It seems that this weekend is Up-Front Group Weekend! I talked about Morning Musume’s first English song on Friday. Then I saw Ciao Bella Cinquetti yesterday, performing a mini-live at a mall in central Nagoya. And now I am going to talk about a former Hello! Project member, ayumi shibata.
This sweet-sounding singer got her start in 1999 after passing the 2nd Morning Musume and Michiyo Heike Little Sister Audition with three other girls: Hitomi Saito, Megumi Murata, and Masae Ohtani. These four then-teenagers formed the group Melon Kinenbi and released their debut single and one of my favorite songs, “Amai Anata no Aji”, in the winter of 2000. While releasing material with the group and going on various concert tours, ayumi also participated in various project in Hello! Project like 11WATER, Tanpopo, Elegies, and others.
However, she left Up-Front Group for another agency, Trick Function, a month after Melon Kinenbi broke up in 2010. She changed agencies in order to start a solo career with a clean slate. She performed her first self-penned song, “YOU&I”, during a small event held in Tokyo a few months later. ayumi wouldn’t release a physical debut single until a year later when “believe” was released.
“Babyrock” is the newest digital single released by this artist under the label SMC Entertainment. It is described as a pop-rock tune with a lot of girly rock flavor packed inside. You could say that this song is more upbeat than a Kana Nishino song while slower than one from Ai Otsuka. But what makes “Babyrock” different from other girly pop-rock songs is that this piece is very upbeat, has a summer-like flavor, and always presents a positive feeling. The nature of the song makes you want to stand up and bounce to the beat during the chorus as it’s so refreshing and makes you feel totally happiness.
As the blog Selective Hearing mentioned in their review, “Babyrock” is actually similar to the pop-rock music that Melon Kinenbi was doing at the end of the group’s career. So if you were fan of that side of Melon Kinenbi, you would most definitely love “Babyrock”. Plus, it really suits ayumi’s vocal skills. Although her vocals are not the best and can be too nasal sometimes, they mesh pretty well with the instrumental. ayumi wasn’t my favorite Melon Kinenbi member (That honors goes to Masae Ohtani, who had amusing song names) but she is pretty decent and got some decent material for a solo career.
During late July and August, ayumi went around to various malls, radio stations, and venues to promote her new single. One of the places she visited was Kanayama Asunal, which was holding a tenth anniversary special live for a weekly @FM radio program on August 6th. She was one of three guests who appeared at the live event along with the mall’s own idol group Juliet and an acoustic version of T.M. Revolution, Bokota.
I was able to find a seat in the bench section that was located in front of the stage thirty minutes before the live’s start time. It was very hot during that time and I really didn’t want to stand up for the entire time. During the long wait, Juliet came on to do a mic check and to practice their songs.
Then the live event started promptly at 6:30 pm. The event was formatted like a radio program where the artists would perform a couple songs while getting interviewed by the show’s hosts in between. The first group up was Juliet, whom I didn’t bother to pay any attention to because they were not my cup of tea. Their vocal skills were weak and I felt like they had bad makeup and/or fashion. They looked like unflattering Barbies. This group didn’t really appeal to me when I watched them perform.
Thirty minutes after the show started, Juliet exited the stage while the show’s hosts then introduced the one person I came to see. This singer started off her mini-live by singing a fast-paced song. ayumi sang about four songs in total during her time on stage. I don’t know exactly what were the songs but I suspect that the majority of what she sang came from her single “Hito Kakera no Kiseki”. I just remember that she sang a beautiful ballad that almost brought me to tears as it was so touching. She closed the program by singing “Babyrock” which she rallied up the audience to clap along.
After she finished, I decided that I wasn’t going to stick around for Bokota as I was too hungry to stay. I went to Chieco Kawabe’s Hawaiian-themed pancake shop “88 Huit Huit”. While Chieco is my favorite Sailor Mercury ever (besides Ayako Morino), the restaurant has tasty food and great drinks.
If you are into the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Kana Nishino, Ai Otsuka, or other pop-rock female artists, then you should absolutely out “Babyrock” below with no hesitant. It’s an upbeat song that leave you with a good feeling inside and outside.