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.