After Thought: The Beginning of a New Adventure (aka My Thoughts on ℃-ute Disbanding)

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It comes as no shock as the Japanese pop girl group ℃-ute announced that they are disbanding on June 2017. The reason? The girls realized that they have completed their idol dreams and have developed new ones. Many are sad that some of the girls are going into “disappointing” careers. Some are just sad as they are kicking the can. But, nothing ever really last forever. Even SMAP, who has been in the Jpop idol business long before these girls made their début in 2006, is announcing that they are disbanding by the end of this year (Thank god!).

I should be sad. I should feel sorrow for these lovely girls who are about to leave their singing careers. I should be saying something along the lines of “Like come on, Airi, you should be a solo singer”.

But, I am not.

I am really not.

It has been predicted for a long time that these girls would eventually graduate Hello! Project someday. Let’s face it. We knew that the other H!P Kid members were going to be grouped into another kids unit after Berryz Koubou was sticking with a permanent line-up by mid-2004. We also knew that ℃-ute would eventually break-up when Berryz Koubou disbanded last year. It’s just a simple cause and effect.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a big ℃-ute fan for a long time. Sure, I love a couple songs here and had a favorite member or two (Hey, Erika Umeda!) there. Yet, I was more into Berryz Koubou starting from my high school days to recently as they had talented members, catchier songs, and a stable lineup.

I actually lost interest in ℃-ute around 2009 or 2010 when Umeda graduated. She was my favorite even though she barely got any lines and was more of a background performer. Nevertheless, she was an interesting girl and was a good performer. At least she was able to carry a tune and dance pretty well unlike some girls…

The group’s musical quality has been diminishing over the recent years. It is true that the girls have grown-up and thus their musical and style tastes have changed. However, it didn’t get better, it got worse. I blame someone who calls them ℃-ute’s vocal couch as I feel like he or she didn’t coach them well. Airi can’t sing high notes really well anymore, Mai’s vocals got worse over time, and Chisato had to get surgery because of nodes. You hear this limiting and painful vocal style of not properly singing through your nose in other groups sadly. I experienced it first hand with a trial lesson at a well-known vocal studio.

One more thing, ℃-ute’s songs are always a hit or a miss. Other groups within Hello! Project (like Berryz Koubou) had more memorable songs than ℃-ute ever really did. I mean some songs like “Dance de Bakoon!”, “Bye Bye Bye”, “Massara Blue Jeans”, “THE FUTURE”, and others are impressive.  Hell, “Dance de Bakoon!” is a superb signature song for  ℃-ute as it’s funky and makes you want to dance. Still, there is a handful of the group’s songs are lackluster or have not a lot of meat on the bone. I still think one their latest songs named “Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou?” is too mundane. Maybe that is because a) UFA is giving this group the short end of the stick or b) UFA is just having a bad year in producing decent good music (which isn’t really the case because Morning Musume. had a great single this year…)

Nonetheless, I am happy that the girls are going into something they love to do. Furthermore, they seemed to be pleased with their eleven-year career.

Maybe we should start making predictions for their last concert? I am secretly wishing that Erika Umeda would come back…

By the way, enjoy my favorite ℃-ute song, the 80’s flavored “Bye Bye Bye” (I think it would be something that Duran Duran would do):

P.S: I was watching a lot of C-ute’s music videos today. Oh my word, the music video for “Kanzen na Otona” is awful. The shot is 0:13 is so horrible that I want to call it something like “Dinosaurs Ready for Dinner” because it looks like it:

Achieving the Dream Within the Olympics

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Another round of the Summer Olympics has come and go. Legions of countries sent their finest athletes to Rio de Janerio to see who would come on top. Athletes trained for years and years to try to perfect that one moment of their lives. Capturing Gold.

Many around the world have watched various portions of the Games, cheering on their national treasures to excel and take the prized metal. Viewership peaked sharply when the opening and closing ceremonies. Dance, art, and music interpret the host city’s purpose and histories during these ceremonies. At the same time, each athlete enters the stadium and greeted by a thunderous applause from the millions attending.

Many of the world’s brightest music and movie stars perform in front of the world audience during these events. Some even come out of retire to sing one more time, like The Spice Girls. with their most anticipated reunion at the 2012 London Olympics.

However, there is one important piece of the Olympic puzzle that sometimes go unnoticed during the hype. That would be the soundtrack. This collection infuses the spirit of the Games with music through its rhythms, beats, notes, and words. One of the best representation is the soundtrack for 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

By the time of the album’s release, Christopher Cross was no stranger to the world’s attention. The singer-songwriter became an instant success when he released his self-titled album in 1979. Scoring several top 20 singles, Cross also walked away with five Grammys the following year. His follow-up album, “Another Page”, was yet another success that included various hits.

Cross’ career was never the same after the Summer Olympics as the musician couldn’t successfully gain a strong fan base with the new MTV generation. Cross continued to release albums with small success throughout the years. The latest album he released was “Secret Ladder” in 2014.

Christopher Cross was such an influential musician during the late 70s and early 80s that most Americans have listened to at least one of his songs during their lifetime. Even though he wasn’t very prominent in my generation, I grew up listening to his songs like “Ride Like a Wind” and “Sailing” as my parents loved listening to music from their youth.

Cross is a well-crafted musician as he has a smooth singing style, catchy tunes, and writes lyrics that is relatable to anyone. Because of his talents, Cross was able to successfully create “A Chance of Heaven” as a catchy and pleasing tune that could inspire anyone, athletic or not. The evidence is in the song as it starts off with a worried mood. This could be a motif for an athlete who has fully concerned everything on winning. However, with help from the lyrics, the mood lightens and becomes fully positive during the chorus as Cross reassures that there is always one more chance at everything.

The musician never falters as he amazingly arranged this song with electronic instruments like a blazing electronic guitar, synthesizer, and drum kits. Cross doesn’t use these instruments heavy most of the time. He uses them instead in a light way to create a dreamlike, calming atmosphere. His voice also portrays this light tone very well throughout the verses.

“A Chance of Heaven” is a magnificent piece for the Summer Olympics. Cross used the music and the lyrics triumphantly to paint a delightful musical picture of one’s ambition at getting gold during the Games. It’s not over the top and heavy but instead light and laid back as it’s mood tries to present the theme vigorously.

 

Please check out the 1984 Summer Olympics soundtrack too. It has wonderful pieces from John Williams, Quincy Jones, Toto, Loverboy, Bob James, and others.

 

 

 

A Critical Point in Miho Nakayama’s Music Career

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I am slowly processing all the CDs I got from an auction lot about two months ago. There are a lot of good and surprising finds, including an album from one of my favorite Japanese female singers Miho Nakayama!!😀

For those who aren’t familiar with  Ms. Nakayama, let me fill you in. Nakayama didn’t initially start her entertainment career in music. In fact, she was a model for magazines and print ads during her junior high school years. It wasn’t until she switched agencies in 1984 or 1985 that she became an idol singer.

She released her first single, entitled “C”, during the summer of 1985. The single did really well, reaching #12 on the weekly Oricon charts and sold over 170,000 copies. Nakayama nabbed the Rookie of the Year Award at the Japan Record Awards due to the successful start. However, her first #1 didn’t come until two years later with the release of the upbeat dance tune “CATCH ME” (which I looooooooooooove because Toshiki Kadomatsu, whom I adore a lot, wrote it).

Nakayama continued her music career throughout the late 80s and 90s. She worked with significant musicians in the industry like Mariya Takeuchi, Tetsuya Komuro, Toshiki Kadomatsu, and ANRI. She also went overseas to record material in places like Los Angeles and France.

Nakayama took a break from singing at the turn of the new century. She then went on to marry Tsuji Hitonari in 2002 (whom she would later divorce twelve years later) and put her entertainment career on hold to move to Paris with her husband. As of August 2016, she is still living in Paris and helping her ex-husband to raise her only son.

Miho Nakayama has always found new ways to reinvent her music career. Starting off with the innocent idol kayokyoku of the 80s, Nakayama bounced in and out of various musical genres like dance, latin, electronica, blues, and AOR. She constantly modified her sound every two years as the market and her fan’s tastes were continually shifting. Wondering what her fans wanted next, she decided in 1992 to go to Los Angeles and recorded the album Wagamama na Actress.

“Gakeppuchi” (崖っぷち; critical point) is a bold number that opens the album. The song attracts listeners with its boisterous and upbeat feeling. It opens with a bluesy organ solo followed by a dynamic horns section. The piece includes a wicked 90s’ style guitar solo during the break. This style reminds me of Amy Grant’s 1991 album Heart in Motion, something like “Every Heartbeat” and “Hats”. It also sounds like Peter Cetera’s 1988 album One More Story. Maybe I am just crazy. Do you hear the similarities too?

The only issue I have with this tune is that the instrumentation is a bit overpowering. Miho Nakayama has always been a good singer. However, she always had a soft voice that fits perfectly with her songs “Mermaid”, “Rose Color”, “Tada Nakitaku Naru no”, and “You’re My Only Shinin’ Star”. Those songs are pretty quiet with the instruments kept to a minimal.

I also noticed that Miho Nakayama struggles vocally with bluesy music quite often. SThe singer struggles a bit on “Gakeppuchi”. She also has problems on the poorly arranged “Sea Paradise -OL no Hanran-“. Albeit, it isn’t my favorite Miho Nakayama tune as the arrangement is so messy. It does point out that Nakayama has a weakness at very fast and loud songs. Maybe the producers should have scaled back a bit on both songs.

Overall, “Gakeppuchi” isn’t a terrible song if you ignore its flaws. I love it because the song has an upbeat tempo with an awesome 90s vibe to it.  I also loooooooove early 90’s AOR songs like this one.

If you are a fan of early 90’s Chicago, Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion era, or and Peter Cetera’s One More Story era, then this song is for you!

You can listen to the song here on Ket nool.

 

 

 

The Mid-Year Review (2016 Version)

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It has been half a year! Time has mostly definitely flown by! I am sorry that this blog wasn’t as active like last year. Work has been extremely busy since the beginning of the school year (aka April) where I would just come home, cook dinner, take a shower, and go to bed extra early.  I also worked six days a week. I felt like I was working too much and not getting the necessary sleep I needed.

But! Everything has changed as I now work 5 days a week. I also have ample time to sleep and relax on a new bed. That’s right, a new bed! I was sleeping Japanese style for the past year with a bunch of futons and mattress piled on a hard wooden floor. But now I have an actual bed, I am able to sleep more peacefully now.

Enough of talking about the love of my life, I mean, my bed and my life. Let’s talk about music! Here are the top 5 most popular blog entries from January to July 2016!


5. Reporting Live: Sakura Cinderella near Nagoya Station (August 8,2015)  (Written on January 12, 2016)

Sakura Cinderella is another “local idol” group here in Nagoya. Unlike Idol Kyoshitsu who performs in another company’s sushi restaurant,  these girls perform in their own cafe near Nagoya Station. Formed in 2014, this AKB48 copycat group performs in their cafe every day and does street lives all over the city. Named after one of the main streets “Sakura Street”, Sakura Cinderella’s catchphrase is “Tidy and pretty true idols”.

Read more here.

4. Get ready for the Olympics with Kobushi Factory (Written on July 17, 2016)

It is less than three weeks to the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. But, everyone is preparing for the major event of the year by releasing merchandise, airing the pre-game qualifiers on TV, talking about it on every morning show, and incorporating themes of the games and Rio de Janeiro in film and music.  This is no exception to Hello! Project, who has started a trend of providing Olympic-themed songs in the last five years.

Read more here.

3. My Thoughts on Eurovision (Written on May 15, 2016)

Eurovision 2016 has already come and go. There were really exceptional acts, good acts, and worst ones. As there were 26 performers for the four hours final, it will take me a while to get through all the acts. So, if I can remind myself to do it, there will be a part two next week to cover the other performances.

Read More Here.

2. Boogie Woogie Into Saturday Night with Morning Musume (Written on May 22, 2016)

One of my all-time favorite Japanese pop girl group just released their 61st single! Yes, you read it right, 61st! Although, I did talk about their 60thabout six months ago. Nevertheless. Morning Musume always impresses their fans with the ability to successfully reinvent themselves for the past 18 years.

Now, the 61st is a Triple A single, with the songs being ‘Tokyo to Iu Katsumi”, “The Vision”, and “Utakata Saturday Night”. I won’t be talking about all three songs as that could be a huge essay that could bore you and that I wasn’t really digging two of the songs from the single.

Read more here.

1. Celebrating Canada Day with Don’t Wanna Fall in Love by Jane Child (Written on July 5, 2015)

Over the past twenty or so years. many Canadian artists have been featured and became immensely popular all over the world. Barenaked Ladies, musical goddess Celine Dion, rock-pop princess Avril Lavigne, “boy wonder” Justin Bieber (which you should check out his new single with Skrillex), and others. But, none were more eccentric or skillful at playing the keyboards than today’s featured artist.

Read more here.

Get ready for the Olympics with Kobushi Factory

FESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSTA!!

Deixa a festa começar!

It is less than three weeks to the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. But, everyone is preparing for the major event of the year by releasing merchandise, airing the pre-game qualifiers on TV, talking about it on every morning show, and incorporating themes of the games and Rio de Janeiro in film and music.  This is no exception to Hello! Project, who has started a trend of providing Olympic-themed songs in the last five years.

When you first listen to “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro”, you probably think it’s the long-lost relative to ANGERME’s 2012 song “Dot Bikini”. I swear the tempos of each song are about the same and both use the same instruments like a whistle, surdo, and others. The other similarity is when I hear the “cha cha cha” part at the end of “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro”‘s chorus. It reminds me of the “Chuumoku Chuumoku Chumoku” during “Dot Bikini” with a surdo being heard prominently in the background.

Hmm...

However, I give Kobushi Factory some credit as the group did a great job at capturing the spirit of Rio de Janeiro’s samba through music and film. “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro” uses instruments that are prominent in these Brazilian tunes like a surdo, trumpet, and saxophone. Also, the “ya ya ya” parts during the breaks are something you typically find in a  samba song. Whoever hasiejaneiro is, he did a great job trying to capture the spirit of a fun Rio de Janeiro samba festival with his arrangement. (My friend mentioned to me that hasiejaneiro might be Shin Hashimoto, who also arranged old Hello! Project songs like reggae-flavored “Summer Reggae Rainbow”)

The costumes also help bring tradition, originality, and flare. The girls wear a traditional Brazilian carnival costume with various colors scattered all over each piece. I don’t really like how the stylist executed the use green and yellow as the prominent themes. It just makes the costume seem tacky, cheap, and disorganized. I do really like the background dancers’ costumes as they are focused on one color per dancer and the style and blends seem more coherent. I do understand that the stylist wanted to incorporate the Brazilian flag’s colors into the group’s costumes. But at the same time, it should have been executed better. Maybe in a way like the dancers’.

What the music video lacks a lot of is a carnival. To my understanding, carnivals are usually in streets and with lots of people. Not in a secluded mansion with a pool. Like someone said on the H!P forum MM-BBS, this music video should of have been shot on a street with the members interacting with the dancers (which the girls don’t do much of in the original MV) and onlookers. I know it is really expensive to close a busy street in Tokyo and hire a few handfuls of people to be extras. But, it would make the music video look even more fun and encapture the spirits of samba and a carnival. (Maybe should of also the confetti?)

Enough about the costumes and music video, let’s get back to the important subject; the music. Vocally, the group never disappoints me as each member have strong vocal skills and they blend really well together. But musically, I feel the song is a bit weak and boring. Maybe because it’s a bit generic as a samba and H!P song. I also feel like “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro” is bland. I feel that the singers nor the instruments capture  the true excitement. Instead, the listener is treated to almost four minutes of subdued, non-climatic happiness.

Maybe I am also still reeling over the awesomeness of Kobushi Factory’s last single, “Sakura Night Fever”. I am in looooooooooooove this feel-good song as it features two legendary musicians on the track (DANCEMAN and KAN), a subdued key change, bringing out the bass and the guitar, the excitement, Rei Inoue’s awesome line, and more. The list can go on but maybe I being a little too bias?

What do you think of “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro”? Do you enjoy it’s festive style or do you think it’s subdued and bland?

My real question is: What will be the theme song for Japanese broadcast of the Summer Olympics?

Celebrate ☆ai love music☆’s 100th post with Queensberry!

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Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

It’s the 100th post at ☆ai love music☆! I never thought that I would reach this milestone as I didn’t think I would be continuing to blog after my long hiatus in 2009. It’s all thanks to the readers and my evolving music library both on my computer and in my CD shelves that keeps me going even during difficult times. I hope that I can reach my 200th very soon.

To mark this occasion, I want to use a song that involves the word “celebrate” as this a joyous occasion. I was looking through my iTunes and found a little gem from the German girl pop group Queensberry. The band was formed in 2008 during season 8 of the German version of the hit TV talent show Popstars. The original members were Leonore Bartsch, Gabriella De Almeida Rinne, Antonella Trapani, and Victoria Ulbrich.

Hoping to be as successful as Popstars alumni bands No Angel and Monrose, Queensberry released their debut album, entitled Volume I, in early 2009 with great success. It was certified gold.The group was quick to release singles from the album as well as work on what was supposed to be their US debut album. However, that plan never came about as their contract with Warner Music dissolved at the end of 2009.

What made matters worse was that Antonella and Victoria decided to call it quits by July 2010. Queensberry’s managers were quick to find their replacements, who were Selina Herrero and Ronja Hilbig. Queensberry didn’t release any material, just appeared on a song by rapper KittyKat and did live performances. However, Selina Herrero left the group two years later as she wanted to go back to school.

The group released their last album as a trio in 2012 with little success. Leonore Bartsch decided to leave the group soon after, leaving Queensberry with only Ronja and Gabriella. The group eventually disbanded completely in 2013.

It is currently unknown what the girls are doing now. It is presumed they are either out of show business or focus on their solo careers.

“Celebrate” might feel like a generic synthpop song. It features a high-pitched synthesizer, a clapping machine, and an air drum kit. I think the keys to the song are the vocals and the feel-good meaning behind the lyrics. You can say that the girls vocals are the standard pop vocals you hear from any pop tune. However, I feel like these vocals fit the song perfectly. It isn’t too deep nor high and the vocals are really smooth with a clear tone. They actually make you feel good and relax.

One other thing that makes the listener feel good is the lyrics. Who doesn’t want a friendly reminder like “Celebrate, we made it through the day Celebrate, good times are here to stay Celebrate, dreams come to life today” throughout their day, The song is filled with upbeat lyrics that tell you that you shouldn’t give up because you can celebrate your victories at the end of the day.

A Puzzling Pop Tune from the early 00s

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The early 2000s was a haven for bubblegum pop. Tons of bands popped up almost overnight during the late 90s and early 00s as fans couldn’t get enough the generic, fun, and upbeat music genre. Or maybe, they were going crazy only for the  members of the groups. I remember the teenage girls’ chatter between classes about which Backstreet Boy member wwas the hottest like it was yesterday.

Magneto was one of those bands that also tried to ride on the bubblegum pop boy band wave that was successful in America, Europe, Asia, and other countries. This Mexican pop band, which is entirely not related to the X-Men villain with the same name, was formed in 2000 or 2001 with Richie, Koko, Jack, Jordi and Ivan. The band or someone in management thought it was a great idea that the boys would take on the same name as the immensely popular 80s and 90s boy band. However, the fans of the original band weren’t very happy with the idea and complained. This lead the new group renamed themselves M5 before the first album.

The boy band released two albums, a self-titled in 2001 and another one some time later. According to the blogger PopRush, they were a “medium success” in Mexico. They also released a handful of singles. But, after the second album, the guys decided to call it quits and go their own ways.It is unknown what the members did after the split up as there is not a lot of information on the net.

The first track of their debut album is “Rompecabezas” (translated as “Jigsaw Puzzle”). It’s a generic boy band tune of its time; sounding something akin to the Backstreet Boys.  Despite being basic, I love it. I think what I like most about the song is the beat, it’s very up-tempo and easy to follow. The other reason (or two) is parts like the chorus and bridge. I can’t put a finger on why I exactly like the chorus. However, I like the bridge because it sounds a bit mysterious with the call and response in the middle.

You can listen to “Rompecabezas” and the rest of Magneto’s debut album below: