Reporting Live: Yufu Terushima Brings a Nonchalant Vibe to Nagoya with “Watashi ga Chiru”

Whenever I hear the name “BiS”, I think of these words and phrases: punk, rock, rebellious, and in-your-face. So when I stumbled across an announcement about an in-store event with former BiS member Yufu Terashima, I wondered if it would be a thirty-minute concert of punk rock music. But the realization was the exact opposite when the singer sang the opening lines to her first song.

Terashima — who prefers fans to call her “Yuffy” due to the complexity of her first name — always dreamed of being an idol. The singer yearned after Morning Musume. when growing up, and she was a “live idol” — an idol who performs at primarily live events —when she went to Waseda University. Yet, she wanted more: she wanted to be a full-time idol.

Yuffy’s dream came true when she joined the pop-rock idol group BiS in 2011. But, it was short-lived as the group disbanded two years later. This lead the way for the idol to start a solo career. She made her indies debut in 2014 with the single “#Yuufuraito”, then making her major debut with EMI Records a year later.

Japanese idols in today’s world seem to have either a concept or a color scheme going on; Morning Musume has a rainbow scheme, AKB48 has the whole “Idols You Can Meet” idea, and Yuffy has “Yurudol” — a blend of “Yuruchara” and “Idol”. Mascot characters from various cities, prefectures, and companies meet idols. Now, that is an interesting idea. Too bad I didn’t notice it when she came to Nagoya last week.

Instead, what I saw was a concept of a beautiful fairy-like princess decorated in pure white and baby blue, flowers adorning all over her. I felt guilty when I glanced at her while she was heading towards the stage. I was an older woman with stubborn acne sprinkled across my bare “no make-up” face, looking like I traveled to hell and back, wearing nothing too fancy while Yuffy was flawless. I felt guilty being underdressed and looking like a banshee. Oh well.

Yuffy started at 2 pm sharp, performing a set of songs featured on her latest album Kimi ga Chiru ”You Will Fall”. Her first song had technical difficulties as the sound technician kept playing the wrong song three times in a row. They fixed it soon after, letting her settle into the ambiance mood of the atmosphere and perform her mini-concert without further hitches.

yufutershima-20180428

Listening to the songs featured on Kimi ga Chiru makes me feel ambivalent and nostalgic. The songs are something akin to late Showa/early Heisei idol music — which would be from 1985 to 1993 for those who are not familiar with the Japanese calendar. The chorus and the melody that introduces the song inflicts a nostalgic feeling. Also, Yuffy’s bright vocals and the nonchalant instrumentation brings a peaceful spirit to each track. It is refreshing in today’s musical scene to hear something like Kimi ga Chiru as EDM suffocates today’s music scene: heavy synthesized music that seems too generic.

Although my pre-live expectations of Yuffy being a punk rock idol were shot down while listening to her live, I did become a fan afterward. The songs on her latest album are serene, amusing, and likable. Not to mention that she is cute, a trait that I sometimes yearn for. I can’t wait for her next release to see what kind of music she will perform next. Will she keep that cute style? Or go another way? Only time will time.

You can listen to the title track from her newest album below:

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Alexander Rybak Teaches How to Be a Songwriter in This Upbeat Piece [Eurovision 2018]

Eurovision 2018 has a handful of excellent tunes. I have said before that Netta’s “Toy” and Mikolas Josef’s “Lie to Me” are a few of my favorites. Let me introduce my third favorite from this year’s batch: Alexander Rybak’s That’s How You Write a Song from Norway.

Rybak is no stranger to the Eurovision competition circuit. He participated in the contest in 2009 with the song “Fairytale“: a sad yet uptempo folk-pop tune written by Rybak himself. He found inspiration from a past relationship and the Scandinavian folklore of Huldra. The song won the top prize at the 2009 Eurovision Contest. He released his successful debut album afterward. Rybak continued to have a fruitful career by releasing new material and taking part in many TV shows.

Many have speculated on why an earlier Eurovision winner would enter the contest one more time. What are his reasons? Does he want to prove something? Whether we know the singer’s actual intention of competing once more or not, you have to admit that “That’s How You Write a Song” is very catchy. It opens with a memorable funky bass line and a bouncy drum beat, then comes to a cool violin riff that serves as the primary melody. That violin makes the song bouncy and feeling good. And the instrument shines around 2:26 mark when it performs a passionate solo.

Speaking of “feeling good”, the lyrics radiate a positive vibe too. The song’s message could be interpreted as a simple discussion on how to write a tune. But if one looks deeper into the lyrics, one can see that the messages of “believing in yourself”, “being creative is easier than one thinks”, and “don’t fear in being creative, embrace and enjoy it” are present – these are valuable to anyone.

It is unknown if this year’s Eurovision will give Alexander Rybak his second win; especially that the current fan favorite is Netta. Things could change from now to the live performances. But the important thing is “That’s How You Write a Song” is an enjoyable, upbeat song that sends positive vibes with its lyrics and melody. Plus, don’t you think the music video is too cute? Check it out below and tell me what you think.

Remembering AVICCI

A lot has happened over the course of this past week. I know every week has their ups and downs. But, it feels like last week had more surprising downs than others. Especially yesterday.

To be honest, I don’t know much about AVICII’s songs. I am not much into EDM or today’s house songs, so his music would rarely appear on my Spotify recommended playlists. But, I have heard of him. I remember coming across his 2013 song ‘Wake Me Up” when I was watching a late night weekly countdown program in the summer of 2014. I liked the song’s style, a cross between country and EDM. It was a perfect blend as it wasn’t too country yet there wasn’t an excess of EDM-influenced keyboards.

It is unfortunate when young musicians like AVICII pass away too soon. He was a talented musician that knew how to make refreshing and innovated electronica tunes. But, he wasn’t just EDM or house. He was a musician that infused different genres together. House, funk, country, soul. You name the genre; he could create brilliant tunes with it.

His career may have been cut short suddenly, but his masterpieces and musicianship will be remembered for a long time.

 

 

ATSUSHI from EXILE Covers a Recent Classic With Sincere Effort

This spring has brought out a handful of new releases as well as different takes on older hits. One such example is ATSUSHI (from EXILE)’s take on Bruno Mars’ debut song “The Way You Are”.

ATSUSHI is one of the current leading vocalists in the megahit boy group EXILE here in Japan. He got his start in 2001 when Hiro, a veteran performer who rose to fame in the early 1990s as a member of ZOO, asked him to join the newly formed group named J Soul Brothers. HIRO’s invitation came after seeing ATSUSHI’s audition on the legendary audition show ASAYAN. J Soul Brothers would later be renamed as EXILE with ATSUSHI penning lyrics for a lot of their hit tunes. Heard of “EXILE PRIDE (Konna Sekai wo Ai Suru Tame)”? “Rising Sun”? How about “Yasashii Hikari”? Yeah, those are a few of the many songs he wrote lyrics for.

The vocalist later went on to release his debut single in 2011, entitled “Itsuka Kitto…”. Being a vocalist AND a songwriter wasn’t enough for ATSUSHI. He also created groups like Deep, first as a member then as the producer. He later formed Red Diamond Dogs, which serves as his backing band whenever he goes on tour. In 2017, he announced that his activities in EXILE would  so he could focus more on international activities

That is where we come full circle with his latest release. Of course, he isn’t the only one in the EXILE tribe to be releasing covers of famous Western hits. GENERATIONS (from Exile Tribe) released a Best-Of album early this year that contained best hits (in two languages: Japanese and English) and covers, which one was the Jackson Sisters’ “I Believe in Miracles”

The covers that were performed by GENERATIONS and ATSUSHI have a similar issue: the lack of energy. I dislike the GENERATIONS’ cover of “I Believe in Miracles” and the reason why is that it sounds so boring. It’s like the main singer didn’t put enough soul. And instead, sounding like he was asleep when recording the song. That is the same for ATSUSHI’s cover of “The Way You Are”. Don’t get me wrong, ATSUSHI is a talented vocalist as well as a musician. But, this cover sounds so lackluster and boring. Like, there is no energy in the vocals, no feelings nor soul.

I appreciate ATSUSHI’s sincere efforts in trying to cover a Bruno Mars’ song. Furthermore, even to go as far to penning the Japanese lyrics himself. There are no snags with his translation of the songs. And, his approach of trying to convey the original message in his native language is pretty sincere. There is also no problem with his musicality or his skills. But, if he had to record this song over again, I would suggest that ATSUSHI put more soul/heart and feelings into the vocals (and more of what makes him, vocals and musicianship). Bring some “oomph” and life to the song while making it your own.

Here is the music video for the original version by Bruno Mars:

Mikolas Josef Gets the Audience Pumped Up for Eurovision with “Lie to Me”

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We have a month left until the “Superbowl” of the European music scene happens: Eurovision. There has been a plenitude of great entries this year, including from the Czech Republic.

Mikolas Josef is an up-and-coming artist from the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, who made his musical debut in 2015. He first performed as a street performer in various European cities like Oslo, Hamburg, and Vienna. He released his debut single, “Hands Bloody”, in the same year by himself. Although it didn’t chart on local charts, his second single, entitled ” Free”, did. It reached #15 on the Czech music charts. He hasn’t released any albums yet as he is primary releasing singles at the moment (His Eurovision single is the fourth in his discography).

“Lie to Me”, in my own opinion, is a luxurious piece that can catch anyone’s attention at the very second it starts. The song begins with a sassy, fiery trumpet solo. Then, after the introduction, Josef crones the opening verse with a smooth tone. However, Josef showcases a variety of sounds during the song. My favorite part is at the 00:33 mark when he sings in a low, seductive tone.

This tune reminds me a tiny bit of Austin Mahone’s “Dirty Work”. Maybe because the vocal tones between the two singers are very similar. Nothing else though, as “Dirty Work” is more EDM while “Lie to Me” is less electronica.

I have admitted before that I have a soft spot for Czech entries as my mom’s side of the family came from the Eastern European country. However, this is not the case. I repeat: this is the not the case. “Lie to Me” is an excellent song that is sooooooo catchy as well as scorching hot.

 

Revisiting an Oldie From a New Generation

Many have categorized oldies as songs that have a particular flair to them and have something memorable. Spice Girl’s “Wannabe”, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”, and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” are a few songs that qualify as oldies.

Japan has a plenitude of oldies too. Each decade presents a distinct set of tunes and genres that capture the attention of many. But sometimes, an oldie might be considered “too old” by the newer generations as the musical arrangement or even the vocals are outdated. That leaves one question: How can people today enjoy a very popular oldie from an earlier decade like the 1970s? The answer is simple, just reinvent it with today’s sounds and fresh faces.

That isImage and video hosting by TinyPic what exactly Pink Babies is all about. Called the sister group of the legendary idol duo Pink Lady from the 1970s, Pink Babies cover a lot of lovely tunes from the duo and the 70s. Pink Babies formed in 2013 with several girls. The lineup has changed over the years, as one of the members pointed out to me on Sunday during the handshake event, as the current roster has ten girls. These girls cover popular tunes as well as unknown stuff from albums and b-sides.

Pink Babies released their first cover single, “Nagisa no Sinbad”, in the summer of 2015, first at Jan Expo and then at Tokyo Idol Festival. I actually picked up a copy that was signed by Aina at TIF. The group continues to release singles at least once a year while performing at small festivals and venues within Tokyo.

The group went around to various cities in Japan to perform and hold events at various malls to celebrate the release of their second single. One of the spots they visited was the Parco Shopping Mall in the heart of Nagoya’s shopping district. The event had three parts: a mini-live, handshakes, and then photo ops. To participate in the latter two activities, you had to buy their new single beforehand or on the day.

As it was mall event, the stage area was pretty small. The crowd was pretty small too as around 30 people showed up for the mini-live. A small percentage of the group were people who were passing by. These lives are a bit up-close and personal as the distance between the stage and the crowd are a few meters. Heck, I had a great view from my spot despite the speakers being in the way as I was a couple of meters away.

The mini-live started on time with the girls performing these songs:Image and video hosting by TinyPic

  1. SOS
  2. MC
  3. Dou ni mo Tomaranai (Rio O., Chinatsu, Aina, Sara)
  4. Kuruwasetai no (Mayu, Rio S., Kotono, Saho, Yui)
  5. Hoshi Kara Kita Futari (Mayu, Aina, Yui, Sara, Chinatsu)
  6. Catch Lip (Kotono, Saho, Rio O., Rio S., Yukari)
  7. MC
  8. Southpaw
  9. MC
  10. UFO

Pink Babies are pretty good in terms of being an idol group. They have mediocre vocals but have an array of girls that have their own appeal. However, my only concern about the group is “how” they perform each song. Even though Pink Lady had unforgettable performances, the group did have outfits and dance movements that were considered maybe too risque. They frequently showcased their legs (and body) as they wore tight spandex outfits with very short skirts or no bottoms. Pink Lady also had dance movements that center around their legs.

I don’t know iImage and video hosting by TinyPicf it was a positive or a negative for the duo as they were 18 years old when Mie and Kei started to perform. However, I wasn’t delighted when I first saw Pink Babies performing such songs at the Tokyo Idol Festival two years ago. I felt like the stuff they were performing was a bit too much or risqué for these girls. The group was then composed of girls between 12-16 years old, singing and dancing almost like their big sisters some forty years ago. I just felt weirded out seeing such young girls publically performing dances that were more suitable for late high school to college girls. But, that is the nature of the Japanese idol industry and the argument about “what dances, outfits, and songs are too much for idols” could be saved for another day. I am just relieved after seeing the mini-live on Sunday that the group has mellowed out and matured a bit where singing and performing Pink Lady songs wouldn’t be bothersome.

The handshake was after the mini-live. You could shake hands and have a 30-second conversation with each member if you bought a CD. I felt like I had more time with each girl compared to past events with other idol groups as I could talk about many things with the members. When the handshake event finished, then it was time for a photo-op. Depending on how many CDs you bought, you could get a picture with a member. Or, you would play a game where someone would pull out a slip of paper that contained one of various photo-op Image and video hosting by TinyPicoptions. The options were: a two-shot or three-shot miniature Polaroid, a 30-second minute video with your favorite member, a group shot with all the members, and etc. I took my chances and picked from the box. I got a chance to take a miniature Polaroid with two of the members. So, I picked Nagoya native Rio O (or Ohrio) and Chinatsu (because she told me her favorite princess is Belle, just like mine).

Like I said before, Pink Babies isn’t a horrible group. They are worth checking out if you like to listen to covers of oldies, if you a fan of Pink Lady or old Jpop tunes, and/or like idol groups. I love them and have learned much more about Pink Lady’s songs, especially my new favorite song “Catch Lip”, from this cute group.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The Long Awaited Return of S.E.S, the Goddesses of Kpop

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It’s 2017 with another set of anniversaries. And, what better reason for the legendary girl group S.E.S to reunite!

S.E.S was formed in 1997 with three girls: Sea/Bada, Eugene, and Shoo. The three girls came from diverse backgrounds and with different personalities. They came together to form a “dream team” that competed against the boyband H.O.T.

The girls released their first album, “I’m Your Girl”, in November of that year. The album wasn’t a smash hit as people wasn’t instantly flocking to the music stores to buy it. Instead, it was a steady seller that eventually sold 650,000 copies by the end of 1998. The video for the lead-in self-titled single was a popular choice among listeners as it was #1 for thirteen weeks on the video channel m.net.

The group continued to release albums with their biggest selling in 1999 with the album, Love, which has my favorite S.E.S song of all time, “Twilight Zone”. However, the group disbanded after the release of  “Friend” (in South Korea, 2002) and “Beautiful Songs” (in Japan, 2003). The girls decided to pursue solo careers after the disbandment.

Fast forward to the end of 2016 when Sea, Eugene, and Shoo held a press conference to announce that they were getting back together for a limited time to celebrate their 20th anniversary. They documented the road towards their reunion with a reality TV Show “Remember, I’m Your Girl”.

But, their epiphany came on January 1st when S.E.S released their anniversary album “Remember”. The album features a remake of their famous 1999 song “Love” and throwbacks to 90s’ pop. One of these songs is “Paradise”, a lighthearted number about being easy-going and confident about love.

When I first listened to the song, I seriously thought I was listening to a 90’s style S.E.S song that I never knew before. “Wait, why is this video in HD? They didn’t have this kind of high definition when I was a kid”. That is when I looked down in the description and saw that this was a new song.

Nevertheless, “Paradise” is my favorite track off the album. The girls haven’t lost their golden touches as they sound wonderful vocally. I also love how Shoo throws down the rhymes during the rap, it’s very slick. And finally, I am so happy that the choice genre for this song is New Jack Swing. As maybe a few would know, I looooooooooooooooooove New Jack Swing a lot. L.A. Reid, Babyface, Janet Jackson, and others were my favorite artists who were big in the NJS world back in the late 80s and 90s. The once-dead genre is making a comeback in Kpop music as SHINee’s 2016 song “1 of 1” features NJS. Both “1 of 1” and “Paradise” have been popular with listeners so far, thus revitalizing NJS once more. I am hoping that 2017 might be the year where a lot of Kpop artist will utilize the NJS sound in their music. I’m just praying.

What do you think “Paradise”? Check the song’s video below. Also, what is your favorite track off Remember? If you haven’t listened to it yet, I strongly recommend that you do soon.