Boogie Woogie Into Saturday Night with Morning Musume

Woo Hoo!

If you didn’t see, I completely changed the layout of my blog! It was becoming ancient as the background, icons, and the design haven’t been updated for more than eight years.

Check out the new layout and tell me what you think. Is the background too much? Can you read the side menu’s text just fine?

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 60th about 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.

The only song from this single that really caught my attention was “Utakata Saturday Night”. Maybe it makes me want to break out singing”Macho Macho Man” or some other well-known 70s’ disco hit.  However, these disco pop tunes are one of the charm points of  Morning Musume. These songs compliment the girl group really well, like “LOVE Machine” (1999) and “The Matenrou Show” (2012). Perhaps, it was due to the fact that the mad (and disco-loving) musicians like Tsunku, DANCEMAN, Maisa Tsuno, and others involved with Morning Musume’s disco tunes knew fully well how to successfully reinvent disco for younger audiences. Or they were mad-crazy by messing around with instruments, riffs, and samples to produced well-loved hits?

Who knows?

But, I feel like “Utakata Saturday Night” is a purer disco tunes then “LOVE Machine” or “The Matenrou Show”. Something more akin to The Commodores’ “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” (1981), Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” (1977), and Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (1979). These songs most definitely had a bass, a guitar, and some sort of a synthesizer. But, they also featured a lot of traditional instruments like trumpets, violins, horns, and others. These songs from the 70s became well-liked due party to the use of these instruments.

“Utakata Saturday Night” had that “wow” factor like those 70s’ hits as it features a prominent funky bass line and a stringed orchestra. That’s right! I was shocked when I read the linear notes to see that there were real strings used in the song, not some synthesizer. The song also features groovy backgrounds vocals akin to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland”. And you cannot forget the “Utakata” grunts, which were original and far out in their own way, throughout the song.

Some fans were pretty sad that Kanon Suzuki didn’t receive a solo song like previous members did (except Riho Sayashi) on their graduation single. But, “Utakata Saturday Night” fully reflects Kanon’s personality perfectly as it’s fun, funky, upbeat, and eccentric. I don’t know any song that really encapsulates Kanon then this song.

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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.)

30 Years of an “Overnight Success”

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January 21, 1985.

Do you remember what you were doing that day? Do you recall what you bought? Did you, by any chance, buy Teri DeSario’s new album “Overnight Success”? Probably not, if you lived in any part of the world that’s not Japan, as the album and its tie-in singles were only released there.

However, you might have heard of Teri DeSario as she is no stranger to the American music scene. In the late 1970s, she was popular at many dance clubs when her disco-themed debut album “Pleasure Train” was released. The first single from the album, “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Keep Me from You”, was a minor hit as it reached #77 on the US charts. “Pleasure Train” also marked the start of a long-standing musical relationship between DeSario and Joey Carbone (who I mentioned earlier this month with the Bay Canyons post).

A hit single came in 1980 when she released the single “Yes, I’m Ready” with K.C from the KC and the Sunshine Band. The single went to #2 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart, only being outranked by Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Sadly, disco music began to fade out from the American popular music scene soon after the single was released. Her record company persuaded DeSario to adapt to more of a female rock sound and copy the likes of Pat Benatar for her third album, “Caught”. With little promotion and a genre change, “Caught” was met with poor sales, causing DeSario to bounce from one musical genre to another.

When Desario started to work on her seventh studio album, she decided to go back to the genre that helped her to achieve fame; disco. Her record company knew that Japan was the place to make her a star once again. The reason was that disco didn’t really fade out from the Japanese music industry during that time, unlike in America. Instead, it kept on evolving and changing. However, the disco found in Japan during the mid-1980s wasn’t the same kind of disco that was found in the 1970s from the acts of Earth, Wind, and Fire, Donna Summers, Jackson 5, and so on. It was completely different as this type of disco came from the idea of Italo disco; which was a heavy electronic, high energy dance genre from Italy. Some famous Italo disco songs were Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy”, Laura Branigan’s “Self Control”, and Sabrina’s “Boys”  If you don’t know these songs, you can get a taste of Italo disco with this wonderful compilation on Youtube.

DeSario asked Joey Carbone to help write and performed on several tracks for her new album. She also enlisted the aid of guitarist Richie Zito, who worked with artists like Toni Basil, Cheap Trick, Ratt, and others.* Released on January 21, 1985, “Overnight Success” was a huge hit in Japan as it charted #48 on the yearly Oricon chart.

To kick things off, the team picked the high energy, feel good title song to be the first track on the album  The song starts off with an innocent crystallized keyboard sound and a solid bass drum beat for a few seconds. Then, with a small lead in, the guitar and synthesizer come roaring in to set up the song. These instruments provide the energy while DeSario’s voice and the song’s uplifting lyrics supply the raw power. The lyrics are about dealing with the struggles and the hard times that one may face while not forgetting about the dreams and determinations that one holds. Because, these are “the key to your happiness” and gives anyone the power to succeed. Yes, you might have heard these themes countless times before in other songs. But, what makes “Overnight Success” a unique song is how the lyrics are interpreted by DeSario’s way of singing. You can feel the song’s passion, determination, dreams, and strength by just listening to Teri.

The music video’s story is very charming, inspiring, and even makes you experience nostalgia with that 80s fashion. Those workout outfit! Ahhh, the horror! Besides the video’s fashion, it  includes this “once young” actor who is now referred to as “McDreamy” and has starred in countless TV shows and movies like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Enchanted”.

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A cute video, right? Here is the 12″ remix of the title song:

Happy 30th Anniversary, “Overnight Success”! You may be a bit outdated. But, that has never stop you to be a rare find and an excellent album to listen to. May you continue to inspire others to never give up their dreams and find their “key to happiness”.

*Fun Fact for all those anime buffs out there: Joey Carbone and Richie Zito would later compose the soundtrack for the 1986 anime “Project A-Ko”. Isn’t that cool?