Garry and Chase share their thoughts on the debut album from “Not Idol” group Billie Idle.
Title: Idle Gossip
Artist: Billie Idle
Release Date: April 1st 2015
1. Anarchy in the Music Scene
2. Be My Boy
4. 5th Season
7. My Case
8. Konin Todoke wa Tomaranai
9. Po Pe Pa
10. Idle Fellas
Japan has been flirting a lot more with counter-culture in the past few years, especially what remains of its shrinking population of teenagers and young adults. In a country still clinging onto its traditional values, a new, more globally attuned generation are looking to express themselves in any way that they can. I suppose it’s a bit like when Punk music became a thing a lot longer ago than those of us who still love the genre would like to think about.
Counter-culture is at the very heart of what Billie Idle are about. The self proclaimed “Not Idol” group have set out to provide a different slant on Japanese pop music and the idol sub-genre just like Brand-new Idol Society before them. Speaking of BiS, some old but familiar faces make and appearance here in the forms of First Summer Uika and Hirono Nozomi. They’re joined by new recruits Momose Momo and Yasui Yuuhi. Watanabe Junnosuke returns as producer and NIGO is handling the music on this release.
There’s something to be said for starting by putting your best foot forward. That certainly seems to be what has happened in the promotion of this release. First we got the quirky but catchy “Anarchy in the Music Scene” which from what I’ve seen was met with a generally good reception. Then the group released an anthem in the form of “Be My Boy” which seems to have proved even more popular. I think it’s fair to say that there were some fairly big impressions to live up to on the rest of the album.
That’s where things go a little bit off track, for me anyway, and maybe other people who were hoping for more of the same. That’s certainly not what we got and it took me a good number of listens before I managed to get over it and recognize that this album does have some gems on it. The theme of counter-culture is in full effect over the course of the album and it certainly produces some interesting arrangements and production choices.
Overall this is a solid if a little underwhelming debut. Part of me questions if it was the correct call to release a full album right out of the gate. I’m not totally convinced they had enough material for it. There’s also no question that Uika is the main focus of the group with the other members playing a supporting role. It’s something that I’m okay with but feel like it could hinder the group going forward. I’m not sure if the other girls just can’t sing or what, but they didn’t really get too many chances to really show their range on the album.
Recommended Songs: Anarchy in the Music Scene, Be My Boy, Konin Todoke wa Tomaranai, Po Pe Pa, Idle Fellas
Billie Idle’s debut album, “Idle Gossip”, was a complex mix of expecting everything yet expecting nothing, at least on my end. The lead single off the album, “Anarchy in the Music Scene,” led me to believe that their musical style would be an eclectic strain of psychedelic idol pop and denpa music, but as it turns out, nothing is how it seems.
Summing it up briefly, the rest of the album consists of a nice mix of surfer/punk rock, electronic pop, 60’s rock n’ roll, and…you know what? I don’t even know. It’s very hard to sum up this release with just a few concise terms and genres. “Idle Gossip” is a statement of Billie Idle’s unique identity mixed with Junnosuke Watanabe and NIGO’s fine-tuned vision of what a so-called “counter-culture” idol group should be, sound and act like, and the experience can only be fully enjoyed by a thorough listen through the album.
Touching on a few highlights, “Anarchy in the Music Scene” took a very long time to grow on me. Although it’s not my favorite Billie Idle song, it definitely deserves a strong mention just because of the attitude and precedent it set for the group. I was not a fan of the strange musical style, and it seemed very sloppy production-wise and messy all over. However, after multiple consecutive listens (quite a few), it finally began clicking with me. “Anarchy in the Music Scene” took all the best parts of idol music: the catchy choruses, chants, and melodies, and gave it a fresh coat of in your face “fuck you”.
Going against what you’d expect in an idol song, Billie Idle gives you an almost sparse instrumental when the idol scene is filled with over-produced, “sausaged” tracks. They give you purposefully off-key vocals a la denpa style in a time when even if an idol can’t sing, they manipulate her vocals so it still sounds like she has a modicum of talent.
These trends continue past the lead single and extend to the rest of the album, too. Multiple times throughout, there’s moments where the sound quality of a track drops to somewhere around “70’s indie rock” for maybe ten or twenty seconds, and then reverts back to a more crisp production. Knowing both Watanabe and NIGO’s vision and past work, I’m inclined to believe that the “drops” in quality are intentional, to perhaps suit their vision for a “counter-culture” idol group.
There’s almost no other reason why two accomplished producers with quite a lot of released material under their belt would suddenly cheap out on the vocal mastering for a couple seconds. Going by that logic, everything that seems questionable on this album to a casual listener probably wasn’t from lack of skill/talent/effort, but is meant to be there and is trying to project a certain feel and image. Whether this floats your boat or not, however is entirely up to you.
Some other, rather shorter highlights for me are the second promoted single, “Be My Boy”, which sounds like something I’d hear while playing a skateboarding video game. “Moments” is a spastic track that switches between rap, hard swung rock, and a half tempo ballad, definitely one that will keep you on your toes. “Somewhere” is a unique mix of electronics and a stadium rock epic. “My Case” gives me a strong Bloc Party vibe, and “Idle Fellas”, the last track, is my favorite song off the album, with a solid chorus and really well written guitar and bass parts.
What are your thoughts on Billie Idle’s debut album? Leave a comment and let us know!