Tag Archives: hey! say! jump!

Station To Station: Music Station For June 1 Featuring Arashi, Nishino Kana And Sekai No Owari

Hideki Matsui…still mashing ‘taters over in America. Onward to J-Pop!

Arashi “Your Eyes”

“Your Eyes” apparently touches on the theme of “light and dark” – I’m quoting Tokyohive on this one – yet all I can pick up on is grey. Not “grey” in some ambiguous, The Wire way in which casting something as purely “good” or “bad” ends up being a fool’s errand due to complex development. From Arashi? God no. I mean grey as in the almost-center color hexagons of Microsoft Powerpoint. Grey as in a cloudy day with no chance of even sprinkles. Grey like this Google Image search I just did.

What I’m trying to say here is Arashi’s latest is really boring, and the fact they even bother to clip a vague theme like “light and dark”…what, they graduate from “happy and sad” all of sudden?…seems like such a waste to whatever poor soul has to put together those press releases.

Sekai No Owari “Nemurihimi”

WATCH HERE

To me, this will always be the band featuring a member always wearing a clown mask because I’ve seen this band’s photo every time I wander into a Tower Records yet have never taken the two minutes necessary to listen to their music to render an opinion beyond “huh, that mask is kinda creepy.” Yeah, lazy on my part, but it’s not like Sekai No Owari didn’t bring it on themselves by having a dude dressed as a clown – it’s a transparent grab at creating SOMETHING people can identify them with, like AKB48’s school-girl garb or that guy from EXILE’s sunglasses. So…clown guy.

Turns out that wasn’t a bad idea, because if this song represents anything, Sekai No Owari are a ball-less bunch. This single – translates to “Sleeping Beauty” which just lobs up the potential for “tired” jokes – attempts to showcase the group’s songwriting smarts with various passages. Problem is, the song never actually transitions into anything – the music speeds up or stops for a second, but it then retreats back to the main rhythm, too cowardly to try anything within a safe radius of what the label probably told them what to do. Clown guy seemingly handles the drum beats if the video can be trusted…which, note, features the most interesting angle here, a kinda-sorta gender inverse of Sleeping Beauty, though even that was probably done in the 60’s or something…and I take it the lack of real drums is supposed to make Sekai No Owari more “electronic,” more “experimental.” Don’t fall for it – this is Sakanaction stripped of everything great and given a botched vasectomy.

Nishino Kana “Watashitachi”

WATCH HERE

Nishino Kana tends to always avoid the puddles messing up other J-Pop artists. While so many others embrace gooey-crud ballads, Kana takes those mopers and speeds them up into catchy R&B, leaving the drama intact but allowing the music to not be a complete drag. Alas, “Watashitachi” is a misstep, trudging number complete with too-long video and unnecessary goop. Don’t let them talk you into this next time, alright Nishino?

Hey! Say! Jump! Special Medley

No thank you. Listen to Miii’s Bassrabbit EP instead.

Yusuke “ヨッシャ来い”

On the one hand, this sounds nifty because of how Yusuke incorporates traditional Japanese sounds and touches into this single – the shouting in particular grabs ears. On the flip side, though, it only uses them as badges to spice up an otherwise bland bit of pop. But then again…when he busts out the Auto-tune AGAINST all the traditional noises, this song turns into a strange “old vs. new” stare down, one much more interesting than anything else this week.

Yuzu “With You”

Dramatic violins will only take you so far, especially if you decide to sully them with some very-Yuzu-sounding music.

Winner Of The Week – Yusuke

Station To Station: Music Station For February 24 Featuring Bonnie Pink, Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi And Ikimono-Gakari

Reminder to check out One Week, One Band as my stint writing about Perfume draws to a close. Also, a reminder that I am focusing on that project this week and am just gonna blaze through this feature.

Ikimono-gakari “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”

WATCH HERE

Click the above link, and check out the bizarre voting method that site utilizes. Users rated “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” as 54 percent “happy,” 31 percent “happy” and 15 percent “relaxing.” They are sorta right…compared to the usual ballad dregs these three usually drag us down to on a monthly basis, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” really is upbeat, albeit in an annoying way come the chorus (“chu chu chu chu”). It sometimes pushes into goofier territory…the horns might be a little much…but at least this song tries to have fun (how come nobody voted for that?), which is something Ikimono-gakari tend to ignore. I am 78 percent surprised.

三代目 J Soul Brothers “Go My Way”

I really wanted to make a snarky one liner about this song (“Go My Way?” More like go away, am I right?) but J Soul Brothers’ latest isn’t bad enough to warrant such bad jokes. The opening makes it seem like “Go My Way” is going to be overblown, but when the song proper starts it’s actually a surprisingly catchy bit of twinkly pop. J Soul Brothers show their softer side, which is a lot better than the last time we saw them, beating the shit out of everything.

Dream Morning Musume, Special Medley

Smart marketing right here – the super-popular precursor to AKB48, Morning Musume dominated the late 90’s J-Pop scene. Yet all things have to come to an end, and Morning Musume brok…huh, no they didn’t? They are still going? Geez. Like AKB, Musume constantly changes members to the point they might as well be an NFL offensive line. Dream Morning Musume is, as the name hints at, a dream team of former Morning Musume members back together again to perform for whoever wants to see a mish-mash of Musume. It’s a clever idea to get some bucks out of an old idea…new thoughts, who needs them…but not clever enough to get me to listen to any of their music.

Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi “Hitotsu”

Seems like Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi has done a lot of charity work and appearances for the areas affected by last year’s natural disasters…so I am going to take a mulligan on judging the actual song. That said, the harmonica at the end is pretty rad.

Hey! Say! JUMP “Super Delicate”

So how about that “Super Delicate?” It is bad.

Know what isn’t bad? Super VHS’ “Remember The Night,” which also has a really good video that simply uses footage from a cartoon about a penguin. The way Super VHS sequences, though, matches quite well…and makes me think the poor penguin is having an existential crisis.

Bonnie Pink “冷たい雨”

WATCH HERE

This is the first time I’ve ever listened to Bonnie Pink. A few good ideas and generally catchy, but also not leaving much of an impression. Meh.

Winner Of The Week – J Soul Brothers, bet you didn’t see that coming.

Station To Station: Music Station For February 10, 2012 Featuring Miwa, YUKI And Porno Graffitti

Apologies, I couldn’t think of a relevant/wacky photo to put at the top of this week’s edition. Based on the lineup facing us this week, I was leaning towards some sort of terrified face or a video of Hank Hill screaming “bwahhhh” on loop. Instead, we go with the boring option.

Hey! Say! JUMP “Super Delicate”

Nearly every week, some Johnny’s group occupies at least one spot on this feature and I am forced to become a typing loop. Save for the rare instance where one of these outfits stumble across something OK to listen, I usually spend my time talking about how terrible KAT-TUN or Kanjani8 or Sexy Zone or whatever the hell else collection of relatively non-threatening males the Johnny’s folks assembled this year. I am more than a broken record at this point – I am record who has had multiple hammers smashed onto its surface before having a jug of gasoline poured on it and being lit ablaze.

Which is why, starting with this bad Hey! Say! JUMP song with a ridiculous name (“Super Delicate” sums up this group pretty well, though), I am instituting a new rule to Station To Station: unless the Johnny’s act in question this week has a good song or is doing something interesting or is newsworthy, I will simply write “this is bad” and then share one Japanese artists who isn’t bad because there are only so many ways to say “this company blows>.” Plus, maybe some stray SMAP fans will stumble across the post, click the music I provide and be won over!

So, how about that “Super Delicate?” This is bad.

Know what isn’t bad? The new Psychic Feelings EP from Occult You, which dropped for free two days ago and has been rocking my world ever since. Get it here.

Porno Graffitti “2012 Spark”

The obnoxious intro hints at a possible switch-up in sound for Porno Graffitti, but then that big chuggin’ guitar rips in and everything is back to normal with these guys. The verses have a nice sway to them, but the chorus is typical overblown J-Rock fare. Porno Graffitti aren’t even content with that decadence – they add a string section to the song later, and it’s so ridiculous it almost comes back around to being good. Almost.

Miwa “Kataomoi”

Miwa’s sudden rise to the top of the Oricon charts last year made for a great story when combined with her back story. Cliffnotes version – schoolgirl works part-time jobs to save up enough scratch to buy a guitar, even though her school doesn’t allow them. She does this anyway and at the age of 20 she releases a debut album that makes history by reaching the pinnacle of the charts, making Miwa the first Heisei-born singer to do that. In 2011, she was the underdog even jerks like me could root for because her first album had a handful of good songs.

Now in 2012 she’s not a Cinderella story, but rather firmly entrenched in the world of J-Pop, so now her story can’t score brownie points. New single “Kataomoi” translates to “Unrequited Love” and I am pretty sure it states in the Japanese constitution that J-Pop songs with melancholy titles have to be ballads full of Disney-apeing sparkle sounds. Miwa actually starts OK, the first verse being a relatively sparse (well, until the violin creeps in) build that leads to a nice pre-chorus vocal flex. Then come the sparkles, which signal this is about to enter bad territory. And it does, but Miwa pulls a nifty trick near the end of the chorus, suddenly raising her voice up for a couple lines in a way that I didn’t see coming and was surprised how much I liked. From there, it’s pretty standard balladry…and like most mainstream ballads in Japan, one that goes on too long…but Miwa does just enough to avoid being a bore. She’s not quite as plucky now, but I am still rooting for her.

YUKI “Joy”

YUKI put out a best of album recently, which explains why she’s appearing on Music Station for the second-straight week to perform an old song. “Joy” takes us back to the year 2005, though it sounds a lot like 2007 single “Wonder Line” which popped up last week. Not a bad thing – both songs are skippy numbers that aren’t terribly complex but catchy without ever being grating.

L’Arc~en~Ciel Special Medley

Ehhhhh not this week.

Winner Of The Week – Miwa.

Station To Station: Music Station For September 16, 2011 Featuring AKB48, EXILE And Ayumi Hamasaki

Oh man, a jumbo-sized Music Station this week. Featuring all the heavy hitters. Buckle in folks.

AKB48 “Flying Get”

WATCH HERE

See the logo at the top of this page? That’s the new design/slogan for the “Cool Japan” campaign, the Japanese government’s attempt to spread soft power via culture. Basically, they want Japanese media, like anime and movies and whatever whatever, to spread everywhere. Remember “Cool Britannia?” Like that, but with more One Piece.

Musically, I’m not positive who the government will push…the logical answer would be the Cars-2-approved Perfume, the illogical answer being Arashi which is what I think they did…but it doesn’t matter, because AKB48 already owns that position, at least to some degree. This week, it was announced that Jakarta will be getting an AKB48 branch, called JKT48. This, coupled with official stores in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan PLUS other potential imperialistic expansion (Taiwan? Italy?), makes them the most visible Japanese music outfit going today…at least in Asia.

“Flying Get”…almost as good English as “Japan Next”…pretty much sums up AKB48’s sound because all their songs sound the same. It’s pop as an afterthought, the image of the group coming first and whatever grating Chuck-E-Cheese leftovers they can cobble together second. Yet this sells, and may very well be Japan’s most known musical export around the continent. Hold me.

The saving grace, though, is this stuff doesn’t have a chance in the Western world. Save for the persistent rumors of an AKB48-like outfit in Italy, this sort of stuff always ends up the topic of “weird Japan” columns and Gizmodo posts about CGI members. Whereas K-Pop embraced a Western-leaning sound that could potentially grab ears on that side of the world, AKB48 stick to this very lame style that won’t make an impact in places where they think a Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament is stupid as hell. Los Angeles won’t be getting an AKB theater anytime soon, and thank goodness for that.

EXILE “Rising Sun”

“Rising Sun” will work as EXILE’s “charity single,” meaning all profits made will go to help out those affected by the Tohoku disaster. In theory, I should stop right their and give all of the group a nice pat on the back for doing a nice thing. You go, EXILE!

Of course, some charity should be scrutinized. James Hadfield of Time Out Tokyo pointed out how SMAP’s SMAP AID CD only netted relief efforts five percent of an individual album sale. So yeah, this could be a little less wonderful than we think.

But still, as Hadfield notes, the sympathetic view of this sort of move is that money is going somewhere helpful, even if it’s less than you’d think so EXILE probably still earn points. More points than this typical lukewarm R&B would. Ooops! Just go donate money to a real charity so EXILE don’t get any boosts, OK?

Koda Kumi “愛を止めないで”

We yuck-up on Koda Kumi a lot here…”damn girl, you looks like horny!”…but truth be told I’d have sexually idiotic Kumi ballerinaing around in an idiot daze than serious sappy ballad-spewing Kumi any day of the week. Usually she says something stupid. Here she just bores.

TVXQ “B.U.T (BE-AU-TY)”

Lot of great details in this song, let’s do it:

1. What sounds like a tea kettle going bonkers during the verses.

2. The chorus. Everything about it.

3. But especially the way they pronounce words like “me?????” They sound like how I’d expect Marmaduke to talk…until Owen Wilson robbed me of that fantasy.

4. The underground Fight Club video huh?

5. How they add extra “T’s” to “B.U.T.” as if to spell a drawn-out “buttttttttt.”

Ayumi Hamasaki “Beloved”

The second I heard those opening piano key twinkles, I knew where we were heading. “Oh boy…a ballad,” I thought, reaching for the Ume Chu-hi serving as my writing partner for this week’s edition. Against my better judgement, I sat through the whole thing, waiting to see if anything noteworthy would happen. Nothing did. Five minutes and 20 seconds of my life…gone, just like that, cruelly snatched by Ayumi Hamasaki’s especially bland mix of “emotion” wrapped up in some violins. At least I had a traveling partner for this week’s long trip down the road of make-it-stop-now-please.

Masaharu Fukuyama “家族になろうよ fighting pose”

Can’t even work up any emotion about whatever this is. Sounds a little bit like Alphabeat’s “Fascination” minus all the fun.

Hey! Say! JUMP “Magic Power”

= (

So…these guys think they can be the Jackson Five now, do they? The 12-year-old set that buys this stuff will eat it up because they don’t know any better, but this might be the most grating thing they’ve released yet and that’s saying quite a bit. They’ve always forced these big, terrible, server-at-Applebees-quality smiles to their music before but this is like so forced happy you want to punch them in the face to make that grin go away.

Winner Of The Week – None of these jabronis, that’s for sure. Instead, let’s tackle one more song, one of much higher quality but absent from Music Station this week…

Berryz Kōbō “Aa, Yoru ga Akeru”

The fine folks at The Singles Jukebox reviewed this and gave it pretty good marks, and I agree. It’s hyperactive pop that flirts with what those great Korean groups do but importantly holds onto some of the cheese that sorta defines J-Pop (check those electro strings). Still, this song also does a whole bunch that no other Japanese pop acts would touch without a big, long stick…check the brief but boogie-tastic keyboard solo late in the song, and just the general speed of the whole thing. This is way better than anything above, and probably the best J-Pop I’ve heard since that one YUKI song.

One concern though…The Singles Jukebox crew, not well-versed in J-Pop, seem to come off as thinking all of Japan’s pop sounds like this. No gang…scroll up, that’s the stuff clogging the airwaves.

Station To Station: Music Station For June 24 Featuring KARA, L’Arc~en~Ciel And Atsuko Maeda

Before we jump into this week’s platter of pop, a few more thoughts on perfume444. Earlier this week, dude met Perfume and basically had all his dreams come true. I blathered on about how he stood out as a beacon of honesty in an online world of shitty shitty irony, but I did a thought exercise the other day and realized if he was, say, akb444 I almost certainly wouldn’t feel the same way. Rather, I’d probably be like “hey, look at the weirdo super fan!” I think I don’t do that with perfume444 probably because I really really like Perfume at an unhealthy level for a 23-year-old dude. Heck, the past two weeks of my life have been lame as concrete brownies and I’ve been listening to a lot of Perfume to cheer myself up. Basically, I could be perfume444. Still kinda touching though!

KARA “Go Go Summer!”

Already talked about this obvious attempt at SUMMER JAM 2011 last week, and seven days leaves me feeling the same as before – a few interesting ideas get touched upon, but this eventually turns into a surprisingly middle-of-the-road K-Pop joint (note the K, not J). As much as I don’t want to embrace this song, though, I hate to admit that as the weather has turned from rainy to full-on hot that chorus has sometimes gotten lodged in my head while taking a stroll around town. Curse you lovely weather!

The one new addition is a proper video, and this is where KARA really rises above Girls’ Generation in my book. KARA just has the better…albeit goofier at times…clips and “Go Go Summer!” sure has some silly bits. The premise is…KARA don’t want to sit around the house staring at fans all day, so they decide to go to the sea. Cue magical sea shell that grows really big and teleports them…and a really cute dog who should be featured a bit more…to a beach where the group can run around in cut-off jeans and play with bubble wands. They also sit in front of a pool shaped like the band’s name which doesn’t look very good for swimming! Just watch it, I got a kick out of it.

Nishino Kana “Alright”

Sorry, only a slight taste of this one. When somebody tells you “everything will be alright,” doesn’t that just make you feel even worse about everything? Like, I know you are trying to make me feel upbeat but with such a vague statement why even bother saying anything? It just isn’t all that sincere. Nishino Kana’s latest feels like the aural equivalent of that limp-wristed pick-me-up, trying to touch on past glory but just not having the same punch. Nishino has always been one of the sneakier sirens of modern-day J-Pop, managing to skirt the line between lifeless ballad and popping R&B excellently, but “Alright” is a bit of a stumble. It’s aiming to be a “don’t worry, be happy” kinda track, but feels lifeless for an artist usually good at pumping energy into her music. Next time take them to Jamba Juice or something.

Hey! Say! JUMP “OVER”

Arrrrrghhhhh wrote about this before and it still blows so much. When will these bastards hit puberty and get gangly and unpopular?

Atsuko Maeda “Flower”

So let’s not spend much time on back story…AKB48 member Atsuko Maeda won the annual election deciding who the most popular member of this should-be sonic terrorist organization the other week and oh my goodness I can’t type anymore. I mean, I’d be OK if the AKB48 elections were like, I don’t know, the Kid’s Choice Awards, a harmless diversion for 11-year-old humans who just want to see Jim Carey win for Best Fart. Yet this sham of democracy actually got real legitimate media attention in Japan and oh my goodness humanity why. Anyway, Maeda’s prize for winning this most likely staged election is the privilege of releasing an insipid single upon the world all her own.

“Flower” moves at a very un-AKB pace, and to be honest it sounds a lot better than the last proper AKB48 single…yet something something lesser of two evils something something. Still, it’s a languid almost-ballad, moving as slow as a Southern summer with absolutely no destination in mind. The video hints at this being a big ‘ol melancholic hug-about but it just sounds lazy. All “Flower” proves is that…

L’Arc~en~Ciel “GOOD LUCK MY WAY”

Whoa! Those strings opening up this song actually sound really cool. Like, I could just listen to them for ten minutes and probably be really happy. Unfortunately, they only last so long before a so-so chugging rock song interrupts the prettiness. Those lovely strings try to push through later, but get mostly drowned out by howling. Wasted opportunity, I do say.

Winner Of The Week – Man, I don’t even like it that much but has to be KARA, the competition is too weak.

Station To Station: Music Station For June 3 Featuring YUI, JUJU And Girls’ Generation

Before we dive into the music, quick AKB48 update. They still seem to be shattering records, now courtesy of that boring single they put out. Keep in mind, though, that one guy bought 5500 copies of it – if other AKB fanatics are even buying just a thousand copies, that’s still probably skewing it a bit.

Girls’ Generation “The Great Escape”

Girls’ Generation’s musical campaign into Japan reached a huge moment this week – on Wednesday, the South Korean group released their first full-length Japanese album into stores. The self-titled debut features a mix of older SNSD tracks done in Japanese (the Pussy Cat Dolls aping “Genie” and “Run Devil Run,” the still great “Gee”) and, more importantly, songs made specifically for Japan. It’s a big step forward for the group, going from repackaging Korean smash hits to actually creating songs meant to separate Yen from the consumer. The first single aimed specifically at this nation was the plodding “MR. TAXI,” a song worthy of praise for not sounding like run-of-the-mill J-Pop but worthy of scorn for being generally lame and using Auto-tune poorly.

“The Great Escape,” another Japan-original, succeeds where “MR. TAXI” flopped. Opening with the sharp-cries of what could be a dieing Nintendo, Girls’ Generation soon transitions into a bouncy melody that seemingly takes steps from Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall.” This isn’t the 70s, though, so this ends up being a much busier affair, chock-full of bleeting synths and wooshy noises. Yet buried underneath all of the clutter resides a beating pop heart, one exposed fully during the chorus. Not nearly as shiny as “Visual Dreams” or as head-turning as “Gee,” but an irresistible bit of pop showmanship all the same.

To heap a lil’ more praise on “The Great Escape” – give credit to whoever decided to take a risk by making a Japan-only single sound nothing like Japanese pop music. Again, this has way more in common with American and European pop rather than any of the “safe” (read: boring) hunks of melodrama clogging up the Oricon charts.

JUJU “また明日…”

WATCH HERE

Recently someone asked me why I put myself through the pain of this feature on a weekly basis. Great question! I responded with some sorta Flinstone-esque “somebody has to do it,” but deep inside I believe it’s important to keep at least one ear pointed toward the J-Pop mainstream, as good stuff sometimes slips through and deserves praise. If you wanted to easily counter my claim and prove the futility of this project, you could easily forward me JUJU’s latest song as a reminder that “hey, all of this actually sounds the same, and it stinks!” This one’s a usual case of plodding balladry, joined by a cliche music video about aging. Did you know everyone gets older??!! Look, I want to see The Tree Of Life as badly as anyone else, but the way J-Pop videos approach the subject of inevitable death always seems so cheesy. Though to the clip’s credit, it held my attention far more than the song.

A month from now remind me of this and maybe I’ll reconsider what I do.

Hey! Say! JUMP “OVER”

OK, on second thought, ship me over this single because I’d rather have a thousand years of sappy ballads than more generic Johnny’s tracks like this. If you’ve heard one Hey! Say! JUMP single in the past, chances are good you’ve basically heard this one (recorded live, it sounds like from the cheers). One positive though – they are nice enough to announce “it’s over” when the song finishes, so you at least know when it’s safe to return to the room. How courteous!

(I swear this feature is worth it guys!)

Arisa Mizuki “あなたが笑えば”

Ya know, for all the negativity I pour out here at Station To Station, I must admit I honestly feel disappointed when I can’t find a song. So is the case with Arisa Mizuki’s latest, which doesn’t appear to be online except maybe for a brief clip at her official site. Though I don’t know which of the three clips it actually is. I honestly feel let down ya’ll.

YUI “HELLO ~Paradise Kiss~”

Sorry only a little bit, but more than the above.

Man I’m seeing ads for this darn movie everywhere. TV, at Lawson, in other posters slapped around the area. I’ve even had at least two people post this trailer to their Facebook accompanied by text like “WHAAAA I WANNA SEE THIS.” The accompanying song by YUI manages to sound approachable – the verses shuffle back and forth courtesy of a minimalist guitar line and some simple thumping, giving YUI plenty of room to do her light crooning. The chorus…as introduced by the middle part of the movie preview…lets loose a bit but it’s less of a sprint and more like a light jog. Tough to tell more from such a small sample, but what’s there rises a bit higher than typical movie soundtrack fodder.

Station To Station: Music Station For July 16 Featuring SMAP, Becky And YUI

Photo by me at a Circle K.

SMAP “We Are SMAP”

Long-time-coming theme song “We Are SMAP” might mark a turning point in J-Pop history. Since the early 1990s, the Johnny’s-concocted boy band has dominated the Japanese pop scene, hitting Oricon gold with many singles and albums during that stretch. They’ve hosted multiple TV shows…including one with a cooking segment…and have become the go-to Japanese boy band of reference when foreign critics discuss J-Pop. They became a rare specimen – a Japanese group able to prominently hang around for a long time in an environment ready to chew up new stars and spit them out.

Those days might be over, though. MTV reports SMAPS’ upcoming “We Are SMAP” tour may not sell-out. The article goes on to note Arashi have become the go-to J-Pop boy band for TV specials and commercials, signaling a big shift on the Japanese boy band pyramid. All empires must fall, and it appears SMAP’s might be starting to decline.

Taking a listen to “We Are SMAP”…removed from YouTube since I first listened to it, will update when online again…the question becomes “what took so long?’ That sounds really harsh but “We Are SMAP” sounds trapped in another time. It’s slow and overwrought and schmaltzy. Whether you like their music or not, younger acts like Arashi and Hey! Say! JUMP (future kings of J-Pop) make songs that are much more lively and exciting. Much more “now,” if you will. SMAP dominated for a long time, but “We Are SMAP” makes one wonder if they can possibly remain as big for a third decade. Time to let a new bunch on top.

Though SMAP can at least still lay claim to having their own sports drink, pictured at the top of the page. It tastes kinda good too!

BREAKERZ “激情”

With that said, I really hope it’s not BREAKERZ. Somehow managing to do worse with nearly every rock cliche than even VAMPS, BREAKERZ latest single features: robotic lead singing, completely out-of-place electronic noises, way too dramatic everything and a guitar solo so stupid even a Guitar Hero character would slap them upside the head for forcing it into this song. It would be misguided to say BREAKERZ are everything wrong with J-Rock-Pop today because other such bands simply sound boring at worst…BREAKERZ slice them self out of that scene but instead of moving in an interesting direction choose to dramatically slide into an 80s style of rock that never actually existed. It’s actually sort of an accomplishment.

Hey! Say! JUMP “スペシャルメドレ”

A medley, so don’t expect any words spent on music. Instead, lets revisit a claim I made in the SMAP entry. Arashi have become so big in part because they managed to nab two prime age demographics (a friend introduced this idea to me, I have no real facts here SHOCK) – when they debuted, people my age aka young-to-mid 20s were in junior high school. They became the first wave of Arashi fans. During the “Arashi renaissance” if you will, these people grew up and still supported the group while Arashi also managed to remain marketable for current-day junior high (and even younger!) students. Now they appear ready to knock SMAP out of the top boy band spot.

Hey! Say! JUMP might be in an even better position. They debuted in the late Aughts and, based on my observations, have become popular with junior high school kids, especially younger ones. Typical of a new Johnny’s outfit. Now, here’s the key…they are already dipping into the next wave of fans lives. The group contribute a lot of songs to cartoons aimed at kids in the single digits and even appear on some children’s programming. They are making that connection early on in an attempt to develop boy band loyalty (something Japanese kids don’t fuck around with). This technique, coupled with the group’s stupid young ages, bode well for their future. The only potential hitch could be the number of people in the group…they are actually spilt up into two groups…but then again that hasn’t hurt EXILE or AKB48.

Their music still isn’t very good though.

Becky♪♯ “エメラルド”

OK, this article has officially become a “J-Pop idols of the future NOW!” feature. Former TV idol turned singer Becky should pay her publicist/manager of brand a nice bonus because she’s everywhere. Her picture blankets the convenience store, TV ads, train station posters, you name it. She’s on the rise as well and she sorta deserves it because her musical output has gotten a lot better. Last year’s “Kokoro Komente” was completely forgettable, but this past February’s “Suki Dakara” saw her making great pop strides. Now comes this song (translated as “Emerald”) and Becky seems to be improving. Most of the kudos go to the production, especially that solid beat and the little electrical waves running over the song. Becky herself sounds fine and, save for a goofy guitar solo, the song never embarrasses itself. Not bad Becky, not bad.

YUI “Please Stay With Me”

YUI seems to be a little desperate with a title like that. The songs totally a ballad, but one of the better ones I’ve heard in a while thanks mostly to those sparse verses. Still, I can’t drone on about the future of J-Pop with “Please Stay With Me” so I’ll keep it short.

Winner Of The Week – Becky for sure. Not the strongest field but easily the most enjoyable track of the lot.

BONUS: Since there actually not that much music in this post, here is a bonus J-Pop song I’ve been digging lately. Toshinobu Kubota’s “LOVE RAIN” simply sounds really catchy and tough to really elaborate on…I like the goofy keyboard sounds maybe?