club is one to check out.

They’ve had multiple subgroups in their time; Chu Ni, Zipcode, and now Little Rabbits. Rhymeberry, the rap subgroup, has been the most successful. However, in the past year Usa Usa Shoujo Club has released their debut single “Number One” which sold 1000 copies (which tells you what level of popularity they’re currently at).

Personally, while I like the group, it’s a bit hard to follow all the new members and graduations, especially since the main focus is on performing. The group is pretty good, though, and they’re very cute, so if you can get past that mandatory graduations thing then I definitely would recommend them to you.

Also, go read my friend Magic Thomas Jefferson’s write up of going to an Usa Usa Shoujo Club event HERE. He talks a bit about going to one of their live events, and helped me out getting my initial information about the group last year (which got me into Rhymeberry).

S★Spicy 1

This is one of the first acts of the year that I’ve never heard of before, and wow it’s kind of an interesting one. This act actually comes from Stardust Promotions of Momoiro Clover Z, Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku and Team Syachihoko fame. Only, this has been around before MomoClo’s big major debut in 2010.

This was originally a group of “big sister” idols known as S Spicy, but became a solo project of Kurita Moe, S Spicy 1. They released one single “Exotic Spice” in 2010 but haven’t done much of anything since.

This feels like they’re doing what Nice Girl Project has done, by trying to bring back projects from old (See: The Possible, Ogawa Mana). The only songs from this group/solo act, Exotic Spice and Crying Face, are on the official website and definitely aren’t bad at all. So it’ll be interesting if they actually try promoting this, considering how well Stardust has been doing lately.

Unfortunately, this lack of activity and the name have made finding videos about this group pretty difficult. So if you like Stardust groups you might be a bit frustrated trying to find any more. All I can provide is the link to their website where you can listen to the songs on their site (Exotic Spice is pretty good)

http://official.stardust.co.jp/s-spicy/profile/profile.html

Top 10 Idol Songs about Summer

Summer is upon us! As an idol fan it’s a really great season, not only because of events like the Tokyo Idol Festival, but because many idol groups release really great summer songs. AKB48’s Sayonara Crawl just came out, and NMB48’s Bokura no Eureka is coming up! It’s times like these that I thought I’d make a list of my top 10 songs about summer by an idol act.

My honorable mention is Whiteberry’s “Natsu Matsuri.” Whiteberry isn’t an idol act, but this song has been covered many times (by idols, occasionally) and is a really excellent song about summer festivals. I love this song so much that I sing it at karaoke year round; it’s just excellent.

10. Poolside Daisakusen -Idoling!!!

When I first started making this list, I did not intend for this song to make it. I remembered liking it, but that it wasn’t memorable. Still, I decided to rewatch the PV which I remembered was excellent. And while the PV holds up and is a really great PV, the song surprised me with how much I liked it. It’s a bit different from the other songs on this list and has kind of an old-fashioned sound to it. However it’s really high energy and fun in a totally different way from the rest of this list (that I attribute to the fast back and forth and ‘whoaaas’ in the chorus). It’s not necessarily the most classic idol summer song, but it’s fun and definitely worth a listen.

9. Pareo wa Emerald – SKE48

The 48 groups have a lot of summer songs. This is something I noted a while back, when I said that AKB48 does a good job of playing to the seasons that songs are released. Whereas Morning Musume only has one summer themed single song (Manatsu no Kousen), every 48 group releases a summer song almost every summer. It’s a good idea; even in the US, the concept of a summer song is still present, more than any other season.

This meant, however, I had to narrow things down to the best of the best. So while Gomen ne Summer and Aishiteraburu are excellent songs I adore, Pareo wa Emerald comes up on top. The reason it ranks fairly lowly on this list is because I’d say that the lyrics, more than any other on this list, focus more on a relationship than summer. Yeah, I know almost every song on this list has an element of romance or summer love to it, but Pareo has some of my favorite lyrics about relationships.

It has a bit of a different tone than some of AKB and NMB’s summer songs (that I’ll get to later, *hint*) but that’s not necessarily bad; in fact, it sets itself apart from other songs. Still, at its core it’s a high energy summer song that is a lot of fun to listen to.

8. Nagiichi – NMB48

While the decision between Nagiichi and Pareo was a tricky one, I ultimately went with Nagiichi. I have a soft spot for idol songs that do shortened titles, and Nagiichi’s one of the best; short for Nagisa de Ichiban Kawaii girl (the cutest girl on the beach). Which could apply for all of them really (but it applies to Watanabe Miyuki most of all, in my opinion!)

The start is reminiscent of Ponytail to Shushu, but it quickly changes to be its own, NMB48 flavored 48 song. It’s a little sexier, but has very similar sensibilities in its energy and level of fun. This was NMB’s 4th single, and in my opinion it’s at this point that NMB really stepped up and showed AKB48 and SKE48 that they had become a strong group as well.

NMB48 recently has started promotion for their new single, Bokura no Eureka. While it’s my favorite 48 single in a while, and I love the song, it’s not quite a standard summer song in the same way that Nagiichi is. However, it does show a bit of a more mature NMB48 and I whole-heartedly recommend you check it out.

7. Bikini wa Niawanai – Watarirouka Hashiritai 7

This is a song I’m betting most of you aren’t as familiar with, unless you’re a pretty big Watarirouka Hashiritai fan. This is a B-Side to Hetappi Wink, and right away gives a pretty summery image. The first guitar riff alone brings thoughts of the Beach Boys, and the whole song is very reminiscent of American surf music, a genre which I have to associate with the beach and summeritime.

The lyrics are a bit unconventional, but fitting; it’s about how bikinis don’t suit the girls, and even though they’re older than they appear they still don’t have the bodies for bikinis. I’d take this to be an almost anthem for any of us girls who have felt unconscious about their body; this is a fairly rare sentiment to get from an idol song!

The lyrics fit, and the song itself fits summertime in a way most idol songs don’t.

6. MAX Otome Gokoro – Super Girls

I’ve never been able to get much into Super Girls. I like some of the members and the songs, but for some reason the group has never grabbed me. However, Super Girls has done a summer single for the past few years, and their first summer single (and their second single ever) remains my favorite Super Girls song.

It’s just bubbly idol fun which is a lot of what I like about it (and ‘doki doki natsu dokyun’ might be the most idol-y lyric ever). While their later single Puri Puri Summer Kiss is fun, Max Otome Gokoro feels like it’s focusing more on general summer fun than Puri Puri (I was personally a bit put off by its PV). Plus, I like Max Otome Gokoro a lot better.

Not much else can be said other than that it’s fun and a great summer song!

5. Coco Natsu – Momoiro Clover

One of my strongest memories about becoming a MomoClo fan is waiting after Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo for what came next. I watched pretty much everything MomoClo had ever done, and I was waiting. While Pinky Jones ended up the single, Coco Natsu was the first thing any MomoClo fan saw after Ikuze, so it had a lot of hype for a lot of Momoiro Clover fans.

And while I would say Ikuze is a lot stronger, Coco Natsu didn’t disappoint! Definitely one of the odder songs on this list, pretty much everything about this is perfect. I especially like the verses with the back and forth between solos and the whole group’s “bashibaa coco natsu baby” parts. The instrumentation is also spot on, with some good background guitar stuff and often a tropical sound. The girls are very memorable too, with the repetition of ‘kokokokoko’ at various parts as well as the bridge part where they’re all shouting various things. While I keep bringing in high energy songs on this list (and there are more to come), this is another fantastic example.

This song is perfect for MomoClo and is a perfect example of what I miss about Momoiro Clover (in relation to Momoiro Clover Z): it’s high energy, a bit strange, and just a whole lot of fun, perfect for a good summer song.

4. Ponytail to Shushu (honorable mentions: Everyday Kachuusha and Manatsu no Sounds Good – AKB48

When coming up with this list, one of my goals was variety. My hardest choice, being honest, was picking which AKB48 summer single I wanted to put on here. Because really, if you want a good summer song, Ponytail to Shushu, Everyday Kachuusha and Manatsu no Sounds Good are all good choices. However, I didn’t want a top 10 list with three AKB48 single songs and two 48 group single songs as well, so I chose the first big summer single for AKB48, Ponytail to Shushu.

Ponytail to Shushu is, to me, one of the most underrated idol songs. Not that it undersold, but that it doesn’t really get enough credit that it deserves. RIVER was the big song that really put AKB on the map. Heavy Rotation became the big AKB classic song. But before Heavy Rotation came, Ponytail to Shushu really, in my mind, cemented AKB48 as a huge idol force and that RIVER wasn’t going to be their most remembered song.

More than that, though, Ponytail to Shushu is really, to me, a perfect pop song. Even among AKB48 fans, Ponytail to Shushu really seems to be looked down on as frivolous and not as good as some of the other songs. And while Ponytail to Shushu might not have the depth of some of the other songs, for what it’s trying to do it’s nearly perfect. From the first piano notes, it does an amazing job of ramping you up into high energy that continues throughout the whole song, but never feels old. The back and forth throughout the chorus is really spectacular, and I love the instrumentation; the background instruments do a lot to keep up the tension within the song. The whole song is energetic and has a high tension to it, and really feels like a great summer song. It doesn’t need depth because it’s not trying to be more than it is: a REALLY fantastic, high energy pop song, which it does superbly.

3. Chu! Natsu Party – 3nin Matsuri

One of the aspects of golden era Hello!Project I really miss the most are the summer shuffles. While the Satoyama units kind of do that now, there was something really great about getting the strangest combination of Hello!Project members together for a summery single and a little competition. While 3nin Matsuri isn’t the strangest combination of members nor is it the strangest song, it is one of the most fun songs, and it’s the song that I would say most captures summer.

There’s a reason that, in the competition to sell the most singles, Chu! Natsu Party won. While all three members were all popular in their own right, the other groups had more members and girls like Abe Natsumi and Goto Maki. But Chu! Natsu Party is just bubbly energetic fun. There’s nothing complicated about the melody, nor the lyrics. The song’s about going to the beach in the summer, with the onomatopoetic word “chu” (kiss) repeated ad nauseum. But that’s kind of what a good summer song does; it’s fun and frivolous, but that’s the point.

While I have a strong fondness for 10nin Matsuri’s “Dancing! Natsu Matsuri” in that it’s more ridiculous, to me Chu! Natsu Matsuri is more accessible, more fun and really more of a summer song. In that way, I’d say it’s almost the definition of a perfect summer song.

2. Natsu no Tobira – Matsuda Seiko

A mini history lesson, for people who don’t know Seiko. Matsuda Seiko was one of, if not the biggest idol in Japan in the 80s. Whereas Yamaguchi Momoe dominated the 70s, Matsuda Seiko dominated the 80s and had a string of #1 hits. She’s considered the “eternal idol” and has been an extremely active singer. While I like a lot of classic idols, Matsuda Seiko’s definitely my favorite; she released a lot of good music, and has a real stage presence to her performances. Even watching videos on Youtube, it’s easy to see how Japan fell in love with her in the 80s and beyond.

Natsu no Tobira is one of her early hits, and, in my opinion, one of her greatest. The steady beat in the background, the strings, and Seiko’s voice all contribute to a truly legendary song. Seiko’s performance is really strongest with the line “suki da yo to itteru no/masaka uso deshou!” where her voice really shines. One of the repeated lines is the rising “Fresh! Fresh! Fresh!” and that’s really how this song makes you feel. It’s energetic and exciting, and everything works together to make this a true summer classic.

1. Yeah Meccha Holiday – Matsuura Aya

The first thing that comes to mind, at least for me, when it comes to idols and summer. Yeah! Meccha Holiday is something of a modern classic (though it was released 11 years ago), and has been covered quite a bit, notably on Sashihara Rino’s first single ‘Soredemo Suki da yo.’ The song is basically about being excited for summer, and does it very very well.

Even though it’s been covered before, Matsuura Aya really delivers it well. Even though she has a really excellent voice, she really pulled off these high energy songs with a lot of aplomb. There’s really nothing like the original.

This song both has the lyrics and the energy for a good summer song. It’s upbeat and happy, and exactly what I think of when I think of summer music.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts Part 1

Hey everyone! I know I’ve been MIA for a while, but that was just me working hard finishing my degree. Haven’t gotten my diploma yet, but I’m graduating with a degree in Studies in Cinema and Media Culture with a minor in Asian Languages and Literatures. My minor being almost entirely fueled by my idol interests (since that’s what made me decide to take Japanese in the first place). But don’t think that since I was busy that I’ve forgotten about idols, specifically Tokyo Idol Festival!

While seven of the bigger acts were announced earlier, recently 46 new acts were announced! While there are some notable groups that aren’t listed, last year there were groups announced within weeks of the show. So if you check the official list and don’t see your favorite act, don’t worry just yet.

http://idolfes.com/2013/lineup/

Idoling!!!

Idoling!!! is one of the headliner acts and has been with TIF from the beginning (2010). They were formed by Fuji TV in 2006 to be an idol group that would grow on their variety show, Idoling!!! So if anyone REALLY likes idol variety shows, Idoling!!! might be a good choice for you. In the past couple of years they’ve actually become better at accommodating fans by posting a lot on their YouTube, so if you are at all interested in this group check them out here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/idolingch

This isn’t that up to date for PVs, but it has some of them on there, as well. If you’re an AKB fan, you might know of Idoling!!! because of their collab single, Chu~ Shiyouze

In the past year  nothing huge has happened with Idoling. They’ve released two singles (the most recent being Sakura Thank You), and a member (Nomoto Manami) left. One member (Yokoyama Rurika) is making a solo debut. Otherwise, it  feels like they are a pretty steady group, without much drama, which is either good or bad depending on what interests you in an idol group.

Personally, Idoling!!! is a group that I fully recommend but that I don’t really follow too much. Especially after my favorite member (Yazawa Erika) left I don’t really have much drive to follow them. However, they are fairly equal in screentime for most of the girls, they have a lot of variety, and I really love a few of their songs (especially Me ni wa Aoba Yama Hototogisu Hatsukoi and Don’t Think Feel). They’re consistent and good, and definitely worth looking into if you haven’t.

Idol College

Another group I covered last year! As I mentioned then, they were originally B.L.T (the magazine not the sandwich) Idol College, formed in 2009. However, on March 31, 2010 B.L.T. Idol College was disbanded and Idol College was born the next day with all new members. It seems like they’ve done quite a bit since last year; last year they had released one album and one single. However, they’ve recently made their major debut with the double A-sides Shoujo Sotsugyou and YOZORA, and since they sold more than 10,000 copies in a month they get to go on tour. So it seems like they’ve made major strides from last year’s TIF.

Their (somewhat unoriginal) theme is growth and becoming better idols, hence the “college” in their name. Still, this kind of fits seeing just how much they’ve really grown since last year, when they were doing very basic PVs and had a much smaller audience. I don’t know if I’d say they’re a force to be reckoned with, but they’re definitely a group to keep an eye out for because of how much they’ve grown over the past year.

Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari)

At this point I feel like the “Temporary” after the name is only there so they can use it as their logo, because really this group has gone a long way so far.

Formed from seven former Hello!Project Egg members, this group is still under the Up Front label but isn’t within Hello!Project. They also go as UFZS to do KPop dance covers, but Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari) is their main pop group name.

Up Up Girls are BUSY. They perform on a very regular basis, and since last year’s TIF have released eight singles as well as an album, In fact, so far they’ve put out three singles in 2013 and are releasing another one in June. This will put them at twelve indies singles and an album.

They’re also very active online, streaming a lot of live things and putting things on their youtube. They do a lot of dance covers as well as six separate Harlem Shake videos. Yes, Up Up Girls are into internet memes.

While I don’t follow them quite as much as I should, I personally really like Up Up Girls. The members are fantastic and they generally do a lot of quality work. I kind of wish they’d move into a major debut so they could get PVs and things, but there’s something nice about them doing a lot of indies work and putting out a LOT of stuff.

One of the biggest issues with a lot of the TIF groups is that some of them barely put out anything and they don’t do a lot of new things. This isn’t the case with Up Up Girls at all.

If anything, my only issue is that Up Up Girls really feel like a group you have to see live to really get the full experience (though this is the case with most idols). But they’re definitely recommended.

AeLL

Yet another group I’ve covered (this is kind of a trend). AeLL is one of the big seven acts that were announced first, though I honestly didn’t know they were that big and they’ve only released one single since last year ( Magic⇔Music).

Formed in 2011, this group centers around Shinozaki Ai, a fairly prominent gravure idol. The group name stands for “Activity Eco Life with Love,” which I noted last year as being kind of a permanent Ecomoni; however, aside from their first single “Ecology Monkeys” I’m not sure how much this has been a theme for them.

They performed at the hot stage last year, so it’s interesting to see them do my favorite song by them (Chu Chu Hareru Yeah) at TIF, if you haven’t seen much of the actual stages from the show.

Like I said they’ve released one single and so far that’s probably my favorite song by them. Last year I noted that AeLL’s music tended to be kind of mid-tempo plain idol songs that didn’t interest me, but this adds an electronic element that fits them. All the members seem more glamorous than cute, which is a bit of a unique aesthetic.

Personally, I don’t find the group to stand out that much. If you like the aesthetic of the group you might want to check them out, as well as if you like their songs. However, this is one group I’m almost constantly at a loss to describe because I don’t find them all that compelling to follow.

Weather Girls

If this group doesn’t perform ‘It’s Raining Men’ I swear it’s a lost opportunity and a shame.

This is a pretty unique group in that it’s seven Taiwanese girls who acted as weather reporters on TV and on the internet. Seven were chosen to become idols and thus Weather Girls, focusing on being idols in Japan. Each girl represents both a day of the week, a color and a type of weather, and they have also been taking Japanese lessons to be better idols in Japan. They officially made their idol group debut in August of 2012, so they’re pretty new.

So far they’ve released two singles, but they’re releasing another in June (Koi no Love Sunshine). All of their single titles fit with this weather gimmick that I wonder how long they can keep up with.

After watching some of their weather reports, they’re certainly something; it’s less reporting as being entertaining while you watch the weather. Certainly more interesting than normal weather reporting!

They are really committed to this weather gimmick, and their PVs are really well made. If any of this interests you I’d definitely recommend you check out some of their PVs or their weather reports. They’re definitely not a boring group, and I’d imagine seeing them learn Japanese would be pretty interesting. As a group they definitely have a KPop/SNSD aesthetic, which is cool but not really my thing. Nothing has really made me that interested in following them for the long term, but they’re definitely really interesting to check out!