Initially when working on this top list I intended for a top ten songs I loved from 2012. However, when writing down candidates I realized that that was far too small. The fact is, the past couple of years have been really really great for idol fans. Idols have been popular in Japan, which leads to more acts, more work being put on idol acts, and more money being put into idol acts. So instead of doing a top ten (which would end up shutting out groups and songs that quite frankly deserve notice) I’m doing a top 25 list with some honorable mentions. And even then I feel like I’m leaving off excellent candidates (my tentative list was originally around 50+ songs!), so if you see a favorite song not mentioned here I might have wanted to put it on here. It’s a good time to be an idol fan.
25. Avocado Janee~shi – Watanabe Mayu and Sashihara Rino
As a whole I found the 1830m album to be pretty underwhelming, and I am one of the few that actually really enjoyed Koko ni Ita Koto. However, I really enjoyed Avocado Janee~shi. One of the things that I really like as an idol fan (that will become very obvious further into this list) is that I like classic idol songs. While I like idol songs of today, if something is in any way retro or a callback to previous idols, I will eat it up. Avocado Janee~shi really reminds me in a weird way of Matsuura Aya songs in the peak of her Ayaya idolly days. Things like Momoiro Kataomoi, Ne~e and Yeah! Meccha Holiday. The song’s cute, but has a good upbeat pace to it, and some really fun guitar solos in there. While Watanabe and Sashihara aren’t known for being good vocalists, their voices sound really good here and play well off each other.
The lyrics are also really cute, with the person in the song comparing themselves to an avocado being among more appealing fruits. The whole song is pretty standard idol, but is really fun for if you want an idolly song, and as a big Ayaya fan this really appeals to me, and I know for a long while to come I’ll be singing “Avocado janee~shi, avocado dashi~” to myself.
24. A~rin wa Hankouki – Sasaki Ayaka
Has anyone ever had to justify “no, I’m not into this song because I’m biased, I really like it!” to others? This is how things work as a Momoiro Clover Z fan. Sasaki Ayaka is my oshimen of the group and one of my favorite idols, but out of all the Momoiro Clover Z solo songs Ayaka’s are always my favorite. Perhaps it’s because both of them are written by the wonderful Maeyamada Kenichi, who, spoiler alert, has a decent presence on this top list.
The reason that A~rin wa Hankouki works so much is because it feels very tailored to A~rin as an idol. Lots of idol solos can be generic and sung by everyone, but both A~rin wa Hankouki and the fantastic Datte A~rin Nanda Mon are songs that only really fit her. However, A~rin wa Hankouki is both high energy and mature sounding (a bit funny considering the lyrics are about A~rin wanting to rebel from her mother who tells her what she can and can’t do), and is a lot of fun. Some people might be put off by the long spoken/shouted monologues, but I really like them, as well as the rap done by none other than the songwriter himself, Maeyamada Kenichi. This is the type of song you’ll either love or hate, and I just happen to love it.
Ultimately, yeah I am biased towards A~rin and this song. However it’s a whole lot of fun and really is unique in how well it fits the singer.
23. Giri Giri Safe – Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
OK, this is kind of cheating because I don’t REALLY consider Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to be an idol. However, Pamyu Pamyu Revolution was a really strong album and I really wish that I could put more of it on this list. One song I particularly liked was Giri Giri Safe. It’s one of the most mellow songs on the album that’s sugary sweet and energetic, but it’s really sweet and mellow sounding. In my opinion this song really shows the variety that Kyary is able to do in her songs. The instrumentation is fantastic in the whole album, but shines in Giri Giri Safe especially with the sweet flute/whistle sounding part behind Kyary at some parts in the verses.
While I enjoyed her other singles of the year, especially Tsukema Tsukeru and Candy Candy, this album song is really nice to listen to. It’s not as out there as Kyary has been done (which I do love) but it shows that Kyary isn’t just weirdness and flash, but that there’s a lot to enjoy in her musical releases. This is why Pamyu Pamyu Revolution is one of my most played albums of the year and why I love Giri Giri Safe.
22. Hatsukoi Butterfly – HKT48
Even though it’s a b-side of an AKB48 single, I’d wager that Hatsukoi Butterfly was more highly anticipated than the A-Side, Eien Pressure. This is because it’s the first original song recorded by HKT48 and it includes ex-AKB48 members Sashihara Rino and (one of my favorites ever) Oota Aika. The song and PV was really the first time we get to see what to make of HKT48, at least to get a sense of what their debut single might be like.
While Hatsukoi Butterfly is admittedly a very idol-y song and isn’t quite as out there as, say, NMB48’s song on the single “HA!,” it’s the type of song I really wanted from HKT48. HKT has had its host of difficulties since it was formed with the big scandal it faced and the group had to fit two older veteran members into the group. However, despite everything, this song is energetic, cute, and fun to listen to, which is very fitting for a younger group. Maybe I’m just overthinking this, but the song sounds downright triumphant at times (starting at 2nd generation member Tashima Meru’s solo), which fits.
Even if this might not be earthshattering groundbreaking music, this is idol pop as a genre at its best, and I love it!
21. Renai Higaitodoke – NMB48
Despite everything, I’d say NMB48 had a pretty good year. Yes, there were graduations galore, especially among lesser known members. However, NMB48 successfully navigated past the big scandals of 2011 and really shined as their own group, slowly having more girls enter the senbatsu election line-up (five instead of one!). They have also had their own image, continuing to impress with their strong dancing skills and slightly sexier image than AKB48. I honestly liked every A-side this year and a lot of the B-Sides, and I wish I could put more of these on there.
However, Renai Higaitodoke really stands out. One of the B-sides from NMB’s Kitagawa Kenji single, it’s sung by the group’s Akagumi, with the chorus primarily alternating between very short solos sung by the members. The result is slightly haunting and unlike most idol songs, reminding me of a faster paced Dokusenyoku (Morning Musume), which is a good thing. This is especially unusual in a 48 large group song, which tend to focus on large group parts with very few solos. This causes Renai Higaitodoke to really stand out among the other songs released by the 48 groups this year. The song also does a really good job in playing to the strengths of the girls in the song, with Yamada Nana’s lines standing out to me a lot. This was one of the most memorable songs of the year, and one I liked a lot.