Results for Two Battles: Cherry Blossoms and In My Dreams

Hey guys! I been lagging on the results from recent Battle of the Songs. I am sorry about that/ This is a catch-up post for those who keep record of the Battles ‘ results.

click here for the results
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Battle of the Songs: When the Cherry Blossoms Bloom

Happy mid-March! I am sorry for being absent for half the week. It is almost the end of the school year here in Japan, and I am busy with ending classes, writing reports, and having the students practice for graduation. Even though my students aren’t the ones graduating, they are going to participate in the school ceremony as it very important.

It has gotten really warm recently here in Nagoya. Next Wednesday, it is suppose to be 67°F/19°C! And in about two weeks, we get to see our first cherry blossoms bloom here! I am so excited! I love walking home under the beautiful cherry blossoms and even see them bloom next to my apartment.

So, to celebrate the coming of these magnificent blossoms, I presented you with the new Battle of the Songs: When the Cherry Blossoms Bloom!

click here to listen and vote

Reporting Live: HR promoting their debut single “Natsuiro Candy” at Nagoya’s Kintetsu Passe (June 14, 2015)

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Ah, summer! 

What comes to mind when you think of this fabulous season? Is it the beach? The heat? The heaps of ice cream you get to eat?

Whatever may be the case, as we head towards winter, you are probably missing those dog days of summer. HR can help by reminding you of those feelings with their debut single “Natsuiro Candy” (Summer-Colored Candy).

HR, short for Hakata Reboot, is an enormous idol group based in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture aka southern Japan. The group formed in 2010 with fourteen members with a simple motive; be an AKB48-like group for girls who want to become idols but can’t move to Tokyo. It sounds a bit fishy but plausible because, despite Japan looking like a tiny country on international news reports, the distance between Tokyo and Fukuoka is over five hundred kilometers (or over three hundred miles). That might or might not seem a lot. But, a hopeful idol who wants to make it big in the idol industry, it is.

Trying to keep their dreams alive, HR opened their own theater on the third floor of Box Town Hakozaki. Interestingly, a sister group of AKB48 performs in another theater near HR. Selective girls perform on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, which are the days that HKT48 closes their theaters in order to have members do promotional work all over Japan. Smart thinking, HR managers!

The group constantly adds members with countless auditions they hold throughout the year. And, like all mainstream idol groups, members graduate or leave the group. However, I feel like members in HR leave faster compare to other indie/not-so-popular idol groups due to the prospect of other, well-known, Fukuoka-based groups like LinQ and HKT48. If you take a look at HR’s Japanese Wikipedia page, there are more graduated members listed than active members. That is a bit surprising.

Nevertheless, the group persisted and released their debut indies single “Kimi ni Spark” on May 2, 2012. Three years later, they released their debut major single “Natsuiro Candy” on June 24 under the Columbia Records label. To promote the single, the group split up into “teams” and did various promotional store events across the country.

I decided to go see HR at Nagoya’s Kintetsu Passe before I went to see ANGERME at another mall because I wanted to kill some time. Like most of the groups I mention on this blog, I didn’t know about HR before I saw the mini-live. I actually briefly saw the music video for “Natsuiro Candy” and wasn’t impress. Seriously, the music video is basically having is girls dancing and singing in bikinis on some beach, I thought it was unflattering, boring, and a blatant ripoff of AKB48’s bikini fest music videos.

I arrived at Kintetsu Passe five minutes before the event started. There were a small number of male fans starting to queue their place in the event space. By the edge of the area, members were circling around, chatting with fans and non-fans while promoting the event to people passing by. No really approached me and tried to start a conversation with me sadly. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping that someone would want to strike a conversation with me. Maybe they were afraid to or that there wasn’t enough time to chat.

Once it was one o’clock, the members headed towards the stage and began to sing their opening number. I don’t remember which song they sang. But, I stuck around for three songs before I had to catch a bus to see ANGERME. I can’t recall what songs they song, what was their opening talk about, and can’t seem find a set list anywhere on the web.

HR isn’t my cup of tea since, like I mentioned above, their music videos and songs are an obvious ripoff of famous AKB48 summer songs like “Labrador Retriever” and “Sayonara Crawl”. Although they are AKB48’s most popular singles, I find them to be bland and tasteless as they feature simple vocals and basic instrumentation. Though “Labrador Retriever” has somewhat of a plot going through the music video, the primary focus is on the girls doing a plain choreographed dance in their bikinis. Maybe I am looking at these summer songs at the wrong angle but I don’t find them interesting at all. I am more of a “RIVER” and “Halloween Night”-type of fan.

In the same regards, that is how I feel about HR and “Natsuiro Candy”. The girls are pretty nice, cute, and ambitious. But, their songs are a snooze fest. There is no personality or taste in both the song and the music video. I understand that this is their debut single and they probably didn’t get a lot of money to get a great song or music video. But, for the love of all things good, put that money to good use by making something diverse. We don’t need ANOTHER AKB48-sounding group!

I would recommend HR if you like the 48 family or knock-off groups like Idol Kyoushitsu. If you aren’t, you could still enjoy them since they are pretty cute and have a feel good attitude. However, don’t expect too much as “Natsuiro Candy” isn’t much of a memorable song. HR just needs time to find their sound as they should stop copying a popular idol pattern and do their own thing.

They will release their second single, “Toy Soldier”, this Wednesday. It’s much better their debut single but still copying that bland idol formula.

Fun Fact: HR’s image color is “Mentaiko pink”. Mentaiko is marinated fish eggs from pollacks and cods. It is part of the Japanese cuisine. The group’s hometown of Hakata is famous for “spicy Mentaiko”. Thus, the group’s image color pays homage to their hometown dish.

Music Reactions: Boogie Woogie with AKB48, coming Halloween 2015!

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It is never too early to start Halloween, right? I remember that recently in America, Halloween products have started to show up around the end of July or early August along with back to school supplies. Apparently AKB48 wanted everyone to get in the Halloween mood early like Americans by performing their new song “Halloween Night” on a special music program last night.

I always had a love/hate relationship with AKB48. Ever since their debut with “Sakura no Hanabiratachi” in 2006, I have said that I hated this super idol group because of various reasons. I, like many fans, have compared AKB48 with my favorite group Morning Musume. a lot and said I could only be a fan of one group. I really loved the girls in Morning Musume. and thought they were more talented (in terms of singing, personality, dancing, cuteness, and others) than AKB48. I still listened to the 48 family as I downloaded some of their more popular singles. Over time, my hard heart soften as I began to like some of their songs like “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”, “RIVER” (which had my former favorite member Tomomi Itano), and “Dear my teacher” (What can I say? I am attracted to Akimoto Yasushi’s weird lyrics somehow).

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“Halloween Night” features one of my favorite members Rino Sashihara. I think I like her a lot because she is a huge fan of other idol groups, especially Hello! Project, and wants to create harmony and love between groups unlike some fans out there who want to start the “whose is better” wars. Furthermore, I think I might start to like Minami Takahashi, gorgeous Yuki Kashiwagi, Sakura Miyawaki, and unique Sayaka Yamamoto after watching yesterday’s live performance because they had the best costumes and performance style.

According to this tweet, this new song is supposed to be a sequel to the 2013 mega popular hit “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”. Both songs feature Rino as lead singer (as she won the fan’s hearts in the AKB fan elections this year and in 2013) and a 70s-style disco sound. Heck, when I first listened to “Halloween Night”, I wrote on my Facebook that “the 1970s just called and wants its disco music back, Japan”. You can hear it from the high-pitched guitar scale runs in the introductions, the musical break with the chorus, and the chopped rhythms. The song reminds me a lot of Earth, Wind, and Fire and/or Donna Summers while the musical break’s backup chorus reminds me of 90’s Jpop.

Many fans on the internet think that “Halloween Night” reminds them of the song “Boku no Sensei wa Fever” from the 70s drama “Necchuu Jidai”. I could hear a bit of a resemblance as both songs shared the same rhythms in the first few measures. However, after that, “Boku no Sensei wa Fever” and “Halloween Night” are totally different songs with different melodies. “Boku no Sensei wa Fever” is more of a disco song with Japanese melodies incorporated in it. I feel like “Halloween Night” is an American disco song with whoever composed the song getting inspired more by Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Even though “Halloween Night” is a great song, I don’t think it will live up to the expectation of “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”. It lacks the “oomph”, the super positive lyrics, catchy melodies, and memorable dance moves that the 2013 mega hit had. Despite this, I still love “Halloween Night” and it’s becoming one of my new favorites as I play this song repeatedly. Maybe the studio version will be even more awesome? Who knows? For now, let’s enjoy this version of “Halloween Night”:

(You can see pictures of all the costumes here at AKB48 Wrap Up.)