‘Beginner’ CM reveals a few clips

September 29, 2010

I just pre-ordered two versions of AKB48’s upcoming single, ‘Beginner’, and coincidentally came across this little video giving me a preview of what to expect from the PV.  It gets curiouser and curiouser…


Three Hour Base Ball Bear Concert on Ustream? I’m In.

September 28, 2010

David loves this band.  I’ve probably heard a number of songs from them in the past, but don’t remember a single one.  Ayrton and David both were able to see Base Ball Bear perform live in Japan, while I sat in the darkness with only the glow of my laptop screen to soothe me.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with Base Ball Bear, you’ll bet envy was coursing through my veins.

Tokyo Hive has informed me that Base Ball Bear have heard my struggles and decided to throw me a bone.  To celebrate the simultaneous release of two brand new albums, “CYPRESS GIRLS” and “DETECTIVE BOYS”, they are doing a promotional three hour concert at 7:30pm to 10:30pm on the 29th (which is about 6:30am-8:30am eastern time), and it’s supposedly going to be streamed LIVE on Ustream at EMI MUSIC LIVE.  Sure, a live internet stream isn’t going to be at all excellent quality, but it’s pretty neat and I’m going to check it out.

Again, they will be live HERE at  7:30-10:30pm Japan time, 6:30-8:30am Eastern American time.

Make it if you can!


AKB48 on Seoul’s 2010 Asia Song Festival

September 28, 2010

Asia Song Festival is a special international event held in Seoul that hosts a smorgasbord of artists representing their countries.  It feels like a non-competitive Olympic event of sorts, having different countries send their best pop stars to represent them and have a chance to show what they’re made of.

This year South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia will be participating, presenting their top performers: Rain, KARA and 2AM from South Korea, AKB48 from Japan, Joe Cheng from Taiwan, Jane Zhang from China, FILM from Thailand, and Michael Wong from Malaysia. The event will be held on October 23rd.

Past performers at this event from Japan include Ayumi Hamasaki, Goto Maki, Arashi, Berryz Koubou, Koda Kumi, and Gackt.

I am proud of Korea’s strong talents, and especially look forward to seeing KARA perform, but I feel a bit anxious about AKB48 performing at the Song Festival.  It’s a great honor certainly, but Korea’s reaction towards AKB48 last year at the MNET Asia Music Awards had me feeling uncomfortable.

AKB48 had won an “recommended/honorable mention” at the ceremonies, and performed ‘RIVER’ for the event.  I could tell this wasn’t going to be ideal from the beginning.  AKB’s loud, energetic self-introductions came off as childish compared to the graceful, calm demeanor of the awards show.  The stage the girls had to dance in was a tiny, cramped platform; the girls in the back row were literally having their heels bump into the back wall, the entire group having visible troubles doing the routine.  As they performed, the looks on the surveyors were for the most part, dumbstruck.  While some of the viewers looked on with blank faces, others seemed downright smug.  The reception was less than ideal to say the least.

Just this past month or so, SKE48 had done a live performance of ‘Aozora Kataomoi’ in Korea, with a similarly lukewarm reception, with comments on the internet calling their performance sophomoric in comparison to Korean groups.

What I have a problem with is something I notice all the time living in a relatively large Korean community: quick judgments and a severely critical eye that is given to anything not-korean.  Even among Korean-Americans, I’ve seen ignorant displays of nationalistic pride when it comes to their entertainment; to say that Korea perhaps doesn’t make the best dramas, or the best music would be asking for a downpour of netizen hate.  But I’m not even saying AKB48 would give Korean pop a run for its money.  I’m simply asking for respect instead of a condescending eye.  To at least try to understand where they’re coming from and why they are as popular as they are.

Personally, I think AKB’s latest single ‘Beginner’ would be their best bet at getting a somewhat positive reception, and I hope that’s the single they perform at the upcoming Music Festival.  It’s easily their most accessible song, almost specifically tailored towards those who are not familiar with japanese idol music; but chances are AKB48 will be performing Heavy Rotation instead.

Of course, I wish Korea could see them perform any of their great songs like Namida Surprise or Oogoe Diamond, but they simply won’t respond to it because their sound is not internationally mainstream.  It’s a trend I’ve noticed time and time again.

All my concerns aside, here’s to hoping for a good reception at the 2010 Asia Song Festival.


SCANDAL Dances in with Their Next Single

September 27, 2010

Scandal’s latest, ‘Nanka Buttobase’, has a PV out and I recently gave it a listen.

SCANDAL’s been on and off my radar since I’ve heard about them.  I was captivated by songs like ‘Space Ranger’ and ‘Doll’, but also felt bored or unsure about some of their other singles.  Their image also felt like it was in a constant flux, feeling down to earth and gritty initially, and then sporting a sterilized corporate look with their more recent PVs.

I’m not sure how I feel about ‘Nanka Buttobase’.  The rock attitude seems to be there, and the technical ability is there; but like many of their other songs, I don’t find myself loving their sound.  Many of their singles sound safe and restrained, like a baby-proofed room. I found myself loving some parts of the song, but turning completely off at the rest.

This PV shows something I haven’t seen from SCANDAL; synchronized dancing with their guitars.  I don’t recall them doing this before, and the result is something that almost feels more ‘idol-ish’ than a rock group.  The video shows SCANDAL performing in what looks like a vacant warehouse with a large group of men in the background engaging in some sort of face-off for the entire PV.  Like the song, the entire video shows a lot of shaking and movement while feeling completely static.

Are they a band meant to be heard live?  Am I missing something?  I’m just not feeling it.


ONO!!

September 27, 2010

The day finally came.  She performed her last Team K performance on the 27th, and is now a graduate of AKB48, free to pursue other career options(which at the moment is being an actress).  She was arguably my favorite member from Team K, and man it’s gonna suck not seeing her featured in variety shows and performances.

Who will perform Tonari no Banana?

Or Wagamama na Nagareboshi?

FIRST LOVE??

Become a great actress so I can at least see you in some good films!

This better not be the last I hear of Ono Erena.


‘Beginner’: Favorite Single of the Year?

September 22, 2010

I’ll say it: I’m completely smitten with AKB48’s upcoming single, ‘Beginner’.  Even with only low quality recordings to judge, I’ve listened to it countless times.  It was playing in my head when I was driving; in my head when I was taking a shower; in my head while making dinner.  I’ve been waiting for another single like ‘River’ to come along; after all, it was only a matter of time they released another unorthodox idol single, and ‘Beginner’ fit the bill, even exceeding my expectations.

First off, this is unlike any idol music I’ve heard.  ‘Beginner’ doesn’t sing about love, the simplicities of school life, or uplifting ‘go-get-em’s.  The tone of this song is downright angry; translated lyrics floating around the web convey frustrations and doubts from the youth of society, not unlike their early “dark” single, ‘Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou’, which dealt with bullying and suicide.

But ‘Beginner’ differs in tone.  While ‘Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou’ was a haunting melodious piece with carefully chosen words of caution towards a silent depression, ‘Beginner’ is an outburst of deeply rooted frustration with a sharp tongue and no remorse.  I get a sense of relentlessness and angst that I personally find refreshing coming from an idol group.  Afterall, idols can get angry too, right?  Life can’t always be about surprise birthday parties and wearing ponytails in the summer.  AKB48 calling out to my inner cynic is a good change of pace.

It’s singles like this that come out of AKB48 every once in a while that secure their spot on Japan’s musical radar.  Who else in the idol market is doing stuff like this right now?  I’ve never been this eager to get my hands on an AKB single.  October 27 never looked so far away.

King Records listed details about the different editions of ‘Beginner’ that are available to pre-order, along with the DVD contents:

version A:

1. Beginner
2. Boku dake no Value
3. Kimi ni tsuite
4. Beginner no vocal ver.
5. Boku dake no Value no vocal ver.
6. Kimi ni tsuite no vocal ver.

DVD includes 3 PVs, and 3 different dance shots of ‘Beginner’ featuring Oshima Yuko, Shinoda Mariko, and Matsui Jurina/Watanabe Mayu as the centers.

version B:

1. Beginner
2. Boku dake no Value
3. Nakeru Basho
4. Beginner no vocal ver.
5. Boku dake no Value no vocal ver.
6. Nakeru Basho no vocal ver.

DVD includes 3 PVs, and 3 different dance shots of ‘Beginner’ featuring Maeda Atsuko, Itano Tomomi, and Takahashi Minami as the centers.

The covers look really good too…all five of them.  Should I…?

You can listen to a more cleaned up version of ‘Beginner’ below (still low quality though):

higher resolution covers after the break

Read the rest of this entry »


Just Doing What The Shirt Says

September 21, 2010

So in the middle of all of today’s events, I noticed Ayrton’s shirt. He’s always had great shirts. The donuts one that caught mano erina’s attention. The one of the robot punching a guy because he was doing the robot. But none of them were/are as fitting as the one he was wearing today. Living the dream but with dream crossed out and Plan B written in. From the very second the Morning Musume member graduation was announced, our plans for this Japan trip have been stuck together by mere duct tape and string. But somehow against all odds, it’s worked out for us. Getting selected and finding time for the Team B stage with front row seats. Barely making it to the C-ute concert afterwards. And now it gets even crazier.

So today Ayrton and I went on a trip to the ticket resell shop in Harajuku to look for better MM seats. He got them. He spent an insane amount for 4th row tickets. He now has literally fifty dollars on hand to last him until if/when we can find him an ATM that takes international cards. It’s crazy, I know. But fuck it. The bigger discussion is about when we went to the resale shop, he noticed a display that was marked, Today’s Tickets. With it being September 21st and only hours away, surely there weren’t any AKB48 JanKen Tournament tickets left were there?

Well to answer your question, here are my highlights from the night.


Member Introductions. Sashihara Rino’s crowd reaction was insane. And here I thought she was underappreciated. Komori Mika’s was rather ractious and Takajo Aki was surprisingly overwhelming, she’s like really popular. Kobayashi came out and then ripped off her clothes and wore a bikini for the rest of the night while carrying around an inner tube.

Right off the bat, the first battle was with Shinoda Mariko. Everyone held there breath and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Mariko won and you could feel the crowd relax a bit that their favorite members might be safe. Then favorites started to go down left and right. Kashiwagi went out immediately afterwards. Itano followed suit. Minegishi was gone. Then the bombs started to fall. Minami and then Yuko. One right after the other.

After the first two rounds, I’d say the event went down a little. Most of the big names were gone. There was a Maeda vs Maeda battle between Ami and Atsuko. At that point I saw the past and the future of AKB48 standing there together on one stage. No one really knew Ami was, as shown by the crowd reaction when she was first introduced. Also the event went a little long. Three and a half hours is a long time to watch people play paper, rock, scissors.

But somehow AKB managed to make it interesting. The played it up and even got a bunch of celebrities to show up for the festivities. For example wrestler Antonio Inoki. I’ll go more in depth on the next show but the JanKen was really a genius idea. Not only for giving other members a chance to shine but also a way to get more people to recognize other people’s names. Also one of the by products people care about their favorite members in JanKen whether they win or lose. When they win it’s like yes. But when they lose it’s a huge deal to see the favorites get knocked out. It becomes water cooler talk and sometimes in losing you win more fans over just by the way you handle it.

There were a few times when I thought the event may be rigged. Even know the worries still cross my thoughts. But for all the reasons I have that it was a set up, I have just as many as to why it couldn’t have been.

Going into this event before hand, I should have known you can’t have your cake and eat it too. That’s how it works. You can’t have everyone of your favorite members be in senbatsu and you can’t have even your favorite win. I got Maeda Ami and Kobayashi Kana but lost out in Miyazaki Miho and Masuda Yuka. Maeda Atsuko, Takajyo Aki, and Kojima Haruna stayed in senbatsu but I also didn’t get Kitahara Rie, Sashihara Rino, and Ota Aika. It’ll just be bitter and sweet all the way.

But as a special treat, here’s some footage before the event started I was able to shoot, before I was stopped by security.

Also, it’s really poor quality, but I managed to record the audio for the new single they showed near the end of the event. It’s really weird and futuristic with a matrix vibe. The members are playing a video game where they all get horribly killed. At one point Maeda Atsuko is even screaming for like 15 seconds as her hand is stabbed. I’m not sure how I feel about this song yet.

Finally, in a last bit of news. There was something else I saw and purchased at the Ticket Resale Shop.
If you can’t make out the kanji, it says Takahashi Minami. Yep, it’s a ticket for the Photobook Hand Shaking event going on tomorrow, it’s release date. Line starts at 4:00PM. Doors open at 6:10. Just hand shakes, no pictures or autographs. But I was told there would be a special present given to those who attended. I’ll of course be giving that to someone else who I’m sure would want it a lot more than I would. How much did I pick this ticket up for? A measly 15 bucks. The Janken Tournament was under list price as well because it was so last minute. I don’t know how much longer we can keep running on this luck, but as for now. Plan B is going accordingly.

David