Thursday, 20 December 2012


All opinions are my own, and that should really go without saying. Please respect that.

Christmassy GACKT is always good, I find.
So, that time of year has come yet again. Actually, Christmas is my favourite time of year, for many reasons. Winter, I've finally realised, is my favourite of the four seasons. I love this time of year, and all that is just enhanced by all the special songs you only listen to at that same time of year (I refuse to listen to them outside of December, in all honesty).
Now, Japan has released a good bunch of Christmas songs, despite being a non-Catholic country - in fact, South Korea have barely any Christmas songs despite the fact that, though being a generally non-Catholic country, many K-Pop stars are openly Catholic. I suppose Japan must make a bigger deal of it all and, of course, J-Idol Pop in particular is a genre somewhat built on gimmicks, right?
As an avid fan of Christmas and Japanese music, I'd like to take this opportuniy to give my personal Top 5 Ranking of Japanese Christmas Songs!

5. Arashi - Dear Snow

Jun, that garish jacket does not fit in. Way to ruin the colour scheme, pshhh.
This ranking is kind of Johnny's dominated (an accident, I promise), and, as such, it kicks off with none other than JE's popular export, Arashi(though, that being said, SMAP actual have a better sales ranking to their name, as do Kinki Kids, so, their success is only about 3rd in the rankings - bare in mind that these statistics may be outdated)~!
To me, this sounds really Christmassy - it has the right balance of warm and cold to it. Also, the instruments and such, the arrangement and that, is very clever in getting that Christmassy feel across. It's very typically Arashi, but it has somewhat of an old English Christmas feel to it that I can't quite place. It's a really gorgeous song and it's nothing but Christmassy, though, without being all in-your-face cheesy. It works really, really well.
The lyrics aren't the cheeriest (as you scroll down, you'll realise that there is actually one song that isn't just sad in this ranking), but they're sweet. Yeah, they're definitely nice lyrics. In the song, the narrator is in love yet they can't follow through with this love, they can't convey their feelings. They know the love is unrequited and, rather than being a total arse and dwelling on the fact their love isn't paying attention to their lovely feelings of lovely love, the narrator's accepting that it simply cannot be with them. They do state what they'd do if only the two could be together but the song ends on a far less hopeful note, with a line that basically means 'It will never happen but I'll still love you' - it's sweet but harsh, definitely. I believe this works well with the idea I presented earlier regarding the blend of warm and cold tones. It's a lovely song, really.

4. °C-ute - Aitai Lonely Christmas

That fade effect isn't very good, though, is it? No wonder Nakky looks so pissed and Maimai looks so judgemental.
Regrettably, this is only song in this ranking by a female artist. However, there are plenty more in my Top 10 and Top 20 lists, but, I'm not going to post anything so pointlessly long if I don't have to. So, yeah, kudos to °C-ute! I honestly think that °C-ute are the H!P group with the best talent and sound the best live out of all the groups. Anyhoots, onto the song, right?
This song seems to be about a girl who wants to spend Christmas with her love, so, nothing really very special or original here, though, there appears to be a catch. They lyrics don't explain anything and the PV is pretty much plotless, so, what the catch is, I'm really not sure. My assumption is that she can't see her love for whatever reason, though I'm pretty sure they haven't broken up. Yet. It seems like they're on the verge of breaking up though they haven't even reached Christmas - this makes the girl sad because she really just wanted to spend Christmas wih her love. She's never felt this kind of love before and she really just wants to cherish Christmas with him. She tries her best to hide her pain but it's not so easy, so, this song is her feelings conveyed through the voices of °C-ute - metaphorically, of course, seeing as the lyrics weren't written by any young girl afraid of an impending break-up and were, instead, written by Tsunku♂, a 44-year-old man with a wife and kids. It's quite a bittersweet song and I like that about it.
Though, my brain, upon having just read the translation, has drawn an automatic connection between the lyrics and the drama, Tatta Hitotsu no Koi. Obviously, it doesn't all match-up, but some parts do. It's of note that this drama is my 2nd favourite drama of all time and my favourite anything of the romance genre. I'm picky when it comes to romances, but this one hits all the right keys.
The melody of the song is really catchy and the arrangement is fantastic. This is one of my all-time favourite °C-ute songs, to be honest, which is sad since I'll only let myself listen to it in December. The tone of this song gives it an almost cool feel, as well as a sad and sentimental touch. And, on top of that, Airi and Chisato sound bloody amazing (don't they always, though?).


Since this is an album track and I couldn't find any decent screenshots, here's a wallpaper graphic made using screenshots of their performance of this song from the DIAMOND Concert DVD. Credits go to rabbid-mongoose @ devART.
 In my head, this song isn't strictly a Christmas song but, all things considered, it does qualify, so, in the list it goes! Besides, there's no denying that its a really Wintery song, and that's not just because of the title. Honestly, you just have to listen to it to realise that it practically just screams Winter at you. Also, at the start and end, there are little sound effects like wind. I think this adds a really nice a really feel to the song and seriously emphasises the Wintery effect. Listening to this song around Christmas time really allows you to get lost in that snowy feeling.
The melody of the song is also really catchy and the song is nice and upbeat. That's another thing I like about the song - it makes you think of snow and cold stuff without being a sadder song.  The line distribution is practically perfect, too, ignoring that Yamapi technically gets the most lines (hey, no complaints, I love me some Pi). Of course, I don't mind when line distribution isn't great or, even, when it's terrible, it doesn't bother me, but it's still nice when the line distribution is properly good. Well, to be fair, in terms of singing lines, it is just perfect, but Yamapi actually has an extra rapping part and, oh, god, his rapping. Sure, he's not the best rapper ever, but his rap in this song is really good. It sounds really cool and fits in the song extremely well. And, oh, by the way, I mean seriously cool.
I can't actually find any translations of the song that aren't blocked by the school's censorship filter, so, I can't analyse the lyrics. However, I will say that I find the idea of a 'SNOW EXPRESS' really endearing. In my head, I automatically think of a train and, to be fair, I blame the film, Polar Express, for that one, but I really like that inage in my head. It's really cute. (It's unrelated but I plan to do a drawing based on this image within the week - I want to do a Christmas drawing~!) Though, to be fair, the song starts off with a line about being on a bus, so, really, that image is purely in my head.

2. KAT-TUN - White X'mas

Koki - 'Draw me like one of your French girls'
And, Junno, at least try to look like you're a part of the picture!
This might look biased - my 2 favourite artists topping the list.
Well, y'know what, maybe it is but like hell do I care! Of course I'd be biased towards a Christmas song by my favourite group - it hardly takes a genius to work that one out. Ahem.
White X'mas is a track that can be described only as a heartfelt ballad with the narrator looking back on memories of Christmasses passed by, supposedly spurred on by some kind of winter scenery. I wouldn't say it's a terribly depressing song, but, at the same time, I would not say that it is a cheery song by any stretch of the imagination. Though the title is something often associated with idyllic and sweet Christmas scenes (all blame goes, no doubt, to Bing Crosby's famous single), this song doesn't really reflect that at all. Actually, rather than the snow resembling anything sweet and heartwarming, it's kind of shown for what it really is - cold and piercing. It's possible that, for the narrator, this sort of weather was once something warm and comforting, but something, presumably a break-up, has lead them to associate it all with something less pleasant as they're reminded of better times. It's sort of bitter-sweet in that respect. Sure, Christmas is a time of joy and love and all that, but, I'm really drawn to the mood of this song. I do have a bit of a thing for sad or tragic Christmas songs; they're always a nice break from the painfully cheesy stuff. Oh, and that god-awful Mariah Carey song. I hate that bloody song, with a burning passion.
This song is a ballad, which I suppose many people wouldn't really want to listen to in the build-up to Christmas - ballads don't really get you riled up that often. However, since I've made a point of only listening to this song in December, if I can help it, my brain's made the natural connection between this track and Christmas, so, in a way, it still gets me excited. It's not the most obviously Christmassy song ever, but it's extremely Wintery. Christmas and Winter practically come hand in hand, so it all works. Anyway, it's a really beautiful ballad, to be fair. It's got a gorgeous melody and it's been arranged in such away that it's all kind of...resonant, if that makes sense. Possibly not, but, if you know the song, you might get what I mean. It's sort of mystical in that sense, I feel, and the effect also adds to the tone of the song greatly.

1. GACKT - 12 Gatsu no Love Song

Lots of people kissing and absolutely no GACKT - that's a dead disappointment
This will always be my favourite of all Christmas songs in the history of Christmas songs. It's a really fantastic song - I mean, it was a enough that GACKT actually had a Christmas song at all. To be honest, there are actually four main versions of this song with about eight updated versions. The four main versions were released as separate singles within the years of 2001 and 2004 and each song was performed in the four different languages in which GACKT is fluent - Japanese, English, Mandarin Chinese and Korean, respectively. I'm not as familiar with the Chinese version - this is something I plan on recitfying this year, mind - but the Japanese, English and Korean versions are all absolutely brilliant. What I love about the different versions is that it means you can just listening to the song three times in the row without getting too sick of the song - aside from the obvious linguistic differences in the songs, there are always other things that set them all apart from each other, be it arrangement, bridge melody, adlibs, whatever. Each version of this song is a unique version and it really adds to the listening experience.
As to what version would be my favourite, I think I'd have to say the original, Japanese-language version. Probably because it's the one I heard first and, though I do love the adlibs in the others, I like how the melody stays consistent and pure in this. I feel that, somehow, a Christmas song is best with a simplistic melody.
 The message conveyed by this song is really nice. Lyrically, the song initially seems to be your bog-standard romantic ballad, but, as is always the case with GACKT, there's always something deeper hidden between the lines. In this particular case, it's a plea for world peace. But, that's not all - it's also a celebration of the love in the world. This highlighting of the bonds people can form with each other acts makes a strong point regarding the situation of 3rd world countries, trying to tell us that our love should be given unto such people. This song was also written as a result of his trip to Madagascar where he had seen many children, though living in poverty, still smiling, being truly happy over the smallest things; something that seems to have been especially touching at the time, which wasn't too long after the 9/11 attacks. This situation, apparently, also brought light to huge gap between the rich and the poor. So, overall, I think this song has a pretty good message. And, to be fair, I'm cool with Christmas songs being politically motivated.
Though, it must be noticed that, on the surface, this is basically a song about love lost and the resulting loneliness. Maybe that's just a typical GACKT ballad, but it could also be a metaphor by the corruptions of society causing us to mindlessly hate the people we should love. Who knows?

So, there we have it, my personal Top 5 Christmas songs from Japan. 
Thanks for reading and have an absolutely brilliant Christmas~! Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, 10 December 2012

November Top 5

All opinions are mine and, surprisingly, not your's! Gahsp! Who'd have thought?
Here, have some adorable derp Kame. I don't care if he has nothing to do with this Ranking.
So, the time has come for the second installment of my Monthly Top 5 singles overview. Again, this ranking will be focussing soley on singles released in Japan, purely because I can't think of any other Novemember releases I actually cared about.
And, yeah, last time I said something about GACKT showing up this time but, as it turns out, Winter Lovers isn't out until December. I swear that wasn't the case before, but whatever.
Anyway, let's get on with the ranking!

5. S/mileage - Samui ne

I like this cover best, it's cute and Christmassy. But the editing isn't too impressive.

One thing I don't like about S/mileage is their song style. The cutesy act doesn't always work for me. I do love cute stuff, but S/mileage often end up being too much. Besides, I'm really not a big fan of Dawa's voice and her singing squeakier and more cutesy than normal isn't something I find particularly pleasant. I'm sure Dawa's lovely but I'm just not huge on her voice. However, this song is a more mellow and mature song. However, that cutesy feel is still retained. Also, it's a winter song. I'm a sucker for winter songs, really. This I will admit without even an ounce of shame. Basically, I would honestly like to see more of this from S/mileage. Maybe then, I'd like them better - I love the girls, particularly 2nd Gen. In my opinion, S/mileage are getting a tad generic for my tastes, but, with this single, I think there's some improvements.

4. Shoujo Jidai - FLOWER POWER

I find it odd that, despite being officially known as 'Shoujo Jidai', their Japanese single covers don't actually seem to provide any evidence of this. Also, it may just be me, but I find those outfits quite unflattering.
I'm not a huge SNSD fan - I like them enough but I'm not mad about them. I'm a casual fan. A really casual fan. I don't know if I'm even really a fan. But I do like them and there are a couple of songs of their's that I honestly adore. This isn't one of them, but I do really like it. Now, being a 'really casual fan', I haven't actually given any of this single, past the A-Side, a listen and, since I want to get this up at a decent time, unlike my last Monthly Top 5, I'm going to be lazy and not bother with them. But, that being said, it does mean that this is a good enough A-Side for me to consider among the month's Top 5 without any support from extra songs. This song is a very typical SNSD song which does do the track many favours for me. There are certain SNSD songs I'm less drawn to, but this particular kind of song is normally a hit for me. It's a very catchy song and it's got a really good beat. It's everything good about SNSD, I suppose.

3. DIY♡ / GREEN FIELDS - Forefore ~Forest For Rest~ / Boys be ambitious

The cover sucks because Miya's hair is much nicer in the PV. Okay, it doesn't actually suck. It's better than a lot of H!P Single covers. Shut up.
This single is only in these charts because of DIY♡. I couldn't actually care less about GREEN FIELDS and their generic little track. Sure, I feel like an arse for being so harsh right off the bat with this part of the ranking but it has to be said. In order to get it out of the way quickly, I'll explain exactly how I feel about Boys be ambitious! - it's not a bad song, perse, but in comparison to its coupling track, it really doesn't stand out to me at all. It is, as I said, generic. That doesn't make it an inherently awful song and I do need to stress that I don't think of it as such. It just didn't have enough going for it to get itself anywhere near this ranking alone. I kept this single on the ranking purely because I realised that, even if this single had contained DIY♡'s track and nothing else, it would still have done well on the ranking. Boys be ambitious is simply not my kind of song and the line-up, though I do like the girls, save for Yuka, purely because I don't even really know who she is, does nothing for me. Forefore ~Forest For Rest~, on the other hand, is an absolutely fantastic track and I would easily say that is one of the best songs to come out of H!P in quite some time. This, Wakuteka Take a chance and WANT! are all renewing my faith in H!P - not that I had ever lost faith, as such, but, I was certainly wavering. Please keep in mind that, faith or no faith, my support for H!P never once weakened. DIY♡'s track is ridculously catchy and it really gets stuck in my head for ages after I listen to it - it's a bloody earwig, I'll tell you! The melody is seriously good and the arrangement is among the best in recent H!P releases. I really love the melody of the instrumental break - things like that always get me. I also think it's brilliant how this a dancey song without masses of autotune (I'll admit, I basically repeat this observation later on, only applying it to a different song all together) - this is especially unusual in current H!P, so it's really nice to see. Harunan is still not too a strong a singer but this song truly compliments her voice, so that's always great - personally, though I am fully aware that she is somewhat vocally weak, I will not deny that her voice has this certain charm to it and, as such, I'm drawn to her voice. Also, lastly, in the PV, Miya's hair is great, it suits her so well. Keep this hair, Miya! Drop the extentions!

2. Kis-My-Ft2 - Ai no Beat

So, is Tama-chan just going to adopt the trademark Yamapi glare? I mean, they're both beauts, so I can work with that.
This single is pretty interesting - it's got a pretty substantially-lengthed tracklist with 4 tracks; 2 A-Sides and 2 B-Sides, but that's not the best part (cause that's not actually very interesting at all, is it?). The great thing about this single is that it features two different versions of the A-Side - the Dance version and the Rock version, both of which sound really good and equally, quintesentially Kis-My-Ft2. Both versions have a different feel to them and they have such different approaches taken toward them, regarding arrangement and so on, but they both work so well. It's really impressive - well done to the people who wrote this one.  On top of that, the lyric s are fast, at parts, yet easy to sing along to (granted you know the lyrics or have them on you, of course), which is always great~ Stuff like that makes for memorable lyrics!
As brilliant as the Dance version is (even with its intro sounding exactly like part of a JLS song), my favourite of the pair would have to be the Rock version. Though, that makes sense, seeing as my favourite artists are GACKT and KAT-TUN. Actually, as much as this song could only be a Kis-My-Ft2 song (this is something I love about KisuMai), there are elements to the rock version that remind me somewhat of KAT-TUN's pre-debut songs, namely 'SHE SAID...'. Honestly, I just the fast-pace of the rock version; the drums are bloody effective. It just sounds so cool, really. Though, it's probably worth noting that's not really that rocky at all. There are clkear rock elements, but it's still pretty poppy, if you ask me.
The B-Sides are both really nice, too. First off, there's Winter Lovers which is a nice, relaxing song. The first time I heard it, I was trying to sleep on a bus, so, yeah. It's a pretty little song and it's really perfect for the winter season. It sounds like it would be perfect to listen to on a snowy morning, with a clear sky. But, that kind of clear where the sky is that really weird shade of pale blue. I hope Scotland gets that at some point - we do like our horrendous grey skies, it seems.
Lastly, we have Never End LOVE. Personally, I think this sounds really nice. The verses, at least, remind me kind of Yamapi's Ao and some NEWS songs. In fact, this whole song sounds like it should be an older NEWS song back from when they still had eight members. In some ways, it's like a less cheesey version of Private Hearts, except..not, obviously. If you get what I mean. But, it's so typically JE without being one of those cheesey messes chock-full of prepubescent 12-year-olds.


This is one of my favourite single covers of the year, by the way. It's so cool.
So, this month's winner is this little jem of a subgroup. This group was formed to perform the theme song to drama, MONSTERS - oh, and it's worth mentioning that the members actually play the main characters of the drama. Funnily enough, the last time JE formed a duo with two members of a drama cast and got them to sing the theme song, Yamapi was involved, as he is this time. However, MONSTERS doesn't have much on Shuji & Akira's Seishun Amigo, I find - some may call it Kame-bias, but I just call it fact. Okay, no, really, I just think that Seishun Amigo's a better song.
Of course, that being said, I still think that this is a really good single. The A-Side is quite dancey without being an autotune fest, which is always interesting. I mean, I'm not adverse to autotune but sometimes it's used purely to make a song seem dancey which is a bit of a cop-out. I mean, if it sounds great, that's fine, but, y'know. There are a lot of vocal effects in this song, though, I won't deny it, and there's probably some autotune in there, too. This song is bloody catchy and I find it totally engaging. It's quite nice hearing Shingo tackling this genre, because I swear you don't hear all that much of this from SMAP (I mean, you do occasionally - take Just Go! for example). My favourite part is the whole bit at the end with Shingo singing all low, with Yamapi doing adlibs in the back. It sounds seriously cool.
The B-Side, Monster or Monsutaa, is a cover of a classic Pink Lady song and it's absolutely fantastic. In fact, I actually prefer it to the A-Side. I haven't had much experience with Pink Lady aside from UFO and the songs covered by various Hello! Project artists, but, even so, this song is so obviously a Pink Lady song, it's odd. But, I do like Pink Lady's songs, as far as melody and beat go. I love when a favourite artist of mine covers one of their songs. Funnily enough, though, this rendition of the song reminds me of H!P at times, probably because of the obvious influences Tsunku has taken from the classic duo. It's amazing, though, how well this pair work this song. In fact, I'm all for Yamapi singing more songs in this genre because his voice sounds so lovely here. I really love the electronic twist on the song that kicks in from the second chorus onwards, it sound so cool. And the shouting lines are brilliant, too. This whole song is a fabulous, fabulous success for me and, on top of that, it's wonderfully catchy. This is one of my favourite tracks of the year, quite honestly. I am so glad this happened.
So~ That's all for November~
Check back next month to see whether or not GACKT will lose to a certain Johnny's quartet on their world quest? Or, could it be that Berryz Koubou could get that spot? - they do want it so bad~
(major awful pun alert)