Tag Archives: YUI

Station To Station: Music Station For November 11, 2011 Featuring Arashi, Sexy Zone And YUI

Up there? That’s the new seasonal flavor of Pepsi here in Japan, the stomach-churning “Strawberry Milk” flavor. I’ve yet to summon the courage to try it, but the very presence of the word “milk” on the soda wrapper has me buggin’ out. Just a terrible combination.

Arashi “Meikyu Love Song”

AKB48 grab all the headlines thanks to international expansion and just plain weird shit, but despite the fact those 48 are having a massive year, I’d still wager Arashi beat them out by a bit for the title of Japan’s most popular group. I would have called it even or maybe given the edge to Akihabara’s “finest,” but after new single “Meikyu Love Song’s” sales I give them the edge. Thing just crushed everything else this week…including Perfume’s great “Spice” single. Speculating that Arashi and AKB48 have a lot in common which leads to chart success ranks up their with a college freshman learning what Fight Club is actually about on the “obvious epiphany” list (quick hit: ability for fans to connect with individual members, although Arashi are Backstreet Boys and AKB48 are Pokemon), it still seems worth pointing out how stupidly popular both groups have become.

“Meikyu Love Song” shoehorns in a bunch of different Johnny’s techniques into one strange single that actually has a few moments of OK-ness. The entire track tip-toes between basic pop jam and dummy ballad, the verses leaning towards the latter while the chorus jumps out as the most enjoyable element here, a fast-paced-little jog that seems livelier than other Johnny’s choruses in 2011. Elsewhere, a weird U2-aping guitar line darts through the beginning of the song, and the mandated sparkly sounds dust over this song, but overall “Meikyu Love Song” comes off as pretty harmless stuff serving as a chance for Arashi to act “cute” and set the hearts of young Japanese women a-flutter.

Shiina Ringo “Carnation”

Like the best J-Pop ballads before it, “Carnation” avoids falling into the schmaltzy lameness so often befalling this sort of song by giving itself over 100 hundred percent to being a ballad. Shiina Ringo plays the role of Disney princess, surrounded by theater-ready harp, violins, piano and a little guitar serving as the gorgeously animated backdrop. She includes a lovely vocal peak, albeit one that comes a tad too early and makes the rest of the song seem a bit anti-climatic, but one worth the lacewinged build. The other secret to “Carnation’s” success? Be thrifty with time, avoiding the gluttony so many J-Pop artists give into on ballads, and instead use just over three minutes to share something oh-so pretty. The best Disney tunes didn’t need five minutes to shine, and neither does a really good J-Pop slow number.

Sexy Zone “Sexy Zone”

Since Johnny’s work like rabbits in getting videos featuring their groups yanked from YouTube, this 13-second preview is all we really have to judge the company’s newest abomination Sexy Zone. Now I’m a fair man, so I’m not going to pass judgement on “Sexy Zone” the song (uhhhh ignore the abomination bit), but let me highlight two fun facts I found via Wikipedia:

– “Johnny & Associates’s CEO Johnny Kitagawa said, ‘The group name came from Michael Jackson’s sexiness.'”

– “He chose the members considering about ‘Sexiness of men’.” Let’s take this moment to point out the oldest member of this group is 17, and the youngest appears to be 11.

Kana Nishino “たとえ どんなに…”


Refer, first, to the Riina Shingo song once more. Now, listen to this and understand this is what I mean when I point to J-Pop ballads being drawn out for no reason. Kana Nishino, as she often does, tries to cloak the true nature of this song with beats a-plenty, and at times they push the song towards some enjoyable place. Yet, whereas in the past she could turn a sappy ballad into a good J-R&B song with some well-placed drum machine snaps, here it’s an obvious mask, meant to trick us into thinking we aren’t listening to a sub-standard J-Ballad when…well, we are. And at nearly six minutes, this doesn’t even duck out early.


The film Paradise Kiss comes out on DVD…uhhhh either soon, or like last week…so YUI’s song for the film is getting dusted off and making the rounds one more time to boost sales. Which is neat, because first time we heard “HELLO” it was in hyper-limited portions. Now we get the full version and it sounds pretty nice…in America, this would be playing in Starbucks, or at least a couple Coffee Beans. The song boasts a nice gallop and a general lightness that’s tough to hate, but also comes off like eating ice cubes for dinner…not filling.

Winner Of The Week – Shiina Ringo.

Station To Station: Music Station For October 14, 2011 Featuring KARA, Kaela Kimura And YUI

Music Station has been away for a really long time now, but finally returns this week with a pretty loaded show. I feel like the dude jacked up by the antelope in the above video…except I probably don’t have long-term kidney problems now. Onward!

KARA “Winter Magic”

I loathe the winter with every non-chilled over fiber in my body, the three-plus months of near-freezing weather reports leaving me a deeply depressed shell of a human dreaming of humidity and swamp butt. Anything to get away from the cold. Thus, I sorta loathe “winter” songs that celebrate the season. Unless they focus on a San Diego winter, I can’t get behind any of the cheer for a season where staying indoors and cranking the heat is the norm. So, sorry KARA, strike one against “Winter Magic” and the “golly gee, we can ride bikes in the snow!” stupidity of the video. Attention ladies, you can’t pull off shorts like that in honest-to-goodness cold unless you enjoy the hospital.

Seasonal grievances out of the way…JUST LET ME ENJOY THE FALL PLEASE…this single is mostly a disappointment because it finds KARA giving into market forces and making a very J-Pop single when they are capable of so much more. I’ve already moaned about it once, but quickly – save for that burbling bass, this is only a few degrees above an AKB48 ballad. From a capitalistic standpoint, I don’t blame them – no better way to win over those folks protesting Korean music than to try to blend in. Yet as music I want to enjoy, this falls flat like oh so many gingerbread men. Worse yet, KARA have a legitimate knockout of a song with “Step” hanging out in South Korea right now. One positive is that Japanese people want “Step” to – it checked in at number five on the Oricon album chart this week, despite not being officially released here. Hope remains, not snuffed out by the miserable winter just yet.

Kanjani8, A Very Special Medley

Kaela Kimura “Chocolate”

Watch here (in big size!)

Talked about the above video a while ago, speculating whether the sweet version enclosed in that video player would be the same as on the album. Well, I’ve got a hold of Kimura’s new album 8Eight8 and now know…it certainly isn’t. Whereas the video seemingly records Kimura singing above a faint version of the instrumentation, the album version (closing the album, noice) equalizes things, the light guitar and gentle synths matching up with her vocals.

Thing is, it sounds plenty good on the album, especially as the finale. Appropriately, “Chocolate” stands as one of Kimura’s sweeter slow songs, a delicate breeze of a song featuring some of her best pure singing and lovely little synth. Not show stopping, but a pleasant number that is surprisingly endearing. Might be even better live…though Music Station rarely is like that!

YUI “Green a.live”

Watch here

Sorta makes sense that “alive” isn’t spelled right, seeing as this song is anything but.

L’Arc~en~Ciel “XXX”

Watch here

Obviously it is a stupid complaint considering SMAP chug on at least seven years past their expiration date…but L’Arc~en~Ciel seem like the sort of group that shouldn’t be still going strong in 2011. I give them credit for making it to their 20th anniversary this year, when so many other mainstream J-Rock acts barely last five years, but at the same time this sort of hyper-dramatic rock seems like a relic. Again, to be nice, this sounds better than all but one other song on this list tonight…but this still just seems like it should be in an encyclopedia and not on TV. I’ve read L’Arc~en~Ciel have moved away from the Visual Kei look, but “XXX” still finds them looking rather silly (THAT HAIR) and sounding like newbie actors overselling every line. Seems like this should remain in the decade it was really big. Though, the 90’s revival is just around the corner…….

Winner Of The Week – “Chocolate”

Super Bonus K-Pop Song That Might Be A Hit In Japan

T-ara “Yayaya”

OK, first a few things off my chance…the girls in T-ara pretend to be Native Americans in the video for “Yayaya,” which is slated to be their next single in Japan. Though I don’t believe it, I’ve been told I’m upwards of a quarter Native American, and as a result part of me is pretty grossed out about the tee-pees, headdresses and implied sacrifices (not even gonna touch the woo-woo noises). Like the worst Thanksgiving pageant you could imagine.

Yet the part of me not stuck up on possibly unrelated racial issues just sits kinda impressed by the song itself. It doesn’t touch the best K-to-J crossovers (“Gee,” “I’m The Best,” “Mister”), but still towers over most original J-Pop songs coming out today, its clever use of Auto-tune (as a trailing-off device for the vocals) adding to the noisy mess of a pop song. T-ara have a surprising amount of momentum behind them…their “Bo Peep Bo Peep” debuted at the top of the Oricon Charts, a first for a foreign woman’s act, prompting all sorts of outrage from delusional J-Pop fans. “Yayaya,” for all its racial insensitivity, conceals a loud-but-catchy tune that should get decent love in this country. Just ditch the feathers for the video, ladies.

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…”


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 January 21, 2011 Featuring YUI, Aqua Timez And Yamashita Tomohisa

New year means a whole slew of new opportunities to tune into Music Station and see what’s up in Japanese mainstream pop. This is the first new installment of the show in 2011 and promises…a very unexciting lineup. Still we soldier on to dull out hate and maybe some praise. Onto the jams.

Aqua Timez “真夜中のオーケストラ”

Much like Punxsutawney Phil, who wanders out of his groundhog hole once a year to remind the world they still have several weeks of biting cold to endure, Aqua Timez pop up on Music Station every 12 months to shill a new single. It’s uncanny – we are only 24 hours off from having the group actually having a year long break from appearances on the show. And Aqua Timez once again have seen their shadow….errr produced a string-laden bit of melodrama trying to avoid being called a ballad by having LOUD GUITAR NOISES when, well if it smells like sap it probably is. It’s neither a convincing block of cheese or rock song despite having a very look-at-me guitar solo jammed into the middle. So…sounds exactly like the song they played 365 days ago, complete with a similar My Little Pony positive video to go with it. Good news is the world won’t have to see Aqua Timez until 2012. Then the world ends so it’s all good!

Shonan No Kaze “爆音男 ~BOMBERMAN~”

The (pretty rad, actually) video for Shonan No Kaze’s new single takes place in a world where music appears to be outlawed and the members of the group appear on “WANTED” posters. I’ll totally slack out and go with the easy joke of “if you aren’t rooting for the bad guys in this dystopia I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” Shonan make the same sort of J-Prap favored by the likes of Funky Monkey Babys, but whereas the latter group are appropriately fluffy, this crew gets a little more rough. “爆音男 ~BOMBERMAN~” hits a little bit harder, the beats coming a little faster and the singing a little more ragged. Yet at it’s core this is still J-Pop trying to do rap, complete with a loopy chorus and a fair smattering of digital vocal manipulation. “BOMBERMAN” at least boasts a pulse and that’s sometimes a rare find in this sort of music…but it’s still a far cry from even the lamest of lame U.S. pop-rap. Cool video though.

Sukima Switch “さいごのひ”

It’s exciting to read a little bit about a group you haven’t listened to before and stumble across a phrase like “jazz fusion.” It’s not exciting in a “bottomless chips” way, but within the bowels of Music Station those two words welcome a nice metaphorical breeze into the joint. Alas, Sukima Switch’s latest sounds only like a goopy J-Ballad…the sort of fare you can’t escape when following the music on this show. There is nothing jazz-like about this track…there isn’t particularly anything interesting about “さいごのひ” either. You’ve heard one ballad in Japan, you’ve heard 90 percent of them. Maybe research wasn’t such a good idea.

Yamashita Tomohisa “はだかんぼ”

EDIT: As predicted, the original video I wrote about was removed. Here’s the video for the song above. I’m not creepy for talking about the guy’s butt because it was there at first I swear.)

Ahahahahaha the video above. I doubt it’ll be up long but enjoy it well you can. I’m scratching my head here.

Aside from the Buzzer Beat dude’s ass, this single’s not half bad. The porn-movie funk of the intro probably could have been cut, and the whole of “はだかんぼ” leaves a lingering taste of frat-boy brass that makes me feel dirty. Yet for artificial funk it’s a pretty good imitation, especially when you consider this is a Johnny’s release, where this sound feels like Dylan going electric. The horn arrangements work, managing to sound off-the-cuff when they are actually perfectly laid out. And as easy as it is to knock Yamashita and his day-job NEWS, he manages to swing with the music just right. He might look goofy in a zoot suit but god damn if he doesn’t make it work.

YUI “It’s My Life”


Credit to YUI for opening up her latest single with the best bit – “It’s My Life” doesn’t even wait a second to run awkwardly into the chorus, a manic invocation of the title phrase which hints at further urgency to come. Alas, she quickly transitions into a dumbly sunny sway begging to soundtrack a SeaWorld commercial. “It’s My Life” suffers big time from terrible pacing – it opens with it’s strongest part before diving into its weakest, and I’ve lost interest by the point she starts messing with the structure and sliding into more restrained passages. The whole song sounds like an incredibly skippy bit of pop that isn’t particularly bad, but also flirts with more interesting ideas without worrying at all about commitment. Middle-of-the-road J-Pop, but at least it wears a big smile.

Yuzu “Hey和”

It’s really easy to dismiss new music as being derivative…sound too much like something else, and being tossed aside by nerds with blogs becomes a lot more likely. This proves especially true in Japan where…maybe I’m just cynical?…the majority of mainstream music barely tries to differentiate itself from whatever came before, hoping the attractiveness of whoever happens to be singing moves more units than the actual originality of the track. It’s nice then to have a song like Yuzu’s newest come around and remind us that, sometimes, being unoriginal but tolerable always beats out being newly annoying. “Hey和” sounds like just another fluffy acoustic pop jaunt…picture Funky Monkey Babys sans rapping…except for the lurking presence of a church choir. It’s subdued until the chorus when OH SHIT there it is in all it’s doofy splendor. Without the choir it’s harmless, but once those completely earnest bellows appear this becomes insufferable. Maybe Johnny’s has the right idea after all.

Winner Of The Week – Against all odds, Yamashita Tomohisa. Probably doomed to be forgotten about by this time next month, but a solid start to the pop year for Johnny’s And Associates. Now can we get a Buzzer Beat sequel? Special shout-out to the Shonan No Kaze video, which looks really nifty.

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

Photo by me at a Circle K.


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!


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?

Station To Station: Music Station For June 4, 2010 Featuring Abe Mao, Hey! Say! JUMP And YUI

Abe Mao “Lonely”

Let’s first talk about the video for Abe Mao’s “Lonely,” because it’ll end up serving as a solid writing device in the next paragraph. The clip works as a sorta meta-video wherein the (fake) making of one’s music video becomes the music video itself. It’s a theme plenty of band have played with, so it’s not getting any points for originality. Still, the “Lonely” video succeeds at being pretty cute – it’s one of the better clips I’ve seen all year at least. One of the reasons it works is because Mao always stays in the center of attention…regardless of what zaniness goes on behind her, she dominates the foreground.

Now here comes the aforementioned writing device. The video goes perfectly with the song because, though all sorts of stuff is going on in the back, the only element I really hear in “Lonely” is Mao’s voice. It’s high-pitched, squeaky singing making her stand out amongst other J-Poppers, for better and worse. On the verses, she just sounds captivating, a kinda strange-for-pop voice managing to beef up an otherwise bland J-Pop template. Hit the chorus though and Mao shines…the natural chipmunk-ness cracks a little as she pushes her words as high as they can go. She sounds desperate, and I can’t think of a better response to being “Lonely” than that. I understand next-to-nothing lyrically, but that voice tells me everything I need to know.

シド “レイン”

Go to 1:20 to get the actual song.

Pretty much the J-Rock equivalent of a J-Pop ballad. They even work in some violins! It’s every bit as over-the-top as the songs Japanese divas belt out on this show every week, but manages to do so without 75 percent of the bells and whistles usually bedazzled onto those karaoke-ready affairs. So, that’s something. The most praise I can give this song is it probably sounds nice playing over an anime which…hey, that’s actually why this song exists, to serve as music for Full Metal Alchemist. I guess they did a good job afterall!

つるの剛士 “Love Letter”

The weird trend for this week seems to be an especially harsh crackdown by the J-Pop labels of new singles sneaking onto YouTube/the Internet. As evidenced by the above live-only clip and “Love Letter” being only available as a 37-second long ad, they want you to buy this stuff and not just mooch off the Web. At least for a week. Japanese music labels…the big ones at least…approach the Internet very differently than their American counterparts. In the States, online promotion has become THE dominant form of hyping up an album. Viral-ready videos get released, fans can interact with the artists themselves and all sorts of crazy Web 2.0 stuff gets made to grab the customer’s attention. People still buy singles in Japan though, and the labels approach the Internet like total tightwads. Videos get taken down super fast, and promotion rarely goes beyond an artist’s web page getting a facelift. I see more advertisements for new singles on TV than online. One of the many differences between the music industry in the two countries.

I bring all this up because, based on the short clip linked above, this song is nothing but a syrupy ballad by a guy who can’t make it terribly interesting.

秦 基博 “アイ(弾き語りVersion)”

I was already to unleash the hate-cannons on this yawn-inducing acoustic song. I even got a little excited, because sometimes digging into a song as a reviewer can be really fun. Unfortunately, the “version” tacked on at the end here clued me in to the fact there must be an original version floating around. Sure enough, here it is. The original version starts off just like the above version, except studio crisp. Midway through…enter a lazy drumbeat and later some organ sounds. It’s way overproduced, sucking away any feeling the song could have by dropping it in a setting as sterile as a doctor’s needle. I now kinda appreciate…not like, big difference…the take featured here because though it’s kind of boring, it at least seems to be trying to be a bit more emotional. Hell, I even kind of like the busking-like vibe. Still kinda sad I couldn’t lay into it though.

Hey! Say! JUMP “スペシャルメドレー”

I don’t know how much the suits at Johnny’s paid to Music Station to feature their various boy-band thoroughbreds performing medleys on a weekly basis, but I’d like to organize a funds drive to try and counter that shady offer so I don’t have to deal with writing excuses every seven days. I don’t know what songs Hey! Say! JUMP will perform and I kinda don’t care.

YUI “To Mother”

“To Mother” actually sorta hits on all the same points I made for “Lonely.” YUI boasts a very nice voice, albeit one much more friendly (read: less interesting) than Abe Mao’s. It’s all I really pay attention to on this song, though to her credit “To Mother” never gets as sappy as you’d expect a song with a title like “To Mother” to become. A fine song…even if it seems like a Mother’s Day sorta thing. I hope YUI sent a card at least explaining herself.

Winner Of The Week – Abe Mao and her crazy good voice.