List Friday: Top 5 Strange Additions to Idol Groups

In the course of idol history, lots of odd choices have been made. It’s easy to point at a choice that puzzles you and makes you question things. However, rarely do those choices affect group lineups. This is a list of the top five strange additions to idol groups, making an unusual group.

5. Team Syachichoco

That’s right, this is very recent! Sakamoto Haruna, the youngest member of Syachi, is taking a small break to study for her high school entrance exams. While she’s away… they decide to replace Haru with a chocolate statue?

Now, I am a fan of Haruna’s, and I want her to come back soon. However, I’m so interested to see how this is going to work. Is this going to just be done in a few videos to promote Syachi and Lotte (the chocolate company)? Or will they do multiple events featuring Sakachoco Haruna? Honestly, given Team Syachihoko’s track record, I wouldn’t be surprised if they play this up for a while.

4. Morning Musume + Takagi Boo

Morning Musume doing Hawaiian music isn’t that unusual. I mean, Coconuts Musume is a thing. They go to Hawaii on FC tours. However, not just doing a song, but doing an entire album with Hawaiian music performer Takagi Boo is taking this a bit over the top. Watching this video is also a bit bizarre, as Takagi Boo waves to the camera and Morning Musume (plus assorted extra H!P) essentially flirt with him. The arrangements aren’t terrible, but it still feels like an odd move for the group, especially considering that this is when Morning Musume was at their prime.

3. Mini Moni with Bakatonosama

Probably the worst music video ever. This is the title of the Aiin Dance no Uta PV on Youtube, one of Mini Moni’s two collaboration songs. This is so high energy and ridiculousness, that I had trouble wrapping my head around it the first time I saw it. Bakatonosama is a comedy character from a TV show, and Mini Moni certainly had its foray into weirdness before this, but the fact that they thought that putting these two together was a smart decision is what makes my head spin a bit.

2. Hinoi Team with Koriki Choshu

Remember Hinoi Team? The Eurobeat Para Para group? No? Well probably the biggest thing they did was a cover of the song Night of Fire. This is the song that comedy wrestler Koriki Choshu danced to as a comedian, so lo and behold they make a cover of Night of Fire featuring Koriki. I’m just amazed that these girls can do this with a relatively straight face.

1. OKL48

Another comedy act, this time the song is actually put on a main AKB48 single, which gives it an edge to get #1. Again, it’s a comedy character, but seeing AKB48 dressed as lemons is strange. Though it’s oddly comforting to know that Ichikawa Miori did get to dress up as a lemon.

The conclusion I get from this is that the weirdest ones are all comedy related. Which is understandable; this is supposed to be funny. However, I’m glad that comedy has supported some of the oddest things to come out of idol music and videos.

Idol Thoughts: Team 8 and Professional Endorsements

Since my last Idol Thoughts post, AKS announced that AKB would be getting a Team 8. This announcement has (understandably) gotten a lot of interest and buzz, because a lot of what Team 8 is going to be is very unprecedented. 47 Girls in an audition, one from each prefecture? This is going to be an odd generation. “Idols who come to meet you?” It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out (I doubt one of them will fly to Minnesota to meet me, though). So understandably, these are the things people are talking about. However, the one thing that I think is very interesting and perhaps hasn’t been talked about enough is that Team 8 is officially sponsored by Toyota.

Idols aren’t strangers to commercial endorsements. Last week I wrote about how Morning Musume getting a major CM deal with au was a major sign that things were going well for MM. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to do commercial endorsements. They get public awareness up for your idol/group and get some new funding. Corporate sponsorship CAN do some good things. I’ve been watching the show Chuck lately, which was in danger of cancellation for quite a bit of its run. However, fans reached out to one of the show’s major sponsors, Subway, and made a concerted effort to show that they were spending money at Subway. Some of the endorsements were slightly obvious, but it allowed the show to be on the air for longer than it would have been.

However, I have some reservations for the Team 8 announcement. This is the first time a company has sponsored an audition for AKB (or really for any idol group that I can think of). I don’t imagine that AKB is strapped for cash; they have a lot of members, but idols don’t get paid THAT well, at least as well as Western celebrities do. But this level of corporate endorsement has me a bit nervous. Toyota is from Aichi prefecture; does this mean that Aichi is the prefecture that will produce the next AKB frontgirl? Even if Toyota doesn’t say “the girl from Aichi should be the center,” I’d imagine there’s some level of pressure to have her be up front.

At the most innocuous this will be just something they say during press releases and put on the website, that this is being sponsored by Toyota. However, I just wonder if this is going to affect either the members that are chosen or how those members act. Idols aren’t some bastion of artistic integrity; I know that idol groups are formed by companies. However, will this affect the creative choices that do get made. I’m not saying it will, but I am saying that I am a bit hesitant on this.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments and I’ll post that as a part of my “Your Thoughts” post next week!”

Review Monday: Takoyaki Rainbow – Naniwa no Haniwa

Happy Monday everyone! I was going to review Morning Musume’s triple A-Side that’s coming out this week, but then suddenly a new PV came out that I had to review. The Morning Musume review might be coming in a future week, though.

Takoyaki Rainbow is the next in the line of Stardust Promotions groups, after Momoiro Clover Z, Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku. and (my favorite) Team Syachihoko. When this group was first announced I really wanted to love it; takoyaki is actually one of my favorite foods ever, so I thought this was a cute name! However, I wasn’t super fond of their first single ‘ Over the Takoyaki Rainbow.’ When I heard that my favorite idol composer, Maeyamada Kenichi, was going to be writing their second single, I knew that I had to give this group another shot.

Song: If weird Hyadain or Stardust idols aren’t normally your thing, I really doubt this will be your thing. Personally, I love it; it feels like a very Hyadain song but also feels somehow unique to Takoyaki Rainbow. However, I do think this is the type of song that benefits from multiple listens. The first time I listened to it I was not sure what to think, and unsure if I liked it. This song has a lot of different styles and sections thrown into one song (as Hyadain likes to do). However, after a couple of listens in, you start to get a better sense for the structure of the song and it starts to make more sense. Still, the first listen was an interesting experience of “What is even going on even?”

The closest song I can compare it to is GOUNN, and even that’s a bit of a stretch (it’s mostly based off the arrangement). It’s more like if Hyadain wrote GOUNN for 2010 era MomoClo. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s just the closest thing I can think of, comparison wise. This song has a lot going on, though, and it does sound kind of busy. The song takes a bit too long to get to the first chorus, for example, and really lingers on the shouted “N A N I W A” sections. After it catches in your brain it doesn’t really sound like it’s dragging, but the first few listens it felt like it was.

By far the weakest part of the single are the vocals; if you’re looking for strong vocalists, you aren’t going to look towards Takoyaki Rainbow (or any Stardust group, really). However, the vocals do work for this type of song. The girls deliver on energy and charisma, and that’s what this song needs more than anything.

This song is fun, well-written, and right up my alley as a big Hyadain fan. It is getting me more and more interested in Takoyaki Rainbow. 9/10

PV: I think I mentioned this in my top 15 PV list, but I’ll reiterate: green screen isn’t bad. Visual effects can add a lot to a PV. What is bad is lazy visual effects, or using it to cut corners. If you have a unique and interesting visual style, like in Naniwa no Haniwa, having a fully green screen PV isn’t a bad thing.

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As you can see above, the PV has a really strange style; it’s kind of surreal at times (and very surreal at others) and odd all the time. The thing I find most interesting is that the color palette tends to be slightly muted; this isn’t the bright colors of Ai no Chikyuusai. Yet this muted color scheme works well and seems oddly bright when put together. I can’t really put my finger on it.

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The PV’s biggest asset are the girls involved; all of them have really stepped up their game and have a lot of talent appearing cute and personable in front of the camera. They’re all very cute and veyr fun to watch. This PV did a fantastic job of showing off the girls.

The editing is very well done; it’s generally done rapidly (especially when they’re spelling out “H A N I W A”, cutting on every letter), but it never feels rushed or out of place.

Ultimately, this PV is another example in how good greenscreen PVs CAN look, and is also an example of showing off your idols effectively. 9/10

I really enjoyed this PV, and it’s caused me to want to keep an eye on this group in the future!

List Friday: Top 10 Idols (2014)

Time for my arbitrary list of my top idols I enjoy right now at this point in time! This is in no way a complete list of the idols I like, but it’s instead a list of the girls who I pay most attention to. A lot of them should be familiar if you’ve read Happy Disco in the past.

10.Washio Miki (rev.From DVL)

This year, everyone got interested in Rev.From DVL, against all odds. Seriously, I was surprised at how well-known Hashimoto Kanna got, as a big rev.From DVL fan. However, as cute as Kanna really is, and how great as the rest of the members are, Miki is the one that has stood out for me. For one, I found the group because she actively followed me on twitter. She seems to actively try to promote the group, and loves the group. Add to that that she is a really fun, charismatic performer to watch, and she has become one of my favorites over the course of the past year.

9. Tamura Meimi (S/Mileage)

Meimi is one of those idols who simultaneously has a great voice and a super entertaining personality. She was originally known as the energetic youngest member of an already energetic group, but this past year she showed off just how genuinely talented she can be. As much as I like S/Mileage, Meimi has oodles of stage presence, charisma, and talent. Add onto that a very cute face and a goofy personality, and I just wonder how anyone can not love Meimi.

8. Ichikawa Miori (AKB48/NMB48).

I’ve only really realized my Miorin leanings recently. I’ve liked her for a long time; I mean, how can you NOT like Miorin? She’s super cute, has that little lisp, and just has a sweet personality. However, this past year one of my closest idol friends became Miorin oshi. So I’ve been seeing a lot of her lately. And I just can’t deny how cute she is, how nice her personality is, how genuinely appealing she is as an idol. This is still pretty new to me, but Miorin has been hanging out in my top 5 48 members area for a while now, and I’m getting more and more of an interest in her.

Also seriously, look at how cute she is. I can’t help but gush over how darling Miorin is!!

7. Naruse Eimi (Dempagumi.inc)

2013 was the year of “How do I begin to choose a favorite Dempagumi.inc member?” Because honestly, all the members are pretty spectacular, and I considered all of them being favorites. Which is part of why I’ve become a big fan of the group. However, ultimately Mirin and Eimi were the two big contenders, and after much flipflopping I ended up on the side of Eitaso. She’s just one of those people who’s so bright, happy and energetic that I can’t help but smile every time I see her in a PV. I love her enthusiasm about her interests in things, and she just seems like one of the sweetest girls out there.

6. Aso Natsuko (soloist)

Nacchan is one of those idols I wish more people talked about and who was able to do more. I mean, she does a lot; she’s still going to law school at Chuo University. Add her idol career, her career as a law student at a prestigious university, her regular appearances on the show ZIP, and honestly I’m not surprised that her releases are a bit more sporadic than others.

That said, Nacchan is incredibly sweet and kind, has a lot of stage presence and I love her voice. She seems like a very smart, kind woman, and the type of person I would want to be friends with. Nacchan is even better in person, and I’m so so glad I was able to see her once.

5. Kawaei Rina (AKB48)

New girl for the list! I wish I could be someone who says that I liked Kawaei before she got a big push from the AKB48 management, but I really can’t. I knew of her pretty early on (the person who just missed out on this list, Natori Wakana, is in her generation), but I didn’t really jump on the Kawaei bandwagon until after the Bakajo test and the BKA48 stuff happened. Yet really, that is a huge area of interest for Kawaei. Even though BKA48 was all helping promote her, there is something to be said for the character of someone who’s cheerfully kind of stupid. Recently AKB started a series where Kawaei is trying to study to be able to pass qualifications to be a medicinal food coordinator, and it’s actually really amazing how much she seems to be working.

Simultaneously as I found BKA48 and how much I liked Haste to Waste, Koisuru Fortune Cookie started to be performed places, and Kawaei often subbed in for members like Jurina. She has a real stage presence that draws me in, and makes her really compelling. The future is bright for Kawaei Rina!

4. Ishida Ayumi (Morning Musume)

In terms of personalities I go for, there’s a specific personality balance I go for. I like girls that care and are clearly passionate about what they’re doing, but are also able to have fun and be silly about things. That’s the type of personality I see in Ayumi. She works so hard, especially at dancing (her biggest strength as a performer) but she also has an easy smile. Watching her dance is captivating, because she’s so skilled at it but also clearly has a good time. She’s made me really interested in the current generation of Morning Musume, and I can’t wait to see more and more of her.

3. Itou Chiyuri (Team Syachihoko)

Speaking of dynamic performers! 2013 I paid a ton of attention to Team Syachihoko, and while most of my favorite attentions fell on another member (who is coming up soon, hint hint) Chiyuri captures a lot of my attention. She’s such a fun performer who gives everything her all, has a really nice voice (best in Syachi) and has a great dynamic with the rest of the group (especially the one who’s coming up soon). Chiyuri is the ace of the group, and does this incredibly well, and I’ve become incredibly fond of Chiyu.

2. Ishikawa Rika (former Morning Musume, current amazing person)

Yeah is this a surprise to anyone? Rika was my #1 idol for years, and while that place has been surpassed she still holds a super fond place in my heart. She’s kind, hard-working, a great performer (her vocals have improved so much over the years!) and is overall, IMO, one of the greatest idols ever. I really hope she continues to work in the future because I want as much Rika as I can get.

1. Ooguro Yuzuki (Team Syachihoko)

Last year it was a hard decision to put Yuzuki up at #1. Now it feels super natural. Yuzuki is just phenomenal. She clearly loves being an idol, loves her fellow members, and loves idols in general. She puts an incredible amount of energy into every single performance. She’s a very warm, sweet person who also happens to be ridiculously fun to watch. If you take just about every quality I care about in an idol, you’ll find them in Yuzuki. She’s just such a passionate, cheerful, happy person that it really just rubs off on me. So yeah, while my sudden Yuzuki fandom at the end of 2012 was a bit surprising, by this time it feels right.

Idols to Watch For: This is a list of girls I can see taking part in this top 10, but I’m still a bit unsure of where to put them.

Kobayashi Mayu (HR) – Mayu is absolutely the girl that stands out the most to me from HR. I started watching the group for a while and I liked them, but they were still really indie. However, their latest single Evolution Da has been doing really well. I recently ordered that, and I can see myself continuing to follow HR more and more.

Mayu has a whole lot of stage presence and energy that honestly got me into HR more than anything. She has a lot of potential, and I can’t wait to see where HR go from here.

Shishima Saki (GALETTe): I had an interesting experience. GALETTe has been getting some buzz lately, and I checked it out and liked what I saw. I liked all the members a lot, but Shishima Saki seemed familiar. Then I realized that oh yeah, this was my favorite member from the former group CQC’s which I covered in my Tokyo Idol Festival writing. GALETTe is still really new, but if they continue at this pace I’m going to have to pay more attention to them!

Amano Natsu (LinQ): I need to follow LinQ more. This is a straight up fact. Amano Natsu is the charismatic, fun to watch leader of the group who I immediately picked out as my favorite.

Funaki Musubu (H!P Kenshuusei) I may fangirl over Musubu every single second I see her. She is the cutest ever. If she gets put in anything, I swear I’ll be her biggest fan ever.

Idol Thoughts: Announcements and CMs

I tried to think of a post to do this week, but really there’s not
much I could have done other than Tsunku’s Morning Musume
announcement. I mean, look at the options. It could have been a huge
announcement of world-shaking proportions, and I would have definitely
had to write about that. However, what happened was underwhelming for
most people, to say the least, and now this is an interesting jumping
off point to talk about.

From here, I’m going to break this down into two parts:

1. The announcement, or rather the hype around it.

2. The CM itself, and how this will affect Morning Musume.

– The Announcement/hype –

From the beginning, when Tsunku announced that there was going to be a big announement, I noticed a split of two camps within the people who actually cared about this: there were the people who were excited and possibly nervous about such an announcement, and there were the people who were convinced this was nothing at the getgo.

I think both sides are fair, but I was on the side of being probably convinced it was nothing. While Tsunku said that it was a risky move, very few moves Up-Front ever really does are risky. I didn’t expect there would be a huge announcement of something risky when that’s just not how Morning Musume operates.

Still, despite being pretty certain it had to be nothing, I still dutifully sat down and watched the livestream at the conference. Why was that? Because despite nothing ending up happening, there was a lot of hype and discussion.

It was hype for hype’s sake, essentially. It was Tsunku getting people to talk about Morning Musume even though all the theories and ideas about what it could be were most likely false. If you’re promoting something, you want people to be talking about it. Even if it’s just the fans getting worked up, it’s still keeping interest on the group (as opposed to another group).

– CMs-

I think people are underestimating the power of a national CM. Yes, it’s fairly underwhelming. However, more press for Morning Musume is a good thing, and this could do a lot to show the new lineup of Morning Musume to the current public who doesn’t know MM.

Personally, I don’t listen to any American radio; the music I like generally doesn’t get much airtime, and I prefer being able to listen to my ipod. I watch talk shows only if a guest I like is on (and then I generally only watch for the celebrity I like). The only way I’m aware of top 40 American music is pretty much through word of mouth and commercials.

That’s the kind of audience that MM could reach through a CM. I’m not saying it’s going to generate a lot of new fans, but it could, in a way, raise some awareness for the group from people who have similar habits to me or who just ignore that group entirely.

Plus, the CM is actually pretty humorous; I love that it implies that Tsunku makes bad decisions about Morning Musume while drinking. This could also get people talking.

It’s not going to be a huge turning point, but this kind of shows that Morning Musume is getting back to being fairly big national idols again. This kind of campaign won’t change everything, but it’s more emblematic of the place that Morning Musume has gotten to. And that’s exciting.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know and you will be featured in my “Your Thoughts” post next week!

Your Thoughts: Broadening My Music Horizons

The comment I got this week comes from Brian, who you should know as one of the great contributors at Idolminded! Now before I get to his comment, know that I’ve gotten a lot of great recs for music via twitter, but I’m always open to new recommendations, hip hop or otherwise.

I see you got a bunch of recommendations on Twitter so I want to keep a short list. But you are searching for hip hop or hip hop inspired music so, well…

A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It
Paperboy – Ditty
Nas – The World Is Yours
Digable Planets – Where I’m From
Soul Square ft/ Melodiq – It’s All In Your Mind
Kick The Can Crew – Sayonara Sayonara
Onra – One Day
Rip Slyme – Time To Go
Epik High – Over
Halcali – Tandem

I’ve never been good at describing music or anything like that. This list is kind of all over, I wanted to give you suggestions similar to Rhymeberry but I don’t really know too much about Rhymeberry myself. From a quick Youtube search, if you like them, Halcali should be something you enjoy, if you don’t already.

All of these songs have great beats (which is usually what gets my attention first). And there’s songs like Nas’ and Epik High’s that have great wordplay in the lyrics. “The World Is Yours” is one my favorite songs of any genre. I know a lot of people like idol music cause it’s positive and “The World Is Yours” fits that easily – both in the lyrics and the sound. I hate to add more suggestions but the whole Illmatic is special and something I’d really recommend.

As for me, idol music hasn’t really changed anything, just part of the journey. There’s great music all over, in all different genres and in every country, and it’s great we are in a time that it’s so easy to find it all. Also, I think it’s great you are looking for all kinds of music, I really appreciated that you showed some interest in the cpop posts I started making on IM. I know it’s a lot (and some of it I haven’t even listened to myself yet) but if you ever want to talk more about anything, let me know!

First off, thank you so much for the recommendations! I’ve been checking out Halcali and liking them. I also checked out Rip Slyme and I’m still working through the rest of them. I really appreciate all the thought that you and the other people who have been recommending me things have put into it. I haven’t listened to nearly everything yet because there’s a lot, but I do appreciate it a ton.

And it’s very true that there’s great music all over. I find it interesting hearing about the musical histories of fellow idol fans, because there are a lot of people who have very varied tastes. It’s an interesting thing to hear about.

And I have to admit I’m SO new to CPop, but I want to try and listen to more in the CPop world as well as Kpop. While JPop has become my comfort zone over the course of the past 6-7 years, I feel like I’m missing out on some great music in both China and Korea that I need to at least dabble in.

So thanks again for your reply, and thank you to everyone else! =D

Review: Idoling!!! – Gold Experience

This weekend I asked on twitter if anyone wanted me to review anything. Steve from Selective Hearing suggested Idoling!!!’s latest album. Idoling!!! is a group I’ve always liked, but never got into too much. So I’m actually pretty happy that I have a chance to revisit this group. I’ve liked a lot of their music in the past (Me ni wa Aoba Yama Hototogisu Hatsukoi is one of my favorite idol songs) so let’s see what I think about this new album!

1. Shokugyou: Idol

Immediately the opening reminds me of the opening to AKB48’s Futari Nori no Jitensha. Which is a good thing; that’s from AKB’s best stage, and this is the type of song that fits really well as an opener.

This track is a bit unusual in that it’s an older single that was already featured on an Idoling!!! album; this is a single from 2008, and the rest of the singles on Gold Experience are very recent. While this has been revamped with vocals from the current generations of members, the fact that this song was chosen means that they’re thinking about this album as an album and not a collection of singles + non-single songs. At least, I hope that’s what they mean with this, because there are far too few idol albums that actually try to be successful as albums.

This is the type of song that I would play for someone if I wanted to tell them what idol music is like. This feels like an “idol” song, in the best sense. I like music that’s considered ‘idol-y,’ so this hits the spot. There’s a pretty good drum beat and a nice guitar section, adding some rock flavor to the song. The song itself is pretty catchy, though, and like I said I do enjoy idol music on its own.

Despite being an older single, this fits very well as an opening track. Of the recent albums I’ve reviewed, this and LinQ’s “Hajimemashite” fit the best as openers. This is a fun, well written song that fits very well as an opener to the album. 8/10

2. MAMORE!!!

This immediately feels more like the Idoling!!! I’ve become familiar with; this and Dont Think! Feel are the types of songs that I’ve come to associate with Idoling!!!; songs that pack a punch. MAMORE!!! is probably the single I’d think of most when I think of this type of Idoling!!! song.

For some reason I remember disliking MAMORE when it first came out, and for the life of me I can’t remember why. This is a well-paced, energetic song that packs a punch. I just think that these cooler, more powerful songs that tend to be favorites with some take longer for me to get into. I think another part of it is that the chorus is far more immediately appealing than the verses; they aren’t bad, per say, and have a lot of good to them, but the chorus is the real attraction to MAMORE!!!. However, at a closer listen, there are some good layered vocals in places that I don’t know if I appreciated at first.

This is also a song that shows off the deeper, strong vocals of the Idoling!!! members. Everything sounds really good and serious; a group with higher pitched vocals might not sound quite as good doing this type of song. The instrumentation is really great, too; I feel like it’s easy to give this type of song a fairly generic rock sound, but this feels like a complex, well-made track.

MAMORE!!! isn’t the type of song I naturally gravitate towards, but goodness I’ve gained an appreciation for it. 8/10

3. Ichigo Gyuunyuu

And Idoling!!! returns to a cuter style. This is a pleasant, mid-tempo song that feels even slower after following something like MAMORE!!!

Pleasant is honestly the best word I can think for something like Ichigo Gyuunyuu. It’s not a bad song, but there’s not much that really feels extraordinary. The best thing I appreciate is the arrangement; if I’ve learned one thing from these past few tracks I’ve learned that I like the instrumentation in Idoling!!! songs. The strings and piano sound lovely, and I appreciate the clear effort that went into that.

There’s also some really beautiful vocal work in the bridge. The vocals for this track are largely unremarkable (again, especially in following MAMORE) but there’s shining moments of realization that there are beautiful vocalists in Idoling!!!

It’s hard to say anything bad about Ichigo Gyuunyuu, but beyond a good arrangement there’s not much I’d call home about. It’s not bad, but it’s not a song I think I’ll be returning to anytime soon. It has the potential to grow on me, but for now it hasn’t. 6/10.

4. Akogare Adoration

Here’s a faster paced rock song! This is much more of the older school, lighter rock than something like MAMORE. Like always the vocals and instrumentation are very good; in particular there’s a section of harmonization later in the song that sounds really fantastic.

The instrumentation is well-done, like always, but there are a lot of sections that sound too busy. I like having multiple things going on at once in a song as a general rule, but here it felt like there was a bit too much going on at once. I also don’t know if I quite like the mixing of the song; sometimes it sounds like the vocalists are a bit too quiet. It’s nothing extreme, but these touches in comparison to the other Idoling!!! tracks just feel off.

I do like the clapping in the song and the harmonization is gorgeous. This is a fun song, and I like various elements. However, it’s not quite interesting enough and not all the elements come together as well as I wish they would. 6/10

5. Kaniko

When pitching me this album, Steve mentioned that this album felt like a bit of a tribute to idol styles through the year. While I listen to some oldschool idol music sometimes, I was nervous that I wouldn’t really get it. But yeah, this song is definitely getting some of that 70s idol vibe. The first song that comes into my head with this is that this reminds me of an updated Southpaw by Pink Lady; there are probably other songs that fit this better, but I got some Pink Lady mixed with Nakamori Akina (because this does sound darker) in there.

The thing is, even though this does feel oldschool in flavor (especially with the melody) it’s not necessarily obvious; the production and arrangement is modern and it’s produced very well. The members they chose to sing this song perform it well, as well, and it sounds nice all around. This isn’t necessarily my favorite type of oldschool sound, but I do like retro idols fit into modern music a lot so this does make me happy.

This is a fun, upbeat song with a bit of a darker sound to it. I love it. 9/10

6. Sentō Renai Shōjo Robo B Gata no Yūutsu

I had Pink Lady on the brain when listening to this because the siren at the beginning made me think of UFO from Pink Lady. The rest of the song has a lot more energy and doesn’t make me think of a specific song like Kaniko did, but the strings still remind me of retro music, which is great.

This is unfortunately not quite as memorable as Kaniko to me, but it still sounds good. This song does something that not a lot of songs do but that I appreciate whenever I hear it; it combines rock with strings and adds on some electronic effects. Not quite as effectively as the best songs that do this, mind you, but I appreciate songs that have the ambition to have this.

While all the members sound fine here, there are some shouting parts that don’t really appeal to me as much as they could. Ultimately this is a fine song that does a lot of interesting things, but doesn’t appeal to me quite as much as it should. 7/10

7. Bon Voyage!

To be honest I put off reviewing this song because I just don’t know how to approach it. The song feels like it should be a mid-tempo, slower ballad (like the opening), but then it suddenly goes faster and has an upbeat arrangement. The chorus in particular is a slower melody, and, just singing the melody back to me, it sounds like it would fit better as a slower song.

The song isn’t bad; it continues this string of good songs and good arrangement. I’ve just listened to it over and over and just can’t pinpoint what it is about this song. The ending where parts start to overlap is probably the most successful section, and I like the ending chord which sounds like it’s from an organ. That would have been cool, an organ-focused song.

I think I like this, and there are sections that I like more than anything, but for some reason this song is baffling to me. It hasn’t stuck in my head at all, and I doubt I’ll be thinking much about this in the future. 5/10

8. Sakura Thank You

This is a graduation song. From years of conditioning I’ve come to expect that songs about graduation are uninteresting and boring. Unfortunately, Sakura Thank You doesn’t stray too far from this precedent. The guitar solos sound good, and the arrangement is very solid, like always. It also goes without saying that the vocals are strong. However, this doesn’t really stand up to some of the more interesting songs on this album.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the worst graduation single I’ve ever heard. It’s far better than AKB’s awful So Long which also came out this year. The strong production makes up for it. Really, I’d rank this pretty highly among similar graduation themed singles. It’s just a disappointment that when Idoling!!! decided to go for a graduation single that they went for a more generic sound than they had done before this.

That said, I do like the production on this quite a bit, and there are really great moments in the arrangement. It’s just that this is arrangement is on something fairly uninteresting, which is a shame. 6/10

9. Natsu no Ojousan

When I first heard this song I was sure that this was a cover of a Candies song or something; this reminds me way too much of stuff like Haru Ichiban and Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu. While this isn’t a Candies song, this is in fact a cover of a song by Sakakibara Ikue, released in 1978.

Taking a quick listen to a performance of the original, it doesn’t sound like Idoling!!! changed too much with their arrangement. And here, I think that’s a good thing. The song is very fun on its own that I’m glad it seems like they left the original framework but just modernized it.

I wasn’t aware of this song before the cover, but now I’m glad that they covered this! It’s a fun song that Idoling!!! does a great job of covering. 9/10

10. Namida no Freesia

And wow this feels like 90s era idols, in a good way. This reminds me in a way of something like White Love by Speed, that kind of sensibility that you don’t really hear in a lot of idol music lately.

I like how piano heavy this sounds, even with the synth in there. It does a good job of adding some darkness to the track, and mixes well together. The one thing that kind of stumps me is the member choice for this single; I know this is a unit song, but it feels like they chose the highest-pitched/cutest voices of the group when it might sound better with a stronger voice. Some of the higher notes sounded like they were a bit of a struggle. I’d love to hear a Yokoyama Rurika cover of this song, for example, just to hear the difference.

This is a nice song that brings me back to a kind of idol music style that doesn’t really exist that much anymore in this post-Speed/SweetS era. It’s nice to hear. 7/10

11. Samui Yoru Dakara

Now here’s a song that’s legitimately from the 90s; this is a cover of a song from 1993 by the band TRF. This gives me serious vibes of songs like Get Wild, which I enjoy but aren’t necessarily my go to songs.

This is a song that I honestly don’t care for as much as I cared for Natsu no Ojousan. It’s fine, but there are sections which feel like they’re stretched out too long. And I feel like it’s hard to criticize this when I praised Idoling!!! for sticking with the original song when I talked about Natsu no Ojousan, but honestly I just don’t like this as much.

It’s a fine song, and it has a lot of the elements of this 90s era JPop that I enjoy, but it doesn’t hold up as a classic-sounding song like something like Get Wild does. Idoling!!! does a great job of modernizing the song and arranging it like I mentioned for Natsu no Ojousan, but unfortunately I just don’t love this as much as other songs from this relative time period and from this album. 7/10

12. Puri♥Kyun Survival

This is about the cutest idol song title I’ve ever heard. This is sung by Idoling!!! Neo, the newest members of the group who released their own single earlier.

This has a surprising amount of rock in it; this is pretty dominated by guitar and is generally a fun power pop song. If you like stuff like the first Babyraids single and some of the other rock-inspired units out there (but not the heavier stuff), this might be up your alley. It’s catchy and fun but has a bit more of an edge to it than your typical idol song, which is nice to hear.

I still haven’t even watched the Idoling!!! Neo members in action (that’s how far behind I am on Idoling, you guys) but the girls all have really solid voices that sound very assured and confident despite this being released in their first year.

This is really a fun track that utilizes the new members of Idoling!!! very well. I really enjoy this. 8/10

13. One Up!!!

This is back to Idoling!!!’s singles and it’s back to being the punchier type of song that i mentioned during my section on MAMORE. This is a funky, fun song, which is something I appreciate. I really like disco/funk back in my idol music, and One Up!!! definitely fits the bill.

One thing that is pretty distracting is just how busy the arrangement is. I think there’s a really fine line between what’s too busy complicated and too simple. Some songs have very empty/hollow sounding instrumentals, but others just have too much going on. Listening to One Up!!, there are a lot of good sections, but there are also sections where it feels like too much is going on in the background. While in general I think Idoling!!! does a good job with the people they get to do their arrangements, some of them err on the side of too busy, and this is the track so far where I feel like this is a big problem.

The thing is, I like this song a lot – in theory. The melody and overall songwriting really appeals to me. It’s just that a lot of this song should have been pared down to a less complicated track. This is so much fun that it’s a shame that there’s an issue like that keeping me from loving One Up!! like I want to. 7/10

14. Promise
Oh hey, a ballad! Every single song on this album so far has been pretty upbeat and fast. While I’m not a ballad person and I like my songs upbeat, listening to songs go at the same pace has been kind of exhausting. A ballad is a breath of fresh air at this point.

That said, I’m not a big ballad person, so while I want a track like this it’s not going to be my favorite track on the album. While the song itself doesn’t interest me all that much, the vocals do. The members sound gorgeous. I swear, I need to follow Yokoyama Rurika more, if only to hear more of her voice. The other members on the track sound nice, though a couple of voices aren’t as strong as the others. There’s some harmonies in there, which sound nice.

I do like the strings in the arrangement; I know that it’s at the point in idol music where we’ve heard a lot of strings lately, but I think I’ll be a sucker for a good string section. The song feels kind of cliched, in a way; it isn’t really an interesting ballad, beyond some strong vocals and some good instrumentation. The arrangement feels a bit busy here, as well.

Ultimately this is a very solid ballad which is made even better by strong vocals. 7/10

15. Don’t Think! Feel!

This is one of the feel Idoling!!! songs I’ve listened to over and over. While it’s not my favorite Idoling song in that it’s not Me ni wa Aoba, it comes pretty close. It is just a well-composed pop song; most of the Idoling!!! songs I’ve listened to on this album are well-paced, but Don’t Think! Feel is very well paced and never feels like it drags or moves too quickly. In general, though, I really like the melody and the overall tone of the song. It’s very pleasant, and at this point what I associate with Idoling!!!

The one thing that I don’t know if I like is the sound mixing;t he vocals sound kind of weird and echo-y. It’s not terrible, but I just wish that the vocals sounded a bit clearer and less strange. It’s distracting from an otherwise really nice song.

This is a solid song that I’ve listened to a lot on my own, despite not particularly paying much attention to Idoling!!!. I just wish the audio mixing was a bit different. 8/10

16. I no Standard 2014

If you hate repetitive songs, I no Standard is not your song. The words I no Standard are going to be burned into my brain after listening to this a few times for this review!

This is a very cute song with clapping and spoken/shouted parts. This is much cuter than a lot of Idoling!!!”s other stuff, but I do like it. It doesn’t quite fit my current image for the group, but the fact they have a song like that somehow works. I’m assuming (though kind of unsure?) that this is a song that allows for every member to sing; an intro song of sorts. If that’s the case the length makes sense. However, if that’s not the case then this song needlessly repetitive. It’s already a song that’s a lot longer than it needs to be.

This song is cute and fun, but drags on a bit too long. I appreciate a song that allows individual members to get spotlight, though. 7/10

17. Shine On

Ah, the ending track. This is a fun, funky track that feels like it’s ending the album on a high note. The melody is very reminiscent (intentionally?) of Don’t Think! Feel, but the whole song is a lot more upbeat and positive sounding than Don’t Think! Feel!

This is a compact, fun track that does a nice job of ending the album on a good note. Like the rest of the album it’s well made. I don’t know if it’s as immediately memorable as some of the other singles, but the chorus is definitely a bit of an earworm.

This does a good job of ending Gold Experience, a very good album, on a high note. 7/10

Overall: All the songs on this album are good. I like the individual tracks a lot. However, I’m still working out how this flows as an album. I have listened to all the tracks multiple times and in order, but I haven’t just sat and listened to it. 17 songs for an album is a bit much, though; I don’t know how they would cut any or which ones they could cut.

However, if you want to listen to well-produced, well-sung and overall just well-made idol music, you could do much worse than checking out Idoling!!!. This album had a lot of good stuff on it, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to give it a listen! I recommend this album!

My Top 15 PVs of 2013

I was trying to come up with my list of my top 10 favorite PVs of 2013, when I was just stuck with how many PVs I liked. So I expanded my list to 15 this year. There are plenty of great PVs left off this list, but these are just the ones that have stuck with me.

Honorable Mentions:

Marie Antoinette – Suiyoubi no Campanella

My friend sent me this PV via twitter and I love it. The artist isn’t an idol so I don’t think I can really include it on this list, but if I did it would be near the top. There is just SO MUCH personality in here.

Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Brainstorming – Morning Musume

2012 started off with arguably the worst PV of the year, Help Me. Morning Musume’s PV output has been not that good in the past couple of years, frankly. So when I saw Brainstorming, I immediately was pleasantly surprised; after starting the year off with an unfortunate PV, that they did some pretty good stuff. Brainstorming and Wagamama aren’t the best of the year, but they do get the prestigious “I’m impressed you actually tried” award.

Tokai no Hitorigurashi – C-ute
C-ute get the prestigious “You did pretty good but sadly this is good by Hello!Project standards which means that you’re just an honorable mention” award.

15. Megitsune – Babymetal

I loved how Babymetal incorporated metal and traditional Japanese music into one with the song Megitsune, and the PV does a fantastic job of reinforcing this. The setting of the PV looks traditionally Japanese, but then there’s the costumes the girls wear and the headbanging people playing shamisen. The PV’s a well-made fusion of elements that reinforces the song perfectly, which is what I look for in a PV.

14. Gomen Nasai no Kissing You – E-Girls

As I mentioned in my top songs of 2013, I didn’t expect to flat out adore an E-Girls song the way I did Gomen Nasai no Kissing You. The same goes for the PV. Which is essentially color saturation city. I feel like they cranked up that color saturation dial during post-production and kind of just left it. This isn’t a terrible thing, not at all! It’s a really fun PV which is suported by just how colorful it is.
The big highlight of the PV is just how many background dancers there are. There are about 30 members of E-Girls, but the PV is just filled to the brim with students from EXPG (the dance school by the group EXILE, of which E-Girls are the sister group). I’m a sucker for PVs with huge numbers of extras, but seeing them all dance just adds a great energy.
The whole thing is choreographed well and fits the fun, high energy Gomen Nasai no Kissing You perfectly.
The only reason that I have this so low is unfortunately due to the dance break. I think it’s a fine idea, but it lasts so long and the solo dances are often kind of underwhelming. It just breaks up the energy that the PV already has, and just generally detracts.
But other than that I really enjoy Gomen Nasai no Kissing You, and it has definitely made me reevaluate E-Girls.

13. Otome! Be Ambitious! – The Possible


Seriously, what is up with The Possible in 2013? They had a really great comeback with one of my favorite songs of the year (Zenryoku Banzai! My Glory) and now they had a PV that really stood out with Otome! Be Ambitious.

This is the girls skydiving. I mean, it’s a “simple” PV in that it’s essentially a dance shot plus the shots of the girls getting ready to skydive and actually skydiving, but the fact that they decided to get the girls skydiving is pretty cool. It actually looks good on the PV and it is also interesting to watch them nervously preparing to go skydiving. It feels like a segment that the girls would have to do if they had their own variety show, but they made it into a PV instead. Since a lot of what makes idols interesting are the

I just think it’s nice when PV producers decide to do something different and fresh, and that’s what they did with Otome! Be Ambitious. It makes the PV stand out a lot. It’s also shot well and the outside dance shot looks nice in comparison to the skydiving scenes.

So props to The Possible for trying something new and for creating a memorable PV with it.

12. Rappa Renshuuchuu – Watanabe Mayu

Mayu isn’t that high up my favorites list in AKB. I like her just fine, but she’s not an idol I particularly follow much. However, it seems like every year she puts out great solo stuff. Hikaru Monotachi was one of my favorite PVs of 2012 and now Rappa Renshuuchuu is one of my favorites of 2013.

This PV just has a really unique aesthetic; the newspaper pattern on a lot of the backgrounds caught my eye. This PV is increadibly stylized in terms of its design, in a way that I can’t say I’ve ever seen in a PV. It’s like a collage, like all the backgrounds were pasted on using paper. And that’s really cool to me.

I think a lot of people complain about heavy uses of greenscreen in PV production, especially with Hello!Project PVs. However, in my opinion, the issue isn’t the use of greenscreen but with creativity and laziness. Rappa Renshuuchuu is a PV that uses a lot of greenscreen. However, it’s used effectively, and has a great visual aesthetic, which is why it’s one of my favorites of the year.

11. Kimi to Deatte Boku wa Kawatta – NMB48

I explained why I really enjoy this PV in my recent review post.
However, this PV is just really nice. The dance shot in front of Osaka castle is beautiful, and probably one of the best dance shots of the year. The cinematography as the girls walk around Osaka is great, and makes me want to visit Osaka in a way I didn’t before I saw the PV. This is just a well-crafted ode to NMB48’s hometown, and one I definitely appreciated.

10. Haste to Waste – BKA48

One PV made a girl shoot up my idol list. Haste to Waste was that PV, and Kawaei Rina was the idol. This is the ode to Kawaei and the other girls who scored lowest on the Mechaike Bakajo test.

Haste to Waste is perhaps not the most interesting PV (though the dance shot background of the poorly graded tests looks pretty good), visually. However, what it does really well is making all of the girls in it do interesting, fun things, endearing you to them. Seeing Kawaei Rina jump for joy at a test (which she was actually a bad score) was cute. The PV does a great job showing off each member and giving them a part to do .

Mostly, though, this is just a fun PV that is made well. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it is something good.

9. GOUNN – Momoiro Clover Z

This is another PV that shows the potential of good greenscreen and visual effects. GOUNN is a well-made artistic look at Buddhism. While I’m still not entirely sure how respectful it is to the religion, it doesn’t change the fact that GOUNN is lush and beautifully done. I especially like the visuals for each member’s individual shots; they’re beautiful, but strangely grotesque (Reni sitting on hair, Ayaka on a tongue, Kanako surrounded by blood).

I expanded on more of this in my GOUNN review. In short, this is a visually stunning PV and one of MomoClo’s best, definitely making it one of the best of the year.

8. Ai no Chikyuusai – Team Syachihoko

I have never done drugs of any sort. I am as straightlaced as they come. This is what I imagine being on something would be like.

This is another PV that I’ve covered elsewhere. But this is weirdness personified and I just love it. It’s taking on various television shows and making it Team Syachihoko’s version of reality before adding on weirdness and weirdness upon more weirdness.

I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I can see this being an incredibly divisive PV (and single.) But if you’re someone who likes PVs strange (like I do) and if you like the hectic/rushed pace of the best Stardust PVs, you can’t go wrong with Ai no Chikyuusai.

7. Mikakunin Chuugakusei X – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

This is another PV I reviewed elsewhere, so my thoughts are expanded in this. But as a fan of cheesy things and having a fondness for poorly made, low-budget movies (I may have seen Birdemic: Shock and Terror three times), Mikakunin Chuugakusei X hits all of my buttons. This is silly, goofy fun at its best, with cardboard, hand drawn props. The extras almost outshine Ebichu’s members, as they ham it up and have a good time with the goofy premise. This is super fun, and kind of reinforces why I adore Stardust groups.

6. Koisuru Fortune Cookie – AKB48

As I mentioned in my top songs of the year, KFC will always have a special place in my heart. It was one of my favorite songs of the year, and it still blows my mind how much the fan version just blew up. In general, though, all the various versions always put a smile on my face and, occasionally, make me cry. It’s incredible what Koisuru Fortune Cookie did in 2013, and I think it’ll be remembered as a major song of this wave of idol music.

The PV captures a lot of the energy and fun of those various versions of the dance by sharing the stage with AKB fans. I know some people dislike how it didn’t focus as much on the girls, but KFC in a way became an ode to the power of idols and fun music on regular people. I love that there are average fans dancing in the PV along with AKB48, and my favorite parts are the ones that feature the fans. It, in a way, represents the symbiotic relationship that idols and fans have. Idols need their fans as much as fans need idols, and KFC became a way to thank the fans on a larger scale.

The rest of the PV is, of course, well done. I love the outside dance scenes with tons of extras, and all the girls are in top form. However what makes Koisuru Fortune Cookie stand out isn’t the group itself, but the fans.

5. Girl’s Rule – Nogizaka46

This is one of the best uses of a narrative in a PV of the year. One of the things I don’t like about some of the really long-form PVs (the half hour Suzukake Nanchara PV, for example) is that they feel lazy in their execution. Girl’s Rule is about 7 minutes long (so already pretty long), but uses all that time very well to tell various intersecting stories. The PV reinforces the idea that a silent film is universal; the stories are easy to understand through their silence, but still pack a punch. Matsumura Sayuri in particular really sold her storyline, and I loved the shots taken through the camera.

This PV made me want to have a Nogizaka46 drama with these characters. The stories all felt real and not over exaggerated. It was also filmed really nicely; nothing strange, or exciting, but like it would be a fun drama show to watch.

In a world where way too long drama versions of PVs are starting to become more and more normal, Nogizaka46 tell good stories in just around 7 minutes. The song fits in nicely, and doesn’t detract from the story. This is what story-based PVs should be.

4. Te wo Tsunagou – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

Fun fact: This PV makes me cry most times I watch it. I know I’m a fairly sensitive person when it comes to crying at things, but this one just gets to me.

This is a PV that was done in one shot, and it doesn’t hide it. Often you see people running around in the background to get to their next pose or position. The PV also has to cleverly use props and placements instead of effects or different settings. Not all PVs that do this are successful at it. But all the props and costumes have a real charm to them, in addition to the charming simplicity of the PV. Setting this PV up and actually shooting it probably took a lot of work and finagling to get everything just right, but watching it makes it feel seamless and easy.

This PV also effectively uses extras to show small vignettes. It might be saccharine to some, but I love how it involves people of all ages to help tell the story. It’s just sweet. Everything about this PV is just nice, pleasant, and done very well with the single shot they had.

3. Shuto Iten Keikaku – Team Syachihoko

When I first heard the song Shuto Iten Keikaku it honestly took me a couple of listens to get into. However, Shuto Iten Keikaku’s PV was immediately something I knew I liked.

The strength in Shuto Iten Keikaku’s PV is in the transitions. It’s not made in one take, but the transitions are made to look as seamless as possible, using tv screens. Every cut is virtually invisible as the PV moves from scene to scene. If my PV awards went more indepth than “these are my favorite PVs,” Shuto Iten Keikaku would have the best editing category locked down for sure.

Aside from that, it’s a lot of fun seeing how they do all the transitions. Haruna’s rap sequence, for example, when there’s about three Harunas rapping at once looks great. It’s fun seeing the girls interact with the screens, popping in and out of shot. It’s not quite as strange as Ai no Chikyuusai (Syachi’s latest single), but it’s done very well.

This isn’t the most out there PV and the set isn’t the most intricate, but it’s one of the most creative PVs and certainly the best edited PV I can think of.

2. Sansei Kawaii – SKE48

I am honestly stunned that no one seems to be putting this on their top PV lists. Am I the only person who thinks that this is a wonderful PV?

Filmed in Thailand, this is like SKE’s travelogue of their adventures there, much like Ponytail to Shushu was and Kimi to Deatte was. This just has so much more energy and fun, and really shows the fun these girls had. Possibly my favorite element of this PV are the dance shot scenes. Filmed outside and surrounded like people, they feel a lot less sterile than some of the dance shots can feel even in similarly made PVs. The dance shots fit perfectly with the rest of the PV in that they’re shot loosely and surrounded by a crowd. In one of them the girls get sprayed with water from an elephant but they just keep on dancing.

While Shuto Iten Keikaku had the best editing of the year, Sansei Kawaii is a close second. Especially at the call and response section, the editing conveys tons of energy that would have been lost under worse editing.

Sansei Kawaii shows the girls having fun in Thailand, but in doing so shows a lot of personality and charm. Add on some great editing and well shot dance shots, and this became an unlikely favorite of mine.

1. W.W.D II – Dempagumi.inc

This PV, man. I’ve rearranged this list, added and taken off tons of PVs, but W.W.D II has been at the top since I started working on this. This PV manages to be well-made, heartbreaking, hilarious, and everything in between.

The story is that everyone has moved on from Dempagumi.inc, everyone except Pinky (who is in Dempagumi.inc Z 49., a take at Momoiro Clover Z, AKB48 and Morning Musume.). Their new lives are both saddening (Moga, who returns to her real-life history as a hikkikomori) and hilarious (Eitaso becomes a shaman). But when Pinky gets kidnapped by real-life idol group BiS (who make a great cameo), all the members reunite to save their friend.

Everything is made well here. It looks great, is shot well, etc. But the real thing that makes W.W.D II stand out so much is the heart. I care that Moga won’t leave her home anymore. I care that Pinky wants everyone to stay together. The moment where all the fans of Dempa and people from their disparate lives come together with glowsticks and shout “yossha ikuzo” makes me cry just thinking about it. Even with some silliness in the storyline and everything fictionalized, this feels just about as personal as W.W.D (which SHOULD be on this list as well for its PV).

The song is one of my favorites of the year, and W.W.D II not only reinforces how great of a song it is, but adds new dimensions and is a great PV in its own right.

Idol Thoughts: Broadening My Music Horizons

I occasionally mention my other musical tastes on Happy Disco, but I’ll reiterate the basic gist. Before I got into idol music my biggest musical interest was in indie/alternative rock. I really liked some good power pop stuff. I still like these artists; I go to concerts and buy their albums. I’m going to go see Broken Bells and Arctic Monkeys on tour this spring (this is going to be the third time I’m seeing Arctic Monkeys, and they’re always fantastic). My favorite band is The New pornographers. However, this was my primary music taste before idols. I had some other things in there; some harder rock, some classical, but it was mostly this.

However, despite all my music interests in this regard, idol music has really stuck, and has influenced my music tastes in a very major way. Before I became a fan of idol music, pop music wasn’t really my thing. I liked it growing up, but once I got into my teen years I pretty much abandoned pop music. However, obviously, I’ve gotten into it with idol music. I don’t listen to much top 40 radio still, but I’ve become a bit of a Katy Perry fan.

Recently, I’ve gotten a new interest in hip hop music. This isn’t something I ever thought I would like, but I’ve been giving it a shot and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. A lot of this is because of how much I really like Rhymeberry, and how often I’ve listened to stuff like SUPERMCZTOKYO. That and the Dempagumi.inc cover of Sabotage has made someone who always swore that she didn’t get hip hop actually pick it up.

So idol music has really pushed me as a music listener, and I know I’m better for it. I can’t help but think that this has to be true with other fans, at least to an extent. I mean, think of all the disco sound that you hear in Koisuru Fortune Cookie. Or the saxophone in Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya Ne. Or the big band sound in Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~. Or Iwasa Misaki doing enka and Matsui Sakiko doing instrumental piano. There is such a wide diversity of sound in idol music that I have to think that it’s expanded other people’s interests as well.

I think this is one of the things that has kept me an idol fan for years, and why I think I’m an idol fan in it for the long haul. There is a big musical diversity in idol music. Even artists can wildly change from release to release. It’s never boring, and it’s often edifying. It’s easy to play down idol music because the idols themselves don’t write it and they aren’t always the best singers, but I think that Japanese idol music is an extremely interesting genre, and certainly the one I want to pay attention to. So while it’s easy to be dismissive of idol music, I think that’s not being entirely fair. This is a diverse, great genre that is well worthy of our attention as music fans.

What do you think? Has idol music changed your music interest at all? Let me know in the comments!

Review Monday: NMB48 “Kimi to deatte Boku ga Kawatta” & HKT48 “Wink wa Sankai”

Back to our regular schedule this week! There’s still one more end of 2013 list coming up (PVs) but that’s going to be in one of the next couple of List Fridays.

Today I’m going to review the last two 48 group tracks from AKB48’s Suzukake Nanchara single. Because I don’t want to leave that undone.

Kimi to Deatte Boku ga Kawatta – NMB48

Song: Something about this reminds me of an anime opening. I don’t know if it’s a specific opening or just a generic anime opening feel, but the melody plus the string-heavy arrangement gives me some serious anime opening/ending vibes. This isn’t a bad thing; I mean, that’s part of how I got interested in Japanese music, was through liking the opening/ending themes back when anime was still a thing I followed.

As such, the melody does feel like a mix of generic and unique; the song as written is something I know I’ve heard before, but not necessarily with a lot of idols, and at least not with a lot of idols recently. It’s not bad, but it’s not the most memorable thing ever. I enjoy it, though, and it makes me feel oddly nostalgic.

The arrangement fits well into this, with very strings-heavy instrumentation with some piano thrown in there. It’s very pleasant, and feels like it fits the song nicely, but it’s hard not to compare it to something like Bokura no Eureka, NMB’s other major string-heavy song of the year. Perhaps this is unfair; these are two entirely different songs. This is just where my mind went, though. The arrangement fits the song well, though.

All in all, this is a really pleasant song. It’s not quite as exciting as last year’s “Ha!” but it’s an easy to like song. 7/10

PV:

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A gag at the end; now that’s something that feels like NMB.

This PV is essentially NMB48’s travel brochure to go visit Osaka. Which I actually really like. The other 48 PVs have been fine so far, but don’t necessarily feel like they are inherently meant for their group. SKE is generally a cooler group with emphasis on dancing and choreography, and they got that, but it’s still not the same. NMB48 has always had a pretty solid focus on being an group from Osaka, and this feels like their love letter to the city.

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The conceit of the PV is that the group is on a school trip to Osaka and are visiting locations. It’s not really necessary; all the shots in Osaka should be enough. But it’s a nice touch to show why they’re running around Osaka.

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As usual the PV is shot very well, but pretty much all 48 PVs have a high production standard. I like these low angle shots throughout the PVs. It allows for some interesting looking shots that show off some of the Osaka scenery, but it also adds a fairly unique visual style to the PV.

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A lot of the PV is just walking around in Osaka, but it made me want to go visit the place, so I think they achieved what they were looking for.

kimitodeatte5The dance shot is absolutely lovely, filmed in the evening in front of Osaka Castle. I know that filming an outdoor shot at night is risky, but this absolutely paid off. This is one of the best looking dance shot locations I’ve seen.

This PV is a whole lot of fun, shows off Osaka, and looks lovely. I think it’s easily the best PV of this single so far, and a very nice PV overall. 8/10

Wink wa Sankai

Song:

It’s hard not to compare this to Hatsukoi Butterfly, HKT’s song from last year. After all, that was HKT48’s first original song, and really set the pace for HKT48. Wink wa Sankai is unfortunately not as memorable as Hatsukoi Butterfuly.

I do like the guitar-heavy arrangement and rock-focused song; Melon Juice was a fantastic single, and I’m glad that they’ve continued with this motif at least for a while. The biggest problem is with the melody and the song itself. It just isn’t very memorable or interesting. The chorus part of “Wink wa Sankai” is fairly easy to remember, but I can’t bring myself to keep the rest of the song’s melody in my head. It would be one thing if the song was in any way interesting, but it’s not.

That said, I do like the chorus a fair amount. I’m a sucker for the response “yeah yeah yeah yeah” parts. And really, this isn’t bad, it’s just not as good as I wish it was. I love some of the electric guitar solos in here and the chorus is good. It’s just, when it comes down to it, the song as a whole isn’t as interesting or good as it should be from these parts. Which is a shame, to be honest. Melon Juice is one of the best 48 single songs of the year (after Koisuru Fortune Cookie and Bokura no Eureka), so if there was a little more of that I think this would have been better.

There are some good parts, but, as a whole, Wink wa Sankai isn’t as good as it should have been. 6/10

PV:

Last year Hatsukoi Butterfly decided to surprise everyone and put kenkyuusei Tashima Meru up center. This year’s new center is Yabuki Nako.

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Nako, where have you been all my life. She is cute, charismatic, and I really enjoyed her as center. Meru’s fine, and I don’t dislike her, but Yabuki Nako has oodles of potential within HKT and I’m excited to see where she goes.

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The conceit of this PV is that HKT48 discovers that their winks can cause the boys (and Sasshi?) at school to fall over and/or have heart attacks. Well. That’s something.

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The comic book style graphics on the screen add a lot of character and personality to this PV; it’s kind of a necessary addition, mind you, otherwise the whole point of the PV would be kind of confusing, but it still looks nice and adds a lot of color.

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One thing I love is how far they take the silliness of this PV. The girls don’t just use it on boys they like; they use it in interesting ways and for their own personal gain. Sasshi becomes a wink sniper, hitting guys from a distance. They use it to win at table tennis and kendo. They aren’t being cutesy about it; they are using their cuteness as a straight up weapon.

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The dance shot is very Heavy Rotation-esque in how colorful it is. It’s not as fun as the rest of the PV, but that’s a tricky thing.

This PV is fun, has a lot of humor, and shows off its new center well. It has an interesting visual style on top of that. 9/10