15. Charisma.com – Hashdark
#Hashdark is one of the three songs that made me change this list from being exclusively the domain of idols but instead moving into JPop as a whole. I’ve casually liked Charisma.com for a while, but 2017 was the year I got into them in a big way. And then they announced they’re going on hiatus, which just figures!
While something like Hate is much more of a classic, #Hashdark is a great example of what makes Charisma.com work. The dark beat with Itsuka’s great flow on top sounds fantastic, with some great vocals from Gonchi as well. It’s just in general a great, polished example of Charisma.com’s dark, catchy sound. While I’m sad to see Charisma.com go on hiatus, I hope Itsuka at least stays with the music industry, if #Hashdark is an example of what they can do.
14. Niji no Conquistador – No Life Baby of the End
Yes, this is the second idol-funk song about zombies on this list. While Like a Zombie is great, No Life Baby of the End is just a bit more fun, which is why it ranks higher. It’s a fast paced, funky idol pop song that has a ton of energy, which is mostly due to Niji no Conquistador’s energetic performance. Niji no Conquistador has really carved a niche for themselves in the idol world with their energetic performances, and it really suits No Life Baby of the End. The melody is fantastic, and the instrumental does a great job of ramping up the energy with heavy drums and horns. This is perhaps more of an idol-y song than something like Like a Zombie, but that’s not a bad thing. No Life Baby of the End sounds like a song that would be really fun to see live, and is one of the most fun idol funk songs of the year.
13. Sasaki Ayaka – My Cherry Pie
I joked earlier this year on Twitter that, no matter how crummy a year 2017 was, at least we got My Cherry Pie. And while that’s a joke, what isn’t a joke is how much I loved My Cherry Pie. Sasaki Ayaka has gotten multiple solo songs over the years, but nothing quite like the 50s-inspired My Cherry Pie. And it totally fits her – Aarin clearly has a great song performing this song and does so with relish.
Written by my favorite songwriter Maeyamada Kenichi, My Cherry Pie is a mostly fast paced fun romp with a great melody and instrumental. It’s an addicting, goofy song that fits Aarin perfectly. It’s a song I’ve listened to over and over, but not one I’ve managed to get sick of yet.
12. Charan-po-rantan – Otakebi
My second non-idol on this list, Charan-po-rantan was one of my biggest discoveries of the year. The group of two sisters, one a vocalist and one an accordion player, has been around for years but I only just listened this year, and I glad I did. Their two albums that came out in 2017, Toritomenashi and Mirage Collage are both superlative albums and all the songs could easily be considered a favorite of mine. That said, I decided to go with Otakebi as my favorite of the year.
Charan-po-rantan tries on different genres easily, using pop, French chanson, ska and polka in their music, but Otakebi is a great jazzy collaboration with Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. One of the most notable things about Charan-po-rantan is that Momo’s vocals are uniformly fantastic – her voice here is at its best, performing with a lot of energy and feeling. This song doesn’t focus on the accordion as much as others but where it comes in it works well. The song also has some great horn and piano sound throughout. Every instrument feels like it works perfectly through the song. It’s a great jazzy track that utilizes both Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Charan-po-rantan perfectly, which makes it my favorite track out of a year of incredible Charan-po-rantan tracks.
11. RYUTist – Namida no Yesterday
I’ve been a fan of RYUTist since discovering them in my Tokyo Idol Festival posts, and then I became a bigger fan when I saw them in 2014 at Idol Matsuri, but RYUTist has never clicked for me more than they have this year. I went from being a relatively casual RYUTist fan to a more serious RYUTist an, and that is all because of one album, Ryuto Geigi. Each song builds off the last perfectly and each song is just fantastic. It’s just about tied for being my favorite Japanese album of the year, and the fact it’s tied shows just how strong this other album was.
Namida no Yesterday is a beautiful retro song that manages to channel 70s pop while also being a lovely song in its own right. Everything about Namida no Yesterday just works. Not quite disco, it has a soft, almost wistful feel to it, bolstered by some of RYUTist’s best vocals. The arrangement is gorgeous as well, simultaneously feeling old-fashioned but like its been taken seriously. I think that’s what I love most about Ryuto Geigi as an album. It has a lot of retro, old-fashioned ideas but it uses those to write fantastic songs. They use the best of the old-school feel to make something new, and I think that’s exemplified in a song like Namida no Yesterday.