List Friday: Team Syachihoko Song Ranking

Today I was thinking about what to do for my List Friday, something to do with the Thanksgiving holiday. At first I thought about doing songs involving thanks, but I did a Thanksgiving themed list in 2011, and I don’t have much to new to add to that list. I thought about doing something Black Friday themed, but how many songs fit that? Then I thought about each holiday. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, as well as being indulgent with food. Black Friday is also about indulgence. So I’m indulging myself to do something JUST about my favorite group, Team Syachihoko, which is a group I’m thankful for. Yeah yeah, this is a BIG stretch, but I’ve been wanting to do this ranking for a while. So this is a rank of every original Team Syachihoko song.

19.Itadaki Nippon! Omisore Shimashita Nagoya Meshi:

For the longest time, when I first got into Syachi, I had NO idea what this song was. I’d hear it performed at concerts, and assumed that since it was about Nagoya it was a cover or something. But then I found out it was the Nagoya-exclusive B-Side on The Stardust Bowling.

The song isn’t bad, but it’s just not as interesting as the other songs. It’s the song I find myself thinking about skipping whenever I watch Team Syachihoko blu-rays. It’s cute, but it’s just not as fun as the rest of their songs are. And really, with the rest of the songs being as good as they are, it’s great that Syachi’s worst song in my opinion is just “boring.”

18.Piza Desu

Not Piza Desu! This is honestly one of the Syachi songs I want to see performed most. So why is it so low? Well, the main reason I want to see this performed is because of the modified MIX that’s shouted during performances. Just repeating the word “Pizza.” That makes it fun. However, beyond that it’s just not that memorable. It’s fun, catchy, and I listen to it pretty frequently, but when the biggest things that it has going for it are the MIX, you know it has to be low on the list.

17.Goburei Syachihoko Deluxe

Oh man here we go, hard decisions. Goburei Syachihoko Deluxe is a really good song. Just listening to it makes me want to put it higher. The biggest problem is that I don’t have much of an urge to listen to it. It’s not exciting and fast like some of their songs, and not moving, or interesting. I really love the arrangement and I want to put it higher, but I really can’t justify putting it at a higher spot, because of just how little I listen to it. Sorry.

16.777

Really, the biggest reason is that this is by far the least memorable single. That’s why this is lower than other fast-paced, guitar heavy songs like Soko Soko Premium. When it comes down to it, Syachi has SUCH good single songs and Triple Seven really just doesn’t do it for me as much as the other single songs. I certainly don’t dislike it, but I don’t think it’s quite as representative of Syachi as a lot of their music.

15.Owari no Hana

Holy Dubstep Batman! I actually quite like this B-Side from the Ai no Chikyuusai single; it’s just not quite AS memorable as the other songs, and I think it drags a bit too much near the end. Also some of the parts don’t fit together AS well; the dubstep sections REALLY caught me off guard the first time I listened! But this is an interesting song and very much worth your time.
That said, I love the opening instrumental bit and the first few lines. Those parts are wonderful and made me want to rank this higher.

14.Mochotto Hashire

Even though you guys know that I love high energy, fun songs, which is part of why Syachi is so hard for me to rank, I actually adore this sweeter, softer side of Team Syachihoko. This is a slightly mellower song, and while that might not be what I always (or often!) look for, I really do enjoy it.

13.Dera Disco

I love this song. I really do. But sometimes I don’t think the arrangement quite does it justice. It’s a nice, upbeat (but not frantic) song that is also relatively mellow (despite being upbeat and pretty fast-paced). However, the way it’s arranged is just a bit too electronic, just a bit too plain, and the melody during the instrumental bits isn’t quite what I would like. I think this is an excellent song, but there are just some personal gripes.

12.Katte ni Hybrid

This is one that took a bit of getting used to, personally, but it’s grown to being a favorite song. It’s a bit more intense and rock-focused than the usual Team Syachihoko song, which I really like. It’s eccentric and has a strange rap section in there, but you should know by now that I love that in my songs.

11.Summer Lover

I wonder how many other groups have songs where the bulk of the singing is done by someone who’s NOT in the group. The main vocalist is a male singer, and Syachi is basically the duet partner in this song. There are long sections where Syachi is on stage at the beginning where they just stand still. But this is just such a fun song. The whole thing is weird and I normally don’t listen to too many male singers, but I just have to love this song.

10.Onegai! Unborde!

The justification for giving this song a Spanish feel is because their label’s name is Spanish. OK, whatever you say, Syachi. I love when they shout words in Spanish, and I love the whole feel to this song. I wish they’d gone a little bit further and made it more of a Latin song, but I’m happy enough with what I’ve got!

9.Soko Soko Premium

Another song with shouted lyrics in another language, only this time it’s in French! This song is upbeat and fun, and while it’s not quite a top song I certainly think it’s a great song.

8.OEOEO

OK, I listened to this song A LOT when Syachi was trying to get the Lotte CM. So I have a really strong affection for it. It’s not particularly extraordinary or, again, a top level Syachihoko song, but it’s definitely an earworm and I rarely got sick of it. I don’t listen to it quite as much as I used to, given that the view contest is over, but it’s still a great song.

7.Ai no Chikyuusai

This song is just plain weird. I have to admit, the first time I saw it, I had no idea how to react. However, it’s just a really nice, unusual song. I can’t say I’ve heard many songs like this, which is a great thing. I especially love how the song changes tempo and intensity between the verses and the chorus. This song isn’t immediately catchy and it took me a while to get on board with it, but once I did I realized what a great song it is.

6.The Stardust Bowling

This song will always have a strong place in my heart for being the first Syachihoko song I really got into. While it’s not the top Syachi song, it’s certainly a great one, and one that I would consider a quintessential Stardust song. If you like Stardust groups, this should be a song you regularly listen to. I honestly have no complaints about this; while I like other songs better, this is still one of my favorites.

5.Shuto Iten Keikaku

I’m honestly still impressed that this song was written by a Nagoya hip hop artist, SEAMO. While other idol acts have often involved hip hop, this is definitely not your typical idol song. While there’s only one rap verse, the whole thing manages to sound intense and heavier than Syachi’s other songs. This is no cutesy idol pop.

4.Maji Kansha

This is probably THE most emotional song by Team Syachihoko, as they express their thanks. It’s sweet, beautiful, and I love the instrumentation (especially the strings). When everyone sings their last ‘arigatou’ I always feel really emotional towards Team Syachihoko. This song is just beautiful, and one of their best.

3.Matsu wa ~DD Daikangei~

I honestly have no idea why I love this song as much as I do. If I was voting on the BEST Syachihoko songs it probably wouldn’t be this high. However, in terms of favorites, this song just takes the cake. And I don’t know why.

2.Otome Juken Sensou

Story time: since this song came out, I finished college. While I was finishing college, I listened to this song before EVERY exam, test, or any other big academic thing. This song, while being the vague sequel of sorts to Momoiro Clover Z’s Otome Sensou, is everything I wanted Otome Sensou to me. It’s intense, upbeat, and a well-put together song. It’s also just a song that I want to listen to while doing something epic or something that needs my hard work. This song pumps me up like nothing else. This song just sounds epic in the best possible way.

1.Koibito wa Sniper

This song IS Team Syachihoko to me. This was my top song of 2012 and I stand by that. It’s just a perfect piece of idol music that really established Team Syachihoko as a group to listen to with their first single. The instrumentation with the brass sound is perfect, it’s one of the most fun songs in terms of chanting along, and I honestly have no complaints. This song is to Team Syachihoko what Ikuze Kaito Shoujo is to Momoiro Clover. This type of song is why I love idol pop, and helped me become a Team Syachihoko fan.

Idol Thoughts: Kohaku Uta Gassen 2013

Kohaku Uta Gassen lineups have been released this year! If you missed it, here is the listing of all the artists who have been invited to this year’s telethon. The female idol acts invited are AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, E-Girls and Momoiro Clover Z (and Matsuda Seiko) . Here are some assorted thoughts about the whole lineup.

First off, why does Kohaku matter? Well, part of it is the sheer exposure. Kohaku Uta Gassen is a very highly watched and anticipated event. Being on the show means that you won’t only be seen by people who are fans of idol music, but by a large portion of the Japanese public. Even though Kohaku TV ratings aren’t quite as good as they once were, it’s still an incredibly highly watched program.

However, if you’ve made it on Kohaku it means you’ve already made it. This is basically a collection of the most popular artists in Japan for various genres (which is why you have all those enka singers). Being invited to Kohaku is a very big honor, and shows that you are a major presence in the Japanese music world. Getting to Kohaku was Momoiro Clover Z’s goal. NMB48’s song 12/31 is disappointment at not getting to Kohaku last year, which they achieved this year. Kohaku is basically “this group made it.”

NMB48 made it to Kohaku: Honestly, I’m not surprised at all. The group has made a big effort to get to Kohaku this year, and I would be surprised if SKE was invited and NMB was snubbed. NMB48’s sales and profile keeps going up (Bokura no Eureka’s sales were quite good). HKT48 still seems like it would be too early to invite, but I’m not shocked that NMB made it this year.

Morning Musume got snubbed!: This surprised me a bit more. People were expecting that Morning Musume would be invited which they weren’t. Honestly, the thing that consistently surprises me with Morning Musume is how long Morning Musume appeared on Kohaku before. They were on the show 10 times, which is really incredible considering how low in popularity they were for some of those appearances.

Morning Musume has had an incredible comeback. I don’t think this can be argued. The fact that Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke/Ai no Gundan sold over 144,000 copies in the first week speaks to how far Morning Musume’s come. However, I do think they have a ways to go. Their singles are selling and they’re starting to get back in the media spotlight, but they aren’t that visible on television. I think what Morning Musume has to do, if they want to be given another turn on Kohaku, is get more on TV. Try to appear more as variety guests, get on all the big music shows. While Love Machine was MM’s biggest hit, they had some media prominence with being pretty regular guests on Utaban, which gained them some level of prominence.

I do think Morning Musume, in terms of record sales, could have gotten to Kohaku, but they aren’t quite there with national presence. If they continue to promote the current members, and figure out a way to get people talking about the members’ personalities in a major way, I do think they could make it next year (providing that record sales don’t fall).

E-Girls made it onto Kohaku!: I think the biggest thing that I’ve heard people say about Morning Musume is “how did Morning Musume not make it, but E-Girls did?” First off, I think people really underestimate how popular E-Girls are. They’re a group that not a lot of people in the English-speaking idol fandom really talk about, but they do have very solid sales. One of their singles sold over 93,000 copies. This is less than Morning Musume, sure, but it’s considerable. I would also argue that E-Girls has a very solid digital presence, which doesn’t get reported in Oricon numbers. Their singles have been released with a digital version considerably before the physical copy. Casual E-Girls fans would almost certainly then just opt for getting this digital copy, especially if you get it faster.

There’s also the EXILE connection. EXILE is a very widely popular group in Japan, and E-Girls are kind of a sister group to EXILE. This also increases their recognition. E-Girls have become a considerably popular group this year, and I don’t think they’re out of place on Kohaku this year. they just have to perform Gomen Nasai no Kissing You because it’s one of my favorite songs of the year.

Ultimately, though, while I was initially surprised at both Morning Musume and E-Girls, neither really surprises me now, more or less.

What do you think? What can Morning Musume do to get to Kohaku? Did E-Girls surprise you? Let me know in the comments, and you’ll be a part of next week’s Your Thoughts post!

Your Thoughts: On Perfume, Homophobia, and the Reactions

Hey guys! I had one comment come from Derek, who found me through Idolminded. So welcome to Happy Disco!

Hello…I am a reader of idolminded, which brought me to this blog. I really can’t thank you enough for bringing such a well written and thoughtful article to light regarding this completely idiotic scandal. Here’s the deal, and maybe this will help people understand some things a little better:

First, Perfume is not anti-gay or anti-lesbian or anything of the sort. How can they be when they work with people in these communities on a regular basis? I believe to be a fact (of course whether it is true or not I wouldn’t know unless I actually KNEW Perfume personally, but please follow my logic for a moment here…). I’ve seen virtually every single interview and behind the scenes programs released by the Perfume camp and TV stations since 2006, when Perfume first came onto the Japanese national media map. I have followed them religiously and consider myself to be one of their biggest fans. I have seen them, REPEATEDLY, work with, smile with, joke with, and be friendly with MANY MANY openly gay Japanese celebrities in all the aforementioned interviews and behind the scenes docs! There isn’t a single shred of anti anything by them! And if there was, trust me, they wouldn’t show that to the general public no matter what!

That leads me to my next point…they are Showa style artists, meaning they conduct themselves in a manner that has bordered mostly on being stoic and unaffected by the world around them. They have been virtually perfect up until this point and though they don’t consider themselves as Jpop idols but rather J-artists, they still have even kept close their personal relationships with men out of the spotlight. The point I’m trying to say by sayiing all of this is that they wouldn’t DARE dream of committing career suicide by exposing anything hateful about their personalities. They’ve worked too hard for the past decade plus…do you really think A-chan would say something purposefully demeaning, even if it was to a gaijin who put her in an impossibly awkward spot to begin with?

That brings me to my final and most demanding point to consider about what A-chan said. She was talking about the whole PEOPLE WHO ARE NEITHER because she was simply emulating her idol AIKO. Now if you don’t know who AIKO is, go look her up. You’ll see that AIKO popularized this type of affectionate statement towards people who bend genders and what sexuality means…AIKO used to use this in her call and response at live shows. A-chan has said many times that AIKO is her idol…wouldn’t it make sense that she was borrowing this phrase from somebody she and the whole of JAPAN has accepted as a successful J-artist? Think about it. A-chan didn’t read anymore into that statement beyond the fact that she was echoing somebody she looks up to, and AIKO has talked about how she made this statement to be one of LOVE towards gays and lesbians and gender benders/transvestites, not one of hate. What I believe happened here, consequently, is just a misunderstanding of culture. I mean, for crying out loud, in Japan a bi-racial kid is referred to as a “halfie!” Does that mean that Japanese people think of bi-racial people as only half humans? But to the outside and stupid eye, people would construe this as offensive, which is what happens when you take it out of the cultural context of Japan and its usage of language.

I am married to Japanese woman. We have a HALFIE child. We don’t think she’s half-human. My wife reminds me everyday of the cultural differences between me and her (I’m a white Italian male). She says things that aren’t really acceptable in America but I know what she means completely from being around her and from living in Japan like I have done several times in my life. Yes, it’s true that Japan is a bit behind on the times with SOME issues regarding sexuality and LGBT themes, but on the other hand, I don’t see too many American shows with gays, transvestites, and cross-dressers on an everyday basis like I do in Japan’s variety shows. I think it’s really amazing that people had ANY reaction at all to this comment by A-chan…it shows a lack of education and open-mindedness by those who didn’t take five minutes to do some research and look at all the facts surrounding the three girls from Hiroshima and the country they come from. If people DID do research, they would’ve seen, very quickly, that the Perfume girls are the LAST people on Earth who probably want to destroy their hard-earned thirteen plus years of work in a single statement, intentionally or otherwise. And for the record, I have literally HUNDREDS of gay friends, and many of them who I showed this article to said they had absolutely ZERO problem with what A-chan said, both with the GIRLFRIEND comment and also with the whole NEITHER thing. They found it simply a misunderstanding and some were actually MAD that the couple put A-chan in a position where she had to comment on another couple’s relationship…something she couldn’t POSSIBLY know anything about. Meh.
One final note…I will be at the Tokyo Dome supporting Perfume on Christmas Eve AND Christmas night. I am flying 15 hours and spending over 6 thousand dollars just to see them. I’ve saved up so much money for this once in a lifetime experience. I love them with all my heart and have been a fan since 2006. I know I don’t know them personally, but I feel in my heart I can honestly say that this comment by A-chan was taken WAAAAY out of context and also completely misunderstood. And I bet if you asked A-chan today how she honestly felt about gays and lesbians, she would smile and say that she LOVES THEM JUST AS MUCH AS SHE LOVES EVERYONE IN THE WORLD. I would bet my life on it.

First off, while I definitely agree that I don’t think Perfume is in anyway being malicious or hateful, that it is possible to be homophobic while still spending time with gay people and the LGBT community. That’s why you hear a lot of people going “oh, I have a black/gay/etc friend;” it’s so easy to use this to assume you’re progressive (when you’re not). That said, the case is a little different in Japan, where things still have a long way to go on the LGBT front, so it is a bit of a victory if Perfume is in fact being openly supportive of those individuals.

I also don’t think they would intentionally commit career suicide, but I was a bit surprised at how blunt they were able to be. That said, since the article was originally published in English, I do wonder how much of the meaning was lost. It’s the type of thing where it makes me inclined to be willing to give Perfume the benefit of the doubt. I was surprised at their bluntness, but if I read the Japanese I wonder if I wouldn’t consider it blunt at all.

As for the saying coming from aiko, I agree that does give it a lot of perspective. That’s why I linked those Perfume City posts; it was something that made me think, beyond what the other English-articles had been saying. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily an excuse. For example, I love comedy. I follow some comedy podcasts, and I watch stand-up for comedians I like. But say I repeated some jokes that had homophobic undertones, especially if I didn’t immediately cite the source. It would be easy to go “Oh, so and so said it first,” but it doesn’t change that I said it, or that I implicitly agree with it. I mean, it’s a tenuous situation at best, and I do think that aiko and A-chan both mean well with using it. I just don’t see “aiko said it first” as an argument I agree with.

Another thing is the whole concept of intent. Yes, I agree that they both intended the best. Does that necessarily mean that they’re “off the hook?” I would argue no. I could go on for hours and hours about authorial intent in regards to fictional works (I identify pretty strongly with New Criticism, which almost entirely disregards what the intent of an author is), but I’ll keep things simple here. Intent speaks a lot about the author, or what aiko/a-chan meant, but not a whole lot about what was actually said. I could say something I thought was in support of the LGBT community, but if I used a homophobic slur in place of a more acceptable term, it would still be a pretty bad statement. That said, the thing that makes me accept this the most is the fact that gay Japanese fans have embraced it. I still think using “neither” is a bit suspect, but if it’s something they can embrace it makes it a bit better for me.

As for halfie, I think it’s a bit different. Racism is still very prominent in Japan, though I would argue that racial tensions are highest between Japan, South Korea and China. I’m a lot less familiar with the term “haafu” in context, but, according to wikipedia, ” The label emerged in the 1970s in Japan and is now the most commonly used label and preferred term of self-definition.” That last thing is the most important thing to me. Preferred, I’m assuming by other biracial people. It reminds me of the use of the word ‘queer’ in Western LGBT circles. While it originally had a negative connotation, it was reappropriated and is now a very common, acceptable umbrella term for people who identify somewhere in the LGBT world.

I agree that there are cultural differences, and that the US is hardly better. I’d LOVE for there to be more diversity on primetime TV, and I don’t think the US does have that great of a track record on the subject. One of my favorite shows, Once Upon a Time, recently introduced the first LGBT character on the show, and people freaked out. My heart broke a little when I heard that an actor I like, Sean Maher (from Firefly) was told he couldn’t be openly gay in Hollywood because it would hurt his chances of getting some leading man roles. I also think that Japan has surprisingly good laws for trans* people. There’s good legal precedent, but there is also a very big stigma. But that’s true with the US as well. In criticizing Perfume, I don’t think anyone is saying that the US is much better. I don’t think the Japanese entertainment world is that open to LGBT people, to be honest, but things are very slowly improving in both Japan and the US.

Ultimately, though, thank you for your comment. While I don’t think we necessarily saw eye to eye on everything, I do think we agree on the basics: that A-chan didn’t mean anything negative; she had good intentions.

Review Monday: Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku – Mikakunin Chuugakusei X

So my goal for today was to review the new Team N stage (which I will end up reviewing for next Monday). However, I had a fairly long day, so I decided to review the new PV by Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku. Which I’ve been meaning to review for some time because, spoiler, it’s pretty great.

Song: I’m a sucker for high energy songs. Which is why, even if I’m not necessarily as big on Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku as, say, Team Syachihoko, I generally appreciate Ebichu’s music. If you want something high energy, this is a strong bet. The melody is immediately catchy and a total earworm, which works well with the electronic instrumentation the song goes for. I’ve spent a bit of time singing “zukkyun zukkyun” to myself. I really like the sections where the song slows down. This is where the arrangement is at its best and it allows the girls to emote more than they could. Really, though, this entire song is catchy and fun and exactly what you’d want from a song that’s called “Unidentified middle school students X.” It’s wacky and fits well into Ebichu’s discography.

Perhaps this is me being too much of a Hyadain fangirl, but there were parts that made me wish he had a hand in writing this. The Hyadain influences are palpable, especially the occasional drastic tempo changes. Hyadain is a frequent Ebichu collaborator (including the B-Side to this track, ‘I’m your MANAGER!!’) and I wish he would have just arranged this. The arrangement isn’t bad; in fact, I like it most of the time. I enjoy the fairly heavy, almost techno beat in there. The only thing I really wish would change is that I wish there was a bit of a heavier beat and just more to the arrangement in the chorus section, which feels occasionally empty. But, thinking of Hyadain’s work arranging Dempagumi.inc’s Not Bocchi…Natsu, he turned what was already a great song into a fantastic song that’s one of the group’s best. That’s what I feel like he could have done here. Mikakunin is wonderful, and great, but I feel like it just needs one more push to being that group-defining song I feel it could be.

I don’t want to sound like I’m too critical of the song. This is a great song, and definitely worth your time (especially if you enjoy high energy idol pop). However, it’s that type of song that COULD be a group-defining song, and I kind of wish that they had figured it out. That said, while I do think it could improve, this is still a great song. 8/10.

PV: So, uh, I have a bit of an affinity for bad movies. I don’t go out of my way to enjoy them, but let’s just say I’ve seen Birdemic: Shock and Terror multiple times. Willingly. So when I first started to play the PV and there was (poorly done) written text against a “space” backdrop, I knew I was in for a treat.

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I love all the “effects” in this PV. You can tell they made it poorly on purpose, from everything being clearly made out of cardboard, to the “alien” being a guy with a paper hat and cardboard claws. And the alien is basically just a mantis guy. OK Ebichu, whatever you say.

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I have to say, on another sidenote about lighting, H!P this is how you do mood lighting. There is a lot of darkness in this early story section, but it’s used for “dramatic” effect. I know that this is meant to be a cheesy scene, but they actually did a good job of making it look interesting. So good job, Ebichu director!

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The story itself is understandably silly, but they do a good job of selling it. The best thing they do is that they do what “good” bad movies do, which is take themselves seriously. The most enjoyable bad movies are the ones where the director or whoever else is the main driving force behind the movie takes the project seriously. That’s why movies like The Room and Birdemic are so entertaining. The whole thing is silly, but the actors appear to give it their all, which is nice.

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Ebichu themselves don’t get to ham it up as much as the extras, but they have their fun, posing and being the heroes of the story, the Mikakunin Chuugakusei X. Unfortunately, this makes them not quite as memorable as the other actors in the PV (which is a bit of a shame, given that they’re, you know, the stars). They get to make funny faces and face off against the evil mantis people, but they have a lot of shots just hanging out in the library. Which would be fine in most other PVs, but I wish they’d had a bit more interesting things to do to make the group itself stand out in this memorable PV.

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The biggest thing that I have to wonder is why half of the dance shot takes place outside. I mean, it doesn’t look BAD, but it doesn’t make too much sense. The other half takes place in the library, which is a solid choice. I just think it would have been interesting to see part of the dance shot take place on the stage where they face off against the mantis people. The lighting is cool, and it makes sense that Ebichu would perform there, since it’s a stage. The dance shot is at its best, though, at the end where they do the dance with all sorts of back dancers. I’m a sucker for that type of thing, and Ebichu does it well.

mikakunin8 mikakunin10But really, aside from some creative choices that made me scratch my head, this is one of the most entertaining and fun PVs of the year. 9/10.

Overall: Even though I’m nitpicking this a bit, this is really a very strong song and PV, and is very much worth your time.

 

List Friday: My Top 20 Idol Groups/Acts of All Time

Welcome to my new feature!

So basically, when coming up with my current blog release schedule, I made fridays TIFriday. I plan to continue that with TIF 2014, but last week was my last TIF post of the year, sadly. So I needed to figure out something to keep me occupied on Fridays. So I decided that instead of TIFriday, in the meantime I would do List Fridays. Because the internet loves lists, and so do I. It’s a good way to get to know me and a good way to share a lot of opinions in a fairly condensed matter.

Recently I found a collection of lists, from the book Music Listography, which is a journal that you can write lists of music you like in. So I’m going to be doing most of these lists in relation to idol acts. The first one is my top 20 bands idol acts of all time. (We’ll see if I can make it to 20). This is roughly in order from favorite to least favorite.

1. Team Syachihoko

If you know me at all this should be no surprise. I’ve been enamored with Team Syachihoko for about a year now, and my fandom has only grown. They have a ton of energy, lots of personality, and their music is consistently excellent. They are the only group that I buy every single release for, and I never regret it. Their concerts are excellent, their PVs are excellent, everything is great.

Tonight I put off writing this post because I was watching a Ustream event. This event didn’t even feature Yuzuki, my Syachihoko oshimen. This shows how strongly I adore this group.

2. Rev.from DVL

This is a group that I wouldn’t know unless I was a twitter user. One day, all of a sudden, Miki from the Fukuoka idol group Rev.from DVL followed me. I still don’t know why she followed me, but I tend to follow a good number of indie idols and I occasionally tweet said idols in (poor) English. But I decided, since she followed me, that I’d watch one video for them. That was a performance of Love Arigatou, and I was instantly hooked. The song is great, which really helps, but all the girls are talented dancers and singers, and have a lot of fun. Honestly, I don’t know why I love them so much, but every single girl appeals to me (though Miki is still my favorite). There’s something really special about local indie groups, and rev. is my fave.

Recently, Rev got a lot of national notice because one of the members, Kanna, is super cute. While that’s true, I really hope this allows people to learn a bit more about Rev, because the rest of the members are fun and cute.

3. Dempagumi.inc 

In most of my favorite groups, I end up having a very clear favorite. Nothing wrong with that, but I tend to care strongly more for one member than the rest. Dempagumi.inc is the one group where I legitimately adore every single member, to the point where even after months of being a fan I have a hard time choosing my favorite. (Right now it’s a tie between Mirin and Eimi). The six girls have a really great dynamic going on, every member is unique and special, and they’re all really fun. Aside from the members, lately they’ve had some of the best PVs in the idol business, and their music is superb. W.W.D II/Not Bocchi… Natsu is my top single of the year. They get a lot of music from my favorite, Maeyamada Kenichi, so that helps. Honestly, they’ve become one of the most interesting idol groups out there, and one I’m proud to be a fan of.

4. Matsuura Aya

OK, I said idol acts when I started. So Ayaya counts. Even though I haven’t mentioned her all that much lately, Matsuura Aya is one of my favorite idol singers of all time. In fact, I’d place her right after Ooguro Yuzuki (Team Syachihoko) and Ishikawa Rika in that regard. While she has a fantastic personality and did very well in some of her variety and acting bits (Sukeban Deka is legitimately underrated), Aya’s forte is performance. She has one of the best voices among Japanese idol singers. Period. She also has immense amounts of stage presence, emotes well with her performing, and always looks like she’s having a blast doing so. Aya’s albums are some of the best Hello!Project had to offer, and Aya the Witch is my favorite Hello!Project concert ever. Aya is a very talented woman, and will always be one of my favorites.

5. Aso Natsuko

Sometimes I wonder if Nacchan would be one of my top idols ever if I hadn’t had such a wonderful experience meeting her. Seeing two Nacchan lives and then getting an autograph and then getting a picture, all the while she’s being completely amazing is a memory I won’t soon forget. She is a lovely person, with a beautiful voice and personality. I was a fan of hers before the events, but seeing Nacchan live sealed the deal for me. She is very talented, and all of her music is very good (her two albums, Movement of Magic and Precious Tone are two of my favorites).

6. Rhymeberry

I do not like rap. I have zero interest in hip hop. I don’t mean any disrespect, just for the most part it doesn’t do much for me. Yet somehow I found a lot to like in Rhymeberry. Their music is inventive, fun, and makes me appreciate hip hop a lot more. The girls are all very talented, and are very fun to watch perform.

7. Ongaku Gatas

UFA: Hey, let’s make a group strongly featuring Ishikawa Rika and Yoshizawa Hitomi. We can add other Gatas Brilhantes H.P. members, some cool Eggs, and have a group. They can perform funky songs plus a lot of upbeat songs. While they’re not one of the main groups, let’s give them one of the best H!P albums ever.

Seriously, how could I not love Ongaku Gatas?

8. Def.Diva

UFA: Hey let’s take the three strong soloists, add a strong team player who is generally kind of the greatest, and have them bring all their amazingness into one group.

Again, how could I not love Def.Diva?

9. KAGAJO☆4S

This is a new group that could become one of my top favorite idol groups. The only reason they’re this low is because they’re so new, but they have a lot of promise. They’re a Stardust Promotions group, but are probably the most “normal” Stardust group out there. They’ve started out their career performing instruments live, which gets me excited for future lives. The members all have a lot of personality and energy, that get me excited. As a fan of Team Syachihoko first and foremost, I’m really interested in how Stardust is going to promote their latest indie idol group. This could become one of my all-time top favorite groups, at the rate they’re going!

10. Babymetal

Much like with Rhymeberry, metal is not a genre I particularly care much about. Yet Babymetal makes me care. Suzuka’s voice is so strong, and while Yui and Moa don’t sing much they provide a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They’re a very interesting and fun group, and have made me enjoy metal more than I ever thought I would. Their music is all very good, and they make me excited for every release.

11. Watarirouka Hashiritai (7)

Even though they haven’t put out anything in a while, I’m really sad that Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 is breaking up. While they weren’t the first unit of AKB nor the last, the group was really something special, getting a lot of the cuter/younger (at least when it was formed) girls of AKB into one unit. While the group went through many lineup changes, they always had cute and catchy songs. This song is pure cuteness, and I love it.

12. AKB48

I guess this envelops the entire 48 empire. I love all of the 48 groups a lot, but ultimately AKB was the one to start it all. Simply put, AKB brought back the idol boom, and a lot of the things that AKB popularized became main facets of the current idol boom. As a big idol fan, this makes me grateful to AKB more than anything. But beyond that, AKB is always interesting. Even when my interest in members waxes and wanes, and even when I don’t care for all their songs, they’re always interesting.

While I really enjoy SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48, I’m putting AKB on this list because they’ve set the standard for idols currently. (Plus I was in the KFC fan version so I kind of have to love AKB most 13. Morning Musume

And this is the standard for the previous generation of idols! My interest in Morning Musume has been all over the place, and I really love certain eras more than others. However, that said, despite Momusu having its lows, it has brought a lot of fantastic idol songs and has introduced the world to some really great idols. Their longevity is something to be admired, and I’m constantly impressed by Morning Musume’s current return to fame. MM is really doing well, and I’m happy to have been following them.

14. Matsuda Seiko

Aaaand the standard for 80s idols. There was a lot of great idol music in the 70s-80s, and in terms of fame, relevance and influence I could have easily put Yamaguchi Momoe, Pink Lady or Onyanko Club down here. However, Matsuda Seiko is absolutely my favorite. Part of it is her longevity; it’s so interesting to see the career of an idol lasting so long, when she’s SO famous. Anyone else see that episode of Bones she costarred in?

But seriously, watching her (mostly older) stuff, she has a real charisma and stage presence. Her music is consistently very good, and some of the best idol songs of all time have been her songs. While I don’t enjoy every thing she’s ever did (and, tbh, I haven’t heard every single/song she’s done, not by a long shot), she really deserves to be known as one of, if not THE top idol of all time.

15. MMJ

MMJ started out as MMJ48, an AKB cover group. They dropped the 48 and started releasing their own music, but this shows where they’re coming from. This is a very unknown idol group comprised of older (23 and older) girls who love idols. And that’s why I really love them, and why I love indie groups. The members have day jobs and being an idol is what they do for fun, on the side. And it really shows. All the members are enthusiastic, and are super fun to watch perform. Their original songs (especially Renai Agenda) are pretty good, and they have a lot of energy while performing. This group isn’t about money or fame, it’s about being an idol for fun, which is why I’m a fan.

16. S/Mileage

While most people tend to categorize themselves as a first-gen S/Mileage fan, 2nd gen is when I really gelled with S/Mileage. While a lot of their early music is fantastic, S/Mileage’s 2nd gen has proven that the group can handle graduations and auditions and still maintain quality. Sure, a lot of people will disagree with me, but while I liked Yuukarin and Sakicchy a lot, I’m grateful that the second generation has allowed Meimi, Kana, Rina and Akari to be in a group together. Their music has been great, for the most part, and I love what they’ve done lately. They’re energetic, fun, and have quickly become one of Hello!Project’s most interesting groups.

17. Dancing Dolls

I just found out about Dancing Dolls this summer, and I’m already a big fan. While their origin story is great and I love that there’s a pair of twins in the group, their talent is where Dancing Dolls really shines. The group is already a very strong dance group, and the vocalists are very talented. While I don’t mind following groups without as much talent, it’s nice to see a group that has a lot of skill. Add to that some catchy songs and Dancing Dolls has quickly become a group I look out for.

18. Momoiro Clover (Z)

Ahh, Momoiro Clover. Two years ago and they would have been at the top of this list. While I consider early Momoiro Clover to be one of the best groups of all time, and I do think they’ve done interesting things since then, a lot of the magic has been lost for me. While I’ve been pretty open about my frustrations with Momoiro Clover Z, this doesn’t change the fact that early Momoiro Clover is a group I really loved, and a group I will always care about, even passively. I still pay attention to them a lot; they do a lot of interesting things! But they have lost a lot of their appeal, which made them slide this low.

19. Taiyou to Ciscomoon/T&C Bomber

This is a group that a lot of people overlook in H!P’s history, but it’s one of the best groups. First off, the vocals are stunning. Inaba Atsuko is an unsung hero of Hello!Project history, and RuRU is possibly the strongest vocal in H!P (it’s somewhere between her and Ayaya). Their music is classic Hello!Project at its best, and songs like Gatamekira and Magic of Love have become legendary H!P songs. If you want great vocals and wonderful songs, T&C is a really great bet. If I want to listen to some older H!P, I usually don’t go back to early Morning Musume, I listen to Taiyou to Ciscomoon’s first album.

20. LinQ

LinQ is a new favorite, which is why it’s at the bottom. Frankly, I’m still very new to the world of LinQ. However, I like what I see. Their first album is wonderful, and the couple of live concerts I’ve watched have been energetic and great. It’s kind of uncertain how my LinQ fandom will turn out, but I do know that they are a spectacular group and worthy of being up here.

Thoughts? Want me to do a specific list next week? Leave a comment below or on the Happy Disco Facebook page and I’ll take your suggestions for a future week!

Idol Thoughts: On Perfume, Homophobia, and the Reactions

The one week I had a lot of ideas in mind for what I wanted to write, and I got asked to write a blog post on the Perfume scandal (of sorts).

First, let me just say that while Perfume isn’t a group I talk about a lot, I do like them. While I don’t follow them as much as I used to, I enjoyed the group a lot in early 2010. In fact, the reason for the Disco in Happy Disco is because of Chocolate Disco and (mostly) One Room Disco. In fact, I’d consider One Room Disco to be one of my favorite PVs and a favorite song of mine.

If you haven’t heard, there’s been a bit of fuss online over statements made by Perfume in an interview. The biggest article (that got people talking) was the one on aramatheydidnt. This took  snippets from a longer interview that was originally published in English. 

Copy-pasting the section in question from the longer interview:

Earlier this year, the trio embarked on a world tour, covering the U.K., France, and Germany (Read: J-Pop Sensation Perfume Takes Paris by Storm). For Japanese pop acts used to polite crowds who listen attentively, the crowd’s reaction in other countries came as something of a surprise to Perfume. “In Japan, we usually would start hearing people shout right before the performance, but in the U.K., people started shouting out passionately, ‘Per-fu-me!’ while clapping forty minutes before the show started, as if it were a soccer game!” says A-Chan.

“Also, when we met about ten fans from each country at the autograph sessions, there was a person who had ‘Perfume’ tattooed on his wrist. That was pretty shocking. He had tattoos on all sorts of places. I asked him, ‘didn’t it hurt to get a tattoo there?’ and he replied, ‘not really,’ then he started taking his pants off and we were like, ‘what is he going to do?’”

“He had another tattoo that said, ‘Love the World,’ which is an album that we released worldwide. He seemed so proud of it. I don’t have any tattoos so I’m not sure how deep a love that signifies, but I think it’s pretty incredible. And there were people who made gifts for us — tissue cases made from Japanese paper, for example. One particular fan said, ‘a Japanese friend gave it to me, but I want you to have it.’ I was like, ‘isn’t it a reverse import!?’ I can buy something like that anytime, but I guess for that person it was something very special. I answered a bit awkwardly, ‘tha…thank you,’” says A-Chan.

The group also discovered that their fan base demographic in European countries was somewhat different to Japan, where the ratio of male and female fans is almost equal. “Overseas, there were more men than women, and also people who were neither!” says A-Chan. “A gay couple came to our singing session and one of the guys introduced to us his ‘girlfriend.’ But the guy gave me a huge rose saying, ‘I love you so much! ­– I also love him (a guy), which means I like guys, but because I love you so much he doesn’t believe I like guys! Tell him something to convince him that I like guys!’ and I was like, ‘what in the world am I supposed to say to that!’ A lot of extraordinary things happened.”

First off, the thing I find very rude that hasn’t gotten a lot of discussion was what A-Chan said about the fan who gave her that gift from Japan. It actually shocks me to read this. Not to say that Perfume and other acts might not think that certain gifts are strange, but I assumed that music acts, especially ones with such longevity and media appearance as Perfume, would have enough tact to not single one fan’s gift out for being odd. It made her seem a bit ungrateful, which put me off.

Secondly, there are two sections in question: the “Men, women, and neither” statement and the meeting with the gay couple.

First off, the “men, women, neither” statement. Brian of Idolminded posted a link to the Perfume City forums where they discuss this in greater depth which educated me, as a casual Perfume fan. Essentially, A-chan uses this at Perfume concerts, emulating another singer who did so first, and it does reach out to the gay fans. Some foreign fans have speculated it’s reaching out to genderqueer fans, fans who don’t identify with a gender, but I think this is giving Perfume a bit too much credit in terms of gender representation. Most Western countries have enough of a hard time thinking outside the concept of a gender binary, and gender is behind a lot of these countries in terms of LGBT rights and representation. So I do think it’s referring to the gay fans, especially given the juxtaposition in this article, and what I’ve read on it on Perfume City leads me to the same conclusion.

Sexual orientation and gender identity have absolutely nothing to do with one another. So, even with the background and the rationale for saying this, it does make A-chan sound fairly ignorant. That said, I don’t think she was intentionally ignorant or trying to be intentionally malicious with her statements; it’s just something reinforced by the culture in which she was raised, and she frankly might think what she’s doing is fine, especially if LGBT fans of Perfume rally around that. This doesn’t necessarily make it OK and perfect; I have a lot of issues with Japanese culture (mostly around feminism and LGBT rights) and this just shows an aspect of the culture I’m not fond of.

Some fans are getting a bit defensive, so there’s one thing I’ll want to say about this: to be homophobic, you don’t have to be doing it consciously or intentionally. In fact, I’d say one of the worst kinds of homophobia, misogyny, etc. is the unintentional kind, because it both reflects and reinforces negative aspects of the overall culture.

As for the second issue, the fans, I’d say the worst part of the whole thing was the use of the word “girlfriend.” However, without context, it’s difficult to know what happened. Did the man introduce the person as his “girlfriend” or was that something A-chan put in? Did A-chan specifically use the word “girlfriend” or did she use “koibito” (non-gender specific word for ‘lover’) and it got translated funny? It’s hard to know, really, what went down. Personally I don’t blame her for being awkward because that fan did put her in a strange spot, trying to somehow prove his sexuality. I don’t know if A-chan necessarily needed to mention it, but I don’t think she was at fault here.

So ultimately, is Perfume a giant group of homophobic people? Nah, not really. I mean, they could probably use more coaching on how to approach the press, but there seems to be zero malicious intent and some ignorance that stems from the culture.

That said, the one thing I don’t really like is how people have been reacting to this. The almost overwhelming response has been people saying the initial arama poster was overreacting, getting defensive over Perfume, and being kind of angry.

First off, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and they’re allowed to support whatever they want. Some people have called to boycotting Perfume, and they’re in their right to do so. If you’re not offended, good for you. People are allowed to be offended at things, and stop supporting a group for whatever reason they want. I stopped watching the show Glee because of a rape joke that just made me quit the show entirely. Some people might think that’s extreme, but it’s my prerogative. Just because you’re not offended doesn’t mean people aren’t offended. And that goes both ways.

It’s also OK to criticize things you like and still like them. A blog post I posted around the time of the Miichan scandal comes to mind. If this bugs you and you still want to like Perfume, that’s absolutely fine. It’s OK to be critical of things you enjoy. I’m a big fan of the show Once Upon a Time, but I wish there were more characters on the show that weren’t white. It’s not a terrible thing to disagree with something and continue to like that thing.

That said, I think that for a lot of people this is bringing up the issue of how to view another culture entirely. I’m not saying everyone in Japan is regressive in terms of gender and sexuality, but the track record for LGBT rights in Japan isn’t great. Which goes along with that blog post I linked; it’s OK to like things from a cultural perspective you may disagree with. I personally wish that Japan would end up being more progressive, but I still listen to way too much idol pop and follow the music industry. I do think that people should be aware of these things, though. I think it’s easy as a Westerner to become enamored with places like Japan; it’s a very different culture with a very different history, but it’s still modern and industrialized. I think it’s important to be aware of the issues within a culture, so that there isn’t a blind adoration of an interesting but flawed society. I’m not saying America’s perfect; goodness knows that there are a LOT of things I would change about American society and culture. However, no country is perfect, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind.

So while I don’t come out of this hating Perfume or hating Japanese culture, I do hope that this might bring around some awareness. Unfortunately, since so many people disagree with the idea of these statements being homophobic, I could see a lot of people rejecting this altogether. So I can only hope this is an educational experience as much as it’s able, and that it causes people to think.

What do you think about the situation? Leave a comment and I’ll reply to you in next week’s Your Thoughts post!

Your Thoughts: Bias and Blogging

This week’s comment came from BeForJess of Happy Go Lucky! Thanks for commenting again!

It’s nice to see articles like this that illuminate facets of the idol blogging world!

I’ll be totally honest – it actually confuses me that so many people feel the need to preface their blogs with statements about how it’s their opinion… Simply because I feel like that’s the very essence of a blog. To get your opinions out there.

What a boring blogging world we’d have if nobody spoke opinion and talked about the things they are biased towards or against. Some of the best idol blogs out there are ones where I don’t even agree with the writer’s opinion nine times out of ten… But I like to see someone else’s perspective.

Generally speaking, the furthest I’ll ever go is to preface something particularly polarizing with a phrase like, “in my opinion”, or something similar. For all the high praise and low blows I’ve dished out on my blog, I haven’t really dealt with anything in the way of backlash. I’m not too worried about my biases showing and affecting others either – in fact, if my love for someone can influence someone else to love that idol too, all the better. Even with a negative bias, it can be comforting to know that even though the whole world loves idol X, you can’t stand her and you’re not alone.

As far as Happy Disco goes – I think you do just fine! Don’t move towards censoring your opinions to cover your bias, because you have your bias for a reason, and if you share your love, you might convince someone else to give them a try too. :)

I agree with what you said. I do think it would be boring if bloggers were expected to be completely unbiased and not share what they like and dislike. I mean, that’s the point of a lot of blogs. I also agree that I like reading opinions different to mine. I enjoy a wide variety of discourse, because that helps inform my own ideas and opinions.

As for prefacing blog posts, I generally tend to use language like “in my opinion” and “I think” just to erase all doubts that Happy Disco is just Serenyty’s realm of idol thoughts. I do wish it was less necessary to say something, but people can get a bit defensive of their favorites. I know that Chiima of Okay! Musume Time, for example, got some flack for writing critical things of Berryz Koubou. I’m not saying you have to agree with everything I write, but I would like to avoid internet rage (until I start reviewing video games or something like that). But I do try to share my feelings in general, even if I err on the side of caution.

The one statement that really resonated with me for this is “you have your bias for a reason.” Because that’s true; bloggers so often go to defend themselves with saying “I have a bias for this” when really, that’s just a personal taste that informs your opinions. I have a bias towards Team Syachihoko, but that’s because of the group, not because I have a bias there.

Thank you for your excellent comment, I appreciate it!

Idolminded’s Ray wrote a fairly long response to my last post on the Rec Reading post, so I decided to post that here too! (I know I get a lot of my views from Idolminded, but if you don’t visit Idolminded you absolutely should. I write there too!).

For a while, I’ve noticed a lot of younger bloggers seem more self-aware and pro-active about making sure their opinions are taken as opinions, a fear of backlash if that was not clear enough. I come from a pre-Internet tradition of pop-culture journalism, and so I always assumed my readership knew where I stood and that my writing would reinforce that stance. I wonder if this current self-awareness about biases and opinions is something that comes with growing up in the Internet age, where flame wars and willful misunderstanding of authorial intent is so common.

All that said, I have a general disdain for the notion of an absolute objective journalism. The idea that all opinions are equally valid is intellectually dishonest: some people are better informed, have thought out issues more, and are more articulate than others. Those opinions should be valued more than unreflective, off-the-cuff controversy-mongering. (And historically speaking, the notion of journalistic objectivity was not an attempt to provide better news but to sell papers to a wider audience – playing both sides of the fence, as it were.)

There is a great tradition of partisan and advocacy journalism, and I believe one can write in such a manner that one’s biases are understood to be in the service of honest intellectual inquiry. There’s a difference between trying to make people believe your opinions are the only right ones, and using your opinions as a starting point for a more extensive discussion. If you write as if you’re trying to win a shouting argument, you’re probably doing it wrong.

What matters is not objectivity: what matters is awareness of one’s biases, an innate respect for other people’s opinions (there’s a huge difference between respecting opinions and saying they’re equal), and a natural curiosity willing to test one’s values (and those of others) in the quest for greater enlightenment. Which may all sound kind of lofty, but in today’s media maybe we need such reminders once in a while

I honestly don’t have much to add, because I really like what was written and I want everyone to read it. However, I do have to say that as a somewhat younger blogger, I do think growing up online has a part of why I have to think about this. I was born in 1991 and I can’t even remember not having internet (since my dad’s pretty tech savvy). I spent a lot of my teen years involved on forums and in fan communities, and I’ve seen lots of anger and rage over fairly benign/pointless opinions. This has caused me to be slightly defensive in my writing style, I think mostly because of the nature of the internet and its instantaneous feedback. I haven’t had too much issues with Happy Disco and being an idol fan as a whole, but experiences of mine have informed how I write, for better or worse.

I do think there is a place for objective journalism, but I don’t think it’s somehow more valid than biased journalism, nor is it easy to achieve. While journalism/news wasn’t a major facet of my undergraduate education in media studies, there was one section in my Television-centered class on televised news. We analyzed news clips from American news outlets like CNN, and even if they’re trying to be unbiased in wording and opinion, there’s still a matter of what you present, how you present it. For example, American news media generally ignores stories that don’t have as much of a visual content, or stories that are ongoing (i.e. not “breaking news”). Because really, most news networks need viewers more than anything. When I studied abroad in the UK, it was refreshing to watch BBC news because the lack of commercials means that they aren’t focusing on ad financing. Since the BBC has always had education as a core focus, this improves their news quality.

That said, I absolutely agree that not every issue has equally correct people on both sides. Just because an issue has two sides doesn’t mean that both are right and that both are equally valid. Perhaps objectivity isn’t the correct word, and honesty is? I think that there’s a lot of good in sharing your opinions, but at the end of the day I still want journalism to attempt honest reporting.

The last paragraph is my favorite, though, and I absolutely agree.

Review Monday: Juice=Juice “Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo”

Happy Review Monday! Today’s topic: the new Juice=Juice PV!

Juice=Juice – Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo

Song: This is the most old-school H!P song I’ve heard in a while. This instantly made me think of stuff like Kiiroi Osora de Boom Boom Boom and Gatamekira. As a fan of H!P’s old-school sound (especially of stuff like T&C Bomber/Taiyou to Ciscomoon), this is a great sound that I want more of in H!P. I’ve really enjoyed the releases from Juice=Juice (especially Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya and Romance no Tochuu) and Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo continues with that musical excellence. This does a great job of being consistent with previous releases (it sounds like a Juice=Juice song should sound like) while also being distinct. It’s catchy and fun.

As always, Juice=Juice has some of the best arrangement in H!P. The piano sections in particular stand out. Not quite as much as the saxophone in their first single, mind you, but I don’t think much will. The lovely piano bits are part of a really solid whole, however; the rest of the arrangement is really nice. Occasionally the background vocals sound a bit too loud, but that could be because I want to hear more of Juice=Juice. Tomoko and Sayubee in particular sound great, but the rest of the girls sound very good. So there’s really no need for overwhelming background vocals unlike, say, early Berryz Koubou. The arrangement strikes a good balance; the girls’ voices are rarely overwhelmed but it doesn’t sound empty like some Hello!Project songs are guilty of.

Aside from the mixing issue of making the background vocals a bit too loud (at least to my taste) this is a well-produced song that continues Juice=Juice’s excellent streak of singles.

PV: Dear Up-Front/Hello!Project,

You can continue putting Ishida Ayumi in everything. I wholeheartedly approve.

Signed, Serenyty

Seriously, though, even though pretty much everyone was skeptical about it, Ayumi fits in very well with Juice=Juice.

ijuwaru1

The situation is still a bit awkward, and I imagine that there was extensive discussion on what to do with Karin’s foot injury. However, I think this ended up being a good choice (it’s hard to imagine only four people doing this dance) and Ayumi fits in really well visually and with her dance skills. My friend Dani pointed out that this is a good case for more shuffles, and I agree. The Satoyama/Satoumi units are fine, but I’d love proper summer shuffles again where all of H!P’s shuffled up.

That said, it is a bit strange seeing Karin in part of the PV and Ayumi in the other. It also doesn’t hurt that this isn’t a very interesting PV. There are two sets of close up shots, occasional group shots and the dance shot. It’s very basic and on a basic set.

ijiwaru2

 

I like this a lot in theory. The dark background and the red floor is a cool idea. But the way it was executed makes it look kind of boring and empty. Like they just set up walls and a floor and were like “let’s call it a day!” (which, let’s be real, is probably what they did).

ijiwaru3

 

These sets looked a lot cooler, IMO. Some mirrors, some beads on strings, and it already looks cooler. I like how they emphasized the members’ colors with the lighting but made it fairly subtle. Though every time they had Tomoko sing “I am rose-quartz” I swear she gives the camera this look like “yeah I know why they gave me this line.”

ijiwaru4

 

Those sets are well-lit and nice. The rest of the PV’s lighting is not that great. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about this PV is that it’s dark looking. My response is that dark isn’t bad; it’s just the same old boring flat lighting that most H!P PVs are lit at. Look at that screencap up there with Tomoko; she has shadow to her face which adds dimension, and there’s a good contrast between her face and the background. It looks nice. Then let’s look at this screencap with Akari.

ijiwaru5

 

See how little shadow there is on her face? There are tiny amounts of darkness, but for the most part this is completely flat lighting, which means that the light is diffused over the whole thing. Now for the most part you don’t want a ton of shadows unless you want a specific mood (like in The X-Files; some scenes are basically in the dark). However, some shadows add depth, character to a face. Akari’s face here looks like it’s not brightly lit AND it’s super flat, which just makes it look worse.

While a lot of the issues are with the actual lighting setup, they could have done more in the post-production. I took that same screenshot and did a little bit of editing in my freeware photo editor.

ijiwaru6

 

I slightly upped the brightness and I raised the contrast. This looks a lot more dynamic than the flat image presented earlier. Of course, the editing on the video would have had to do just that; upping the contrast on a moving image. However, this took me about 10 seconds to do.

There are even scenes where it’s too bright. I know they wanted to do a lens flare type effect or SOMETHING, but seriously, what were they attempting with this?

ijuwaru7

 

That said, not every shot has awful lighting, so points for that?

ijiwaru8

 

I think this has a lot of potential. I really enjoy the song, the general aesthetic feel of the PV, and the costumes are nice. H!P just didn’t take the time to take this PV further, to make it better. Which is frustrating.

Overall: This is a really nice song, and a decent but extremely flawed PV.

Tokyo Idol Festival 2013: The Highlights

Last week I finished my profile of every act performing at this year’s Tokyo Idol Festival. 111 acts in all. This might be daunting for a lot of people, so I decided to make a list of the groups that I personally found to be the most memorable. These are the groups that I personally am following more now that TIF is over. Note that not every quality group at TIF is on this list; this is just the groups that stood out to me. This is also focusing on the lesser known groups; I’m taking it as a given that you might know Up Up Girls, Idoling!!!, Sakura Gakuin, Super Girls, etc. These are groups/idols you may not know. But you should know them. If you like the groups I mention here, they all have longer profiles I did of them!

KAGAJO☆4S

OK, Momoiro Clover Z, Team Syachihoko and Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku. These are the big three groups of Stardust promotions, and they’re starting to promote Takoyaki Rainbow up there too. But honestly, I adore everything about KAGAJO☆4S. If Stardust groups aren’t your thing, I ask you give KAGAJO☆4S a shot. For one thing, all the members have very listenable vocals. This might be the best Stardust group in terms of overall vocals (even if some individual vocalists are better). Another thing is that they’re a bit more subdued and less strange. Another is that they play their own instruments live, sometimes. That’s right, a Stardust group that performs their own instruments. While all the early Stardust groups feel very similar, KAGAJO☆4S is unique and a different group entirely. KAGAJO☆4S might not be popular and they haven’t done that much, but I have very high hopes for this group.

HR

Seriously, what is up with Fukuoka and idol groups? Whenever I hear that an idol group hails from Fukuoka, I know they’re amazing. HR is no exception. Their music is all pretty good, but their energy in performance is really where they stand out. Kimi ni Spark is a fantastic song, and, performance wise, HR is up there with some major groups. If you like your groups energetic, definitely check out HR.

Oomori Seiko

Oomori Seiko isn’t an idol. Not really. She’s more of a singer-songwriter. But she’s very talented, loves idols (her covers of H!P songs are some of my favorite things ever) and definitely deserves recognition.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

This is another regional group. Probably the biggest trend of this year were groups representing their home prefecture or city. Kawasaki Junjou Komachi does it well, though. They have an almost early Momoiro Clover feel in their embrace of traditional Japanese-inspired costumes and songs, and they do a great job of it. Kawasaki Junjou Ondo is one of my favorite songs of the year for that reason; it combines traditional sounds with modern idol music to make a very catchy song. I hope that KJK can start expanding as a group, because they are one of the top unknown local idol groups.

Dancing Dolls

Dancing Dolls honestly blew me away. First off, the fact they formed themselves and took initiative to form a group says a lot to me. Next, their three first singles, all covers/remixes, are excellent takes on their original song. Finally, these girls are all very talented. There’s a very high level of both vocal and dancing talent here, all while the girls themselves seem personable, fun and energetic. I can see Dancing Dolls getting big; they certainly deserve it. This is one of the best groups I profiled this year.

Tochiotome25

Do you want hyper energy with some catchy songs? If so, Tochiotome25 might be your group. They’re a local group to Tochigi prefecture, and while they might not be as talented as some groups they certainly make up for it in enthusiasm and spirit. Add to this some truly catchy songs (Ichigo Hakase and Gyoza Party, notably) and you have a really fun group to keep an eye on. I know I certainly will stay a fan of these girls.

Vanilla Beans

While I love the style and concept behind Vanilla Beans, their music has never quite grabbed me. That said, I generally pay attention to them in case they suddenly impress me. And that they did with Please Me Darling. I don’t know if it’s enough to make me go back and re-evaluate their previous efforts, but Please Me Darling is Vanilla Beans at its very best. Suddenly their style and concept and music go together and form a unique and lovely group. I’m very impressed by this song and PV and hope that Vanilla Beans’ next stuff is just as fantastic.

bump.y

When I first heard about bump.y being a group of aspiring actresses, I wondered what they had to offer an idol group. Then I watched their stuff. They have good music, a diverse bunch of members and lots of charisma. While I’ve been listening to Gotta Getcha since I wrote my initial profile, they have a fairly diverse body of work and an interesting member base. While I’m interested to see them grow into young actresses, they are a great, high quality group that deserve your attention.

Babyraids

Babyraids was a group I’d heard hyped up a ton, and yet they were able to live up to the hype. Formed by an idoling!!! member, this group does fun, rock-inspired music without being a “scary” rock-inspired group like BiS or Alice Juban. They’re a nice change of pace if you want some different music with your idols, but they still resemble standard idol groups. They have a lot of energy and a whole lot of potential, and I strongly hope to see more of them soon.

Bellring Shoujo Heart

I still haven’t looked as much into Bellring Shoujo Heart as I should. But the one thing that really sets them apart is the music. Their music, which is 60s inspired, is unlike any other idol music I’ve heard. And I love it.

Rhymeberry

I love Rhymeberry. While Lyrical School also does good idol hip hop, Rhymeberry takes the cake for me. All their songs are just so fun, yet show off how proficient the girls are at rapping. Sekaichuu ni I Love You is one of the most interesting and unique songs I’ve heard recently, because it mixes 20s-30s era jazz/swing with hip hop and adds an idol flavor to that. Rhymeberry is one of the two groups that I have to buy every single release they put out, because everything is so good. They are a fantastic group that needs more support!

RYUTist

That website, man. Seriously, though, these girls seem really adorable and fun, they perform some good music (including interesting cover songs). Oh yeah, and best idol website ever.

LinQ

OK, TIF didn’t get me into LinQ, it was my friend who loves them. Still, LinQ is good. They have really high quality music (see: my review of their first album), lots of great members (watching live LinQ performances is a treat) and they’re just a whole lot of fun. A lot of fun backed up by fantastic music. This group is a really high-quality idol group, and one you should definitely be following.

Idol Thoughts: Bias and Blogging

This week, I became aware of a post on the blog Momo-Musu about bias and idol fandom. It’s an interesting thing to think about, and one I know I’ve encountered in my own fandom. Sometimes I wonder if my own prejudices get in the way of enjoying some things.

But in any case, that’s not what I’ve come to talk about. The thing that this post has started making me think about is how biases directly and indirectly affect my own blog and reviews as a whole.

I am a biased person. Really, we all are. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, even if some are founded in reasonable things. Personally, I have a lot of groups I favor (Team Syachihoko being the most notable) and and styles of music I like more than others. For example, I generally like upbeat and fast-paced songs over a slower ballad. This doesn’t mean I will always hate a ballad, but that I will more likely prefer an average fast-paced song over the average ballad.

But, while having biases is generally understood and accepted, people who blog and do reviews are in an interesting position. It doesn’t take much to be a blogger; when I started Happy Disco I just spent about ten minutes setting up a blogspot blog. There’s very little barrier of entry. But doing so sets up your opinions to be read, discussed, and disagreed with.

I honestly have difficulty deciding how objective I should be while writing Happy Disco, especially in doing reviews and my TIF segments. How objective should I be in reviewing something? Do I need to only look at it in the most objective terms possible or can I put my own biases into the review? Personally, I try to be fair even with things that I might not like, but I don’t have many qualms with saying I prefer something to something else. However, this would be a lot different, if I had Happy Disco set up differently. Since I formed the blog, I’ve made it clear that this is my personal space for my thoughts on idols, which include reviews and commentary.

The biggest thing I wonder is how apparent should I make my biases. A lot of people get sent over to my blog via search engines or by referral from blogrolls and Idolminded posts. Some posts get read more than others. Should I put a big disclaimer over everything, stating all my likes and dislikes and how they might influence me? I should hope that I don’t need something like this, but the reality is that not everyone is going to be a loyal Happy Disco reader; most people find my site because they’re looking up a group.

I also wonder about my language while writing reviews. I usually try to make things clear that I’m just saying my own personal opinion and not stating fact. However, that isn’t always clear to everyone, and I know that back in school I was encouraged to stop using phrases like “I think” in my writing to avoid weak writing and sounding wishy-washy. It’s a difficult thing to balance, especially since I’m trying to make my writing more professional in hopes of someday figuring out a paying gig for my writing.

Ultimately, I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at right now. I try to make it clear that Happy Disco is a one-woman project and that everything on this blog is my own opinion. I aim for some objectivity, and I try to say if someone else might something better than me. It’s just a difficult situation.

If you blog, what do you try to do? Do you like how I approach this on Happy Disco, or would you prefer I do something else? Let me know your thoughts and you’ll end up in my Your Thoughts post for next week!