Thanks to modern technology, last weekend I was able to update what was happening on the Niigaki Risa FanClub Bus Tour through tweets and pictures. But thinking back, there’s still a lot that I want to share and tell. So please allow me to start from the beginning, on Saturday morning when Day 1 started.
The ride from Osaka to Shizuoka is very, very long. We were kept busy for awhile with paper work, ID pass, and a VTR message from Niigaki. As we were finally nearing our first location, I noticed that Morning Musume’s manger (@MornibngMusumeMg) was tweeting about Ikuta being on the bus and watching concert DVDs. I wasn’t surprise to read that Ikuta came along the tour but the big question was, did they have a whole bus just for Ikuta?
The 2 shots were taken inside a grand hotel that was hidden on a hill. Just outside the room where the 2 shot took place, there were posters of Niigaki promoting her recommendation pose. This tour’s slogan was “Who had fun? Me!” (楽しかった人? はい!). It’s common for the fans to raise their hands as they answer “Me!” But if the fans did that pose their arms might get cut out from the picture, so Niigaki said to only raised your hand next to your face.
After we left the hotel there was another tweet from the manger, telling us that Ikuta has arrived and was lining up for the 2 shot. It seems they were treating Ikuta just like a normal fan, but how far are they going with it?
We arrived at a second hotel that’s located along the Pacific Ocean where we got our goods and worked on Project R. Project R was a surprise project for Niigaki. Each fan took a Polaroid themselves and decorated it with messages to Niigaki. I really could have stay inside that room and decorated the Polaroid all day long. I can’t quite explain it, but I had a lot of fun decorating the Polaroid! And this project let me got a taste of what the girls go through when they are told to decorate their own solo pictures for tour, the Hello! Project Shop, and other events.
Next stop was a small open market with a lot of famous local food for fans to get some souvenirs. It really wasn’t all that exciting… that was until I noticed a group of fans were gathered around where the buses were parked. Guess who was there, talking casually with all the fans gathered around her: Ikuta. She had a green shirt on, an ID pass just like the rest of us. The only difference was, she had a mini home-style video camera following her and well, the fact that she’s a member of Morning Musume. Some online fans were surprise the company let her this close to the fans. You got to understand though that Japanese fans not only know the rules of what they should and shouldn’t do, but they really follow through with it. No one crowded up close to Ikuta, no one pulled out their cameras and pointed it at Ikuta. (Plus, the cameraman and staff are always around to help out if anything happens) After a brief chat and an attempt to say hi to the fans that were already on the bus, Ikuta climbed back on to one of the regular tour bus and took her seat.
I wished that Ikuta had bus hopped around, that would have been so much fun! She also stayed at a different hotel than most of us. But from other fan reports, it seems she had dinner with the other fans too and was sat at the same table too.
The last event for Day 1 was the special live. Ikuta got to the location before everyone else, and was behind the goods counter promoting Niigaki’s musical tickets. When Ikuta finally entered the concert hall and took a seat near the back, she was prompted by the fans to start a Niigaki chant. Niigaki came on to the stage in a dazzling black dress. The set list was as follows:
1) Popcorn Love
2) Boogie Train
3) Glass no Pumps
4) Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM
5) Yuugure Sakusen Kaigi
7) Sakura Mankai
10) Soba ni iru yo (from Reborn stage play)
11) Suggoi Nakama
12) Happy Night
13) Jishin Motte Yume wo Motte Tobitatsu Kara
14) Egao ni Namida
Highlight of the live: Sakura Mankai, Soba ni iru yo, Jishin Motte Yume wo Motte Tobitatsu kara, and Egao ni Namida. Sakura Mankai was exceptionally well done and the timing was perfect as it is the cherry blossom season. Thinking back to when this single was released, Niigaki has really came a long way as an idol and her vocal has become so strong. I’m not familiar with Soba ni iru yo, but it was a smoothing song. For some reason Ikuta was crying after this song, which only made Niigaki laughed and teased her for it. Jishin Motte Yume wo Motte Tobitatsu kara was a surprising choice. As if any of us can forget that it was Takahashi’s graduation song, yellow back lights along with a wings logo were projected on the back of the stage. But for what it’s worth Niigaki totally rocked it, did this song and Takahashi justice. Egao ni Namida was an expected choice. This performance was extra special because it’s the song chosen for her last single as Morning Musume.
After Niigaki walked off the stage the fans once again prompted Ikuta to start chanting for Niigaki, and she did came back on to the stage briefly. The fans let Ikuta leave first before we all got up and headed toward the exit. As we were leaving the building, Niigaki stood by the exit and personally handed back everyone’s 2 shot from earlier.
Day 2 started out just as early, but we still didn’t know what was in store for the day. We were shown another segment of the VTR on the bus, where Niigaki told us that we were going to a tea processing factory (because Shizuoka is famous for tea). Well surprise surprise, turn out that was a lie. The staff had secretly arranged a SL steam train ride, and kept it a secret from Niigaki too. We got to train station before Niigaki and were entertained by the conductor, Sugi-san, as we waited for her to arrive. When Niigaki got out of the car, she suspected something but still didn’t know what was going on. When she asked what happened to the tea processing factory, the fans teased her and said it was just behind her. Finally we just told her to turn around and look at the steam train that had the tour logo on it. Among all the excitement, Niigaki bumped her leg as she finally noticed the train. The design for the towel was also revealed: it was a green towel with a steam train engine on it, and at the conductor’s seat was a character designed by Niigaki. We then took group shots and got our special lunch boxes. Ikuta was also here, but she was just standing in the back taking random pictures as everything unfolded.
Everyone boarded the train and waited for it to start. I sat at the second last cart and I assumed the last cart is saved for the staff and Niigaki. The inside of the train was very old, a very normal train cart. But suddenly, Ikuta walked on to the train cart. We held our hands out as she walked down the cart, hoping to get high fives. She was reluctant at first, but she did slow down and high fived everyone along the way with a smile. Ikuta sat at the very back of the cart with the camera still following her around, just a few seats from where I sat. This wasn’t what I had in mind when I wished she’ll bus hop, but I’ll take it! Ikuta borrowed tape from the fans and put up a Niigaki towel on her window. As she was finishing up, Niigaki walked pass outside, and got on to the last cart. The fans told Ikuta to bang on the window to get Niigaki’s attention, but she just kept staring out hoping Niigaki will turn around on her own.
Shortly after the train started up, Niigaki came into our cart for a chat. We played rounds of janken for 3 special doriyaki that had A LOT of red bean paste in it. Ikuta lost out, but all 3 winners ended up giving her the doriyaki anyways. When the staff finally came around with the towels, the fans asked Ikuta how many she was getting. She said only one, because she doesn’t have much money. The train made a brief stop, and as it started up again we realized it was to let Niigaki and some of the staff off the train. When Ikuta saw Niigaki standing on the platform, she frantically stood up in shock staring out the window. She was more worked up about Niigaki just hopping off the train unannounced like that than any of us. Midway through the ride, Ikuta asked when what was going on with the “fun event” that was supposed to happen. She was in dismay when the fans told her that the train ride was the “fun event”. As the train was nearing the station, Ikuta took down the Niigaki towel from the window and said “Ain’t Morning Musume great?” Ikuta really is adorable. To be on the whole train ride with her and being able to eardrop on all these conversations was a real treat.
When we got back on the bus, we were given the lyrics to Egao ni namida and a sheet with a message to Niigaki that we were going to use for the surprise after the talk event. Ikuta was also in the hall for the talk, but once again she took a seat in the back. The talk event started off with Niigaki drawing out random topics from a box, the MC then explained what each topic was about. The highlight included a surprised pop out box, but Niigaki was told it was a present from the fan so she opened it right away. Nothing like seeing an idol get freaked out by a jumping prop, right? There was also a surprise t-shirt giveaway: The staff took two of Niigaki’s designed character and printed them on the t-shirt. Through a lucky draw, 10 of these t-shirts were given away to the fans. Next was an award ceremony with nominations from the fans to Niigaki. They had moving spotlights to create an award ceremony atmosphere, even had flowers and a trophy prepared. After each award was announced they gave Niigaki the flowers and trophy, but then took it back right away. It was funny the first few times, but it got old quick and thankfully they stopped that routine after awhile. Then the staff brought out 4 big boards that were full of messages from various people including Michishige, Tanaka and Niigaki’s mother. At the mention of the message from Niigaki’s mother, some fans looked toward the back of the audience and I followed their glance. That’s when I noticed a middle age man, women and a young girl sitting higher up at the back away from the other fans. I think, these might had been Niigaki’s family. It was dark and I’m not good with identifying family resemblances between people, but the younger girl had the same bone structure as Niigaki. Niigaki did mentioned on her blog that her family came, but since I’ve never seen official pictures of her family, I can only guess that was them. If that is the case, it’s really sweet of them to take the time and come out to support Niigaki like this. The talk event ended with the handshake which moved at a reasonable speed. We all managed to say more than just “Thank you” to Niigaki before the staff hurried us along. As soon as we walked out of the hall, we were handed green balloon with the tour logo on it and instructed to wait quietly in the lobby. Once the handshake was over and Niigaki has left the stage, we quietly went back to our seats and waited to surprise Niigaki.
The surprise was a big success! Niigaki walked on to the pitch black stage, still hasn’t a clue what was going on. When she was near the centre the lights came on, big party poppers went off, the fans started cheering and waving the balloons. A karaoke version of Egao ni Namida started playing and everyone sang along, just like we practiced on the bus earlier. Niigaki tried to sing along too, but a lot of time she was crying too much to sing properly. Apparently some fans told her during the handshake that “I won’t be able to see you again!” so she didn’t suspect anything. The MC then revealed that the surprise wasn’t over, and asked the representatives from each bus to come up and present the gift. The staff took the Polaroid that we decorated on Day 1 and put them into photo albums, one for each bus. Representatives from each bus gave a small speech then personally handed the photo album to Niigaki. Representing Bus #5 was none other than Ikuta herself! Although this wasn’t the official graduation speech, Ikuta was already crying nonstop. After Niigaki received the photo album from Ikuta, she faced the fans and expressed the desire to pass on her colour to Ikuta after she graduates. The last time a colour was passed down right away, was when Konno graduated and passed on the colour pink to Michishige. We don’t know if this will actually happen, but for Niigaki to say it out loud like this, there’s definitely a high chance that it can come true!
We had one more surprised for Niigaki, and it was a message from all of us fans (okay so it was written by the staff, but we meant every single word of it!)
Gaki-san, thank you for all your hard work these past 10 years!
Sadly, Morning DAYS (the tour) is coming to an end real soon.
Please do your best till the very end!
We will (females)
Always support Gaki-san, even after your graduation!
And with that, it marked the end of the surprised event. Niigaki started crying the moment we started the message and seeing that along with the warm atmosphere in the hall, I got teary eyes too.
It was raining as we left the building, but that didn’t stop Niigaki from coming out and waving goodbye to all the buses. The parking lot was small, so instead of the buses turning around for everyone to see and wave to Niigaki from their side of the bus, she ran across the pathway towards each bus and waved to the fans on the other side.
There was one last VTR message waiting for us on the bus, where Niigaki mentioned the Morning Musume PV that were especially memorable to her ( Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyoutan-jima and Aruiteru). Ending the VTR, we were shown the full version of Egao ni Namida. The PV was really well done. Very simple, but very sweet and cute. Takahashi might have gotten an original graduation song, but Niigaki definitely has the better PV of the two. We also got LED lamps with the tour logo as a last tour souvenir.
And that basically marked the end of the bus tour. It was a short 2 days, and there could have been more organised events or activities. But I walked off the bus feeling very happy. I was extremely happy (and surprised) I was able to take many pictures of the posters and the chalkboards without being told off by the staff. This allowed me to post it online and share it on twitter right away. The setlist for the Live was perfect. Niigaki has proof that being in Morning Musume for 10 years has done wonder to her vocals. She can’t belt it out like Takahashi or Tanaka, but she is a damn fine singer! The train ride was okay, but having Ikuta in the same cart made it such an entertaining experience. Ikuta won me over back in January at the Morning Labo III event, this tour made me adore Ikuta even more than before. Although she doesn’t quite have the charm, vocal or dance skills like her fellow generation members, I know I’ll be wearing her colour after Niigaki graduates (whether it be purple or green!)
Sanada Jyuyushi ~Bokura ga Mamori takatta mono~ is a sumarai play starring Yu Inaba, Syugo Oshinari, Takanori Shimomura, and Risa Niigaki (Morning Musume). The play is a relatively small production that is currently happening at The Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo (from December 2 till December 11). It was recently announced that the play’s final performance will be stream on Nico nama’s pay per view channel and a DVD is set to be release in March 2012.
I first heard about the play through the Hello! Project fan club newsletter. Seeing that Niigaki was in it was enough to get my attention. But even for Niigaki, I couldn’t justify traveling all the way to Tokyo for a play where I only knew one of the cast and zero about the storyline. But then I saw the promotion picture for Niigaki’s character and I was mesmerized. There was something about her fierce pose that drew me in. After thinking it through, I decided that even if I can’t understand the Japanese, there are bound to be fight scenes that I can enjoy. In the end I decided to go to the afternoon show on December 3.
The storyline is simple: the 10 samurai led by Yukimura Sanada (played by Syugo Oshinari) fight the evil lord Ieyasu Tokugawa (played by Takanori Shimomura) to protect the things that are precious to them. The actual play starts with Ieyasu giving a small speech as the 10 warriors stood in the shadows above him. The story then flashes back to 3 and half years ago, when Yukimura was still looking for warriors to join him. The first half of the play involves Sasuke Sarutobi (played by Yu Inaba) running around, recruiting warriors for Yukimura. Before each warrior was given the invitation to join Yukimura, each of them showed off their skills, personality or background story in an entertaining and dramatic way. The second half of the play contains a series of events that led to the final battle against Ieyasu and his followers. The play ends rather suddenly, almost as if they’re setting it up for possible sequels.
My favourite of the 10 warriors is the “cowboy samurai”, Jyuzo Kakei (played by Michiho Onitsuka). He fights with riffles and his character is just loud, crazy (in a good way) and full of life. Yukino (played by Risa Niigaki) is the only female in the play. She fights just as well as some of the other samurai, but at first she tried to conceal this and remain lady like as best as she can. Without giving too much of the story away, Yukino does end up being the damsel in distress. Can’t say I was surprise, though I did wish that Yukino could have avoided that fate all together.
With the exception of Niigaki, all the characters only had one set of costume. Some of the costumes have great details to them. While some of them had over the top hairstyles to match their outfit, like Yu Yoshioka’s extremely spiky hairstyle.
The entrance to the theatre was decorated with flowers that were sent to the cast. They were all very gorgeous, and many of them were even sent from fans. The theatre was surprisingly small, and there were a lot of empty seats around. The stage was small and the setup was very simple. Throughout the play lots of lighting, projectors, curtains, movable stage pieces were used to create many different settings. The play also relied on a lot of sound and visual effects to bring the play alive. For example, during the battles sound effect were timed with the movement of the cast and their swords to make it more realistic. There were a few times when the sound was off but for the most part it was fairly believable.
What made this play stand out from other samurai period productions are the crazy concepts they threw in and used, like the “cowboy samurai”. They also incorporate a lot of reference to mysterious powers, modern technologies and futuristic ideas, like a samurai who uses a cell phone and a human robot. Even though the play used many visual and sound effects to bring the crazy ideas to live on stage, a lot of the concepts still relied on the audience’s imagination. There were a few times when it took a moment for me to figure out what they were trying to portray with the sound and visual effects.
After the curtain call Niigaki, Inaba, Oshinari, Shimomura, Tatsuya Isaka and Shintaro Akiyama (EXILE) came back on to the stage for a brief MC session with a staff as the host. I wasn’t expecting this, and I’m not sure if they do this for all the shows. It was definitely interesting to hear the casts’ thoughts and stories about the production. They ended the MC session by promoting the play’s goods that were sold in the lobby and then tossed 6 of the play’s towels toward the audience as gifts.
Overall, I got to say this play exceeded my expectations. Even with my limited Japanese, it was fairly easy to follow along. Include all the battles and wacky moments, this is a very entertaining production.
It’s been two months since Ai Takahashi graduated from Morning Musume and Hello! Project. Her last work as Morning Musume, 12, Smart, was released shortly after her graduation and was well received by fans. She has also started on various jobs such as a co-host for a bi-weekly online show and lots of photo shots. The 10th generations has also started making appearances with the other Morning Musume members on TV and various promotion events. Yet, the thought that Ai is no longer a part of Morning Musume has only recently started to sink in for me.
On September 30th, not only did I have the privilege of attending Ai-chan’s graduation concert but I was able to go with a friend. So not only was this my first time attending a graduation concert, but it was also the first time I attended a Hello! Project concert with someone that I knew. Add in the fact that the concert was at the Budokan, I was really bouncing with excitement all through September. After I got the concert goods I turned to my friend and said, “You realize we’re getting excited about the fact that we might be bawling our eyes out by the end of the night?” But it really didn’t matter did it, because there was never going to be another graduation concert like this.
The excitement continued to flow through me as we finally sat down in our seats. This tour was made especially for Ai to commemorate her graduation. A tribute to her 10 years in the group, if you will. So it’s only fitting that the concert started with her taking the lead in her debut single as Morning Musume, Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~, with fellow generation member, Risa Niigaki, singing the opening line. The concert continued with lot of emphasis on Ai-chan. I was ecstatic to hear Ai and Risa’s duet from the group’s new album, and even more thrilled to finally be able to see them perform Suki na Senpai live. Having the footage from their debut performance of this song on the big screen while they performed it was a very nice touch. Of course, this performance would had been even more perfect if Makoto Ogawa and Asami Konno was also on the stage (and I imagined that’s how many in the audience felt when that did happened the night before, on September 29th). There were also many other small moments that I will treasure forever, like watching the girls partying away with green toy trumpets to Maji Desu ka Ska! and witnessing Sayumi Michishige successfully stealing a kiss from Ai and then giggling nonstop with my friend about it.
While we waited for the encore to begin, everyone in the audience filled the hall with glowing yellow light. On the big screen, the camera showed signs that the fans made to thank Ai for her 10 years in Morning Musume and wished her luck for the future. For the graduation ceremony, Ai chose to come out in a pair of ankle cut jeans. The costume was a very casual encore look, and it definitely not a girly cute or glamorous look. The outfit created a casual environment for the graduation ceremony, which defined how Morning Musume has become under Ai’s leadership: a group where all the bonds between the members were stronger than ever before and everyone got along well like a family. Time after time, Ai emphasised in interview that she wanted to make it through the concert without crying. Did that happen? No, because the Ai we know is an emotional cry baby. She did make it through her speech and graduating song, Jishin Motte Yume Motte Tobitatsu Kara, fairly smoothly and only pause a few times to compose herself. But honestly, all those pauses she did take to compose herself made the graduation ceremony that much more special and memorable.
After Ai’s solo performance Risa led the rest of the members, including the 10th generation and Aika Mitsui, out to give their speeches. With Haruka Kudo, I can still understand the need for her to give Ai a speech since she has worked with Ai before as a Hello! Project Egg. But for the other new girls, I felt bad for them having to go through this on stage especially since it’s only their 2nd day as Morning Musume members. Can you imagine how nerve wrecking it is to not only give a speech, but in front of all the fans? But at the end of Haruna Iikubo’s speech something happened, and it changed my mind about having the new girls up on stage: Very simply, Haruna requested Ai to call out her name on stage. Ai complied and Haruna happily thanked her and ran into Ai’s arms. For a brief moment, I didn’t see Haruna as a 10th generation member. Rather, I saw her as a Morning Musume fan who only wanted to be called out and acknowledge by Ai that she exists. Seeing that moment, my heart was filled with warmness along with a bit of jealousy, wishing that it was my name that Ai called out on that stage.
By the end of the night, I somehow managed to walk away from the concert hall without shedding a tear. It was an emotional night, but I think I was more moved and happy than sad at that time. But afterward as I watched news clips of the members’ speeches, that was when I started to tear up. These highlight clips give you a close up angle of the girls’ faces as they give the speech, so I was able to see and hear things that I couldn’t from where I sat the night of the concert. Like Risa was trying very hard not to burst out crying throughout her speech but you can see stream of tears rolling down her cheek. One of the video even managed to pick up her sobbing loudly in Ai’s arm. Seeing these two trying so hard to keep their promise to not cry really hit the spot.
Even though this was a tribute concert for Ai, we cannot forget that this is a Morning Musume concert. Meaning that at some point (even if it’s just for a moment) the show’s focus will be on the other members. First and foremost are the 10th generation members. Although they were already officially introduced to everyone the night before, there was still excitement in the air when the four girls gave their self-introduction. The girl that shined the most was the youngest one, who also happened to be the most experienced because of her Hello! Project Egg training, Haruka. After Haruka gave her self-introduction, she went on to explain why the 10th generation girls are the “Lucky 7” (all of their birthdays are related to the number 7 in some way). Even if it was the management’s decision to have her share this interesting fact (versus having the other girls do it) I still got to give this girl credit for delivering it without missing a beat. Masaki Sato, on the other hand, was the most nervous of the bunch. She stumbled through her introduction and had to pause to recall what she wanted to say. This girl is the main reason why I felt sorry for the new girls for having to give Ai a farewell speech.
Aside from the new faces, let’s not forget about the other members. With this concert, sometimes it felt like the management was trying to sneak in performances that gave the fans a chance to see what the group will be like without Ai. Take the group’s latest double A-side single Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai for example. Featuring Sayumi and Reina Tanaka as the lead, this song was performed with the original costumes. The original PV for this song is a lot of fun: upbeat with colourful settings paired with whacky costumes and scenes. When performed live, the girls took this to the next level because of the way the two leads sang it with expressive vocals that really emphasis the funkiness of the song. I’m glad they wore the original costumes rather than the ones from Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun dayo! because it made the performance that much more perfect. I miss the days Morning Musume released songs that were just plain silly like this. Here the girls proved they can still play it up and act silly if given the right song and chance to do so.
The other performance that stood out for me was a song from the new album, Silver no Udedokei, featuring Risa, Reina and Riho Sayashi (the album version features Aika too, but she was absent for this performance due to her injury). This song is completely different from Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai as it gives off a more cool and mature tune. I’m not going to discuss Reina and Riho’s singing abilities here, as that’s been done countless times. But I do want to point out the raps that were done by Risa. Risa’s vocal is deep, and doesn’t always fit with typical Morning Musume style songs. But I think that deep vocal is what made the rap sessions in this song so outstanding. I’m not saying all Morning Musume songs in the future should have a rap session just so Risa can showcase her voice (thought that would be nice!) But I do wish that someone realized Risa’s voice works best with songs like this and give her more opportunities to shine in the future. I’ll love to see this song perform again with Aika in it, just to see if the four girls can give this song a different vibe.
Live concerts are always a lot of fun and memorable for so many reasons. One of these reasons is being able to dance and sing with other fans. For this concert I was sitting at the family seats, meaning no standing up and limited movements. That’s fine though because I was still able to wave the glow stick around and join along with the chants. The best part was I got to enjoy this concert with a friend. At first I was worry that I’ll be too embarrassed to chant and dance with someone I know sitting beside me, but it turned out t be an unbelievably amazing experience. I was surprised at how unresponsive some of the fans sitting around me seemed to be. Sure we were sitting at the family seats, but a lot of them were just watching the concert as if they were watching a documentary throughout the show. In fact, the guy sitting next to me just fanned himself with an uchiwa all through the show. Never once did he show emotions of any sort.
To be honest, I didn’t go to this graduation concert for Ai and I certainly don’t consider myself a huge fan of hers. Sure I like her and she stood out for me, but she was never my favourite girl. Yet, I was very persistent in trying to attend this graduation concert because a part of me was afraid that with Ai gone this will be the end of Morning Musume. When I say the end, I mean as in the group disbanding. I think, the same fear came when Hitomi Yoshizawa graduated and Ai was suddenly named the new leader. Maybe this is the fear of not knowing (and questioning) how well Morning Musume will do under a new leader. But this time the feeling was slightly different and the sense of fear was much stronger. Since Ai became leader I’ve really started to see how Ai is love by everyone, including other Hello! Project members. Ai tried her best to looked after and include everyone, showing that she cares about them. This is a trait that Risa isn’t openly noted for. I’m sure Risa cares about other members too, but she tends show it by playing the “bad cop” and disciplining them during rehearsals and such. It’s still too early to tell how Morning Musume (and Hello! Project) will change under this new leader. But I can at least say that having gone to this concert and having seen other fan’s reactions has helped ease the fear of Morning Musume disbanding. And with the recent appearances, performances, concert and single announcements, each day I become a little more reassure that Morning Musume will not disband under Risa’s leadership.
On a final note: Thank you Ai, for the 10 wonderful years and a memorable graduation concert that was only possible because of you.
Product Code: KIZC-90117/KIZC-117
Release Date: 2011.06.08
Label: King Records Japan / You! Be Cool
Format: CD, CD+DVD
Limited Edition: 100 pg photo book by Mika Ninagawa, 1 of 14 randomly selected photos
Originally planned for release on April 6th, the Tohoku earthquake on March 11 brought the Japanese music industry to a sudden halt. After waiting for 4 months, will this album live up to its expectations and help AKB48 establish itself in the ORICON record books again?
1. Shojo Tachi Yo
A song dedicated to girls, it is an upbeat and positive song that is a joy to listen. Definitely a well-chosen intro track to get this album going.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sung by Team A. Overtake is one of my favourite songs in this album as it transitions nicely from Shojo Tachi Yo. As usual, I hear Takamina (Takahashi Minami) and Acchan (Maeda Atsuko) start off on a song. I find it weird that some people find it a bit plain; but I find it quite interesting to listen (maybe I’m being biased because a lot of my favourites are from Team A).
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
3. Boku ni Dekirukoto
Sung by Team K. This song was featured in the Japanese Red Cross commercial prior to the Tohoku earthquake (you can watch it here). It is a great upbeat song that is bound to get Japan to look forward, continue their rebuilding efforts, and stay strong. Definitely a great song for times like this. Out of all the team songs, I personally find this to be the better of the bunch.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
4. Renai Circus
Sung by Team B
Deceiving intro? I thought it was going to be a rock song.
Nope, it turned out to be cute.
Out of all the team songs in this album, I dislike this one. Sure, I’ll give credit that it fits the circus theme for the album cover, but if I wasn’t told that this was by Team B, this sounds more like an under-girls song.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
5. Kaze no Yukue
A fairly relaxing song, but I find it kind of plain.
Fun fact here – this song is sung by members of No Sleeves, French Kiss, and Not Yet (All side groups of AKB48). Missing members are Takajo Aki, Sashihara Rino, Yokoyama Yui and Kojima Haruna. Maybe this song would sound more interesting if the remaining members are there.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
6. Wagamama Collection
As much as I like Mayuyu (Watanabe Mayu), I just can’t seem to stand her singing voice for long period of time. This song has Watarirouka Hashiritai labelled on it. They are one of AKB48’s many side groups, where their selling point is mainly singing cute and mushy songs (and Mayuyu).
Some might like it, but I definitely do not.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
7. Ningyo no Vacance
Given the song title, it definitely gives you the sense of relaxation while you’re on vacation. But this song sounds pretty boring as the vocals just sound the same throughout.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
8. Kimi to Boku no Kankei
A song by Maeda Atsuko and Tomomi Itano, it is an interesting combination that we would rarely see considering both of them are starting out their solo career paths. It certainly doesn’t lean towards the R&B style that Tomo-chin has (Youtube “Tomomi Itano – Dear J“), nor does it lean towards Acchan’s ballad-like style (Youtube “Maeda Atsuko – Flower“).
Sadly, this song is just shy of the perfect 5 star rating due to a very obvious reason – The rap.
It kills the whole mood for some, but it somewhat fits in with the song.
Very upbeat, and carries the unique feeling that I’m looking for in this album. This song definitely displays the potential of these two current solo artists at an unseen perspective.
Aside from the Team B Oshi song, I think this is the only new song that stands out a lot from the others
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
9. Iikagen no Susume
The beginning started off quite weak for my tastes, but things start to get better afterwards.
Until they slowed down again…
I like this song, but I wish they stop messing around with the tempo and just make up their mind. Maybe if I know the lyrics, I would understand why they did that.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
10. High School Days
Sung by AKB48’s Kenkyuusei, this song should not be underestimated like the group. Very pleasant to listen to, but I don’t really have much opinion on this track as my knowledge of current Kenkyuusei members is quite limited. However, this song changed my view of Kenkyuusei and the future of AKB48.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
11. Team B Oshi
One thing I don’t get is why does Team B get another song? But, nonetheless, this song stands out the most in this album.
And sadly, it’s not a new song.
It sounds redundant; at times, annoying and sounds very messy. However, it is the only song that I keep coming back to listen over and over. It gets you pumped and feels like you want to sing and yell with them like a stage song (in fact, I just found out it’s from Team B 5th Stage Theater no Megami). Definitely a very fun song to listen to, but it might not suit other peoples’ tastes.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
16. Koko ni Ita Koto
It may not sound like it, but this song is sung by Akimoto Yasushi’s empire. In case you didn’t get what I mean, that is AKB48, SKE48, SDN48, and NMB48. Now, I don’t get why this song is in an AKB48 album when the other groups are involved. I personally think that if you plan to bring other groups in a song, each group should sing separately at least once so they can be distinguished from each other.
That aside, it’s a great ballad – brings that identical group singing feel, and instrumentals don’t overpower the vocals (it better not, considering how many are singing). The downside is that it just doesn’t sound anything special from other AKB48 ballads, as it lacks creativity and a bit of uniqueness. With that many girls singing, I’m not satisfied with the final result of this song.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Overall, the album was pretty average. Of course, we can’t compare this to their Set List Best or Kamikyoku Tachi since they’re best albums. There was some positives and there was some negatives. However, that won’t stop it from being a #1 seller because AKB48 is the new craze. I will review the photo book once I receive it in a couple of days. Is it a good purchase? I would say so. The limited edition is a bargain for 285 yen more; you get a photo book that would usually cost something around 1000 yen judging by the number of pages. If you didn’t make it in time, at 3048 yen, the price is still worth the 4 month wait.
Overall Rating: 3.54 out of 5 stars
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Ayumi Hamasaki’s 2011 concert tour, originally named ayumi hamasaki ARENA TOUR 2011 A ~HOTEL Love songs~, was changed to ayumi hamasaki ~POWER of MUSIC~ 2011 after the natural disaster that strike Eastern Japan in March. This isn’t the first time that Ayu had made sudden changes because of an unexpected event. Back in 2001, Ayu had the design for the album I am… all planned out. But after the 911 event, she opted for a more simple version that we see today. The new concert theme and tour goods are a big indication that Ayu really wants to reach to everyone through her music. Whether they are people that were affected by the disaster in March, the people who had reached to help, and international fans from all over the world.
The stage for the show was very simple, almost too simple for Ayu’s standard. There was a walkway that connects the backstage to the main stage which was circular and positioned at the centre of the arena. The main stage can be seen as a circle that is made up of 3 rings. The centre circle has the ability to move above and below stage level, this was mainly used by Ayu to enter the stage. The ring around the centre piece is simply a part of the stage, it doesn’t rise or move. The second ring, is a revolving pathway that was used by the dancers and Ayu to give the audience equal attention. The band and a mini orchestra are positioned around the main stage, at the most outer ring.
Even before the arena went dark everyone in the audience had already pulled out the tour uchiwa (traditional Japanese round fan) and glow sticks, brightening the concert hall in a sea of pink. The concert started with the dancers entering the arena, each holding a glowing ball that looked a lot like a planet. As the curtains rose, Ayu was standing in the centre ready to dazzle the crowd with the first song, forgiveness. She dazzle the crowd alright as the smallest movement from her made the crowd go crazy.
A MC session followed, and for the first few minutes Ayu kept sipping her drink from a plastic bottle between talks like she was just having coffee with a friend. If any other artist did that, I’ll immediately bash out how unprofessional it was to do that. But when Ayu did it, it’s just so cute I can’t help but laugh it off. She then attempted a short a capella of MOON with her backup singers but she messed up and had to stop midway through. They made another attempt and managed to get through it beautifully. After that the full band joined in again as blossom was performed.
From here onward, the concert was divided into different “themes”. Each time a new theme began, the title was shown on the big screen. I’ve written down the set list in accordance with the theme that it falls under.
The set list for the 5/28 concert was as follow:
- MOON a capella
3) BLUE BIRD
- Dancer introduction (their names were shown on the screen and each got some solo time)
6) A Song for XX
8) NEVER EVER
9) walking proud
10) part of Me
- Carnival style music with performance by 3 of the dancers.
13) Far away
- Dancers and Ayu interact with the audience through clapping, chants and dances.
15) Bold & Delicious
16) Mirrorcle World
18) Boys & Girls
To Be Free
19) Born To Be…
- Ayu introduces the orchestra, band, dancers and thanks everyone for attending the concert.
- VTR with a piano acoustic version of Daybreak playing in the background.
20) A Song is born
Ayu’s concerts are famous for its spectacular show quality with lot of costume changes and high budget stage setups. Although this time around there was no flashy costumes or stage, a lot of details and surprises made it a very delightful concert. Take the Smile theme for example: instead of getting a performance from Ayu,3 of the dancers took the stage as circus clowns and performed numerous aerobic and mime acts. It was very random, but an enlightening and entertaining act that everyone in the audience enjoyed. The clowns made a return to the stage along with the other dancers for the Joy! theme. They challenged the audience to a few rounds of rhythm clapping game. After awhile, Ayu reappeared on stage and joined in the fun. The clapping quickly turned into a chanting game with Ayu as lead. And let me tell you, Ayu wasn’t shy in getting everyone to chant her name and replied with “thank you” and a big sweet smile.
To some people the set list might be a disappointment because there isn’t many songs from the Love songs album. But I absolutely love this set list because it’s a dream come true to hear the live version of some of the older songs like M and SEASONS. Not to mention I finally had the chance to participate in the Boys & Girls shouting match and sing along to evolution with Ayu. I also like how a lot of the songs were rearranged beautifully, just like the MY STORY Classical album. It made each of these songs more interesting and it really goes back to the theme of the concert: the power of music (how the arrangement of a song) can change things.
I can’t even begin to express how excited I was for this concert. I mean, it’s the first time to witness the new members in action! But with all that is happening in Northern Japan and array of events being cancelled or postpone, I was just relieved that this concert was carried out as plan. Before the concert started, 3 donation boxes for the relief fund was setup and behind the boxes stood Mizuki, Sayumi and Riho. Most people went up to Sayumi’s donation box, some went to Mizuki’s donation box while barely anyone went to Riho’s donation box. This makes me wonder if Riho really is as popular as everyone says.
The concert took place in Otsu, Shiga prefecture which is Aika’s hometown. I didn’t realize this till someone requested everyone to chant “Aika” while we waited for the encore. Suddenly it all made sense why there was many Aika signs and purple glow sticks around. Sayumi reported on her blog that Aika was so moved to be home that she was in tears. When Aika first made her debut on Hello! Morning, she was out spoken and jumped in front of the camera at any chance she could get. But today during the encore, Aika was shy and quiet. As everyone was walking off the stage after the encore, Ai had to push Aika back to the centre of the stage as if telling her to enjoy the moment of having a concert in her hometown. It’s kind of refreshing to see this humble and shy side of Aika.
The set list for the 4/9 afternoon concert was as followed:
1) Maji Desu ka Ska!
2) Fantasy ga Haijmaru
3) THE Manpower!!!
MC – All
- Addresses the recent event in Northern Japan.
4) Onna Gokoro to Nanto Yara (Ai, Risa, Sayumi, Reina, Aika)
5) Ichi Kara Juu Made Aishite Hoshii (Ai, Risa, Sayumi, Reina, Aika, “Backdancers” 9th generation)
6) I’m Lucky Girl
MC – Risa, Aika, 9th generation
- Senpai Quiz corner, question from Reina.
7) Suki na Senpai (9th Generation)
8) Resonant Blue (Ai, Risa, Sayumi, Reina, Aika)
9) Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game
MC – Michishige, Tanaka
10) Sungoi My Birthday (Aika, Mizuki, Kanon)
11) Namida ga Tomaranai Koukago (Sayumi)
12) Rainbow Pink (Sayumi, Erina)
13) Moonlight night ~Tsukiyo no Ban da yo~ (Ai, Risa, Riho)
14) Ai no Honoo (Reina)
MC – Ai, Kanon
- Q/A directed towards Kanon.
15) Motto Aishite Hoshii no
- Naichau Kamo
- Shouganai Yume Oibito
- Onna Ni Sachi Are
MC – All
17) Love Machine
19) Renai Revolution 21
MC – All
MC – All
21) Dekkai Uchuu Ni Ai Ga Aru
MC – All
Shortly after the lights were dimmed, the 5 older members entered the stage first and was position at the centre. Moments later the Kyuki members entered from the two sides of the stage. That’s basically what most of the concert was like, with the old versus new members, and the old members being feature more often than the new ones. This is suppose to be a welcoming concert right? Then why does it feel like the newer generation are just decorations on a tree most of the time? I understand that it’s only been a few months since they joined and it’s impossible to expect so much from them in such a short time. I’m just saying that the management should have done a better job at featuring the new girls more. If they had enough time to give Sayumi and Reina each a solo and that MC time, they definitely had time to let the audience learn more about the new members!
Putting the rant aside, let’s look at the 4 new members more closely. Overall their dancing were great, it really looked like a group was dancing rather than “5 experience dancers and 4 newbie”. Vocal wise, it should be a given that they are nowhere near as strong as any of the older members. But I’m sure that with more training and time, they can belt out the songs with a stronger vocal.
Since Mizuki had some performance experience from her days as an Egg, I had higher expectation of her out of all the Kyuki. Well, it just so happen that fate wanted to test her too because towards the end of Maji Desu ka Ska!, her belt fell to her ankles making her fall down on her bum. It wasn’t as simple as getting back up again, cause the belt was still in a loop so she had to remove it from her feet and toss it to the side of the stage. It was impressive to see her act so quickly without hesitation and to be able to jump back to the dance routine like a real pro. But it’s a shame that I didn’t really get to see her personality during the concert.
With all the constant report on how Kanon keeps on struggling with the dances compare to the other Kyuki, I’m happy to say that Kanon had worked hard and was dancing like a pro with the other girls. I’m glad that she was selected for the Q&A MC segment with Ai, but a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see more of her genki personality on stage.
Each of the Kyuki was put in a smaller group with older members for more camera and stage time. Mizuki and Kanon performed Sungoi My Birthday with Aika. The cutesy song fits Kanon and Aika, not so sure it fits Mizuki though. Erina was pair with Sayumi to perform Rainbow Pink; the song choice and pairing amuses me so so much. First off, Erina is probably the weakest singer of the Kyu Ki members and this is base on how she performed her solo lines in Maji Desu ka Ska! at the start of the concert. So for her to be pair with Sayumi (who we can all agree, is not the best singer either) and to perform Rainbow Pink, it’s almost as if Tsunku is acknowledging that her vocal strength is similar to Koharu and Sayumi. And while this girl seems to be the most quiet and shy out of the new members, she certainly shined like a star during the Senpai Quiz session. You should have seen her, among Aika and the other Kyuki, Erina was the only one who tried to get Risa to pick her by jumping up and down like a small girl demanding a mother’s attention among her siblings.
As the final group mix up, Riho was paired with Ai and Risa to perform Moonlight night ~Tsukiyo no Ban da yo~. This was a wonderful song selection for all 3 of them! Vocal wise, Riho’s was more soft and emotionless compare to Ai and Risa. But the best part of this performance was the dance off they had in the middle of the song. Ai can dance, no doubt about that. Risa may not be the best dancer but the way she moves her body with so much power makes the routine looks so good. As for Riho, we all saw what she is capable of in the audition video and she was moving just as well as the other two. It was definitely a real treat seeing all 3 of them show off their dance moves like that.
I was pleasantly surprised and a little worry when they started performing Suki na Senpai. I love the Gokki and absolutely adore this song. So while I was thrill that the new members were performing, I also wondered if they can live up to my expectation for this song. While their performance was nothing like seeing a Gokki performance, the girls did well and gave it their all. It’s also interesting to note how the lines were distributed: Erina got Asami’s lines, Kanon got Makoto’s lines, Mizuki got Risa’s lines, and Riho got Ai’s lines. It’ll be interesting to see if the way these lines were distributed to foreshadow the girls’ future. And once again, I’ll like to point out the Erina’s vocal strength being indirectly compare to older generations.
I was thrilled to see old songs like LOVE Machine and Renai Revolution 21 being performed. It’s true that these songs have been perform many times but this was my first time seeing it done live and now it’s a good as a time to have the Kyuki learn the dance to these popular songs. I was also excited to see songs like Shouganai Yume Oibito and Namidacchi being performed. But at the same time, it felt weird seeing the new line-up perform these songs as my mind kept connecting them with the old line-up. Especially for Namidacchi, because this was the last song the 3 recent graduates performed as Morning Musume members.
Overall, this concert was very fun. One of the best part of seeing these lives is that they can turn songs that I’m not very fond of into ones that end up on a repeated playlist. I’m disappointed in the lack of creativity for the costumes, and not to mention the number of costumes each girl has. Excluding the Maji Desu ka Ska! costume, they only had 4½ costume each (the costume with orange vest and tutu is worn on top of black shorts there are shown for a few performances). But like I said, one of the reasons for attending this concert was to meet the Kyuki and they’ve shown that they have what it takes to become great Morning Musume members. It may take some time for their real personality shine through, but I’m looking forward to the day when that happens!
There were so many reasons why I was looking forward to attending this concert: Yuu’s opening act, meeting the new Morning Musume members, Ai Takahashi’s announcement, the shuffle units and several more. I went to the concert with set list A1 for the shuffle group performance, and was super excited with some of the song choices. Before getting into the actual concert though, let’s start off with the special opening act: Yuu Kikkawa.
Yuu Kikkawa’s performance started 15 minutes before the actual concerts. She only performed one song Sayonara Namida and did some talking afterward. If you haven’t heard any of the live audio clips from this concert tour, go check it out now as her vocal is absolutely amazing. This girl showed a lot of confidence and certainly shined like an idol on that stage. It’s hard to believe how far she has came since trying out for the Morning Musume 8th generation audition with Aika Mitsui back in 2006. She has definitely proved that she got what it takes to perform as a solo artist on stage. But I have my doubts as to how well she will do when she makes an official debut. It seems that they’re trying to separate her from the idol stage by having her debut under Universal Music. But still, I think people will still view her as just another idol from Hello! Project. And just for that, Kikkawa will have to be more than just charming and a decent singer to turn heads in the j-pop/idol scene.
The winner of the 52th Japan Records Best New Artist Award, S/mileage was a bit of a disappointment. The performance for the upcoming single, Shortcut, was good but not the performance I was hoping for from a group that just won a “best new artist award”. Maybe it’s due to the lack of practice with the new single, because when the group came back out at the end of the concert to perform their debut single Yume Miru 15sai the energy level was higher. They seemed to be having more fun, confident, and mixed in their own gestures whenever possible which made the performance really enjoyable.
After witnessing Kikkawa’s strong vocals, Erina Mano’s vocal seemed weak with her opening song Seishun no Serenade especially since she was dancing and bouncing all over the stage. But unlike S/mileage, she never stopped smiling and got the audience involved whenever possible. Putting the vocal factor aside, this is a catchy song and she had got me hook on it. Her closing song, Ambitious Girls, was much better as she wasn’t bouncing around as much.
ºC-ute and Berryz Koubou, can you really talk about one without the other? Yes, yes you can; but not for what I’m about to say for their opening songs: What one group lacks, the other group has. ºC-ute rocked their new single Kiss Me Aishiteru with their energetic dance. With ºC-ute I usually found the group is overshadow by Maimi or Airi, but all the girls really worked together to put on a great performance! What it lacked unfortunately was something beyond their control: the costume. It was a simple royal purple and gold with short shorts, tube top, a jacket and flat heels. Any of those alone would have been fine, but the combination of those together with the dance routine just made the girls look really skanky. Berryz Koubou on the other hand had beautiful casual street wear sparkly costumes. And that’s about the only nice thing I can say for their opening performance of Heroine ni Narou ka. The girls gave it their all but I just wasn’t feeling it.
Having these 4 groups share the stage towards the end was a real nice touch. It was a lot of fun watching the girls goof off during Seishun Song, and it’s interesting to note that most of them tend to cling to those in their respective groups.
Morning Musume’s opening for Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game was just memorizing as each member got to do a solo dance routine during the intro. While it is sad and awkward to see just the 5 of them on that stage, the 5 of them did a tremendous job.
I was surprised that they introduced the new members with their nickname, and they were already being address by it during MC segments. It is a nice way for fans to connect to these girls more quickly. But for me it’s just another name I’ll have to memorize to a face. I much rather create a nickname for each of them as time and experience, much like how Risa got her nickname “Gaki-san”. I am glad they had the new members sit alongside the other girls, it gave me a chance to see how well they interact and fit in with the others. Riho Sayashi was a fan favourite from the start with her fierce dance skills and hope to become the leader one day. Of the 3 new members that were there, she seemed to be the quietest and least interactive with the others on that stage. When asked a question, she gave the simplest answer without elaborating it. Given the same situation Kanon Suzuki saw it as a chance to shine, so she not only answered the question but also elaborated on it when possible. So far, there have been a lot of entries about Kanon on the member’s blog entries. This girl is super friendly and outgoing, and I’m really looking forward to see her shine even more in the group. Erina Ikuta is not as talkative as Kanon, but she’s certainly chats more than Riho. It seems that she’s just a bit shy and with time, maybe she’ll feel more comfortable within the group and show her personality more. Sadly there’s not much to comment on Mizuki Fukumura because she still had her H!P Eggs duty and wasn’t able to enjoy the show at the front of the stage with the other members. Hopefully when the Morning Musume spring concert comes around I’ll know her better to actually make comments about her.
Since we haven’t heard any announcement about specific senpai for the new members, it’s fair to assume that everyone is expected to pitch in to teach the new girls and show them around. Maybe it was just a show for the fans because they knew we were watching, but they really did their best to help and make the new members feel welcome. The 9th generation got to sing the first part of Tomo, all the girls made an effort to include the new members and the new members were happily singing along and smiling back at their senpai… all expect for 2: Reina and Riho, who also happened to be standing next to each other. Reina, was very involved with performing and trying to connect with the audience while Riho was singing and jiggling her body to the music. They were both had a good time no doubt, but it was interesting to see everyone else group and cuddling close together while the 2 of them stood there and did their own thing.
The shuffle units were something I was really looking forward to, especially after seeing the song selection for some of the groups. But alas, I’m sorry to say that some of them just didn’t cut it. The biggest disappointment was ZYX-α performance of GET UP! Rapper. The girls had the work cut out for them as the song is super upbeat yet, they failed to capture the high energy level from it. The dance moves were okay. But after the 9th generation members dance to this song, I was really expecting this group to bring it and show the new girls how it’s really done. Both Pucchi MoniV and Aa! weren’t bad. I’m not very familiar with either song but they both managed to keep be interested with their energy and dance. As for the best shuffle unit, it has to be High-King. The suits gave them a “high king” sophisticated look. Top it off with their dancing, vocal and personalities, it was just amazing. At times Maeda seemed it out of place as she seemed have less oomph and coolness than the others. But she wasn’t always up front and in centre position it wasn’t really noticeable.
With Kamei, JunJun and LinLin gone, I didn’t really know what to expect from “their” units. First up at the concert was Shin Mini Moni and all I can say is no. No no no. For some reason the 3 of them all came on the stage from the right side, and they stayed clumped on that side of the stage for way too long. It was almost as if they were there waiting for a surprise appearance by a 4th member from the left side of the stage. The dance required a lot from the girls, and that resulted in terrible vocals. That would have been fine, if they actually rocked the stage with their dance moves. The sad part is, the Eggs were doing much better and energetic than Kanon was. I know it’s just a shuffle unit, but I didn’t felt any chemistry between the 3 of them. Tanpopo# wasn’t much better, but I did felt they were more of a group performing together. The 3 of them came on to the stage from the ride side too, but they eventually made good use of the entire stage. Plus I actually felt some chemistry between the 3 of them. As for the performance by Zoku Biyuuden, it was surprisingly pleasant. With Sayumi’s high energy and Risako’s coolness, they complimented each other very well and made it a very interesting performance.
As my first live experience for a big Hello! Project concert, I have to say it was definitely an interesting one. I didn’t get the best seats, and I’m sure that if I was closer to the stage there will fewer complains about “not feeling the energy level”. I’m not familiar with a lot of the groups so a lot of time I’ll daze off a little to the side of the stage, just to see what the other girls were doing. That’s one thing I really enjoyed about a big concert like this: there’s so many members on stage that you can never be dull for too long.
Throughout the concert I spend a lot of time eyeing Risa and Sayumi. It’s been announced that Risa will become leader when Ai graduates, so I assume that means Sayumi will become the sub-leader. I can’t judge their leader skills just by this live, but I can certainly tell you that these 2 shined and shown that they loved what they were doing like no other girls out there. With an attitude like theirs, I’m kind of looking forward to how Hello! Project will change and develop under their leadership.
The A1 set list for the January 22 concert at Kobe was as follow:
01) 3,2,1 BREAKIN’ OUT! (All)
MC – All, Ai Takahashi graduation announcement
02) Shortcut (S/mileage)
03) Seishun no Serenade (Erina Mano)
04) Kiss Me Aishiteru (ºC-ute)
05) Heroine ni Narou ka (Berryz Koubou)
06) Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game (Morning Musume)
MC – Introduction of the 9th generation Morning Musume members
07) Uwaki na Honney Pie (Pucchi MoniV)
08) GET UP! Rapper (ZYX-α)
MC – New Year Lottery
09) DON’T STOP Loving (Aa!)
10) CRAZY ABOUT YOU (Shin Mini Moni)
11) Zettai Tokeru Mondai X＝ (Tanpopo#)
MC – All
12) 365 Step March (All – lead by Michishige, Kumai, Okai)
13) Love～Sweet Room～ (Zoku Biyuuden)
14) SHALL WE LOVE? (High-King)
15) Kioku no Meiro (High-King)
MC – Hello! Project Poem send in from fans
16 ) Ambitious Girls (Erina Mano)
17) Yume Miru 15sai (S/mileage)
- Followed by the Best New Artist Award Announcement
18) Magical Future! (Berryz Koubou)
19) Seishun Song (Berryz Koubou, ºC-ute)
20) Dance de Bakoon! (Berryz Koubou, ºC-ute, Erina Mano, S/mileage)
21) Otakebi Boy WAO!! (Berryz Koubou, ºC-ute, Erina Mano, S/mileage)
22) HOW DO YOU LIKE JAPAN?～Nihon wa Donna Kanji dekka?～ (All)
23) Guru Guru JUMP (All)
MC – All
24) Tomo (All – including Morning Musume 9th generation)
25) Aozora ga Itsumademo Tsuzuku yo na Mirai de Are (All)
When the news of the triple graduation in Morning Musume was announced I went and bought the ticket right away. Never would I have thought my first concert in Japan was to see Morning Musume. Not to mention this would possibly be the last time to see Eri Kamei, JunJun and LinLin.
I attended the evening concert in Hiroshima because it was the closest to where I live. I would have loved to attend one in Osaka but to my surprise there was none set for this tour! I arrived at the concert hall an hour before the show. I should have got there earlier as some of the goods were already sold out. They had goods table set up outside and inside the venue. So next time I’ll know better and head to the venue early for limited edition goods like the daily concert photos.
Once inside they did check for cameras and such. It was just a quick look inside the bag since many people voluntarily turn over the camera if they have it. Samples of concert goods were set up right at the entrance. The solo microfiber towel was the highlight of this showcase as each were signed by the girls themselves. Aside from the long goods table, there were 2 smaller tables set up to the side. One was a donation table for the guide dogs which the girls promoted during the Shanghai Expo trip. The other table sold CDs, DVDs, and blue-rays. You can get a free poster if you spend more than 1,500 yen at this table.
Prior to the show, the stage glowed with blue and orange spot lights. Long white fabric hung from the ceiling completing the eerie look of the stage. The setup looked more like a stage for a Halloween event than a Morning Musume concert. There were a lot of empty seats around me, but that didn’t matter cause once the concert started you couldn’t tell with everyone dancing around. They began playing background music two minutes before the concert started and that was the cue that had everyone standing up.
The set list for the 10/23 evening show was as followed:
01) Souda! WE’RE ALIVE
02) Hand Made City
03) Appare Kaiten Zushi!
MC – All
04) Nakidasu Kamo Shirenai yo
05) Onna ga Medatte Naze Ikenai
06) Tsuyoki de Ikouze!
MC – Kamei, Michishige, Tanaka
- Watashi no Miryoku ni Kizukanai Donkan Hito (Mitsui, Backdancers: JunJun, LinLin)
- Kira Kira Fuyu no Shiny G (Tanaka)
- Take off is now! (Takahashi, Niigaki, Tanaka)
- Rairai! Shinfu (Junjun, Linlin)
- Hare Ame Nochi Suki (Kamei -> All)
- Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT
MC – All
08) Aisaresugiru Koto wa nai no yo (New Song)
09) Nanchatte Renai
10) Okii Hitomi (Kamei, Sayu, Reina)
11) Yuugure Sakusen Kaigi (Niigaki)
MC – Takahashi, Mitsui, Junjun, Linlin
12) Seishun Collection
14) Ambitious! Yashinteki de ii Jan
15) Sono Bamen de Bibiccha Ikenai Jan!
16) Love & Peace! HERO ga Yattekita!!
MC – All
18) Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game
MC – All
The girls started by doing a dance number, which was good but I’ve seen better dance moves from them. What really got me going was when Souda WE’RE ALIVE began and the crowd went wild. It took awhile for me to get into the concert as I wasn’t familiar with some of the songs and chants. But by the time the Rokki members said their goodbyes and ran off the stage together after the encore, I wished I had the time to go to the Fukuoka concerts so I can experience the whole thing again.
My biggest complain about this concert is the solos for the medley. The medley started off with Aika doing solo with JunJun and LinLin as backup dancers. I’m not complaining that Aika got the solo instead of the other two or that she can’t sing. What bother me is that after 2 years the two exchange girls are still treated as just backup dancers when compare to Aika. Yes technically Aika is their senpai but just once, it would had been nice to see the 3 of them performing together as 8th generation members. And no, giving JunJun and LinLin a duet about Chinese food does not make it better. It might had been fun to chant the lyrics out along with the girls, but it certain does not make the whole 8th generation situation any better. Especially since JunJun and LinLin will be graduating after this concert tour.
Next rant: Reina’s solo. This girl can sing no question about it. But does she really need more solo attention time, singing a song that does not show off her vocal but only her cute side? Regardless of the song choice, it would have been nice if Reina attempted more interaction with the crowd. With her years of experience in the idol world, I was expecting more than just a cute act from her.
What saved this medley were the last 2 songs. It was a challenge to switch from a cute up tempo song to a slower smoothing one, but Eri definitely nailed it. Ending the medley with Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT was just plain awesome as it was a fun song for both the girls and the crowd.
Love & Peace! HERO ga Yattekita!! is a redundant song but I am super glad they performed it. I’ve always love watching the girls’ interaction for this particular song and throughout this song I was glancing everywhere hoping to catch a cute moment from those who weren’t singing. Yes my eyes got tire of darting all over the place but it was definitely well worth it. Toward the end each girl got some solo time by taking turns and saying “Daisuki yo, chou daisuki yo”, each adding their own style to it.
I hope you guys like the upcoming single Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game because we might be seeing it a lot more of it in upcoming concerts. Without giving too much away in case some of you still haven’t heard it yet, the song is set up so that Ai has 2 chances to control the flow of the performance and interact with the crowd. The second time it happened, she really played it up and made the crowd work for it. She refused to start singing again until everyone in the building was screaming their heads off.
The surprise song for the evening was definitely Namidacchi. The first time I heard it, I removed it from my playlist right away. Well surprise surprise, after seeing this live I’ve falling in love with it. Much like “Love & Peace” it’s another song that allowed the girls to freely interact with each other. I still don’t really like the album version, but it’s definitely one of those song where it’s better when it’s perform live.
As far the costumes are concern, I don’t think any of them were horrible. In fact, this time around it seems like they were playing it so safe that aside from some differences in the clothing colours all the girls’ costume look identical from afar. Like the red plaid dress, if it weren’t for the big screen or the difference hair styles I wouldn’t had been able to tell who was who on the stage.
The concert itself was great. I’m not completely satisfied with the set list, and I probably never will be 100% satisfy with it. If I were to rate this concert right now, I wouldn’t give it more than 4 stars. But this was more than just about the concert show. I walked in the concert hall with the simple thought of seeing the girls live. Midway through the show, I realize this was so much more than just that. The girls’ live performance along with the synchronized chants and dance moves, it was definitely something I could never had experience by watching a concert DVD at home alone or with a group of friends. With the 2 elements combined together, I got a concert experience that exceeded way beyond my expectations.
Many times when a song that I’m not familiar with started or even during MCs, my eyes naturally shifted towards the audience and something interesting was always happening. Whether that be a fan holding up a Tare Panda doll to show their support for JunJun or LinLin, or be it a small group of fans that stood out from the rest because they were doing their own dance moves.
The highlight of the evening was during the MC when Ai chatting with the 8th generation. While Ai was talking with JunJun, the group of girls that was sitting next to me decided to get Ai’s attention by shouting her name. The first time they did it, nothing happened so they regroup and tried again. This time Ai stopped mid sentence, turned her head in our direction and said in a loving way “Hai?” Naturally the girls began screaming hysterically in excitement. I was just plain shock that Ai even bother to respond at all.
All the small interactions between the girls and the fans throughout the evening made my first concert experience more enjoyable than it already was. I’m looking forward to the attending another concert, so hopefully another artist will announce plans for a tour soon!
Guuzen no Kakuritsu photoshoot
|Artist: GIRL NEXT DOOR
Product Code: AVCD-31478/9
Release Date: 2008.09.03
Highest Ranking: #3
Label: avex trax
Format: CD or CD+DVD
First Press: Cardboard Slipcase and Photobook
Two years ago, the avex produced band GIRL NEXT DOOR, nicknamed Garuneku released their debut single in September 2008. This band of three members center around Chisa, the vocalist, who originally was a dancer in the Kansai area. She attracted the attention of avex trax, was encouraged to go to Tokyo and enter Avex Artist Academy on a scholarship. There she met Suzuki Daisuke who composed tracks for other artists. Together they started working on demo tracks and they caught the attention of Max Matsuura. Shortly afterwards Inoue Yuji joined them as guitarist and they started preparing for their debut. avex packaged this band as their 20th anniversary product. Since it was a 20th anniversary project it was quite a challenge to reproduce the signature sound of avex and bring forward something new…
Naturally this single was promoted quite aggressively, in typical avex style. A lot of the promotion was in blog advertisements. As early as from the 29th May 2008, the title song Guuzen no Kakuritsu was placed online on several websites and in July 2008 it was recorded that there were two million views.
GIRL NEXT DOOR made their first appearance at a-nation ‘08 where they performed their debut single a few days prior the release of the single. Following this performance GIRL NEXT DOOR would perform on four major variety shows. A few months later Garuneku would win several awards and get invited to end-of-year specials where they performed their debut single. Furthermore three tracks from this single were used as theme songs for several television shows.
A lot of work was focused on the production of this single. Chisa teamed with songwriter Kenn Kato and together they penned the lyrics for the three tracks. Daisuke worked on the composition of the songs. The first promotional video was aired a month and a half before their debut. The team spent three days filming, two in Los Angeles and a day in Las Vegas.
It’s not quite surprising that this single did really well on the Oricon charts. On the first week Guuzen no Kakuritsu secured the #3 position at the weekly charts with 30,025 copies. It charted for a total of 174 weeks and sold a total of 58,137 copies, which is quite an excellent figure for a debut single. It is the highest ranking for a debut single since ayaka’s “I Believe” in 2006, which had also charted at #3.
[See post to listen to audio]
Guuzen no Kakuritsu (Probability of Coincidence)
Guuzen no Kakuritsu has quite an interesting style. It deceivingly starts of as a soft, classical piano piece which explodes into a powerful and refreshing electronic-rock segment with the keyboard and the guitar, which feels similarly to a dash of cold water. Shortly after Chisa’s clear vocals are introduced.
Throughout the whole track has an arrangement with the keyboard, sythns and guitar, which fit in quite well with the uplifting mood. The whole song has quite a fresh and a particular appeal to it, with a particular twist, that it’s quite easy for it to shine on its own. The youthful and modernistic mood of this song is a perfect combination for a brilliant debut title song.
It borrows from the rock, techno and electronic genres and blends them with pop. Although it’s not very upbeat it has a very catchy and up-tempo beat. Chisa’s vocals might not be particularly powerful but they carry an infectious sense of enthusiasm which match really well with the tone of the song and her vocals flow well with the track. There’s a very strong element of 90’s pop, which can be especially observed within past avex releases.
This track was had quite a lot of exposure, especially through television. It was used as the theme song of the Beijing Olympic Games and the theme song of several TBS shows. Unsurprisingly enough this track became quite popular and became a firm fan favorite with fans.
The promotional video is definitely the most exciting part of this single. It is obvious that a huge budget was allocated to the production of the video. The well known director Masashi Muto, who recently directed Kelly Rowland’s Commander was the director for Guuzen no Kakuritsu. The video gives off quite a vintage vibe. It starts in a theater in Los Angeles where Chisa is watching a movie where Chisa herself is the protagonist. The Chisa featured in the movie travels in a desert and encounters a giant scorpion which gives cue to a fight scene. The following scene portrays Chisa and several other people in a circus setting set up a stage where Chisa and the rest of the band perform. In several scenes Chisa also has some simple dance segments but the final conclusion seems to be that all these scenes were part of the “movie”. Finally it ends with Chisa exiting the theater with the twist that the actual Chisa is also wearing “circus” make up.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
[See post to listen to audio]
Breath is a soothing and pleasant rock ballad. It manages to get the listener in the atmosphere of the upcoming winter, especially since the mood is rather desolate and lonely, with a hint of mystery. It certainly has the emotional elements which make it quite moving.
Chisa’s vocals might verge on being slightly high pitched but they somehow work well with the instrumentals. Once again the arrangement features the piano, stings, guitar and keyboard and it’s done rather well. The guitar riffs in the chorus manage to give the track a dramatic flair, while the piano and keyboard were cleverly used in the beginning and end of the song to create a melancholic mood. It managed to live up to the standards of the title song quite well. Since it’s quite a strong song on its own, this song was chosen to feature also in their debut album. Breath was chosen as the Rumors! Tokyo Magazine ending theme.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Red Ribbon ~Unmei no Hito~ (Red Ribbon ~Fated Person~)
Red Ribbon is a mid-tempo electro-rock song. Once again the pop elements from the 90’s are quite predominant. Although it’s not a particularly strong track it sounds quite pleasant to the ear and Chisa’s sweet vocals blend in perfectly with the mellow arrangement. The arrangement feature the piano as the main instrumental in this track, giving a lighthearted and happy vibe. The chorus is even more lively and quite catchy. In the verses the guitar gives this song additional energy and a hint of assertiveness. Overall I would consider this song an average track and quite fitting for the b-side status.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Guuzen no Kakuritsu (ice cream mix)
What is interesting about the title of this mix is that they gave it a personal touch. It’s quite a well known fact that Chisa loves ice creams and that was probably the reason why this mix got such a name. This mix also got exposure by being a theme song for a couple of TBS shows.
This final track is slightly different from the original mix. The whole rock element is completely removed. It has a more summery feel, with elements from the dance and trance genres and more emphasis on synths. Once again not an outstanding track but quite enjoyable to chill to in a summer afternoon in the sun.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The creative production of the music seemed to focus on producing “that avex sound” which was so popular in the 90’s. Rather than sounding rehashed and outdated, Garuneku successfully managed to produce something which was the perfect mix of nostalgic retro eurobeat music and modernistic house and trance, by mixing rock, pop and electro genres. Maybe this was the secret of their success for their long awaited debut…
This single has certainly exceeded expectations of a debut single within the pop scene. It seemed to contain all the extras that could be fitted in a single to make it jam-packed with exciting elements. The arrangement of the instrumentals provide an interesting array of songs, while Chisa’s fresh vocals might not be anything outstanding but they definitely do the job rather well. With an excellent package of an exciting promotional video, an interesting selection of tracks, a mix and eye catching cover art, I feel that Garuneku’s team did a good job at providing an exciting debut and build the anticipation of things to come with future releases.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Author’s Note: I haven’t noticed it has been almost two years since I have reviewed a single or an album. Time does sometimes fly without even noticing so I decided it was high time to review something exciting for me. Lately I have turned by attention to GIRL NEXT DOOR so I thought it would be interesting to go back to the origins of this band. Hope you have enjoyed reading this review!
Girl Next Door will be the releasing the theme song for Birdman, which will be featured in the triple a sided single due to be released on the 13th October.
The song Capsule of Wind will be sponsored by Yomuri TV to celebrate the comeback after two years of Birdman Iwatani 2010 Special Contest.
This popular tournament has been held for 32 times since 1977 and has been broadcast every year. The aim is to help people who wish to “fly” to realise that dream and also developing a large general interest in aircraft. However it was suspended in 2008 and the 33th edition will be held after two year.
It is the first time that this show will have an official theme song and was done in order to revive this show. The song will feature the bright smile of innocence from Chisa’s vocals and the catchy and unique melodies that are so well known for Girl Next Door.
The Yomuri Nippon System national television will broadcast this special on the 24th September 2010 at 19.00. During the show Chisa will also participate, who will perform during the contest.
For those interested a preview is available on Birdman’s official website which can be accessed here.
The single will be released in three versions as follows:
9th Single “Ready to be lady (tentative) /Kaze no Capsule (Capsule of Wind)/ Shiawase no Hakari (Scales of Happiness).”
CD + DVD Edition (MUSIC VIDEO Edition): AVCD-31940 / B \ 1,890 (tax in)
CD + DVD Edition (LIVE Video Edition): AVCD-31941 / B \ 1,890 (tax in)
CD ONLY: AVCD-31942 \ 1,050 (tax in)
This article is translated from an interview done with Girl Next Door’s Chisa by Yahoo!
Translation by Rinoa
[See post to listen to audio]
“At 18, I used to dance constantly from morning to night. Also with my friends we used to have independent lessons.”
What is your idea of an artist at the age of 18 years and the circumstances you thought they would be placed? Serial 18 years old invites various artists and guests to talk about their memories. The 35th guest, Chisa shall be releasing a new single on the 5th August 『Be your wings/FRIENDSHIP/Wait for you』
“The year with the most experiences”
“I’d say at 18 was the year where I experienced the most things. It was that year that I graduated from high school and started living alone.”
She wanted to advance towards the path of dancing, by choosing her own future, she decided to go to a school of dance.
“At that time dancing was a temporary activity and I started practicing more. I studied dance at school during the day, but with the attitude that it wasn’t enough and so I started getting self-borrowed lessons from the rented studio with a friend who came home from school. Until I went to a professional dance college, I was only doing jazz and ballet genres, however after reaching the point where I started attending school, I started dancing to rock, hip hop, house, rock, acrobatic and dance. I learned a lot from other genres.”
“Thought becoming a nursery teacher. “
Chisa had been learning dance since she was in kindergarten, and she was determined in advancing seriously on the road of dance and decided to go fully into jazz in high school.
“Liking dancing in any case, getting together to dance together with your best friends after school was pleasant. So when you focused on the learning environment at school, I was just dying to simply concentrate on dancing with delight. When determining one’s course, I though that my parents wouldn’t allow me to live on my own or attend a specialised school.I think at that time they hoped that I chose to be a nursery teacher rather than choose the world of dance.”
But when they saw how honestly her willingness to learn to dance was strong, they showed no opposition. “If you want to have it so much, go for it. Good luck”, they told her.
“I had a support of my parents so I could not give up.”
“Because there was such a strong support, I absolutely couldn’t give up. Therefore I took my classes seriously and worked hard and focused my attention on any auditions which interested me. In the auditions for the leading part for a certain musical one must reach new heights. One must give oneself greatly since the characters were quite different from me. I started to yearn to sing at the center, while performing from there, at the stage.”
She had a good relationship with her friends, when at the time of the audition everyone was a rival. However being 18 years and desperately chasing the same dream, is imprinted deeply in her memory.
GIRL NEXT DOOR will release a new single on the 5th August,『FRIENDSHIP』is something which draws from the memory of summer with friends while she was learning from her school of dance. As for the lyrics, they describe the feelings of failure, worry and frustration felt in every day life in youth and she feels like it’s a blur of the blood and effort of her past life as she related how “real” the lyrics feel to her.
(Transcribed by Takeiti Naoko)
Sexy Little Things was another music video which filmed in London, along with Microphone. According to her ViVi Deji Diary, more than 50 musicians and models were featured in this video.
Filmed in a completely different style and mood, it provides a continuation to Microphone, with a different twist. The imagery is highly minimalistic and makes heavy use of black, white and red. Hamasaki describes it as “fully loaded with tricks” and mentions how she experiments with unique different styles.
Sexy Little Things is probably one of her most unique and entertaining music videos. With a bizarre combination of the 8-bit videogame era, the haute couture runway and the twisted “Alice in Wonderland” vibe, Sexy Little Things is definitely something to keep out an eye for.
Since the whole style of this video is quite bizarre, many have claimed that Hamasaki is copying Lady Gaga’s style. Arguably it has certain elements which are reminiscent of “Bad Romance” but I feel that certain elements were simply inspired from Lady Gaga and used for her own concepts. After all, Hamasaki has been working on weird and bizarre videos long before Lady Gaga’s debut.
The whole atmosphere of this video is quite playful and light-hearted, while maintaining the slightly creepy vibe from Microphone. However it seems that everything is poked fun at, at a certain level. Models prance and pose teasingly around the room. The fox hunters jump around the room like little kids. These two professions are usually characterised with being serious and expressionless. However, here they are depicted as having fun and being themselves, without any inhibitions. Could this be a hint that not everything is actually as it seems?
What do you mean by “I love you” ?
What do you mean by “You are the best” ?
My personal theory is that the fox hunters and models are a metaphor. The fox hunters could be seen as a metaphor for the male gender. Anthropologically men are characterised as being the hunters, the providers and the ones who traditionally seek females, rather than the other way round. So therefore the fox hunters could be viewed as the ideal male prototype.
However in the music video, men are also portrayed as being immature and seeking entertainment by using women as a form of “sport”. Furthermore fox hunting is frequently viewed as a controversial activity since many consider it to be cruel and unnecessary while others assert it is tradition and a symbol of power. It seems that instant gratification is achieved at the cost of suffering of others.
It goes without saying that sometimes men objectify women as a “prize” to be won over. The lyrics underline this concept more than once. Although it might be generalising several men feel that women are something to chase after for their amusement and then simply providing them with their materialistic needs to make them happy.
Hey, how many times can you possibly use
The same gestures and same way of doing things that we’re so utterly used to?
On the other hand the models are a metaphor of the female gender. Models are frequently viewed as the “ideal” female. With the perfect figure and feminine looks, the docile and emotionless demeanour and obedient nature, they are characterised as the perfect female. In a less idealised manner, this portrayal might be of someone dim-witted, lifeless, subdued and unable to make her own decision.
It is a common perception that in order for a female to be chosen by a prospective male, she must “fit in” the ideal model of a female; no matter how unsavoury this might be for her. The emphasis is on “fitting in” was always focused on being feminine, being slim and obedient. The imagery where she forces the plug to fit in the socket, which screams in protest, symbolises the whole concept of “fitting in”.
Women are always at the receiving end,
Showing themselves like they have no intention or desire.
However the models in this video are portrayed as being more bold and assertive. The outfits, make up and overall appearance of Hamasaki and the models are rather bold and unfeminine, as if expressing their own personality rather than repressing it. Instead of trying to fit in the men’s stereotypical ideal of “sexy”, they are more at home at being with their own definition of “sexy” and simply having fun. The giant girl in the wall, when woken up is cranky and suspicious. All versions of Hamasaki show a lot of personality and quirkiness. Rather than waiting for orders, Hamasaki takes matters in her hands to the point of being aggressive and destroying the electric guitar.
“Women don’t know anything
They are always just nodding with their lifeless eyes.”
If you think that, then that’s a huge mistake.
The principal message seems to be that although men seem to think they are the ones using women to their ends, women are actually the ones who are in control. Being a female makes it harder for males to read their minds and makes it easier for females to manipulate men in their subtle way. The passive demeanour females posses provides men a confidence boost where they can feel in control but ironically this does only take place because females grant them this privilege.
In order to offer the environment where you can act cool
In other words, you are in my hand
The video is saturated with avant-garde haute-couture elements. Two of the outfits worn by the models (the black and white mini-dress and the robot-styled outfit) are from Gareth Pugh Spring 2007 and 2009 Collection. The huge black outfit another model wears is inspired by Alexander McQueen. Hamasaki’s outfits are also from runway collections. The black and white houndstooth checked top is from Alexander McQueen Fall 2009 ready to wear collection. The black and red houndstooth dress is also an Alexander McQueen design. The large black dress was designed by Akira Noda, Ayumi’s personal costume designer.
Author’s Note: A big thanks goes to maikaru and masa from Ayumi Hamasaki Sekai who do terrific translations of Hamasaki’s songs. Furthermore another big thanks goes to truehappiness for hunting down the costume designers.
Microphone is the first song from Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus which was leaked online and was chosen as the leading song for this album. Furthermore it was also the first promotional video which was aired on television. It is neatly blended in with Sexy Little Things, where the final scene is re-winded and re-utilised as the introduction for Microphone.
The setting is largely modified from minimalistic to gothic. Nonetheless the heavy usage of black and white is ever-present. It was filmed in the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. The video highlights themes of repression, concealment, control and the notion of being true to yourself.
In each and every random scene that is displayed, the first impression is of prim and proper families and typical workers, such as a clown, a soldier and a janitor. Like most people they are anxious to hide their transgressions from what might be categorised as abnormal. Therefore they might see their passions and desires as something to be ashamed of and try to suppress them.
But, you know, there’s the days when
When I don’t even want to see your face, it’s that hateful.
However an omnipresent god-like presence seems to be always manipulating the overall situation and direction of the plot. This presence cleverly reveals the true nature of all these people by flipping through, rewinding and fast-forwarding through the scenes as if using a touch screen remote control when things get too boring. The janitor’s passion is for dancing, the soldier feels restricted in the austere outfits and tears her clothes away and the clown is actually a pyromaniac
The family setting struck me most. It seems to be highly strung, where everyone seems to be forcing themselves to be nice to each other even if they can barely stand the sight of each other. The family seems to be a combination of Victorian and Stepford families who are dead set on rules and being prim and proper. However beneath the veneer of a traditional family, cracks start to appear and the family is portrayed as dysfunctional. The sister is actually a brother dressed up as a girl, the parents seem to be coldly ambivalent of each other and Hamasaki is extremely uncomfortable in the shoes of a well behaved daughter.
In the end the omniscient presence shoves the “sister” towards “White-Wigged” Hamasaki. This is practically the straw that broke the camel’s back for her and she gets fed up of keeping up appearances and the whole family starts bickering. Hamasaki climbs on the table while her family try to drag her back.
I’m pushed by gravity, and I’m pulled by gravity,
Meeting you was a necessity.
The “Black” Hamasaki seems to symbolise the “hidden-true” side of Ayumi who loves singing and defines herself by her music. She determined in breaking down all the barriers and simply be herself, without any social inhibitions. Maybe it’s the desire of wanting to be different or simply to be herself and not caring about what anyone else thinks.
In the final scene it is strongly hinted that through the whole time the “Red” Hamasaki (from Sexy Little Things) was manipulating the whole situation all along. She holds a small modernistic screen where she recorded the whole video and grins smugly at her handiwork, while she rewinds the whole video. Taking into account the mood of Sexy Little Things, one can theorise she just did it for entertainment purposes to wind the people up and compile something which revealed the true colours of human beings.
I won’t lose my way anymore, I don’t have any regrets.
Meeting you was my destiny.
Personally, I am quite fond of the lyrics, especially since they’re so different from anything she has written before and provide a very powerful message. Refreshingly enough Hamasaki does not talk about a loved one or a past love. The lyrics depict a love-hate relationship between Hamasaki and her microphone. It is quite straightforward that the microphone is a metaphor for her love for music.
Human beings need a focus in their life, a constant which defines them and ignites passion within them. For Hamasaki music is her passion. No matter how much she changes and those days where she’ll just wish to give up everything, she’ll still hold on to her musical career. She firmly believes that it was her destiny to become a musician and it defines her as a person. In her musical career she has no regrets and even though sometimes she cannot understand why she loves music so much, she is well aware that without her music she is not herself.
You know this: The me without you
Is not me at all.
Author’s Note: A big thanks goes to maikaru from Ayumi Hamasaki Sekai who does my favourite translations of Hamasaki’s songs.
The American television series scene is definitely something to brag about. Networks like ABC, FOX and CW keep churning quality series which have the production quality that contends with cinematic productions.
Most television series seek to keep their shows “authentic” and instil new blood in their cast, in order to retain the viewers’ attention and expand their fan-base. Although these shows’ biggest market is in the states, DVD releases and international syndications are definitely something that many producers pride in.
Consequently several producers have been eyeing the Japanese market and recently this has been an interesting development. The highly popular drama, “Lost” has premiered their final season with the addition of the Japanese superstar Hiroyuki Sanada, who is set to be a significant recurring role. On a similar vein, the Stardust actress, Takeuchi Yuko obtained an acting role in “Flash Forward”. And there is a new addition to the American drama series from Japan.
The well known singer and actress Seiko Matsuda (47) needs no introduction to the majority of the J-Pop fan-base. She is well known for being a legend and has been dubbed as the “eternal idol” in Japan and the “Japanese Madonna” in America. And she has yet another gig to add to her resume. She has landed a role on the popular American drama series “Bones”. She is set to play the part of a Japanese journalist in the 5th season, which is currently airing on Fox network. Seiko’s scenes are scheduled to start airing in April.
In retrospect, although this is a great opportunity for Matsuda, this was probably also done to expand their fan-base to the Japanese market. The 4th season box set is set to go on sale on the 19th March and having a prominent Japanese figure chosen to act in “Bones” is definitely set to attract the Japan’s attention, to the point of boosting its’ popularity.
For those who are not familiar with “Bones”, it is a crime drama television series which is based on the books written by the illustrious writer and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. Though the drama series has steered away from the books, Kathy Reichs is one of those rare writers who are happy with the development of their literary work on the screen. In fact, she is one of the producers of the show and has also appeared as a cameo role on the show.
The episodes are typically based on an FBI case file, in which the victims’ bodies are in such an advanced stage of decomposition to the point that they require the expertise of forensic anthropologists and other forensic scientists. The main protagonists are FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz, 40) and the forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel, 33).
This show has gradually garnered a strong fanbase and is currently one of the most popular American dramas. Additionally “Bones” is known for highlighting different cultures, communities and relatively obscure sub-cultures. “Bones” has also explored the world of gaming, science fictions, comic books, black metal bands and ImagiCon (a parody of the comic book convention Comic-Con).
Seiko commented to the media; “I really like watching drama series. When my casting was decided, I was surprised, and very happy. She was especially excited since she loves working in America, with a completely different language and culture. Once she got the offer, she immediately accepted, without even reading the script. Matsuda was preparing for her role in “Bones”, at the end of 2009, while she was concurrently touring in Japan. In early January, she was flown to the states for two weeks of filming.
The producers mentioned that they were looking for a Japanese actress who had polished acting skills, proficiency in English and who would be recognised to her role. Matsuda fit the bill perfectly. In 1990 she made her recording debut in the states and had a modest success in the charts. Additionally she also landed some small roles in Hollywood, such as the 1998 blockbuster “Armageddon”.
According the media, the “Bones” crew were really impressed at her level of professionalism. Emily Deschanel praised Matsuda claiming she was “very sweet, with a lovely disposition and a professional attitude“. Although they were aware she was fluent, no one expected her to have such a good level of English, especially with forensic terms. Matsuda admits that she read the script several times, in order to memorise it.
“I tried not to be a bother for them. You fully have to understand your partner’s words and be able to answer properly.”
Unfortunately Seiko won’t be a regular addition to the cast, but Matsuda commented that she is more than willing to return if she is requested back to “Bones”.
“I really would love to play that role again.”
Hopefully Seiko will return to the cast of “Bones”, since I’m quite sure she’ll be a very interesting addition to this successful show. And I’m certainly hoping we’ll get more Japanese starring to American dramas. It would definitely be an interesting addition to an already exciting industry.
The Ausiello Files
The 30th January 2010 marked the 57th anniversary of television broadcast in Japan. Once more Oricon Style stepped in to create a poll in celebration of this occasion. People could submit their votes on those celebrities who they feel made the most contribution to television.
Kimura Takuya from SMAP, nicknamed as Kimutaku was the winner in the actor category. In fact, ever since 1993’s Asunaro Hakusho, Kimutaku has had a string of hit dramas, including memorable roles in Long Vacation and Beautiful Life. He is very deserving of the award.
In the singer’s category, ‘Showa’s Songstress’ Misora Hibari was voted first. In the comedian category, Downtown, the comedic duo comprised of Matsumoto Hitoshi and Hamada Masatoshi placed first. Many voters even complimented them for being revolutionaries in the comedy world. The most contribution by a television host went to Tamori, the host of two long-running television shows, Music Station and Waratte Iitomo.
It seems that most of the personalities listed seem to have been in the television scene for quite a while since relative newcomers have been left out. Several of these celebrities listed have had a very long history in the entertainment scene, spanning over ten years.
Actors and Actresses
1. Kimura Takuya
2. Ishihara Yujiro
3. Mori Mitsuko
4. Yoshinaga Sayuri
5. Nakama Yukie
6. Matsuda Yusaku
7. Oda Yuji
8. Fukuyama Masaharu
9. Matsushima Nanako
10. Mizushima Hiro
2. Beat Takeshi
3. Akashiya Sanma
4. The Drifters
6. Nishikawa Kiyoshi & Yokoyama Yasushi
7. Tunnels (Tonneruzu)
8. Shimada Shinsuke
10. Hagimoto Kinichi
1. Misora Hibari
4. Yamaguchi Momoe
5. Matsuda Seiko
7. Pink Lady
8. Hamasaki Ayumi
9. Southern All Stars
10. Amuro Namie
Talk Show Hosts / MCs
2. Akashiya Sanma
3. Shimada Shinsuke
4. Mino Monta
5. Nagashima Shigeo
7. Tokumitsu Kazuo
8. Beat Takeshi
9. Kuroyanagi Tetsuko
10. Nakai Masahiro
Today I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and I ended up listening to Camellia, which was released during Hitomi Shimatani’s crossover era. This song is one of her most polished examples of the well-received crossover genre that many fans loved in the past.
Consequently I ended up echoing the rhetorical question that so many people have been asking. Where has Hitomi’s career gone? Hitomi used to be a symbol of grace and class but she seems to have gotten downgraded into singing covers rather than working on original works with talented musicians as she well deserves to be doing.
Hitomi was never one of those artists who achieved records and sold albums like hotcakes. However avex always seemed to give her a modest budget, which was fairly adequate for her modest success. She is easily one of the most beautiful female artists in Japan, with her natural and feminine looks and she has a lovely voice which has charmed many. Furthermore Hitomi has the type of personality which is liked by everyone and she easily fit in well in variety shows. Hitomi seemed to find her niche with her crossover genre, where she showcased her clear and melodic vocals and classical inclinations. It’s fairly obvious that Hitomi looks at her best in evening gowns and feminine dresses, which accentuate her beauty.
Nonetheless ever since she ditched her crossover style and cut her lovely tresses, Hitomi has been taking a direction which seems to be leading to mediocrity. Hitomi has been going through a slippery slope since 2008 with Flare probably being her most uninspired and unpopular album in her career and two similarly unattractively packaged singles. Maybe it had to do with the credit crunch, or maybe it had more to do with avex’s loss of confidence in Hitomi but in 2008 everything Hitomi released or did was on a tight budget. Hitomi stopped appearing on popular variety shows and end of year specials, with the exception of the CDTV Special.
Although 2009 sounded promising at first, things took an even worse turn. Last year was Hitomi’s 10th anniversary and disappointingly enough she only released one single and a best compilation. Her Hawaiian tour was canceled at the last minute and replaced with a very simple anniversary live which had a setlist riddled with ballads and covers, suggesting that this downgrade was what was in store for Hitomi’s career in the future.
However to be entirely fair, Hitomi’s decline in popularity is also a reflection of Japan’s rapidly changing tastes. In her peak, Hitomi and other popular artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki and Ami Suzuki thrived on pop music. Now it seems that most pop artists which were popular in the 1990’s and early 2000’s are now struggling on the charts and trying to salvage their popularity and create new fanbases in order to support their career.
The few lucky ones who have managed to stay at the top were the ones who were not afraid to take a risk and stand out with strong choreographies, powerful tunes and outrageous fashion choices coupled with scandals. On the other hand, Hitomi seems to blend in with the crowd, as if she meekly wants to please everyone, rather than trying to take charge of her career and do what she actually likes or wants to do.
In her 10 years of her musical career, Hitomi has rarely seen as being in charge of the creative process bar the few lyrics she penned. She never seemed interested in taking a daring twist in her music videos or aim towards something controversial. Although Hitomi’s fashion sense is sophisticated and classy, it also borders on the conservative and traditional. During her unofficial hiatus from the music scene, Hitomi frequently mentioned how much she missed singing but seemed helplessly stuck with such a fate. Admittedly being so nice and polite is part of her charm and why everyone likes her but it seems to have contributed to a lack of interest from the public. Consequently apart from being one of the most beautiful singers and being crowned the Cover Queen, Hitomi doesn’t seem to have anything else which makes her stand out. And to make matters worse, Hitomi’s loyal fanbase is small and her sales patterns are inconsistent.
Will 2010 prove to be more promising for this singer and will Hitomi get out of this slump? It’s hard to say since several artists have proved to be capable of making a comeback and getting a new fanbase. To be entirely honest though, right now it seems highly unlikely for Hitomi. avex trax seems set on playing it safe and focusing on cover albums since sadly enough these are the only releases which actually sell relatively well without going through the expenses of creating original tracks. Maybe it is time for her to switch labels and have more creative input in her releases.
Therefore unless Hitomi gets a tie-in which proves to be popular enough to gain decent sales and as a result renew avex’s interest in her, I’m afraid we’ll be stuck with cover albums and sparse singles. It’s a real shame especially knowing Hitomi has such a potential to release gems such as Heart & Symphony and Destiny -Taiyo no Hana- and has proved over the time that with the right combination of music genres and tie-ins is still capable of selling well. What she desperately needs is a hit single which attracts new fans and the interest of fans who have lost interest in her dwindling career.
On a more positive Hitomi still seems to have her love for music and always looks very happy when she is recording a new song. Furthermore she still looks utterly gorgeous, especially for her upcoming cover album Otoko Uta ~20 Seiki Nostalgia~, which will hopefully have an interesting package for her fans and will be followed by a more interesting year for Hitomi. Hopefully for us fans Hitomi’s musical career is not over yet and she’ll persevere.
This article is translated from an interview done with Girl Next Door’s Chisa by Yahoo!
Translation by Rinoa
[See post to listen to audio]
“The whole room is tinged only by Winnie the Pooh yellow.” (Chisa)
The female artist has an interview where she answers those anxious questions at one go… At the same time she has a relating private photo taken during this interview! I want to catch a glimpse of the real face which is not easily seen. This was done as part of the serial “GIRL’S ROOM” from the original start of the outline. This time, there’s the presence of the vocalist Chisa of GIRL NEXT DOOR who have recently released Drive away/Shiawase no Joken on the 8th October 2009. This is the third single release after two consecutive months.
One answer and one question session for Chisa (GIRL NEXT DOOR)
Yahoo!: What fashion style are you into recently?
Chisa: The pleated skirt with suspenders! It carries a certain impact, it’s easy to put on and I like it a lot.
Yahoo!: How about delicious food?
Chisa: Beans silverberry of Jelly Beans. When I was going abroad for the shoots for music videos and photoshoots, I bought items for the sake of stocking on food. There are other flavours I tried and these beans were also the same flavour of my favourite ice cream. Does anybody also know about it? The ice cream of Cold Stone Creamery? It is a cake with ice cream and a topping a cold stone. It has a silverberry taste. Delicious …!
Yahoo!: And private items that you like recently?
Chisa: I am addicted to Winnie the Pooh! My curtains, futon, bath, the rest room, tableware and the stuffed animals and pretty much the whole room is tinged only with Winnie the Pooh yellow.
Yahoo!: CD, T-shirts, and musical instruments …… of memories. The item which is more important to you related to music?
Chisa: iPod it is! I am always listening to music in this. Not only I can listen to music, I can also see the videos, and I store photos in it so it’s considerably convenient and useful! The music and videos of our times together. I take full advantage of this item (laughs)
Yahoo!: Which item do you always carry around and is an indispensable item?
Chisa: The lucky charm which I bought when we went to Meiji Shrine this year. I think that with “victory” there must be a feeling of “beating” oneself and that’s how I spent this year. To always recall that feeling, I always carry it with me.
Yahoo!: Please give us an impression of an episode of when you had an appearance at a-nation’08 where you performed this summer.
Chisa: We were at Ehime, performing at a-nation. It was out first live broadcasting ever and the MC called “Stop Global Warming“. Suddenly I said it aloud and I must have surprised everyone there. I was questioned by the surprised staff and friends (laugh) I gave four performances when I made it to Ehime, Osaka and Tokyo. Despite not having our debut yet, a lot of people waved back to us and we were really happy about it!
Yahoo!: Tell us a little about your new single Drive Away/Shiawase no Joken and how to listen to it.
Chisa: It was the second single and it was released as a double A side single. Before I used to listen to songs of various artists to get encouragement and strength. I though such a song as Drive Away would cheer and encourage everyone this time! Even though as GIRL NEXT DOOR, we just had our debut, it’s possible to begin to run with everybody who is has dreams and goals to achieve them.
Author’s Note: First of all, Happy New Year! Hope you had a great holiday and that you’re geared for 2010. Hope we get a great year with great music from GIRL NEXT DOOR and other acts!
This article is translated from an interview done with Girl Next Door by Yahoo!
Translation by Rinoa
[See post to listen to audio]
“I seem to embrace a certain joy when I see people are buying it.” (Chisa)
A fusion of pop, rock and dance music reminiscent of the 1990’s. In other words, “the signature avex sound” that Girl Next Door seek to pursue. Transformed elements were incorporated into catchy melodies, where the song sounds like the perfect balance of pop and rock tracks. The typical band sound and the lyrics, sung by Chisa lead to the exquisite balance of familiarity one could find in a diary. It is possible to listen by overlapping it with the events that the listener has gone through, it is possible to hum, and one can manage to feel the song more deeply. They competed with 2.3 million people or more while being involved in early auditions before their debut. Their debut single Guuzen no Kakuritsu was a leading hit where it obtained the 3rd place on Oricon. Then their following two singles Drive away/Shiawase no Joken and Jounetsu no Daishou/ESCAPE reached the top three positions and received a lot of support. They have already released their first album, GIRL NEXT DOOR on December 24th. I talked to the three band members and they related their current state of mind and the story behind the making of the album.
Yahoo!: Whenever I go out in the streets recently I hear GIRL NEXT DOOR’s songs practically everywhere.
Chisa: Is it true? There isn’t such a feeling in my case.
Suzuki: Yes. I realize I am not aware at all. But since we always have to write a song, in the distant future to make things easier the company and the actual studio (avex) thought we should stay at home since being in the public would make a scene and attract television reporters. So we cannot even go out of the city and we don’t have a chance to hear our songs in the street (laughs).
Inoue: Yes, it’s right. We have a lesser chance to live out in the public and life is perfectly still for us. Thus we cannot feel the outside reaction of the people who are cheering for us, I realise I don’t have a very clear perception of what is happening out there.
Yahoo!: Your group is one of the first who set off with a bang. The phrase GIRL NEXT DOOR completely seeps too. What is it, I think if I do say to the person (laughs)
Chisa: Hahahaha. That’s right. However, every person’s reaction is not seen because during our live broadcastings it it isn’t really experienced even if we obtained the 3rd place ranking on the charts or winning an audition of 2.3 million or even being told that it’s quite an achievement. It really makes you think. I wonder why and what kind of people are listening to our music? Instinctively I am glad and I seem to embrace a certain joy when I see people are buying the CD of GIRL NEXT DOOR in shops and I greet them with a barrage of questions (laughs)
[See post to listen to audio]
Yahoo!: So like Chisa (laughs). Is it an actual feeling, that you feel like “a large-sized new face too much?”
Suzuki:That’s not a matter of fact (laughs). However there are some unpleasant aspects, of course. Because if songs are created to be listened to, and therefore the tune cannot be created with betraying the lyrics penned and neither can be disregarded, but I feel that it’s a good kind of pressure. There’s such a thing and also I just brought canned food in the studio (laughs).
“Normally, the lyrics are written in a manner as if they are being spoken to a close friend” (Chisa)
Yahoo!: Had this album’s flow already been planned from all your singles since your debut even though it was released in three months?
Suzuki: I thought the album came out as a flow to some extent though we rushed the process when it was decided that the album would be released in December when prior to that, the album was planned to be released on the 12th January. We included new songs, even one which was made years ago as a demo for this unit. As of now there are roughly 30 songs.
Yahoo!: From Guuzen no Kakuritsu to Drive away/Shiawase no Joken and finally Jounetsu no Daishou/ESCAPE. It was a gradual development.
Chisa: It was. It was also aimed at being daring intentionally. Guuzen no Kakuritsu (Probability of chance) and was named for its’ impact of the words which is very strong. I wasn’t thinking of being glad, if it was possible to accept being in a group named GIRL NEXT DOOR but it sounded something which involved individuality. I thought this word created a certain feeling of opening a door with this word and one by one we could advance ahead too.
Yahoo!: This album also contained the songs Winter Game , Winter Garden and Winter Mirage. The theme of “Winter” is developed and featured regularly within this album.
Suzuki: Yes. The significance was due to the album being released in winter and we made the listeners aware of this by creating the “Winter Trilogy”.
Inoue: I thought the impression would be deep and transmitting. The use of the same word “Winter” was done in a manner that the impression would be different for the same winter.
[See post to listen to audio]
Yahoo!: It left a deep impression on me. What really struck me was the different facets given to the winter. Chisa-chan sang the lyrics to three songs each with a different scenery.
Chisa: Yes. When I wrote the lyrics for these three songs, I thought I could give these three songs three unique pieces of stories and characteristics. I was constantly conscious of the theme of winter and just wrote what was familiar to me and what I usually spoke to my friends about. It was also a bit of a new challenge for me. I wrote Winter Game in the theme of snowboarding. Within the lyrics there is the phrase “Propeller of winter”, which is actually a snowboarding technique. To get the chance to write these lyrics, my family and several important people supported me sincerely to cheer on me when I got into a triathlon competition. I was impressed with that. It was also an element which gave me the strength of feeling towards the goal where players are aiming for. I tried to picture the warmth of the people behind it. WINTER MIRAGE contains a story of a girl who meets a man with whom she has separated with him on the day named Christmas. Although she is overcome with emotion of the joy that she was able to meet him accidentally, he was the one who wanted to break up and she still likes him. He would rather talk with a soft smile on his face, while concealing a gift which he reveals and for a moment she looks surprised. It does bring a lump to one’s throat and the lyrics are really sad and painful. Winter Garden is about lovers in love at their peak. This time it’s through the eyes of a man. I really feel since I’m a girl I cannot fully depict a man’s perception but I think that I illustrated clearly what he is thinking and how he’s seeing her and is surely written with a sense of perfect happiness.
“It’s so troublesome sometimes because there is so much I want to do (laughs).” (Chisa)
Yahoo!: Chisa-chan’s Winter trilogy were a product which aimed at attracting the attention of the audience to the change of expression of the voice that Chisa-chan shows.
Chisa: Even if they might not have been experienced fully, there might surely be all near experiences once for anyone. If it is possible to connect these songs to different memories, I am very happy about it.
Yahoo!: Though a big meaning that was felt in the place where in the end it is connected from the grand opening of NEXT DOOR with Guuzen no Kakuritsu.
Suzuki:The flow of connecting from this NEXT DOOR with Guuzen no Kakuritsu was conceived during the production of the album was assumed and named as the track NEXT DOOR, which was collected only through a single music video for the debut. Prior to that I only thought about it being at the end credits position of the movie when actually arranging it. However I changed it when I saw that the flow could in reality fit in quite fell in the beginning.
Yahoo!: The flow was wonderful. It’s also very dramatic.
Suzuki: What I was really aiming for was for something dramatics. When one re-listens Guuzen no Kakuritsu once again, both become a single entity.
Yahoo!: What is the desire that makes the album title ‘GIRL NEXT DOOR’ this time?
Chisa: It’s comprehensible after all. Even though it might sound quite plain, I thought about what we do best and thought it would be ideal to go towards what started it all and the title became quite obvious.
Inoue: The music we create is “now” in that state of complete vacuum. It yearns for GIRL NEXT DOOR as a title in order to fit into a specific category.
[See post to listen to audio]
Yahoo!: Quite in the style of GIRL NEXT DOOR and I think all songs quite fit in this style. I can feel the basic sounds through really different facial expressions based on every single tune released.
Inoue: That’s right. GIRL NEXT DOOR is also the theme of sound beating from four to one in a rich variation, even within the photos. It became a work that was extensible of the variation with the axis neatly tied with a good meaning.
Suzuki: I do not think whether the number became one from which one per one stands as the same song. Because I worked on creating every song differently so that there is not comparing unfavorably about a single tune.
Chisa: Even if a whole song is completely, I wanted to relate every story really well. I wanted many people to listen to these songs and think this is a GIRL NEXT DOOR piece and they really express the feelings so they can reach many people’s hearts. Within the DVD there are all the music videos released with the singles. If you can enjoy them, I am more than happy.
Yahoo!: Any targets for 2009?
Chisa: I want to do more live performances! And to meet more people who are actually listening to me soon, I want them to sing along to our songs! The album is finished, so my ambition is to have a tour! It’s so troublesome sometimes, because there’s so much I want to do (laughs). But anyway, I will work hard to be at my best while performing!
Author’s Note: Please bear in mind that this is a rough translation and there might be some errors. I did my best to have an accurate translation but feel free to post some corrections for this article.
Artist: Utada Hikaru
Product code: UICL-1088
Release date: 2009.03.14 (JP), 2009.05.30 (US)
Highest Ranking: #3 Oricon, #69 Billboard 200
Label: Island Records
US Version: 3 Bonus Tracks
With the Japanese market completely wrapped around her finger, J-pop sensation, Utada Hikaru, has been seen to frequently flaunt her creative flair in her music. Having dominated the Oricon charts with virtually every venture during her initial five year tenure, Utada finally decided to break into the American music scene with her first English album, Exodus. Her uninhibited, audacious approach to its production led to an album which despite being fresh, was rather difficult for American audiences to accept and ultimately led to its downfall. Undeterred, five years later, Utada returned for another foray in the American market with her now mainstream-focused, aptly titled, This Is The One.
This Is The One raised high expectations, featuring famed producers Stargate and C. “Tricky” Stewart. With such big names involved in what was expected to be a straight forward, R&B album, one could almost be forgiven for expecting an English version of First Love or Distance. Sadly, Utada’s latest release proved to be exactly what was promised – a bland combination of stereotypical R&B and obnoxious club songs. Brilliant vocals and delivery saved a select few such as Come Back to Me or the title track, This One (Crying Like a Child), but the majority of tracks failed to excite those who highly anticipated this album.
Loyal, English-speaking fans of Utada were most certainly put off by how explicit and tasteless Utada’s lyrics could be, such as “Sexy stiletto boots; tight jeans no panties on; oops did I turn you on?” in Poppin’ or “When I’m alone at night, I sit and fantasize;…doing my nine to five, I’m thinking six and nines” in Dirty Desire. Few melodies impressed as well, especially with the highly repetitive On and On literally just droning away and the bulk of her R&B ballads feeling like recycled versions of radio hits. As Daniel Robson of The Japan Times stated, “Is this what it takes to find Stateside success? Whoring yourself both musically and lyrically?” And while that certainly seems true given the current crop of successful artists in America, Utada certainly didn’t sell herself out completely with older classics Simple and Clean and Sanctuary serving to be a reminder of the genius Utada is capable of manifesting.
Amongst the few standout tracks, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI perhaps proved to be the most intelligent track Utada produced for her latest release. An adaptation of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s composition, the combination of oriental and western elements could well have provided the direction needed for Utada’s album. A melodic version of the philosophies displayed in Kiss and Cry should have inspired her to bridge the gap between the East and the West. Instead, the haunting failure of Exodus intimidated Utada into playing it safe, thus avoiding the avant garde stature for her commercially-focused album, This Is The One.
It could have been a valuable move to cement her name and win over legions of loyal fans. Had she captivated a large enough audience, certainly she would be granted the freedom to steadily weave her magic through the American market. Instead, This Is The One did the complete opposite, ironically selling a mere 16,000 units in America compared to the 55,000 units managed by Exodus. Fans of the album have frequently argued that the result was due to poor marketing and promotion; her American audience even insisting her music was fresh. But was it really? To the veteran Utada fan, it was easy to tell that This Is The One is a far cry from what she is truly capable of. Exodus may have been a little too inaugural, but it stayed true to Utada’s innovative aptitude. For such a visionary artist, the title of this lacklustre affair is correct in only one aspect; this is the one you should forget.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Purchase this item: YesAsia US | YesAsia Global
On Thursday nights at 9pm, starting from July 9th, TV Asahi will air the drama series “Dandy Daddy“. The story will center around the romance novelist Ryunosuke Isaki and the theme song will be sung Ayumi Hamasaki from her new single, “Sunrise/Sunset ~ LOVE is ALL ~”.
The song was composed by a new composer in Ayu’s team, Hana Nishimura and arranged by CMJK. As always, Ayu would pen the lyrics.
This marks her first theme song tie-up with a drama since the 2003 release of “forgiveness”, approximately six years ago.
Ayumi created this song as a typical drama summer theme song. Ryuosuke Isaki is the hero of this love drama and he says that he wants to sing this theme song of love. Ayumi managed to achieve this surprise. The music has delighted the staff and actors. This summer song has managed to be a perfect fit for the drama.
Ayumi Hamasaki also commented about the theme song.
“We talked for a long time about the drama theme song and I am honored of being chosen. I have gotten to read the script, feeling utterly in character to create this song, and gave me inspiration to write the lyrics . Everyone should experience song is in bloom, and enjoy the happy memories of this summer. ”
Ayumi would also attend at the Dandy Daddy Media Conference as a surprise guest. She appeared presenting a huge bouquet of red roses and chocolate to the cast. She wore a vivid flowered sundress and a dazzling smile, which was fitting for the summer season. All actors were really surprised to meet Ayumi.
Ayumi would also join the cast for dinner, where Tachi Hiroshi prepared soup and beef and managed to “wow” Ayumi with his cooking skills.