NSK Awards 2014: Chase


Chase is finally done making terrible mashups, trap songs and procrastinating to finish his NSK awards. Better late than never, right?

Hello everyone, it’s been a while. Now, you may be wondering “Wow Chase, what took so long to come up with a list of ten songs you liked more than others last year?” and I would wholeheartedly agree with you. I make no excuses, my answer is that procrastination combined with reviewing almost four hundred idol singles again took a lot more time than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, it’s finally done with many thanks to Garry’s hard work keeping the Idol Release Calendar and This Week in Music segments updated, so let’s begin!

Rank10Caramel☆Ribbon - First Secret
First Secret - Single
This was a song I would never in a million years have even caught wind of, belonging to a little known, T-Palette Records signed group from Osaka. Unable to find a music video at first, all that was available was a Soundcloud link, and as soon as I heard the first twenty seconds of "First Secret", I was intrigued. Drawing from a traditional idol sound and mixing in a disco influence, I was reminded of Negicco and other groups that have performed songs in this style.

Despite being very, very indie (as made apparent by their music video which looks like it was filmed with a handheld personal camcorder), the song’s production, composition and mastering is very crisp and professional. There’s a lot going on in the song that fills out the sound and it creates a solid base for the girls to sing over; the members can sing quite well on top of that. All in all, this single probably surprised me the most out of the four hundred or so that I listened to, and I’ve had it on endless repeat for the past couple of weeks.
Rank09Negicco - Triple! Wonderland
Very similar stylistically to the song above, it was just a step above "First Secret" in the sense that the songwriting stood out to me a lot more, with modulations and key changes laced throughout, and that really added an extra ‘oomph’ to the sound. The chants at the beginning of "Triple! Wonderland" where Negicco are spelling their group name didn’t appeal to me too much at first, but they inevitably grew on me and now they’re a staple singalong whenever I listen to this song.

The chorus is a very memorable one, with a melody I find gets stuck in my head quite often.
Rank08Chubbiness - Manmadeiya!
マンマデイーヤ![Manmadeiya!] - Single
Many people might question my musical (or possibly aesthetic) tastes when it comes down to the fact that a group named Chubbiness is number eight on my top ten of this year. One of Avex’s newer idol groups, Chubbiness’s gimmick is that all of the girls are apparently “chubby,” and this is meant to be endearing. Personally, I would never revolve an idol group’s concept around personal image since it can be so subjective person to person, but "Manmadeiya!"’s lyrics are meant to uplift and encourage people who are insecure about themselves, which is pretty cool. Is this a good enough reason to create an idol group revolving around a little extra tummy fat? Debatable, but let’s get down to the song, which I like far better than the group concept.

The instrumentals aren’t much to speak of, they’re very solid with an interesting departure from the ionian scale to a whole tone scale segment during the bridge, but the melody the vocals sing is an entirely different story. For a lot of people, the hook or the chorus must be strong and memorable for the song to have any kind of lasting impact on them, and "Manmadeiya!" has one of the strongest hooks I’ve heard this year. It caught my attention the first time I heard it, and I instantly could recall it at anytime. This, by my definition made it the catchiest single of the year as well.
Rank07Up Up Girls (Kari) - (Kari) wa Kaesuze☆Be your Soul
(Kari) wa Kaesuze Be your Soul_Party! Party!_Jumper!
One of the things I like most about Up Up Girls (Kari) is that their music is always well produced and not utilizing half-assed electronic sound samples like a lot of other idol groups that try to work in a modern electronic dance break. If they’re going to perpetuate the idea of being the “‘EDM’ idols”, I’m glad the music is at least up to par, with several of their songs sounding like ripoffs of notable western producers.

Man, that sounded pretentious. With all of that out of the way, this song is immensely enjoyable, with great production, catchy singing and multiple style/feel changes in the song that keep you on your toes. The other two A-sides paired with "(Kari) wa Kaesuze☆Be your Soul" are pretty good as well, but this song was definitely the standout for me.
Rank06Tokyo Girls’ Style - Partition Loveimg_TGS_PartitionLove_05Nee sensei, these lyrics are incredibly suggestive and terrible so let’s focus on the music instead. With my (re)introduction to Tokyo Girls’ Style at the J-Pop Summit Festival this year, it seems only natural that one of their songs would make it on my top ten. And although this isn’t their best song by far, it’s still a pretty damn good song.

Made instantly memorable and catchy by that opening riff and the chorus melody, backed by Hiroshi Matsui aka Royal Mirrorball’s flawless instrumentals and some of the better voices in the idol scene (this is before TGS decided to shed their idol image). There’s nothing to hate and everything to enjoy about this song, just try not to think about the lyrical content during karaoke.
rank05Michishige Sayumi (Morning Musume) - Shabadaba Doo~5154464b366db84d250bf652f794773ad37d0bcbI’m splitting "Tiki Bun" and "Shabadaba Doo~" into two separate places because I’d like to talk about each separately. This song is an interesting mix of everything that seems poised for disaster but is pulled off with an amazing amount of poise, grace and cuteness, just like how some fans would describe Michishige Sayumi. The style of "Shabadaba Doo~" is an interesting mix of idol influenced electro-swing, a niche sub-genre that has yet to make much of an appearance in idol music.

Combined with Sayumi’s demure and modest vocal talent, this is a very quirky and personal release, with the lyrics focusing on Sayumi’s personality and career. Sayumi openly admits that her vocals aren’t the strongest in the actual lyrics, and the song does an amazing job of working with her voice to complement it as well as give it a boost. "Shabadaba Doo~" is a very enjoyable song to listen to, and it makes me wish I paid more attention to Morning Musume and Sayumi before she graduated.
rank04Morning Musume ’14 - Tiki Bun45f92f02c54b662213fca6e97a00b1c1987a1277"Tiki Bun" to me seems like the pinnacle of their electronic dance music phase; this is what all the previous singles in this style were leading up to. With an interesting title based off the onomatopoeia of record scratching, "Tiki Bun" amongst Hello!Project fans was arguably the most popular Morning Musume song of 2014. Honestly when I first heard the song I didn’t like it, especially the repeated “Tiki Bun” phrase. It took many listens to finally win me over, and one of the aspects that won me over was seeing "Tiki Bun" as a full package with the PV. The choreography is not the most dynamic, especially during the verses, but it has a cool sense of fluid group movement that isn’t just “Hey, everybody, let’s all dance the same thing!”

After hearing all the New York performance hype and watching footage from their concert there, the song finally won me over and its been hard to deny it since.
rank03Passcode - NextageNextage - SingleStarting off the top three is a serious guilty pleasure of mine. Passcode is a very cool idol group that combines aspects of technopop and post-hardcore/metal, and they have been compared to BABYMETAL for doing this. Passcode tends to violently change the feel of their songs and swing the genre in the completely other way, making your head spin the first couple of times you listen to their music. Now, this style and the genres they combine can alienate a lot of people easily, but what Passcode reminds me a lot of is some of the music that I used to listen to in middle/high school. Post-Hardcore bands like Attack Attack!, Asking Alexandria, and others utilized breakdowns and rave-like electronic dance sections quite often, and having not listened to these bands for several years now, this is a big throwback to when I was younger.

Everything about "Nextage", from the auto tuned vocals during the techno parts to the unexpected random breakdown just screams “Attack Attack!” to me and I’ve never been happier or more into a guilty pleasure. "Nextage" starts innocently enough before transitioning to a very Iine!-esque dance break, and from there swapping quickly between different iterations and combinations of metal and techno. I loved every second of it and I’m very interested to see how this group will do in the future.
rank02Dempagumi.inc - Sakura Apparition„ǵ„ÇØ„É©„ÅÇ„Å£„ÅØ„Çö„Çå„ɺ„Åó„Çá„Çì [Sakura Apparition]Coming in at number two is the idol group that can’t be compared to any other idol group, because they’re Dempagumi.inc. "Sakura Apparition" is honestly one of their more ‘normal sounding’ songs, or more typical idol songs, yet it still has that unique denpa song influence and quirkiness that the girls of Dempagumi.inc bring to the table. This song grooves hard, and every time I listen to it my head immediately starts moving to the beat. It’s hard to compare or describe this song without just listening to it, since it has such a unique yet familiar sound to it, if you’re familiar with idol music.

One aspect I really liked in the song was that I could pick individual girls’ voices out of the mix, making it easy to hear their solos. Watching the PV with this song is almost a must, it provides a lot of character and helps validate the craziness you can hear going on within, although "Sakura Apparition" is a strong enough song to stand by itself.
rank01Tokyo Girls’ Style - Juujika ~Eiga "Gakkou no Kaidan -Noroi no Kotodama-" Ver.~avcd-48992_1200x1200-75“TGS again, Chase? You’re such a sellout just because you got to see them over the summer.” You’re probably right. "Juujika" (long title that I’m not going to keep typing out) made my number one single spot this year, and I’m honestly still pretty surprised. I don’t know how it got here, except that there’s so many aspects of this song that I admire. This version of "Juujika" especially, the one used for Tokyo Girls’ Style’s horror movie, instead of the watered down album version (both are very good though). The instrumentation and orchestration used to portray the constant, foreboding feeling throughout the song is spot on without unduly creeping out anyone, especially in the intro and interludes between verses and choruses.

The little things in the song too, like the groaning electric guitar bends and slides add a cool contemporary feel when juxtaposed with the koto (Japanese string instrument). It’s kind of hard to describe exactly what makes this song tick for me, it’s kind of a whole package deal. "Juujika" is different, too. Different than a lot of releases that came out in 2014, and that’s what helped give it the edge.
Now that the top ten singles of 2014 have been listed, there were a lot of other really amazing songs that came out this year that I wish I could’ve included, but I wasn’t able to. Instead, I’ll give some of the runner-up’s their own category: “Best…”
Best "Idol Rap" SingleRhymeberry - IDOL ILLMATIC
Best "Anime OP Sounding" SingleBitter & Sweet - Install
Bitter & Sweet _ インストール
Best "Acoustic Guitar Solo" SingleParty Rockets - Kasabuta
Best "Song That Should’ve Been In My Top 10" SingleKikkawa You - Urahara Temptation
Best "It Was Either This Or "Sakura Apparition"" SingleDempagumi.inc - Chururi Chururi ra
„Å°„ÇÖ„Çã„Çä„Å°„ÇÖ„Çã„Çä„Çâ [Chururi Chururi ra]
Best "Pump Up The Crowd Sing Along" Single / Best "Most Likely To Get Played At Ultra Festival" SingleUp Up Girls (Kari) - Zenryoku! Pump Up!!
Best "Woah Woah Woah" SingleJuice=Juice - Senobi
Best "Kesha "Tik Tok"-like" SingleFairies - Bling Bling My Love
Best "Zedd "Find You" Blatant Ripoff" SingleKikkawa You - Amai Melody
Thanks for reading down to the bottom! What were your favorite songs from last year? Feel free to comment below or tweet @starlancerpg and I’ll be sure to respond with my thoughts. Until next time!

About Chase Lim

MWP Composition student @ University of Miami. New School Kaidan Writer & Podcaster. Nihongogo Press Representative. HKT: Murashige Anna//TGS: Shoji Mei Email: chase@newschoolkaidan.com

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