Summer is (almost) over, and yours may have been fun or boring, relaxing or stressful… but if you’re an AKB48 fan, sure there’s been at least one good thing about it: the massive amount of releases from them and their subunits and sister groups. From June to August, there was at least one AKB-related release per week (if we include DVDs / BDs and photobooks). As for the music releases, some of them (mostly singles) were really nice, others were not-so-good, but I took my time to listen to them all and now I’m going to share my impressions with you guys!
June 1st : Tomomi Itano – Ai ni Pierce
Similarly to her debut single Dear J, Tomochin’s 2nd digital single is an upbeat, catchy, autotuned-as-hell dance song. While I still prefer Dear J (one of my favorite J-pop songs this year), I really love it and I find it much better than her previous digital single Wanna be now, which I liked a lot at first but now I barely listen to it – it got old too quickly. Ai ni Pierce sounds a lot like some of the best songs by GIRL NEXT DOOR (or should I write “girl next door” now?), a group I recently became a fan of. I hope she releases more songs like this in the future!
P.S: Am I the only one who thinks she looks like Meisa Kuroki in the cover?
Overall score: 9 / 10
June 8th: AKB48 – Koko ni Ita Koto
The long-awaited 1st original album by Japan’s favorite girl group was originally scheduled to be released in April, but just like many other releases, it was postponed due to the earthquake, making the wait even longer. Many fans, including myself, had high expectations for this album, mainly due the amazing a-sides that preceded it. And of course, the fact that it was the first time AKB48 released an original album (SET LIST and Kamikyoukutachi were both best-of compilations) played a very important role in generating such hype. However, when the album finally came out, many fans were disappointed by what they heard… and I can see why. Most of the new songs made no impression on me at all when I gave my first listen to this album. None of them are instantly catchy songs like, for example, Heavy Rotation or Beginner, and even now that most of the album tracks have grown on me, the only ones I really really like and can listen to on repeat are Shoujotachi yo, Overtake, Boku ni Dekiru Koto and Koko ni Ita Koto, which is my personal favorite and the only album track I loved from the very first listen. I absolutely adore this kind of choir songs with cheesy lyrics about graduation (Sakura no Shiori fan here!). Another positive point of this album is that they included stage song Team B Oshi. I love it; it’s so cheerful and fun! Still, the best songs on this album are, from my point of view, the single tracks. Heavy Rotation, Beginner and Chance no Junban (yes, I DO love it and I know I’m probably the only one. Oh, and I think Mayumi Uchida is cute) are catchy tunes I just can’t get enough of. My global impression is positive, I do like this album and there are a few gems on it (even if most of these were previously released), but it’s really fan-oriented. It’s not an album you should use to introduce AKB’s music to someone who never heard it before, unlike Kamikyokutachi or even some stage albums. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, the stuff AKB48 have released this year so far is a lot weaker than last year’s… I’m still waiting for the next Heavy Rotation or Oogoe Diamond!
P.S. The photobook included in the limited edition is awesome.
Overall score: 6.5 / 10
June 22nd: Atsuko Maeda – Flower
The debut single from the cute face of AKB48 is one release I ended up liking a lot more than I’d ever imagined. Acchan’s vocals have never been top-notch (though not as painful to listen to as Tomochin’s), and the moment I heard the first 30-second preview of the title track Flower I knew it would be a sleep-inducing, uninteresting, plain ballad, so I was afraid the rest of the songs would be in that fashion. But, to my surprise, the b-side tracks turned out to be good. Very good, actually. Hoozue to Café Macchiato (my favorite from the single) and Yoake Made are two great ballads, I love them to bits, and while Acchan’s vocals are far from being great, she sounds quite nice here. Her soft voice fits this kind of songs. Kono Mune no Melody and La Brea Ave. are more on the upbeat / rock side and are very good songs too, but I must say they would be A LOT better if they were sung by someone with more powerful vocals. As for Brunch wa Blueberry, it’s rather forgettable if you ask me… cute tune, but nothing too special.
Overall score: 7 / 10
June 22nd: Mai Oshima – Second Lady
I haven’t listened to her previous two singles and since I wasn’t into AKB48 when she was part of the group I never cared about her, but since I’m reviewing every AKB-related release from this summer, I thought: “why not give it a listen?” The first impression I got from this single is that both songs on it sound like the typical generic pop stuff Avex gives to their female soloists they don’t care much about (Maki Goto and Nana Tanimura are the first examples to come to my mind), and while I find Mai’s vocals better than Tomochin’s and Acchan’s, that doesn’t save this single from being mediocre and forgettable.
Overall score: 4 / 10
June 29th: no3b – Kuchibiru Furezu…
These girls almost always put out cool upbeat tunes as singles, and Kuchibiru Furezu… is one of those songs I like so much. The verses are nothing special… but the chorus is so epic it makes up for it! (I still prefer Answer though). I’ve heard quite a few fans say they prefer the b-side Sakkaku over the main track… and while I like it (pretty fresh and original, different from their usual stuff), I don’t think it can even compare to KuchiFure. Now let’s move on to the solos of all three members: even though Miichan is my oshi and she’s quite a decent vocalist, I was looking forward to Takamina’s solo the most because her singing voice is just epic and I really like the two solo songs she has so far (Itoshisa no Accel and Kiseki wa Yoru Umareru). Sadly, the song she got this time, Dareka Oshiete, is so meh I almost cried from disappointment. Miichan’s and Kojiharu’s solos (Sayonara ni Kizuite and Asatte, Jamaica, respectively) are pretty nice though, the former is a lovely R&B-ish ballad and the latter is basically another Cloudy Sky. Overall, a very good single!
Overall score: 7.5 / 10
July 6th: Not yet – Naminori Kakigoori
Yuko & friends made their debut earlier this year with a single that barely caused any strong impression on me (I enjoy Shuumatsu Not Yet now, but it took me a while to take a liking to it… though I still don’t like the b-sides except for their version of Nakinagara Hohoende). For that reason, I expected nothing from their 2nd one… but to my surprise, I fell in love with the title track the moment I heard it for the very first time, eventually becoming one of my favorite summer songs this year. I love everything about Naminori Kakigoori: its catchy chorus, the awesome and colorful PV, the fun lyrics… everything! Sadly this song doesn’t seem to have many fans, but I’m used to liking songs that are usually disliked by the fandom, so… B-side Bokutachi no Offshore is another catchy summer song I loved at first listen, a close second favorite from this single, and what I like about it the most is the fact that it sounds very… AKB-like, that’s it. The other b-sides aren’t that interesting, but I guess I don’t mind listening to them… besides, the 2 songs I love are more than enough for me to give this single a high rating!
Overall score: 7 / 10
July 13th: Tomomi Itano – Fui ni
I find most of the stuff she’s released since her debut to range from good to great, but this single just doesn’t make the cut. The title song is not that bad actually, but when you can’t hold a note like in Tomochin’s case, you need really impressive or catchy songs to stand out and this isn’t one. As for Tsuki no Inori, it’s a beautiful ballad and I have a soft spot for those, the arrangement and melody are pretty nice… but her dreadful vocals ruin it, which is a pity. And the rest of the tracks aren’t any better… Boku no Sei is a snooze fest, Dark side is a mess, Don’t miss it sounds a lot like TUNNEL and I never really cared about that song, and as for Come on!, I believe it had potential to be really good but it just ended up being yet another generic, freaking repetitive bitch-pop song. I guess my expectations were too high…
Overall score: 4.5 / 10
July 20th: NMB48 – Zetsumetsu Kurogami Shoujo
The record-breaking debut single from the Pedobear-friendlier version of AKB48 (?) is something I have mixed feelings about. I don’t like the title track or the fact that all five songs sound very similar. But on the other hand, I really like Seishun no Lap Time and especially Boku ga Maketa Natsu, because that’s the kind of super-energetic idol pop songs like Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara or Enkyori Poster that I love so much and AKB48 have been lacking lately. And as for the two remaining songs, both Mattemashita Shingakki and Mikazuki no Senaka are far from being impressive but I kinda enjoy the latter, so overall, this single gets a pass from me~
Overall score: 6 / 10
July 27th: SKE48 – Pareo wa Emerald
Lately, I’m finding the stuff SKE48 are releasing a lot better than that of their “big sisters”, and this single is a good example of this. Pareo wa Emerald and Papa wa Kirai are two songs I just can’t get enough of: cool, catchy and quite decent vocally. Definitely two of my favorite songs this summer. Hanabi wa Owaranai and Tokimeki no Ashiato, while not at the same level of greatness of the two songs I mentioned before, are pretty good too and I like them a lot. Tsumiki no Jikan is the only one I don’t like here, but it doesn’t stop this single from being much better than all the singles AKB48 have released this year so far combined together.
Overall score: 8 / 10
August 3rd: Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 – Hetappi Wink
Most of the stuff from Mayuyu’s group gives me headache (and not only because of their ear-drilling vocals) and there are only like 4 or 5 of their songs I really really enjoy, so I was shocked at the fact that I actually liked all 6 songs from their 2nd single as a 7-person group. Hetappi Wink is totally my summer jam this year, it’s so fun and puts me in a great mood! I thought nothing would be even near to Hashiritai GO! GO! GO! as my number one WH song, but Hetappi Wink has become a really close second favorite from the group. I just can’t get enough of it. The rest of the tracks, especially Mamma, Grazie and Bikini wa Niawanai are really catchy and fun as well, and Mayuyu’s solo song Mirai no Koibito is one of those old-school idol songs we usually get from her that become a lot better with every extra listen. If you are a fan of bouncy, happy, catchy idol pop songs with ultra high-pitched vocals, I totally recommend this single to you!
Overall score: 8.5 / 10
August 10th: DiVA – Cry
Anyone whose hearing capacities are in a good condition will probably agree that DiVA is the best AKB48 subunit vocals-wise, but great vocals don’t always necessarily imply great music. Tsuki no Uragawa was alright, but wasn’t too memorable (mainly because of the rather meh b-sides)… luckily that’s not the case of Cry. Both the title track and Chika Suidou are very cool upbeat tracks with powerful instrumentals that go very well with their vocals. Yuka and Sayaka, in that order, are clearly the best singers of the group, but I can see an improvement in both Umechan’s and Sae’s singing in comparison to their first single. Their version of MARIA is really great too and I actually like it better than the original. No way out is my least favorite song here, but is still better than stuff like Information and that boring version of Blue rose on their debut single. Good job, girls!
Overall score: 8 / 10
August 17th: SDN48 – MIN·MIN·MIN
Why, SDN? Why? With the release of their first two singles, I thought their music career was turning out to be very awesome, with songs like Ai yo, Ugokanaide, Eros no Trigger or Ai Chuseyo that I’ve been listening to on repeat for months. However, the whole MIN·MIN·MIN single is probably one of the biggest J-pop disappointments I’ve had this year so far. The title track, unlike GAGAGA and Ai Chuseyo, is not catchy at all unless you listen to it repeated times (though I’ve somewhat managed to like it after giving it some time); Onedari Champagne is kinda messy, with some alright parts and some extremely terrible ones, and as for Abazure… it’s not that bad, but nothing that catches my attention either. The best thing about this single is definitely their version of Everyday, Kachuusha, I love it!
Overall score: 5 / 10
August 24th: AKB48 – Flying Get
I must say it makes me kinda sad that AKB’s fastest-selling single so far is actually their weakest A-side in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the song or anything, I really enjoy seeing it performed live and thanks to that it has grown a lot on me (plus it has one of the best PVs I’ve seen from the group), but compare it to their epic A-sides like Heavy Rotation, Beginner, Oogoe Diamond, RIVER and the likes… to me, Furage sounds more like B-side material. Similarly, Dakishimecha Ikenai and Seishun to Kizukanai Mama fall in the category of “nice and all, but nothing that I’ll listen to non-stop”. Yasai Uranai hurts my ears and I prefer to pretend that song doesn’t exist. My favorite song from this single is definitely Ice no Kuchizuke, yeah it’s cheesy, yeah it may be not their best song, but for some reason I really like it: the moment I first heard it in that Ice no Mi CM, I fell in love with it. Not a terrible single, but rather average – AKB can do much better.
Overall score: 5.5 / 10
Yeah, it’s finally over~ It’s funny how I barely post here (I’m a lazy ass), but when I do, my posts always end up being long as hell.