Baby girl, you blow my mind. [Coming Century’s Hello-Goodbye]

02/13/2011 1 comment

There’s a common music meme that is ageless. By which I mean it was likely floating around even before the Internet. It’s also very simple. You’ve no doubt heard of it – and even if you somehow haven’t you’ll get the idea right away.

It usually goes like this: What are your [X number] desert island albums? If you were stuck on a deserted island with only a music player, which 1/5/10/whatever number albums would you want to have?

If you somehow still don’t get it, then let’s take it in a different way – what album(s) would you be able to listen to over and over?

While I will always be the first to admit that, hell yes, obviously bias plays a major part in any statement I make… when I tell you that Coming Century‘s second album Hello-Goodbye is second on my personal desert island album list, you should trust me.

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What is J-Pop?

On Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 (I give you the exact date so you can see either how much I’ve been thinking about this subject, or how much I’ve procrastinated on this post. Exactly which of the two is a matter I leave to your imagination.), my Twitter feed was bombarded by a bunch of tweets from Taku Takahashi of m-flo fame. Well, the bombarding was actually quite normal. It turns out DJ Taku has a lot to say.

Back on topic – the main subject of these tweets? The use of “J-Pop” as a category.

Y’see, I am one of those people. I’m anal about the tagging of my MP3s. I’ve gotten called out on it, and I’ve verbally displayed my annoyance at people who don’t. I don’t care if you know what the song is, why the hell would you leave “[insert mp3 site that you probably didn’t get the song from here!].com – [Generic Song Title]” in the Song Name tag? For one thing, you’d have to wait for the site name to scroll past before the actual title comes up; for another, sometimes the title isn’t even in there. To say nothing of it fucking with tag-reading things like Last.fm, any iPod games involving music information, or MP3s uploaded to tumblr.

I like to think I’m not too bad about this obsessive behavior. All I really need is the

  • Song Name
  • Song Artist (as styled officially, whether in kanji or with Up AnD dOwN letters)
  • Year
  • Track Number (# of # – even if all I have is the one MP3 from a release with 30 tracks)
  • Album Title
  • Disc Number (Only if there’s more than one CD)
  • Genre
  • Album Art – preferably in a size at least 300×300, but I’ll put up with less if that’s all that is available. (JOHNNY’S! I SHAKE MY FIST AT YOU!)

I usually fill out “Album Artist” with either the romanized name (if in Kanji) or an associated grouping (every one of the 188 tracks on the BEMANI BEST for the 10th anniversary compilation is under “Beatmania”) and I’m a bit less anal about composer – I’ll fill it in if the information is available, but I won’t hunt it down like everything else.

“No,” you’re telling me, “All that’s pretty anal already. Isn’t all you need for the tag stuff the name and the artist, anyway?”

Well, here’s the kicker, then – for someone so anal, I’m guilty of just shamelessly labeling the genre tags with “JPop” over and over and over. It matters not whether it’s Johnny’s or Pay money To my Pain or SOUL’d OUT or Vocaloid that I’m tagging – ctrl+I in iTunes, “JPop” in the genre box, and I am satisfied.

Not so much since that tweet.

“J-Pop”, obviously, is Japanese Pop. “Pop” being pop music, and quoting Wiki:

Pop music (a term that originally derives from an abbreviation of “popular”) is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented towards a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

So is there something wrong with saying that a track has popular appeal? Just take m-flo, seeing as the tweet sparking this post originated from one of the members. Though categorized as hip-hop, the fact that they are chart toppers alone speaks to the fact that they have popular appeal. The music in question was undeniably a hit with the younger generations (teenagers and early twenties) – and besides, as he says in the original tweet “I think it is ok to make something ‘pop'”

Perhaps it’s the Japanese part? Well, it is Japanese in origin, debuting in the Japanese music market, with Japanese lyrics. And he does admit, generally, m-flo is jpop. He also tweeted this and this, and let’s face it – Japanese pop, as mass-produced can be corny, stupid, or both.

But let’s make it simple. Here, he just says outright that he thinks the term “JPop” is lame. And going back even further, here he asks if the term “JPop” is necessary anymore, for both users and people working in the industry. When you get down to it, he’s got a point – music is globalized. Even if you don’t listen to Japanese music (and what the hell are you doing reading this blog if you don’t?), at some point, you have very likely listened to something that has played elsewhere in the world. Perhaps it’s time to drop the language boundaries. Away with the K, away with the C, away with the J, away with the Euro – wait, europop is a legitimate genre. Never mind that last one. But the terms “JPop”/”KPop”/”CPop” and even “Anison” (anime songs) are admittedly extremely loose. As long as it’s Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or tied to an anime, it will technically fit into the respective “genre”. And when you rip a Japanese music CD, the automatic MP3 genre tag is “DOMESTIC POPS” – which doesn’t work quite as well when you’re overseas, but makes it very clear that, of course, to the Japanese, J-Pop is just pop.

So saying, would you tag Nightmare‘s the WORLD as Japanese Pop? It was in the Japanese music market, after all. Japanese Rock? Since it is undeniably Japanese, and undeniably rock. Or perhaps the more specific subset Visual Kei? (Though that technically applies more to the visual style than the musical style.) Can we say it’s an anison? It was the first opening theme song to the Death Note anime. Do we drop it altogether and let them be the rock/heavy metal they are?

And furthermore – should you tag each song in a release individually? Take a mixture album like the Dance Dance Revolution soundtracks where there are many different musical genres. Is this one trance, this one happy hardcore, this one ska? Or are they all just unceremoniously filed under “Soundtrack” or “Game”? CHEMISTRY is primarily a R&B duo, but if you listen to their regeneration album (also primarily R&B), second track Period is clearly rock-tinged pop. Oh, it was a theme song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, too. How to squeeze anison in there?

I know. I’m making a huge deal out of this. All this really comes down to is – in the end, I want my MP3s tagged properly. And yet if an artist is going to say that s/he doesn’t want to be called “JPop,” I want to respect that. Until I figure that out, and manage to retag over 25000 MP3 files*, my music library is going to give me a headache.

*Barring Johnny’s and other idol groups, of course. C’mon, those are unrepentantly Japanese pop.

It’s been a long time… [Tamaki Nami’s Missing You ~Time To Love~]

I am on a continuous quest for songs with really, really, really long names. It’s hilarious to see them at karaoke, squished in tiny font into a tiny space. I don’t actually sing them, because half the time I don’t know them. But it’s hilarious.

That brings us to Missing You ~Time To Love~ feat. KWANGSOO, JIHYUK, GEONIL (from Choshinsei). I think it’s self explanatory.

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2011 is sounding pretty good.

Over at aramatheydidnt@LiveJournal, kimivalkyrie has posted the iTunes Japan Sound of 2011 list, along with videos for songs by each of the artist on the playlist.

This is a pretty good list, and you are only doing yourself a disfavor by not giving it a try. But for those of you more iffy, here’s a quick rundown.

androp‘s MirrorDance starts with some snappy beats and guitar strums, brings in a quick round of light synth, and then we only head up from there. It’s uplifting in a easy listening meets rock way with club rearing its head in the bridges. Think of it like ORANGE RANGE and UVERworld’s more synthesized offerings, but not nearly as rough.

From cinema staff is GATE, ballad rock-pop with some pretty sweet vocals. It starts out strong and the video is full of intense guitar playing, but when vocalist Iida Mizuki starts on the mic things slow down to match with his singing.

The song from [Champagne] is titled Rocknrolla! That in itself should tell you plenty. In case it doesn’t, it’s a fun rock song with purely English lyrics. Still need a comparison? BEAT CRUSADERS without the heavy Engrish accent, a less rough voice (though I know, that was part of the fun of BEAT CRUSADERS), and without the pixelated face printouts as masks.

Sekai no Owari has a very ominous name – literally, World’s End. Their song title, Tenshi to Akuma, isn’t much better (Angel and Devil). And then you listen to the song (light pop-rock with piano), listen to the lyrics (comparing the greys of the world to the black-and-white we learn as children), and you realize that perhaps it’s more hopeful. Vocalist Fukase Satoshi has a childish drawl to his voice that emphasizes this, and the music is just as pure.

Sonodaband gives us SoulRiver_2010, and at first, I was at a loss to describe them for you because there are no vocals. Then I realized that I love this track and it’s perfect without the vocals. Combining classical strings (violin and cello) with electric ones (guitar and bass), and adding drums and a keyboard for beat and added melody gives us this funky and beautiful track. I kind of want to say if you like what Kanno Yoko produced in the late 90’s, you’ll enjoy this, but that might be a disservice to both parties.

On the iTunes page, Tameoka Sonomi is compared to Furuchi Toko and May J. (There’s your comparison.) When you listen to movin’on, you’ll probably agree on the May J comparison, at least, and perhaps add Kato Miliyah to the list. movin’on starts out slow with only a piano and Tameoka’s strong but soothing voice, but quickly gains ground. While movin’on was from her first album, when she releases her second album on February 23rd, you at least have this guarantee of a strong addition to Japanese female R&B.

TEE‘s Change My Life is a fast-paced celebratory piece makes me think of Def Tech or Hilcrhyme. But that’s probably because I haven’t listened to much Japanese Reggae. The song that’s actually on the playlist is Denwa wo Dakishimete (RADIO EDIT), but all YouTube has to offer is a 30-second preview that shows a light ballad with slight reggae influences.

NIKIIE‘s song being titled Shunkashuutou (a live performance on YouTube) is a bit amusing to me only because I looked up Hilcrhyme’s slower songs for the above blurb, and one of them is similarly titled. That said, this Shunkashuutou is a pop piece that starts slow and becomes dramatically upbeat when the chorus hits. NIKIIE (pronounced like “Nicky”) is a singer-songwriter who plays the piano and has a voice that is less whiny than YUI’s, not as likely to lull you to sleep as Rie fu’s, and may be a substitute for those of you missing Ayaka (though not as husky).

We’re nearing the end here, with Violent is Savanna and their song AWAIRO SAKURA CHIRU. Signed to avex, it should not come to you as much surprise that singer Seika has vocals of the whiny persuasion. If you get past that opening chorus, though, it’s not too bad a pop-rock piece, fairly gentle in the stanzas and never really hitting the same level of nasal whine as in the opening again. Either that or I got used to it.

The last one on the list is back number, whose song Shiawase not only is on the list, but debuted on iTunes. Unfortunately, a preview is nowhere to be found on the Internet, so kimivalkyrie hunted down stay with me as a sample instead. The latter is a rock-pop ballad showcasing vocalist Kiyomizu Iori(?) and some grungy guitars. Having tried other songs (Haru wo Uta ni Shite and Nishifuji Kouen), I think I can say he sounds pretty nice when soft (like in Haru wo Uta ni Shite), but the slight whine in Kiyomizu’s voice seems to be an apt part of the band’s music.

And there you have it – iTunes Japan Sound of 2011. What strikes you, what doesn’t? Love them all? Hate them all? Just want Johnny’s? (…I don’t quite know what to say to those of you in the latter category.) Feel free to leave a comment – or better yet, go to the original post on arama and thank kimivalkyrie for sharing the joy.

Rock? Hard Place? Pick the rock. [move’s BOULDER]

I figured that if anything, the first non-boyband post on this blog at least ought to be related to the name of the blog. With producer/composer t-kimura’s recent confirmation on the musical style of their upcoming album, and his reply to me on the current state of the Japanese pop market (“toomuch dancepop market in japan now” – shush, it gave me great great joy at 4AM, an hour when I obviously should not have been up), it served as an additional reminder and motivation. And so, ladies and gentlemen and those otherwise inclined reading this blog, I give you m.o.v.e, formerly move.

In case you’ve never heard of them, m.o.v.e is famous for two things. The first is changing their musical style fairly often. The second is for doing a whole bunch of Initial D – and some other anime – theme songs. (Or should those be reversed?)

2005 marked a pivotal year for m.o.v.e. For one thing, it’s the year they made the switch from move to m.o.v.e, thanks to “move” already being trademarked when they entered a global remix contest. For another, it’s the year they invented the genre “J-Loud” in reference to their BOULDER album. (This album was also their last under the name “move.”) It’s most probably this same J-Loud genre the group will be returning to with the next album, so what better way to prepare for their upcoming release than by going over their past work?

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State of the Fangirl #01: Boyband Releases

01/16/2011 1 comment

I know, I know, the first three new posts on this blog all about boybands? Hey, my blog. My rules.

1) Huzzah! It has happened! Arashi has finally released a single that is not boring again! Or, will, rather. The preview for Lotus, their next single and the theme song to Aiba’s upcoming drama Bartender, is making its way around the interwebs. As you can see and hear, it’s not as bland as the stuff they’ve been putting out in the latter half of 2010. In fact, the PV style and dance seems to harken back to 2008’s truth and 2009’s Believe, both of which were songs that both showcased Arashi’s maturing image. (They can’t be happy rainbows forever.) The song also reminds of truth‘s dramatic melancholy – I don’t like it quite as much as I loved truth when I first heard it, but I definitely like it better than Love Rainbow, Dear Snow, and Hatenai Sora. I think most importantly, though, as various Arashi fans may say – they’re dancing again!

2) This is not news. The Pi-loving fandom (Yamashita Tomohisa, that is. Not 3.14159265…) has been ecstatic about his upcoming solo single, Hadakanbo, for weeks now. I figured since I was going to do this post anyways I should at least watch the titular music video. In growing up, Pi’s gone from an adorable teenager to “dead fish eyes,” and one can’t help but get the feeling that his idea of the “cool & sexy” image is blatant apathy. (Either that, or he’s a very bad actor when showing how much he cares.) It doesn’t change in this video. Like I grew to love Kuroki Meisa’s criminal because of her bedroom eyes in the PV, I think I could’ve grown to like this song. Now all I’ll see is Pi in his NAKED lights with his geisha-haired backup dancers and think of what could’ve been. Hopefully his upcoming album (Supergood, Superbad), is better.

3) w-inds.‘ upcoming single, –Be As One-/Let’s get it on, is the second since their amazing album ANOTHER WORLD. -Be As One- is the one that’s got a tie-in (the 6th ending to FAIRY TAIL… wait, didn’t I have problems with being addicted to FAIRY TAIL music?), so Let’s get it on is the one that gets a PV. Just so things are fair or something. The former is a pop ballad in w-inds. style, sweet and melodic. (The ending sequence that goes with it is pretty nice, too, focusing on ice-wielding character Gray.) But if -Be As One- is tame, then Let’s get it on is as dangerous as the title threatens. Abundant use of English in the very sexy lyrics, vocoded vocals, an attempt at a sexier image in the PV (Ryohei ends up looking kind of shady and Keita’s a bit of a joke at parts, but Ryuichi completely succeeds at being a sex god) are all things that could possibly put off listeners, even those who love their recent electronic style. Even if Ryohei and Ryuichi finally have a bigger role in the song again. But! If you like bare female midriffs this is the music video for you.

4) The Tohorangers (TVXQ!/THSK/DBSK) are now down to two. Well, you probably should’ve figured that out after The Girl, Ultra Mushroom, and Kamen Laser (Jaejoong/Yoochun/Junsu, aka JYJ) went off on a non-profit tromp through the US and released a horrifically ridiculous Stateside debut video, but just in case you were living under a rock. (I don’t blame you.) Bondage Ranger and Gi (Yunho and Changmin) squared up their shoulders, wiped away the tears, and said they’d keep the Tohoranger name going. Why? (Keep Your Head Down) is the first fruit of their efforts, and it needs to be said – if nothing else, SM Entertainment knows how to make a music video. The song is also fierce, Yunho’s effeminate rapping is in full force, and while there’s some questionable outfit and hairstyle choices, it’s so much better than, well, JYJ’s reentry. HoMin may have kept their heads down from the Toho mess this past year, but clearly they can come back heads held high.

5) Everything but the music video for KAT-TUN‘s upcoming single Ultimate Wheels has been released – but you can catch a snatch of the song in their commercials for the Suzuki SOLIO. I had a really really bad joke to make regarding the title, but… I think the commercial I’ve linked is hilarious enough, especially with this particular song. Who knew selling cars could be done in such a dramatically shounen manga way?

6) Speaking of KAT-TUN… Akanishi Jin‘s first solo release after leaving KAT-TUN and signing up with Warner Music Record Japan is set to come out in early March, under the name of Eternal. He’s also going to put out a US album in the summer, for which I’m shamefully excited because I (contrary to my dislike of him) did enjoy A PAGE, even if it means he won’t really sing songs like care again. But back to Eternal. There are also so many unclassy jokes to make about that name, whether you love him or hate him or just want to refer to his eggplant. I’m not that bad. You come up with the jokes yourself.

Alright, that’s January, February, and early March in one swoop. What are you excited for? Displeased that I’ve left out Tegomass/Choshinsei/your boyband of choice? Something I absolutely need to listen to? Point me in the right direction.

Johnny’s Countdown 2010-2011 Picspam!

I’m not very much for being a media blog. But I made a lot of caps of the Countdown (a total of 274, pared down from 2000) and frankly Koichi’s beauty must be shared with the world, so have the pics that didn’t make it into the Countdown post!

Fair warning: If one were inclined to count, you’d notice I have 127 pictures in the actual Countdown post. That means 147 random pictures, all 500×281 pixels, now follow. If you are on dialup or a slow connection, I’m sorry if you decide to click the jump and basically screw yourself in the butt.

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