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.