After more than two years of waiting, Babymetal return to the new music scene with the pounding “Karate”. Ghostly visuals and carefully choreographed kata lend a flair to a promotional video that presents itself as a tournament style battle between Babymetal and their foes. This is Babymetal’s return. Their previous single release “Gimme Chocolate!” catapulted the group to worldwide success; will “Karate” build on their empire?
Before we start, you should know that this is actually Juice=Juice performing as their alter egos “NEXT YOU” from the drama “Budokan”. As such, surely some connection between the visuals of “Next is You” and the drama exists in the digital signature waiting to be unearthed. I would be bad person if I didn’t give an excavation my best efforts.
Tsunku masterminds the entire NEXT YOU project, and the music isn’t an exception. The electric piano lead-in builds initial intrigue visualized with floral arrangements composited over images of the NEXT YOU members. A quickly paced arrangement pops in and sings with synthy brass melodies that lead into on-beat accents. Instrumentally tight, handclaps and jangling guitars provide texture to a the short repeating melodic lines. The sound gives an air of determination and concentration.
In the “better late than never” category, we’re going look at Kobushi Factory’s latest release “Sakura Night Fever / Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin / Osu! Kobushi Tamashii”. The sophomore single from the young group performed well selling 33,903 copies and hitting number one on the Oricon weekly charts. To date, the only other groups in the Hello! Project to place at the top spot are Morning Musume and Juice=Juice. Their achievement keeps the group in contention for best third fiddle in Hello! Project. Perhaps more diplomatically, I should say Kobushi Factory‘s second single raises the consistency and general level of Hello! Project. Looking at the H!P stable now we have Morning Musume clearly the flagship with sales over 100,000; C-ute consistently selling 60,000+ copies; Angerme at the 40,000 unit level; Juice=Juice surging to 40,000 units with a weekly number one; Country Girls hitting the 40,000 unit level; and Kobushi Factory at the 30,000+ level with a weekly number one. For H!P, if their lowest selling unit is still placing at the top of the charts, then things look pretty good.
Back to the single, Sakura Night Fever expands the sound of the Factory with an uplifting and energetic disco-inspired dance track. The chorus hooks listeners with the cheer “Fever! Fever!” As the group cheers, Kobushi Factory’s unified presence impresses me greatly. One gets the sense that the girls in the Factory enjoy each other’s company and work together well.
The final A-side of Morning Musume ’15’s 60th release takes on the form of “One and Only”. A first for the group, “One and Only” is the first song by the group that features all English lyrics. The song provides the opening theme for NHK World’s “J-MELO” music program, which coincidentally heavily features the girls of Morning Musume. If you look at the song in purely utilitarian mode, it makes sense that a show presented in English would have a title song in English. Of course, there are other forces at work here. As Morning Musume prepares itself for another concert in the English speaking world, sending out an upbeat and optimistic song like “One and Only” as its ambassador makes a great deal of sense.
If you read through lyrics enough you eventually start to realize that although the lyrics seem like love songs to a boy or a girl, they’re really written about something else. There’s a joke that all the love songs written in the 1980’s are really about cocaine, while the love songs of the 1990’s are all about heroin – think about that the next time you listen to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. So while “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi” seems like it’s written about a love interest boy or girl, Sayashi Riho and the members of Morning Musume ’15 could just as easily be singing a song of unrequited love to Morning Musume itself.
Morning Musume ’15 is set to release their triple A-side “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only” on December 29- practically the eve of the graduation for one of their most talented centers. Sayashi Riho graduates on December 31 during the “Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～” concert. Much could probably be said about Riho’s graduation, and I hope over the next three articles I cover most of what needs to be said about the girl. As fitting with a graduation, a touch of sadness hangs at the fringe of every emotion. And, even as this song represents the optimism of such a drastic life change, the uncertainty looms just beyond the horizon.
I think it’s fair to say that I’m intermittently a fan of Fairies. Their releases are always solid with relatively few dips in quality. Mr. Platonic, released on November 18, 2015, is one of the cases where the group that focuses on dance performance and likable dance tracks gets things right. The girls look great in the PV, the outfits they wear are interesting and flattering, and the song “Mr. Platonic” is a fun listen.
The song alternates between a funky beat in the verses to a solid drive during the choruses. Melodically, the song is instantly singable with an instantly recognizable chorus. Personally, I really enjoy the verse instrumentals. The kick and the bass play together rhythmically giving the song a tight and focused sound. A couple of guitars are heard in the back playing some tasty licks and accents a la Prince’s “Kiss“. Things don’t get too busy like many Japanese arrangements, and there’s just enough interesting textures and rhythms to spice things.
This is a second reminder: you can see Cheeky Parade live in the LA Area this weekend October 16-18. Details here, tickets here. This is the (not so) hidden agenda for all of these Cheeky Parade articles in the past few weeks. Real talk: we’re not going to get many idol events outside of Japan, let alone the Los Angeles area. $15 for an idol event is worth a look if you know nothing about Cheeky Parade or are even lukewarm on Cheeky Parade. I hope I see you there.
I think I should start out with a reminder: you can see Cheeky Parade live in the LA Area this weekend October 16-18. Details here, tickets here. Real talk: we’re not going to get many idol events outside of Japan, let alone the Los Angeles area. $15 for an idol event is worth a look if you know nothing about Cheeky Parade or are even lukewarm on Cheeky Parade. I hope I see you there.
Let’s take a good look at the second release from Cheeky Parade, “C.P.U!?”. Oldsters like me recognize CPU as “Central Processing Unit”, but in the case of the Cheeky, they mean “Cheeky Parade Understand!?”. The hyperactive song fills itself with guitars, big beats, and retro-gaming sounds. The girls chip in with vocals that flit from member to member in a way reminiscent of Momoiro Clover. In fact, the wackiness of the whole thing once gave the (incorrect) impression of Cheeky Parade as a bit of a MomoClo knock-off brand.
Are you ready, OK?
As the second part in my “catching up” series, we get Cheeky Parade’s debut from 2013, “Bunbun Nine9′”. As a major debut, the song did well on the weekly charts, placing fourth with roughly 22K sold. Distinctive for many reasons, the song remains a staple of the girls’ setlist. This marks the first song I heard from the group- right around the release date. I remember being struck the strangeness of the choreography and the young fresh look of the girls. So, of course, it took me 3 years to write about the song. My bad.
The song sets the tone for the group’s musical output early. In the first 30 seconds, “BUNBUN NINE9′” goes from a bratty cheer to a synth led melody accented with hyperactive drums and electric guitars. The only thing missing from the Cheeky Parade instrumental palette is the 8-bit sounds that persists in their later output. I don’t want to mislead; I know when I hear about guitars I immediately think about a rock arrangement. “BUNBUN NINE9′” is an upbeat idol dance track all the way through. The bass pounds a bit heavier in the song than you’ll find in future Cheeky Parade releases- which may irk new listeners to the group. The sound rings unique to my ears, and provides an off-beat backdrop for this offbeat group.