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.