Come Back to Asia in the 1980s

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Ahh, the weekend! The time when I can listen to all the music I want because at work, I am not allowed to listen to anything, including my iPod with earphones. I am in heaven! It is during the weekend that I get addicted to a song or more, listening to it over and over till whenever I get tired of the song or I go to bed. Today’s new obsession is a song from the Jpop-rock band TM Network.

TM Network is a well-known band in Japan that has been around for about 30 years. The band was formed in 1983 when the band that Tetsuya Komuro, Naoto Kine, and Takashi Utsunomiya were in, Speedway, split up. The guys came together and entered their new band, TM NETWORK, in a YAMAHA contest, performing the song “1974”. The band received perfect scores from the judges and won the grand prize, which caught the attention of Epic Records who offered the band a contract right away. TM Network made their debut in the spring of 1984 with the single “Kinyoubi no Lion (Take it to the Lucky)” and album “RAINBOW RAINBOW”.

Over the years, TM Network has made a lot of genre changes. On various information sites like Wikipedia and etc, the band is listed as a pop-rock band with the pop side being more relevantly in their music. The band’s first couple of singles featured a sound that was akin to the Yellow Magic Orchestra’s technopop bliss, prominently “”Kinyoubi no Lion (Take it to the Lucky)” and “1974”. Over the years, they got their toes wet by dipping into new genres like R&B, funk, trance, techno, latin, hard rock (thanks to B’z guitarist Tak Matsumoto), ballad rock, eurobeat, dance, and etc. Most recently, the band has been riding the electriopop wave, especially since Komuro is a lover of current dance trends (he has been on this “dance music” craze since 90s though, see all the stuff he has composed during that time).

“Come Back to Asia” doesn’t offer the eccentric sounds of rock or technopop, just the normal pop one. Actually, there is a lot of Asian influences within the song. It starts off with the keyboards producing a melody that resembles an Asian motif with the rhythm and/or melodic structure. I think the Asian motif is best represented in the synthesized keyboards, as the instrument emulates a sound like the sitar or guzheng in the chorus and during the ending of each melodic phrases in the verses. Speaking of the chorus, this the strongest section of the piece as Utsunomiya’s vocals are gripped with emotions and power, the sitar/guzheng sound, and the staccato’ed rhythm. All these factors clash and mesh harmonically together.

The song might not be as catchy like other songs like “Get Wild” or “COME ON EVERYBODY”. But, “”Come Back to Asia”” is a memorable song with a powerful heart.

You can listen to the full version here (for free) on NicoNico Douga.
(Click on the link to be directed to the video.)

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Come Into the World of Silicon!

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Today’s post was partly inspired from a recent Buzzfeed video where teenagers were watching and commenting on popular videos from 1999: Brittany Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, a Shania Twain video, and others. The last video was Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”, which the teens commented on its horrible graphics and the “blue”-themed lyrics. Personally, I got a laugh at the kids’ comments because Eiffel 65 and “Blue” were some of my favorite things in elementary school and I didn’t think it was a bad video back in the day. However, now it’s different after watching the video the first time in 16 years; those graphics and plots were indeed horrendous. Oh, how times changed!

“Europop” was one of my favorite albums heading into the 21st Century. I remember I got really excited whenever “Blue” was played on the radio. I liked it so much that taped it so I could hear it over and over. When my parents noticed that I played it excessively, they bought me the album, which I still have but in ok condition (its been scratched up, disappeared during a few moves, and missing its booklet pal)  I looooooooooved the album. The more and more I played it, the more I started to hate “Blue” and love the lesser known songs like “Too Much of Heaven”, “Europop”, and “Dub in Life”. I grew to love one song a lot, which I still love to this day: ‘Silicon World”.

I think what hooked me on ‘Silicon World” was the morbid and mysterious musical motif going on. Right off the bat, the song sounds ominous with the minor triads. After the foreshadowing of the chorus, the song gets a basic beat going with a 8-bit drum kit and the minor triads still going on. The meat of the song comes from the vocals and melody line. Although the song features a basic dance-type male vocals, it is made up with the melody line as the singer uses the song’s ranges to create a feeling of “some mysterious dream world that involves the powerful needs of dream girl”. The lyrics kind of support the statement as they mention the singer’s experiences in a “silicon world” with a “silicon girl”. But, I find the lyrics a bit too aloof for my tastes as I always thought a “silicon girl” equals “a plastic girl”. Why would you want a girl who is basic and possibly fake? That’s no fun,

If you can get pass the basic lyrics, you might find out that  ‘Silicon World” is a great album song with its grim melodic themes and feeling what the singer wants through the melodies.

11 Years of Thanks

A couple of days ago, one of the longest running idol groups in Japan held their farewell concert at the Nippon Budoukan with thousands of fans attending. Personally, I been a fan since they released their debut single in 2004; watching these once elementary school girls grow into beautiful ladies. During the years, their music even spread across the globe in various places like the USA, France, Thailand, and beyond.

Although their farewell concert was full of tears and such heartbreak, this blog post will have none of that. Instead, let’s take the time to remember what Berryz Koubou accomplished as each member heads down on their paths to the future.

What is Berryz Koubou?

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Berryz Koubou is a Japanese idol group that was formed in late 2003 with eight members from Morning Musume’s “little sister”-like training program called Hello! Project Kids. The program was formed in 2002 after a group of about fifteen elementary-aged girls successful auditioned for Hello! Project. Initially, Berryz Koubou was planned to have a ever-changing lineup as girls from Hello! Project Kids would be shuffled in and out of the group constantly. However, that plan was abandoned for unknown reasons as the rest of the Hello! Project Kids members went onto to form their own group called °C-ute.

Berryz Koubou released their first single, entitled “Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai”, on Hinamatsuri (a festival day for girls that is held on March 3) 2004. “Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai” isn’t describe as a typical idol song as it contains a funky beat, R&B meets pop melodies, Indian instruments, and the girls wearing shiny hip hop street clothing. But, they weren’t just an R&B-sounding group, their sound was always changing with every release. Over their long-standing careers, Berryz  sang anything from sugary pop to doo-wop and beyond. Sadly, we didn’t get Metal Berryz! That is left up to the fans to produce their own remixes! Evil Morning, anymore?

(A little side note: The group had eight members when they made their debut. However, one of the girls, Maiha Ishimura, graduated in 2005 to focus more on schooling. Since then, Berryz has had a stable lineup. You might get confused with the number of girls in the above picture with the one at the end of this post.)

Why them?

Why Berryz Koubou? Why do you like them? What is so special about these guys? Those are probably some of the questions you are asking. Let me explain!

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be an easy explanation.  Let me start from the beginning. I been a fan of Berryz Koubou since their third single, “Piriri to Yukou”, releaserd in the summer of 2004. At that time, I was a “freshman turning into a sophomore” high school student in love with their sister groups and friends like Goto Maki, Morning Musume, W, and other girls. Beside the sugary cute songs and innocence lyrics, what attract me to Berryz or any girls groups is the wanting to be THAT girl featured in Berryz. I wanted to be really pretty, have really good clothes, and have the ability to sing and dance despite being a nerd with no musical talent back then. I remember when I covered my first Berryz Koubou song exactly ten years ago in a cover group called Ongaku! Project. Oh, the horrors! I really sound bad back then!

As the girls got older, I still admired them for their amazing skills. However, recently I have felt like they been apart of life as we all grown up together. Even though I am only three or four years older than the oldest member in Berryz, I feel like we experienced many things together; heartbreak, happiness, pain, triumph, and such. It does sound a little weird but let me put it in another perspective. My father’s idol has always been Michael Jackson, from the time he made his debut in the Jackson 5 till his death. My dad always admired Jackson because they are about the same age and that my dad would always turn on the TV and see his idol growing up like Jackson was part of my dad’s family. That is how I feel like with Berryz; these girls made me feel like their were my friends and/or family members.

What is your favorite member and song?

I can admit when I first became a Berryz fan, my favorite member was Risako. I don know why, maybe for her singing voice or her uniqueness. As time went by, I gradually became a fan of each girl as each member possesses their own unique qualities: Miyabi and her rock-girl image (see Buono!), Momoko with her cute annoyance, Chinami with her charming cuteness, Risako with her exotic beauty, Saki and her amazing makeover (and hair colors!), Maasa with her funny personality, and Yurina with her elegance.

As for songs, I reallllllllllllllly love a lot of their stuff! But, if I had to choose one song, I would definitely say “Yuke Yuke Monkry Dance” as my favorite. Why? Because it’s such an awesome song with it’s monkey dance routines, oddball lyrics about Japan, monkeys, and dancing, and a really cool melody! Besides, who doen’t want to dress up in these monkey costumes?!

Whatever the future holds from me and these girls, Berryz Koubou will always have a special place in my heart.

Thank you girls!

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