We update with 10 new J-Pop songs once each month, on the day first day of each month.
RSS feed for our song reviews can be found at: https://jtop10.mymti.org/category/j-pop-song-reviews/feed
1. おとといフライデー (Ototoi Friday) – ウォーシャンハニー (Wo Xiang Honey)
Ethel’s thoughts: Apart from having a Mandarin song title that loosely translates to ‘I miss you honey’, the song continues using the same language in the lyrics. This is quite remarkable as there are very few Japanese songs in the market that incorporates Mandarin as its secondary lyric language. Most of the time in tends to be English. Overall, the song is a pure piece of idol-style Japanese pop music that’s essentially about wanting to be with someone and not wanting to be lonely anymore. Not something I’d personally listen to on a regular basis. However, I found it interesting that there were no video lyrics for the outro, so in case anyone wants to know what they said, it’s roughly ‘I want to go together you to the seaside to watch the world go by.’ I think that’s what they sang as their Mandarin pronunciations wasn’t very clear.
2. back number – オールドファッション (Old Fashion)
Ethel’s thoughts: It’s quite a typical pop-rock love ballad aptly created and used for a romantic Japanese drama titled, 大恋愛～僕を忘れる君と/ Great Love: With You Who Forgets Me. Composition and arrangement wise there’s truly nothing remarkable about this song, but I did enjoy reading the lyrics as I could imagine some of the vivid imagery and situations from the perspective of the person thinking about his romantic partner.
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/id1440235556?app=itunes
3. 米津玄師 (Kenshi Yonezu) – Flamingo
Ethel’s thoughts: Following his smash hit LEMON, Kenshi is back with FLAMINGO! I love Kenshi’s metaphorical use of objects in his lyric writing style. He has such a unique vocal pitch and distinctive style of singing. In Flamingo at around 2:14 mark of the outro lyrics, Kenshi incorporates a vibrato style of singing called “kobushi” typically heard in enka which adds a cool twist to an otherwise contemporary piece of Japanese pop music. Also, gotta love Kenshi’s eclectic dancing in the music video for the song and those chrome nails too!
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/flamingo-teenage-riot-single/1439392774?l=en
4. ゆず (Yuzu) – マボロシ (Maboroshi)
Ethel’s thoughts: This song really caught me by surprise as it’s the main theme song for the live-action drama series – 昭和元禄落語心中 /Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. I’m not exactly sure how the song ties in to the drama but generally I greatly appreciated how mature sounding well-crafted Japanese pop music can sound like. From the opening piano chords to the layering of other instruments and beats created a very rich sound.
By the way Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is an amazing anime series! If you’re interested in learning more about a traditional style of Japanese storytelling called, rakugo, I highly recommend watching this series or reading the manga. It’s incredibly well researched, informative and beautifully illustrated. Also, secretly disappointed that Sheena Ringo didn’t create a song for the live-action series like she did for the anime…
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/1441514936?l=ja&ls=1&app=itunes
5. THE YELLOW MONKEY – Ladybug
Ethel’s thoughts: Gotta love a strong piece of Japanese rock-and-roll in the music reviews! Even if you don’t follow TYM, you’ll definitely appreciate and applaud these rock stars for coming back into the music industry a little less than 3 years ago after a fifteen year hiatus. I’ve no idea what Ladybug is actually about even with the English transcript on but I’m super impressed by Kazuya’s vocals on the track! Even the music video for Ladybug has some gritty vibe going on and it looks like it’s either filmed in a dodgy part of Chinatown or some red-light district. By the way, those silk shirts on all the band members looked great!
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ladybug-single/1439093308
6. 思い出野郎Aチーム (Omoide Yarou A-Team) – 楽しく暮らそう (Tanoshiku Kurasou)
Ethel’s thoughts: I’ve never heard of OYAT before and I’m so bummed out I’ve never heard their stuff until today. I love, love brass-filled soul bands like OYAT because they always make you want to get up and dance. And like the song title implies, the guys in the band look like they’re definitely having and living a good life performing in intimate live houses across the Japan. Hope you get to enjoy this as much as I did.
7. sooogood! feat. 藤井隆 (Ryuu Fujii) – ドラマチックピンクビキニ (Dramatic Pink Bikini)
Ethel’s thoughts: Without the music video this song would’ve been a decent piece of electropop music with quirky lyrics. I was very impressed by this one-man band extraordinaire and his instrument setup. That solo guitar work at 1:51 was sooogood! (pun intentional) and Kasumi’s finger dancing gave the video an extra kick of quirk. The lyrics to the song were co-written with Japanese comedian, Takashi Fujii, and also features some of his vocals on the track.
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/sooogood/1435603478
8. 柴田聡子 (Satoko Shibata) – ワンコロメーター (Wankoromeetaa)
Ethel’s thoughts: With a title that roughly translates to – Dog Meter – I wasn’t too surprised by the unusual sound and length of the song. I liked how the quick tempo of the melodica and flute followed the footsteps of the dog in the music video. Satoko has an interesting voice but this song definitely belongs under the indie category and adds to the diversity of the Japanese music scene.
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/wankoro-meter-my-town-event-single/1440999357
9. Emerald – ムーンライト (Moonlight)
Ethel’s thoughts: Moonlight is indie band, Emerald’s, lead single from their upcoming mini album, On Your Mind. It’s a moderate neo-soul, pop piece that’s basically about the imaginations of a guy towards a girl he is romantically interested in. I liked how the music video was filmed and edited with typography like an 80s random karaoke insert videos. Also, rather funny to have a karaoke video within a karaoke video.
Download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/moonlight-single/1425791634
10. Nagoya Idol dela – 一富士、二鷹、三洲 (Ichifuji, Nitaka, Sanshuugawara)
Ethel’s thoughts: The title of the song is a play on the Japanese superstition called, Hatsuyume, or the first dream of the new year. It’s apparently good luck to dream of (1) Mount Fuji, (2) a hawk and (3) an eggplant ( 一富士、二鷹、三茄子). In this song from Nagoya Idol dela, they changed the third item on the list to highlight Sanshuugawara (三洲) which is a type of ceramic roofing tile found in the Hekinan district in the Aichi Prefecture. Hekinan is home to many of Nagoya’s traditional industries such as sake breweries, mirin production, soy sauce breweries, stone masonry and ceramics.
I think the song is a fantastic marketing tactic to generate visibility to a lesser known part of Nagoya using a cute and pop-music package. I may not be a big supporter of idol groups in general, but I think this is a fun way to enjoy music and learn about a place.