Hopefully by the time you’re all reading this you’ll have had a chance to check out most if not all of the fantastic awards show podcasts that have been released over the past few days. If not, queue them up in your media player and go down my list as you listen to them. If you read my picks in your best imitation of a Scottish accent it’s like I’m really on the shows.
Joking aside, this post is going to be pretty long. I believe it was somewhere around 4200 words at the last count I did. I’ll try to make the formatting as easy on you all as possible but don’t feel you have to read it all in one sitting. Also, as a result of this post being so long I didn’t include any honorable mentions. They’re just the best losers anyway, right?
Read on after the break for my 2011 Awards write-up.
Best Choreography: SKE48 – Pareo wa Emerald
It’s hard for anyone to match the energy that SKE48 possess and the choreography for “Pareo wa Emerald” really lets that energy shine. Sometimes groups fail spectacularly when trying to pull off such high paced choreography but SKE make it look simple and elegant. The most important thing is that the choreography actually feels like it works with this song and only this song. Seeing groups pull out cookie cutter dramatic arm movements and body bends to “uninspired electronica tack #48474208209” gets boring after a while. I don’t think I could ever get tired of watching this dance routine.
Worst Choreography: Berryz Kobo – Ai no Dangan
That low squat is just so unflattering that I couldn’t help but give Berryz this award. The parts of the choreography where they’re almost doubled over and clutching their hips don’t paint them in the best light either. Some parts of the choreography are actually reasonably well put together, it’s just that the things I’ve pointed out drag it down so much. I feel really bad for ragging on Hello!Project all of the time but it’s hard not to when they set the pins up for you to knock down on almost every release.
Best Set Design: Momoiro Clover – Chai Maxx
Okay, so it’s just a boxing ring, metal fencing, balloons and some lights. However the way everything is set out and filmed makes it seem like that much more. I realize I might be taking the wrong track with this award because I’m not giving it to something that I really loved but credit where credit is due. The director, set designers and camera crew really got a lot out of this video just by using some fairly basic props and camera shots. Proof that you don’t need to break the bank in order to give your idol group a really nice PV.
Worst Set Design: Berryz Kobo – Ai no Dangan
In all honesty this award could have gone to just about any Hello!Project PV that came out this year. Berryz really took the cake though with possibly the worst set design I’ve ever seen. I’m not even really sure if you can call it set design because they’re just dancing and posing in front of some large LCD and projector screens in a dark room. There’s minimalist and then there’s just having absolutely no budget. The motorbike probably belongs to someone who works for the company too. It’s a shame because I actually really like the song, it’s just let down by a really bad set.
Best Costumes: Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 – Hettapi Wink
Here’s a controversial one if ever there was. I’m pretty sure I must be just about the only person who actually liked these costumes. What can I say, I think they’re really cute and the color combination is nowhere near as bad as others would make out. The red high heels I thought were a nice touch too. I’m not entirely sure how the costumes are supposed to fit into the context of the PV but who cares, they’re fantastic. No matter what anyone else might say.
Worst Costumes: Morning Musume – Kono Chikyū no Heiwa o Honki de Negatterun da yo!
AKB48 could have quite easily won this award with their “Flying Get” costumes. However, Morning Musume’s costumes in this PV were just that bit more tacky. Gold costumes tend to just not work whenever a group tries to implement them and that’s certainly the case here. Going overboard with the gaudy gold jewelery just further cemented these costumes’ place as the winner of this category. In future just leave these costume ideas in the back of the wardrobe, as far back as they can physically go.
Strangest PV: BiS – Primal
If you’ve seen this PV you’ll know why nothing can even come close to touching BiS’s PV for “Primal” this year. For those of you who don’t know why this PV is the strangest this year I’ll explain. What we have is charming home movies spliced together with footage of the girls plastered in gore makeup. Add in some all too intimate footage of each of the girls’ throats and tonsils via an endoscope and you have the PV for “Primal”. You really just have to see it for yourself for the full effect, words just don’t do it justice.
Most Disappointing: NMB48 – Oh My God
Playing soccer and dancing in a field just doesn’t really do it for me I guess. There’s nothing inherently bad about the PV it’s just that I expected a lot more coming off the back of “Zetsumetsu Kurokami Shoujo”. It just seemed too safe is what I guess I’m trying to get at. Maybe Miyuki and Rina being missing played a part in this but that’s only ever going to be speculation on my part. I felt that the b-sides on this release had much more adventurous PVs. Hopefully they push the boat out more for their next video.
Guilty Pleasure: Momoiro Clover Z – Santa-san
Come on, admit it. You all like this one too. It probably helps that we looped it for like five hours straight on the broadcast we did on Christmas Day. The PV is just all sorts of crazy but hey, it’s Momoiro Clover right? I like the song a lot too, it’s catchy and upbeat and those are the two main things I look for in an idol song. I’d only ever admit to liking this PV and song to close friends who are also into idols though.
Biggest Surprise: BiS – nerve
Or “Monster of Elegance” if you go by the album tracklist, who knows which is actually correct. I’ve seen BiS post two videos of this song calling it “nerve” so I’m going with that for now. I actually watched this PV before looking at the infamous “My Ixxx” PV and what I saw and heard surprised me but for all the right reasons. I was presented with four girls in Tokyo shooting a PV entirely on the cellphone cameras of fans and staff. The production quality isn’t the highest but just the way the whole thing is put together, how passionate everyone was and just how much I loved the song really surprised me. I went into it not expecting much of anything and walked away a fan, doesn’t get much bigger of a surprise than that.
Best Newcomer Single: NMB48 – Zetsumetsu Kurokami Shoujo
If you’re an idol group that’s about to make their debut, sit up and take notes because this is how you make a statement. The song is catchy but most importantly it’s also interesting to listen to. The lyrics work incredibly well with the music and the song as whole is just incredibly well put together. This is easily one of my favorite singles to come out this year and it’s pretty high up there on my all-time favorites too.
Most Underwhelming/Disappointing Single: AKB48 – Flying Get
I just don’t know, this is the senbatsu election single? It’s a catchy enough song but everything about it just felt so cheesy. The unfortunate pronunciation of “Flying Get” as “Frying Ghetto” is just eye-roll inducing and I’m not the biggest fan of the music track either. It just felt like a very weak single, made worse by the fact it was this year’s election single. I don’t think anything was ever going to live up to “Heavy Rotation” but “Flying Get” just fell so far short of the mark that I can’t help but call it my most underwhelming single of the year.
Most Overlooked Single: Tokyo Girls Style – Limited Addiction
This single sold 12,615 in the first week. These 12,615 people clearly have very good taste, unlike everyone else who didn’t buy it. I’m not entirely sure why this single was so overlooked, the only reason I can think is that people were possibly put off by young girls singing a very mature sounding song. I look at it a different way though and think they should praised for executing such a solid single despite their young age. I highly recommend you check out this single if you passed it up earlier in the year.
Best Cover Art: NMB48 – Oh My God (Type A)
I’m pretty big into comics so I can appreciate a stylized cover riffing on the genre. Type A and Type B are both really good covers but I felt Type A had the better composition overall. I’m sure from an artistic standpoint there were many better covers this year but this one played to one of my other loves and that’s why it stood out the most.
Biggest Surprise: Not Yet – Pera Pera Perao
If you’d told me when they debuted that I’d actually enjoy a Not Yet release I’d have probably called you mad. Lo and behold they actually put something out that I liked. I honestly expected nothing going into this single and was really surprised by what I was presented with. This was the type of song that I had wanted from Not Yet since the beginning but I never thought I’d get it. The bridge in the song is also probably the best I’ve heard this year.
Best Solo Single: Kikkawa Yuu – Hapirapi ~Sunrise~
This was a pretty tough category to pick a winner in, I mean all of Kikkawa Yuu’s singles were great right? “Hapirapi ~Sunrise~” had a really nice instrumental arrangement and the more interesting lyrical composition so it’s my winner here. Nothing else really came close so it was always going to come down to me having to pick the best Kikkawa song. Hopefully 2012 has some stronger offerings from everyone else.
Best Album of the Year: Momoiro Clover Z – Battle and Romance
This category was incredibly close. Passpo and Momoclo were pretty much neck and neck for the longest time. However I’ve listened to Momoiro Clover’s album a lot more than I’ve listened to Passpo’s album this year so it feels right that they’re my pick here. Go check out both albums though, you won’t be disappointed.
Top 5 B-Sides:
5. no3b (Kojima Haruna) – Madoromi
I fully admit that this song being on my list could just be down to it being one of the freshest in my memory. That said, Kojiharu continues her run of getting the best no3b b-side on each single. I’ve never been a huge fan of slow idol songs but this song doesn’t really have any of the qualities of an idol song which is why I think I like it so much. Kojima’s vocals are incredible on this song and the musical arrangement gives it a great atmosphere. I highly recommend listening to this song if you haven’t had the chance to yet.
4. AKB48 (Team B) – Yobisute Fantasy
This song is so incredibly catchy. Sure the PV is weird as hell but this isn’t the PV category so it doesn’t matter. I’m sure you’ll all disagree but for me this is easily the best b-side on “Ue kara Mariko”. The lyrics flow really well and the music really helps to enhance the song. It’s just an all round pleasant song to listen to. Sure I’m a Team B oshi but you could give this song to any of the other teams and I’d still love it.
3. SKE48 (Shirogumi) – Bazooka-hou Hassha!
I’m not gonna lie, the fact that this b-side features a lot of my favorite SKE members didn’t hurt its chances of making this list. Anyway, catchy and energetic win the day here yet again. It’s hard not to love the chorus and I love the parts where the music goes “duh-duh-duh duh-duh duh-duh”. Make your music bouncy and I’ll like it is what I’m saying. Other idol groups take note.
2. NMB48 (Shirogumi) – Boku ga Maketa Natsu
This one probably could have easily been a single in its own right. It punches well above its weight for a b-side. Part love song to AKB and part story of a person’s inability to confess their love to their crush, it’s everything I want in an idol song. NMB really did play a blinder this year and really, any of their b-sides could have made this list, “Boku ga Maketa Natsu” was just that bit more special.
1. SKE48 (Team KII) – Ai no Kazu
If “Boku ga Maketa Natsu” is everything I want in an idol song then “Ai no Kazu” is everything I could want and more. The way the lyrics flow is just incredible and really pleases the part of my brain that has such incredibly high standards for songs. Most people probably don’t know this but I’m never usually that big of a fan of “Woah Woah”s in idol songs but dammit they work so well in this one. “Ai no Kazu” has been my favourite b-side all year since I first heard it so hats off to Team KII, if they’re not on your radar right now then they better be in 2012.
Idol Group Category:
Biggest Improvement: Not Yet
I think Not Yet started out really rough, although others will disagree. When they made their debut I had absolutely no interest in them whatsoever. With all of the talent they had I felt pretty disappointed with what they initially brought to the table. However they’ve been getting better with each single and I’m genuinely interested to see where they go next. “Pera Pera Perao” is fantastic and I hope they continue to build on it in 2012.
Biggest Disappointment: AKB48
Before you fetch the torches and pitchforks let me explain myself. While AKB broke every record and won a ton of awards this year their singles releases in my opinion were very poor. Apart from “Ue kara Mariko” and to a lesser extent “Everyday Kachuusha” I didn’t enjoy anything that AKB released this year which makes them my biggest disappointment. Even though they sold millions of CDs the majority of their songs just didn’t do it for me. Hopefully 2012 is a better year.
Best Newcomer: NMB48
Two singles that sold 200k+ in the first week and a third on the way that’s shaping up to be just as good if not better. It would be hard to give this award to anyone else. NMB are the breakout stars of this year and it’s not hard to see why when you look at their roster. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team as stacked with talent as Team N is and if what we’ve seen of the kenkyuusei is anything to go by, Team M are going to be a powerhouse too. Watch out for this group in 2012, they’re going places.
Most Potential: Nogizaka46
Most people probably don’t know a whole lot about Nogizaka46 other than them being the “rivals” of AKB48. Well that’s going to change in 2012 when they release their debut single. People will be quick to write Nogizaka46 off but if you watch their show “Nogizakatte, Doko?” it’s clear to see that these girls are just as talented as any of the 48 groups. If they get off to a good start in 2012 I can see them having a very good year.
Best Move (Choreography): Matsui Jurina (SKE48 – Pareo wa Emerald)
The intro to this song, I don’t know what more needs to be said. You just can’t help but feel energized when watching it. I’m not even being bias because Jurina is my oshimen, this was honestly one of the most impressive pieces of choreography that I’ve seen in a PV. I’m pretty sure the old ladies in AKB wouldn’t be able to pull off those moves.
Best Trend: Expansion of content delivery platforms
Google+ made it so much easier to follow the girls in AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48 and live streaming made it possible for me to watch so many Tokyo Girls’ Style performances that I otherwise would not have seen. I’m glad more groups are making the leap to the internet as a means of promotion as it’s certainly what they should have been doing all along. It’s the 21st century and everyone is online these days, its about time we started seeing more content coming from official channels and not from trackers or download sites.
Worst Trend: AKB48 singles release formula
This trend just needs to stop before I lose all interest in AKB48. Having a release schedule for each year is fine but please change up the kinds of songs you’re putting out. Even if we keep the Spring and Summer songs the way they are now, at least change things up for the other releases. At the rate things are going I’m only going to have the Janken single to look forward to each year.
Favorite Moment: Google+ announcement
When we heard that AKB would be making a live announcement via Youtube, none of us knew what to expect. I don’t think even our wildest speculation could have come up with what was announced during that press conference. As someone who wanted better access for foreign fans this was easily my favorite moment of the year. Concert performances and the announcement of new groups and releases are neat, but this was the game changer.
Idol Group of the Year: NMB48
As previously mentioned; selling two 200k+ singles with one of them even being their debut, a strong line-up, as well as appearing on a ton of shows and performing at pretty much every big event that AKB was present at. All of this in the space of six months since their debut is incredibly impressive and it also just feels like NMB did a lot more this year than anyone else I could have picked. This has been a good year for NMB and I hope that their good fortune will continue into 2012.
Top 10 PVs:
10. BiS – Nerve
9. Not Yet – Pera Pera Perao
8. Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 – Hettapi Wink
7. AKB48 – Kimi no Senka
6. SKE48 – Pareo wa Emerald
5. AKB48 – Ue kara Mariko
I guess this ended up being the AKB48 song and PV that I had to wait all year for. The wait was most definitely worth it though with both song and PV being fantastic. I think this PV had some of the better narrative that I’ve seen from an AKB PV in a while. It’s nothing overly complicated but it’s pulled off really well. School uniforms can get boring after a while but I liked the ones chosen for this PV well enough. I also have to say I liked the costumes for the dance shots a lot too. The close-up shots of the girls they sprinkled throughout were great too. Especially Maeda Ami’s, that girl man. Anyway, “Ue kara Mariko” was probably the best thing about AKB for me this year so it’s more than deserving of a spot on this list.
4. Momiro Clover – Chai Maxx
As I previously mentioned, the set, camera work and directing are all top notch in this PV. I especially liked the shots where the girls pretended to punch themselves in the jaw and made hilarious reaction faces as a result. The solo shots of each member sparring in their respective corner of the ring were clever and well executed also. You can tell that the girls are really enjoying themselves and I think that’s what makes this PV better than so many others in my eyes. Momoiro Clover are the masters of weird and wacky PVs, long may it continue.
3. Tokyo Girls’ Style – Limited Addiction
A group of young idols create a very mature sounding song and PV and do both very well. I’m a bit of a sucker for artsy PVs which this certainly is but it’s still an objectively good PV even with my personal bias. I’m not entirely sold on the puffy skirts it has to be said but I guess they need them to make the choreography work. Perhaps this PV came a few years too early in these girls’ careers because it does feel slightly off being that they’re so young but if this is the level of their output right now I can’t wait to see what they achieve in the coming years.
2. SKE48 (Shirogumi) – Bazooka-hou Hassha!
This PV ranks second for a number of reasons. I guess the obvious reason for most people would be the various types of cosplay that we see the members execute. I however am a huge fan of the outfits that we see during the dance shots. Judge me all you want but I think they work really well with the set and they’re just fun to look at. The girls being dolls that are prizes in a shooting game is pretty out there but I guess it works. The parts of the PV where they get hit by the giant pellet from the gun were pretty hilarious though. Jurina and Riho being in Shirogumi certainly helped this PV’s chances, I can’t lie about that.
1. SKE48 (Akagumi) – Dareka no Sei ni wa Shinai
Matsui Rena standing on a pool table in a black dress and high heels screaming bloody murder at everyone is pretty damn hot if I do say so myself. The overall atmosphere that the PV creates with the various dark and serious shots employed is just a great example of cinematography. Not your traditional idol PV by any stretch but easily my favorite based on artistic merit alone. I wouldn’t want to see groups start busting out these kinds of videos on every single but every once in a while is a nice change from the norm.
Top 10 Singles:
10. no3b – Pedicure Day
9. AKB48 – Ue kara Mariko
8. SKE48 – Banzai Venus
7. Tokyo Girls’ Style – Limited Addiction
6. SKE48 – Oki Doki
5. Brand-new Idol Society – My Ixxx
Seeing as how I’m their biggest fanboy on NSK none of you should be surprised to see BiS on this list. Truth be told I wanted to rank them much higher but there were just so many good singles this year that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. As for the song itself, if the opening guitar riff doesn’t hook you then the infectious lyrics will. The chorus to this song especially is a thing of beauty. Failing that, you can just watch their PV to see three girls running around a forest naked. Everyone wins when it comes to BiS.
4. Momoiro Clover – Mirai Bowl
This song makes my list purely because I can’t get it out of my head. In my mind that’s the mark of a successful single. It’s a pretty goofy sounding song but this is Momoiro Clover and if it’s one thing they do well it’s goofy. Again I’m a sucker for a good chorus and this song certainly has a catchy one. The breakdown in the middle of the song comes out of nowhere and surprises you by just how appropriate it actually is. If you listen to this song and don’t find yourself nodding your head along to it then I’ll…..I dunno, tweet a public apology at you or something.
3. Not Yet – Pera Pera Perao
I guess I raved about Not Yet and this song in some of the other categories so seeing it on my list may have been a bit predictable. You’ll start to notice a theme here when I say that I liked this song because it was super catchy. Like I said in the “Biggest Surprise” category, this is the sort of song that I’d hoped that Not Yet would release since they were first formed. Sure I had to wait a bit for it but the wait was more than worth it. Again, the bridge in this song is just fantastic, the chorus is great, I just loved everything about it.
2. NMB48 – Zetsumetsu Kurokami Shoujo
Winning my “Best Newcomer Single” and “Best Newcomer” awards for this year and just knowing me on some level probably gives you a good idea of how big of a NMB fan I am. I don’t really know what else to say about this song that hasn’t already been covered in the “Best Newcomer Single” category. It certainly doesn’t feel like a debut single that’s for sure, it feels like NMB have been doing this for years already and it really does pain me that I couldn’t pick it as my number one but there was just one single this year that couldn’t be beaten by anything.
1. Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 – Hettapi Wink
How many of you saw this coming? Be honest. “Hettapi Wink” is my number one single for 2011 because it’s the single that I’ve listened to the most throughout the year. The music is catchy, the lyrics are catchy, the PV was fantastic, it was the complete package. I honestly couldn’t justify placing anything above it in this ranking, it was just that good. Watarirouka are easily the best thing about AKB48 right now in my mind and I really hope that 2012 is an even bigger year for them because they really do deserve it based on how successful of a year 2011 was for them.
So there you have it, my 2011 NSK Awards write-up. Some interesting picks that I’m sure will get some reaction from my fellow NSK members, mixed in with what I think were some pretty predictable ones. I intentionally didn’t do a write-up for 10 through 6 on either of the top 10 lists because I’d only be repeating myself from other categories and this post is long enough as it is so sorry if you really wanted to read that (plus the decision was made pretty late in the day to make it a top 10, thanks guys).
Leave some comments, let me know where you agree or disagree with me and I’ll see you back here around the same time next year when we do our 2012 awards show.