The Shocking Tunes of the Season: Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own”

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What do Donald Trump and Bobby Brown have in common?

No, no! It doesn’t have to do with Trump running for United States President next year. Think waaaaaaaay back, about twenty-six years ago. Still don’t know the answer?

Welllllllllllll…. Ghostbusters, of course!

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“Gasp!”

“On Our Own” was a Babyface and LA Reid produced song, sung by Bobby Brown, that served as the theme for the film Ghostbusters II. Nothing like the original theme song by Ray Parker Jr., “On Our Own” still captures the original theme’s concept of a lively dance beat that features lyrics about a team.

As much as “Ghostbusters” is a loveable classic, I really enjoy listening to “On Our Own” because I am huge sucker for new jack swing, 80s’ R&B, and anything by Babyface. I think what I like best from this song is Babyface’s smooth and sultry backing vocals, Bobby’s “on the edge” rapping skills, and the song’s flow. What else is great is how the producers combined the jolting synthesizers bits from the electronica genre with the bass line that is akin to funk music. Finally,I like the pre-chorus that involves an interesting sub-melody by a classical piano with a guest solo appearance from that funky bass line.

The music video presented a pretty cool concept. It features numerous scenes around New York City that highlights Bobby Brown, the back-up dancers, and various scenes from Ghostbusters II on buildings, billboards, and so on. While the music video does have various celebrities taking notice to the “photo-shopped” videos, it also featuring everyday New Yorkers just strolling by, enamored to the movie clips that are somehow playing on these buildings. Of course, the delightful appearance of Rick Moranis is always a treat!

So if you feel like rapping these lines “So they packed up their group, got a grip, came equipped, grabbed they Proton packs off their back and they split”, check the video below.

Can You Celebrate the Success of the Queen of Hip-Pop Amuro Namie 20 Years Later?

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Body feels exit

Body feels excite

Koko made donna michi wo aruite

Anata to yatto tadoritsuita ka wo

Nanika miezu ni dakedo nanika wo

Mitsuketakatta yo heya ni hitorikiri

Hiza wo kakaete ugokenakutatte body feels!

– “Body Feels Exit” (1995) by Namie Amuro [1]

If you ever came across a Japanese poImage and video hosting by TinyPicp song, more than likely it was by Namie Amuro. For the past twenty-three years, Namie Amuro has become a household name as she is everywhere in Japan: CDs, magazine covers, commercials, billboards, pamphlets, and even in stores. Whether it is because of her youthful, beautiful looks or her superb vocal skills, Namie Amuro is a pop icon that will be around for a long time.

You are probably asking, “Didn’t Amuro make her musical debut in 1992? Why are you writing an article about her and her 20th anniversary now?”

It is true that Amuro did make her musical debut in 1992 when she was apart of the teenage girl group Super Monkey’s. However, it was twenty years ago today, October 25, that Amuro peeled herself away from the idol group and made a name of herself by starting her solo career off with the single “Body Feels Exit”. I am not ignoring the fact that many, including at one point her official site, have said that the singles “Taiyou no Season” and “Stop the Music” is part of Amuro’s solo discography. However, if you look at the backs of “Taiyou no Season” and “Stop the Music”, the singles are credited under the name “Amuro Namie with Super Monkey’s” as she was still part of the group until the summer of 1995. I consider “Body Feels Exit” as her true solo debut single as it features none of the remaining Super Monkey’s members as dancers (at least in the music video) or backing vocals unlike the “Amuro Namie with Super Monkey’s” ones.

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On the mist of her solo debut, Amuro Namie was already a household name in 1995 as her last two singles with Super Monkey’s became top ten singles. She also appeared in various commercials, magazines, movies, and television shows, including the extremely cute kids show “Ponkikkids“. Whenever she wasn’t donning a pink rabbit suit, Amuro would be found on music programs, attracting various viewers with her sexy, fast-paced dance moves and good sense of style. In fact, it was that sense of style that helped to boost Amuro into the top spot of Japanese pop culture by the end of 1995. Even the fashion featured on her debut single spawn a cult following as the  term “Amura” described anyone who had the combination of dyed brown hair, tan skin, and white boots.

Over the years, Amuro adapted her sound and style to keep up with the ever-changing pop culture. Slowly, Amuro shed the eurodance-sound found in her earlier works and went for a more R&B/hip-hop one, starting in 1999 with “toi et toi”. As the Japanese music industry was shifting from dance pop to R&B, mainly thanks to Utada Hikaru, Amuro struggled with the shift as “toi et toi” was branded as a failure and other singles failed to crack the top ten. Actually, the 2002 single “Wishing on the Same Star” was supposed to be her last before a hiatus that would have her go to the US for artist development.[2] However, the single was a success and Amuro was allowed to continue her career.
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It wasn’t until 2004 with the release of “Queen of Hip-Pop” that Amuro fully cement her as a R&B/hip-hop artist. As much as I hate “Want Me, Want Me“, it is a perfect example of Amuro’s hip-hop sound as it presents a backbeat (sitar) and Amuro singing the verses in a style that is similar to rapping. Other perfect examples would be the R&B-flavored dance tune “Can’t Sleep, Can’t Eat, I’m Sick” (2006) and her triple A-side single “60s 70s 80s” (2008). ‘Can’t Sleep, Can’t Eat, I’m Sick” is one of favorite Amuro songs in the past ten years as it features a slick saxophone, a hip interlude, and a catchy chorus. Amuro’s vocals are perfect for this song as they are smooth yet sassy.

Recently, Amuro has gotten back into dance music with the release of “genic” this year. However, she hasn’t forgotten her R&B roots as she fuses that sound with EDM throughout the album. A good example of this fusion would be “Fashionista“. The sultry opening is mostly R&B-flavored with a baritone saxophone and an electric organ mixed in with programmed clapping. It isn’t until the chorus that the song transforms into a EDM tune.

Whether your like the idol pop AImage and video hosting by TinyPicmuro, dance-pop Amuro, or the sultry R&B Amuro, many would agree that over the years, Amuro has had a huge impact on the Japanese pop culture thanks to her music and style. Many artists today and in the past have influenced by Amuro’s style. Even some have tried to copy her, in the case of the 90s’ ASAYAN group FBI. Whatever the case may be, Amuro has overcome many transformations over the years. And because of that, she will always shine brightly as a Japanese pop culture legend.

(As you can or cannot tell, Amuro Namie is one of my favorite singers. I first got into her when avex trax has an online streaming channel for music videos back in the early 2000s. I remember the first video of hers that I watched, it was “You’re my sunshine” (1996). She later became my role model in junior high and high school as she was a great singer, always looked so beautiful, and had a great sense of style. I was lucky enough to see her live in 2012 with her Domes tour. I was also verrrrrrrrry lucky to see her up-close as I had second row tickets. That was a dream came true!)

Check out a live performance on some TV show of “Body Feel Exit”:

And the original music video:


References

[1] “Amuro Namie – Body Feels Exit.” Kiwii Musume 26 Oct. 2005. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. {http://www.kiwi-musume.com/lyrics/amunami/sweet19blues/bodyfeelsexit.htm}

[2] “Wikipedia: Wishing on the Same Star.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Apr. 2006. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishing_on_the_Same_Star)

Stop Youtube Red Now!

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I don’t really talk about issues on here. But, the petition below and the cause behind it is very important for this blog and the future of how we listen to music.

Over this weekend, Youtube began their new paid service named Youtube Red. You can read more about the service and how Youtube “visualizes” the service at this post on their official blog.

Since the launch, Youtube Red has faced a lot more backlash than support due to the numerous problems it presents. One of the big problems is the temporary blockage of video channels that haven’t decided if they wanted to be a part of the Youtube Red service or not. You have probably heard by now that many US-based channel have already decided with ESPN even pulling their own channel due to copyright and legal issues.

However, a lot of channels outside of the US have yet to decide on the new service as Youtube Red is not available overseas just yet. This means a lot of content from international channels are blocked to viewers who live in the US due to Youtube’s new policy of “If you can’t join us, then we will block your content”. Leaving a lot of beloved channels, including many Japanese music channels, in the dark.

Youtube Red has to change their policies as it feels like Youtube is region-locking their content again. And it is hurting pretty much everyone. The Japanese music industry has worked hard to promote Japanese music overseas by offering videos on Youtube for free to people over the world. But, if Youtube Red happens with the capacity of region-locking, users cannot access those artist or videos freely and legally anymore. Leaving many to go to illegal service, which many fans don’t want to but have to in order to listen to their favorite artists.

This issue doesn’t solely affect the Japanese music industry. It affects all music industries around the world; Korean music, UK hits, the underground scene, and much more.

It is also affecting fan-made material as many of the Hello! project dubs I have been in have been blocked in the United States as they are not considered legal anymore due to the original material’s creators not answering Youtube Red’s demands. Youtube Red is basically trying to kick the fair use law out into existence, squeezing out the right to make fan-made music videos and singing dubs.

My blog will be affected because a lot of the videos on here are currently not viewable in the US. I used Youtube videos to further promote an artist I am writing about promoting on here. Yes, I could tell in a thousand or more words how awesome is Otome Shinto or Mocki is. But, I can further explain it by using videos and sound clips. However, if they blocked in the US, how will one know about the artists on my blog? How?

I am asking Youtube Red to stop their service for a minute and think of a better way for their service in a way that won’t hurt anyone.

The future of music is in their hands.

If you don’t agree with Youtube Red and want it to stop, please sign this petition below:

https://www.change.org/p/youtube-stop-youtube-red

Making Your Week “Happy Go Lucky” with Steps

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A week ago, I started to listen to television and movie soundtracks once again. One soundtrack that I listened to was the one for Disney’s “The Princess Diaries”. One of my favorite movies and book series when I was in junior high school, “The Princess Diaries” had a pretty solid soundtrack featuring known and unknown artists like Myra, Backstreet Boys, Steps, and others. Many would remember such songs like Myra’s “Miracles Happen” and Krystal Harris’ “Supergirl!”. Who didn’t sing “I’m Supergirl, and I’m here to save the world” out loud when the movie came out?

One of the less prominent songs off the soundtrack is “Happy Go Lucky” by the English pop group Steps. Formed in 1997 by music manager Tim Byrne and the writing team Steve Crosby and Barry Upton, Steps featured five members; Claire, Faye, H, Lisa, and Lee. The group released their debut single, “5, 6, 7, 8”, a year later with some success. This techno-flavored single caught the eye of one of my favorite producers, Pete Waterman, who signed them to Jive Records in hopes to create a new ABBA. Doesn’t that sound familiar? A*Teens?

The group released more singles, a mixture of covers and originals, before the end of the millennium. The group’s most successful single was “Heartbeat / Tragedy” featuring an original ballad and a cover of a Bee Gees’ song. The single went onto be the number one single of January 1999 and charted for over thirty weeks. The group released their debut album, “Steps”, and the follow-up, “Spectacular”, while going on tour in America with artists like Britney Spears and Youngstown.

Sadly, the success didn’t last long as the band started to slip when their third album, “Buzz” was released in late 2000. Relations also became fracture with Claire and H leaving the group in 2001 as they said they became miserable. The group official split quietly after the release of the single “Words Are Not Enough / I Know Him So Well” in 2001. The split angered fans back then for various reasons including capitalizing and lying.

The group reunited in 2011 to release new music. During this time, they released an album, “Light Up the World”, and hosted a small Christmas tour. The group also appeared on various talk shows and had their own reality show, talking about the past and why did they break up. However, the reunion was short-lived as the group announced a hiatus in 2013 with many of the group’s members resuming their solo careers.

I never really knew about Steps during the whole pop band epidemic of the late 90s. All I knew in terms of pop bands was the ones featured on Disney Channel or TRL; Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Youngstown, B*Witched,  and 5ive/Five. It was when my mom bought Steps’ debut album from a thrift store during my high school days that I really noticed them. Sadly, I wished I had paid attention to them in the late 90s as they are pretty talented and buoyant group. I really like the fact that there were both male and female members with each one playing an important part in every song.

“Happy Go Lucky” plays on Step’s signature sound of bubblegum synthpop despite “Buzz” being a more mature-sounded album. I feel like the song starts off in a minor progression as the beginning is “a bit under the weather” in terms of a mood. Throughout the verse and pre-chorus, the progression somehow goes major as the chorus is a bit chipper. This cycle of sad to happy to sad keeps on going throughout the song until the ending.

Or, maybe I just imagining this?

The lyrics are a bit sad though. The character laments that she tries to pull off being happy and makes everyone believe that she is ok. However, it’s a lie. Under the emotional mask, the character is truly sad as she just experienced a break-up with a man mentioned in the song. She does her “happy-go-lucky dance even if I am foolin’ myself” in order to make people believe that nothing is wrong. “Happy Go Lucky” makes me feel a bit sad for the singer as the lyrics and melody paints the internal emotional struggle of the main character.

Even though the atmosphere isn’t so happy, the song is definitely a hidden gem in Steps’ discography. The vocals are a perfect match for the song as they aren’t too strong or sweet. In fact, this song is a perfect song for the The Princess Diaries or even anyone’s playlist as it’s an easy-listening tune. The best part for me is the chorus because it’s memorable with the lyrics, which I remember easily and sing them out loud randomly on occasion. Nonetheless, the song is a winner as it’s catchy, displays how skillful the group is with the lead and backing vocals, the lyrics’ plot, and the fervor.

Take a listen to the song below and tell me what you think.

A Blast From the Past: The Year of Anime Music [Part 4]

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“Get along” by Megumi Okui and Megumi Hayashibara (from the series “Slayers”)

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I have recently started to watch Slayers thanks to one of my friends introducing it to me. It is also one of my sister’s favorite anime as she always watching one form of this 90s’ classic on her computer when I lived with her. I don’t know why I never watched this series. Maybe because it never really appeared on my list of “anime series to watch” . It could be also that I didn’t have access to it as downloading took eons on dial-up and I was too young to really buy VHS tapes or join an anime club when Slayers came out.

Nevertheless, the show is pretty brilliant with a good storyline and comedic characters. Of course, the show stopper would be the versatile Megumi Hayashibara, who plays the main character Lina Inverse. I have mentioned before how fabulous is Megumi in an earlier post with her song “Nostalgic Lover” from the anime “Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman Blade II”.

She didn’t stop being amazing in Slayers, she got even better.

“Get along”, the opening theme for the series, is a duet between Megumi Hayashibara and another anime singer Masami Okui, who has been one of my favorites since “Rinbu Revolution”. The song starts off with a twenty second instrumentation that builds up the song’s premise. It is also used as a filler as someone usually talks about the show during these first twenty seconds in the TV series. After the introduction, Megumi comes in all tough, singing her lines in a vigor style. Then Masami comes in with another punch during the pre-chorus. Both singers come together during the chorus, never slowing down.

What makes this song amazing is the combination Megumi and Masami. These girls are perfect together as they feed and bounce off each other energies. They also blend pretty well together as they have the same vocal types and skills. With these two dexterous singers, “Get along” is a great song as it’s powerful, upbeat, and never misses a beat,


“Just Communication” by TWO-MIX (from the series “New Mobile Report Gundam Wing”)

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Ahhh, Gundam Wing, how nostalgic! It feels like only yesterday that I watched the first episode of the English dub on Toonami. As an anime with one of the best English dubs out there, “Gundam Wing” caught my attention with the bad boy Heero Yuy and the peaceful blonde hair beau Quatre Winner (who has an amazing voice actor, Kirby Morrow). It is one of the best Gundam series out there with a sensible plot, a great English dub, and a diverse set of characters.

Another thing that makes Gundam Wing so memorable is the music. “Just Communication”, the series’ first opening theme, had a considerable impact on anime songs in the 90s. Minami Takayama’s soothing vocals helps to set an ambient feel to the song  Her vocals are further supported by the instrumentation as Shiina Nagano keeps it simple with a guitar, a bright piano, a dance kit, and synthesizers. Although, there is a neat addition of an electric guitar during the pre-chorus to add to the song’s sincerity. And the guitar pops up once again during the bridge’s unforgettable melody.

“Just Communication” is one of those anime song classics that you can’t get out of your head. It’s such an addictive song. However, for me, I like this song because of the lyrics and the emotions displayed. You can’t even tell that this is song about a series about big robots fighting in a galactic war with such passionate lyrics like “anata no manazashi mamoritai”. (Eng.: “I want to protect your gaze”)  But, that is what makes the song enjoyable. Moreover, the emotions displayed throughout also further this passion by setting different moods. Minami brilliantly goes back and forth from really passionate and not-to-over-the-top fierce during the chorus to calm and collective in the verses.

I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t seen Gundam Wing to do so as it is a really good series. Also, check out the soundtracks with Yasuo Uragami composing an ardent score for the show.


Past Issues:

Part I // Part II // Part III