My Top 25 Songs of 2015 – 20 to 16

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!

My Top 25 Songs of 2015 – 25 to 21

This year was particularly tricky. When I set out to come up with the songs that I would be putting on this list, I was under the impression that I would have to struggle to find 25 songs I found worthy enough to count as my top 25 of the year. However, the more I remembered and the more I wrote down, the more I realized that 2015 was a strong year for idol pop music. Even if people are considering the idol boom to be ending (or at least winding down), that doesn’t mean that idol pop music has stopped being great.

25. Happiness – Holiday

Every single year I forget about E-Girls and its associated groups, and every year I’m wildly impressed by them. All of the idol groups under E-Girls and considered to be sister groups to EXILE have consistently high production value and end up being great pop songs. Holiday has a fantastic brass beat as well as some masterful rapping. It’s a well put together pop song that’s very fun to listen to. While I discovered this song a couple of months after its release, I’ve kept listening to it since then. Despite being occasionally repetitive, Holiday is a great dance track with some fantastic instrumentation and performance. It’s one of the biggest surprises of the year.

24. Especia – Aviator

While not quite as strong as 2014’s No. 1 Sweeper or Kuru Kana, Aviator does a great job of continuing Especia’s goal of late 80s early 90s synth vaporwave. Especia is one of the most fascinating idol groups out there, musically, and Aviator is one of the best songs they did this year. While I enjoyed all of their album, Primera, that they put out this year, Aviator is their most listenable, catchy track with a solid melody, some great brass instrumentation (some kind of saxophone?) and a high energy track. Aviator does a great job of continuing what makes Especia so memorable and fun. It’s not particularly new for Especia, but that’s in part because Especia is so unlike anything else in idol pop right now.

23. ANGERME – Nanakorobi Yaoki

ANGERME had a fantastic year this year and a lot of great tracks. While their single songs varied all over the place from the cute Mahou Tsukai Sally to the high energy Taiki Bansei, I preferred their darker-sounding songs over much else, and Nanakorobi Yaoki fits that bill.

It has a great melody and the arrangement is particularly good (especially the background vocals and the members’ whispers)- however, the biggest strength is the darker feel of the song. Both Nanakorobi Yaoki and Otome no Gyakushuu had a great dark feel to the songs that I wasn’t really expecting but that totally work with the current members of ANGERME. However, Nanakorobi Yaoki made it onto the list because I love the fast paced energy to the song, the electric guitar bridge near the end of the song, and a lot of the little elements. The other thing this song did was show off the vocal talents of the members – in particular Tamura Meimi sounded fantastic, especially at the first “tsugi ga chance da yo” at the end of the first chorus. Every member works well here, though, even the weaker vocalists.

If you had asked me at the start of 2015 if I had wanted a song like Nanakorobi Yaoki, I would have probably said no – I preferred S/Mileage’s cheerful, upbeat tracks. However, I have to say that I’m a fan of darker ANGERME, and it’s a feel I’d like to see more of this year.

22. Ange☆Reve – Kiss Me Happy

Another Ange group, this time doing the upbeat and cute sound I thought I wanted. Ange Reve has been a pleasant surprise since their debut. I’ve liked other Arc Jewel groups’ (Doll Elements, Lovely Doll, Stella Beats) songs just fine, but every Ange Reve single has seemed to pull me in. Kiss Me Happy started off the year as a guilty pleasure, but ended up being a song I kept revisiting all through 2015. Its longevity as a song I listened to made me believe that it deserves a place on my top 25 list.

The reason I considered it a guilty pleasure is that it’s just SO happy, and that’s almost all it has going for it. It’s a very stereotypically cutesy song, as well as being a stereotypically idol song. If you asked me to describe idol music as a genre, the song I described might sound a lot like Kiss Me Happy. It’s pure, bubbly idol pop. That said, I do love idol pop music, so it’s also no surprise that I love this. Kiss Me Happy is upbeat, high energy, and cheerful. It’s a great song to listen to, and one of my favorites of the year.

21. Morning Musume ’15 – Sukatto My Heart

As soon as I heard the first few notes of Sukatto My Heart I was absolutely sold. This song is not quite disco, but has a great funky feel that I’m so glad Morning Musume decided to use for this song. That said, despite the great style of music it adopted, Sukatto My Heart is just a great song. The song builds perfectly in the verses up to the chorus, and the chorus itself isn’t a letdown from that great build up. The guitar is the obvious star of the arrangement, but the rest of the song works well as well.

My Top 25 Songs of 2015 – Honorable Mentions (part 2)

More honorable mentions! These are some of the songs I wanted to put on my top list but (for whatever reason) did not.

AKB48 – Halloween Night

For the past couple of years I’ve had a special honorable mention for the least awful AKB song. And, to be fair to AKB, I did come very close to putting Halloween Night on my top 25 list. I like the disco feel to the song a lot, and it’s the AKB single that has had the strongest melody and feel to it since Koisuru Fortune Cookie. However, despite the song’s undeniably catchy chorus (I’ve sung “Halloween night, midnight, boogie night” to myself a LOT this past year), it drags quite a lot and doesn’t have quite enough energy for me to grant it a position in my top 25.

Kiyoshi Ryujin 25 – Mr. Playboy

Kiyoshi Ryujin 25 has become one of my biggest guilty pleasures, especially 2014’s Will You Marry Me and now 2015’s Mr. Playboy. Despite the questionable polygamy theme of the group, the songs are undeniably catchy and fun. Mr. Playboy in particular has a great retro feel to it that will almost make you forget how slightly creepy this group actually is.

Ciao Bella Cinquetti – Omotesando AND Armor Girls – Les Champs-Élysées

This year both Ciao Bella Cinquetti and Armor Girls covered a song – which is a pity, since if these weren’t covers both would have had a chance to make my Top 25. Picking between the two, Armor Girls’ interesting mix of idol pop and Irish music works perfectly here and is a version I like better. However, both versions are great and two of my favorites of the year. – Ashita Chikyuu ga Konagona ni Natte mo

Despite 2013 and 2014 being great years for, I didn’t like too much of 2015 Dempa. One of their songs will be making my top 25, but in previous years I had to fight to not include every Dempa song. Ashita Chikyuu is a very pretty, slow-paced song that is much improved by its PV. However, while it’s good, it’s not quite up to the standards of Dempa. It’s their best single song of 2015, but that’s a bit of a shame. None of their music was bad, but it didn’t quite live up to 2013 or 2014. Still, Ashita Chikyuu ga Konagona ni Natte mo is very pretty and pleasant to listen to in the vein of previous Dempa songs that were more “normal.” It’s a sweet ballad that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Momoiro Clover Z – Link Link

This song, while not quite as interesting as MomoClo’s most recent output, is adorable and one of the most straight up cute songs I’ve listened to by the group in years. While I can’t justify it on my top 25 list, this is an honorable mention almost entirely because Sasaki Ayaka is delightful in person and I wish I had heard this song helmed by her at their US concert.

Super Girls – Gira Gira Revolution

Gira Gira Revolution is Super Girls at their best but also their most standard. This song is pretty reminiscent of other Super Girls tracks, notably Joshi Ryoku Paradise. However, it’s the best kind of standard – the type of song I listened to a lot this year. This song isn’t breaking any new ground but it’s sure a lot of fun.
Rhymeberry – Mirrorball

Rhymeberry went through quite a few changes, with new members and losing the producer. However, the biggest thing Mirrorball reminds us all of is just how great MC Miri is. I say this as a fan of Misaki (having met her at 2014’s Idol Matsuri), but Miri is going places with her rap game. Mirrorball is a high energy track featuring some truly stellar rapping from Miri and is a lot of fun to listen to. I imagine this song is even better in person. It has a great beat, and while it’s not quite as polished as other Rhymeberry entries on my previous lists, it shows off how great Miri is. I really hope the best for both of them and I hope Rhymeberry can bring itself back up.