The 2008 Best Five List!

2008 has brought a lot changes and upgrades to the music scene. We have seen a once all mighty Japanese producer fall harder and get blacklisted (ex. Tetsuya Komuro) and the world recession taking a crunch in the entertainment industry, even in the music world. But, to me, I remember 2008 as the year of reunions and change ups in the music world due to the reformations of many groups and the musical styles. We have seen the The Police and The Spice Girls break up finally  in the Western World. But, in Japan, it’s a different story with reformation and reincarnation of many artists and groups like MAX and Chisato Moritaka. Thus, making this one of the main wheels in the Japanese music industry.

Now before I start, this Top 5 list is what I think was the best thing to happen in the year of 2008. Now, I didn’t included somethings that were amazing to others because I didn’t believe they were amazing to me. For example, SPEED’s comeback. This new comeback is the third comeback thing they had did since they broke up in 2000. As much I love SPEED, this is just another planned comeback and isn’t so special to me. Also, their new sound in their songs aren’t as awesome like it was in the late 90s, when they were really popular.

5. WINK’s One Night Reunion

So why does WINK get the number five position if they only did one performance at the Japan Music Award ceremony yesterday? The reason why they are number five because they still influence today’s  Japanese music scene. If you don’t who was WINK, they were an late 80’s to early 90’s Jpop duo that performed a lot of cover songs (about 90% of their single songs were cover songs, the albums had more of the original songs). They were so popular, especially in the late 80’s, that they even had stores with their products and goods in it (And, if you had store in Japan, it meant that you were super popular. Morning Musume. had a store like this when they were very popular during the Golden Era). Sadly,  they broke up in 1995 after their single sales diminished a lot to only 5,000 copies for the last single.  But, it’s not the sale numbers that counted they counted on for  their popularity, it was their  music style and how it sounded. Many decades after, WINK is still popular with the young crowd with reincarnations of the older hits (For example, Hello Project group W covering Samishii Nettaigyou).

When you look at the clip above from the Japan Record Awards, you can see from the audience that WINK has touched a lot of the industry by their dance pop music, dancing (Who could never forget the routine to Samishii Nettaigyou?), and the fashion.  Without WINK, I think the Japanese music industry wouldn’t be as diverse as it and be more like the United States in terms of more of a hip hop and R&B-sounding pop songs. The dance music in Japan would rather more robust and wouldn’t have that variety. Also, they have helped the Eurobeat industry a lot (since the Eurobeat community is mostly in Japan nowadays). And without WINK, I think the Eurobeat industry would not be floating as peacefully in Japan (Remember, WINK did a lot of Eurobeat covers back in their haydays).

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4. Original MAX Reunites

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In the later half of 2008, it was announced that 2nd Generation member Aki would be leaving MAX to pursue something else. Filling her spot was the return of Mina, the original lead singer of the group who left in 2002 due to having a kid. MAX is a popular Japanese group who debuted in 1995 after splitting from another girl group named Super Monkey’s (which Namie Amuro was also a part of). They enjoy smash hits tunes in the style of Eurobeat and were also known for their awesome dance routines.

Many people have commented that Mina’s departure was the destruction of the group when she left the group in 2002 by cancelling of original albums, singles, and lowering the group’s sales and their performance stature.  I partly think this is true because when Mina was in the group, the group had better vocals (not saying that the 2nd Gen MAX was worse but just how they put people on vocals irked me a bit).  Also, it seemed that the original MAX had a lot more energy in their performances then the 2nd Generation MAX. Thus making it a really memorable performance to watch.  But all in all, with Mina coming back in the group, I think MAX will be even better and be even more excellent in 2009. And, I hope avex would not let the fans down with not giving them new stuff to work with.

Please, avex, as my wish, please MAX back the United States so I can complete my Super Monkey’s signatures. 😛

You can see an MAX Medley Performance from this month here:

3.  GIRL NEXT DOOR


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To mark Avex’s 20th Anniversary, MAX Matsuura created a trio called GIRL NEXT DOOR that features the keyboardist from the band day after tomorrow, a guitarist, and a unknown dancer turned singer who was discovered last year in a dance club.  They debuted in May online with a song that reached up to 2 million views by July. They debuted with a single in September and was nominated for an award by the JRCC. Big deal, right?

I think avex did a grand job for putting together this group to represent their sound from the past 20 years. GIRL NEST DOOR is basically what I think of Tetsuya Komuro meets HAL meets DAI, three of the biggest music composers of avex.  Here are the reasons why:

HAL – You prolly heard of HAL’s works but have never heard of the name before. HAL is a duo that has composed many of late 90s to early 2000s hits like Ayumi Hamasaki’s songs, the original dream, and other avex artists. Many people best known HAL as the group that featured a female singer, was alive during 2000-2003, and featured many songs in different anime(s) like Hikaru no Go. The GND sound reminds me HAL’s sound because of the use of more piano-type instruments in the songs.

DAI – DAI (real name is Dai Nagao) has been famous for composing songs for many of avex’s artists like Ayumi Hamasaki, dream, his own band (Do As Infinity), and other ones. Like HAL, GND’s sound reminds me of DAI so much because of the use of the piano and synthesizer in the group’s songs. Unlike HAL, GND’s uses the same composing and musical structures as DAI. For example, in the Girl Next Door’s song, Drive away, I could swear that there was a DAI influence in the composing and musical structure in the chorus (it reminded me of the same structure as Ayumi Hamasaki’s Fly High).

Testuya Komuro – Lastly, the third person is the legendary TK who has been famous for bring the dance wave in Japan in the 90s. He was once the backbone of avex in the 90s and made a lot of artist successful during his reign as “Legendary Producer”. The artists that was under his guidance included globe, Ami Suzuki (when she was in Sony), trf, Namie Amuro, hitomi, Tomomi Kahala, and other acts. But in late in 2008, he was charged for fraud and a lot of his songs was pulled off the radio and globe’s material went out of print (which makes me sad because now I have to hunt down a lot of globe CDs through secondhand sites).  TK’s sound is influenced in the GND’s sound by the element of techno in songs like Drive away. Though TK developed a more of a techno sound in the early 2000s, it was sorta popular among dance clubs and people altogether. But, it seems like that it made a mark in the avex music industry to have it be incorporated into the GND’s sound. One example, among many other examples, that I found a influence of TK’s sound is the instrumental ending at the end of the song Drive away.

Source  Song (Drive away PV):

2. JERO

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For anyone who doesn’t know Jero, he is dubbed in Japan as the “First Black Enka Singer”. He is from Pittsuburgh, PA and went to Japan after finishing college in hopes to become an Enka singer. He caught the eyes of the label Victor after winning  many enka contests and finally debuted in Feburary of this year with the song Umiyuki. The single was a huge success, selling more then 200,000 copies, and winning him the award for Best New Artist at the Japan Record Awards. And to honor his late grandmother’s wishes, he will appear at the year end Kouhaku in a few hours.

But why is Jero so popular and such a influence in the Japanese music industry? Because he influences the styles of the old and new into his music and style. The old is the style of music he sings (enka) and the new is the style of hiphop clothing he wears when he performs these enka songs. In Japan, younger generations of Japanese people are in love with the likes of Hiphop clothing and such. So by seeing Jero singing enka while wearing an hiphop style outfit, these people accept and think it’s really cool of what he does. By providing this type of style, the younger generation is starting to appreciate enka a lot more (before then, Enka was for the “old people” and it’s was sort of a dying business) and help revive a lot of the interest and the industry of Enka. Now, I am not saying Jero is only talented at wearing hiphop clothing but is also an amazing singer and inspiration to all those singers out there that anything is possible if your mind to it.

1. Namie Amuro

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The number one spot goes to Namie Amuro due to her latest image/style change that I think has proven very successful for her career in music. Namie Amuro has been doing style changes since her debut in 1992 as the lead member of the pop group Super Monkey’s. In fact, I have a theory of what and when did these charges happen:

1991-1994:  Sugar Pop Namie

1994-1995: Eurobeat Namie

1995-2000: Dance Pop Namie/ TK’s Namie

2001-Now: Hip-Hop/R&B Namie

Beside that, Namie has been semi successful since 2000 for her style charges (and her ups and down in real life and the music world). But, in 2008, Namie Amuro broke through when she released her single, 60s/70s/80s, by reaching number 1 on the weekly charts (which Namie has not done since 1998 with the single I Have Never Seen). Yes, she had success with her new sound with her past singles but I think that 60s/70s/80s helped Namie reached stardom due to the catchy tunes, the use of fashion, the style of music with each song/decade, and how her songs effectively used samples of popular American songs.  And with these reasons, this why I think Namie is Number 1 in my choice of what was the best thing that happened in 2008 in the Japanese Music industry.

Honorable Mention:

Gake no Ue no Ponyo Theme Song

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Even if it was released last year, the theme song to the movie Gake no Ue no Ponyo has been very popular among the Japanese people in 2008. The popularity was achieved by two things: the cute little mermaid in the movie (which the puppet version has been very popular among the Japanese crowd and plus her story to fall in love with a human boy) and the eight year old singer Nozomi Ohashi (who sang with a duo called Fujioka Fujimaki). The song is very cute and contains lyrics about the little mermaid who is named Ponyo. The song is the theme song to the Hayao Miyazaki movie that has the same name of the song (which was released in the Summer 2008). It will be released in the states very soon, I hope.

You can see the performance of the song at the Japan Record Awards here:

Enjoy this blog! I will hopefully write about what are my Top 5 discovery this year tommorrow or by Friday. I am having a bust week by watching Japanese programming, cooking for many people, applying to schools, and attending an all nighter for New Years (and trying to get some sleep afterwards).

Have A Happy New Year!

恭賀新年!

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2 thoughts on “The 2008 Best Five List!

  1. Thanks so much for your fine analysis and solving the mystery of who that obnoxious little girl was on the Kohaku. 🙂 I watched the program via our local Asia station here in San Francisco so am not hip as to all going on in Japan at the moment. Am glad to find that Wink, Max, and Amuro are still kicking — have to say I did enjoy seeing Speed again. Who knows if we will see the Japan Record Awards here locally, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. がんばって!

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