Review Monday: The Best ~Updated Morning Musume~

Happy Review Monday!

Full disclosure: I am primarily a classic Morning Musume fan. My favorite songs are some of the ones they updated in this album. Ishikawa Rika’s one of my top two favorite idols. That said, I am a fan of the current Morning Musume. I’m a big fan of Ishida Ayumi, and I really like the rest of the 10th gen in particular. I really admire the group for the past couple of singles.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised and happy about the current Morning Musume comeback. While I tend to focus on other idol groups, Hello!Project has a very special place in my heart. I’ve been especially pleased with seeing how much MM has emphasized being a new Morning Musume, instead of dancing in the shadows of Love Machine. This is why I was a little nervous when I heard about an album of remixes. On the one hand they’re making these classics their own; on the other hand, remixing old stuff is hardly letting it go. Some of the songs on this album are nearly perfect pop songs, in my opinion, and remixing them is pretty risky. So this album is really interesting, and I knew I just had to review it for this Review Monday.

1. Love Machine: This album goes in chronological order and starts with the big one – Love Machine. Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t even try some of the older stuff. Ai no Tane and Morning Coffee I think would have been particularly interesting, and would highlight more of Morning Musume’s history. Was H!P like “nah, they can’t handle Memory Seishun no Hikari, so let’s not even try.”? Well, that’s probably true, but still. Morning Musume didn’t start with Love Machine, by any means.

That said, Love Machine’s a hard act to top. It’s easily Morning Musume’s most recognizable song. And so, in this remix, they did the wise decision of not doing too much except updating the instrumental a little. It sounds like the Dance*Man original, except changing a couple of things around and adding some new effects on vocals here and there. It seems that even in this new album of remixes that Morning Musume was hesitant to change much about the song. Which, IMO, is a good thing; this new version won’t replace the original, by any means, but I find it pleasant to listen to.

However, while I like that MM decided to play it safe, I can’t help but compare this to the wonderful ‘DD Jump’ by Dancing Dolls. The song is a remix of sorts of Love Machine, but makes it into an original song in its own right. It keeps the feel of Love Machine, but makes it something all its own.


Dancing Dolls DD JUMP by HDnakkyun

I’m not sure that Morning Musume would be able to do this; it’s too different. However, IMO this shows the possibility of remixes to make something completely new, and I almost wish that Morning Musume would be able to take more risks.

So I guess my consensus is that while I wish MM could have taken more risks with its signature song, it’s still very listenable and pleasant. 7/10.

2. I Wish: I Wish is one of those songs that has a lot of emotional baggage that comes with it. It’s a big song for Morning Musume’s 4th generation, which I’m a particular fan of. It was a graduation song for years, and Ishikawa Rika graduated to it. So I have a lot of strong feelings that go along with I Wish. The song’s really lovely in how it’s both moving and happy at the same time; it carries both emotional strength and happiness, which makes it perfect for graduations.

Which is why I just don’t think this cuts it. For me, the defining moment of I Wish is when it breaks into the first chorus. The verse up to then is soft and fairly quiet, but the chorus is just big and joyous. I get shivers every time I listen to it. However, the chorus in this remix is just underwhelming. I’m not quite sure why they had all the girls sing so staccato, but it’s the type of odd choice I could get past if I Wish got the feeling of the original right. And it just didn’t. The other big moment of the song is Kago Ai’s “Demo egao wa taisetsu ni shitai” near the end, and, while I’m not the biggest fan of Oda Sakura, she did it nicely. So Kudos, Sakura, you made one part of the song good.

If I divorce I Wish from its original context, I feel like I might be able to enjoy this more. However, it’s just impossible to take I Wish away from the original, and this remix does the worst thing a remix can do, which is remove everything that made the original great. Not impressed. 3/10

3. Renai Revolution 21: RR21 is the other big song of Morning Musume, after Love Machine. If you see Morning Musume do a medley, you’d better bet that Love Machine and RR21 are the two songs that they put in there. It’s also tied with the next song in this album for being my favorite Morning Musume single, and one I never get sick of.

And ehhh. I can definitely see where they’re trying to go with this rearrangement, but none of the elements feel cohesive. Frankly, it feels like a jumbled mess of elements.

This is also something I have to compare to another rearrangement, which is the Renai Revolution 21 remix for Hangry & Angry’s first single, Reconquista. There they manage to make it a song that not only fits Hangry & Angry’s sound, but is cohesive and pleasant to listen to. It’s definitely heavier and electronic influenced, but this fits H&A.

Morning Musume’s updated rearrangement, on the other hand, just feels jumbled and like they threw in various dubstep and techno things over the original and decided to call it a day. I don’t necessarily hate the various pieces that make up this arrangement, and parts of it could make a good rearrangement if they stuck to it for the whole song. The whole thing feels like it’s just trying to gild the lily; the original still fits today, so it just feels like they’re throwing on jumbled elements to try and make the new version stand out.

That said, I don’t really hate every bit of the song, and I really like some of it. Ultimately, as a whole, it’s just not very good. 5/10

4. The Peace: Full disclosure: Ishikawa Rika’s one of my top two idols of all time. As such, I’ve listened to The Peace a lot.

This is another song where I like it in theory, but there are parts I just don’t like. The opening sounds lovely, like it will be a pretty good rearrangement. But then they suddenly throw in all these dubstep elements. It feels more cohesive than the Renai Revolution 21 arrangement, though, so while the parts I like don’t necessarily shine through as much it’s still not bad. The ending’s not very good, either, and I don’t particularly like that.

Personally, this doesn’t come anywhere close to The Peace. However, I see where they’re coming with it, and I don’t necessarily hate it. I really like the opening, and so the sudden dubstep was disappointing. However, there’s enough good with it so that I just can’t completely hate this remix. 5/10

5.Souda! We’re Alive!: Perhaps it’s lighter than these other rearrangements so far, but I really like this. All the girls sound really nice in this song. Perhaps it’s because the original song just fits the youthful energy of the current group, but this is possibly the first time I feel like this song really fits the group.

This, much like the Love Machine arrangement, does a good job of balancing the original song and the way it feels with the new arrangement. This feels like the utter energy and happiness of Souda! We’re Alive but with an updated instrumental and arrangement. This is the type of thing that seems to be what they should be doing with these. Again, I’m not sure if I’d choose this over he original, but I definitely enjoy it. 8/10

6. The Manpower: I really like The Manpower. However I can’t for the life of me figure out why they decided to do this song. Why not one of the earlier MM songs like I mentioned earlier? Why not Shabondama, which would make sense given the presence of Sayumi. Why not Roman ~My Dear Boy~? Why not Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari, with updated lyrics, instrumental and members. I just don’t get it.

That said, I like this update. Even though I like it, I’d hardly consider The Manpower one of the great Morning Musume songs. I really like how the girls all play off each other, and sing really shorter solo lines (almost like the great song Dokusenyoku. There are some really lovely harmonies put in here as well.

This is possibly the only update I might like more than the original. The original was a good song, but never really stood out to me. This feels like it’s improving a lot on the original, taking a song that was fine and making it a lot more interesting. This is definitely my favorite update so far, and one I can see myself listening to in the future. 9/10

7. Aruiteru: You know how a couple of paragraphs ago I was questioning why they chose The Manpower? Double that for Aruiteru. WHY Aruiteru? It’s just such a bad song. I have nothing good to say about Aruiteru; IMO it is one of the worst singles Morning Musume has ever done. I’m just baffled as to why they chose Aruiteru and not one of the earlier singles or one of the later singles. If they wanted a #1 oricon single, why not Shouganai Yume Oibito? Why not every other song that Morning Musume has ever done?

I prefer this to the original. But that’s because the original is just so boring that nothing can really make it worse. This is a Sayumi solo song, and she doesn’t sound too bad but she doesn’t sound that great. Her voice isn’t one I necessarily need to listen to for a long time. She actually does songs like It’s You pretty well, but her voice doesn’t really fit the original that well.

This is OK. It’s improving a song, but that doesn’t say much. Aruiteru is already a song I never listen to, and I’m going to listen to this even less. 3/10

8. Renai Hunter: And now we’re up to mostly current members. It feels just so weird that, for an album that’s about updating and remixing, the majority of the songs are new ones. I guess they didn’t want to put in much work? Or pay for more rearrangements? That’s probably it, honestly.

Renai Hunter’s only real difference is an additional dubstep intro/break, as well as the updated member roster. So it all really comes down to how much I like the original. Which I really did; it’s a really solid single that reaffirmed my faith in Morning Musume after the very weak Pyoko Pyoko Ultra. Normally dubstep isn’t my thing, but Morning Musume did a pretty good job of incorporating those sounds in with a nice pop song.

This also cleans up the instrumental a bit and updates the member vocals, and I think overall they do a nice job with this. Riho’s vocals in particular have improved a lot since the original recording, and everyone in general sounds better. Sometimes the dubstep breaks go on a little long for my tastes, but I like the direction they went with updating this. 7/10

9. One Two Three: While I didn’t initially like One Two Three, it grew on me as Ayumi impressed me with her dancing in the dance shot.

This seems to update even less than Renai Hunter, just updating the vocals. And I’m not sure if it’s just me, or do the vocals here just sound strange? Whatever effect they put on them this time just sounds strange. I thought I would be more inclined to listen to this one, mostly because I’m not the biggest fan of Reina’s voice, but something about the effect they put on the members’ vocals just make them sound not very good. Which is odd. There are also places where it sounds like they reused vocals, which is kind of not cool.

This seems like it would be a straightforward update for a solid song, but even then Morning Musume figured out a way to mess it up. Figures. 5/10

10. Wakuteka Take a Chance: Much like the past two, they didn’t update this much, just the vocals. Even then, they didn’t seem to update everything; there are definitely lines that are just taken from the old recordings, mixed in with new ones. It makes it kind of distracting, and a hodgepodge of an old recording and a new one.

I normally like this song, but I just can’t get past the way that vocals are being reused. It just makes it odd and distracting, which is not something you want from a song. 5/10

11. Help Me!! Same as the last; the instrumental is the same, they updated some of the vocals and reused some of the old ones. The result is a weird hodgepodge of old vocals and new vocals. Since it sounds like they just updated a little bit (the opening narration is the same and a lot of the lines that Riho and Sakura have stay the same), it is a lot less noticeable than some of the other songs. However, they update just enough that it’s distracting while listening to.

I don’t like this as much as I like Morning Musume’s subsequent releases (Brainstorming and Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke), and the PV for Help Me is absolutely horrendous. However, I enjoy a lot about the song. I just see zero reason to listen to this version over the original. The one reason I can think of is that Sakura sounds pretty good in here, for some of the lines she covers from Reina. I normally don’t care much for her voice, but she sounds nice here. 6/10

12. Brainstorming: Like the others, this is just updating vocals. Nothing sounds strange like One Two Three, and there are only a couple of lines that are redone, namely the ones that Reina did.

The lines that are redone stick out like a sore thumb, but other than that I still like Brainstorming a lot. However, the few Reina lines stick out so much that I don’t think I’ll listen to this all that much. 7/10

13. Kimi Sae Ireba Nani mo Iranai: In my initial review of this single I preferred the Brainstorming half of the single, while liking Kimi Sae. However, I think the redone solo lines in this are just a bit better than in Brainstorming. This is basically because most of the vocals are very heavily autotuned, but hey I’ll take whatever I can get with this album. This is still a really solid song that I really enjoy. Again I’m not quite sure how much I’ll listen to this, given the fact that it’s just the same as the old one, but hey. 7/10

14. Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke: Since this was just released, nothing has changed or been redone with Ai no Joke. I really enjoy this song a lot, perhaps even more than I initially liked Brainstorming. There’s a really good energy and pace to the song. It’s high energy, but doesn’t feel rushed. It features the shouted “Aisaretai” lines, which I really enjoy. The titular line “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” and its subsequent “Onna no ko ni dake wakaru talk” is, in my opinion, a really good case of lyrics writing. Not necessarily because of what it means, but because it gives the lyrics a really good rhythm.

The song’s just fun and emphasizes the type of group Morning Musume has become. If you don’t like the current Morning Musume’s style, I don’t expect you’d be a big fan of Ai no Joke. However, if you’re really into fun songs and the type of dubstep-influenced, high energy, electronic-sounding music that MM has gotten into lately, I’d expect you’d adore Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke. 9/10

15. Wolf Boy: Wolf Boy is the only completely new song on this album. Another Morning Musume song that was only on a best off album was Say Yeah! Motto Miracle Night, which happens to be one of the most fun Morning Musume songs ever, and is a song I’m convinced drove the sales for that Best Of Album.

Perhaps this is an unfair comparison, because how do you even begin to compare with Say Yeah Motto Miracle Night? But still, it is the first thing I thought of when I first saw they would have one new song, Wolf Boy.

As expected, it’s nowhere even close to Say Yeah. However, it’s still a really nice song; I like the instrumental, especially. It fits in with the cooler, electronic style that they’re going for. It doesn’t quite have the same energy of, say, Brainstorming and Kimi Sae Ireba, but this definitely sets it apart. The song itself isn’t catchy, and I’m not sure how much staying power it’ll have. But it’s certainly not bad. 7/10

Overall: This is an album of missed opportunities, baffling choices, and overall issues. There are a few tracks on here I enjoy, but for the most part these reimagining of Morning Musume classics (and new songs) do not do the originals justice.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts Part 15

Happy TIFriday!

Negaigoto 

Negaigoto is a seven member idol unit formed in 2011 to specifically perform in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Since their name means ‘wish,’ their goal is to grant their fans’ wishes. Which is a pretty cute concept. Since their formation they’ve put out four singles (the latest being 12345678) and one album. In addition, if their website is any indication, they perform a lot, so they’re a very active group if you are in Japan looking for idol performances. They have a bit of rock influence in their music, though I’d strongly hesitate to call them rock idols. Yes Haruna rocks an undercut hairstyle, but this is very much rock-lite.

That said, they seem like a pretty typical idol group, all things considered. They stick to their image colors and sing generally happy idol songs but with an occasional rock edge. The one thing that makes them stand out to me is that they seem to be more live oriented idols. The girls aren’t immediately interesting in the PVs I’ve seen, but they really get a lot more interesting live. Perhaps that’s because they perform live so much, but if you like live idols you may want to give Negaigoto a shot. Otherwise, they’re a cute, if not very original idol group.

Negicco

Negicco’s one of the idol groups that has been around for quite some time (they were formed in 2003) but really got big during the idol boom. This is a three member idol unit from Niigata prefecture, originally formed to promote negi, green onions. However, in the past few years the group has grown in popularity and are now with T-Palatte Records. Their most recent single is Idol Bakari Kikanaide, but they’re putting out a new one, Tokimeki no Headliner, this November. As far as I know they haven’t generally sold that well, so they’re not quite a top group, but they’ve become a fairly well known group in the idol world.

One of the side effects of larger groups becoming a focus like AKB (and Morning Musume, too) is that it seems that more and more larger groups are becoming standard. Really, I’d say most groups have at least five members. So it’s almost a novelty that Negicco is a three-member group. At first, their music isn’t immediately catchy. I listened to a few of their songs, and there’s nothing that immediately made me love it or get it stuck in my head straight away. However, I really like their PVs, and Idol Bakari Kikanaide has grown on me a lot. A lot of the recent stuff I’ve seen has given me Vanilla Beans vibes, except being a tiny bit more fun.

So if you want something different, musically and visually with your idols, but don’t want to go so far as to leave the pop music genre, Negicco is a good option. While I didn’t initially find them all that appealing, they’re growing on me. Perhaps, like spring onions? (OK I had to throw that in there).

hy4_4yh

This is a group I’ve known of for some time, but for the life of me I can’t remember how to pronounce their name. It’s the least comprehensible idol name out there. Apparently it’s pronounced “hyper yoyo.” Yeah, still don’t get it. hy4_4yh is an alternative idol unit, and they claim to be the original one. Since hy4_4yh was formed in 2005, it is ahead of the Babymetal, BiS and Alice Juban groups in that regard. Their other goal is to spread “YAVAY” across the world, which apparently means Yabai (bad). The reaction to their name and Yavay is that I don’t personally get it, but whatever they say. I do like the idea of alternative idols, though, and the fact that they’re trying to make more interesting idol music is a very good thing, in my opinion. So even with their quirks as a group I’m still interested to see what this group is like. Their emphasis is on cool, rather than cute.

As a group they’ve put out five albums and sixteen singles, their latest being Hanabeat (Hanabiito, a pun on the word hanabi meaning fireworks). When I put up Hanabiito, I knew there were two options for how the song went; it could either be really tame and a disappointment to the legacy from their name and YAVAY, or it could be just completely bonkers. And it’s kind of both. The song is trying to be strange, but it’s not doing it as well as it could be. Maybe I’m spoiled, being a fan of Hyadain and groups like dempagumi.inc, but this feels like what someone does when they’re trying to be completely bonkers and not doing that well. Their single before it, Tikkee Daisakusen ~YAVAY~ is better, though.

Maybe Hanabiito is just a misstep, because the more I watch this last single the more I like it. However, despite this song, they just feel like they’re trying a bit too hard to be kooky without having a strong foundation in music and performance. I’m going to give them a chance, but I’m a bit wary.

Bakusute Sotokanda Icchome

In 2011, Hello!Project producer decided he wasn’t busy enough with H!P and TNX and decided to try and get into the AKB market, by opening up an idol training cafe with the guy behind Afilia Saga. It’s essentially a maid cafe, but the “audience is the producer” is the gimmick, with the fans actively supporting their favorites. Last year they formed the idol group from the cafe. So far they’ve done two indies singles and two major singles, with their third coming out this November. The group has a lot of members, but there’s a smaller group that is the main group for the singles. Personally, I prefer the indies to the major debut singles. “Produce” and “Yoropiku Pikuyoro” are a lot more memorable tha nwhat they’ve done for their major label stuff, and I hope they go back to the fun and the energy of their indies soon.

That said, while it’s easy to pick on this for being an AKB ripoff, I know that if I was in Japan I would be all over it. It’s a gimmick, sure, but a fun one; the mix of a maid cafe and an idol theater/group is very appealing, and the whole “you can be the producer” gimmick is one I know I’d get behind. This also promises pretty close access to your idols, which is another thing I think sounds like it could be fun. So really, being a fan of this group is just going to be not as good as if you were in Japan. However, if you’re a Tsunku fan or if you could get past this, you might want to check Bakusute out.

The one reason I continue to follow this group is AD Nagisa. AD Nagisa is one of the girls in the group, and she’s pretty instantly recognizable because she doesn’t look like a typical idol. She’s larger, she wears glasses, and doesn’t have the typical looks associated with idols. However, she got in the group because she loves idols a lot. I’m very interested in following girls who don’t fit the typical idol mold, so I’m excited to see more of her!

Passpo

If you follow idols beyond the 48 groups and Hello!Project, there’s a good chance you know about Passpo. Formed in 2009, Passpo is a nine member idol unit with an airline theme; they dress up like flight attendants. However, beyond this transportation gimmick, they also are rock idols, who perform rock inspired music. This isn’t just rock-lite inspired idol pop, either; there’s a genuine rock sensibility to the music, which is refreshing as an idol fan.

Ultimately, recommending Passpo is hard, because they’re so well known. I feel like if you’re a fan, you don’t have to be convinced, and if you don’t care about them you’ve still probably given them a chance. However, if you’ve ever been following idols but wished their music was less pop-y, then you really ought to be following Passpo. They’re a really high-quality group that should appeal to you, if you like the types of stuff they do.

Idol Thoughts: The Death of the Solo Idol?

Since I reviewed an older idol song/PV for this week’s Review Monday, I’ve had older idols on my mind. In fact, I’m going to put out an additional blog post sometime this week involving that. However, one trend I’ve noticed (a very obvious trend, mind you) is that solo idols used to be more prominent and now idol groups are a bigger deal. The idol group isn’t a completely recent phenomenon; look at the success of Candies, The Peanuts, Pink Lady and Onyanko Club. However, the idol world was dominated by solo acts like Yamaguchi Momoe, Matsuda Seiko and others. In the early 2000s Matsuura Aya was a major solo force. And now, who are the main soloists in the idol world?

Let me ask a question, first off. Can anyone think of a solo idol working today that’s relatively popular but didn’t start off in a group? Mano Erina (though she’s graduated) started off in Ongaku Gatas. Kikkawa You is an option, but she started off in Milky Way. The most popular solo acts (by sales at least) are the AKB idols who are doing a solo career. Yokoyama Rurika is still an Idoling!!! member. During my TIF posts I came across some solo idols, but they hardly sell anything and are only known in their small niche in the idol fandom. One of my favorite idols is Aso Natsuko, who started as a soloist, but her sales depend mainly on what anime she’s doing the theme song for.

The point is, idol soloists are hard to come by. And why is that? I think that’s part of the AKB strategy for things. One of the reasons AKB has been so successful is because there are so many different, varied members. If you’re an idol fan and you can’t find a girl and a song you like in AKB or its sister groups, you probably haven’t looked hard enough. The lineup changes mean that your favorite might move to senbatsu, or they’ll be in one of the b-side groups, so you may still want that single. A solo idol has to appeal to every single fan, which means she has to be that more appealing.

Another thing a soloist idol has to be is some level of charismatic. She has to be able to command a stage, or at least put on a good show on her own. This isn’t something every idol can do. However, you don’t need to be completely charismatic if you can rely on other members. This is the same with singing ability. While there have been some solo idols who don’t have good voices (looking at you, Kusumi Koharu), most of them have pretty solid vocals. Mano Erina was never the best vocalist ever, but she wasn’t a bad vocalist. But being able to carry a song on your own vocals is something you need to do.

At this point, it’s hard to think a solo idol could become as big as the groups, and I’m wondering if any of the big idol agencies right now are even going to attempt to promote a solo idol with no prior experience. But what do you think? Do you think solo idols are over? Could a solo idol become big? Leave a comment and you too will be a part of my Your Thoughts post next week!

Your Thoughts: On the Janken Senbatsu

Right after I posted this post about AKB’s Janken tournament, a friend of mine (who has for some reason decided to just not comment on my blog at all =P) brought something to my attention, and that’s that last year Shimazaki Haruka only used scissors during the tournament (and then won) and that this year Matsui Jurina only used paper (and won). This has changed my opinion from “it may or may not be rigged” to ‘yeah it’s probably rigged.”

However, despite the fact that the winner is probably chosen by management, I still stand by that I don’t think the entire tournament is rigged. My friend and I both agree that even though the top position may have been rigged these past two years to support Paruru and Jurina, that it’s still a really fun tournament that gives a good chance to the rest of the members. In this past week the positions for the final single were finalized. Two things that amazed me were that Hirata Rina is #3 in the single and Natori Wakana is #6. These are two girls that have never been in a senbatsu before and have rarely been pushed, but are now at high positions. The #2 in the single is Kameida Emika, a member of NMB’s Team BII, who gets some decent promotion in NMB but still hasn’t been senbatsu in NMB yet either. And now these girls get a lot of promotion in AKB, which is the fun of the janken tournament.

Commenter Mozenator wrote: 

I have to think it’s rigged somehow. Like you said though, ‘why Jurina?” MAybe they worked out some deal with her? I mean they are all actors, being an Idol is a type of act, if you think people can be that cute and happy all the time..lol c’mon! Some go as far as to create an whole new character, most just exaggerate personality traits they already have…

What I’m saying is it’s all built on illusion, the Idol world. It would be nice if this were a true contest and a certain HKT Kenshuusei could get center for an AKB single..or Miyu Takeuchi or Lemon (my 3 top personal choices). But it seems management has other ideas. A shame really. I still think it’s fun just not as much now.

If it weren’t for the “one-hand-sign-all-the-way-thru” thing for two winners in a row…I would be a ton less wary..still can’t wait to catch the costumes!

First off, I totally agree that it’s rigged now, just based on the one hand sign all the way through. So I agree with you there.

That said, while there is an illusion of chance for this competition to a degree, I don’t think it completely diminishes the tournament. Every idol may not be able to get #1, but they can get #3 and so on. As a long-term Natori Wakana fan, I’m incredibly happy that she managed to get into senbatsu, because she barely gets any screentime in what little she gets in AKB (basically team songs and if there’s a really big undergirls group). Does this make it a little less exciting? A bit, yeah. I know my favorites won’t be able to achieve #1 (well, maybe Kawaei Rina could make it next year, she’s getting a pretty big push. However, if we accept that management is going to put whoever they want in the #1 slot, then we can focus on the excitement of the rest. A bit of a cop out, I know, and I do wish that everything was left up to chance. However, maybe it’s because of my own personal biases, I still like the janken tournament.

As for why Jurina, I still can’t figure that out. As for it all being an act… I mean, I guess to a degree. Some idols do have “characters,” too (I know that for a time in Morning Musume they actively encouraged girls to get a specific personality down). However, some people are happier than others, especially at their job. Currently I work a retail job, and it’s one where I’m not necessarily happy about it. I wish I was doing something else, I wish I got paid more, I’m just not satisfied at my job. However, I have a smile every day, and I’m genuinely happy to be there. I like helping people, and I like making people a bit happier because they were helped by someone who was positive. I’m not saying every idol’s like me, or that every idol is happy, but I think people put a bit too much into “It’s all an act!” Yeah not everyone is happy all the time, but I personally like being happy, and try to put on a happy face even if on the inside I’m unhappy. This is something that pretty much everyone does; the chipper waiter or the happy realtor who sells you their home may be “faking” their emotions. But this is something pretty much everyone does, so I think calling idol culture an illusion is taking it a bit too far, simply because that’s something common in culture.

(note that this isn’t just aimed at you and I’m sorry if it seems this way; this is just something I’ve been thinking about for a while).

Steve S commented: 

Just like Mozenator said, so much of this is just based on illusion and staging things to appear a certain way, and ever since the previous tournament, I’ve thought these are far more staged than before. At least the first two actually did have a number of unknown girls near the top, these ones have kinda become just a joke.

On the whole thing about Jurina winning, whether she misses a lot or not, this could’ve just been a kind of underhanded way to try to convince her to not miss as much, maybe, by purposely choosing her as an ultimatum. I seem to remember quite a few AKB performances in the past where the center was not there for one reason or another, so it does happen, which also brings into question whether or not they even care if the center is there if its not some huge, national performance on a huge TV show or something.

I really can’t take much of anything they do very seriously anymore after discovering more idol groups who don’t have the same kind of generic, transparent “act” about them that we’ve been seeing for the last 25~ years, but this kind of stuff just pushes it over the limit for me and a little further away from the group as a whole.

First off, I think this actually has a decent amount of unknown girls near the top. The #2 and #3 are relatively unknown, and I’d say the majority of this year’s janken senbatsu is pretty interesting. The only girl who’s pretty famous that’s high up there is Kitahara Rie. There are girls that are known with certain people (Oba Mina, Tano Yuka, Kikuchi Ayaka), but there’s a really big lack of girls who are pushed and high up with the senbatsu. In fact, I’d say this is more of an unknown group than last year, excepting the center. Maeda Atsuko was in the first janken senbatsu, Kojima Haruna was in the first two, and the third senbatsu (with a rigged center) also featured Itano Tomomi, Shinoda Mariko, and Kashiwagi Yuki. This year’s senbatsu is the most unknown group yet, which is exciting (despite the center being most likely rigged).

As for Jurina herself, perhaps it is an underhanded way, but I’d personally prefer them to focus her on one group. Not because I want AKB to remain just AKB or anything like that, but I know that Jurina has had health issues in the past and has had to miss a lot because of that. I’m not saying that’s why she missed so much in Koisuru Fortune Cookie, but I think choosing to overexert a member who’s already having issues with overexerting herself is bad news. Even still, you’re right in that the center could be covered, so it’s not like it’ll make a HUGE difference, but it still puzzles me since there are other members they’ve been trying to push.

I know you’re not super into this type of thing, and I don’t blame you, especially after finding out more about what you personally care about (note: Steve and I are Facebook friends and follow each other on twitter, so I know a bit about his personal tastes). Personally, I go back and forth on AKB; I love individual members and songs, but when the music quality goes down I stop caring. However, I enjoy these big AKB wide events, just because it’s something to care about beyond record sales. It’s another bit of excitement to write about or follow. I like being able to have my little bit of drama with the senbatsu election. I know it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but it helps some of my favorites out and I think it’s fun, regardless if there’s a little rigging in there.

Review Monday: Moritaka Chisato – 17sai

Happy Review Monday! The weekly segment where I review anything and anything idol! If you want me to review something, put it in the comments below.

My review topic was suggested to me by a friend, and that’s 17sai by Moritaka Chisato. He didn’t specify song or PV so I decided to do both. Moritaka Chisato was a popular idol singer in the late 80s. The songs you guys might know are The Stress, which ended up being covered by Abe Natsumi as one of her solo singles, and Watarasebashi, which was covered by Matsuura Aya. Recently Kikkawa You covered Moritaka Chisato’s version of 17sai, which is in itself a cover of the original by Minami Saori.

Also, for you MomoClo fans, the girls did photosets of some classic idols, and Shiori dressed as Moritaka.

shiorinchisato

Song: First off, I think I should mention that this is a cover, and I think an effective one. The original song featured strings and sounded much more like a traditional idol song. This takes said traditional song, gives it some funk and disco flavor,  updating it to the late 80s when this cover was released. It honestly reminds me a bit of what Morning Musume is doing right now, in updating their songs, though I like this update a lot more than the Morning Musume ones. It makes me wonder if fans of the original were disappointed by the choice to update this song. I really like the original 17sai, but this feels like an update that makes sense.

I like this song a lot, even for being more than a bit dated. It has a really good funky sound that, at the start, reminds me of Funkytown. Then it uses these instruments to do a nice song. I don’t think it’ll ever be one of my all-time songs, but I love the instrumental and song itself. That said, it is very dated. Whereas some idol songs stand the test of time, this feels like a product of its time in terms of the instrumentation. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t hold up as well as some other songs.

Chisato’s voice isn’t the best idol voice ever, but it’s certainly pleasant to listen to. My only major complaint about the song is the instrumental break in the middle goes on a little too long for my liking, but I wonder if part of that is also a product of its era.

Still, even though it hasn’t lasted the test of time as well as some other songs, 17sai is quite good, and is worth a listen if you want some idol history.

PV: This just shows you how far PVs have come in the years. This is basically Chisato dancing and close-ups in front of a white background.

At first I was wondering if this is just what PVs were like and if this was one of her first. But then I remembered that she put out The Stress right before 17sai, and there’s certainly a lot more going on in The Stress’ PV.

But really, I don’t mind that not much goes on in the PV. Chisato’s outfit’s fun, I like her as an idol, there’s some dancing. The biggest thing I don’t get are the effects; they’re not great effects, but they just make images more choppy and hard to see. It makes me wonder if they add anything to the PV, and if it would have been better had they left them out. I suppose it would be not that interesting without these effects, but there’s the problem.

Either way, both the song and the PV are an  excellent time capsule, showing what idols were like years ago.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 14

Happy TIFriday!

Naaboudoufu @ Nana

Oh hey, Chiima covered Nana! Everybody go read Chiima’s post. Nana might be familiar to some Hello!Project fans because she was the opening act at last summer’s Hello!Project concert. And no, she isn’t a Hello!Project idol. Nana was discovered because she posted dance covers on Nico Nico Douga. She’s a big Hello!Project fan, so that’s part of how she got discovered by H!P. Her first single, Kunekune Bravo was actually written by Tsunku, but she’s put out one more single, Magical Lip Kiss since then. One of the things she’s known for is being flexible.

I really love the idea of idols doing dance covers before they became idols. Mirin and Pinky of Dempagumi.inc were both net idols before becoming pro idols. There’s just something really appealing to me of idols who are fans of other idols, or like other idols. So right off the bat, I’m happy she’s doing well.

That said, she doesn’t have the best voice. Both singles are clearly autotuned and she’s still not sounding very good. Vocal skills aren’t all that important for idols, especially in groups. However, not sounding very good is a lot harder when you’re a solo act, and that’s what Nana is. I wish the PVs showed off a bit more of her dancing, since that was her original thing, or even some stretching to show off her flexibility. This would make her stand out a lot more.

Still, Nana’s cute and I’m happy for her; this must be a dream come true for an idol fan. I can’t say I’m won over, but she’s definitely interesting.

Nice Girl Trainee

Sometimes I sit and think “You know, I wonder what’s going on with the girls in Nice Girls Project? And then I think about the Nice Girl Trainees and get a little sad. Nice Girl Project is the TNX idol project created by Tsunku as an official rival to Hello!Project back when H!P was still the dominant idol collective (remember that time that is now long gone?). It contains The Possible… and not much else anymore, after Canary Club and Ogawa Mana left. Though The Possible have been making an incredibly unlikely comeback of sorts, I still feel for the trainees of the project that keep shuffling in and out. How much do they have to do, anyways? Is there any hope that anything will come of being a trainee in a close to inactive idol collective?

However, I’ve seen the trainees appear solo more and more, and they’ve started to do their own solo lives (at small venues of course). So I think they’re trying to do the whole small, indie idol thing. Still, these girls are officially trainees and haven’t made an official debut, yet, so it remains to be seen whether they’ll be an actual idol unit or just doing small performances until they fade into obscurity. So… yeah. None of the girls really pop out to me, personally, and I find it hard to start following them, given the circumstances. However, if you really love The Possible you might be interested in them.

9Nine

9Nine is one of those groups that should make you reconsider naming your idol group after the number of members. The group originally had nine members, but, after some graduations, auditions, and even more graduations, the current five member line-up has been pretty stable. 9Nine was formed in 2005, but has since become active in 2010. They’ve put out four albums, 14 singles, and a bunch of digital singles.

Unfortunately for us non-Japanese idol fans, following 9nine is a bit harder. Their PVs are region-locked, so you can’t watch them on the official Youtube and finding PVs elsewhere on the various video sites is near impossible. So this is a heads up, if you think you might like the group; being a fan is going to be more difficult than a lot of other groups. The reason I’m saying this is because, while 9nine seems like a cool group, it might be tougher for you to follow them.

That said, they seem like a really good group. They focus a lot on having a cooler image and being a dance/performance unit. They definitely give me Tokyo Girls’ Style vibes, except without quite the level of vocal talent. The members seem talented and I like the music I’ve heard so far, and I can see people really liking them. Personally, they don’t stand out enough to me that I would go through the effort of following them, but I would watch them perform if they showed up on a livestream of something.

Na-Na

Na-Na is a five member group from Esse Academy, home of Caramel Ribbon, making them the younger sister group to Caramel Ribbon. The members range from being in middle school to being in their last year of elementary school, so they’re pretty young. One of the members is named Yuzuki, so you know where my bias is. According to the group bio, they’re cute but have real talent.

The group seems to have one original song, Candy Machine ni Notte, though I don’t think this has been released on a single. The group is fairly hard to find info on (their official site is VERY sparse), but I think they were formed in 2011 and have been doing stuff with Caramel Ribbon since. The girls all seem cute and happy, and I’m inclined to like them despite the difficulty of being their fan. That said, finding any more is really tough. These girls definitely have potential, though, and if you’re a Caramel Ribbon fan you should definitely try to follow Na-Na as well.

7cm

This is a very new unit, formed in May of this year. However, you might know a lot of the members! That’s because this is a group of seven former SDN48 members, formed just over a year after SDN48 disbanded! SDN48 was the older, more mature unit of the 48 family before they were disbanded in March 2012, which was a sad moment for a lot of fans. So it’s really great to see that seven of them decided to form their own unit, which has been signed to Avex.

Unfortunately, not much has been put out, yet. They don’t have any singles or PVs and they don’t have too much on Youtube yet. However, since they’re an Avex group, with some former 48 members, I imagine that they’re going to have some ogod stuff coming out very soon. If you liked SDN48 or if you just like idol groups with older members and a more mature feel, it’s probably worth it to keep an eye on this group! I’m excited to see where they go from here!

Idol Thoughts: On the Janken Senbatsu

Today one of the biggest events in the AKB48 year occured; the Janken contest. Basically, every year (this was the fourth) AKB holds a giant rock-paper-scissors contest to determine the lineup for the last single of the year.

And this is the second year in a row that people have accused the contest of being rigged. (though a small number of people may have said it in the years past)

There’s no actual proof, mind you, just the fact that the past few years that popular members have won, as opposed to someone lesser known. Shimazaki Haruka winning last year made a lot of people question the validity of the tournament, and now Matsui Jurina winning has seemed to seal the deal for a lot of people.

Personally, while there are other members I would have wished to win the tournament, Jurina winning doesn’t make me automatically think “this was rigged.” First off, there are plenty of other members who would make more sense to push. Jurina is already popular, but AKB wants to promote girls like Iriyama Anna, Kato Rena, Kawaei Rina, etc. She already has a lot of singles she centers, and one more wouldn’t make the difference. Secondly, Jurina misses a lot; due to illness or just exhaustion, she’s missed a fair deal lately. I watched quite a bit of the live Koisuru Fortune Cookie performances, and Jurina missed the majority of them. Would management really rig something where the center might not perform for most of the performances, or where it’s even a question?

Another thing that I’ve thought of is the purpose of the single, which is almost undoubtedly to give lesser known girls a chance to shine. There’s nothing stopping AKB management from putting unknown girls in the senbatsu for a single, but it’s generally accepted that they don’t. This is an excuse for having a really unusual, interesting group of girls perform. I mean, that was the whole cool thing about having the center for the first Janken election be Uchida Mayumi; Ucchi wasn’t really known until the election. So I can see where a lot of people are coming from, being disappointed. I mean, I’m kind of disappointed myself; I like having unknown girls win.

However, even if the center isn’t necessarily unknown, there’s usually some lesser known girls, which makes things really great. I’m a huge fan of Natori Wakana, so I’m REALLY happy that she made it into her first senbatsu, and I’m really excited for Hirata Rina too. Even if it doesn’t necessarily make members more popular, it’s a really exciting and happy time for girls who don’t get pushed very much and don’t have as many opportunities in AKB. So even if this happened to be rigged (which again I’m not sure if I think that), I’m still happy the janken senbatsu exists,, mostly because it’s a really great thing for some girls who don’t normally get that chance.

Anyways, what do you think? Do you think the janken tournament is rigged? Do you like the concept of the Janken senbatsu? Let me know in the comments!

Your Thoughts: Idols in America

As expected for my first Idol Thoughts post, I didn’t get that much responses. The people who I talked to and didn’t comment seemed fairly skeptical about the concept of an idol group in the US. A friend of mine thought that an American girl group would inevitably end up selling sex and being a failure. This is kind of a common sentiment, and an interesting thought; could a girl group be not a sexy group and succeed in the US? I’m not sure if it could.

Mara from Fly in the F*Ing Wine commented: OMG I still have that B*Witched CD! That is awesome! Girl Radical kind of sounds like an R & B version of FAKY to me. The makeup of the group also really looks like a group that Japanese fans envisioned an American AKB looking like. I hope it takes off, but I’m not overly optimistic about it.

Cool to see another person had a B*Witched CD! Makes me wonder if there are any common links between music that people followed before they got into idols; while I’ve been into indie rock for sometime, when I was in elementary school I was way into the Radio Disney type pop groups (B*Witched, S Club 7, *NSYNC, etc), which I really consider the precursor to my idol fandom.

I also really like the makeup of the group; I’m glad to see that it seems like a really diverse bunch of girls, and not just a group of all-white, tall skinny girls. This is the most positive of the group as of yet, IMO.

But I share your sentiment, and I think that’s a commonly-heard one. I’m skeptical and not sure it’ll do well, but I definitely hope it does well.

Review Monday: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Nanda Collection

Happy Review Monday!

This week I review an act that’s not an idol, but she’s a young Japanese female singer who loves idols, so I’m basically saying it’s OK today. It’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu! She’s one of those artists I don’t mention much… mostly because I don’t think about her all that much. I really enjoy Kyary’s music when I hear it, but I REALLY appreciate it when it’s in album format. Pamyu Pamyu Revolution has become one of my favorite JPop albums. So when my friend said I should do Nanda Collection for this review series, I naturally used it as an excuse to purchase Nanda Collection off iTunes. So how is Yasutaka Nakata and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s second album?

1. Nanda Collection – like in Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, Kyary starts out with an opening track to introduce the album. It’s hard to review this, really, because it’s just an intro track. However, I really like the idea, because it really solidifies that this is meant to be an album, not just a collection of singles. While Nanda Collection doesn’t lead into Ninja Re Bang Bang quite as well as Pamyu Pamyu Revolution lead into Tsukema Tsukeru in that album, this is a nice opener. Choosing to start with more traditional Japanese sounds (chanting “Pamyu Pamyu” with drums, perhaps the connection to Ninja Re Bang Bang) the track opens up into more electronic sounds that feel a lot like Kyary. This, much like PPR, sounds like it should be played at Disneyland and, personally, encapsulates Kyary’s childishness and exuberance. Really good so far.

2. Ninja Re Bang Bang – Right off the bat, one of the best recent Kyary Pamyu Pamyu singles. This is Kyary’s take on attempting to have a more traditional Japanese influence on her very modern style of music (or is it an Americanized version? This is a really interesting review I’m going to write about for my Wednesday post). If you’ve read my reviews/posts before you should know that I love stuff that melds and mixes genres, and Ninja Re Bang Bang does this very well. It still sounds like the futuristic, high energy stuff that KPP is known for; this is undoubtedly a KPP song. However it mixes in this outside influence so well that it never feels out of place. Ninja Re Bang Bang takes a bit of outside influence, a lot of Kyary’s strangeness, and mixes it all up into being a catchy pop song. It’s never over the top (like some of her songs can be), but it’s mostly light and fun to listen to. The chorus is catchy to a ridiculous point, and it’s one of the songs I find myself singing to myself to occasionally. Very pleasant, this is one of Kyary’s best. 9/10

3. Kimi ni 100 Percent – OK this song. Before I got Nanda Collection I hadn’t heard it (mostly because I really only pay attention to the PVs until I get an album). However, this is one of the  most addicting songs, while also being one of the most “normal” songs as well. While the arrangement fits very well into the rest of Kyary’s music (especially the background vocals being given the vocoder treatment), nothing sounds that out of the ordinary for a pop song. Because that’s what this is; a very tight (just over three minutes long), very polished, cute JPop song. It’s not too weird, it’s not too out there, it’s just a really good pop song. 10/10

4. Super Scooter Happy – This is a cover of a capsule song. In making this review, I decided to listen to the original, which is luckily on Youtube (just search the song title) and I was kind of disappointed to hear that the original and the Kyary version are VERY similar. As in, there haven’t been any big significant changes to the arrangement. I get that capsule is Yasutaka Nakata’s music, as well, but this is pretty disappointing. Despite that, this is a really fun song. The music/instrumentation really reminds me of music from Mario games; it feels like this song should be in Super Mario Sunshine or Mario Kart or something. This is kind of a common thing for Kyary’s music; a lot of the music from Pamyu Pamyu Revolution felt like it should be in Katamari Damacy. To the point where I would gladly shell out money to play Pamyu Pamyu Damacy.

Pamyupamyudamacy

 

Namco, you’re welcome.

But yeah, even if I’m disappointed in this not being too different from the original, and even though it’s not my favorite song off the album, it’s still really good and nice to listen to. 7/10

5. Invader Invader – This is a song at first I wasn’t sure of. It’s strange, sure, but it’s going in the whole dubstep direction which I’m a bit iffy to. However, this song has become a fast favorite of mine. The whole concept of doing a song like this really fits Kyary simply because she does such strange music.

For being one of the weirder, more dubstep influenced songs of the album, there’s a remarkable amount of mellow, slower parts, especially as she gears into the fast-paced chorus. There are a lot of strange sounds, but all of them work in a song called “Invader Invader.” This is the type of song that fits Kyary’s personality perfectly, and it totally works. The song’s addicting, strange, and all works. 9/10

On a sidenote, Kyary’s voice in here kind of sounds like Elmo’s. So should Kyary make an appearance on Sesame Street? As the Fashion Monster?

fashionmonsteeeeerYeah I put a lot of effort into this review, if you can’t tell.

6. Me – Right away, this is a brash song. It starts out percussion heavy, and moves into being one of the most ostentatious songs on the album. There’s a (pretty annoying) whiny sound that goes along when she sings “Mi mi mi mi mi mi” in the chorus, and everything’s all brass and percussion. Looking up the lyrics, I can’t decide if this is completely intentional and a critique of ego-driven pop music or if it’s just being kind of irritating.

I can’t really decide if I like this or dislike this. Part of it seems to be trying to be a critique, but then I just have to stop listening to the annoying whining sound that goes along with her singing. I normally like weird music, and normally I dig what Kyary does, but this is just not my song, I’m sorry. 5/10

7. Fashion Monster – OK, can you imagine Kyary coming out as a cameo on Sesame Street, belting out “Fashion MONSTER!!!” as her entrance? No? Well, I can, so. PBS make it happen.

Anyways, Fashion Monster. I know people who love this song (hint, the person who requested this review, hi!), but it personally doesn’t live up to singles like Ninja Re Bang Bang and Invader Invader to me. I do enjoy the pseudo-Halloween feel to the whole thing, and I love every section where Kyary belts out “Fashion Monster!” To me, it feels like the whole song was built around that one line, so the verses feel underwhelming to the rest of the song. I don’t even think the verses aren’t good, because they’re fine, but they really only serve, to me, as connective tissue between “Fashion Monster!!!”

That said, the arrangement is very good, and I really like selective parts of it. I just think, as a cohesive song, it doesn’t really fit together as well as it should. Which is a shame, because I really like all the parts (maybe the song is the Frankenstein’s monster of songs? Oooh, I like that as a theory). This is a type of thing I wish I loved more but I just don’t. 6/10

8. Saigo no Ice Cream – This song, on the other hand, is weird but fits. The first bit is a organ solo before it breaks into synth straight out of the early 90s. The song gets weirdly epic and cool for being a song literally about ice cream. However, this really fits in well with Kyary’s style, so I don’t think I can really argue that it’s not a fitting song.

I really like this song. It may not be quite as catchy as Kimi ni 100% or as interesting as Invader and Ninja, this is really a nice synth song about Ice cream. It’s nothing earth shaking (though I do want more solos like the organ solo at the beginning) but it’s really nice and I’m definitely glad it’s a song on the album. 7/10

10. Noriko to Norio – Woah, do I hear a bit of enka influence in Kyary’s vocals? This is certainly not an enka song by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels like what enka could be if Kyary reinvented genre. This is such a strange sound/melody, with some dissonant sounds and a lot of minor (as opposed to major) tone. The result is a song that’s weird and not immediately catchy or engaging as Kyary’s other songs. The song’s just weird. With heavy drums and piano near the beginning, the instrumental has a bit of the annoying, whining sound from Me thrown in there, though thankfully not as much as that song.

Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with what influenced this, but this seems like a really good candidate for a song that would be created if someone sat down and decided to write the weirdest song. With strange instrumentation, vocal direction and occasional spoken “Noriko” and “Norio,” this is a strange song, even by Kyary’s already strange standards.

I like it, but beyond that I’m not even sure. I don’t know how much I’ll choose to listen to this in the future, and I can’t say if it’s likable to anyone else. This is just strangeness personified. Which, in itself, is pretty cool. 6/10

10. Furisodeshon – From the dissonant and “I’m-not-quite-sure-how-pleasant-this-is-actually-to-listen-to” Noriko to Norio comes Furisodeshon, one of the single songs (on the same single as Kimi ni 100 Percent, but promoted much more). Right away this is a much more accessible song, which is a very welcome thing after something like Noriko to Norio.

In my opinion, Furisodeshon is definitely a really good song and I really like listening to it, but it feels like one of the least Kyary songs on the album. There are bits of the instrumentation that lets you know “oh yeah, remember that this is being done by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu” but had this been arranged slightly differently, this is the type of song that I think could have been done by pretty much any idol act. This is not inherently a bad thing; I quite like this arrangement, as a sucker for strings and piano in my idol music. However, when I listen to Kyary music, what I want is Kyary music. She doesn’t do this poorly, far from it. I really like this. It just doesn’t have as much of the Kyary feel as some of her other stuff, which is a bit of a shame. 7/10

11. Kura Kura – From a song that doesn’t feel a lot like Kyary to a song that is VERY Kyary; if there’s one thing that can be said about Kyary albums it’s that they’re paced well. This is a very strange almost carnivalesque song that sounds like it’s a music box plus carnival plus Merry go Round plus Kyary. I really like how the song at first sounds like a happy, music box type song, but kind of degenerates into a dissonant, almost creepy sound.

This is a song that makes a bit more sense to me than Noriko to Norio, feels a lot more like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu than Furisodeshon, and ultimately sounds interesting. It’s chaotic and weird, but it makes sense and uses its dissonance and strangeness very well. It’s not immediately likable in the way that some of her singles are, but it’s still very good and is a song I like a lot. 8/10

12. Otona na Kodomo – Otona na Kodomo, meaning “an adult-like child,” is a lot like how Kyary really is; the mix between adult and child gets mixed up and mashed up in her music, style and PVs. So this is a fitting endcap to Kyary’s album. 

It feels like a lot more of an accessible song than Kura Kura, but there’s a lot of really Kyary-like stuff in there, such as the overuse of xylophone. The arrangement, with a chorus of “ahs” behind, feels rich and full as Kyary sings. While by many standards this would be a mid-paced song, this is one of the most mellow songs on the album.  While it’s not quite as nice of an ending as Oyasumi and Chan Chaka Chan Chan (the last two songs on Pamyu Pamyu Revolution), it feels like a really good mix of the two, almost. It’s a mellower song, a nice ending after the chaotic and strange album, but it still feels very Kyary-like. 9/10

Overall: I really enjoy this album. However, I have to say I prefer Pamyu Pamyu Revolution as an album. This isn’t to say that everything on that album was better; there are quite a few songs on this album that I think I enjoy more. However, Pamyu Pamyu Revolution was a nice, mellow, easy album to listen to. I’ve listened to it all the way through quite a bit, which I don’t even do with a lot of idol albums. This feels a lot more chaotic and disjointed; perhaps it’s makes for more interesting songs, and I know this was a well-paced album, but I’m not quite sure I’ll listen to it all the way through as much as I did Pamyu Pamyu Revolution.

Still, if you’re a Kyary fan and you haven’t picked it up or even if you vaguely like some of Kyary’s songs, definitely check it out. This is a really great album, and it’s well worth your time and money.

 

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Acts part 13

Happy TIFriday! Where I cover the acts of this year’s Tokyo Idol Festival!

Tokyo Cheer2 Party

Fun Happy Disco fact! This year I graduated from college. To graduate with honors I had to write a final thesis, and I ended up writing about idols because I was a film/media studies major and a Japanese minor. My thesis was about Japan’s national identities and how it’s reflected through Japan’s popular idol groups. As such, I focused mostly on the popular groups. However, I mentioned Tokyo Cheer2 Party.

The reason I did this was because, back in 2011, after the earthquake, Tokyo Cheer2 Party stood outside train stations, encouraging workers. While other idol groups gave back, Tokyo Cheer2 Party did all they could to give back as an indie idol group, which I think is pretty neat.

Tokyo Cheer2 Party was formed in 2010, starting with 10 members but now they have 17. They put out four indies singles (including one called Happy Happy, which I like to see at Happy Disco) and an album. This year they made their major debut with Gamushara Spirits, which is huge for a group, so congrats to Tokyo Cheer2 Party! The last time I really seriously looked into them was around 2011 (and doing brief research for my thesis), but it’s great to see a group work their way up. From looking at their site and the Japanese wiki it seems they do a lot of live events and things, so even though they haven’t been very visible to me they’ve certainly done a lot.

Personally, while I think they’re cute, energetic and fun, Gamushara Spirits isn’t my favorite. It’s kind of a typical idol song, but isn’t really energetic enough for this group, and it’s not quite catchy enough for what they’re going for. It shows off how fun the members are, and it’s not certainly a bad song by any means, but it’s just not quite something I’d listen to on a regular basis. However, I quite like Happy Happy; it has a funky beat, and still is very cute.

The group itself is really energetic and cute, and well-deserving of their major debut. Glad to see them doing so well!

Doll☆Elements

Another idol group that made their major debut this year! Doll Elements is a four member unit formed in 2011, and are a sister unit to Lovely Doll. They had 2 indies singles, have put out one major single (Kimi no Heart ni Tokihanatsu) and they’re set to release another single in October (Kimi no koto Amaritai!). Their theme word is “transformation” (“Henshin!”) and basically their goal is to transform into cute, popular idols. Seems like the goal of a lot of groups, but hey not every group is going to have a strange goal (a la Tsuribit).

In the Kimi no Heart ni Tokihanatsu PV, you see the girls dressed down and made up (I’m assuming that’s the transformation) and honestly, I like them better with their natural look. All of the girls are really pretty with more natural make-up on, and while I appreciate the sentiment of the group I really don’t think any major transformation is needed for these girls to be popular. And at first this song didn’t appeal to me, but it’s slowly grown on me where I really like the chorus a lot. The girls are all really cute and charismatic, and I feel drawn to them when they’re dancing.

I doubt this will be a huge life-changing group, but I definitely like all the members and Kimi no Heart ni Tokihanatsu is a pretty nice song. I’m excited to see where they go from here!

Tochiotome25

Tochiotome25 has a strange goal, or at least a strange way of phrasing it. Formed in 2010 as a group based in Tochigi Prefecture, their goal is to be a “glocal” group; basically, combining “global” and “local.” So their goal is to remember their roots as being a Tochigi idol group, but to take this on a global level.

So far Tochiotome has released three singles; Tochiotome25 no Theme, Ichigo Hakase and GYO-ZA Party. There are six official members and four trainees. I have to say, I really like them. While they’re not the best songs out there, their singles are pleasant to listen to and I really enjoy Ichigo Hakase in particular. I personally really like Yayoi, who is the high-energy member of the group. She’s fantastic, but the rest of the members are cute as well. One of the things I love about following small indie groups is that a lot of the girls are really happy just being idols, and I get that here.

I wrote a little bit about the whole local vs national idol thing on Pure Idol Heart HERE
. However, I think that Tochiotome’s goal is a really interesting one that’s corresponding to a national Japanese trend going on right now.

I really like this group. I know I like most of the acts at TIF (that’s because they’re all so good!!), but Tochiotome25’s members are all energetic and happy, the music is really nice, and I really enjoy their PVs. I really think this group has a lot of potential, so you should definitely check them out!

Dream5

Dream5 has one of the most interesting line-ups of the TIF acts. There are two main singers and three dancers, and one of these dancers, Akira, is male. Mixed-gender groups are fairly rare (the only group I can think of that could be considered an idol group with men and women is AAA), so it’s interesting to see one perform at TIF!

Dream5 was formed in 2009 on the TV program ‘Tensai terebikun MAX,” and prides themselves on being a dance and vocal unit that’s popular with younger children and families (I’m assuming this means as opposed to older wota). So far they’ve put out 11 singles (the most recent being “We are Dreamer”) and two mini-albums, so they’ve been a fairly active group. They put out their stuff under Avex trax, so that kind of shows you what they’re aiming for.

Admittedly, the one reason I haven’t really looked much into this group is the male member. I know there are four girls, but I have zero interest in male idol acts (I just don’t care about Johnny’s groups at all). While I’ve been curious as to how the group works, I just didn’t care to look into it.

And now I don’t really know how I feel. Watching the group I definitely like Akira; he seems energetic and happy, and is a good dancer, but not hearing him sing makes it feel almost gimmicky. If it was a group like AAA where there were both male and female voices and dancing, it would make a lot more sense to me, but here it just feels a bit weird. I do like the music, though, and there is a really great production value (as expected by an Avex group). I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be a huge Dream5 fan like others, but I can definitely see why they’re such a popular and well-loved group.

Dorothy Little Happy

Morning Musume fans should be familiar with Dorothy Little Happy; this is the group that Ishida Ayumi was a back dancer for before she joined MM! Dorothy Little Happy has been an indie group for a while, and made their indies debut, Jump, in 2010. In 2011, they made their major debut with Avex Trax, which is a great move for them. They’re a local group in Sendai with five members. One of the most interesting choices the group made was doing a collab single with BiS; since Dorothy Little Happy is a very cute unit, this seemed like a very unusual collaboration. However, Dorothy Little Happy does have a bit of a rock sensibility to them, which makes the BiS collaboration make a little more sense.

Dorothy from their name comes from the Wizard of Oz, and while I don’t necessarily see the influence, it’s a fun fact about them.

Honestly, this is a group I’ve wanted to get into but just can’t. Their music is pretty good, they’re good dancers/performers, and they seem like a really interesting group, especially with things like their collaboration with BiS. Demo Sayonara is a really good song, by the way, and one you should check out. Perhaps it’s the Avex influence (for whatever reason Avex groups just don’t appeal to me), but I don’t follow Dorothy Little Happy all that much. However, that shouldn’t stop you, and I can definitely see why people might like DLH. So if you like dance/vocal units and dig Avex, check out Dorothy Little Happy.