I know it has been a minute since I’ve been around, and I come back in spurts every now and then. I have a crazy schedule – I’m back in school, I’m working a lot, and frankly, I’m also playing a lot of video games on my brand spanking new PC, but aside from all that, I still want to continue writing and sharing my views on Asian music with others, in the hopes that I can spread some good word about songs I like (and even ones I dislike). Who knows… you might fall in love, naturally, with some of the songs I recommend!
I’ve opted to start a new series that I more-or-less have started a while back – an artist spotlight. Usually, it would involve me reviewing a lot of their works in a short span of time, like Koda Kumi or Brave Girls prior, but this time, I thought I’d fill you in on the artist themselves – have you get to know them and recommend some of their works.
The very first in the series is none other than Japan’s top girl-group Perfume. I’ll expand more on this later in the spotlight, but a recent poll suggested they are currently at the top for girl group rankings in 2021… that’s not hard to believe, but man, they’ve been in the game for more than 20 years, and they continue to be a huge influence over Japan. I love it. So let’s take a look at Perfume in more detail, and perhaps, if you haven’t already, you’ll find a song in their discography that you may find yourself gravitating towards!
I have to admit, this was a harder list for me to create, but can you believe that we’re already at the half-way point for the year in J-pop?!
It’s been quite a few years already, and I’ve noticed big-time how the J-pop scene has changed so vastly during those years. Some of my favorite artists are no longer big names, and newer artists seem to show up every year… I can no longer keep track! That said, I’m still finding more and more through word of mouth and recommendations.
I can only hope these next fifteen tracks are worthy of your listening pleasure, as I consider them the best from what I have heard throughout this first part of the year. Will we share the same opinions? Let’s take a look!
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!
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!
Crazy to believe that the Evangelion rebuilds are finally coming to an end, but alas, here we are. With this end comes an end to the collaboration efforts between Utada Hikaru and the series, as well. You may be familiar with Hikki’s works with Kingdom Hearts but if you don’t know about her efforts with Eva… where have you been?! Jokes aside, Utada Hikaru’s work with Eva is one filled with lyrics of love, beauty, and her sound is that of an etherealness that is reminiscent of her works in the mid-00s.
Her final release with the project comes in the form of a mini-album, with one new track, a rehash of an old Eva song, and remasters of all her tie-ins. “One Last Kiss” is the title of the new song and is meant to signify one last effort – but will it be worth it in the end? Is this one last kiss one for the books? Let’s check it out!
Let’s take a break from Brave Girls to give NiziU the small artist spotlight for April!
If you haven’t already heard about or even listened to a song from NiziU, where you have you been?! Formed from reality competition program Nizi Project (and no, you’re reading it correctly… there’s no A), crafted by South Korea’s very own *whispers* JYP of JYP Entertainment, NiziU made a huge (and by huge, I mean 300,000 sales worth) dent in the Japanese music industry, effectively turning the group into… well, the nation’s girl group, lol (though that’s up to how you wanna see it; that’s just me).
NiziU makes their return with their second major single, a double A-side with two tracks that has JYP makings written all over it. Titled “Take a picture / Poppin’ Shakin’“, each track is bound to get the Japanese public going, but are these selfies going to turn out just right on the first try? Will they be poppin’ and shakin’ or are they just poppin’ chicken (so stupid, I’m sorry)? Let’s take a look!
It’s Halloween! Woo! Spooky day. It’s also the big day for the Tommy series! The third single in the promotion of her second album, Heavy Starry Heavenly, ‘Lollipop Candy♥BAD♥girl’ is the actual Halloween single, with promotional art, its music video, and the track itself being all forms related to Halloween. If you thought she was Halloween from her previous efforts a la ‘I’m Gonna SCREAM+’ and ‘Pray’, you haven’t come across this.
It’s a creepy night, but here’s hoping we’ve got some good music by the lollipop candy bad girl herself to comfort us. Let’s check it out… enter if you dare…
Next up for the countdown to Halloween, we’ve got the second tie-in for Miss Shimamiya Eiko to the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni anime series. Released as ‘Naraku no Hana’, this single is the opening theme song for the sequel to the mysterious horror/thriller anime Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, based on the game of the same name, which is titled Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (which you should watch, frankly, if you loved the first series and wanted answers to your burning questions).
‘Naraku no Hana’, literally known as Flower of Hell, follows the dark themes of her previous single, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (the fourth time this title has been mentioned here), but is this flower of hell one that blooms beautifully or is it wilted in quality? Read on!
Second up on the artist spotlight series for Tommy heavenly6 is the second single from her second album, Heavy Starry Heavenly, which Gintama fans may be very familiar with!
Pray is the title of the next single, tied-in with popular anime series Gintama as its very first anime opening in 2006. It continues on the Halloween theme that many of the singles from Heavy Starry Heavenly follow, but this time opting for a more humorous vibe but with some ghostly samurais!
Pray is one of Tommy’s well-known singles, but is this prayer worth chanting with or is it just going to be left unanswered? Click on to read more…