I am on countdown mode. I have about five more days until my 10-day vacation starts. I am so excited! This is a vacation I dreamed of because I want a stay-cation. Well, I also do other things too. I have to clean because my sister is going to stay at my apartment for the next two months to study abroad here.
Last week’s Music Movies Me Monday was about a “song where a particular instrument has moved you – whether it’s a favorite vocal sound, bass line, drumming/beats, piano, guitar solo, …’. This week is free choice, but I want to feature a song or a music video that really has moved me and brought me to tears.
Happy 1st Day of Spring! It has unofficially started today as temperatures reached 19°C/68°F here in Nagoya. There is no cherry blossoms yet as the trees near my apartment are still bare. But, the tree pollen has be abundant, which is good for my allergies.
Mine is Morning Musume. ’18’s “Are you Happy?”, which was released last month. The Japanese pop idol group Morning Musume. or their sister groups have been mentioned here many times before. I am a huge fan of the group, and this year marks my 14th anniversary of being a fan of Morning Musume. and their umbrella group, Hello! Project.
It comes as no shock as the Japanese pop girl group ℃-ute announced that they are disbanding on June 2017. The reason? The girls realized that they have completed their idol dreams and have developed new ones. Many are sad that some of the girls are going into “disappointing” careers. Some are just sad as they are kicking the can. But, nothing ever really last forever. Even SMAP, who has been in the Jpop idol business long before these girls made their début in 2006, is announcing that they are disbanding by the end of this year (Thank god!).
I should be sad. I should feel sorrow for these lovely girls who are about to leave their singing careers. I should be saying something along the lines of “Like come on, Airi, you should be a solo singer”.
But, I am not.
I am really not.
It has been predicted for a long time that these girls would eventually graduate Hello! Project someday. Let’s face it. We knew that the other H!P Kid members were going to be grouped into another kids unit after Berryz Koubou was sticking with a permanent line-up by mid-2004. We also knew that ℃-ute would eventually break-up when Berryz Koubou disbanded last year. It’s just a simple cause and effect.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a big ℃-ute fan for a long time. Sure, I love a couple songs here and had a favorite member or two (Hey, Erika Umeda!) there. Yet, I was more into Berryz Koubou starting from my high school days to recently as they had talented members, catchier songs, and a stable lineup.
I actually lost interest in ℃-ute around 2009 or 2010 when Umeda graduated. She was my favorite even though she barely got any lines and was more of a background performer. Nevertheless, she was an interesting girl and was a good performer. At least she was able to carry a tune and dance pretty well unlike some girls…
The group’s musical quality has been diminishing over the recent years. It is true that the girls have grown-up and thus their musical and style tastes have changed. However, it didn’t get better, it got worse. I blame someone who calls them ℃-ute’s vocal couch as I feel like he or she didn’t coach them well. Airi can’t sing high notes really well anymore, Mai’s vocals got worse over time, and Chisato had to get surgery because of nodes. You hear this limiting and painful vocal style of not properly singing through your nose in other groups sadly. I experienced it first hand with a trial lesson at a well-known vocal studio.
One more thing, ℃-ute’s songs are always a hit or a miss. Other groups within Hello! Project (like Berryz Koubou) had more memorable songs than ℃-ute ever really did. I mean some songs like “Dance de Bakoon!”, “Bye Bye Bye”, “Massara Blue Jeans”, “THE FUTURE”, and others are impressive. Hell, “Dance de Bakoon!” is a superb signature song for ℃-ute as it’s funky and makes you want to dance. Still, there is a handful of the group’s songs are lackluster or have not a lot of meat on the bone. I still think one their latest songs named “Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou?” is too mundane. Maybe that is because a) UFA is giving this group the short end of the stick or b) UFA is just having a bad year in producing decent good music (which isn’t really the case because Morning Musume. had a great single this year…)
Nonetheless, I am happy that the girls are going into something they love to do. Furthermore, they seemed to be pleased with their eleven-year career.
Maybe we should start making predictions for their last concert? I am secretly wishing that Erika Umeda would come back…
By the way, enjoy my favorite ℃-ute song, the 80’s flavored “Bye Bye Bye” (I think it would be something that Duran Duran would do):
P.S: I was watching a lot of C-ute’s music videos today. Oh my word, the music video for “Kanzen na Otona” is awful. The shot is 0:13 is so horrible that I want to call it something like “Dinosaurs Ready for Dinner” because it looks like it:
As I sit and write this, I am listening to the livestream of Kanon Suzuki’s final concert with Morning Musume. It’s a very sad day for many fans, including me, as we have to say our final goodbye to Kanon as she is retiring from show business to focus a career in social work.
Why do I like Kanon Suzuki?
What in earth possess me to like an idol group?
Am I crazy or what?
Those are the questions that I, friends, and my coworkers have been asking as to why I like Morning Musume. In Western countries, people get weirded out if you say you are a fan of AKB48 or any idol groups. Maybe because most of these groups are filled with girls under the age of 18 and are usually dressed in a less conservative outfit. Some of these groups’ fan bases are made up of males who are over the age of 35, which is a bit creepy.
However nowadays, there are a increasing number of female fans. Someone who went to Meimi Tamura’s graduation (from ANGERME) concert noted that there were more females at that concert than usual. But, these fans have different and unique reasons why they like idols.
My reason for liking Kanon Suzuki, a reason that I have been thinking about during this whole month, is a very personal one as Kanon was a brave, inspiring person who didn’t have the negatives of life get to her. Kanon was able to be herself while rising above the loads of bitter fan comments about her weight. She used her personality as a charm point, being natural funny and always smiling while not letting the negatives of life bring her down. She was always thinking about the people surrounding her, hoping to make them all smile.
Originally, I wasn’t going to talk about “THE VISION” because I felt that “Utakata Saturday Night” was Kanon’s true graduation song as it featured her a lot. But, I can see that “THE VISION” was somewhat a graduation song for her from Tsunku. (“Utakata Saturday Night” was surprisingly not written by Tsunku at all. :O)
If you take a look at his notes about the song, Tsunku writes that he wrote the song when he was thinking of Suzuki and the changes she will embarked after her graduation. He used his experiences from the early days of SharamQ, the dreams expressed in the eyes of the students at the Kindai University Opening Ceremony in 2015, and the dreams of Kanon and Riho Sayashi to penned the lyrics about the future vision that everyone envisions and hopes to gain.
I really love the lyrics as it relates to the ups and downs of achieving goals during life. But, what I love most about “THE VISION” is the piano part. When I fully listened to this song at the Morning Musume. concert on Saturday, I was surprised how modern it was. I kept on thinking this song was a Daniel Powter or John Legend song due how Tsunku used the piano. I feel that if you were going to play Morning Musume music to Americans who never heard of the group before, “THE VISION” would be the best option as the song is relatable to modern piano pop artists.
However, the song does have some weak points. I really wished that Tsunku didn’t used the clapping sound effect or the electric drum kit as they watered down the song’s quality a bit. Like I understand that Tsunku is trying to mix piano pop with EDM (and Tsunku does produce amazing EDM music), but this song isn’t suppose to be an electronica song. Even Tsunku mentioned that the song is “whimsical”. I don’t think you can’t get that feeling with electronic instruments. I think it would be better to get rid of the clapping effects, the synthesizer during the instrumental break, and the electric drum kit and replace them with something more natural like a snare drum and a classical piano.
“THE VISION” is one of the best songs that the modern Morning Musume has ever put out. It’s modern, refreshing, and beautiful. The song’s peaceful atmosphere combined with its inspiring lyrics makes “THE VISION” a must listen to all ages, even if you are moving onto a new part of life or not.
Congratulations on your graduation, Kanon Suzuki! Best on luck on your future! Hopefully your vision will come alive soon!
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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. 🙂 ;_;
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)
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.
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!
One of my dreams came true this summer when I was given a chance to meet a Hello! Project (or H!P for short) group. I been a Hello! Project fan for about eleven years now and I haven’t stop loving them as old members leave and new ones come in. I was also able to meet one of my favorite H!P members, Kanon Fukuda. Yes, I was able to meet ANGERME!!! 😀
ANGERME originally started off in 2009 under the name S/mileage with four members who were picked from the Hello! Project trainee program. Hello! Project is an umbrella group that represents very popular Japanese groups and acts like Morning Musume, Berryz Kobo, Aya Matsuura, Maki Goto, and others. Having a chance to debut in a group that is associated with Hello! Project is a tremendous honor as the groups under Hello! Project are considered top idols across Japan. In the past, new members for these groups have been picked through random auditions. However, producers and managers have been forming groups lately with members in the trainee program as these girls have been taught the ways of Hello! Project.
With a group name that blends together the words “smile” and “age”, S/mileage made their indies debut with the single “aMa no Jaku”. They released three more indie singles, including one of my favorites “Otona ni Narutte Muzukashii!!!”, before the infamous Hello! Project producer Tsunku announced that the girls would make a major debut if they completed a mission, collecting 10,000 photos of people smiling. The girls were able to complete their mission and released their debut single “Yume Miru Fifteen” on May 26. “Yume Miru Fifteen” was an instant success and fan favorite as it reached #5 on the daily Oricon charts. I even loved it as it’s strong, cute, and some different from the other groups.
Over the years, S/mileage added more members as two graduated from the group. In 2015, the group changed their named to ANGERME, a combination of two French words that meant “angel” and “tears”. Sorry guys, it doesn’t mean the group is angry at all. The group also changed their image; going from a girly cute sound with everyday teenage thoughts to a much mature one with hard truth lyrics.
I was very grateful to go this event thanks to my friend Petit Melon who told me about this event. And, I was also grateful for a couple of people in the Hello! Project fandom who bought singles through me so I could use their tickets for the handshake event. Meeting any member of Hello! Project is a dream come true because I loooooooooooooove Hello! Project. Yes, I’m a die-hard fan.
After I left early from the HR mini-live event, I caught a bus from Nagoya Station to a mall that is next to a regional airport outside the city. It took about thirty minutes to get there. But as soon as the bus reached the mall’s bus stop, I got off the bus and raced to the event space which was on the third floor. While on the way up, I bumped into the crew of the Solar Impulse 2 plane, who were grounded for a while in Nagoya due to weather problems.
I reached the event space and quickly bought the tickets and obtained the handshake tickets. I then went to the side as the staff were lining up people based on their ticket numbers. It took a while, but I got a spot in the middle section and next to a good-looking male fan who I was trying miserably to make small talk with him. I was shy as well as I didn’t know what to really talk about besides “Who is your favorite member?”. I missed my chance in having a boyfriend. 😦
Overall, it was a pretty good mini-live. I was really excited when they sang “Please Miniskirt Postwoman!”, “Taiki Bansei”, and ‘Nanakorobi Yaoki” as they are pretty awesome. So awesome that I joined the fans as I sang, danced, jumped up and down, and did other crazy (but appropriate) things. I had a blast!
As soon as the mini-live finished, the girls thanked everyone for coming and exited the stage as the staff prepared for the handshake event. There wasn’t much preparation; just put a couple of tables on the stage and make a line at the beginning of the event space. It didn’t take a long time until the girls came out and the line was moving.
I went through the handshake line four times, each time lasting barely a minute. I barely had a second with each girl as the staff hurried me along. General handshake events for Hello! Project are usually fast-paced as there is a lot of people to get through the line. The first time I went through the line. it was a mad rush to say a message to each girl like “Congratulations” to Kanon or “I Love You” to Meimi. My nerves and pacing got better gradually as I became relaxed by the fourth time. The members were starting to be more open as a lot of the members, especially the third generation, tried to speak English.
This event was one of the highlights of this year because I loooooooooooove ANGERME. I love Kanon (the Kago Ai look-a-like), Rikako, and Meimi. And, I love their music; both Smileage’s and ANGERME’s. It is so great, just listen to “Nanakorobi Yaoki” below. A haunting but uplifting song that talks about never giving up even if you fail many times.
And if you like that, check out ANGERME’s discography!
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.