20. Armor Girls – A!Chu A!Chu
Part of the reason this is so low is because I did so much of my listening to A!Chu A!Chu in 2014, putting it as an honorable mention on my 2014 list. However, it got its physical release in 2015 as a B-Side to one of the version of Kamen Joshi’s single Genkidane, so it counts as a 2015 release.
A!Chu A!Chu shows what I love a lot about Armor Girls music – catchy jpop tunes with a massive heaping of faux-Irish pop sound. There is a lot of cheese to some of the instrumentation of Armor Girls’ music – the flute that starts off this song feels like it should start off some cheesy 90s ballad. However, I love how original Armor Girls is and how joyful their music manages to be despite being a subgroup of an idol group that wears hockey masks in performances.
All of the Armor Girls songs that got picked to be B-sides are really excellent, but A!Chu A!Chu has a fantastic energy and a cheesy happiness that is infectious.
19. Juice=Juice – Ca Va? Ca Va?
Juice=Juice went from being a group that I only marginally cared about to a group that might have my favorite music of Hello!Project right now. What made that change? First Squeeze. First Squeeze is a completely brilliant album that you absolutely should check out. Disc 2 is nonstop idol pop hits. Really excellent.
Ca Va? Ca Va? was one of my favorite singles of the year even before First Squeeze came out, though, in part because I have a weird love of whenever idol pop tries to be French pop. It worked with Nogizaka46’s fantastic Hashire Bicycle and it works with Ca Va Ca Va, which borrows a lot from one of my favorite French songs, Poupee de Cire Poupee de Son. Its repetition of ‘dabadadabada non non’ is also reminiscent of Buono’s Rottara Rottara which is also coincidentally one of my favorite Buono songs. So even as it borrows, it borrows from the greats.
The pacing is great, all of the Juices perform really well, and the song builds pretty perfectly. It’s not the most out there song of the year but it’s a treat to listen to.
18. Momoiro Clover Z vs. KISS – Yume no Ukiyo e Saitemina
Let me get this out of the way – I have no interest in KISS. I was frankly glad when the concert in LA turned out to be a MomoClo solo show as opposed to a concert shared with KISS. Yet, somehow, the two of them combined managed to write one of my favorite songs of the year. I love how the song manages to meld both of the group and somehow work. The interplay between the groups works very well, with KISS mostly providing shouts and “heys.” The song has a great dark feel to it, as it builds to the end. The bridge to the chorus is particularly good, to, as MomoClo sings and KISS adds some background vocals. I also enjoy the layered instrumentation – there’s quite a bit going on. While the song is pretty obviously a guitar-heavy rock song, there are some great horns and what sounds like (fake) shamisen. The song does drag a bit near the end, however, I do like when it initially slows down. However, despite any doubts, somehow KISS and MomoClo managed to create a great song. This could have very well been a trainwreck, but this collaboration did end up working out.
17. Ooguro Yuzuki (from Team Syachihoko) – La La La Idol
I think if anything shows just how strong a year 2015 was, it’s the fact that my favorite idol’s first (hopefully!) solo song ended up at 17. However, despite the obvious bias I have for La La La Idol, there are other songs I have to rank higher.
The thing I enjoy a lot about how Stardust Promotions does solo songs is that Stardust solos and unit songs tend to be completely geared towards the idol that’s singing the song. While other idols might cover A~rin wa Hankouki or cover for one of the members in Watashi ga Center, there’s no denying that those songs should be performed by the original vocalists. So while La La La Idol ended up covered by Team Syachihoko’s Sakura Nao at their summer concert, it’s Yuzuki’s song through and through, focusing on what kind of an idol she is. When they announced that Yuzuki would get a solo song I was immediately overjoyed, but worried that they would give her a song that I dislike. However, La La La Idol fits Yuzuki very well. It’s a very typical idol song and I mean that in the best possible way – Yuzuki is a big fan of idol songs so this fits her perfectly. It’s not one of the more interesting songs of the year, but it’s a great idol solo and a great idol song, if you like pretty standard, upbeat idol fare.
16. Morning Musume ’15 – Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru
While Sukatto My Heart is much more my speed, I love just about everything with Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru. The dubstep instrumental, the lines where each member individually sings a syllable, the long pauses in between lines in the verses. It all works to have a great energy, and build up to a great song. I know that some fans are tired of some of these songs from Morning Musume – believe me, I don’t want the group to stay stagnant. Overall I’d like them to have more songs like Sukatto My Heart. But Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru feels like a culmination of Morning Musume’s recent sound and does everything pretty perfect. It’s also been a pretty constant listen for me since it came out, so it gets points for that as well!