Title: save your dream
Artist: Kahala Tomomi (華原朋美)
Kahala Tomomi burst on the scenes in the mid-90s and hit it off big. For a few years, her popularity was huge and even her debut album sold over 2 million copies. Despite the great start, her star started to fade after a scandal with producer Komuro Tetsuya. Fortunately, she has had a decent comeback in recent years. save your dream was Kahala’s fifth single and one of her biggest hits. I chose this one because it has such a positive feeling to it. The song is quite catchy and an example of the 90s sound which was dominated by Komuro. Vocally, this song is quite messy and I’ve never been able to really appreciate her voice because of her harsh tone. However, the song is quite sweet and is uplifting. It’s definitely outdated, but it’s a fun listen every once in a while. I love the cheesiness of it all. This is Kahala’s only song on my list.
Title: WILD EYES
Artist: Mizuki Nana (水樹奈々)
One of Mizuki Nana’s earlier hits, WILD EYES was used as a theme song for the anime, Basilisk ~Kouga Ninpou Chou~. I think this is one of the songs that help define Mizuki’s sound. The upbeat, fast-tempo pace with an array of synths and guitar. When seeing the song on the full scale, it might sort of blend in with the rest of her discography, but the song is definitely able to show its charms. I especially love the chorus melody featured on top of the barrage of synths. It’s extremely catchy and the synths help define the song. Vocally, Mizuki helps take the song to the next level. She clearly had vocal chops back then and she is able to clear the song with power and finesse. One of her strongest. This was her eleventh single and her second of six entries on my list.
Title: Gonna Gonna GO! (ガナガナGO!)
Artist: RAINBOW (レインボー)
RAINBOW is one of my favourite K-Pop idol groups. Unfortunately, in their home country they haven’t been able to hit the top despite a slew of quality songs. Their career in Japan was short-lived as it only included one studio album and a few singles. The last of their three singles was Gonna Gonna GO!, their first original single. A spunky upbeat pop tune, the song is rather generic in terms of sound. To be honest, this song is a total guilty pleasure for me. It does sound like a reject KARA song at times, the production isn’t that clean, and their Japanese self-covers were definitely better (unfortunately I won’t add them to the list). However, the song is just so insanely catchy. The melody during the chorus is really intoxicating. Also, any release for me by the girls is a blessing. This is the only entry on the list for RAINBOW.
Artist: Koda Kumi (倖田來未)
Genre: Pop / R&B
Koda Kumi always knows how to release a fun pop/R&B jam. Lollipop is one of my favourite songs from Koda Kumi just because it is so fun and pretty random at times. The lyrics are quite interesting to say the least. Some lines like, “lickin’ my lollipop” or “dodged a bullet bullet“, are just really funny, but also a joy to sing along to. The song is just very catchy. The music is quite bare in that there isn’t really much going on with its sparse beat, and touches of percussion. What is really great about this song though is just how good Koda Kumi sounds. Her voice fits the song perfectly and she brings just the right amount of attitude that lends itself well to the lyrics and music of the song. Lollipop was released on Koda Kumi’s 47th single, Gossip Candy, and is the second of eight of her songs.
Artist: Sugawara Sayuri (菅原紗由理)
Genre: Pop Ballad
Sugawara Sayuri was able to secure a decent hit with her single, Kimi ga Iru Kara, which was used as the theme to Final Fantasy XIII. Unfortunately, her other releases didn’t make a big impact. Forever was released off of her third mini-album. The Pop/R&B-lite ballad is quite a stunning piece. The song doesn’t really differentiate itself from other similar genre’d songs with the verses, but the chorus’ are what really give the song some life. The explosion of vocals and uplifting music really allows the song to get a breath of fresh air. Sugawara also sounds quite nice here and her voice really fits well with the song. This is her only entry on my list, unfortunately.
Title: Somebody to Love
Artist: Tohoshinki (東方神起)
Genre: Pop / Dance
Tohoshinki found huge success in Korea before they were shipped to Japan. Over several years, the group was able to establish themselves as a popular group and have still been able to maintain a stable fanbase in both countries despite the split. While Tohoshinki’s later releases are probably best remembered, I really love their second single, Somebody to Love. The simple dance/pop song is mainly comprised of a simple beat with a funky Spanish guitar riding over it to give the song some edge. It does sound quite simple, but the melody is definitely what makes the song for me. I really like how despite being rather upbeat, there is a bit of sadness in it, which is also evident in the lyrics that talk about finding a new love and having to forget the pain of the past. This is the first of four songs from the group on my list.
Title: Starry Heaven
Artist: day after tomorrow
day after tomorrow was the group that misono started in. They had quite a few successes, with a couple of top 5 singles and all of their albums hitting the top 10. Unfortunately, the group disbanded in 2005, which led misono to a solo career and another member to starting GIRL NEXT DOOR. Starry Heaven is the biggest hit to come from the group. Used as the Tales of Symphonia theme song, Starry Heaven is a synthpop paradise. The song’s arrangement is very similar to other songs found around this time due to the dance-like qualities of its music, but ballad-like vocal arrangement. I do like that the song has a slower feel to it, but also has some energy. It definitely has a magical quality to it. Starry Heaven was featured on the group’s sixth single and is there first and only entry on my list.