My Top 25 Songs of 2016 Part 2

20. Team Syachihoko – Wow Oh Oh

Team Syachihoko had a relatively light year. They only put out two singles, and while they’ve spent the year doing some big concerts leading up to their 5th anniversary concert at a venue they’ve been aiming for since the start, they didn’t put all that much out. Adding to that Ando Yuzu permanently leaving the group, this was a tough year for an international Syachi fan. Luckily, their music output was good, in particular their Cherie single, which I think is the sleeper best single of the year. Every single song on it is great, including Wow Oh Oh.

Wow Oh Oh is probably the most standard JPop / Stardust type of song on this list, which is why it’s the lower end of this list, but it has a great, catchy melody and a superb arrangement/ instrumentation. I didn’t put Ultra Chou Miracle Super Very Power Ball, Team Syachihoko’s most recent single, almost entirely because the instrumentation underwhelms me at times. Every Team Syachihoko song on this list has superb instrumentation and arrangement. Wow Oh Oh might not be breaking any boundaries, but it’s still one of the best songs of the year.

19. Batten Shoujo Tai – Osshoi!

Batten Shoujo Tai is one of the newest Stardust Promotion groups, and while their debut single was a pretty subdued affair, Osshoi is full of flavor and interest. Ska inspired, Osshoi is arguably the most purely energetic song on the list, and that’s something I like from a new group – just pure, fresh energy. Osshoi isn’t one of the most interesting songs on this list, but it’s one of the most fun ones, and I’m excited to see where Batten Shoujo Tai go.

18. GEM – Fine! ~Fly for the Future~

I feel like every year I end up putting a couple of Idol Street songs on this list, even though I barely pay any attention to the groups themselves, and GEM’s Fine! Fly for the Future is a fun one. GEM has evolved into being probably my favorite Idol Street group – all the performers are solid, they’ve got energy, and tend to have fun dance music. Fine is also not one of the most interesting or exciting songs, but it just succeeds by being one of the most fun, easy to listen to pop songs of the year. I know that throughout the year I kept popping back to listen to Fine, even months after I discovered it. It’s also one of the most catchy songs, and the English lyrics certainly help me with that – I know that I’ve sung the chorus of “good morning hello sunshine, so take it take it easy” to myself dozens of times. It’s just a good, quality pop song with that Avex polish.

17. Team Syachihoko – Cherie!

I feel like every time Team Syachihoko does something new, or claims to be doing something unusual for them, it’s a pretty standard genre for other groups – they’re so off the wall that normal is weird to them. Cherie is the cutest song Team Syachihoko has done in their careers. It’s upbeat, catchy, cute, and unbelievably polished. It’s got a beautiful string-focused arrangement. It feels so classic and so normal that I feel like it should secretly be a faster, more upbeat cover of a song from some Old Hollywood film. That said, while it’s not Syachihoko’s usual manic strangeness, much like Shampoo Hat before it Cherie! is a welcome change of pace.

16. Kikkawa You – Ha wo Kuishibare

If you’re not following Kikka, you definitely should be. Already notable in being a soloist in a genre dominated by groups, Kikkawa You is also starting to explore and push the boundaries of idol pop music. Last year’s 17-minute long Hana was a valiant effort, but wasn’t executed particularly well. Ha wo Kuishibare is not as ambitious as Hana, but it’s a lot more listenable and a lot more cohesive. Written by Oomori Seiko (who, if you don’t know yet, you should be following), Ha wo Kuishibare isn’t like many other idol songs this year. Sounding more indie than pop, Ha wo Kuishibare is a rambling guitar-centric song with an unusual melody that somehow works well. If you’re at all familiar with Oomori Seiko, this song shouldn’t be much of a surprise coming from her. While not Kikka’s magnum opus (that’s Konna Watashi de Yokattara), Ha wo Kuishibare continues to suggest that Kikka’s going to have an interesting musical sound and we should pay attention to what she does in the years to come.

My Top 25 Songs of 2016 Part 1

25. Babymetal – Awadama Fever

The reason I always liked Babymetal a lot, especially in their early years, was the way that their music blended idol pop (and frequently other genres) with metal in a way that shouldn’t work but totally does. Awadama Fever reminds me most of that. It reminds me most of Gimme Chocolate, in that I can hear a non-metal cover working well, but at the same time the metal adds something ineffable to the song. While Karate, the main song they focused on this year, is great, Awadama Fever is the Babymetal I love.

24. Kobushi Factory – Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsumoushin

This is one of the songs that my favorite composer, Maeyamada Kenichi, wrote for Hello!Project this year, and I have to say he’s a really solid fit for Hello!Project. Maeyamada excels writing memorable, interesting melodies and high energy songs, and this song works. As I mentioned in the honorable mentions, Kobushi Factory hasn’t really interested me, but their second major single was great and this is up there with Sakura Night Fever. In many ways it feels like a call back to some classic Hello!Project, which is something I love.

Unfortunately, the one reason it’s this low down on the list is because Hello!Project isn’t particularly good at vocal training, and Kobushi Factory has a tendency in this song (and some others) to growl almost all their solo lines. It fits at points, but it’s sometimes a little distracting. With some better vocal production, this could have easily been higher on my list.

23. Dinosaur Brain – Snow Parade

Deciding whether I should put this or Dinosaur Brain’s Dance Dance Dance Dance, the B-Side to Snow Parade, was a very difficult question. I’m not a huge EDM person – I appreciate some EDM influence in my idol pop, but it’s not a genre I seek out. So an EDM idol unit is an odd choice to be one of my favorite new acts of the year, but man Dinosaur Brain has some great music. I ended up choosing Snow Parade because it feels structurally like a perfect EDM / dance song – it builds well, it’s varied enough, and it’s super catchy. I’ve been listening to Snow Parade for the entire year, and don’t see myself stopping.

22. Country Girls – Dou Datte Ii No

This was another tricky decision – did I go with the Dou Datte Ii No or Country Girls’ first single of the year, Boogie Woogie Love? I ended up going with Dou Datte Ii No almost entirely for how much it leans into the Rockabilly, 50s style Country Girls has fallen into. Dou Datte Ii No is a short but sweet 3 minute, high energy song that utilizes the members pretty perfectly, has a great arrangement with some great guitar work in there. While Country Girls never reached the highs of 2015’s Wakatteiru no ni Gomen Ne, I sure hope they keep up the great work they’ve done in 2016 and continue with this 50s-inspired sound for a bit longer.

21. X21 – Yakusoku no Oka

I don’t think any song has a punchier, more impactful first 60 seconds than Yakusoku no Oka. X21 is a group I’ve largely ignored for the past couple of years. I figured that since the group is made up of beauty contest finalists, that looks would be the main focus of the group, not music. Well, Yakusoku no Oka proved me wrong, by being one of the best songs of the year. Written by one of Japan’s most successful music producers, Komuro Tetsuya (of TM Network), Yakusoku no Oka builds perfectly at the start and has a great melody, arrangement, everything. Its only fault is that, once you get past the initial build, it doesn’t go many new places. The first minute of Yakusoku no Oka is one of the best songs of the year, but the rest of the song mostly repeats that initial 60 seconds. Which isn’t a bad thing to do, but I want a little more.

My Top 25 Songs of 2016 – Honorable Mentions pt 2

Here we go, the second honorable mentions post! While the first post was covers and two songs that would never make it onto my top 25, here are some songs I really liked from this year but just missed the cut.

Negicco – Mujun, Hajimemashita

I feel like if I’m going to regret putting any song on my honorable mentions rather than in my top 25 it’s going to be Negicco’s Mujun, Hajimemashita. I’ve known of Negicco for years but I’ve never paid them all that much attention, but Mujun Hajimemashita is lovely. It has a great classic, retro idol sound that reminds me a lot of classic Vanilla Beans sound. I’ve wondered if I should put this on my top 25 for me, but the biggest thing that’s kept it from a spot on that list is because it’s not all that memorable, excepting the chorus. Every song on the Top 25 is one that I’ve been unable to get out of my head, and Mujun Hajimemashita isn’t quite there.

Rhymeberry – Hiking

Hiking is another one that I feel like could go on my Top 25 list, but since I’ve been pretty lax in actually buying Rhymeberry stuff I have no idea if they actually released it as a single or if it’s just a PV hanging out on their YouTube Channel. Rhymeberry’s gone through a lot of changes over the past couple of years, only keeping one original member (MC Miri) and leaving T-Palette Records. In many ways this change wasn’t a bad one. While I liked every member of the original Rhymeberry, Miri is the absolute talent of the group, and lately she’s been doing more work that’s pure hip hop, not hip hop idol. But one of the things I miss about the group is the sillier stuff, like my favorite Rhymeberry song “Sekaichuu ni I Love You.” Well, Hiking is silly. It’s VERY silly. It also is Miri and Misaki at their best, and it’s definitely one of the highlights of the year, showing that Rhymeberry can continue to have some of the bright silliness that they’ve had in the past while also being a showcase for Miri as a hip hop MC.

AOP – Cotona Mode

This is effectively #26 on the list, and the one I debated most heavily. Do I go with putting more experimental, interesting, and flat out better songs on my top 25 list, or do I put the songs I listened to more? Cotona Mode isn’t particularly interesting – it’s a pretty typical, cutesy, anison type of JPop song – which makes sense, considering it’s the opening theme for an anime. It’s not particularly original or interesting. That said, it’s so bubbly, so over the top cute that I listened to this quite a bit this year. I couldn’t justify putting Cotona Mode on my Top 25 list when I knew there were better songs out there. That said, Cotona Mode is an addiction and put AOP on the map for me.

Happiness – Ordinary Girls

About this time every year I think “Oh, what did E-Girls and the other groups do?” and usually find one or two songs I love. This year, there was nothing I really loved from E-Girls proper – Pink Champagne was fine (probably my favorite E-Girls song of the year), I loved Dream Ami’s cover of Lovefool. But Happiness had another great song this year by the name of Ordinary Girls.

Ordinary Girls is probably the most KPop I’ve seen an E-Girls group get. It’s VERY Kpop / Western pop inspired, so much so that it would not feel out of place to see a group like Girls Generation or another KPop girl group. At points it has a very dark beat and that’s where the song excels. It’s not something I’m going to listen to on a very regular basis – it’s not my type of music. However, if you occasionally like this sort of thing, Happiness is a good group for you to check out.

Babymetal – The One

And the “the song that should really be better” award goes to Babymetal’s The One. I haven’t listened to Babymetal’s Metal Resistance album as much as I’ve listened to their singles and their self-titled album, but it’s solid. I think my issue with following Babymetal is that for the most part they’ve focused on touring and live concerts rather than music, and their music has moved away from idol into metal. I don’t think that’s a bad move for Babymetal necessarily, but I’m not a huge metal fan – I only really like it with a heavy dose of idol music.

The One is long, ending Metal Resistance with a 6:30 runtime. And man, it really feels its length. Some longer idol songs (Momoiro Clover Z’s Hai to Diamond comes to mind) fly by. However, The One drags by at times, which is disappointing. It’s a song that has a lot of beauty to it, especially due to lead singer Sumetal’s powerful vocals. The biggest issue, I’d say, is that while it has a good base for a song like this, it doesn’t sufficiently build over the course of the song. The tempo remains pretty static, which is unfortunate when it’s at a pretty steady mid-tempo throughout the song. The One sometimes feels like it’s building to nothing, which is just disappointing.

With Suzuka’s beautiful vocals, the piano, and metal sound we’ve come to expect from Babymetal, The One could have been something special, which is why I’m putting it here. It’s the song that, every time I listen to it, I think that it should be a lot better than it is. It’s one of the songs with the most promise from 2016 which makes it, sadly, one of the most disappointing songs of 2016.

My Top 25 Songs of 2016 – Honorable Mentions pt 1

It’s that time of the year again!

I’ve been delinquent in updating Happy Disco as much as I’d like, which made me wonder if I’d even have 25 songs to put up here. Writing on Happy Disco helps me discover and listen to more idol music than I normally would. However, like every single year, the more I think about it the more I realize how much good music came out in 2016.

The rules for this list are similar. For the top 25 songs proper, all the songs need to have been released for sale in 2016 (I usually mark that as being on a single or album, no individual song downloads). The songs must all be originals – no covers. The songs also all must be performed by a female idol act from Japan. That said, the honorable mention list can fudge this a little (or a lot) and is also for songs that I liked but don’t want to put on the top 25 list for specific reasons.

Dream Ami – Lovefool ~Suki Datte Itte ~

Right off the bat a cover, but man it’s a good one. Ami (from the group Dream and from the group E-Girls) covered the song by The Cardigans in Japanese, and it works incredibly well. Ami’s voice works particularly well with the song – she’s has such a sweet, almost vulnerable voice that works very well with the song. As expected by an Avex song the production values are high, and the instrumentation is pretty perfect. The song itself itself is great, too – I had heard it before but I wasn’t terribly familiar before Ami’s cover. The song is a perfect mix of sweet and melancholy and I’ve had this on repeat for a couple of months. If I could put this on my Top 25 list I would but, alas, arbitrary rules!

Idol Renaissance – Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari

It’s almost a shame that Idol Renaissance primarily performs covers because it would be great to put them on my actual Top 25 list. Last year’s You was one of my favorite idol songs of the year, and this cover of Supercell’s Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari is also wonderful. The song builds wonderfully, the members’ voices sound beautiful, with some lovely harmonies and instrumentation. If you aren’t following Idol Renaissance yet you definitely should check them out, they’re great.

AKB48 – Love Trip

The award for least bad AKB48 (and other 48 group) song goes to AKB48’s Love Trip. I’d actually say this song is pretty good – it has a solid melody, and I like the general feel of the song. The PV is also great. I actually considered putting this on my top 25, but I don’t think it’s quite enough of a stand out song – it’s overshadowed by other AKB48 election songs, including last year’s Halloween Night. Still, if AKB did more songs like this I’d be happy to start listening to them more on a regular basis.

Kobushi Factory – Sakura Night Fever

Kobushi Factory has taken a while to grow on me and, truthfully, I don’t know if they’ve grown that much on me. The members are all trainees I never paid much attention to, and their earliest stuff was fine but not particularly extraordinary. Then, in 2016, their second major single came out and was all great, old-school Hello Project. Sakura Night Fever was one of my highlights of the year – it’s a catchy, disco-esque song that is also a cover. While their first single was pretty good, I hope that the energy and the quality music of this second single helps define Kobushi’s future in Hello!Project.

Morning Musume ’16 – Sexy Cat no Enzetsu

I kind of hate how much I love this song. I’ve had the most complicated relationship with Sexy Cat no Enzetsu since the first preview came out, and I can’t think of a song I’ve love-hated as much since Berryz Koubou’s ode to dieting. In fact, now that I think about it, that’s a pretty apt comparison – both songs are often repetitive in a similar way and both songs make you kind of uncomfortable.

The other song that a friend of mine compared this to is Juice = Juice’s Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo, which is in every way a superior song in terms of melody, pacing, and arrangement. And yet, the feel of that song and especially the use of horns is present in Sexy Cat no Enzetsu, which makes me kind of love it. I can’t say that Sexy Cat no Enzetsu is a particularly good song, especially when you compare it to something like Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo, but I know I’ve been listening to it a lot these past few weeks.