#1 Song Review: Week of 4/22 – 4/28

Hello Arama Japan readers and welcome to this week’s installment of #1 Song Review! Last week saw Gesu no Kiwami Otome. beat out Sandaime J Soul Brothers to come out on top. They’re both back again this week, but Sandaime J Soul Brother has a different song. Both acts are also up against a newcomer. Find out what various staff members thought of the songs that topped the physical and digital charts this week and share your thoughts on them too!

Oricon #1: HKT48 – 12 Byou (Recochoku #7 / not in the iTunes top 25)

Ronald: Another generic song from another mass of  interchangeable, cutesy girls… All this stuff just blends together… I listen to this and I can’t tell if it’s AKB, NMB, or SKE. It all sounds the same. I’ve heard this song a million times already. Some of these acts do try to switch things up sometimes (like that AKB song with the rapping or that one song by that other mass of interchangeable girls that had some interesting chanting). This isn’t one of those though. 2/10

Ryusenkai: I return at last! I’ve wanted to reclaim my place in these articles for some time now, but just haven’t been able to make things work with my schedule until Finals were done. Nonetheless, enough about that – let’s move on to the meat of this post and review some songs (I apologize if I’m a bit rusty my first week back, but that should be shaken off soon enough). As always when it comes to idol-pop, I’ll state that I’m usually not the biggest fan of the genre; this doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t give every track that comes my way the fair shake that it deserves. HKT48’s “12 Byou” is both a rather conventional idol song as well as a subtlely intriguing one, though I think on the whole it leans more towards the former. The track itself comes off as a mix between a mid-tempo pop/rock song and some rather happy and uplifting pop, largely driven by the backing guitar that handles most of the melody and a series of sparkling synths (and what I believe are some softer strings). The composition itself isn’t all that different from things I’ve heard in the past, or even some songs which I’ve reviewed in this feature before, though I will at least give it a nod for managing all of its different moving parts fairly well. The singing is also pretty par for the course when it comes to 48-family groups, focusing mostly on a choral style wherein most of the involved members can get a chance to sing, although there is something that at least attempts to stand out here. During the first two verses, there appears to be a kind of echoing effect added to most of the singers’ voices which actually meshes fairly well with the guitar in the background and serves to add an unexpected dimension to the track as a whole. 12 Byou’s lyrics are unfortunately kind of a let down in light of that effect, since they’re yet more of the typical cheese about young love and afffection that I’ve come to see all too frequently from a lot of idol groups. In the end, I still feel that HKT48’s latest effort is a mostly typical, happy-go-lucky pop track, but one that at the very least made my ears perk up a few times and say “Well, that was interesting”. 3.5/10


Recochoku #1: Sandaime J Soul Brothers – STORM RIDERS feat. SLASH (Oricon #3 / iTunes #2)

Ronald: There’s something god awfully cheesy about this song that makes me just scrunch up my face in disgust… It’s like they’re trying to be badasses… I don’t buy it though, just how I don’t buy it from JE acts when they do it. I mean if they were going more for an “urban” badass, it would be more plausible, but this rocker thing? It’s just not a good look for them. It’s too… try hard. I know that I complain about all their “R.Y.U.S.E.I.” and “Hanabi” clones, but I would honestly rather see them constantly retread that road as opposed to this one. I didn’t like it with “FIGHTERS” and I still don’t like it. This song is even rockier than “FIGHTERS” so that makes me like it even less. I know that someone is going to say, “But Ronald, you post rock acts all the time!” I know I do, but I post indie rock acts, not this style of rock. I’ve never really liked it. That being said, SLASH’s guitar work is great. Credit is given where credit is due. But Sandaime J Soul Brothers should just stay away from songs like this. This is such a shoutfest. It just doesn’t suit them. I know they’re trying to switch it up, but they missed the mark with this. 4.5/10

Ryusenkai: Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve heard a song in this vein come from Sandaime J Soul Brothers’ corner, and I’m honestly not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a nice change from their recent ballads like “C.O.S.M.O.S.” and “starting over”, but also ventures into an area where the group’s vocalists have had some trouble in the past. Looking back to “FIGHTERS” in particular, this type of song tends to strain both of the singers significantly enough that it’s quite noticeable, even in the studio version. I’ll give Ryuji and Hiroomi some appropriate props here though, since they handle “STORM RIDERS” a heck of a lot better than they handled “FIGHTERS”, even if you can still hear their voices get somewhat fainter towards the end of the longer vocal runs in the chorus (breathing is also a bit of an issue here). Given that one of the major selling points of this particular track was that it was a collaboration with famous Western guitarist SLASH, it’s no surprise to see his guitar-work taking center stage in the instrumental. That said, I do wish that it was a little higher in the mix as well, since I really do like what I’m hearing from him, but there are moments where the synths and drums near completely drown him out. I unfortunately can’t find a full translation for the track’s lyrics, though based on what I can pick up by ear they definitely do fit the kind of song that this is, plus the delivery is absolutely there in this case, which was one of the criticisms I had for the group the last time I reviewed them. I came out of this liking “STORM RIDERS” more than I thought I would, though I don’t think that it’s a song I’d end up listening to all the time; it requires the right mood to get the most out of it, I feel. 6/10


iTunes #1: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no (Oricon #11 / Recochoku #3)

Ronald: Same review as last week – The indie boom is happening! I’m honestly surprised that this song is doing as well as it is. I knew that Gesu no Kiwami Otome. was on the rise, but this ranking is a really pleasant surprise. Now in regards to the song, this is their first single since their album last fall, “Miryoku ga Sugoi yo.” As I said in my review of indigo la End’s album, I wasn’t too impressed with “Miryoku ga Sugoi yo.” It seemed as if Enon Kawatani had but more effort into the indigo la End album as opposed to the Gesu no Kiwami Otome. album (for those who don’t know, Enon is the songwriter and frontman of both bands, hence the inevitable comparisons). But man, this single got me back on the Gesu boat… It’s as if the spark of their earlier work was revived for this single. “Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no” is funky, groovy, and full of energy. I love the addition of vocals by the band’s female members, keyboardist Chan Mari and drummer Hona Ikoka, to give the song a touch of softness at times. Their bridge in this song, featuring Chan Mari’s keyboard work, provides a nice little break from the action. In the end, I very happy with this song. It’s great seeing Gesu no Kiwami Otome. rise the way that they have. I really do think they’re one of the soon to be leaders of the Japanese rock scene. I kinda think of them at times as a more sophisticated SEKAI NO OWARI at times, due to their fun mixture of pop and rock. 8.5/10

Ryusenkai: This is a face that I honestly never expected to see show up here, but at the same time I couldn’t be any happier that they have. Gesu no Kiwami Otome. are a band that I’ve had an up and down relationship with, coming to love them over the first half of last year, then ending up fairly disappointed with how safe their album last October ended up being (it wasn’t bad at all, I was just… looking for something more, I think). Now I’ve been brought back into the fold by just how solid their latest single release is, and while I’d love to talk about that in some more detail, I’m going to try to keep my focus on the title song here. “Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no” is a very interesting track for me since it manages to maintain the same familiar atmosphere that a lot of Gesu songs possess while also changing up the instrumental in some fairly key ways. Most notably, the group have given in to their jazz influences far more fully here, placing Chan Mari’s keyboard at the center of song and allowing Enon’s guitarwork to really stand out from the rest of the composition. This isn’t to say that the bass and drums don’t hold their own as well, and in fact, each and every member of the band gets their chance to shine and show just how technically apt they all are (when the bass takes point at the start of the second verse, for example). It’s impossible to talk about a Gesu no Kiwami Otome. song without bringing up Enon’s distinctive talk-singing style, which even edges into falsetto at moments here; of note, this is the first song of theirs in which the two female members of the band provide extensive backing vocals, which is something I’ve been hoping to see happen for a long time now. They mesh quite well with Enon’s tone and I’d love to see this happen more often in the future, since it really does fit the kind of jazz-rock that it seems like they want to make. I scoured the net trying to find a proper English translation for this track, but haven’t had any luck on that front so I’m going to refrain from discussing the lyrics too much here. I’ll only say that what I can pick up casts the title (“Not a Me Other than Me”) in a rather intriguing light. Gesu’s latest effort is easily my favorite song of this bunch, and I absolutely can’t wait for the release of “Romance ga Ariamaru” in June – here’s hoping it holds my interest just as much as this song has. 9/10


Ronald’s Rank:

1. iTunes #1: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no

2. Recochoku #1: Sandaime J Soul Brothers – STORM RIDERS feat. SLASH

3. Oricon #1: HKT48 – 12 Byou


Ryusenkai’s Rank:

1. iTunes #1: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no

2. Recochoku #1: Sandaime J Soul Brothers – STORM RIDERS feat. SLASH

3. Oricon #1: HKT48 – 12 Byou