<![CDATA[A-to-J Connections - Idols]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 05:41:31 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[BiSH Release Surprise New Album "THE GUERRiLLA BiSH"]]>Sat, 04 Nov 2017 22:36:45 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/bish-surprise-album
Alternative idol group BiSH has been climbing the pop music ladder since their major label debut album KiLLER BiSH dropped last year (their third studio album overall). Since working with avex, their notoriety has quietly been replaced with a sort of mainstream respect, with member Aina The End taking part in multiple collaborative projects and BiSH music being used in various promotional campaigns. Today, BiSH held a surprise release for their then-unannounced fourth album THE GUERRiLLA BiSH at Tower Records in Japan. The surprise edition of the album does not include cover art or a lyric booklet, and is priced at only 299 yen.
To coincide with the new album, BiSH also revealed the first MV from THE GUERRiLLA BiSH, titled My landscape. It's a pretty by-the-books SCRAMBLES production, something to be expected with BiSH's recent work, but it's not a bad song. The video itself, embedded below,  was shot in Los Angeles.
THE GUERRiLLA BiSH won't get an official widespread release until November 29th, but album art and a tracklist (including the recent singles Promise the Star and GiANT KiLLERS) have been revealed. The promotional "surprise" edition of THE GUERRiLLA BiSH is on sale for 299 yen at Tower from November 4th to the 5th, so good luck picking up a copy if you're not in Japan!



Standard Cover
Limited Edition Cover
DVD Edition Cover
  1. My landscape
  2. SHARR
  4. SMACK baby SMACK
  5. spare of despair
  6. Promise the Star
  7. JAM
  8. Here's looking at you, kid.
  9. Rock'n'Roll no Kami-sama
  10. BODiES
  11. ALLS
  12. Pearl
  13. ​FOR HiM

<![CDATA[BILLIE IDLE Reveals First Single From "LAST ALBUM"]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 00:05:57 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/billie-idle-sayonara-romantic-news
It may be the beginning of the end for BILLIE IDLE fans; their upcoming album, entitled LAST ALBUM, is due November 22nd. Today (happy Halloween, by the way!) the group announced the first single from that album: Sayonara Ro​mantic, to be released November 11th. Along with the announcement came the music video, which is embedded below.
The song is a fun combination of BILLIE IDLE's early punk influences and their retro pop side. It's worth noting that we still have yet to hear if LAST ALBUM is actually BILLIE IDLE's, well, last album. Shortly after the album announcement, de-facto group leader First Summer Uika took to Twitter to let fans know that the group had just heard the name of the album themselves and weren't told what it meant.

We'll have to wait and see what happens in the aftermath of the group's upcoming "LAST TOUR", which runs through early 2018. Until then, enjoy Sayonara Romantic and look forward to LAST ALBUM dropping on November 22nd.


<![CDATA[WACK Family Debuts Supergroup SAiNT SEX]]>Mon, 02 Oct 2017 12:59:51 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/wack-debuts-saint-sex
WACK is at it again. The management team who brought you BiS, BiSH, and GANG PARADE has debuted yet another group following the recent reveal of EMPiRE. This new promotional supergroup, SAiNT SEX, is made up of BiS, BiSH, and GANG PARADE members for a total of 7 idols. 
SAiNT SEX was revealed this morning with an MV for the song WACK is FXXK, a single which is to be released later this month to coincide with the 19th anniversary of Tower Records Shinjuku. Limited to only 2000 copies, WACK is FXXK will be out on October 18th, with an in-store performance by SAiNT SEX on October 19th. 

SAiNT SEX is Aina The End and Ayuni D from BiSH, Pour Lui and Saki Kamiya from BiS, and Aya Eight Prince, Yua Yumeno, and Miki Yamamachi of GANG PARADE. WACK is FXXK is a wild electro-punk romp in the vein of POLYSICS, and may very well be one of the best things WACK has put out in a long time. Video embedded below.


<![CDATA[Who is Sally and Why is She Taking Over My Twitter Feed?]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2017 05:31:55 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/who-is-sally-and-why-is-she-taking-over-my-twitter-feed
Credit: Twitter - @boykunn
Why is this idol name Sally taking over my Twitter timeline? Don’t question it, embrace it.
22/7 member Sally Amagi recently went viral during a Showroom livestream after English speaking idol fans from Twitter began tweeting about her English speaking abilities and interesting yet amusing personality.
Check out our previous article that talks more in depth about 22/7 and Sally Amagi:
For now, here are some A-To-J highlight picks of some dank Sally memes provided by the english idol community on Twitter!
Please remember to support Sally and 22/7 on their official SNS and websites!
22/7 Website: http://www.nanabunnonijyuuni.com/
Sally’s Showroom: https://www.showroom-live.com/digital_idol_11
~Alana (Milky Kitty)
<![CDATA[WHY@DOLL - WHY@DOLL Album Review]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2017 04:39:36 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/whydoll-whydoll-album-review
Released on 8.1.2017 comes WHY@DOLL’s newest, and second overall, album WHY@DOLL. 

What I love about WHY@DOLL: Their voices are very distinctive and complement each other well.

Now let the review begin!

Individual Track Overview:

·Sumire Iolite: The opening track for this album has a very groovy feel to it. Almost reminiscent to 80’s Japanese pop music. It shares a similar style to one of WHY@DOLL’s newest single: Kimi wa Steady.

·Kimi wa Steady: WHY@DOLL’s 4th single continues with the easy listening tunes and compliments the opening nicely. With a little more of an upbeat dance feel to it this is a song you want to dance to while sitting in your car.

·Tokyo Dancing: Keeping with the series of upbeat tracks Tokyo Dancing gives a feeling of a late-night disco party with close friends.

·Koi na no Kana: Still holds an upbeat feeling this song, is a little easier to relax to. Not a strong as the others, but still worth the listen.

·Mahou no Kagami: At this point the album begins to slow down. This song has more of a smooth song to it. You hear more of the girls’ vocal power and range. This is a song that makes you want to dance in your backyard with sprinklers at night.

·Wasurenaide: If you love old 80’s Jpop this is definitely the track for you. Only one slight complaint, the vocals sound slightly flat on this track compared to the others. Although I believe this is intentional to add a carefree feeling to the track!

·Dreamin’ Night: Another easy listening track. The harmonies of this song are well done and the girl’s voices melt together well. This song has a city pop vibe to it.

·Yoru wo Oyoide: An almost hip-hop feeling to this. Another track that really shows off the girls’ vocals. Something I’d recommend when winding done before bed.

·Hello Hello Hello: A song with a different feel from all the others. Instead of the usual pop disco beat formula, this song gives you an old japan feeling with acoustic guitar and a steady beat. The “I want to spin around dramatically on in open plain in the sunshine” type of song.

·Koi wa Shooby Dooby Dooba: A song with a carnival feel and a sense of finale to it. “Koi wa Shooby Dooby Dooba” is the perfect way to wrap the album up. Not to mention the song gives of the vibe of a slice of life anime ending theme!
(WHY@DOLL members Uratani Haruna & Aoki Chiharu)

Final Thoughts:

Although I feel some of the early more upbeat songs may seem to blend together at the beginning of the album, it surely makes up for it with more unique tracks such as “Yoru wo Oyoide” and “Hello Hello Hello”. I believe that the vocals on this album stand out and harmonizing is done very well for the slower songs where they count the most.  I also appreciate that despite the style of WHY@DOLL’s music there isn’t an overuse of auto tune on the member’s vocals. Overall, I give WHY@DOLL’s WHY@DOLL 4 out of 5 stars and would highly recommend it!

Purchase WHY@DOLL Album
 WHY@DOLL Official Site


Kimi wa Steady MV

<![CDATA[Overview of Janken Taikai 2017 Subunits Edition]]>Sun, 24 Sep 2017 16:57:32 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/overview-of-janken-taikai-2017-subunits-edition
Janken Taikai 2017 in Nippon Gaishi Hall has concluded for this year. The concept behind this year’s rock-paper-scissors competition were members of 48G created subunits and the winning subunit would get a major debut.
fairy w!ink, 2-nin unit made up of HKT48 Aramaki Misaki and Unjou Horona, were crowned the Janken Taikai Queens! This is the first Janken win for both HKT members and the first win for HKT48 in general. Fairy w!ink will release their debut single on December 12 with the units ranked 2-4 releasing coupling songs with the single.
After the major win, AKB48 announced their 3rd Group Daft Kaigai. Unlike previous drafts, fans will get to vote which draftee will go to which group and their specific team. (Copying MNL48 I see) A total of 4 rounds of judging will take place in Nagoya, Japan on the following (tentative) dates:
1st judging 2017/09/24 21:00 (JST) - 2017/10/9 20:59 (JST)
2nd judging 2017/10/21
3rd judging end of October - start of November (tentative)
Final judging (Draft Kaigi) 2018/1
Official 3rd Draft Kaigai Website: http://www.akb48.co.jp/audition17/
Did you watch Janken Taikai 2017? Who was your favorite subunit? Do you think a 3rd Daft is necessary with the many members they already have? Tell us in the comments section!
~Alana (Milky Kitty)

<![CDATA[Roller Coasters and Enka: An Interview with Misaki Iwasa]]>Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:46:07 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/roller-coasters-and-enka-an-interview-with-misaki-iwasa
A-to-J Connections recently attended J-POP Summit 2017 and we were lucky enough to sit down with ex-AKB48/Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 member and current enka soloist, Misaki Iwasa. We discussed everything from past lives, her favorite songs, and just what enka is for those that don't know! This is one you'll want to check out!

In 2008 Misaki Iwasa joined AKB48 as a seventh generation trainee member and participated in their first ever US appearance later that year in New York. In 2010 Misaki debuted as both a member of Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 and AKB48's Team A. 2012 saw the release of her debut single "Mujin Eki", which also featured an enka version of AKB48's mega-hit "Heavy Rotation", a trend that would be copied in later singles. The release of her third single, "Tomonoura Bojou", followed two years later and it was her first single to top the Oricon charts. She graduated from AKB48 in 2016 and focused on her solo activities which included her sixth single Sabakaidou and several overseas appearances including Hyper Japan in London and Japan Expo in Paris. J-POP Summit 2017 marks her solo debut in the US.

A-to-J: 本日はインタビューありがとうございます。最初に自己紹介をお願いします。
A-to-J: Thank you for the interview can you please introduce yourself?
岩佐 美咲:はい。ええと、カメラに向かってですかね。はい、岩佐美咲です。日本から来ました。 日本で演歌歌手をしています。
Misaki Iwasa: Yes, I’m Misaki Iwasa from Japan. I’m an enka singer in Japan.

A-to-J: ソロでは演歌をメインとしてますが、知らない人に演歌について教えてください。
A-to-J: Your solo material is mainly in the enka genre, can you explain a little about what enka is for those that don’t know?
岩佐 美咲:はい、演歌って言うのは日本では歴史のある音楽のジャンルなんですけれども、そうですね、あの...はい、演歌というのはですね、アメリカで言うカントリーソングのようなものなんですけれども、日本の四季の美しさだったり、あとは夫婦物だったり、人生の応援歌ってものをテーマにした物がすごく多いですね。あとは日本ならではの楽器といいますか、尺八、琴、三味線とか、そういった楽器を使っているのも特徴かなと思います。
Misaki Iwasa: Yes. enka is a genre of Japanese historical music, and...well… Yes, enka is similar to country music in America. Its themes are mostly about things like the beautiful four seasons of Japan, a married couple, or encouraging people. Also, one of its characteristics is that Japanese instruments such as shakuhachi (bamboo flute), koto (japanese harp), and shamisen are used.

A-to-J: 音楽を始めたきっかけは何ですか?
A-to-J: Can you give us a little background about how you got into music?
岩佐 美咲:本当に物心ついた頃からもうとにかく歌が好きで、歌手になりたいって思ってました。
Misaki Iwasa: Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to sing and wanted to become a singer.

A-to-J: 以前はAKB48のメンバーとしてご活動されていましたが、グループの一人からソロパフォーマーの移行はどうでしたか?
A-to-J: You were previously a member of AKB48, can you tell us about the transition of a member of that group to being purely a solo performer?
岩佐 美咲:そうですね、元々AKBに入ったのも、ソロで歌手がやりたいと思って入ったので、夢が叶って嬉しかったです。
Misaki Iwasa: Well, the reason why I joined AKB48 is that I wanted to become a solo singer. I’m happy that my dream came true.

A-to-J: AKB48のヒット曲を演歌として歌うのはどう思いますか?
A-to-J: What was is it like performing some of the biggest AKB48 songs in enka versions?
岩佐 美咲:そうですね、すごくアレンジも全く違うものになっているので、曲によってはもう本当に別の曲みたいになっているのが本当に面白いなと思いますし、そういう感じで楽しめてもらえてるので、よかったかなと思います。
Misaki Iwasa: Well, they were all arranged to a very different style. It’s really interesting because some tracks sound completely different from the original ones. I think it’s good because a lot people enjoy my covers.

A-to-J: その中で好きな曲はありますか?
A-to-J: What is your favorite AKB48 cover song?
岩佐 美咲:好きな曲ですか、ヘビーローテーションの演歌バージョンが一番元々の曲との差が大きいかなと思うので、、、全く違いますね。もう歌詞以外違うみたいな感じなので、楽しんで聞いて欲しいですね。
Misaki Iwasa: My favorite one… well, I think enka version of Heavy Rotation completely differs from the original one. Besides the lyrics, they sound really different from each other. I hope the people here will enjoy listening to it.

Koisuru Fortune Cookie (Enka Ver.)

A-to-J: ポップ曲より演歌を歌う方が好きですか?2つのジャンルの違いと似ているところは何ですか?
A-to-J: Do you prefer singing in the enka style over standard pop? What are some of the differences or similarities between the two?
岩佐 美咲:そうですね、、そうですね。(笑)どっちも好きですけどね。違いはやっぱり世界観だったりメロディーの雰囲気が、演歌はゆったりしたリズムのものがすごく多いので、それが違うところかなと思いますね。あとは、歌詞もすごく演歌は、言葉の美しさ、日本語の美しさっていうものを演歌では唄っているので、その歌詞も特徴的ですね。違いとなんでしたっけ?あ、似ているところですか?似ているところは何ですかねぇ。んー、まぁ、雰囲気と世界観が違うっていうだけで同じ歌っていう面では、、、まぁそんなに大きく、こう、分けられるものでもないと思うんですけどそもそも。そうですねちょっと、なんですかね?(笑)すみません、難しくて。
Misaki Iwasa: Yes,,, yes. I like both though. The differences are the way of seeing or feeling the music as well as the style of melody. They’re also different because most enka songs are slow tempo music. Also, the beautiful Japanese words in the lyrics characterize enka. Differences and.. what was it? Similarities? What can I think of the similarities.. Hmm well, it’s only the music styles and the way of seeing them are the differences so I guess they are basicly music… Well, I think they can’t be completely classified separately. Hmm, what is the similarities? Lol I’m sorry, this is hard.

A-to-J: カバー以外にオリジナル曲もたくさんありますが、ソロ曲の中で好きな曲は何ですか?
A-to-J: Besides the covers you have a lot of original songs, what is your favorite song within your solo catalog?
岩佐 美咲:一番好きな曲、、デビュー曲は、初めて自分のために書いていただいた曲なので、やっぱり思い出はすごい強いですね。
Misaki Iwasa: A favorite song… is my debut song [“Mujin Eki”]. It’s the first song written only for me, that’s why I have strong feelings for it.

A-to-J: 今年の始めにシングルの「鯖街道(さばかいどう)」をリリースされ、「なごり雪」のアコースティックバージョンでギターを弾いていましたが、ギターは以前から弾いていましたか?それともこの曲のために習いましたか?
A-to-J: You released the single “Sabakaidou” earlier this year and played guitar on the acoustic version of “Nagori Yuki”, did you play guitar prior to this or did you learn for the song?
岩佐 美咲:ギターは、元々一番最初に弾いたのが、AKB48でGive Me Five!っていう曲があって、バンド形式で一人ずつ何か楽器をやるっていう曲だったんですけど、私はギターをそこでやっていて、それが初めてギターに触った時だったんですけど、もうそれ以来は全くやってなかってんですが、ソロでコンサートをやらせてもらうようになって、やっぱりギターの弾き語りコーナーがあると幅も広がるかなと思って、去年の1月に初めてソロのコンサートをやったんですけど、そこで初めて弾き語りをやって、そこから継続してやってます。
Misaki Iwasa: When I first touched the guitar was to play in the track “Give Me Five!” by AKB48. We made a band and each of us played an instrument. Since then, I’d never touched a guitar until I was to start a solo concert. I have been playing acoustic covers at the shows since I performed solo for the first time in January of last year because I thought that it’d better if I could do acoustic covers at my shows.

A-to-J: 今後の曲で演奏や作曲をする予定はありますか?
A-to-J: Do you have any plans to contribute to future songs in a similar way such as playing instruments or maybe songwriting?
岩佐 美咲:演奏はもちろん、ギターをもうちょっと練習して、もっともっと上手になりたいなと思いますね。作曲ってなるとちょっと技術的にまだ足りないかなと思うんですけど、すごい興味はある事なんですよね。やっぱ自分でメロディーを作り出せたらすごい楽しいだろうなと思うので、もっとギターを磨いて、いつかそういうことも挑戦していきたいですね。
Misaki Iwasa: Of course, I will practice and get better at playing the guitar. However, I’m not skilled  enough to write music yet. I am very interested in it though. I think it would be very enjoyable if I could create some melodies on my own, so I do want to try one day since I’m actually pretty good at the guitar.

Misaki Iwasa - Sabakaidou MV

A-to-J: 以前AKB48としてニューヨークには来たことありますが、サンフランシスコには来たことありますか?
A-to-J: You previously came to New York with AKB48 have you been to San Francisco before?
岩佐 美咲:初めて来ました。
Misaki Iwasa: I came here for the first time,
A-to-J: 来てから観光や面白いことする時間はありましたか?変わった食べ物などは食べましたか?
A-to-J: Have you had the time to do anything fun here or try any interesting foods?
岩佐 美咲:観光する時間はないんですけども、でも坂の多い街っていう風に有名じゃないですか。で、そういう情報を得てから入ったので、本当に実際来てみたら坂が想像以上に多かったので、もうなんか、車がジェットコースターみたいで楽しかったです。あぁ、変わった食べ物?食べたっけなぁ?でも、肉をすごい食べてますね。毎日肉食べてます。
Misaki Iwasa: I don’t have time to go sightseeing this trip, but I have heard that San Francisco is famous for its many hills in the city. When I landed here, I saw that there were many more hills here than I thought. It was like riding a roller coaster when we were driving! I actually had fun. Oh, interesting food? I’m wondering what I’ve eaten, but I’ve been eating a lot of meats everyday.

A-to-J: イベントは始まったばかりですが、アメリカでのソロライブ、そしてファンに会える機会についてどう思いますか?
A-to-J: This event is just beginning what are some of your thoughts on performing solo in the US and meeting your fans?
岩佐 美咲:すごく嬉しいですし、でもこう、私の事知ってくれている方がいるか、まだ今日が初日で、お客さんの前にまだ出てないので、私の事知ってる方がいるのかなってすごく心配なんですけど、でも楽しみでもありますね。すごい嬉しいです、もし私の事を知ってくれている人がいれば。
Misaki Iwasa: I’m very grateful. But I haven’t performed today yet so I’m worried if anyone knows me. I’m looking forward to it as well. If there are people who already know me here then I am very happy.

A-to-J: 何か今後やってみたいファンイベントとか海外でのイベントってありますか?
A-to-J: Are there any fan events that you want to do in the future?
岩佐 美咲:えーなんだろうな。やってみたいイベント?んー、チェキ会とか。
MIsaki Iwasa: Hmm I don’t know... maybe a cheki session. [cheki=a small Polaroid picture.]

A-to-J: このライブのために特別に準備されたことはありますか?
A-to-J: Did you do anything special to prepare for this live?
岩佐 美咲:このライブのために特別に準備したこと、、あっ、今日? 明日ですね。明日、トポロジー(Topology)さんとコラボのステージがあるんですけど、そちらでは眼鏡をオーダーメイドで作ることができるっていう、アプリって言うんですかね。(それ)とのコラボなんですけど、もう何回もスマホのセルフィーでいろんな角度で自分を撮って、その画像、動画を見合わせて、オーダーメイドで自分に合ったピッタリの眼鏡を作ってくれるというのが明日あるので、それのためにもうだいぶ前、一ヶ月前くらいから、セルフィーたくさん撮りました。
Misaki Iwasa: Something special to prepare for this live… Today? No, but tomorrow I’m collaborating an event with Topology. Topology is an app that you can order eyeglasses with.
You take selfies from different angles first, and you can customize your the glasses until you find one that looks best on you. For the event tomorrow, I’ve taken a lot of selfies for a while; since about a month ago.

A-to-J: 今までライブした中で面白い話やハプニング話など教えてください。
A-to-J: Do you have any funny or interesting stories you can share with us that occurred while performing?
岩佐 美咲:ハプニング話ですか?あの、こないだ、先々月くらいに韓国で歌わせてもらう機会があったんですね。で私韓国語はあんまりというか、挨拶程度しか喋れないので、喋る事はある程度事前に通訳さんに、『これ何て言うんですか?』とか、『次の曲は何て言うんですか?』とかっていうふうに聞いてそれをメモして、でそれをここに入れて、MCでは喋ってたんですけど。あとはまぁ日本語わかる方も多かったんで、日本語喋ったりって感じだったんですけど、あの、まぁ殆どが韓国語しか解らない。もちろん。私も用意してきた事しか喋れないのに、なんか、もうちょっとMCを伸ばしてみたいな感じで言われて、えぇ!?みたいな。何も喋れないよ!と思いながら、もう、なんとかして伸ばしました。
Misaki Iwasa: Interesting stories... The other day, probably around last last month, I had an opportunity to perform in South Korea. Because I only know how to greet in Korean, I asked my translator to teach me some Korean in order to speak or introduce my songs at the show. I made a note, put it in here, and spoke the Korean I had learned. Also, there were some people who knew some Japanese, so I was speaking Japanese too. But of course, most of them know only Korean, and then they requested me to talk more even though I couldn’t speak Korean besides what I prepared before the show. In my head, I was like “Oh no, I can’t speak any Korean!” but I talked more anyways.
A-to-J: In Japanese?
岩佐 美咲:日本語ですよねもう。日本語しか喋れなくて、すごい焦りましたその時は。
Misaki Iwasa: Yes, in Japanese. I started to panic at the moment because I could only speak Japanese.

A-to-J: J-Pop Summitを終えた後の今後の予定は?
A-to-J: What are some of your plans after J-Pop Summit?
岩佐 美咲:今後の予定ですか?今後の予定はですね、まず日本に帰ったらすぐソロでのコンサートが9月23日にあって、あとは来年の2月にもソロコンサートがあって、あとは秋頃にはディナーショーがあったりもするので、頑張っていきたいなと思います。
Misaki Iwasa: My plans after? I have a solo concert as soon as I go back to Japan on September 23rd. Also, I will have another one in February next year, and then in the fall I will have a dinner show, so I’ll try my best.
A-to-J: You’re so busy.
岩佐 美咲:いろいろ頑張りたいと思います。
Misaki Iwasa: I will work hard.

A-to-J: 最後にファンへのメッセージをお願いします。
A-to-J: Lastly, can you give a closing message to your fans?
岩佐 美咲:はい、サンフランシスコの皆さんこんにちは。岩佐美咲です。今回ですね、J-Pop Summitでは、演歌歌手としては初めてという風に聞いたので、サンフランシスコの皆さんに、演歌を聞いてもらえるこの機会がすごい楽しみです。演歌の良さをちょっとでも伝えられるように頑張って、楽しんで歌いたいと思います。
Misaki Iwasa: Yes. Hello, San Francisco. I’m Misaki Iwasa. I’m really looking forward to perform and let you listen to enka here in San Francisco because I know I am the first enka singer in J-pop Summit. I’ll try to let you know the good aspects of enka and enjoy singing.

For More Information on Iwasa Misaki:
NagaraPro Profile: http://www.nagarapro.co.jp/top/artist/artist.php?id=36
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wasaminnn
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wasaminnn/

The above interview was conducted by Tiffany Fujii who also provided on-site translation. Photography and video by Manuel Figueroa with additional photography by Tom Halbert. Post transcription and translation by Mei Itagaki.

Interview with Iwasa Misaki at J-POP Summit 2017

<![CDATA[Emotional Idorock: An Interview with Babyraids JAPAN]]>Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:39:34 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/emotional-idorock-an-interview-with-babyraids-japan
We recently dropped by San Francisco's J-POP Summit and we were lucky enough to interview Babyraids JAPAN, an idol group who mixes rock and idol music to create their own genre of "Emotional Idorock"! We discussed their stay in San Francisco, their upcoming concert, and their thoughts on their latest singles! Be sure to check it out and look forward to more content from J-POP Summit 2017 soon!

Babyraids JAPAN originally formed as "Babyraids" in 2012 and released their first single, also titled "Babyraids", that September. In December 2014 they held a solo concert at Nippon Budokan, one of the most prestigious venues in Japan. To commemorate this major milestone they changed their name to "Babyraids JAPAN". They recently released their fourteenth single "Maru Maru Maru Maru Maru" in August and even more recently released their latest MV, "Bokura wa Koko ni Iru" days before their appearance at J-POP Summit. J-POP Summit 2017 marks their US debut, but the group performed at Paris' Japan Expo in 2016. The five-member group is partly produced by former Idoling!!! member Kikuchi Ami.

A-to-J: 本日はインタビューありがとうございます!自己紹介をお願いします。
A-to-J: Thank you for the interview can you please introduce yourselves?
林真夏: まなつです!
Manatsu Hayashi: I’m Manatsu!
傳谷英里香: でんちゃんです!
Erika Denya: I’m Den-chan!
高見奈央: なおすけです!
Nao Takami: I’m Naosuke!
大矢梨華子: りこぴんです!
Rikako Ooya: I’m Rikopin!
渡邊璃生: りおトンです!
Rio Watanabe: I’m Rioton!
傳谷英里香: 一緒に!
Erika Denya: Together!
Babyraids: ベイビーレイズJAPAN!!!よろしくお願いしまーす!
Babyraids: Babyraids JAPAN!!! Nice to meet you!
A-to-J: Babyraids JAPANの結成について教えてください。
A-to-J: Can you tell us a bit about the formation of Babyraids JAPAN?
傳谷英里香: はい、私たちは2012年に事務所の先輩である菊地亜美(きくちあみ)ちゃんにいきなり集められたグループです。二年で日本武道館に行かないと解散ていう公約のもと結成されたんですけど、無事武道館に行って、その時に「JAPAN」に改名して、「ベイビーレイズJAPAN」となりました。
Erika Denya: Yes, we are a group that was gathered together suddenly in 2012 by our company’s senior, Ami Kikuchi. We were formed with the pledge of having to disband if we didn’t perform at the Nippon Budokan within two years but we successfully performed there and added “JAPAN” to our name, becoming “Babyraids JAPAN”.
A-to-J: After changing it to “Babyraids JAPAN”, do you feel somewhat different?
傳谷英里香: 「JAPAN」になってから今年で三年目か四年目になるんですけど、自分たちでセットリストとか演出とかに携わるようになったりだとか、JAPANを付けたことによって海外でのライブが増えました。
Erika Denya: It’s been about the third or fourth year since we added “JAPAN” and we’re starting to be able to become involved with choosing the setlist and the show. By adding JAPAN, we’ve had more chances to perform overseas.
A-to-J: 今まで海外はどこに行かれましたか?
A-to-J: Which countries have you been so far?
傳谷英里香: フランスが一番最初で、次に上海で、今回が初のアメリカです。
Erika Denya: We went to France first, then Shanghai, this is the first time we’re in America.
A-to-J: 知らない人のためにグループのサウンドやイメージを教えてください。
A-to-J: Can you explain your sound and image for those that aren’t familiar with it?
林真夏: はい、この私たちの楽曲は、ほとんどが日本のバンド・アーティストさんに提供して頂いた曲を歌っていて、ジャンルといったらJ-Rockに近いアイドルの歌っていうかんじになっています。衣装とかもレザーっぽく、スタッズとかでロックを表現していたりするので、今回のは特にデビュー五周年を記念したミニアルバムの衣装なんですけど、今まで以上に豪華になっています。
Manatsu Hayashi: Most of the songs we sing are provided by band artists in Japan. If we were to name a genre, we’re singing idol songs that are close in style to J-Rock. Even our outfits are leather-like and have studs which are of a rock style. Our outfits are for the mini album we released celebrating our fifth year since our debut so the costumes this time especially are the most extravagant yet.

A-to-J: ロックとアイドルソングを混ぜたサウンドということで、好きなロックバンド、影響されているロックバンドはいますか?
A-to-J: Since your sound mixes rock and idol music, are you fans of, or take inspiration from, rock bands? If so, which ones?
傳谷英里香: いっぱいいるんじゃない?梨華は。
Erika Denya: Don’t you have a lot, Rika?
大矢梨華子: 楽曲提供をして頂いたことをきっかけにして音楽を聴きだした「TOTALFAT」さんていうバンドさんがいらっしゃるんですけど、今でもすごく楽しく聞かせて頂いてます。
Rikako Ooya: There is a band named “TOTALFAT” I started listening to after they provided us music, even now their songs are fun and I listen to them. 
傳谷英里香: 「Dragon Ash」さんていう方がいらっしゃって、日本ではすごく有名なロックバンドさんなんですけど、「Jump」っていう曲が今でもファンの方に大人気で。「Dragon Ash」さんのサウンドがすごい響いてるなって思うのと、映像とかで見るとほんとかっこいいライブをする方々だなあって尊敬します。
Erika Denya: There’s a musician named “Dragon Ash” and they’re a popular rock band in Japan. Their song “Jump” is still popular amongst the fans. I think Dragon Ash’s sound really echoes and when I see videos I think: “They do such cool lives!” so I respect them.

Maru Maru Maru Maru Maru MV

A-to-J: 先月シングルの「○○○○○(まるまるまるまるまる)」をリリースされましたが、シングルについて教えてください。
A-to-J: Your single “○○○○○ (Maru Maru Maru Maru Maru)” released last month can you tell us about it?
大矢梨華子: これは日本の「ナナマル サンバツ」っていう漫画が原作のテレビアニメのエンディングテーマになっていて、そのアニメの内容が、日本では全国の高校生がクイズで争って一番を決めるっていう大会があるんですけど。その高校生クイズを舞台にした作品になっていて、私たちの「○○○○○(まるまるまるまるまる)」っていう曲もクイズに挑む高校生の不安とか、でも挑戦したいとか、なんていうかまだ弱いけど強くなろうとする志みたいなものが、歌詞と勢いのあるメロディーで表現されています。
Rikako Ooya: This song is the ending song for the manga based anime “Nanamaru Sanbatsu”. The anime is about a nationwide quiz in Japan that high school students take to choose who is number one and the anime revolves around that quiz. Our song “○○○○○ (Maru Maru Maru Maru Maru)” is also about the concerns of the high schoolers challenging the quiz and about how they are still weak but they want to become strong. The vigor is expressed in the lyrics and melody.
A-to-J: 数日前に「僕らはここにいる」のミュージックビデオがアップロードされましたが、曲とビデオについて教えてください。
A-to-J: You also released the MV for “Bokura wa Koko ni Iru” a few days ago, can you tell us a little bit about that song and video as well?
渡邊璃生: その「僕らはここにいる」という曲は、私達ベイビーレイズJAPANはもうすぐデビューしてから五周年になるのですが、なんて言うんだろ?うーん…
Rio Watanabe: It’s almost five years since our debut as Babyraids JAPAN and the song “Bokura wa Koko ni Iru” is… how do I say this? Hmm…
Babyraids JAPAN: (笑)
Babyraids JAPAN: (Laughs)
傳谷英里香: この「僕らはここにいる」は、結成五周年になる私たちの大事な曲で、振りと表情がメインなMVになっていて、この(五本指の)振りで言ったら五人の五と五年間の五を表している手が注目ポイントと、私達にとってすごく大事な歌詞が書かれているので是非歌詞もチェックしていただけると嬉しいです。
Erika Denya: As we’re nearing our fifth anniversary, “Bokura wa Koko ni Iru” is an important song for us. The MV focuses mainly on the choreography and expressions. This choreography [shows five fingers] is five for five people and also for five years which is one of the main points. The lyrics are also very important to us so it would make us happy if you paid attention to the lyrics.

Bokura wa Koko ni Iru MV

A-to-J: 今までライブした中で起こった面白い話やハプニングがあったら教えてください。
A-to-J: Do you have any funny or interesting stories you can share with us that occurred while performing?
大矢梨華子: ハプニング…あったっけ?
Rikako Ooya: Happenings… were there any?
高見奈央: マイクを忘れてく?
Nao Takami: Forgetting microphones?
大矢梨華子: あー、よくあるね!
Rikako Ooya: Ah, that happens often!
高見奈央: (笑)
Nao Takami: (laughs)
傳谷英里香: でもステージで、まなつがセンターに居てVになることが多いんですけど、勢い余ってステージから落ちたことがありましたね(笑)
Erika Denya: On stage, Manatsu usually stands in the center and we form a V. There was a time she got overenthusiastic and fell off the stage (Laughs)
林真夏: ありました(笑) ステージからほんと落ちちゃって、でも下にお客様の荷物があったんでクッションになって、そしたらでんちゃん隣に居たんですけど、こんな華奢なんですけどすごい運動神経が良くて、スッともう片手で持ち上げてもらって救出されて無事にライブは終えられました。
Manatsu Hayashi: That happened (laughs) I really fell off the stage but the audience’s things were there and acted as my cushion. Den-chan was right next to me and is dainty but is quite athletic so the lifted me up with one arm. She saved me and we successfully finished the live.
A-to-J: あと数時間でライブがありますが、アメリカの観客の前でライブをする感想や意気込みを教えてください。
A-to-J: Your concert will take place in just a few hours what are your thoughts performing in front of a US audience?
傳谷英里香: もうほんとにすごく楽しみですし、アメリカの方ってすごくノリがいいイメージなので、一曲目の「虎虎タイガー!!」を歌った時もすごくみんながそれぞれ楽しそうに私たちの音楽を感じてくれたので、日本を代表してのグループなのでIdorockっていう私たちの楽曲をしっかり見せていけるように頑張りたいと思います。
Erika Denya: We’re really excited and we have the image of Americans being very hype. When we sang our first song “Tora Tora Tiger!!” everyone seemed to have fun with our music. Our group represents Japan and so we will try our best to show off our Idorock songs.
A-to-J: 今日のセットリストや選曲について教えてください。
A-to-J: Can you tell us a bit about the setlist and the song choices in it?
高見奈央: ほんとに、アメリカのファンの人がノリやすいようなセットリストを作ってきたんですけど、その中の一曲に「Pretty Little Baby」っていう曲があって、これはConnie Francisさんの楽曲をオマージュした曲になっていて、ちょっと聞いたことありそうなメロディーになっていると思うのでノッてもらいたいですね、アメリカの人に。
Nao Takami: We made it a setlist that American fans can easily cheer along with, within that we have a song named “Pretty Little Baby” which is an homage to Connie Francis’ song. I think it’s a melody that everyone has heard before so I would like Americans to cheer along.

A-to-J: 今後のベイビーレイズJAPANの目標は?
A-to-J: What are some of the goals you want to see Babyraids JAPAN meet in the future?
傳谷英里香: 「JAPAN」に改名したのも、日本を代表するグループになりたいっていうのと、もう一度武道館に立ちたいって思いから改名したのですが、そこを目標にももちろんなんですけど、どんどんまた海外でライブができるようにがんばっていきたいなと思います。
Erika Denya:  The reason why we rebranded with “JAPAN” is because we want to be the group to represent Japan and also to perform at Budoukan again. Those goals are a given but we will try our best to do more overseas lives.
A-to-J: ちなみに行ってみたい場所はありますか?
A-to-J: Is there anywhere you would like to go?
傳谷英里香: いっぱいあるけど、個人的にはイギリスに行ってみたいです。ロックの聖地っていうのもありますし。
Erika Denya: There are a lot of places but I personally want to go to the UK. Since it is the land of rock.
A-to-J: 最後にファンへのメッセージをお願いします。
A-to-J: Lastly can you leave a closing message to your fans?
傳谷英里香: はい、これを読むかたがほとんど初めましてだと思いますが、私たちは「Emotional Idorock」感情的にアイドルがロックを歌うっていう活動をしております。是非、YouTubeやTwitterなどを通してみなさんに発信していきたいと思いますし、今回のライブでみなさんの心をしっかり魅了していきたいと思うので、是非今後とも応援よろしくお願い致します。
Erika Denya: I’m sure that most readers have heard of us for the first time but we are active as a group that sings “Emotional Idorock”, or idols that sing rock emotionally. We would love to send out what we have through platforms such as YouTube and Twitter and we want to capture everyone’s hearts with this live. Please continue to support us!
Babyraids JAPAN: お願いしまーす!
Babyraids JAPAN: Please support us!
A-to-J: ありがとうございました。
A-to-J: Thank you very much.
Babyraids JAPAN: ありがとうございました!
Babyraids JAPAN: Thank you very much!

Babyraids JAPAN Is:
Ooya Rikako (大矢梨華子) – Ricopin (リコピン)
Denya Erika (傳谷英里香) – Denchan (でんちゃん)
Hayashi Manatsu (林愛夏) – Manatsu (まなつ)
Takami Nao (高見奈央) – Naosuke (なおすけ)
Watanabe Rio (渡邊璃生) – Rioton (りおトン)

For More Information on Babyraids JAPAN:
Website: http://babyraids.lespros.co.jp/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/babyraids_JAPAN
Pony Canyon YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk0IUODXaAFr5gEFlZDbzmw

The above interview was conducted by Tiffany Fujii who also provided on-site and post translation. Photography and video by Manuel Figueroa with additional photography by Ivan Aburto. Japanese transcription by Eri Watanabe.

Interview with Babyraids JAPAN at J-POP Summit 2017

<![CDATA[Bed In Return With Flashy New Single CO・CO・RO Gradation, Announce Second Album TOKYO]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 21:16:58 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/bed-in-co-co-ro-gradation
Golden Age devotees Bed In burst onto the idol scene last year with their explosive debut album RICH. Now the self-proclaimed "underground sexy idol" duo is back with a new single off their upcoming second album TOKYO.
The single, CO・CO・RO Gradation, is Bed In at their finest. The Bubble Era-inspired pop is just as gaudy and glitzy as any Bed In fan should expect, and the duo's vocal performances are passionate and strong. Check out the music video, embedded below. Bed In's sophomore album TOKYO will be released on December 6th, 2017, via King Records in Japan. The album will be supported by a national one-man tour in January and February.


<![CDATA[AKB48 YouTube Channel Accessible to US Once Again]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 16:26:56 GMThttp://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/akb48-youtube-channel-accessible-to-us-once-again
Almost 3 years ago, the AKB48 YouTube channel, along with its other sister group channels, were blocked in the US due to a change in YouTube’s contract. As of today, AKB48 has opened back up its channel for US viewers.
The jump to including overseas fans began back in June 2017. AKB48 began expanding their ticket sales for overseas fans by setting up an multi-language version of their ticketing website. Before expanding ticket services, AKB48 partnered with buyee.jp to set up an AKB48 Online Shop for users of the proxy service.
Now, as we predicted, AKB48 opened back up their YouTube channel for US viewers. However, their sister groups, SKE48, HKT48, NGT48, and JKT48 are still inaccessible to the US.
This leads to speculation. Does AKB48 have something planned for the US? Did they finally realize how valuable the foreign fans really are? Will the sister group channels be changed soon?
What do you think is the reasoning behind this sudden change?
~Alana (Milky Kitty)