Artist: Ieiri Leo
Genre: Pop / Rock
Ieiri Leo is one of the few newcomers to hit is big in recent years. Her mix of pop/rock reminds me a lot of YUI in the late 2000s, except she doesn’t carry around a guitar. Silly is one of her darker songs. The verses are generally made up of her singing lightly over an acoustic guitar. It helps to build contrast to the more emotional chorus. I really love the melody here because it is just infectious and Ieiri does an excellent job giving of the right kind of emotion. My only problem is the touches of English that sound a bit awkward, but besides that it is a strong track. This is the first of two Ieiri Leo songs.
Title: Shortcake (ショートケーキ)
Artist: Kashiwagi Yuki (柏木由紀)
Genre: Bubblegum Pop
Kashiwagi Yuki has been a staple member of AKB48 since her inclusion in 2007. Often ranking among the top 3 during elections, Yukirin is known for her girl-next-door looks and funny reactions. Shortcake was released as her debut single and her only entry on my list. Shortcake isn’t anything stellar and is a fairly straightforward midtempo pop song. I wasn’t really interested in it at first, but I really do enjoy the sweet quality to it. That and it isn’t actually too bad. The melody is fairly catchy and Yukirin is a decent vocalist. This isn’t a track that is only fit for her, but she is fit for it. It’s an enjoyable listen.
Title: Yura Yura (ユラユラ; Swaying)
BENI debuted in the short-lived girl group, Bishoujo 21 (later Bishoujo 31) in 2004. Not long after, she released her debut solo single under avex. She didn’t really do that well as she only scored a few moderate top 40 hits and a top 20 album. In 2008, things turned around as she debuted under Universal Music. Since then, she has scored a number of digital hits as well as a few top 10 albums (one being a #1). Yura Yura was released as her 16th single and is her first of two entries on my list. I never found BENI’s voice that stellar, but she has made vast improvements over the years. This song really helps highlights the strengths in her voice without having her get overpowered. She really soars in this song and her higher notes also sound smooth and strong. I also enjoy the upbeat nature of the song as and that it is a bit faster in pace compared to some of her other songs. The musical arrangement really doesn’t have much that stands out, but the melody is just so insanely catchy.
There have been quite a few subgroups that have popped out from AKB48. Probably my favourite of the bunch has been DiVA, which includes members that are well-known for their talents and also includes some of my favourite members. Released as the group’s second single, Cry is a fun upbeat pop jam that is reminiscent of 90s anime theme songs. I think what really gives this song that extra punch is the fact that the group has some decent vocals and can actually pull off a song with this much power. I also really love the use of the electric guitar, as it is the focal point of the music and helps to give a more contemporary edge to the song. Definitely a good listen, although it is a bit generic sounding at times. This is the first of two DiVA songs.
Genre: Bubblegum Pop
I’m usually not one to listen to a lot of Johnny’s songs, but there are a few that I do enjoy. Cherish is pretty standard J-Pop flare. I don’t think there is anything that lets it stand out that much from other boy band songs, but it is an enjoyable listen. I like how laid back it is and it seems like just such a simple song. The chorus is also quite catchy and it’s nice to see that the boys sing in unison for this part. This is NEWS’ third single and their only one on my list.
Title: Sakurairo (桜色; Sakura-colored)
Artist: Takei Shiori (竹井詩織里)
Takei Shiori debuted under the GIZA label in mid-2000s. She was never able to hit it big, but she did have a moderate hit with her song, Sekai Tomete. Sakurairo is what I really love from her though. Released as her fifth single, this predominantly piano-driven pop ballad is a gorgeous and rather emotional piece. I do think the verses are bit dull at times, but the chorus is definitely worth the wait. The melody is quite beautiful and there is something to Takei’s raw vocals here that really highlights the heartbreaking lyrics.
Title: Aitai Riyuu (逢いたい理由; The Reason I Miss You)
Aitai Riyuu was released as AAA’s twenty-fourth single along with another song. I really enjoy this song because it really seemed like the song that really helped highlight the group’s change to a more electropop sound. The song itself is quite beautiful as it is an ethereal upbeat electropop-ballad. I like how the song starts so bare with only the vocalists, but soon explodes with a volley of synths and beats. It is truely a powerful song and certainly one of the group’s most polished efforts. I think the thing that really gets to me though is how sad the song actually sounds. Despite the programmed sound, it’s quite emotional. This is the second and last of the group’s entries.