Hi there and welcome to the first J-song roundup of the new year!
Last year was definitely a great year for me regarding discovering and listening to Japanese music and I hope 2019 will be as good, or even better, than 2018! Today we got a good lineup to discuss so let’s just jump right in 😀
“If you wanna” – Perfume
Other than discovering Perfume from a TikTok video where they were dancing to a remix of a hip-hop song (more specifically iLoveMemphis’ “Left Foot, Right Foot”), I noticed that they were performing at the 2018 NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen, an annual New Years TV special where popular music artists compete and perform hits of the past year. It was quite a huge event a few days ago as there were many, many great artists and popular tracks shown such as DAOKO’s “Uchiage Hanabi / 打上花火”, Yonezu Kenshi’s “Lemon”, aimyon’s “Marigold / マリーゴールド”, and many more. (*for the Love Live fans, Aqours actually performed their first single, “Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteru Kai?”, that night which was quite a big deal)
Anywho, I’m pretty sure I’m very late on realizing how big of a deal Perfume is. Originally from the Hiroshima Prefecture, Perfume can be considered the most popular female Japanese pop group, at least, in the past decade or two. As I was researching this group a little bit, I learned that one major factor on why they’re so popular and how they were impactful on the modern Japanese pop genre is the fact that they made electronic/techno music popular again (the only really popular electro album in Japan was back in the 70s/80s). Perfume essentially was able to prove that electronic music can be mainstream, thus later inspiring many other pop artists like AKB48 to make electro-pop music as well. Plus, they pretty much showed that not all female pop groups have to be categorized as “idols” (which was pretty rare at the time when they debuted).
Out of the tiny list of songs I’ve heard from them, I think “If you wanna” has to be one of my favorites. As I’ve mentioned in past roundups, I don’t really listen to EDM or techno music; however, many songs/artists I’ve come across such as Perfume and Kizuna AI have really sparked my interest in the genre. This song in particular is just really mellow, thanks to their higher-pitched vocal styling, and pairing that with the bumping electronic music creates a pretty nice combination. If I’m not mistaken, a ton of their more recent music videos are future-themed (given that their most recent album is titled Future Pop) and this one, while pretty simple compared to their other ones, is a great example of that.
One last, cool thing about them: it was announced a few days ago (Jan. 3rd) that Perfume would be performing this year at the popular annual American music festival, Coachella, making them the first ever J-pop group to perform at that event. Great for them!
“WALK” – Vickeblanka
While watching the music video to this song, I think I was thinking the same thought as others, “is this a Shinkai film?”.
J-pop singer/songwriter Vickeblanka had one of his songs featured in Flavors of Youth, a Japanese/Chinese-produced drama film animated by ComiX Wave Films (the studio that works with Shinkai a lot) and directed by Li Haoling, Jiaoshou Yi Xiaoxing and Takeuchi Yoshitaka. The film essentially tells three stories regarding the joys and complications of being a youth, set in three different cities in China. And while this film isn’t directed by the mastermind Shinkai Makoto himself, the character designer from most of his movies, Yajima Kouta, did work on Flavors of Youth.
Regarding the song, it definitely reminds of music I’ve heard in other ComiX Wave Films movies before (one that comes to mind is Motohiro Hata’s “Rain” from The Garden of Words). I have never heard of Vickeblanka or his music prior to discovering this track, but I love his voice and the song is very nice and relaxing to listen to. This is definitely a great choice of song to include in a ComiX Wave Films/Shinkai-esque film and it has almost made me a little interested in actually watching it.
“Kimino Mikata / きみのみかた” – KYARY PAMYU PAMYU
Most likely you know who KYARY PAMYU PAMYU is if you were one of the 143 million people who listened to “PONPONPON”, an ultra-viral Japanese song released back in 2011. I have no idea why that song got so popular back then (I personally am not a fan of it lol) but she has released other music that I’ve enjoyed listening to.
“Kimino Mikata” is one of her more recent tracks, released back in April 2018, and it’s pretty nice! A fun, electro-pop song to listen to and absolutely catchy, especially with the chorus and that beat sequence that keeps repeating. The music video is also pretty noteworthy since you can tell a TON of work went into the choreography with the iPads, as well as the fact that the video is all one single take.
“This is the Love” – Ohashi Trio feat. Hamada Mariko
God, Ohashi Trio is such a great artist.
Thanks to Apple Music, I got a hold of Ohashi Trio’s other albums, especially one I was dying to listen to, White (mainly b/c I wanted to hear a better version of “She is a Rainbow”). But as I was listening to that album, I started to love all the other songs such as “Be There (feat. Bonnie Pink)” and “Turn Our World Around (feat. Emi Meyer)”. But my goodness, “This is the Love” is probably one of my favorite Ohashi tracks of all-time, pretty much because of how incredibly soothing it is. Everything from the beautiful, all-English duet of Ohashi Trio and Hamada Mariko, to how all these different instruments come together to make a light and smooth composition… it’s such a great song (also that flute solo was magnifique lol).
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Ohashi Trio sings more in English than in his native Japanese 😛
“oddloop / オドループ” (Live at Kobe World Kinen Hall) – frederic
I’ve talked about this band, frederic, before but in case you need a refresher, they were the ones who composed that really catchy opening theme for the Summer 2017 romance drama Koi to Uso. I actually really like this band, and definitely should listen more to them.
One of their most popular songs, “oddloop”, was originally not on my “good songs” list; I just didn’t really like the way frontman Mihara Kenji sung it. However recently I discovered the live version of this song, which I strongly believe is waaaaay better than the studio version. Kenji’s vocal stylings have significantly changed over the years, with it being a bit more smooth and “mature” (for a lack of a better term) compared to four years ago when “oddloop” was originally released. This live version pretty much showcases said vocal change, as you can hear Kenji sing smoother and in a bit deeper tone. It ultimately made me love this song now 😛 But on a more general note, this song is a real enjoyable one, with its memorable guitar riff at the beginning and the catchy chorus.
Also the concert footage of this song was incredible to watch. The moment when that memorable riff started, the stage lights started shining and the three members in the front jumped up to the platforms in front of them… that honestly was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Another small notable thing about this particular live version is that when the line “There’s no one here in this world, / Who doesn’t know of danceless nights!” is sung, Kenji changed the phrase “this world” to “Kobe”, the city they were performing at. Nice touch.
“Tomoshibi no Manimani / 灯火のまにまに” – Touyama Nao
Even if you’ve never heard of the name “Touyama Nao” before, you probably still know who she is. She’s one of the more popular voice actresses in today’s anime industry, as she has had main roles in shows like Nisekoi, My Teen Romance Comedy SNAFU, Yuru Camp, and more recently she played Koga Tomoe in Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (you can read my Seiyuu Spotlight feature on her here!). Other than being a great voice actress, she, like many other female seiyuu, also has a nice musical career.
Let me admit that the only solo songs I’ve really heard from Naobou before was the opening theme to the incredible romance drama Tsuki ga Kirei, as well as songs she sung as Kanon in The World God Only Knows. But I recently discovered another song that is quite different from the ones I just mentioned.
Naobou expresses more of a traditional Japanese style of music in “Tomoshibi no Manimani” (also the opening to an anime called Kakuriyo), and she just kills it in this song. As you can tell, her voice is significantly different from when you hear her in various anime and is much more mature and deeper. In my viewpoint, hearing Naobou sing like this almost makes her a completely different personality, separate from her image as a voice actress. And her voice just works perfectly with this style of music, which on its own is noteworthy. The combination of traditional Japanese music with the rock genre, I haven’t heard much of it prior (other than BAND-MAID’s “secret MAIKO lips” which goes towards a more “metal” direction than traditional rock) but this song definitely expresses that combination well. Really, when you mix together a shamisen, flute, bass guitar, and drums in one pot, there’s just so much going on yet it’s so enjoyable.
Also whenever I see someone play the shamisen, I always am in awe. I’m blown away by how people play that thing, as well as the fact that you need a separate object in order to play it.
“Funny Gold” – Suchmos
Suchmos is definitely an interesting group to listen to, mainly cause they combine so many great genres together in their music. Hip-hop, jazz, AND rock all in one group; I, at least, have not heard many artists and songs with all those music styles mixed together. Like other Suchmos songs, this one had a pretty mellow vibe to it and has a real nice and noticeable funk touch to it, thanks to instruments like the bass guitar and the different guitar riffs heard. And as always, Yonce’s vocals are smooth and really does sound hip hop-like. Honestly, there’s a ton of things to hear in this song (if you listen closely, there were even a few record scratches) and it’s overall a nice song to listen to.
Aaaand that’s all I got for you today! Hope you enjoyed this week’s installment and if you found a song/artist that you enjoy, I’m really glad I could help. And as always, if you have any J-music suggestions of your own, by all means leave them in the comments. I’m all for listening to new music 🙂
Also since it’s a new year, let’s use a new GIF at the end of this segment (no disrespect to Akiyama Mio), which is appropriately a Naobou one!
Most likely next post will be not seiyuu or music-related, so please look forward to that. Thanks for reading!! 😀