J-pop talk: Ieiri Leo [家入レオ]

So, it’s been forever since I updated this blog. I have several ideas for new posts, especially I wish to make a series of “things foreigners wished more Japanese people knew”, where I’ll write about some annoying stereotypes foreigners experience in Japan – but also overall some misconceptions many Japanese people have about certain things in the international world.

Today, I just felt like sharing some music, since I realized that I’ve not, yet introduced one of my newer favorite artists – Ieiri Leo.

I feel in love with this girl a few months back, when I was looking for new music. I often look for new music and when I listen to new artists they often feel bland. I was actually thinking how I missed being completely captured by a voice or a song, when I pressed play on one of Ieiri Leo’s songs – Message. I had only listened 20 seconds when I knew that she was the girl I was looking for. Especially after YUI went hiatus and later dropped her solo career, I’ve mostly only been all about Abe Mao – who I have earlier introduced here. Ieiri Leo has the type of voice and songs I love the most – a little similar to YUI and Abe Mao. She has also been trained at the same school as YUI – which might explain the slight similarities in style.

Wonderful pop songs, which are not too cheesy or repetitive. I sometimes like cheesy pop songs to dance around to, when that’s the case I listen to AKB48 or other idols.

When I just want to listen to music, which I feel reach me on another level, I listen to Abe Mao, YUI, Nishino Kana and now Ieiri Leo.

Ieiri Leo is a young girl, born in 1994 and is now 19 years old. Like pretty much all my favorite artists and idols – (and people) she is born in the island of Kyuushu (Fukuouka prefecture). Apparently I’m drawn to Kyuushu people. YUI (Fukuouka), Abe Mao (Oita), Kashiwagi Yuki (Kagoshima) and now Ieiri Leo. Even my husband is from Kyuushu.

She debuted in 2012 with the song: Sabrina.

Next she released “Shine”, which is one of her most famous songs.

Which has nice lyrics that reminds people that you will fall down many times in life, but as long as we keep on shinning, we can climb even the “tallest walls”

By international standards, Ieiri doesn’t have a perfect voice, but in Japanese standards, it’s good. I don’t really seek the perfect, beautiful voices – that would also make it hard for me to love Japanese music in general. I actually find a lot of perfect voice to be a little boring, wheres people like Ieiri, Abe Mao and YUI has a lot of personality in their voices. A uniqueness, which I love.
After hearing Ieiri’s songs and loving them all, I hurried to buy her album and singles while there still were limited editions left to start my new collection. That’s the same I did with Abe Mao some time after her debut, which is why I own all limited edition CDs she’s made. Same reason why I have the first indies singles by AKB48, which at that time were cheap and only had very few copies – since I used to be a fan.

Ever since her debut, Ieiri has managed get the attention of many in the music world and she has won several awards, including best new artist.
All her singles have been in the top 10 of the Oricon charts.
The newest single by Ieiri, released last month, is “Taiyou no Megami” (Goddess of the sun) Got 7th on the charts and it’s another beautiful song.

Her next single will be released in the end of January.

With this, I want to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Kyary pamyu pamyu

So what’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? That’s the stage name of 18 year old Takemura Kirikiko, who is a Harajuku model and blogger who in 2011 also turned into a recording artist. Her first single PONPONPON was released in July 2011. She also managed to get the 16th place at last.fm’s “top 100 new discoveries” in “best of 2011”. She also have her own line of fake eyelashes. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is also known for 変顔 (Hengao) which means “weird face(s)”, which she enjoys making a lot. So when she’s not busy looking like this:

She often likes making faces like this:

She often takes pictures of these faces and uploads them to her blog or/and twitter. She started out as a fashion blogger and then managed to get a professional career modeling for Harajuku magazines like “zipper”. Her debut single and debut mini album (もしもし原宿/Moshi Moshi Harajuku) was produced and composed by Nakata Yasutaka, which is a member of the electro pop duo Capsule and also famous for producing music for artists such as Perfume, MEG and Suzuki Ami. It is also pretty evident that some of the electro pop sounds from these mentioned artists has been carried over to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s music, which has the electro beats and the auto tune voice, but she also manages to keep something that makes her unique. Her music is cute, weird, catchy and gets stuck in your head. The fact that she’s not just a solo version of perfume is apparent in the actuality that I don’t like listening to perfume or such artists. So it surprised me how fast Kyary Pamyu Pamyu grew on me since I do not normally enjoy or find myself listening to electro pop. I decided to give her try after seeing updates concerning her newest single “Tsuke matsukeru” on a news page for Japanese media, I guess I was intrigued by her “weirdness”, but when I finally hit the “play” button for the Tsuke matsukeru music video I didn’t expect to like what I would hear.

Her voice was a bit like I predicted, very girlish, high-pitched and to be honest not that vocally talented. But, I still watched the full video and even decided to download her single – I was hooked. And that feeling certainly didn’t change when I got around to listening to her debut single PONPONPON, with it’s “ponpon way-way-way, ponpon way pon way ponpon” which is meant to get stuck in one’s heard like a virus. And this “virus” does also seem to spread outside of Japan, since more and more non-Japanese people (including myself) have found interest in this weird girl and when Japanese internet magazine Nikki Trendy Net did a interview with her they included this in the headline: 海外でも人気の原宿系カリスマモデル! (Harajuku charisma model who’s popular even popular overseas) The interview can be found here : [Nikki Trendy Net ] (in Japanese) which includes talks about her beginning to like lolita fashion in a young age, but when she entered elementary school she couldn’t dress like that anymore and dressed in regular clothes from GAP and Uniqlo instead.

Her songs hold neither any deeper meanings nor any serious feelings for that matter – they’re just light, cute and catchy. I’ve included two of her videos for those who feel like trying her out.

A good weekend to everybody.

J-Pop talk: Abe Mao.

So today I’ll make an small introduction to one of my favorite Japanese music artists.

I have two favourite singers; one is YUI, who I’ve been a fan of since the release of her single “Feel my soul” back in 2005. The other one is a singer called Abe Mao, compared to YUI she is rather unknown, which is why I thought I would mention her.

Abe Mao is 21 years old, born in Oita prefecture and debuted in 2009 with her album called free.

I discovered Abe Mao while looking around on youtube, where I came across her debut song free, which was not long after the release of the album of the same name.

I liked her music style, which showed some similarities to YUI. I liked her voice, her energy and overall presence.  Her voice wasn’t flawless, neither is it today, but her voice is filled with personality, a charm that lures you in and a voice that isn’t just one among a million.

Like with YUI, Abe Mao posses a kind of uniqueness that can draw an audience. They both also write their own lyrics, play the guitar and piano as well.

After listening to “free”, I looked up some of her other songs, which was part of the debut album, and I was quickly hooked. On a whim I decided to buy her album and even managed to get my hands on the almost sold out limited edition. Shortly after her first single was released, titled “Tsutaetai Koto / I wanna see you” and from there I started to anticipate all her new releases, which I of course also pre-ordered to keep my newly found and growing Abe Mao CD collection in tact.

What I also love about Abe Mao is how she doesn’t try to look or act perfect. She doesn’t try to be a polished idol. She has a nice humour, which she doesn’t mind turning against herself. I mean, how many singer would write a song called  ストーカーの唄~3丁目、貴方の家~ (The Stalker Song ~3rd block, your house~). Which has lyrics like these:

”You little sister, she’s cute. She’s called Moe-chan, right?

”The 3rd block, the stakeout of love”

”Don’t be scared. I’m just looking.”

”I’m just loving you. Please notice”

Abe Mao has a great array of both; fast paced, rock-ish songs, amazingly beautiful ballads, acoustic-like songs, fun, upbeat pop songs and many other styles that are hard to put in categories. Especially because Abe Mao possesses great diversity when it comes to her music and she never becomes neither boring nor ordinary.

Of course the biggest highlight for me occurred this summer when I was able to see Abe Mao live in Tokyo. She has an amazing stage presence and energy and while seeing her perform you have no doubt that she’s doing something she loves. Something I hope she can continue with for years to come, because she deserves it. She’s not just one in a million, she’s Abe Mao.

Last, I’ll finish of with her latest single, Soba ni Ite (Full version), which is a song I really love. It’s a beautiful ballad, both in words and overall feel and really displays Abe Mao’s talent and potential.

Abe Mao – Soba ni Ite

Tomorrow, Abe Mao’s new single Soba ni Ite will be released. The single also includes live recordings from her latest concert in Tokyo (6 tracks).

Tracklist

01 側にいて
02 YURALI forever
Songs from 「阿部真央らいぶ 夏の陣in東京」@日比谷野外大音楽堂(2011.08.14)
03 痛み
04 19歳の唄
05 Don’t leave me
06 for ロンリー
07 雨上がりの夜空に
08 走れ
09 光

I myself, am a very big fan of Abe Mao and I also went to the before mentioned live concert in Tokyo (Hibiya Park). It was an amazing experience and Abe Mao is even more amazing live, where she gives all her energy and shows people her cute and energetic charm. She also preformed “Soba ni Ite” at this concert, where it really captivated me, which is the reason why I wanted to share this song with people. Unfortunately youtube only had the short version, but I guess it works nice as a preview. It’s a slow and sad song, which Abe Mao preforms beautifully and I hope people will like this song as much as I do. Please give Abe Mao, who is probably still unknown to a lot of people, some of your time. She’s a young artist you deserves a very bright future.

Me in My Abe Mao concert T-shirt.

Nishino Kana – if.

Just sharing my current favorite song, “if” by Nishino Kana (西野カナ)

This song was released back in 2010, so it’s far from new, but lately I’ve fallen in love with it and especially today it’s been on repeat quite a lot.

It’s interesting to think that I loved Nishino Kana when she first debuted with her single “I” back in 2008. A time where she only managed to sell a few hundred copies. I bought her first album when it was released, but from there my interest seemed to start declining. I never even really listened to the album. Then towards the end of 2009 Nishino Kana experienced a sudden boost in her popularity and sales increased, a lot. I decided to give her second album a listen, especially the most popular single songs, like “Aitakute Aitakute” and I saw myself started to rediscover my interest in Kana and she has especially gone of my ranks after her newest 3rd album and is once again one of my favorite female Japanese solo artists.

I guess her popularity is also well proven, when I last week saw a concert ticket for her most recent tour on sale in one of Tokyo’s many “Ticket shops”, for the “small” amount of 30,000 yen (Around 380 USD).

AKB48 – memoirs from a fan anno 2006.

What is a Japan related blog, if there is no entry about AKB48? I mean, AKB48 has officially managed to become one of Japans most popular and adored idols – together with Arashi. To be honest, I used to be a huge fan of idols – whether it was Morning Musume (or anything Hello! Project), Johnny’s (especially NEWS) and of course AKB48 as well. Because of my big passion for girl groups back then, I was also one of the first to become a fan of AKB48, back in 2006, when they only had one team and around 16 members. Yes, there was such a time.

I bought their indie singles “Sakura Hanabira Tachi” and “Skirt, Hirari” for around 10 USD each. Singles that are now out of press and costs 30+ USD on actions. I watched team K debut and later on team B as well, I saw them grow from 16 members to 48 + members – and I knew all the names. Back then there was no Watanabe Mayu or even Oshima Yuko. At that time the front girls were the “Skirt, Hirari elite”, the 7 most popular members from their second single.

Kojima Haruna, Narita Risa, Asuko Maeda, Takahashi Minami, Itano Tomomi, Nakanishi Rina and Oshima Mai. Four of these girls still managed to stay front girls through all of the years, Nakanishi Rina and Narita Risa saw their popularity fail and they were pushed in the back when the Team K members started to make themselves more known. Later on they graduated. Oshima Mai did that as well, though she was still considered a top member. The addition of Team K, meant more names to remember and more members to cheer for.  Though of course some members seemed easier to remember than others and new front girls was discovered.

Which included Shinoda Mariko, who was added to Team A just before Team K was announced, Oshima Yuko – the member who last year even managed to beat Maeda Asuko. Ono Erena who later graduated while still on top and the popular duo Akimoto Sayaka and Miyazawa Sae. Other Team K members also got to enjoy a brief peak of popularity before they were once again forgotten – some faster than others. Like; Kasai Tomomi, Umeda Ayaka and Tojima Hana.

Their 4th single “Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru” gave us a darker AKB48 – the edginess we know associate with RIVER and Beginner. They sang about sex and a school uniform getting in the way, making people remember the group Onyanko Club – the group AKB48’s creator Akimoto Yasushi created back in the 80’s, who had their hit song “Seifuku wo Nugasanaide” (Don’t take off my school uniform. AKB48 stayed in the dark side for a bit longer when they released  “Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou” a single that had school bullying as a theme and the music video showed very well that certain human cruelty and the suicide of Oshima Yuko in the end. After that fans hailed the group to be the ones who forced people to realize the harsh reality of the Japanese modern society. (Teenage prostitution, bullying and suicide.) That was quickly turned around though when Team B and the single BINGO! Followed and showed all the characteristics of an idol group.

With Team B new front girls made their debut, the most memorable is of course Wantanabe Mayu and Kashiwagi Yuki who are still, today, among the top girls. After that a long streak of happy singles followed, like Boku no Taiyo, Yuuhi wo Miteiru Ka?, Sakura Hanabiratachi 2008, Oogoe Diamond, 10 nen Zakura, Namida Surprise and Iiwake Maybe. Romance, Irane was of course also released during that time span, that single tried to bring the more “cool and egdy” AKB48 back, but it wasn’t really the same. It was around Oogoe Diamond that AKB48 started to climb the ranks of various charts and their name started to become common knowledge, it was here my own fandom was failing though. My interest in idol music was going down – also when it came to Hello! Project and Johnny’s. AKB48 was “in” and a popularity wave struck and it suddenly seemed like everyone loved them. It felt like too many people worshipped every step they took, every song they released and performance they gave. I felt like a small drop in a huge ocean and I didn’t like it. RIVER was then released.

That song showed an attitude in AKB48 I hadn’t seen for a long time and I liked it, but overall it was too late. Members graduated and members were added and I started to lose track and suddenly there was a lot of unfamiliar faces.

What AKB48 has become today is amazing, they are everywhere and people love them. I still listen to their songs, but I don’t buy their CDs anymore and I have given up learning the new names – I’ve become a casual listener. The first time I went to Japan in 2008, I also managed to see all 3 teams live in the AKB48 theatre. It was an amazing experience seeing the girls in real life, being in the same small room as them and feeling them so close. I have respect for all of the girls, they are hard workers since most of them are still in school and they have so face many things. Not just dance lessons, performances and media appearances. They also have to face grim reality when popularity suddenly gets a number in the “Senbatsu elections” and the fact that one may be popular one day and forgotten the next. There are a lot of individual feelings, which are not allowed to be either heard or seen.

My favourite member? When AKB48 first debuted it was Takahashi Minami. When Team B was added Takahashi Minami unfortunately become second, since I then got my eye on Kashiwagi Yuki. Takahashi Minami moved a step further down when Sato Amina was added to Team A and I saw her live. For some reason the girl mesmerized me and made me forget about Takahashi. So that is my top 3: Kashiwagi Yuki, Sato Amina and Takahashi Minami.

So will this post include any rants? Maybe one. I don’t like how it seems like we’re forced to like some girls. Lately I’ve been annoyed with how forced Itano Tomomi media appearence have seemed. She got on an 8th spot in the senbatsu election, but always get a lot more screen time than f.ex Kashiwagi Yuki, who became 3rd. Itano has a solo career, but it didn’t help her from falling out of the top 5. They need to start giving the screen time after how they actually place in the elections instead.

Last off, my collection (up until RIVER)


The Oogoe Diamond single had covers with individual members and I managed to trade to get my hands on the Kashiwagi Yuki one. The DVD & Photobook also shows that I was a big fan of Team B.

YUI – HELLO ~Paradise Kiss~

My favorite song of this summer so far.

Since sony has taken the original PV down, I guess this video will do. I just felt like sharing a song from my all time favorite artist. I’ve been a big fan of YUI ever since her debut – when most J-pop fans didn’t seem to know her. I have all her albums and singles and hope I’ll be able to see her in concert some day.

Maru Maru Mori Mori

So one of the most popular Japanese TV dramas so far this year is Marumo no Okite. The drama theme song is sung by the two 6 year old leads, Ashida Mana and Suzuki Fuku. The song was also released as a single, where the two used their character names from the drama (Kaoru and Tomoki) and the single managed to get the number one spot of the oricon chart, beating AKB48. It’s not “that” new anymore, just felt like showing it, since it’s so catchy and can get stuck in ones head. I even feel like doing the silly dance.