J-pop

BUMP.Y: SAVAGE HEAVEN

By Paris365 on September 18, 2013

BUMP.Y: SAVAGE HEAVEN

bump.y's "Savage Heaven" is one of the darkest J-pop songs I've ever heard. Quite captivating though.

As you may recall, bump.y -- they don't capitalize it -- is a J-pop group created by Sony and the Sweet Power agency, though they parted ways with Sony last year and are now on the Pony Canyon record label. Their name is an acronym for words that are used to describe each of the five girls. The acronym is Brillant (Takatsuki), Ultra (Miyatake Matsuri), Miracle (Matsuyama), Power (Sakuraba) and Youthful (Miyatake Mio).

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GIRLS' GENERATION (SNSD): GALAXY SUPERNOVA

By Paris365 on September 17, 2013

GIRLS' GENERATION (SNSD): GALAXY SUPERNOVA

"Galaxy Supernova," Girls' Generation's eighth Japanese-language single is a highly addictive number that ranks right up there with their best singles in any language.

K-Pop's most successful girl group ever -- I think it's safe to declare them that at this point -- is back, albeit with their second *Japanese* single of 2013 (and eighth Japanese single overall). And, no, it's not a Japanese version of one of their Korean songs. It's an original song in Japanese, the girls being so popular in Japan that they now merit that.

MADEMOISELLE YULIA: HARAJUKU WANDER

By Paris365 on September 16, 2013

MADEMOISELLE YULIA: HARAJUKU WANDER

Mademoiselle Yulia delivers another super sweet, extra shiny electro-pop treat.

Japanese artist Mademoiselle Yulia's debut album, MADEMOWORLD, was one of the first things I ever reviewed for Otaku. I have memory issues and can rarely remember what I reviewed six months ago, never mind a year and a half ago, but I remember this one because it was such a fabulous album. I'm a big fan of electro-pop and every song on MADEMOWORLD was sweet ol' slice of electro-pop pie.

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MICHI: INdependeNt GiRL?/Saturday Night - EP

By Paris365 on September 10, 2013

MICHI: INdependeNt GiRL?/Saturday Night - EP

MiChi's new double A-side single pays homage to Aretha Franklin and Daft Punk, the first song interpolating big parts of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" while the second simply borrows the vibe of Daft Punk's latest album without actually sampling it. Both are great tunes. The Daft Punk-inspired tune is one of MiChi's best songs ever, in fact.

MiChi is known for doing two particular things: slightly off-kilter, original J-pop songs and very off-kilter covers where she completely reinvents songs, like when she took Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and turned it into a gigantic pop song. "INdependeNt GiRL?" is the first time that I can recall where MiChi has done both things at once. You see, "INdependeNt GiRL?" starts off sounding exactly like Aretha Franklin's signature song "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" while MiChi speaks in English, criticizing a boy for acting strangely. But then it morphs into an original Japanese pop song.

AYAKA HIRAHARA: TSUBASA

By Paris365 on September 09, 2013

AYAKA HIRAHARA: TSUBASA

The translation of the title of Ayaka Hirahara's new single, "Tsubasa," is wing and it's certainly one of those ballads that truly soar with an entire orchestra backing her. The B-side, "Precious Love," is also a ballad, though more of an R&B ballad than a traditional ballad, but it's no less magnificent. These are two of the best ballads I've ever heard. In any language.

Ayaka Hirahara's new single, "Tsubasa" (translation: "Wing"), is a powerful ballad that begins with her simply singing along to dainty piano, but it isn't long before it adds robust drums and animated, sweeping strings. And these are certainly not synthesized strings -- she clearly has an entire orchestra backing her and the result is nothing short of amazing. I suppose it's only fitting that a song called "Wing" should have strings that truly soar, but, seriously, this one is guaranteed to elevate your spirits. The potent chorus alone is especially priceless and invigorating.

AKB48: KOISURU FORTUNE COOKIE (TYPE A)

By Paris365 on September 05, 2013

AKB48: KOISURU FORTUNE COOKIE (TYPE A)

Your fortune cookie says disco, baby. At least that's the word of the day when it comes to describing ABK48's bouncy new throwback gem.

As you've probably noticed, I don't review every single that AKB48 or its associated groups release. There are just too many groups and releases to keep up with. Not only do you have all of the different groups, there are different teams of girls within the major groups as well as teams of trainees. It's hard for me to really even know which is which. For example, this is a review of their new single "恋するフォーチュンクッキー," pronounced "Koisuru Fortune Cookie" (Google translation: "Fortune Cookies In Love"), but I don't know which team actually sings on it.

HKT48: MELON JUICE (TYPE A)

By Paris365 on September 02, 2013

HKT48: MELON JUICE (TYPE A)

If I had to compare the sound of HKT48's super addictive "Melon Juice" to that of another group it wouldn't be an AKB-related group but Passpo☆, this because it's basically a rock song.

I know, I know... Another day, another AKB48 off-shoot. But this single is truly fantastic.

A little backstory: HKT48 (read "H.K.T. Forty-eight") is a Japanese theatre/idol group created by AKB48 creator/producer Yasushi Akimoto. They are the fourth AKB48 sister group.

AZU: CIRCLES OF LIFE / SUMMER TIME!!!

By Paris365 on August 29, 2013

AZU: CIRCLES OF LIFE / SUMMER TIME!!!

Azu's new double-A side hits two home runs. First you have "Circles of Life," a touching ballad, and then you have "Summer Time!!!," an uber-upbeat summertime celebration song.

The first song on Azu's new double A-side single is "Circles of Life" and it's a very nice mid-tempo ballad with a surprisingly thunderous beat lying below its tender piano and somber strings. As for Azu's vocals, they're pretty-as-a-peach -- as usual -- and soar above it all elegantly. Given the magnitude of the beat, I'm surprised they didn't call this version of the song a remix and release a version without the beat.

UP UP GIRLS: SUMMER BEAM! / UP UP TYPHOON

By Paris365 on August 28, 2013

UP UP GIRLS: SUMMER BEAM! / UP UP TYPHOON

Yes, I know, another summer song -- but, hey, it's WICKED AWESOME and I have to get these things covered before summer is over. (Excuse my use of the word wicked. But I'm allowed -- I'm from Massachusetts!)

Up Up Girls is a Japanese girl idol group also known as Kakko Kari and Appu Appu. As if that's not confusing enough, they were initially called Up-Front Girls, but for reasons unknown to this writer they changed it to Up Up Girls at some point.

The girls started off as trainees in Hello! Project's Hello Pro Egg. After they graduated, Up Front Promotion assembled them as Up-Front Girls. But they are technically not considered part of the Hello! Project.

KARA: THANK YOU SUMMER LOVE

By Paris365 on August 27, 2013

KARA: THANK YOU SUMMER LOVE

KARA have officially thrown down and entered the competition to have *the* song of summer for 2013 with their red hot new Japanese single "Thank You Summer Love" ("サンキュー サマーラブ モノラル").

KARA have officially thrown down and entered the competition to have *the* song of summer for 2013 with their red hot new Japanese single "Thank You Summer Love" ("サンキュー サマーラブ モノラル"). It begins with the girls giggling, apparently about summer romance, then massive electro-pop-flavored beats drop, thumping away rapidly, with a healthy dose of sunshiny synth on top of them. And then there's a blazing metal-style guitar solo that reinforces the infectious melody. Oh, and did I mention that the girls sound fabulous, their super cute voices harmonizing brilliantly?

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HARUNA LUNA: アイヲウタエ

By Paris365 on August 26, 2013

HARUNA LUNA: アイヲウタエ

Haruna Luna's new single "Ai Wo Utae" ROCKS. It's her best song to date, in fact.

Well, it would seem that Haruna Runa has officially decided to go by the stage name Haruna Luna because it reads Haruna Luna right on the cover of her new single "アイヲウタエ." (Google couldn't translate that one -- it just spit it out phonetically: "Aiwoutae." But Yes Asia lists it as "Ai Wo Utae" and they're usually right.) Also, she has a Wiki page now and the Wiki listing is for Haruna Luna, meanwhile her official website's URL is www.harunaluna.jp. CD Japan still lists her as Haruna Runa but I'm sure that will change soon enough.

LECCA: SOLA

By Paris365 on August 23, 2013

LECCA: SOLA

lecca continues her turbo-charged dance marathon with her jumpy digital single "SOLA."

Japanese songstress lecca's new digital single, "SOLA," begins with some lovely, gently plucked acoustic guitar as well as another acoustic string instrument that I can't positively identify -- my best guess would be ukulele -- along with beautiful strings of the orchestral variety. It soon reveals even more layers as it adds all sorts of clattering live percussion and a turbo-charged dance beat along with shimmering synth, fuzzy synthesized bass and other sounds. And, of course, super passionate vocals by the always amazing lecca herself.

CREAM: WONDERLAND

By Paris365 on August 22, 2013

CREAM: WONDERLAND

Minami fans will especially love CREAM'S latest single, "Wonderland," during which the accomplished singer and songwriter takes centerstage, the duo's rapping other half -- Staxx T -- simply providing beats.

CREAM -- they always capitalize it -- is a duo consisting of singer/songwriter Minami and rapper/beat-maker Staxx T. Their first release came out in 2010 and they have been going strong ever since. They're widely known for their Youtube channel, “CREAM VISION," where they remix and cover songs from all over the globe in Japanese in addition to posting their original songs. (Look for CREAMVISIONJP on Youtube to find the channel.) They currently have over 3,500,000 channel views. Impressive!

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YUKI: STARMANN

By Paris365 on August 21, 2013

YUKI: STARMANN

Yuki's new single "STARMANN" is an epic ballad that finds her singing in a much more serious fashion than she normally does. She also proves to have far greater range than anyone would have guessed. Amazing!

Yuki's new single "STARMANN" is the theme song for the new TV drama Kono Hoshi no Koi! Starmann, which is described as a sci-fi flavored romantic comedy. But it's easily one of Yuki's most serious songs ever. Well, actually, the lyrics could be quite amusing -- my ignorant ass would never know -- but, musically and vocally, it's nothing to be laughed at. Quite the contrary.

ERI KITAMURA: BIRTH

By Paris365 on August 20, 2013

ERI KITAMURA: BIRTH

With blazing guitars, rapid-fire drums and aggressive bass, Eri Kitamura's new single "Birth" kicks some serious ass.

You may recall that Eri Kitamura is a highly sought after voice actress and one half of the popular duo Artery Vein. "Birth" is the follow up to her highly infectious single "Miracle Gliders" from January of this year and it's just as impressive.

PASSPO☆: MOSO NO HAWAII

By Paris365 on August 15, 2013

PASSPO☆: MOSO NO HAWAII

PASSPO☆ go Hawaiian style on their new single "Moso No Hawaii," but, fear not, they'll still rock your socks off.

Back in May, PASSPO☆ announced that they would be releasing three singles -- one each month -- over the next three months. Released late last month, "妄想のハワイ" -- or "Moso No Hawaii" -- is the third and final single in the series.

TANAKA ALICE: CHiCKS & NERDZ

By Paris365 on August 14, 2013

TANAKA ALICE: CHiCKS & NERDZ

Tanaka Alice's "CHiCKS & NERDZ" won't win any points for originality, but it's like a delightful cross between Far East Movement and The Cataracs and it's highly enjoyable at that.

I was tempted to put Alice as her first name and Tanaka as her last name, but everywhere I've been able to find mention of her has had her listed as Tanaka Alice so I ultimately decided to leave it alone. But, yes, it could just be that her last name is listed first because they often do that with Japanese artists. Anyway, let's just call her Tanaka Alice until we learn differently, OK peeps?

SWEETBOX: #Z21

By Paris365 on August 12, 2013

SWEETBOX: #Z21

This time around famous Japanese singer/songwriter Miho Fukuhara fronts the legendary group, which mixes classical and pop, along with male singer/songwriter/rapper LogiQ Pryce.

Sweetbox is a Japanese music group known for interpolating classical music into their eclectic songs, which have included pop, dance, electronica, hip-hop and R&B, the group often incorporating sounds of multiple genres into a single song, dismantling the paradigm of conventional music.

PASSPO☆: TRULY

By Paris365 on August 07, 2013

PASSPO☆: TRULY

PASSPO☆'s "Truly" finds them doing their own brand of J-rock again -- following the different styles of metal, rock and punk they did during their trip around the world project -- and the result is fantastic. And the B-side, "Thank You Birthday" is even more infectious. Definitely one of summer's must have singles if you like pop-minded J-rock.

Yes, another Passpo☆ single so soon after "STEP&GO." That's because the nine member girl group is releasing three singles in three months, May, June and July. "Truly" is June's single -- I'm just a little behind with reviewing it.

ASAMI IMAI: HOSHIKUZU NO RING

By Paris365 on August 06, 2013

ASAMI IMAI: HOSHIKUZU NO RING

Asami Imai's new single "HOSHIKUZU NO RING" is a genre-bending ballad with elements of enka, heavy metal and even horror movie score.

The latest single from Artery Vein's Asami Imai, "HOSHIKUZU NO RING" or "星屑のリング" (Google translation: "Ring of Stardust"), is a truly epic ballad. It begins with some chanting, piano, strings and faint drums, sounding a bit like an enka song, but soon adds electric guitar to the mix. Still, the guitar stops once Asami begins singing and then it once again sounds like an old-fashioned enka ballad, this until a rapid-fire beat kicks in and the song becomes quite intense, Asami's vocals during the turbo-charged chorus being highly emotive.

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