Saturday, August 12, 2017

More Good Idol Music - My 100th Article!

Yes, it's true.  This is my 100th blog article for "This Is Your Wake Up Call!", the blog that discusses Japanese idols that few, if any, other blogs will write about!

The first thing I want to do is update what I wrote about a couple days ago.  The Japanese news article I linked about Menkoi girls (I guess the second word is lower case) didn't specify which festival they were performing at.  I did a search and it seems it is the Aki Matsuri Japanese Festival.  Now I'm not 100% sure, though.  If it's a different festival I will give an update in a future article.

Also, when I did some research for my article about the group NA-NA reuniting, I didn't research enough.  It seems that since January 2017 Honda Touko of NA-NA has been singing in another idol group.  This group is Colorful Scream, and they have an official video for the song "Sing Bird".
Colorful Scream also have some live videos in which the live sound has been replaced with the studio recording of the song!  I don't know why they did that, though.  Touko's fans should give this one a listen as she seems to be the leader of the group!  That's great!


Another idol group that may have slipped by unnoticed is Dream Catcher.  Dream Catcher's website was created on March 31, 2017, and a radio show with the group debuted on April 24.  But Dream Catcher's live debut was on April 29, 2017.  There are five girls in the group and they sing some pretty cute songs.  My favorite is the first, "Yami Miyagi".  I hope you'll like them!  By the way, please don't get Dream Catcher the Japanese idol group confused with a Korean group that has the same name.  


PARLISH are back too, but with a new lineup.  For the August 3, 2017 performance two members, Deki Hikaru and Tanaka Amo, could not appear.  However, four new members made their debut! The names that I have are Karen, Nanami, Morigami Aiko and Yamamoto Rin.  Aiko was previously a dancer for SunRisa in 2014 and 2015.  I had no idea she had her eye on a PARLISH membership!  I have always liked Aiko so I approve of this!  Here is my favorite song from the group, "Jump". 


Finally I want to share a video for a cute group that's existed for a few years, Twinkle.  A couple years ago, at least, they were Twinkle Angel and there were more members of the group.  Now Twinkle are a trio of girls named Saki, Sakura and Misaki.  This is actually a song they did a video for two years ago, which was sort of a dance practice version.  I think the title is "Twinkle Jungle".  

       

I hope you all enjoyed these songs!  I do my best to discover some of the best new Japanese idol music and news for those who are looking for groups and music that might normally be overlooked. Thanks again for reading my blog!  All of my readers are terrific!  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Menkoi Girls Are Coming To America!


Menkoi Girls have announced an appearance in the United States in October 2017 in Henderson, Nevada at the Autumn Festival, near Las Vegas!  I discovered this information some time before the announcement last week, but forgot to write about it in my blog.  I was reminded last night while watching Menkoi Girls on SHOWROOM Live.  I said "Hello" to four of the members last night and caught their attention.  Yuki, the leader of Menkoi Girls, was nice enough to speak a little English to me and told me that they were in coming to America in October.  I really wish I was going, but I have constant pain now and standing and walking hurts too much.  But if you live near Henderson, Nevada or can travel to there in October you might wish to see them.  Tell them that read about it in my blog!  Check out the Menkoi Girls Twitter for updates.

Here is a recent video from the subunit MG-Pen Pen (actually Pen squared).  This is the first time that I've noticed that they didn't add special effects.

     

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

NA-NA Is Back!


Just as I was about to go to bed last night I decided to check Twitter one more time.  I'm glad I did. I discovered the best news I have heard as an idol fan in some months.  ESSE Academy's NA-NA is coming back!  It's only for two performances on August 27, 2017 but this is better than nothing!  I guess schedules for all four girls cleared up for the time and they felt the time was right.  I certainly feel the time was right.  With all the break-ups and graduations in the idol scene, depressing news, mediocre new groups, and more of the same stuff from groups that have existed for years, it's about time there was something happy happening.  I have to admit the new hair styles (mostly Kimura Karin dying her hair) surprised me, but I still recognize them as NA-NA.  You can see all of NA-NA's tweets on their official Twitter with all the info you may need if you are lucky enough to be in Japan.      

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tokyo Girls a.k.a. Tokyo Idols BBC Edit

Last month I wrote about the new documentary film TOKYO IDOLS which is currently playing film festivals.  I hadn't seen the film then so I could only comment on the trailer and the interviews with director Kiyoko Miyake.  Thanks to someone in a Facebook group I've joined I have seen the 59 minute edit shown on BBC 4, a U.K. TV station.  The version I watched late last night was only in 360p quality and has now been removed.  It seems there is also a 720p HD version also on YouTube and I will watch this as soon as I can.  I will link the video but I cannot guarantee that it will stay on YouTube.  I'm also going to be linking a fan comment on this edit of the movie that perhaps you'll want to watch first.  Apparently there has been some mistranslation of what the Japanese people in the film are saying.  

The first video I'm going to link is Amina du Jean's comment on the BBC edit.  This young African-American woman is living in Japan working as an idol herself!  She seems knowledgeable on the subject of idols and speaks Japanese.  Her video includes photos, some of which aren't used in the documentary.  Amina discusses what she does and doesn't like about the film and what it overlooked, in her opinion.  She doesn't believe (and neither do I) that the Japanese idol scene is represented as fairly and as in depth as it needed to be.  The documentary basically shows the surface of the idol scene and ignores some of the important parts, such as the female aspect of the idol fans.  Also, most of the fans shown in the film are over 30, some over 40 years old.  I've talked with young women (even Amina, although not recently) both on the internet and in person at Idol Matsuri in Silverdale, Washington back in 2014, and I know for a fact that women like this music.  People who are single, married or in some kind of relationship are fans of Japanese idol music.  People in all countries, of different sexual preferences, and from different cultural backgrounds love this music.  Yet, only a few male adult fans are shown in the film.  Amina claims in her video that the amorecarina fan has what he says mistranslated.  The person who made the subtitles for TOKYO IDOLS apparently wrote his comment in a way that implies sexual implication when there isn't.  That's not to say there aren't fans who think of sexual feelings when listening to this music, but that isn't always the case.  

The social commentators interviewed in this film are apparently opposed to all of this music, and
only some of the parents of these girls have something positive to say.  Another thing missing (in my opinion) are interviews with the people behind the scenes.  While some of these people who work at the companies who created the idol groups have the best interests in the idols, there are also a lot of slimy employees that take advantage of the girls.  I've heard rumors that some of the staff members actually coerce a date these teenage girls, while forbidding them to have a boyfriend their own age.  The "punishments" an idol endures whenever she breaks a rule are atrocious!  How these staff members get away with their behavior is a mystery that needs solved.  Now this is a 59 minute version of the movie and not the complete film.  It is possible that some of the comments in favor of this music were edited out of this version.  It's also possible that certain content was unsuitable for British TV.  Unless you have seen the full movie, it's hard to tell if the director, film editor and subtitle creator were truly trying to create a film that is totally biased against this music.  It does appear that way, though. 

I'm going to add some comments which I included on YouTube as a response to Amina's video, with some corrections.   

What bothers me as a fan of the idols whose parents were interviewed is the full names of the girls weren't used and some spellings were incorrect.  I was the first to write about amorecarina in English in my blog This Is Your Wake Up Call!  I have always thought the name of this group was one word spelled with all lower case letters.  And Oda Yuzuha is the full name of the member profiled.  The footage of amorecarina here was filmed in early 2015 and Yuzuha has now left the group.  So have several other girls briefly glimpsed in the clips.  Yuzuha said she wanted amorecarina to perform on a stage like Budokan.  She left the group possibly in 2016, but I was off the internet at the time, so I don't know exactly when.  She was a part of the offshoot group EDMKISS until May 3, 2016.  I'm sorry Yuzuha didn't achieve her dream.  She wasn't my favorite member, but I did like her.  I have the "Monster High" single amorecarina released, and I love it!  

The full name of Amu is Kayama Amu.  Harajuku Monogatari is an offshoot of Millennium Girls.  Note the Millennium Dance Complex shirt worn by a fan in the movie.  Again, Amu wasn't my absolute favorite, but I certainly did notice her in videos.  She was part of the six members of Millennium Girls who sang "Noisy Girl", the only single by Millennium Girls released outside of venues, which I have.  Too bad the single only has one song and an instrumental.  At least the amorecarina single has three songs and three instrumentals.  Both are worth tracking down if you haven't already added them to your collection.  

I'm not familiar with P.IDL so I won't comment on them.  I was not aware of Hiigari Rio prior to this movie.  After reading the subtitled lyrics to "Worship Me" and "Banzai! Banzai!" I am afraid I have been put off by this young woman and the writer / producer responsible for this single.  The song makes me want to do the opposite of worshipping her.  I want to avoid Rio and Hyadain (the songwriter and producer) like the plague!  Rio seemed sincere in the movie and I was starting to sympathize with her, then she makes me vomit as I see her strings being pulled by the puppet master producer.  For having gone along with the recording of this single I have now less than zero respect for her.  

My comments might seem a little harsh in regards to Rio, but this is how I felt after watching the finals few minutes of the movie.  Unfortunately there are a lot of idols who follow down the same path, letting their careers be pulled in whatever direction that the producer wants.  Perhaps this is what Rio and other idols want (and maybe the fans too), but a lot of this songwriting and attitude gets a bit much after a while.  This music is meant to be fun, not egomaniacal and self-important.   


Here is the short version of the documentary.  I hope it stays on YouTube long enough for everyone to watch.  


As always, thank you for reading my blog.  I hope you have a great day.        

Monday, July 24, 2017

New Idol Music I'm Listening To

As I mentioned last month it is hard for me to really dislike music, even though the greatest music groups are now gone and some of the best singers have now left us.  But without music life is very meaningless.  So I decided it was time to share some of the videos for recent idol groups I am interested in.  I won't go into a lot of details, but I feel these groups are among the better indie idols still performing this type of music.  I hope you'll give all of these idols some of your time.

A company by the name of D.O.G. Productions have created a bunch of idol groups under an umbrella name of GIF39s (Gifu Thanks).  My personal favorite is Showa ☆ Tokimeki Gumi.  The group debuted on March 25, 2017 and have a 1980s sound.  The names of the members are Hinata Jyuri, Nakamura Amane and Mio (I don't know her family name).  The second song in this video, "Dancing Hero", is my personal favorite.  I want to thank my friend Tyler Draper for helping me out with researching info and talking with me as I learned about this group.


Menkoi Girls are an idol group that sometimes includes calligraphy in their performances.  The group formed on September 25, 2011 and are based in Tatebayashi City.  The group currently has 14 members, although there were 15 until March of this year.  Hazuki (the group only uses given names) graduated on March 19, 2017 in order to become a teacher.  The oldest member now is Yuki, who is 22.  Menkoi Girls also have three subunits, Menkoi Girls Salad, MG-Wing and MG-Pen Pen (actually Pen squared).  There are so many good songs and performances it's really hard to choose just one video for this group.  I should mention that all of the official videos I've seen have top-notch special effects.


RIOT BABY is a Tokyo-based group that formed in October 2016 by Planet Earth, Inc.  The group consists of young idols who were previously in idol groups formed by Love Mark Stage / Production-I.  They go by their given names only, but I can give you their full names!  Nakahara Aina is a former member of both RABBIT KICK and Campus.  Sisters Sakura Rin and Kae were both in Onigokko.  RIOT BABY released an E.P. on April 12, 2017 named "By My Side", which is also the name of the single.  It seems to be aimed at the skater rock crowd.  Aina even wears a Suicidal Tendencies hat in the video.  If you are looking for some fun rock music, look no further!  

     

A 13-year-old who only goes by Yuuna these days (her full name is Higaki Yuuna) made her original song debut in January 2017 after a few years of performing covers in groups such as Jewelry☆doll and YU-NA with Luxury dolls.  Not only is this Osaka girl a real cutie, but she sings and plays the guitar.  Her debut single (which may be a venue-only sale item) is "Happy girl!!"  This song is pretty rockin' and I give it my highest recommendation.  If you like it then subscribe to her official YouTube channel and listen to her other performances.  She's pretty awesome!  


Well, I hope everyone likes these videos.  Comments are always welcome.  Thanks everyone for reading and have a great day!  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tokyo Idols

For those who didn't know, there is a new documentary film that is now playing film festivals named TOKYO IDOLS.  The film was directed by Kiyoko Miyake, a Japanese woman who grew up in Japan but later moved to the U.K.  She made this film due to her curiosity about the phenomenon of Japanese idol culture.  In the film she profiles some indie idols who are working towards the possibility of becoming artists, but this film is also as much about the fans.  I haven't seen it yet due to it not playing anywhere in my area, but I am hoping there will be a DVD release in the near future.  Here is the film's trailer. 


I feel a film like this is one of the most important things to happen in the Japanese idol industry in some time.  While Japanese entertainment such as films and anime and certain types of music has become part of the mainstream in countries around the world, idol music is still not widely accepted.  Many mainstream idol groups already have several DVD and Blu-ray releases of their concerts and even documentaries that focus on their group, but an overview of the industry itself and indie idols in particular has not been done until now.  I am extremely pleased that the trailer features "Let's go out" by amorecarina as its opening song and has many clips of this group too.  I am proud of the fact that I was the first to write about amorecarina in English.  It seems as if this footage of amorecarina was shot in 2015 as the clips feature members in the group that have now graduated.  I really wish I could see this movie on a big screen since seeing amorecarina larger than life would be the biggest thrill for me!  I have never seen them in concert and since all of my favorite members are now gone, this film seems to be the next best thing for a fan like me.    

I have been reading reviews of the film online, and while they mostly praise the film itself, the reviews are written by people who are new to this music.  This means the reviewers are tossing around words like "disturbing" to describe the relationship between the fans and the singers.  While I certainly understand this reaction to a person exposed to this music for the first time, there is way more to this music than meets the eye.  The music of Japanese idols is generally meant to inspire happiness and good feelings among the fans.  We live in a world where dark, bleak entertainment is the new normal and anything lighthearted, cute or genuinely funny is dismissed as strange or old fashioned.  For me personally, I smile and feel good whenever I hear songs I like (from any genre) and idol music gives the feeling that something good and beautiful does exist in this world.  Music is what I need to heal and feel more comfortable with being alive.  Without music I feel hopeless and even more depressed than usual.  A good idol singer who is really giving her all to her performance makes me want to cheer her on.  I often wish I could meet them and shake their hands and tell them in their own language how much their songs mean to me.  Sadly, I have no way to talk to them since I have never learned Japanese and I have too many health problems now that I am incapable of traveling.          

Another thing discussed in the film and by the reviewers is gender identity in modern Japanese society.  The idols are being portrayed as male fantasy objects.  Again, I can see this.  I think a lot of this is being done by the companies who produce these groups to make them more appealing to males than females.  Idols have to look vulnerable and needy for their mostly male audience to feel comfortable enough to approach them.  Girls who look like they can take care of themselves are not in need of male protectors and may even intimidate the men.  So why are men the ones so interested in these younger girls and not the girls who are the same age?  Good question.  It may have to do with the way women in today's society are more independent and not in need of men, so the men look towards girls who are are not as independent.  Men want to be the provider and caretaker and this is being denied some men in modern society.  

I'd like to share some more videos with the director of TOKYO IDOLS.  I think she has a distinct vision of what this is all about and may be able to explain things even better than me.  


          


If you are lucky enough to be near a festival playing this film, then by all means try to see it! 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The End of Music

It's been over 19 months since I last wrote in this blog!  So what could possibly make me want to write in it again?  A few things, actually.  Unfortunately the first thing I want to discuss is not good news.  Which, as I have learned, will make certain people who no longer speak to me or never liked me in the first place overjoyed.  

I said on Facebook months ago that music has officially died.  I said that mostly because some of my favorite Japanese idol groups broke up and favorite members of other groups graduated.  I didn't think too many idol groups that were truly interesting were still around.  Then I learned in April of this year that even more favorite groups broke up.  If there ever was a reason to declare music is dead then 2017’s breakups solidified it.  If Japanese idol groups breaking up isn't a big deal to you, then one, I'd say you're not much of a fan of this genre, and two, consider the deaths of international music stars.  In 2016 we lost David Bowie, Prince and George Michael.  In 2017 we lost Gregg Allman.  We also lost a young idol in 2017, and that really makes me cry. 

2016 was a bad year, and 2017 so far is not any better.  At the end of March 2016 one of my favorite idol groups, NA-NA, broke up.  NA-NA was an ESSE Academy group that only had a few original songs including their first and most popular song, “Candy Machine ni Notte”.  NA-NA had seven members in the group in April 2011 when they formed.  The lineup changed a few times but they had a pretty solid lineup in 2012 and 2013 with five girls.  In June 2013 NA-NA was signed to T-Palette Records along with their “older sister” group Caramel Ribbon.  After a December 2013 graduation NA-NA continued as a quartet until Kimura Karin graduated on July 4, 2015. Unfortunately sometime in 2014 T-Palette dropped NA-NA from their roster.  I honestly think this contributed to NA-NA not gaining as many fans as they should have.  To make matters worse, Caramel  Ribbon was also dropped by T-Pallette sometime in 2016.  NA-NA will always be one of the cutest and most fun idol groups I have come across.  NA-NA’s slogan was “Cute, sweet and cheerful.  Like a fairy!”  Exactly!  


NA-NA in May 2015

NA-NA in 2016

Candy Kiss was another group beloved by me.  They debuted in February 2012 and started off with six members.  An early graduation resulted in a new member, Fukushima Kotoko, joining. This also resulted in two different covers for Candy Kiss’s first single, each with two slightly different six member lineups.  The second lineup with Kotoko lasted about two years and three singles.  My favorite member, Yamashita Honoka, graduated in March 2014.  An album was announced shortly after two more members announced they would graduate in April 2015, although there is a video I saw that featured the five members posing for a photo shoot in which the background music was the original mixes of that album’s songs with all five girls singing on it.  After becoming a trio Candy Kiss released the album “Parfait” in July 2015, and it is, in my opinion, one of the most innovative Japanese idol albums ever released.  In May 2016 it was reported on the Candy Kiss blog that the group would break up on August 11, 2016.  Candy Kiss will always be one of the best indie idol groups around because of their mature approach to singing and incredible album!  A DVD and Blu-ray of their final performance was announced in October 2016 but so far has not surfaced.  I certainly hope one day to see it.     

Candy Kiss in May 2016

Candy Kiss in July 2016 

Caramel  Ribbon formed in January 2009 with three members by ESSE Academy.  After a year one member graduated and Yoshinaka Aoi joined.  Caramel  Ribbon released a total of seven singles and contributed two cover songs for an anime song cover compilation over the course the next six years.  Every song they recorded sounded different from each other due to different songwriters and producers working on them.  Many styles of music were performed on each compact disc giving the girls the opportunity to show what they can do with different genres vocally. This kept Caramel  Ribbon fresh and exciting.  After being together for eight years and three months Caramel  Ribbon broke up on March 26, 2017.  Very few Japanese idol groups last over eight years and keep the same lineup for over seven years, but Caramel  Ribbon did exactly that.  Their refusal to do the same thing twice made them more innovative than most idol groups. They are the standard which all Japanese idol groups should aspire to be!  Aoi is continuing to perform solo lives as a member of ESSE Academy.   

Caramel  Ribbon in 2010

Caramel  Ribbon in 2017

Prizmmy formed as a trio in late 2011, although they were actually called Prism Mates.  After going up to the next level (this is hard to explain) Sema Ayami was added and they became Prizmmy☆.  They released their first single in March 2012.  A total of ten Prizmmy singles were released in the next two years until Ayami graduated at the end of March 2014.  In 2013 Prizmmyand their sister group Prism ☆ Mates combined together to form Prism Box. They released only three singles over the course of nineteen months.  In April 2014 Miyazaki Hina of Prism ☆ Mates joined Prizmmy.  Prizmmy☆’s releases became more sporadic until it was announced in December 2016 that both groups would break up on March 30, 2017.  I will always remember Prizmmyas being one of the best dance groups in the Japanese idol industry.  

Prizmmy☆ in June 2016

Prizmmy& Prism ☆ Mates in January 2017

I have everything I could get from all four groups, however, I only have complete collections of Candy Kiss and PrizmmyCDs and DVDs.  Well, except for some Prizmmy☆ “Dancer’s Party” instructional DVDs.  I truly wish I had everything by all four groups as they are the groups I continue to listen to whenever I am in the mood for good Japanese idol music.  

While groups breaking up and members leaving the group to do something else is sad enough, there are far worse things.  Such as death.  I’ve always tried to maintain a positive outlook when writing in this blog, even if a group broke up.  But I have never been able to deal with death very well.  On February 7, 2017 Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku member Matsuno Rina passed away from severe health problems.  I really don't know all the details except that her family called an ambulance but she was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.  This really makes me want to cry.  Rina was 18 when she died and she was always one of my favorite members.  R.I.P., Rina.   

Rina Matsuno in 2017

So these are a few reasons why I feel music is dead.  I love music as much as I love writing, which is why I’ll never give up either one.  But it’s hard keeping a stiff upper lip when so many bad things are happening and they only seem to get worse.  Little good has come from my attempts to start a writing career and no one seems to care about what I’m writing anyway.  No one cares for the same interests I have nor my opinions.  And I don’t have much confidence in all of these new artists.  If some of the best groups break up and some of the best singers die or simply leave the entertainment industry, what hope is there for music?