Here we are folks, we are at the sequel stage of 2021’s very best of Japanese pop in 2021. Surprisingly, my last post, “the best of jpop 2021 so far”, received an incredibly slow but warm welcome, to the point where I got inspired to share more songs that have been on my radar from 2021.
Let me tell you, it has been a journey! I ended up listening to way more Japanese pop music in 2021 than I ever did over the last five years, so this is saying a lot for the current state of the Japanese music scene.
So… without further ado, here are the best J-pop songs of 2021 up until the end of November!
Let’s travel back to 2006… I was literally graduating junior high school. Can you believe it’s been 15 years since then?! I’m old. Old enough to know when Koda Kumi hit the peak of her career, a time of fashion choices that were deemed cool and sexy (that I can safely say are now questionable, lol), and a time when J-pop music felt so fresh, so fun, so free (no, it really did!).
Having just finished promoting the hell out of her 12 singles of Christmas between the tail end of 2005 and beginning of 2006 and managing to set some records for that project’s best album, all eyes were on Princess Kumi from the Kingdom of the Clouds (heeeeello Candy feat. Mr.Blistah). It wouldn’t be very long for Kuu to whip up a new release following all the hype, and this time, she decided to go big… 4 A-sides. You heard correctly! Not like it hadn’t been done before, but Kuu was gifting us, feeding the hungry and the gays. The release was in the form of a quadruple A-side single, all fitting the theme of summer, which would eventually become a staple way for her to release anything summer (and thank the goddesses for that, because a Kumi summer is HAWT).
That said, this was the first of many, but was “4 hot wave” worth the hype? Was it indeed as hot as “hot waves” can get? Or was this just a lukewarm wave? I mean, you gotta love Engrish, but I don’t know for sure until we get to the review, so read on!
K, U, M, I in position… it’s showtime, girls!
For a big chunk of indeterminate time, I’ll be reviewing some old Koda Kumi stuff, as if I haven’t already reviewed a huge chunk of her stuff! Joking aside, I have revisited Final Fantasy X-2 recently, mostly because I’ve been on a huge gaming kick, and I recall a time when I would only play that particular game for its opening sequence… because Final Fantasy and J-pop? Who could have ever thought?!
Released by the one and only ero-kakkoii Best Jeans-winner herself, Queen Koda Kumi, “real Emotion / 1000の言葉” is the single that finally put her into the spotlight, and both songs are featured in the game, with the second A-side making its appearance as a cutscene that, yes, helps you get 100% in the game (…it’s a required cutscene, don’t fret). With that said, is the single all it’s chalked up to be, or was wee 10-year-old me just too gay to realize each song’s true quality? Read on!
We finally made it boys and girls! I thought we would never make it, or that we would make it here someday… but no, we are finally at the end of the single series!
Capping off the 12 Singles of Christmas is the series’ only double A-side single, ‘Someday / Boys♥Girls’, though Someday was promoted with a music video over the other (and interestingly caps off the movie series that the singles had in place). The concept art is also, fittingly, Kuu in Japanese garments, representing Japan in the finale. Now that we are at the end, we have to ponder, was this an appropriate single to end the series, or have we already reached it prior to?
We are nearly done! Having gone through ten singles already, we now land at the eleventh single of the series (and if you haven’t already read the previous ten reviews, what are you doing?!). Titled ‘WIND’, this single takes Kuu into a more conventional J-pop territory, and her concept art goes for an Italian feel.
Let’s keep our question short and simple: is this wind a much-needed breeze from the last single or are we in for stormy weather?
We are nearly done with the series; we’re now at number ten, and this time, Koda Kumi enlists the help of Japanese crooner Ishii Tatuya, who some anime fans may be familiar with via Gundam SEED. However, this track has no anime tie-in… instead, we’ve got the makings of a love song!
Contrasting this is the Hawaiian concept art, which has Kuu wearing a garment from Hawaii. While we were given a wintry break-up ballad in the form of ‘you’, the series’ first single, will KAMEN make us fall in love in a heated, sensual love song? Read on!
I’m going to go against the grain here and say upfront already: this is my favorite of the twelve. Nine singles in, and I’m already revealing it in the introduction? Why, touki, why?!
Because I’m going to gush in this review. That’s all I’m going to do. There really is no surprise here (if you follow my YouTube channel at ‘toukimeiki’, I have a video that shows why). So what makes this, out of all the twelve, where Kuu goes to a French ballet for her concept art theme, and Kuu goes downtown in what is uniquely the only ‘Kuu-does-a-cover’ single of the series, the BEST? I mean… did I put it that way? Read on!
At number eight is Kuu’s next foray into anime!
Tying itself in with the anime, Ueki no Housoku (or otherwise known as The Law of Ueki), as an opening, Kuu takes this project into another unique direction. Here, the concept art is that of Persia, wearing a Persian garment with fierceness. Musically, the song has the exact feel of what you may hear in anime music, though with some slight differences. Is this worthy of its status as an opener, or is this song never to be found on top anisong lists all over YouTube?
Are you ready to be taken to the Middle East?
Number seven in the 12 Singles of Christmas series is ‘Candy feat. Mr.Blistah’, the second collaboration for the series overall. Here, Koda Kumi, ero-kakkoii songstress and legend, takes us on a magical carpet ride to Africa with the cover art for the single, and then drops us right off to the sultry sands of Egypt for its song. But is this a trip worth taking, or are we going to be begging for water to cool us down from uncomfortable disappointment?