Album Review: NEWS – WHITE

NEWS-WHITE

NEWS “WHITE”, released on February 28th 2015, is NEW’s most recent album released a year and a half after their previous one. This time they used the theme of “white”, which has always been their “group color”. They also experimented with new sounds and new concepts, such as implementing a short film in the album. It topped the weekly charts, beating Acid Black Cherry.

The Songs

MR.WHITE

This is the title song of their album and also what their short film was based off of. I heard it on Koyama’s radio show K-chan news in the middle of February and I loved it the first time I heard it! This is a different type of sound compared to what NEWS has done in the past, with a “funk” vibe to it. I love the combination of the beat with the horns. The vocals are amazing and the key really suits their voices. When singing on music programs to promote the album, they always sung this song and you could see how confident they were with the concept through their performance.

KAGUYA

KAGUYA was NEWS’s most recent single that was released in January. It has a very “modern meets old” feel to it and is an “epic love song” that showed a more sensual side to NEWS. For a full review of this single, please click here to read my post about it.

NYARO

NYARO was originally released about a year ago, but only as a Bra commercial tie-up song for the brand Walcol. The fans have never heard the full version of this song, so it was great to finally hear it. It’s a very NEWS like “summery” song. It has a country feel to it with fiddle like sounds and country like guitar. Paired with the kind of dance beat in the background, I think it makes a new and interesting combination. The echo of “Nyaro” in the background in the chorus makes it such a fun and catchy song that get’s stuck in your head.

SEVEN COLORS

SEVEN COLORS was the theme song for the 2013 and 2014 FIFA Club World Cup and is personally my favorite of the three soccer songs that they have released. Since both times were in Morroco, it has a dance-electronic beat combined with African drums.  I like the uptempo-ness of the song combined and the variety of sounds.

Weather NEWS

Weather NEWS is probably the most news-like song out of this whole album to me. It’s a call and response song, very much like “4-Fan” was in their 2013 “NEWS” album. The whole concept of having a call and response song is such a fun concept to me and makes me feel involved in the concert and with the other fans as well. For the music, it’s a very simple song with simple lyrics, and it was a very nice surprise to have Shige do the rap part and not Massu, who had seemed to take on the rap parts since Yapami had left the group.

Super Sonic

NEWS normally has one “hard dance” song on their album, and Super Sonic was this album’s dance song. What makes it different than the other dance songs that they have done more of an electronic and dubstep feel to it, which seems to be a theme in Asian pop in general recently. When I first heard it, it sounded reminiscent of an Arashi song from their “Digitialian” album. It’s like a combination of a rock song and a dance song combined together and is probably my favorite dance song of theirs to date.

Black-Jack –Inter- and “BYAKUYA”

I combined these two together because one leads into another. Black Jack is an interlude or kind of intermission into the other part of the album, but more specifically into BYAKUYA. It’s a dubstep type song that you would probably hear in a club and somehow merges well together with the fantasy like sounds in BYAKUYA.

Now speaking of fantasy, BYAKUYA is an all out fantasy song, a cross between a pirate theme song, like out of Pirates of the Caribbean, and something out of Harry Potter or “Nightmare Before Christmas”. If you think about it, it also sounds like something that KAT-TUN would do, an epic song that has lots of “visuals”. There is so much going on in this song that you have to listen to it a few times to really hear everything. The first time I heard this song I felt a combination of “What is this epicness?” and “What did I just listen to?” because there was so much going on.

ONE –for the win-

One -for the win- was the 2014 FIFA World Cup theme song that member Tegoshi was also the main caster for.  This song has a more Latin feel to it, which really surprised me the first time I heard the song. This song is one of the songs that gets stuck in my head so easily because the chorus says all the names of the countries that participated in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

White Love Story

Out of all of the songs on the album, this has to be the song that struck me the most. It is such a light and fluffy love song, but more specifically a wedding song. The lyrics are so sweet and the harmonization combined with the piano and the lyrics make me tear up every time I hear this song. This song personally showed me an evolution in NEWS, a maturity from the typical love song to something that was deeper in a sense. The lyrics talk about a man treasuring a woman so much and wanting to make her happy and protect her from now on. At one point the lyrics say “You are my Heroine”, it might seem sickly sweet to some people, but I think that it’s a beautiful song and a beautiful melody, which makes it on my top songs on this album.

Ai Kotoba 「愛言葉」

Ai Kotoba is the song that NEWS wrote themselves for their 10 Year Anniversary Event. NEWS has gone through a lot in the past 10 years, going from 9-8-6 and then to 4 members, so this was was a song dedicated to the fans and them coming this far as 4 members. It’s a very sweet song with a simple melody, but a deep meaning. It’s  a special song for the members, as well as the fans. When I heard it in the countdown this past year, I was crying so hard.

Solo Songs

Koyama Keiichiro – Romeo 2015 「ロメオ2015」

This was a song that Koyama and former NEWS member Nishikido Ryo did as a duet together in a concert a long time ago and Koyama decided to revamp it as his solo for this tour. It has a latin flair, but it is quite simple if you listen carefully. It is sexy in a subtle way and the vocals aren’t too harsh and it suits Koyama’s voice very nicely.

Masuda Takahisa – Skye Beautiful

The first time I heard this song I didn’t know what to think of it and I didn’t like it that much. I was very confused at the rhythm changes, going from soft and “mysterious” to hard dance club like music. I had to listen a second time before I actually understood the tempo changes and how it all flowed together, and then it became one of my top songs on the album.

Tegoshi Yuya – Anata 「あなた」

Coming from his solo last album/ tour “Lovin U”, this was a bit of a disappointment to me when I first listened to it. It was very simple love ballad compared to the previous two solo songs, really focusing on the voice more than anything. It was quite boring for a while, but once I listened to it a few times and felt the lyrics and the piano, I began to like it more.

Kato Shigeaki – Escort

Escort is my favorite of all of the solo songs this tour, just for the beat of the song combined with the lyrics. Shige wrote the lyrics of the song again this time, and I think he was trying to spin off of his previous solo “Dreamcatcher” with “flowery” lyrics again. I like the piano and “funk” kind of vibe to the song and it flows very nicely, although some of the English lyrics make me giggle every time I listen to it.

Overall impressions

This album was a new direction for NEWS, they experimented with some new styles of music, but you could still very much feel classic “NEWS” throughout. It showed a more mature side of NEWS in a way, an evolution almost. In particular, Byakuya and Black Jack –Intern- and Kaguya were a bit out of the ordinary for NEWS, but it gave them a more mature feel. My favorite songs were White Love Story and NYARO, along with Weather NEWS, which were the most “NEWS” like songs on the album, in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this review! What do you all think of NEWS “White” album? Please let me know what you think in the comments below and press the like button if you enjoyed this post.

Johnny’s Talk: Why do I love Johnny’s?

Recently, I have been asked by some readers how and why I became interested in Johnny’s and I decided to write down some of my thoughts.

Tegomass no Mahou - Kobe, December 2011

Tegomass no Mahou – Kobe, December 2011

Starting in December, I have reached the point in my life where I am transitioning from school to a full time job and it isn’t the easiest transition. During this transition though, I have been really taking the time to think about why I love the things that I do and prioritizing my time accordingly. As most of you know, Johnny’s is something that I have loved since I was in my first year of University and I have just grown to love it even more over the years and since I have moved to Japan. Why do I love Johnny’s so much? Why do I dedicate so much time to something seemingly just taking my money? I will be explaining some reasons why I love Johnny’s in this post.

Johnny’s makes me smile. Plain and simple as that. Every time I listen to Johnny’s music (which is everyday) I smile. It gives me energy to start my day and calms me down when I am having a bad day. It’s just me and the music at that time. I also have many memories connected to the music and when a particular song comes on; memories of that time in my life flood back and make me smile. Now this can be true of almost any music, but Johnny’s is the music that I have relate the most to.

It’s not just the music that makes me smile, but seeing the boys that I support on TV, doing various projects, working their hardest and seeing them do amazing things makes me happy too. It makes me want to strive and work harder because I see them doing their best in a cut-throat environment and they still smile through it all, but at the same time are close to the fans. They aren’t perfect and can show their more vulnerable side and we know they are human.

Johnny’s gives me someone to support and grow with. After many years of loving Johnny’s, I have settled into whom in the agency I like the most and support the most. For me, that is mostly NEWS, with some other groups that I go and support; mostly the “You and J” groups, which consists of Kanjani8, NEWS, and KAT-TUN. Most of my favorite Johnny’s are not much older than me, normally between 25 and just over 30 years old. Throughout the years, I feel like I have grown with them and seen them accomplish more and more as we all grew towards our dreams. I know it sounds cheezy, but these boys (or I should say men) do amazing things and it makes me want to do amazing things as well. When I see their concerts and performances I am blown away by the quality and the hard work that is put into it. They might not be the most talented people in the entire industry, but you can tell that they work hard, and that is what matters to me. They don’t grow and fit one mold of Johnny’s; they all break off and do what they love to do. Take my favorite group NEWS for example: Koyama is a newscaster, and is an anchor for the news program News Every. Tegoshi loves soccer and is doing work directly related to it, even becoming a main caster for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Massu loves fashion and now has his own column in a fashion magazine and designs the NEWS tour costumes. Shige wasn’t amazing at literature when he was younger, but he has already written 3 novels and many short stories and is Johnny’s first novel author. Once again, seeing them do amazing things makes me want to do amazing things as well and push myself harder. The best part is that there is a group for everyone to enjoy and there is such a variety of talent in Johnny’s.

Johnny’s lets me be a part of a fandom of amazing fans and being a part of something bigger than just me. Fandom is an amazing thing. I wouldn’t be the person today if it wasn’t for the people that I met through the Johnny’s fandom. Some of my closest friends I have made through this fandom and the experiences of traveling and meeting people from all around the world, are priceless. Fandom isn’t perfect by any means, but it is a mesh pot of amazing people from all around the world coming together that love the same thing. This isn’t just on the internet, but when I go to concerts and I look at the crowd waving their penlights in unison in support of that group, it moves me and I realize I am not alone in what I love. Concerts are one of my greatest joys to attend because I get to interact with fellow fans and I get to see the Johnny’s that I support in person and show my support, even if only I am 1 in thousands.

Tegomassu no Seishun - Fukuoka

Tegomassu no Seishun – Fukuoka, April 2014

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Kanjani8  Jyuusai – Osaka,  August 2014

Last, but not least, Johnny’s gave me a dream. Anime and Manga started me off on my love for Japan, but it wasn’t real to me after a while. When I found Johnny’s, I found a whole new culture and it opened the world to me. I never thought I would want to live in Japan before I entered University, but when I found Johnny’s I wanted to understand what they said, and I wanted to learn more about the Japanese culture. I dived head first into learning Japanese and studied business, and I eventually moved to Japan, then I wrote my business graduate school thesis on the business of Johnny’s. They gave me the motivation to move overseas, away from my family, to open my mind and push myself out of my comfort zone. I realized recently that the thing that I love the most is making people happy and giving them hope in a world that doesn’t do that well. Johnny’s does that for me and lets me find that about myself. From here on out I will be searching for exactly how I want to do it, but I know entertainment and Johnny’s is something that does that for me, along with Japanese Fashion and Music in general. I want to harness what Johnny’s does and let people understand that Johnny’s is more than just pretty boys dancing and singing.

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I hope you all enjoyed this insight into some of my thoughts recently! Why do you like Johnny’s? What makes you happy? Have you found your dream and what is it? Please comment below to let me what you think!

Japanese Entertainment: The Relationship Between Japanese Idols And Their Fans

While I was writing my thesis for my MBA today, which is on the topic of Johnny’s and Associates and the Japanese music industry, the topic of the relationship between a Japanese Idol and their fans popped into my head. Actually, it had been in my head for a while now ever since an article by the Yomiyuri Newspaper about Koyama Keiichiro, a member of my favorite Idol group NEWS,  was released about a week and a half ago. Koyama became a news caster for “News Every” in Spring of 2010 and this January he became a main caster for four out of five weekdays, when the program runs. This article was about the human connection and how through news casting he has been able to connect more with many people, and his fans, more than before. Though he says it’s rare for idol groups to have that deep of a connection, I still think this reflects the relationship between idol groups and their fans.

What exactly is the relationship between Japanese idols and their fans? You can describe it in different ways but I like to simply describe it as like one of a girlfriend and boyfriend, or best friends, but also like parent and child.

The appeal of the Japanese idol is simple, they aren’t perfect. These idols are produced by an management company that trains them from when they are kids to sing and dance and act and be an all around entertainer. From when they enter into the company they are put into the spotlight. They aren’t told or trained to be perfect though and in fact, they are put on variety shows and other television shows where they are made to do wacky things and their personality really shows through. Of course there are parts of this that are artificially produced and controlled, like not having a boyfriend or girlfriend (in public at least) and being clean cut and not having a bad-boy or bad-girl image, but for the most part they are the boy or girl next door. They seem like a normal person that just walked off the street, not a celebrity that is far from reach.

Another aspect of this is that the fans have a say in what the Idol does. Since the fans are spending money on entertainment, the idol and the management company must give them just that. So, the management company and the idols listens closely to the fans to see what they want, and they give it to them. They also sometimes put on events specifically where the fans get to decide themselves what they want, like choosing the set-list for a concert or in AKB48’s case, the fans can vote on who they want to be the “center”, the person who is the focus of the whole routine. This way, the fans feel like they had a hand in the idol growing and the fans grow a long with them, or see them grow up like a parent. I see a lot of mothers and their daughters go to concerts together and support the idol together; the daughter sees the idol as supporting them like a girlfriend would a boyfriend and the mother sees it as supporting the idol like they would their own child.  When idol fans grow up and have their own family and children, another younger idol group has debuted and then their daughter gets into them and the cycle continues.

I also think that Idols give fans a dream, something to shoot for. While the idols grow up and reach their goals, the fans are inspired by them trying so hard, so they work hard for their dream while supporting the idol too. I have met many people that say that being a fan of an idol group has changed their life and made them have a dream and find something that they love or helped them at a hard time in their life. It might be dramatic to say this, but I feel the same way as well. If I hadn’t found my love for Japanese Idols, I wouldn’t have realized my love for Japanese entertainment and I wouldn’t have wanted to move to Japan and live here. So in a way, they help create dreams and the Idols cheer us on as well.

So in a nutshell, this is the relationship. The Idol gives entertainment and gives the fans something to support, the appeal being that they aren’t perfect and they can support the idol growing up and the fans take pride in being apart of that. The Fans spend money on the idol and they get the feeling of satisfaction and pride at being apart of something. They each give and receive something and its unique and pure in a way. Sure there is business behind it and brilliant marketing, but this relationship is something unique to Japan I think.

What do you think about the relationship between Japanese idols and their fans? Have they inspired you in someway? Let me know what you think about this topic below! I think it would be an interesting discussion!

Top 5 Spring-Like Songs of 2014

Spring is already in full swing here in Japan. The Cherry Blossoms bloomed, their petals have already fallen, and summer is beginning to peak on the horizon as the temperature continues to rise by the day. I find myself inspired by music that has a seasonal feel, so today I wanted to write a post on my top 5 favorite songs of this Spring before the season changes! They are in no particular order, just how I feel like presenting them! Also, I am a big fan of J-pop, so all of these songs are Japanese songs.

 

#1: SAKURA, I love you? – Nishino Kana (西野カナ)

Though this is a sad love song about not being able to get over some one, the beat and the sound of the song is very Spring-like to me. I can listen to this song over and over again and feel myself walking through a row of Cherry Blossom trees. Even when its not spring I like listening to this song to make me feel like I am back in Cherry Blossom season. The music video is beautiful and every time I go to Karaoke I have to sing this song with the music video playing in the background.

#2 “Sakura Girl”「サクラガール」- NEWS

This song has a lot of the same sounds as Nishino Kana’s song above. I think it is the synthesizer that makes the beat of the song very spring-like to me. It’s a sad love song about a fleeting love, just like the short time a cherry blossom tree blooms for. I love the harmony and the chorus of “La, La, Love, Sakura”. Just like the above song too, I can just imagine walking through a row of cherry blossom trees and can feel the emotion of not being with someone anymore who you loved dearly.

#3 “Sayonara ni Sayonara”「サヨナラにさよなら」-  Tegomass テゴマス

This is a slower song compared to the other two songs, but the softness and sweetness of the song and the lyrics make me think of a love that starts in the Spring and the promise of never saying goodbye. The Piano and the music video also give it a spring-like feel as well! This song was also released Spring of 2013 so I have the image of this song being a spring song in my head. This song is also my favorite Tegomass song, next to Kiss “Kaerimichi no Love song”「キッス帰り道のラブソング」。

#4 “Haru Meki”「ハルメキ」 – Tegomass テゴマス

Another Tegomass song! Somehow I relate Tegomass with Spring recently and I think it’s because in 2013 they had Spring single releases and this year they had a Spring tour. This song is a song off of their new album “Tegomass no Seishun” . The title means “Spring Like” or the “Coming of Spring” and the lyrics are all about how everything is becoming like spring and the flowers are blooming. I love this song because its very upbeat and is a different type of spring song than is mentioned above, because it isn’t a love song.

#5  “Hana ni Omoi wo”「花に想いを」 – Tegomass テゴマス

The final pick is also a Tegomass song. This was the B-side track from their “Neko Chuudoku” single and I had no idea it was the B-side until I heard them perform this song in the concert tour I went to. The Harmonica and the the country-like feel to this song really makes me feel like I am in the country side in America with a bunch of flowers around me. It’s a different feeling than the first few songs, because America and Japan have different perceptions of spring. Spring is about flowers blooming, but in Asia it’s specifically the Cherry blossoms and plum blossoms that it revolves around. In Americ,a its about flowers blooming in general and Easter. This song really makes me smile while I am listening to it walking somewhere recently, and I can really feel that spring is here!

 

I hope you all enjoyed this post! Please comment below and tell me your favorite songs of this Spring and why! I look forward to hearing them!