NEWS – “Topgun/ Love Story” Single Review

Top Gun/ Love Story is Double A-side single released on June 12th, 2019 with a pure love ballad paired together with a passionate, upbeat song about longing after an elite, hard to get woman. On release day, it just scrapped by their 4 member comeback single Chankapana in number of copies sold, making it their best selling single as 4 members. Love Story/ Top Gun sold 121,842 copies and Chankapana sold 121,097 on the first day of sales.

The Songs

Love Story

First let me give a bit of background of this song:
Johnny’s and Associates (NEWS’s management) released a dating simulator game app in March 2018 in collaboration with Gree, a game application developer here in Japan called 「NEWSに恋して」, or “Fall in love with NEWS”. For the 1 year anniversary of the app launch in March 2019, they released a series of commercials, which featured Love Story in it, and was the first time us fans had heard it… or so we thought. NEWS fans were surprised that they actually recognized the tune. It had originally been part of the series of New Year’s concerts “EPCOTIA – encore-” that NEWS held at the beginning of the year where NEWS had the fans hum the melody at one point, recorded it, and then put that recording into the single as a surprise for the fans. When I mean surprised, we really were surprised! During NEWS concerts, to transition between different parts of the show NEWS has the fans do all kinds of things to keep us distracted, such as a quiz game, stomping and clapping to the rhythm of something related to the show theme, etc. So this time they had us do the same thing to help everyone “escape from inside a blackhole”, but to the tune of Love Story. So the fans didn’t suspect a thing!

So, Love Story is actually a love song from NEWS to their fans, but it can be interpreted as a love song in general as well. I love how its a ballad, but has a really nice beat and seriously gets stuck in my head. 12/10 would love another song like this again!

Top Gun「トップガン」

Top Guns is a fun, upbeat song with lots of brass and string sounds and old-school disco-esque guitar, making it have a 70’s sort to feel to it. The first few times I heard this song though I wasn’t impressed with it as I had only heard it as the ending song of the drama …… Even after I saw it during the WORLDISTA tour, I wasn’t a fan of it until I heard the studio version of it. I am a fan of brass sounds combined with other modern elements so as soon as I heard the sounds on the studio version I fell in love with it, and the music video just made me love it even more. My favorite part of the song has to be when Massu raps towards the end in a kind of rap-dubstep breakdown.

The Music Videos

Love Story

The music video for Love Story had 5 different versions; 1 for each member and 1 combined video. Each video was made in 1 cut (with the combined one taking cuts from the individual ones) and the theme was a “date” with them. I like cute, but this really took it to another level but it was very tasteful. It was very well shot and reminded me to Tegomassu’s video “Moshimo Kono Sekai kara ○○ ga nakunatara”. I liked Koyama’s look the the most in this video with his hair and the necklace he wore. It was still sickly sweet and I did squeal at some points, so if you are looking for something overly sweet then this the video for you!

Top Gun「トップガン」

The Top Gun music is a piece of art. I love so much about it I don’t even know where to start. The aesthetic of the boys laying in the flower and the transitions between the dance scenes and the “portrait” flower scenes are phenomenal. Massu’s costumes were really a vital part of the video with the red, black and white combined with the white background. I have to point out that only Massu would make them wear Christian Lou Boutin slightly heeled dress shoes to dance and make it work fantastically. This music video really made me fall in love with the song and has to be one of my favorite NEWS music videos to date, only second to Kaguya. I could watch this video over and over again, that’s how much I love it.

The Verdict

Overall I rank this single as one of my top NEWS singles as 4 members, right next to Ikiro and Kaguya. I like how they have 2 different sounding songs on one single, plus the surprise with Love Story and recording the fans at the concert. Because they released a double A-side single, they will probably only release 1 more single or no more singles before their new album “Story” comes out (production is in process and confirmed by the label) probably sometime in Spring 2020. I highly recommend this single to anyone getting into NEWS, as both singles show different sides of NEWS.

What did you guys think of this single? Did you like Love Story or Top Gun better? Let me know in the comments below!

[Johnnys 101] So You Have Begun to Stan A Johnnys Group – All the basics you need to know

So… you have begun to stan a Johnnys group. Welcome! It’s going to be a very sparkly and emotional ride, but let me give you some tips to help you start out.

This is a new series on my blog called “Johnny’s 101”, where I answer as much in depth about the infamous Japanese boyband agency Johnny’s and associates as I possibly can. As a bit of background, I have been a Johnnys fan for over 10 years now, and have also written my graduate school thesis on the business of Johnny’s. I don’t know everything (as Johnny’s can be mysterious in a lot of ways) but I hope I can give an insight into Johnny’s that you might not know yet.

But first… What is Johnnys?

Johnnys is an all-male talent agency founded in the 1960s by Johnny Kitagawa. The agency is mostly known for training boys (called Johnny’s Juniors) in different parts of the entertainment industry (singing, dancing, acting, etc.) from a young age by having them back dance for the debuted groups, seeing which ones are popular, and then debuting a select few. They aren’t just simply boybands but are involved in many different activities in the entertainment industry in Japan, such as television, movies, fashion, and even novel writing and newscasting. Some of the most popular groups that have come out of Johnnys are SMAP and Arashi.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to today’s topic which is basics of the agency and the fandom that you should know as a new fan (and maybe a reminder or refresher for those OG fans out there!)

1. Johnny’s is extremely strict (as are the fans) and behind the times

Johnny’s hasn’t digitalized yet (even worse than the rest of Japan… which is saying something) which means there are no YouTube videos or digital music downloads. Hard copies only, my friends! They are super strict with what is uploaded to social media and media sites as well. Around 2014 or so is when they actually put their artist’s pictures on their OWN website and their fan club was super analog until about 2 years ago (hard copy tickets, paying via bank transfer and all) Shocker isn’t it? In my opinion, this is a huge barrier to growth for them, especially internationally. BUT! With that being said recently they have made some huge changes, like Johnny’s official shop goods being sold online within Japan, revamp of the online fan club system, and especially so with the juniors YouTube channel, which is promising. My question though: is it too slow? Let me know what you think!

As for the fans, concert manners and sharing media online is policed pretty strictly. This varies from group to group though, as each fan base has a different “culture” so to speak. An example of this is with my favorite group NEWS, concert spoilers during the tour are kinda a big no-no, as NEWS themselves said a few years back they prefer all the fans to be surprised, so…. you won’t see the set list and hardly any detailed spoilers until after the final show is finished. It’s not to “end game” level, but we protect from spoilers as much as possible. MC is perfectly fine to spoil so bring all the weird things they say!

2. Johnnys is based in Japan and caters mostly to a Japanese audience

Johnny’s is based in Japan and caters to Japanese fans within Japan. I see a lot of fans getting upset that Johnny’s doesn’t do much for international fans and say “Johnny’s hate international fans” but at this point in time with the current stage of the agency, I think these thoughts are misguided. I could make an entirely separate blog post about this (comment below if you want it!), but to sum it up the Japanese music industry is #2 in the world only after the United States. Because of this, Johnny’s can make enough money just within Japan no problem only catering to Japanese fans. Why should they spend the money to expand overseas when they dominate the Japanese market and make enough money anyway? Even fans inside of Japan have a hard time getting concert tickets even when they are in the fan club and the artists only have enough hours in a day, so how can they expand and think of going overseas when they are at capacity inside of Japan? If you think about it that way, you can see why Johnny’s wouldn’t want to cater to foreign fans, as they have their hands full inside of Japan already. Does this mean they shouldn’t share media outside of Japan? No, I think YouTube and social media is essential, but in terms of an international fan club and translating things into many languages, it’s not going to work for a long time and not a good choice business wise. They first need to get the digital infrastructure up and running in Japan first.

3. The Twitter community is probably the strongest to find fan friends (Japanese and foreign)and get the latest information.

Back in the day, LiveJournal used to be the community of choice but in the past 5 years or so that community has pretty much died and everyone is on Twitter. If you want to make fandom friends, make a twitter account and get started by talking with other fans! Japanese fans are also heavy users of Twitter (as Twitter is the dominant social media platform in Japan besides Instagram) so you can get almost any piece of information you need on there. For the most part, us fans are extremely friendly and are more than happy to point you in the direction of what you see looking for. Just be sure to respect the other fans and don’t assume that the way things are done in your country are done that way in Japan and in Johnny’s.

4. No Johnny’s talents have individual Twitter or Instagram accounts or even social media

Okay okay, there is 1 exception that literally happened when I was writing this, which is Yamapi! He was on Weibo, but then on May 16th, he made an Instagram, a Johnny’s first. In general, though, Johnnys do not have social media (including youtube… except the Junior’s channel I mentioned above!) and their “blogs”, called Jwebs, are behind a paywall and are only in Japanese. This poses an interesting dynamic, as the world has moved rapidly towards an era of social media and digital music downloads and streaming, in which Johnnys is pretty archaic. So, if you want to find any information about the group or see their music videos you will have to go on a hunt around the internet.

 

Did I miss anything? What information would you like as a new Johnnys fan or as an OG fan what advice would you give to new fans?

[REVIEW] NEWS Arena Tour 2018 EPCOTIA – DVD/ Blu-Ray


From the world of “NEVERLAND” in 2017, in 2018 NEWS takes you on a journey into outer space onboard the EPCOTIA Liner – flight 009; NEWS hosting as the 4 flight attendants. A tour based around their album released in March 2018, NEWS once again immerses you into the theme of the album, which has been a “thing” for them since their 2015 album “WHITE”.

In this review, I will be discussing 2 categories – Theme and DVD contents – to give an overall rundown of the DVD itself and if its worth it to buy.

Theme – Outer Space??

Let’s begin with Theme! To be honest, I was skeptical of this space theme from the minute I saw the names of the songs on the album that were basically all a bunch of space themed words thrown together like “BLACKHOLE” and “UFO”. Nothing could top NEVERLAND (tour and album) for me… it was the perfect theming for a group like NEWS who is bright and has bouncy songs with some rock thrown in from time to time, so EPCOTIA had a lot to live up to… and I think NEWS was feeling the pressure too.  Before going into the tour itself in April, I liked about only 50% of the songs but after seeing the tour in Hiroshima I was hooked on about 90% of them for the performance.

You can tell NEWS made an extensive effort to separate NEVERLAND from EPCOTIA as themes, and to not make it a continuation (despite NEWS doing theming for N-E-W-S for the next few years) . NEVERLAND had a more steam punk feel to it with the costumes and had a more typical stage setup for NEWS, while EPCOTIA was a center stage and more “futuristic” with monochrome theming and costumes, lots of strobe light affects and a center stage where they really pushed the limits with what they could do with it. (Bungee jumping around the stage in the middle of the concert, hanging from the celling during the opening and having a huge model space shuttle on the stage? Now THAT’S entertainment!) I felt they had a higher budget this year as compared to previous years, as it was their 15th anniversary and probably after the success of the NEVERLAND theming the year previously.

Also, on a side note, the tickets were adorable with “Boarding Pass” written on the back of them with the EPCOTIA logo on it … the theming was on point the entire time from beginning to end. I think with NEVERLAND they pushed the limits for theming where they had fallen short with QUARTETTO the year previous and then with EPCOTIA, they really took what they learned with NEVERLAND and ran with it full speed ahead.

CONTENTS – less than previous DVD’s?

Credit to Johnnys Entertainment Inc.

The contents of the DVD are very straight forward this time around, containing only the final day of the tour in Saitama Arena in May 2018 plus “EPCOTIA MULTI ANGLES LIVE”, which special to just the limited edition of the DVD. The only difference between the Regular Edition and the Limited Edition is this “Multi Angles live” for both the Blu-ray and DVD versions. Click HERE for all the information on what the DVD contains (Japanese Only).

This time the DVD didn’t have as many extras as in the past… more than likely because NEWS had 3 “tours” in 2018 (EPCOTIA Arena Tour,  15th Anniversary Live STRAWBERRY, and EPCOTIA – encore- Dome Tour)  and I predict that because of this, they are wanting to release the arena tour but for a lower price point so that they can release the other concerts later on in 2019. (A double sided DVD between Strawberry and EPCOTIA – encore-? You heard it being called here first, folks!)

I thought the Multi Angles live was a smart move on Johnny’s part to keep the budget low: Take footage of a handful of songs that they already had recorded at the concert and release it at different angles. Essentially, they have cameras pointed at each of the members during the concert at all times and they compiled that footage of 4 of the popular songs, LIVE,  BLACKHOLE, Erotica, and U R not alone for each member’s angle. Not just that, but you don’t have to choose just 1 member for the entire time, you can choose different members for different parts of the song, letting you control the editing of the song and how you want to see it. I thought you could only choose 1 member for the entire song, but I was happily surprised you can choose the angle at each point in the song. Very interactive, as there are so many combinations you can make between the 4 members’ parts.

“Happy Ending”

Overall, Outer Space wasn’t a theme that I was extremely excited about but the execution and how they kept to theming the entire time was extremely impressive. NEVERLAND is close to my heart and for me, unfortunately, EPCOTIA did not surpass that. The content of the DVD was less than previous years, but hopefully there will be some releases of the other 2018 concerts later in 2019 to make up for it. (My wallet is READY!) 

If you can get your hands on the Limited Edition of this DVD, I think it is worth it for the multi-angles lives, but the Regular Edition doesn’t have much to offer besides the actual concert.

 With that being said though,  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the VR themed “WORLDISTA” for 2019!

Seasons of Japan – June 2017 | nihonchique

June 2017. This is the month that marked the last in a chapter of my life. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get past this month in my life, almost like my blog was kind of frozen in time until I figured out what I was doing. I still now dont know what I am doing and what direction I am going in, but in June 2017, I had the huge high of the NEWS NEVERLAND tour in Tokyo dome with a close friend, followed straight after by the disappointment of hearing that the department/ website in my company I was working for for a year and half would be shutting down and my contract would not be continuing because of it. I was devastated and was extremely hurt that a company I had worked so hard for for a year and a half would just cut me so simply, but despite this I took this as a learning opportunity and got searching for jobs as soon as possible. (Spoiler, I found one and started it at the beginning of August 2017!).

On the topic of the NEWS NEVERLAND tour in Tokyo Dome, that was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my life. “U R not alone” since then has become my anthem and even when the DVD came out in January of this year, I cried again right long with them at “U R not alone” and had no shame. As I said in the 4th picture, the end of the NEVERLAND tour isn’t the end, and we truly are not alone. NEWS has been along with me on this journey for almost 10 years now. I feel like I have grown with them and they have supported me all of these years, almost half of them being in Japan.  Thank you NEWS. Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in Hiroshima for the EPCOTIA tour in April, 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Japan – April 2017 | nihonchique

April started off with a bang with the first leg of NEWS’s NEVERLAND tour in Sapporo! I was so excited to go to Sapporo again after 2 years. My friend and I ate all the food there and even went to an observatory that is considered one of the best night views in Japan! (Except I went during the day… but I digress.)

Next came Cherry Blossom season with some amazing views. Spring is one of my favorite seasons in Japan, and I was so happy to experience the Cherry Blossoms in a few different places (Including my first time to see them in Shiga!)with some special people.

At the end of the month was Golden Week, and I decided to make a trip home to America and experience wine country in California for the first time before heading home to Florida for about a week. Emeritus Vineyards was by far my favorite visit and we had a very nice tour complete with a personal talk with the owner himself! Their wines are amazing and the company was awesome!

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Made it to NEVERLAND!!

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Chocolate Heaven! チョコ天国!🍫

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Sapporo Butter Salt Ramen! 👍🏻

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Sapporo! ❤

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Nighttime Cherry Blossom Find! 🌸❤

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桜🌸〜

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Yakisoba under the Cherry Blossoms! 🌸💕

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Let the wining and dining begin!

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Third stop: Jordan Vineyard and Winery!

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Translation: “U R not alone” – NEWS

Translation for “U R not alone” by NEWS, on the NEVERLAND album.
Lyrics and music by GReeeeN.

拝啓あの日の僕へ
今はココで立っています
誰かに笑われた夢を
今もココで見続けてます

To the me of that day,
I am standing here now.
The dream that people laughed at,
I am still continuing to reach for.

時に見失いそうになって
時に全てをあきらめて
あせって望んでは傷ついた
僕の中の弱虫笑ってた
それでも(Hey) どこかで明日を
諦めてないから今日もまた
傷だらけ(Hey) のこの足で
なんとか立っている

Sometimes I almost lost sight of it,
Sometimes I gave up completely,
In my flustered desire, I kept getting hurt,
and the weakling inside me laughed.
Even so (hey!) I still haven’t given up that tomorrow,
so with these broken legs (hey) I will somehow keep standing.

例えばこの声が届くならば誰でもいい
聞こえますか 胸張ってさあ叫ぶんだ
全部詰め込んだこの宣誓を
僕は誓うよ 一切引かないし 一切負けない
自分で決めた道のうえ 全てをかけて
笑えるように やり抜くぞ

For example, if this voice could reach, would anyone listen?
I stick out my chest and shout,
and pack everything into this oath
I vow to never back down and never surrender.
I will risk everything for the path I chose.
To accomplish it so I can be able to smile.

あの頃の僕は負けそうに
なると誰かのせいにして逃げて
諦めた言い訳はそりゃ楽で
そうして僕はまた自分に負ける
それでも(Hey) 戦っている
そんな他人(ひと)はきっと他所(ほか)にいる
それでいいの?(Hey) 目指す場所へ
行くと決めたんだろう?

Back in those days when I was about to loose,
I blamed someone else for it and escaped.
It was easier to give excuses and give up,
And thus I kept on loosing to myself.
Even so (hey!) I am still fighting on.
There are surely other people who are like that too.
Is that really okay though? (hey!)
You decided to go that place you aimed for, didn’t you?

確かな答えは 何処にもないから
探すんだ 恐れないでその足で迷っていい
何度も諦めるかって言えばいい
今までの超えた日々が僕らにはあるじゃないか
だからこそココに吹いてる
向かい風にホラ立ち向かう

There is no correct answer anywhere
So you have to search for it. It’s okay to be afraid and get lost on the way
It’s okay to say “I’ll give up” many times
Haven’t we already gone through everyday until now?
Because of this, we will face the headwind that’s blowing here.

あの日つまずいて
しゃがみこんでしまうほどの痛みさえ
わきだして かけだして
助走に変えて いけるように

On that day that I stumbled
The pain that left me doubled over on all fours
Spring up, start running
Change it into an approach run in order to live

ああどうか 力を貸してくれないか
昨日までの僕よ 共に乗り越えてきたじゃないか
僕は誓うよ 一切引かないし 一切負けない
生まれた日から今日までの 僕が見てる
明日もそう
少しずつ前へ not alone

Ah, could you please assist me somehow,
The me up until yesterday? We overcame this together, didn’t we?
I vow to never stand down and never surrender
The me from the day I was born until now is watching
Tomorrow as well
Moving forward bit by bit, not alone


Translators note:

“U R not alone” sung by NEWS from their Neverland album was one of the hardest things that I have translated from Japanese to English because I really wanted to give justice to this song. I don’t think I fully did because of my own language skills and I feel like English doesn’t even come close to being able to convey the meaning of the song, but I wanted to give the fans who can’t understand Japanese just a bit of an idea of the deep meaning the song has. I will always be grateful to  have heard this song live and have heard the rawness of NEWS’s voices when they sang it. It is so relatable to me, and to everyone I think, as everyone struggles with things in their life and want to give up at some point. It made me cry so hard in Sapporo and I had to hold back crying when I saw it in Nagoya with my boyfriend (as I would have been totally embarrassing, right?).

The beginning of the song when it says:

” To the me of that day,
I am standing here now.
The dream that people laughed at,
I am still continuing to reach for.”

I really feel that it’s so true. Sometimes I felt like my dream of moving to Japan and creating a life here was laughed at sometimes, but I’m still here and continuing to live that dream. The oath in the song about not backing down or surrendering is something that after I heard this song, I vowed to myself that I will give everything I have and never give up, even if I am doubled over in pain and want to give up. I hope that everyone that listens to this song will feel the same way and receive that power, just like it did for me.

I am still actively learning Japanese and I am not a professional translator, so if I translated something wrong or want an explanation on why I translated it the way I did, please comment below! 

Why I Go To A Johnny’s Concert More Than One Time

The third week in March of 2015, I took the Shinkansen about 50 minutes to Nagoya to see NEWS LIVE TOUR 2015 WHITE. NEWS hadn’t toured in 2 years and it was hard not to feel the excitement inside and outside of Nippon Gaishi Hall, all the fans teeming in anticipation about what NEWS had in store for this tour. The actual concert itself was all-new, with many mistakes, as Nagoya was the fist stop on a 3 month long tour.

Fast-forward to the weekend after and my best friend Meghan and I are on our way to Sapporo, a 2-hour flight away from our home base of Kansai. The feeling of Sapporo was different than Nagoya, the venue being more intimate than other venues that I had been to with the members of NEWS themselves coming into the audience. The fans were very warm and inviting despite the cold weather of Sapporo and we made a new friend along the way!

A few months pass and finally NEWS comes to where I live in Osaka in early May. Since I had already been to this tour 3 times previously, and it was on my own stomping grounds, everything seemed very familiar. During the actual concert, you could tell the members were confortable with the set-list and the fans knew what to expect as well, as this was many fans’ multiple time seeing this concert as well.

When I tell people that I have traveled around the country to see my favorite Jpop group, many laugh in disbelief and/ or awe at how many times I have attended and the distance I have traveled just to see a group preform live. Every time this happens I think to myself how much I enjoyed attending and how I do not regret it at all. I often wonder why it seems strange to people the amount of times that I go and the distance that I travel to see these Johnny’s groups. To me, each show and each venue is a different experience, even if the set list is the same. Sometimes they even change the set list to fit the venue or the time of year (for example insert Christmas songs at a concert close to Christmas). Also, the gap between the beginning of a tour and the end of the tour and that evolution is very interesting to see as well. Johnny’s in particular tweaks things even between an afternoon and evening show. There is also a difference between arena venues and dome venues as well, arena venues being smaller and intimate, the artists coming directly into the crowd, and the domes being more elaborate performances complete with pyrotechnics, waterworks, lasers and huge moving stages.

For Johnny’s in particular, the MC’s also change each time. MC’s are the talk portion of the concert where the group takes a break and just talks to the audience about recent happenings or informing them of upcoming events. Each concert is different and you get a little bit more of an insight into the members themselves and the group dynamics. For somebody that is a fan, this is fascinating. As for myself, I enjoy getting to know the members as people and not as celebrities and during these concerts, little parts of their personalities pop out each time.

Last, but not least, it is about supporting the artists themselves. Sure I buy all the singles and a lot of memorabilia, but also going and supporting them in person is something that is important to me as well. Seeing a performance live and listening to it on a CD are two totally different experiences. Concerts are one of the only true times that the fans and the artists can meet face to face. Fans come together and support their group and create a bond that can’t be explained easily in words. You become friends online through the same bond and you finally get to meet in person at the concerts and share the same joy and excitement for seeing the group.

Going to a concert multiple times might seem crazy at first glance, but next time you speak with someone who does see the same show multiple times, maybe try to look beyond the surface and ask yourself if you have anything that you are passionate about that you would do or see multiple times.