It's clear from the opening track that BABYMETAL is back and better than ever. "Road of Resistance" is a fantastic power metal piece which SCREAMS DragonForce (I only found out later that Herman Li and Sam Totman are actually playing on the song, which is probably why it screams DragonForce). The song was released as a single in 2015 and even featured on some re-releases of BABYMETAL's debut album, so the stylistic shift has clearly been in the works for a while. After a quick refresher of "KARATE", it's time for some new songs.
"Awadama Fever" is actually pretty classic BABYMETAL. It's got the metal flavor but is a heavily electronic song, being the most idol-like thing on the album so far. The chorus is super catchy in true idol form. It's maybe a little TOO similar to songs like "Gimme Choko!!" in a way that makes it hard to differentiate from anything off the first album, but it's catchy and I love it just the same. "YAVA!" is pretty unique and one of the most stand-out tracks on the first half of the album. It's just a little bit of flamenco ska with awesome vocals I can't get enough of. A little later we get "Amore", which has some more DragonForce-esque guitars (though probably not actually DragonForce this time) and even another slight hint of flamenco metal influence. The vocals are great, and I'm sure this would be really good in a live setting. "Meta Taro" is a bit of an odd one, with its childlike melody. It's somewhere between a kids lullaby and a military march. I'm into it, if only for the novelty. It's another one I think would translate much better live. It's actually really catchy too.
At this point listeners may become pretty divided: the Japanese edition of the album features "Syncopation", but the "Out of Japan" edition replaces it with "From Dusk Till Dawn". The version I got comes with the latter track. "From Dusk Till Dawn" has these really soft yet high-pitched vocals on the verses, leading up to an explosive chorus. Still, I can't help but feel the production on this one is a little lacking. About halfway through the song there's a dubstep drop, because... well I don't know why. It adds nothing. Otherwise I do like the song, I'm just feeling extra-critical because they replaced an entire song for this release. I do like that BABYMETAL is taking a slightly different direction here; I'm all for a little bit of variance. "Syncopation", on the other hand, is a fantastic song. It's fast, heavy on the power metal guitars, and the vocals are incredible.
The next couple tracks are easily the heaviest. "GJ!" has these pounding drums and amelodic verses leading up to a cute idol chorus, because this is still BABYMETAL. "Sis. Anger" (a play on St. Anger, because duh) is a pretty heavy song compared to what we've had so far, probably the heaviest on the album. There's not really a sense of "anger" in the vocals, but this is BABYMETAL we're talking about. It's an awesome song either way. A song somebody could die to in the bit when it's played live. So far, the second half of the album is where the real appeal has been for me.
"No Rain, No Rainbow" is a BEAUTIFUL ballad and a great introduction to the "last three tracks" bit of the album where it seems every album this year is putting some of the best songs. "Tales of The Destinies" has a nice mix of styles going for it, and some of the most emotive vocals on the album up to now. It brings some much-needed character to the album. There's just so much going on! I love the solos and the instant changes in tone and tempo. Finally things come to an end with "THE ONE". This song is possibly perfect. The vocals on both the original and English versions are amazing, the composition is beautiful, there's just nothing wrong here. "THE ONE" serves to let you know that BABYMETAL has something really special going for them, even if they occasionally let you forget that with some of the less-memorable songs on this album.
I'm not sure what to say my overall opinion is on "Metal Resistance". There are some incredible songs here. There are some forgettable ones too. I think it sounds like a natural progression for the group, though. Even when things sound a little bit stale, there's a sense of maturity in the vocals and songwriting alike. It's like BABYMETAL is embracing the ability of fans to see them as legitimate artists rather than a meme, and I love that. Even if the structures are similar, there's a lot here to enjoy and there's definitely a sense of progression over what the group was at the time they first reached global fame. I'm hesitant to say it's better than their debut album, but I'm also hesitant to say it's not. I think "Metal Resistance" can stand on its own as an album without comparison to BABYMETAL's previous work. It's more of the same but it's a little bit new as well. It's a collections of strong songs with a couple less strong songs thrown into the mix. It's an enjoyable album, and really what else could you have wanted?
Road of Resistance
Syncopation (Japanese exclusive)
From Dusk 'Til Dawn (Non-Japanese editions)
No Rain, No Rainbow
Tales of The Destinies
Suzuka "Su-Metal" Nakamoto
Yui "Yuimetal" Mizuno
Moa "Moametal" Kikuchi
Idols are usually a pretty simple concept; a bunch of girls (or boys sometimes) together in a group to sing really simple and catchy pop music aimed at a very targeted demographic. Once in a while though we get some idols and idol groups who break the mold. Groups like BiS, Babymetal, and PassCode. But even LESS frequently, we get a song or two that absolutely SMASHES the mold into something totally unrecognizable. I'd like to talk about some of the latter category. Songs presented in no particular order.
Disclaimer: I won't be talking about any Jun Togawa songs in this article. As one of the most unique pop singers of all time, her entire discography would fit right in here. I don't have time to casually write a novel, so just know that Jun Togawa is the reason any of these groups exist.
BiS Kaidan - Suki Suki Daisuki
(I might have lied about Jun Togawa)
BiS (or Brand-new idol Society) is a group which will probably find a lot of coverage in this article. In this particular instance, they teamed up with the infamous harsh noise troupe Hijokaidan to make something so horrifyingly anti-idol that the group actually got banned from Budokan. Across the two "BiS Kaidan" albums, BiS mostly released remixed versions of their own songs, blended with some fresh feedback-ridden violent noise from their friends in Hijokaidan. It's the opening song on their debut collaboration album I'm interested in, though.
"Suki Suki Daisuki" is a song by the legendary anti-idol singer Jun Togawa (there she is). It is, in my opinion, one of the best pop songs ever written. BiS took this classic and beloved song threw it on the ground and smashed it to bits with a cinderblock. From the shots of sharp feedback to the screams of pain and terror from the BiS girls, this song is an experience from start to finish. The vocals are adorably sweet, but they're buried so deeply that there's no chance they could escape the hellish landscape of this song. The repetition of "suki suki daisuki" during the chorus is the perfect contrast to the unimaginably loud slaughter that is this song. There is simply no way to explain the anti-idol powerhouse BiS without this song. It's a perfect work of ear-shattering art.
The video for the song features the girls in blood-stained schoolgirl uniforms, biting and kicking and smashing various objects around the studio space. Hijokaidan are in the background, smashing their guitars and throwing around a bloody pig's head. This might just be the most fun you can ever have watching an idol music video. It's pure insanity.
Each BiS Kaidan album had a closing track which was even noisier and more abstract than this, but Suki Suki Daisuki is the perfect way to introduce anybody. After all, it was MY first BiS song.
BiS - Our Song
It's BiS again! This is another cover, featured on their 2012 album "IDOL is DEAD". The BiS take on Shinichi Osawa's "Our Song" is pure and simple shoegaze at its finest. Shoegaze is a common enough genre, being both revived and mutilated by some of the best and worst alternative rock bands of the 2010s. BiS took that formula and made something amazing. Shoegaze may have been invented in Europe, but I've never heard of a shoegaze group out of Japan who wasn't incredible. BiS takes a sugary sweet pop song and sings it over a wall of swirling guitar chords. The bends and twists of the music go perfectly with the dreamy group vocals. In contrast to "Suki Suki Daisuki", this song is beautiful. It maintains the catchy pop "requirements" of idol music, but shoegaze is a genre which has never been (and maybe never will be) fully explored in pop music.
Yukueshirezutsurezure - Kyousoukaichinari
Yukueshirezutsurezure is an enigma in the relatively new field of Yami-Kawaii idols. They could probably be seen as one of the founders of the subgenre, along with their sister group Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da (who are featured on this song). Yukueshirezutsurezure take the style of sickness vs cuteness and brings it to full blast, making some of the most unique pop music I've heard in years. They have a relatively straightforward structure, at first, but then the screams come in.
Screaming in idol music has been popular lately; BiS dared to try it, and Babymetal popularized the concept of metal and hard rock idols. What I'm saying is that screaming has been around in idol music for a good handful of years. I say this because Yukueshirezutsurezure brings something terrifyingly new to the table. This song is straight out of your worst nightmares, being catchy and horrific at the same time. The group's screams are some of the most intense sounds I've heard in the entire genre of idol pop, and definitely deserve recognition for that. The music takes such a sharp turn, it's pretty jarring. The image of these girls dancing in the forest might look almost innocent, but I'm convinced that they're demonic creatures lurking in the shadows waiting to tear your soul apart. This song is cute, but maybe too cute for comfort. If the first verse makes you feel like they're hiding something just wait for the chorus. You might never turn the lights off again.
BILLIE IDLE - moments
This song is incredibly hard to find, and doesn't exist on YouTube. Sorry about that!
As far as the groups formed by BiS alumni go, BILLIE IDLE is one of the most interesting. Still, a lot of their music doesn't really go as far as to be something I could include on this list. There's a lot of pop structure and cute melodies in their short discography; why are they here?
It's "moments". "moments" is why they're here. "moments", the fifth song on BILLIE IDLE's debut album "IDLE GOSSIP", is... something. The first verse is a rap followed by a loose and unstructured mix of screaming and groaning. Then it's suddenly a rock song, and a catchy one at that. The chorus slows down to become a ballad, and we're thrown right back into a rap verse after that. This song is ALL OVER THE PLACE, and I LOVE it. There's also a guitar and synthesizer solo at one point. In the middle of the song, though, not where the bridge is normally meant to go. BILLIE IDLE threw all semblance of structure out the window for this song, and I'll always respect them for taking that risk.
Tentenko - Good bye, good girl
Tentenko is another ex-BiS member, who started her career as a DJ shortly after BiS disbanded. Musically, this song isn't actually that unique; it's an extremely 80s-style throwback vintage however many other words I can say that all mean "it sounds old". This is less of a "wow listen to how crazy and different this is" and more of a "really cool that somebody so modern and influential is making music that hearkens to one of the best eras in J-pop". The song pretty much speaks for itself. Tentenko is a super talented musician who broke free from the idol life to self-produce music and release it on her own label.
Togawa Kaidan - Suki Suki Daisuki
(I definitely lied about Jun Togawa)
Remember way up at the top, when I talked about the BiS cover of "Suki Suki Daisuki"? Well Jun Togawa herself covered it (self-covered, is that a thing?) with Hijokaidan. How many times is Hijokaidan gonna be a part of a version of "Suki Suki Daisuki"? Not enough, it seems. Jun Togawa's noise version of her own song doesn't feature any of the screams experienced on the BiS version, but instead we're treated to Jun Togawa's unparalleled talent. On this song, her voice is cracking, harsh, and husky. You know she would never have it any other way. Through her moans and grunts, it's clear this song is no longer meant to be the pop masterpiece it once was. Instead, we're treated to Jun Togawa's take on murdering a classic in the best possible way. This song isn't better or worse than the BiS version, or even the original; they all occupy some plane where every song is "Suki Suki Daisuki", and every song is perfect.
I've mentioned before that BILLIE IDLE is my favorite idol group currently, and possibly of all time. I was beyond ecstatic when they announced they would release an EP where each of the four songs would focus solely on one member. I was sure First Summer Uika would get the first single and Hirano Nozomi (my personal favorite member) would just be passed over. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to news that Nozoshan's song, "Douse Kiete Shimau Inochi Nara..." was the first to get a video, and that video was out right now!
I'm really happy to hear Tentenko and Saki Kamiya singing together again as well. Not to mention, the song was actually composed and produced by Kenta Matsukuma! It's like a greatest hits of rebel idols of the past ten or so years.
I was excited for "4 IN 1: The Official Bootleg". Now I absolutely can't wait. I need the other three songs immediately. "Douse Kiete Shimau Inochi Nara..." is perfect! I love this song, I love Hirano Nozomi, and I love BILLIE IDLE.
BILLIE IDLE® IS:
First Summer Uika
For More Information:
"lost AGE" starts right where Maison book girl's debut album "bath room" left us last year; synths that are so melancholy they have no right to be so bouncy. Somehow the music is both cheery and sad at the same time. I will say that this song isn't as catchy as some of the cuts from their album, but I love it just the same. In the video, the girls dance around in white gowns, almost mechanically alongside the beat. Everyone in Maison book girl has a similar vocal style, but it serves their style pretty well in my opinion. It's all very soft and minimalist with a very slight tinge of discomfort.
Here is the second half of our interview with KOTO when we caught up to her during her first ever overseas live which took place in Taiwan where our translator and correspondent, Darice Chang, was lucky enough to meet her! KOTO took the stage at the 2-day event "3D LIVE REVOLUTION X LIVE PLUS" at Taiwan's Pipe Live Music and shared the stage with several idols from both Taiwan and Japan! This included a special 2-man live with Taiwanese idol, Tira! The crowd was hyped and energetic and she won over many Taiwanese idol fans and we hope that she will eventually win over the hearts of many more fans worldwide!
KOTO is a solo recording artist with a unique style and sound that has made her a front runner in the indie idol scene. She recently released her first album "Platonic Planet" and has been very active recording and performing in Japan. You can follow her on social media for more information (links at the bottom of the article) and look forward to more news on her in the future from A-To-J Connections! You can find an earlier interview we conducted with KOTO here. You can also find a live report from an earlier show we covered in Japan here. We also will close out this half of the interview with a summary of some recent KOTO news for those who perhaps find it hard to get information on her outside of Japan!
[Part 1 of the interview can be found here.]
A-To-J: Your songs are in Japanese but how do you think they’re accepted throughout the world?
KOTO: My songs are very electronic… I think people that like cute things really like my songs! So I think people that like Harujuku and Harajuku fashion like my songs. The songs are also fast paced so I think people that like high tension songs like them as well. This is also why I want to go to places that have “kawaii” culture.
A-To-J: How do you think the audience in Taiwan will react to your style of music?
KOTO: As you saw from the reactions yesterday, I don’t think there are a lot of songs of mine that require you to use your voice (to cheer). Other idols have “mixes”… I’m pretty sure I surprised them by dancing all of the sudden but they cheered along with me and it made me very happy!
A-To-J: Which country do you think will accept your songs the most? (Other than Japan)
KOTO: What do you think?
A-To-J: Me? I actually think America would be very accepting since we have different events such as conventions that are Japanese pop culture themed and there are a lot of people that like anime and “kawaii” fashion.
KOTO - Taiwan Live @ Pipe Live Music
A-To-J: Is there any other language you would like to perform in?
KOTO: There are other languages I would want to perform in but I’m very bad at anything other than Japanese, but I would want to try in English with proper pronunciation.
A-To-J: Please tell us about today’s fashion.
KOTO: For my costume, I thought of Taiwan and wore a China dress.
A-To-J: Where did you get your costume?
KOTO: This is from a web store called “Kawaii Youfukuya-san (Kari)”. I also have attached hair bun covers. As for my personal clothes, I’m wearing my original goods.
A-To-J: Are your original goods made for here or did you bring them from Japan?
KOTO: They’re sold and made in Japan but we did bring some for this live.
A-To-J: It has your name on the hoodie!
KOTO: Yes, along with my Twitter handle name.
A-To-J: How did you choose this Twitter handle name?
KOTO: I actually made a mistake for the name… I wanted to put “Kocchan” in romaji but I ended up putting in “Koccyan” (pronounced as “Kokkyan”) But I submitted this username and I couldn’t change it… So now it’s this. (Laughs)
A-To-J: What about the numbers? (925)
KOTO: The number is for my birthday, September 25th (9/25).
A-To-J: I thought at first the “cyan” part meant cyan as in blue and that you liked blue a lot.
KOTO: Oh no, it was just a mistake!
A-To-J: It’s ok though, the mistake is very cute. Oh, and your nails are very cute too!
KOTO: I put pandas on them. Also its winter time so I did my “knit nails”. (Nails that are shaped like knit sweaters)
A-To-J: Not every artist gets to perform overseas, how are you going to use this experience once you get back to Japan?
KOTO: I want to be able to perform and be able to convey my feelings through my performance to anyone in any country.
A-To-J: To help accomplish your goals, what can your fans do to support you?
KOTO: Since I release a lot of info on my Twitter, I would like them to follow my Twitter. I upload photos and information about my lives so I want them to see it. Since it’s difficult for overseas fans to come to my lives, they can check out my YouTube channel or buy my album from Amazon. For people in Japan, since I have a lot of lives, I hope they come to at least one of them.
A-To-J: How many lives do you normally do?
KOTO: I do about 20 lives in one month! The most I’ve had in one month is 32 lives.
A-To-J: Wow, that must be hard and you still go to school?
KOTO: Yes, I’m in my second year of high school so I have to go to school as well.
A-To-J: To accomplish your goals, is there anything we can do as A-To-J Connections?
A-To-J: 目標を達成するために、私たちA-To-J Connectionsが出来ることは？
KOTO: Since I want more people to know about my lives and songs, I’m very happy you guys are interviewing me. I would like you guys to spread more about me to the rest of the world.
A-To-J: Where should the overseas fans go to check out more things about you?
KOTO: On YouTube, I have a channel called “KOTO Channel” and I also have a homepage, Twitter, Instagram and Cheerz.
A-To-J: Lastly, can you give a message to your overseas fans?
KOTO: Thank you for reading this interview and I hope you take interest in me. If you do, please check out my YouTube channel and please come to one of my lives, it will make me very happy! I would like you guys to know more about me, thank you very much!
Besides her first release "Platonic Planet" (available on Japan iTunes and Amazon) KOTO recently released her new mini album on the site "OTOTOY". OTOTOY is a site that releases music files of different formats from a variety of Japanese artists. The mini album is titled "Tenkomori Mini Album" and consists of all the songs from her series of monthly releases of songs composed by Kissa Sasaki. This online package also includes jacket photos, lyrics, notes by Kazumi Namba as well as a radio sound file that includes discussions on various topics from KOTO and Kissa Sasaki.
Also in recent KOTO news, a shop called "KOTOSHOP" just opened on March 13th within a cosmetic shop called "ABC Cosme Store" in Harajuku Takeshita Doori. It's a special temporary pop-up shop.The shops sells some of her CDs and live DVDs as well as t-shirts from her lives and her hoodie (pictures of the hoodie can be seen above). These are all items that are typically only sold at her live events so this is an exciting development for those who are not able to attend. There has been no official tweet or notice, but fans who have asked the KOTO staff have said that they are planning on keeping the shop open until the end of August.
Look forward to more information on these developments as well as coverage of KOTO releases past and present coming soon from A-To-J Connections!
For More Information Please Follow KOTO On Social Media!
The above interview was conducted by Darice Chang with post translation and content by Tiffany Fujii.
KOTO - Omatsuri GALAXY Live MV
Yes, you read that title correctly. The lovely JPop idol group callme recently released a brand-new music video for their upcoming song ‘Can not change nothing’.
The video opens with the three of them surrounding a floating cube, with them randomly switching spots as they deliver their lines. It then transitions into a scene of them walking in place, reminiscent of something similar to stop-motion animation. The next scene has them all lying down only to transition to some squares on screen. Throughout all this we see the girls strike various poses.
Wait! There’s a catch! The whole video cleverly plays off of the idea of the song’s title. As all these still or stop-motion sections proceed, you see the shadows move around the members and objects to indicate that time is passing, but everything remains the same. I really liked this simple yet extremely effective way of expressing the meaning of the song.
The song itself follows a similar theme and style to their first album. It’s cool, relaxing and enticing. It manages to feel impactful and tickle your senses without overloading you. This is a main reason that I love their music so much. Thankfully, this song does not fail to disappoint in that regard. My one complaint is that I feel like they should try to evolve their music a little beyond what’s in their first album. This song feels like it should be in that album, not as a new single leading to a new album. This is merely how I’d prefer it though, and I know many others will be happy with the consistency.
Ultimately though, the biggest bummer is that the video is so short. Being spoiled by other groups who post complete music videos, it’s really demoralizing to get into a song then be cut off halfway through, which is generally when songs tend to shift slightly or throw something exciting at you.
Still, this is an awesome new song from an already amazing group. You should definitely check it out, and I can’t wait until it releases on April 6th!
Can not change nothing Product Information: http://avex.jp/callme/discography/
callme’s Official Site: http://avex.jp/callme/
callme’s Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/callme_official
callme’s Official Instagram: https://instagram.com/callme_official/
callme on mumo Shop: http://shop.mu-mo.net/avx/sv/list1?jsiteid=MSW&artist_id=CALLM
callme on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/callme/id968272102
callme on cdjapan: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/person/700706365
Serena Kozuki (上月せれな) is an idol we've talked about in the past (Look here for another review), but we're still not done getting through some of her great singles from last year. She recently released a new one and before we cover that we're going to cover her first two that were released following her move to youthsource records! These are "Saikyo Melody 2" and "VISION".
Saikyo Melody 2 (2015)
1) Saikyo Melody 2
2) Onaji Sora no Shita de
3) Saikyo Melody 2 (Karaoke)
4) Onaji Sora no Shita de (Karaoke)
First up on "Saikyo Melody 2" is the title track itself, which is essentially a re-recording of the original "Saikyo Melody" released in 2014. Everything I said about that song before still stands, though this version has MUCH better production and the song sounds much cleaner. This most likely came about thanks to a shift to a different label that coincided with the release of this single. It also has a ska-like element to the instrumentation this time around which sounds fantastic and adds to the song's infectious quality. It'll have you singing along in no time!
The B-side to this single is a SUPER pretty piano-driven ballad called "Onaji Sora no Shita de". This is something of a departure for Serena and it's a welcome shift as her voice lends well to this type of song. I also love the violins that kick in later on the track, it's a nice touch that once again reflects on the new higher level of production present in this release. Everything on this track in general is really well-composed and beautiful. Serena Kozuki once again proves that she has a wonderful singing voice.
The single closes with the instrumental tracks of these two songs.
Saikyo Melody 2 (Live)
Onaji Sora no Shita de
2) Guru Guru Hajike-tion
3) VISION (Karaoke)
4) Guru Guru Hajike-tion (Karaoke)
The second single we're going to look at is "VISION". "VISION" is a Serena Kozuki single which was released in 2015, which is the year much of her best work thus far was released. In keeping with the trend, "VISION" is one of the better songs in her catalog. It's a little more downtempo than the stuff we've covered previously from Serena, but it's a really nice song that takes the fun parts of "Saikyo Melody 2" but keeps the track itself nice and simple. This isn't a bad thing as it makes it a song that a crowd can really get into at a live. Add to this the fact that the chorus is cute and bouncy and you have a hit on your hands. I love it.
The B-side to this one is "Guru Guru Hajike-tion", which is a colorful and bright techno pop song. It reminds me of something you would hear in a game of Pop'n Music, to be honest. Maybe channeling a little bit of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, even. I'm definitely a fan. Where "VISION" moved slow and steady, this song throws that all out the window and gives us a song that is a bit more along the lines of what we've been hearing from Serena in her previous releases. The production shines through on this track as songs of this type can sometimes be hard to make sound clear, but this one does so perfectly. Another outstanding release from one of our favorite indie idols!
The single closes with the instrumental tracks of the aforementioned songs.
Walking through the doors to the concert hall, the first thing we all saw was the various Hello! Project music videos being shown on the main screen on stage. As we all shuffled into our optimal positions the reality of the situation started to sink in: Morning Musume。'16 was in Houston! As we waited patiently for the hall to fill and for the girls to come out, people pumped up some balloons and started throwing them around the crowd. Meanwhile, some small clusters of fans rocked out to whatever song happened to be playing on the screen. The people behind the convention came up for a short message and to welcome Morning Musume。’16 with some cheers.
Before long, the lights dimmed, the screen turned off, and the girls came out to thunderous cheering wearing their modified ‘One and Only’ outfits (with cute Sheriff Badges to boot). They jumped right into their brand-new all-English song 'One and Only'. The crowd went wild and most of the people around me burst into song along with the girls. It was rather touching. They then lead right into 'Oh my wish!’ kicking off the concert with an unimaginable amount of energy. Miki Nonaka was in a chair of course, due to her injury, but put forth just as much energy and excitement as the rest of the group!
The girls took a moment to introduce themselves, and they even did so in English. It was clear that they worked incredibly hard to learn the English for their introductions, and they all did a fantastic job.
They then jumped into another of their brand new songs: ‘ENDLESS SKY’. After that they jumped into high-energy songs like ‘Renai Hunter’ and ‘Sukatto My Heart’. They were doing an absolutely fantastic job of mixing in both old and new songs in order to keep the crowd interested. Their formation dancing, singing skills and coordination were particularly impressive throughout the show. 'Love & Peace! HERO ga Yattekita' was performed to close out this section of the show.
Half the group went backstage to change into new outfits while the rest stayed up in order to have another MC section. Aika Mitsui, former 8th Generation Morning Musume。member, joined them as the surprise guest and interpreter for this. Aika mentioned that she had been interviewing fans before the concert and that she was going to ask the members questions that the fans had asked. Unlike their previous times in the USA, this MC section felt a lot more like the ones in Japan, which was really neat and fun. Aika even decided to teach us a Japanese phrase: 'Ganbatte ikimasshoi'. She explained that backstage, before a concert, all the girls say this to each other as they place their hands on top of each other's while gathered in a circle. She said that this was a great way to get hyped or to lift somebody's spirit. The girls on stage then demonstrated how they do it. At this time, Miki (who was still in her chair) got up excitedly to join the group and they all said 'Ganbatte ikimasshoi!' Miki later jokingly said that she probably shouldn't have gotten up but she got so excited and wanted to do it with everyone. It was extremely adorable.
After this, the girls from backstage were changed and switched spots with the ones who were not. The new outfits were black with puffy skirts and some frills as well. They were pretty. Aika then continued by asking the next set of girls questions from the fans. One of the most standout questions was when she asked the girls which graduated Morning Musume。 members they looked up to. Maria Makino was first to answer, and immediately said that Sayumi Michishige (who graduated in 2014) was her favorite. Each of the other members said that Aika was their favorite, as a joke. Even Erina Ikuta said this, despite Aika pointing out that everyone knows that Risa Niigaki is her favorite (who graduated in 2013). All of the girls were asked to give Aika hugs, except Maria since she said Sayumi was her favorite. They all ran to Aika and gave her a huge hug while Maria sat down and pouted. Eventually Aika invited Maria for a hug too which she happily complied to. Aika also taught the crowd another Japanese term: 'Ichiban suki' (meaning you love something the most). After a good time, the rest of the group came out, ready to continue the performance. As Aika left, everyone cheered for her.
The next section was kicked off with a medley consisting of the classics 'Souda! WE'RE ALIVE', 'LOVE Machine' and 'Renai Revolution 21'. These are some very beloved songs, especially for overseas fans, so the amount of energy and love that the crowd threw at Morning Musume。'16 was to be expected. There was a very clever outfit change in the middle of ‘Renai Revolution 21’. They folded a layer of their outfit over the black to create a new white outfit. This one had the American flag on the skirt and an outline of a rocket on the upper portion (referring to the NASA center in Houston), with variations for each member. It was an extremely cute and clever way to express a theme that screams Houston and America. Once the superb medley was over, the group took a picture with the whole crowd, which we were told would appear on the official site.
From there, they jumped right back into the performance with ‘Tsumetai Kaze-to Kataomoi’, a personal favorite of mine. This song originally had Riho Sayashi (who graduated on the last day of 2015) doing some graceful solo dances during the song. With her not in the group anymore, Ayumi Ishida took over the spot with extreme finesse and amazing control. It made for a very touching performance that I’m sure would have made Riho proud. They then continued with some more favorites. The two that stood out to me the most were ‘Wagamama Kinomama Aino Joke’ and ‘What is LOVE?’ These songs got an extremely powerful crowd response and I felt like they did some of their best dancing during these songs.
They left after that, and shortly after the crowd exploded into a chant to bring the girls out again for a song or two more. Eventually most of the crowd who had glow sticks that could change color changed to green, which is the color for Kanon Suzuki. Kanon will be graduating from the group at the end of their spring tour, so this was her last performance overseas within the group. The fans had all agreed beforehand to do this in her honor and everyone broke into a call for her using her nickname ‘Zukki’. It was quite touching to see, and we could all see that Kanon felt the same way when they all came out for the encore.
They jumped into ‘HOW DO YOU LIKE JAPAN? ~Nihon wa Dona Kanji Dekka?~’ which was also a crowd pleaser. They were wearing their outfits from their previous tour (Gradation) which displayed each of their member colors prominently. With the concert clearly reaching a close, Mizuki read a letter to the crowd. During this time, the crowd gave Kanon a ‘Zukki’ call again, which brought her to tears on stage. With that, she caught her breath, and told the whole crowd “Thank you, I LOVE YOU!” with that huge contagious smile that nobody could hate. Following that, they jumped into the final song: ‘One Two Three’. They put their all into this final song, as did the audience. Before we knew it, it was over. The members all thanked the crowd and went off-stage. We were promised a set list of upbeat and fun songs, and they delivered in full force.
Slowly, we all shuffled out of the concert hall. Without a doubt, we knew that this had been the best performance we’ve seen out of Morning Musume。’16 in America so far. Concerts like this not only bring Morning Musume。’16 to new places, but they bring fans from all walks of life together via a special unbreakable bond. We can only hope that the girls will have the opportunity to come back to the USA again in the near future. GANBATTE IKIMASSHOI!
(Official UP-FRONT pictures used with permission. All other copyright A-To-J Connections)
1. One and Only
2. Oh my wish!
3. ENDLESS SKY
4. Renai Hunter
5. Sukatto My Heart
6. Love & Peace! HERO ga Yattekita
-MC- (Aika Mitsui as Surprise Guest)
Souda! WE’RE ALIVE
Renai Revolution 21
-MC- (Photo Session)
8. Tsumetai Kaze-to Kataomoi
9. The Matenrou Show
10. Aino Gundan
11. Wagamama Ki-nomama Ai-no Joke
12. What is LOVE?
-ENCORE- (Zukki Call)
13. HOW DO YOU LIKE JAPAN? ~Nihon wa Donna Kanji Dekka?~
14. One Two Three
Morning Musume。’16 Is:
- Fukumura Mizuki (譜久村聖; 9th Generation) Leader
- Ikuta Erina (生田衣梨奈; 9th Generation) Sub-Leader
- Suzuki Kanon (鈴木香音; 9th Generation)
- Iikubo Haruna (飯窪春奈; 10th Generation) Sub-Leader
- Ishida Ayumi (石田亜佑美; 10th Generation)
- Sato Masaki (佐藤優樹; 10th Generation)
- Kudo Haruka (工藤遥; 10th Generation)
- Oda Sakura (小田さくら; 11th Generation)
- Ogata Haruna (尾形春水; 12th Generation)
- Nonaka Miki (野中美希; 12th Generation)
- Makino Maria (牧野真莉愛; 12th Generation)
- Haga Akane (羽賀朱音; 12th Generation)
A-To-J Event Report: http://a-to-jconnections.com/idols/morning-musume-16s-landing-in-houston
Official Morning Musume。 ’16 Links
UP-FRONT LINK Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/upfrontlink/
UP-FRONT LINK Twitter: https://twitter.com/UpFrontLink
A-To-J Connections covers a lot of idols. We also cover a lot of Visual Kei bands. I never thought for a second that we might stumble across a group who fits into both categories. Lyric Holic is that group. Forming sometime around 2014, Lyric Holic has only released a small handful of singles and music videos. Their most recent is "Alice", and it's awesome.
Listening to "Alice", I would have never believed this was an idol group. The intro SCREAMS Versailles, with a dash of Malice Mizer for good measure. Even watching the video, I would have sworn that they were an all-girl Visual Kei band. The only thing setting them apart from the rest of VK is that they aren't playing their instruments. Everything from the style of the video to the group's outfits is pure Visual Kei.
The music is gothic heavy metal (why wouldn't it be?) and it works perfectly. The girls' voices are incredible, and the pre-chorus screams are to die for. It certainly SOUNDS like somebody's gonna die. There's not a lot of information readily available on this group, especially to English speakers, so I'm wondering what their story is. I'd love to know if there was an actual Visual Kei band behind the production of this music.
I don't know anything about Lyric Holic apart from the songs I've found on YouTube. I can't find any sites apart from their official site, which is fairly devoid of information. It looks like they play live pretty often, but they still only have three singles out. In fact, "Alice" hasn't even officially been released as a single yet. "Alice" leaves me wishing that there was an album to back it up, and I can only hope that one might be on the way in the future.
Lyric Holic - Alice MV
We were recently lucky enough to catch up to KOTO again during her first ever overseas live which took place in Taiwan! KOTO took the stage at the 2-day event "3D LIVE REVOLUTION X LIVE PLUS" at Taiwan's Pipe Live Music and shared the stage with several idols from both Taiwan and Japan! The crowd was hyped and energetic and she won over many Taiwanese idol fans and we hope that she will eventually win over the hearts of many more fans worldwide!
KOTO is a solo recording artist with a unique style and sound that has made her a front runner in the indie idol scene. She recently released her first album "Platonic Planet" and has been very active recording and performing in Japan. You can follow her on social media for more information (links at the bottom of the article) and look forward to more news on her in the future from A-To-J Connections! You can find an earlier interview we conducted with KOTO here. You can also find a live report from an earlier show we covered in Japan here.
A-To-J: Please introduce yourself.
KOTO: I’m KOTO. Right now I do solo work in Japan and I’m 17. Nice to meet you!
A-To-J: This is your first overseas live. Please tell us how you feel being able to perform overseas.
KOTO: I was very nervous because I am overseas but at the live there were many people from Japan as well cheering me on and I felt relieved! Also, the people in Taiwan were very heartwarming and I’m glad I got to enjoy the live with everyone!
A-To-J: Did you become a fan of Taiwan?
KOTO: Yes, but I can’t speak much Taiwanese so when I speak a little, it’s a bit embarrassing.
A-To-J: How do you feel about your first overseas live being in Taiwan?
KOTO: I’ve always wanted to come to Taiwan so I’m happy to be here! Also it was close from Japan so I felt very relieved.
A-To-J: Is it your first time going overseas (in general)?
A-To-J: How was the plane ride?
KOTO: I’ve gone on a plane before but since this was a longer ride I fell asleep! (Laughs)
A-To-J: Are you having fun here in Taiwan?
KOTO: Yes, I’m having fun! The first night I went to a night market and ate at the food stands.
A-To-J: When did you arrive here?
KOTO: I came a day before the live so I came yesterday, which was the 22nd (of January)
A-To-J: When will you be leaving?
KOTO: I’m going home on Monday. (January 25th)
A-To-J: Have you done anything fun here?
KOTO: There are a couple of Taiwanese idols here that can speak Japanese so I had a fun time talking to them!
A-To-J: Do you have any interesting things that have happened here in Taiwan?
KOTO: At the convenience store, I bought one thing and they gave me another for free. That doesn’t happen much in Japan so I was surprised!
A-To-J: What did you buy there?
KOTO: I bought souvenirs to bring back to Japan. I also bought cough drops for myself.
A-To-J: What kind of things did you buy as souvenirs?
KOTO: I bought things I can give out as goodies for people that come to my live in Japan.
A-To-J: Oh! That’s very interesting!
A-To-J: Did you encounter any obstacles here in Taiwan?
KOTO: I’m not very good at kanji (Chinese characters)… but kanji is everywhere here. I’m not good at writing and reading so it was really hard for me!
A-To-J: But at least you can use English!
KOTO: I’m not very good at that either!! (Laughs)
A-To-J: What are some of the differences you’ve noticed between Taiwan and Japan?
KOTO: It seems very similar but it isn’t… The smells? The food and flavors are different and are spiced differently.
A-To-J: Have you had Taiwanese food before? Such as “xiao long bao” (soup dumplings)
KOTO: Oh yes, I’ve had xiao long bao before!!
A-To-J: What about stinky tofu?
KOTO: No I haven’t!!
A-To-J: Are you planning to try some?
KOTO: No!! (Laughs)
A-To-J: Have you had any tapioca milk tea?
KOTO: Yes, it was very good! Oh! Now I know what the big difference between Taiwan and Japan is.
Taiwan is very lively at night or at least that’s what I saw at the night markets and I was very surprised.
A-To-J: Please tell us what you think about the food here.
KOTO: The soy sauce type flavoring is different from Japan, it was a bit sweeter than what I’m used to.
A-To-J: Probably because Chinese and Japanese soy sauce is different.
KOTO: Oh, I see. I thought it was going to be salty and it was sweet so I was like “Oh!” but it was very delicious.
A-To-J: How did you decide on your set list for the Taiwan live?
KOTO: I didn’t choose in Japan and I chose the set list once I got to Taiwan. The first day I had 15 minutes so I performed songs nonstop, back to back. I chose “Pastel Passport” to be one of the first songs since it’s a journey-themed song.
A-To-J: What did you do to prepare for this live?
KOTO: For this Taiwan live, I bought a new costume and I’m wearing it right now. It’s a China dress!
A-To-J: Don’t you have a lot of China dresses?
KOTO: Yes, this is my 4th or 5th one.
A-To-J: Why do you have so many?
KOTO: They’re all cute and there are different shapes and sizes. I wanted all different kinds so now I have many.
A-To-J: Even in your previous YouTube video you wore a China dress! (Seen Below)
KOTO: I wanted to buy one here in Taiwan but I haven’t been able to go shopping for one…
KOTO - Platonic Planet MV
A-To-J: Do you listen to any Taiwanese songs?
KOTO: I don’t really know of any…
A-To-J: What do you usually listen to?
KOTO: There’s a Japanese artist named “Shiina Pikarin” and I listen to her songs a lot.
A-To-J: Do you plan to do any sightseeing or souvenir shopping after your lives?
KOTO: Today I’ve been buying souvenirs when I have the time but I don’t have enough I want to go buy some more. I also haven’t had much time to eat Taiwanese food so I want to eat things such as xiao long bao and pepper buns (Hujiao bing). I also want to eat shaved ice, the very fluffy kind and also tapioca!
A-To-J: And you already went to a night market right?
KOTO: I did! But I only got to go to one… so I want to go to more!
A-To-J: After you finish this live in Taiwan, where would you like to perform overseas next?
KOTO: I would like to go to America next! I want to go to Russia as well because I heard there is “kawaii” culture there.
Look forward to the second half of this interview, and more information on KOTO coming very soon from A-To-J Connections!
For More Information Please Follow KOTO On Social Media!
The above interview was conducted by Darice Chang with post translation by Tiffany Fujii.
KOTO - Omatsuri GALAXY Live MV