The Mid-Year Review (2016 Version)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

It has been half a year! Time has mostly definitely flown by! I am sorry that this blog wasn’t as active like last year. Work has been extremely busy since the beginning of the school year (aka April) where I would just come home, cook dinner, take a shower, and go to bed extra early.  I also worked six days a week. I felt like I was working too much and not getting the necessary sleep I needed.

But! Everything has changed as I now work 5 days a week. I also have ample time to sleep and relax on a new bed. That’s right, a new bed! I was sleeping Japanese style for the past year with a bunch of futons and mattress piled on a hard wooden floor. But now I have an actual bed, I am able to sleep more peacefully now.

Enough of talking about the love of my life, I mean, my bed and my life. Let’s talk about music! Here are the top 5 most popular blog entries from January to July 2016!


5. Reporting Live: Sakura Cinderella near Nagoya Station (August 8,2015)  (Written on January 12, 2016)

Sakura Cinderella is another “local idol” group here in Nagoya. Unlike Idol Kyoshitsu who performs in another company’s sushi restaurant,  these girls perform in their own cafe near Nagoya Station. Formed in 2014, this AKB48 copycat group performs in their cafe every day and does street lives all over the city. Named after one of the main streets “Sakura Street”, Sakura Cinderella’s catchphrase is “Tidy and pretty true idols”.

Read more here.

4. Get ready for the Olympics with Kobushi Factory (Written on July 17, 2016)

It is less than three weeks to the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro. But, everyone is preparing for the major event of the year by releasing merchandise, airing the pre-game qualifiers on TV, talking about it on every morning show, and incorporating themes of the games and Rio de Janeiro in film and music.  This is no exception to Hello! Project, who has started a trend of providing Olympic-themed songs in the last five years.

Read more here.

3. My Thoughts on Eurovision (Written on May 15, 2016)

Eurovision 2016 has already come and go. There were really exceptional acts, good acts, and worst ones. As there were 26 performers for the four hours final, it will take me a while to get through all the acts. So, if I can remind myself to do it, there will be a part two next week to cover the other performances.

Read More Here.

2. Boogie Woogie Into Saturday Night with Morning Musume (Written on May 22, 2016)

One of my all-time favorite Japanese pop girl group just released their 61st single! Yes, you read it right, 61st! Although, I did talk about their 60thabout six months ago. Nevertheless. Morning Musume always impresses their fans with the ability to successfully reinvent themselves for the past 18 years.

Now, the 61st is a Triple A single, with the songs being ‘Tokyo to Iu Katsumi”, “The Vision”, and “Utakata Saturday Night”. I won’t be talking about all three songs as that could be a huge essay that could bore you and that I wasn’t really digging two of the songs from the single.

Read more here.

1. Celebrating Canada Day with Don’t Wanna Fall in Love by Jane Child (Written on July 5, 2015)

Over the past twenty or so years. many Canadian artists have been featured and became immensely popular all over the world. Barenaked Ladies, musical goddess Celine Dion, rock-pop princess Avril Lavigne, “boy wonder” Justin Bieber (which you should check out his new single with Skrillex), and others. But, none were more eccentric or skillful at playing the keyboards than today’s featured artist.

Read more here.

Advertisements

It’s My Birthday!!

o/~ It’s My Birthday and I’ll cry if I want to,

I’ll cry if I want to,

You would cry too if it happened to you. o/~

Well, that’s not exactly how Lesley Gore’s heartbreak hit “It’s My Party” goes.  Maybe it’s not appropriate to relate my happy and incident-free birthday with this song as they are polar opposites. However, I keep on listening to “It’s My Party” every Birthday since after college. Maybe it’s my anthem of my self-pity party of growing old. Or, that I enjoy the major tonality and the nature of the chorus. I would cry at any party, even if it’s happy or not, right?

Maybe I need to change my birthday theme to this:

o/~ Say hello to all the laughter

Say hello to here and after

‘Cause it’s a new day o/~

Signal’s “Secret Rain” Promo Event at HMV Sakae (August 15, 2015)

signal-secretrain.jpg

Commited to catching up, here is another report! This is dedicated to all the Sailor Moon musical fans all over the world. ❤

Signal is a Japanese pop band that had three ladies transformed as handsome guys (more like the “ikemen” type). The trio formed in 2015 with members Root, Rei, and Lyra. If you are a fan of the all-female theatre troupe Takarazuka Revue, you might recognized Lyra from the Tsukigumi or the Moon Group. Others might recognized Root from various “ikemen shoujo” magazines like KERA or Men’s Bible. But, I think a lot of people from the Western World knows Root as the phenomenal Jadeite from the 2013 Sailor Moon Musical La Reconquista.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The group released their first mini-album, entitled “Secret Rain”, on July 29, 2015. This is the only CD they ever released as Signal announced at the end of last month that they were going to split up due to each member wanting to pursue their own individual activities.

Originally when I went the mini-live at HMV Sakae on August 15, I just wanted check out this ikemen group because they looked interesting when I researched them beforehand. I didn’t really know that Root was in this group until she did her self-introduction. I was shocked when she introduced herself and had to check the group’s blog to make sure it was true. At that moment, I grew excited as I really loved Root when she starred in the 2013 Sera Myu musical. She makes a great guy villain and is an amazing singer.

The live started promptly at one o’clock. The crowd was a bit small with most of the audience being young adult females. I stood in the back of the crowd because I didn’t know this group really well to join the front section with the true fans. The “guys” came onto the stage and did their self-introductions. Root’s acting as a guy is pretty spot-on, like always. She got the mannerisms and can produce a guy-ish tone easily. So can Lyra. However, Rei was the weaker ikemen as she was pretty girlish. She really can’t do the ikemen really well as you can tell in the picture above that she is one that looks less masculine then other two. During the MCs, she brought out the playful female side as she tried to be cute and more girlish. Maybe a career in ikemen entertainment isn’t suited for her but she was having fun.

During the twenty minute live, Signal sang two or three songs, which the very last one was “Secret Rain”, while entertaining the crowd with a couple of MCs. The group was pretty shaky live as Root and Lyra could perform in an ikemen style and Rei couldn’t. I swear she just sang the song in her normal voice (and not the ikemen-type that was featured on the PV). However, the “guys” were having fun and you could see that the members enjoyed each other and had a good relationship between them.

After the mini-live, the staff prepared the stage for a handshake event for those who bought the CD. I quickly bought the album and obtained one handshake ticket. The line for the event was small, so it wasn’t much of a wait to approach the table. The first member who I greeted was Rei, who spoke some English to me and asked me if I lived in Nagoya. Then next was Root, who I told that I loved her in La Reconquista because she was my favorite Jadeite and I will continue to support her. She thanked me. Lastly, I approached Lyra, who I had a small conversation with. The event was laid-back as the fans could spend a decent amount of time talking to each member. I swear some of the girls before me were fangirling a lot though.

I haven’t listen to much of the album since I bought it. But, if you enjoy ikemen or vocally-altered dance music, you should check out this group. It’s a basic Jpop group that you expect to be from 2015. However, the group’s charm and the great relationship between each other is what makes Signal stand out. Just look at the PV below. You might even fall in love with one the members.

Reporting Live: Sakura Cinderella near Nagoya Station (August 8,2015)

 

sakuracinderella

Aaaaaaaaaaaah, I am so behind on the Reporting Live segment! I keep on going to countless events but become lazy and not report on them! I am so sorry, I will try really hard to catch up before the end of March.

Sakura Cinderella is another “local idol” group here in Nagoya. Unlike Idol Kyoshitsu who performs in another company’s sushi restaurant,  these girls perform in their own cafe near Nagoya Station. Formed in 2014, this AKB48 copycat group performs in their cafe everyday and does street lives all over the city. Named after one of the main streets “Sakura Street”, Sakura Cinderella’s catchphrase is “Tidy and pretty true idols.”[1]

The group released their self-titled debut single a year later in May 2015. They will release their second one coming up this April.

I actually stumbled upon this event when I was out shopping with a friend around the central part of the city. We noticed that there was stage being set up and a handful of people were starting to gather around the area. I turned to my friend with eagerness in my eyes. I wanted to see this live because a) I didn’t know these girls and b) it was free! My friend rolled her eyes slightly and sighed as she didn’t want to join in. She went off and did more shopping as I stayed around for the live to start.

As it approached one o’clock, there were more and more people gathering around the stage. The main members of Sakura Cinderella (there were no “trainees” attending this event) came out and tested all the equipment and practiced a little. As they were practicing, I found a spot in the center-back. I had an ok view but there were a lot of tall people surrounding the stage.

The live promptly started at one. It was pretty long compared to other free mini-lives I been to. During the live, they sang about four to five songs, had a couple of MCs, and even did a photo session time (the only time where you can take a photo without the staff kicking you out from the event). I don’t remember what was the setlist or which members were on stage. And there isn’t information on the web about this event. However, it was pretty good live and the girls were really cute. They aren’t the best of singers but it was a lot better than Idol Kyoushitsu. No one was off tune, they blended together nicely, and they had a cute, good tone.

2s6qbms

After the live, they announced that they were holding a free handshake event. A no-strings attached event. You didn’t have to buy a CD or a DVD. You didn’t have to give money to anyone. Just stand in line and wait you turn.  :O

While waiting in line, I met a really kind elderly fan who chatted with me. Before we parted ways, he gave me his cheer light. At first, I tried to refuse it because it was a good-quality one with the group’s name written across on the upper section. But, he shrugged off my attempt to return it to him with a smile as he told me it was gift for coming and seeing the idol group. 🙂 ;_;

4vh634

It didn’t take a long time to wait. As I approached each girl, I just said the normal “Hey, I enjoyed your live” and “It was my first live”. And in turn, they asked where I am from, how did I enjoy the concert, and such. I talked with each member for fifty to sixty seconds, I can’t remember. But, it was longer than most other idol group’s handshake events.

Sakura Cinderella is a cute group that have a really good tone and ear-pleasing voices. Sure, they and their music are AKB48 knockoffs. However, this is a pleasant group that I recommend seeing if you ever come to Nagoya.

Check out a live that did in September 2015:

(Also, you can check out their channel for more videos)

The Music That Made 2015

When thinking of what to write about 2015, I kept on hitting a roadblock.

What was so special about 2015 in terms of music? 

At least in Japan, many of 2015 hits were recycled tunes that were heard before. EXILE and Sandaime Brothers, AKB48’s “Halloween Night”, King of Cream Soda creating different versions of that hit Yokai Watch song, and countless idol groups debuting as they copied already popular artists’ sounds for a chance of fame. It seemed like these artists want to hold on to that fame by regurgitating that popular tune than exploring new avenues.

Even in Korea, the same type of music is continued to be released. Although, it was a bit invigorating to hear that some artists released material with a different flavor of pop. For example, WONDER GIRLS with their throwback to 80s’ synthpop and BoA experimenting with current electropop.

“REBOOT” is my favorite Kpop album of 2015 while Girls’ Generation’s “Party” is my favorite song. You are probably thinking why do I like this generic summer pop song? It may be generic but it’s so fun, screams “girl power”, and makes me want to party straight away. The video is super cute and fun, making me wish I was escaping to a tropical beach.

America is a bit different though. Taylor Swift, Adele, and Sam Smith all dominant the music charts and award programs on their own accords. Although I don’t like “1989” that much (because I think she is selling herself to commercialism and straying from her “true” self), Taylor Swift turned heads when she released an album that was groundbreaking and refreshing.

But, the biggest accomplishment of 2015, in terms of Western music, is Adele’s “Hello”. Now, I don’t really know what is the big deal about this song as it is not really popular in Japan. However, after listening to the song for the first time tonight, I can see how it has touched many. Adele crafted the song very well to attune to everyone’s feelings with it’s melody, lyrics, and pace.

Even though 20 wasn’t popular in Japan, the concept of “self-producing artists” was. One of these artists was Gen Hoshino, who has been slowly but surely noticed by mainstream listeners. His music reminds me a lot of John Legend and Macy Gray. With his whispy, soulful voice, upbeat pop instrumentation, and charisma charm, who can’t resist him and his songs like “SUN”?

Hopefully he can dip a little more into neo-soul and funk in 2016?

Another trend that crept up in popularity here in Japan is the “band boom”? Bands like Gesu no Kiyomi Otome, KANA-BOON, Sekai no Owari, ONE OK ROCK, and others have abandoned the traditional Japanese rock sound in favored of a diverse one that is constructed by range of instrumentations, technology, techniques, and genres. Gesu no Kiwami Otome.’s latest song “Otonatic” is an example of this.

…and Sekai no Owari’s “Anti Hero”.

It kind of reminds me of the New Wave boom in the 80s but tamer. In the 80s, new wave music was a buzz as that genre too used less guitars and more electronic devices. A great example of this was The Police, who started off in the late 70s with punk rock and ended on a jazzed up, spiritual “new wave” sound.

The same goes with the current “band boom” in Japan. Although, what makes the “band boom” different is how they present themselves and their music; clean, well-kept, crisp, and simple. Ryotaro Aoki pointed out in a recent article on The Japan Times is that the bands today are getting rid of those blazing guitars that made songs in 90s and 2000s chaotic and using more instruments to present a clean yet simple song. These songs also have lyrics that contain more personal messages in order to garner attention from the younger generations.[1]

As we head into 2016, it is unsure if the band boom in Japan will continue to rise or even fall in popularity.  And, if it will influence other acts including idols (please, let Sayaka Yamamoto write at least one NMB48 song) and EDM acts.

Time will only tell.


 

References

[1] Aoki, Ryotaro. “Gesu Tapped into the 2015 ‘band Boom’ | The Japan Times.” Japan Times RSS. 6 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016 (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/12/06/music/gesu-tapped-2015-band-boom/#.VpOO2xV97cf)

[2] “Gesu No Kiwami Otome. and the Band Boom of 2015 | Japanese Entertainment News.” ARAMA JAPAN Gesu No Kiwami Otome and the Band Boom of 2015 Comments. 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 Jan. 2016. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9V5aByfeCM)

Reporting Live: ayumi shibata promoting “Babyrock” at Kanayama Asunal (August 6, 2015)

ayumishibata-babyrock

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.

Musical Reactions: Morning Musume. 15 Wants To Tell You That They’re the “One and Only” with This Tune

morningmusume-newsingle

Morning Musume. or even their umbrella group Hello! Project has been impressing fans around the world since their debut eighteen years ago. From the shocking selections of new members from Mr. Producer himself, Tsunku, to their attempts to reach fans overseas with adding members with diverse skills, this Japanese girl pop group tries to keep their fans on the edge by challenging themselves with new goals. This group even has amazed me over the year in terms of their sound as they transitioned quite seamlessly from disco-themed hits like 1999’s “LOVE Machine” to the EDM music that the current line-up is known for.

However, their amazing dance routines and the diversity of the member’s skills isn’t the only things that makes this group astonishing.

This does:

 

The song above is called “One and Only” which is the current opening theme for the music program “J-MELO” on NHK World. One of the things that surprised me when I first listened to the song is that the whole thing is in English, a language that was very challenging for most of the group’s members.

This song feels like it features a lot of Miki Nonoka, a member who is a native speaker of English due to living overseas in the US. That is understandable since Nonoka is an ideal lead for this song due to her English ability. But, what irks me is that it seems like the mixer cranked up the volume on Miki’s vocal track. I feel that during the group chorus, the only person I can hear is Miki as her vocals consume the others. Or maybe I am just imagining things as: (a) I just can’t pick out everyone’s voices just yet (which is unlikely) or (b) since everyone got the same coach to teach them the English pronunciation, each member just have the same vocal style and pronunciation while singing in English. Just wish I could  hear a little more of Kanon Suzuki’s lines. 😦

What makes this song kind of confusing is its identity. Is it a traditional pop song? Or is it an EDM tune? I recently read up on Tsunku’s notes to see what was the song’s style. The only thing he mentioned is the song’s changing keys and the cool guitar riff during the intro. I feel like the guitar riffs are the best part while the generic claps and the EDM-style synthesizer sprinkled here and there are the worst parts. The song doesn’t really need them as the guitar and bright piano got everything covered. I know it’s the current trend for Morning Musume. But seriously, won’t it be nice to take a break from EDM once in awhile? Go traditional!

Some people have complained about the lyrics contents as the words are just plain terrible. For me, I personally don’t care about the lyrics. I am just happy that they are in English and the girls are trying their best to sing them. But, I do think that the dance is a bit whack, especially at 0:03.  Dance moves like that makes you question what was the choreographer thinking when he or she came up with the moves. Did you really want Morning Musume do some mutated dance routine from “Thriller”?

Overall, the song is decent. Will it be a hit? Naaah. Is it decent? Yes if you just ignore the weird dance movements and the annoying EDM instruments that pops up time to time. I wish it featured more members and wasn’t a “Miki Nonoka featuring other members that are supposedly part of this group, whaaaaaaat?” song.

What do you think about Morning Musume’s first English song? Is it good? is it horrendous? Comment below!