Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jpop Mix: Kibouteki Refrain

What is this? A new post category? Why, yes, yes it is. Welcome to my MusicMix post, where I review a new CD/single I have bought or maybe a song that has caught my attention. I will try my best so that this category doesn't end up filled solely with jpop, but as a forewarning, most of my music is jpop. I listen to a wide range of jpop artists, from idols to classic artists so even if I don't seem to break from the jpop bubble, I'll try to present a slice of my varied music tastes. As a heads-up, in addition to jpop, I listen to a fair amount of cpop, kpop, indopop, Spanish pop & rock, and in terms of American music, it's a little bit of everything. My iTunes has tons of soundtrack music from American movies and television shows so I may review a few soundtracks from time to time. Please be aware that not all the music I review will be the latest release, but I will try to make sure the music is no more than 1 year old. :) 

So, with that out of the way, lets get started! First up is the single, Kibouteki refrain (希望的リフレイン) by Japanese mega idol group AKB48. The first picture on the left is of the front cover of this single which features the members in various phases of running. The second picture is the back cover, featuring the following members, from left to right: Mako Kojima, Sakura Miyawaki, Mayu Watanabe, Nana Owada, and Rena Kato. One of the first things I want to make clear is that AKB48 is huge. HUGE. This is literal. AKB48 is a girl group made up of tons of members. The original concept was to have 3 teams: Team A, Team K and Team B. Each team consisted of 16 members (thus the 48 at the end). Why so many girls? The girl group has its own theater where they have shows daily for fans. In order to not overextend the girls, each team takes turns performing. In addition, the girls hold handshake events and meet-and-greets with one main goal in mind: increased access. The idea behind this group was to create a group that was easily accessible to their fans and therefore a group that everyone could relate to. Of course, since their indie days they have grown into the bestselling girl group in Japan. They also now have 5 teams (Teams A, K, B, 4 and 8) and boast waaaayyyy more than 48 members.

With that piece of history out of the way, let me offer one more piece. This relates to the "center" of the group. Back when AKB48 was still in its fledging days, its producer choose one girl to become the "center." Essentially, this girl would always stand in the center of dance formations and sing the main vocals of songs. The aim would be make the center a girl that everyone recognized and could serve as the "representative" of sorts for the entire group. In other words, although most fans don't know the name of every single girl in the group, everyone will at least know the name of the center. The single Kibouteki Refrain boasts a double center between Miyawaki Sakura (16) and Watanabe Mayu (20). The music video to this single shows all the former centers of the group (most of which have left the group already) running with a bag containing golden microphones. By the end of the video, the microphones are given to Watanabe and Miyawaki, indicating that they will be the new centers.  Here is a short version of the music video posted on their official Youtube channel: 

So, naturally, as a fan since 2010, I LOVED the music video. The main track, Kibouteki Refrain was very reminiscent of 2010ish AKB, with its guitar riffs and classic pop sound. I really liked the main track and listened to it over and over. I think it's a great concert song as well, as it includes a "call and response" of sorts with the "sukisugite, sukisugite" part. The lyrics are nothing particularly special, that is something I will wholeheartedly admit, but I'm a sucker for a song with an upbeat rhythm and this is the reason I would give the title song 4 stars/5. 

Now, I bought Type A so this includes two more songs: Ima, Happy and Juunjun na Slave. How do I feel about Ima, Happy? Well, I didn't particularly like it. I really like one of the centers: Okada Nana, I think she is awesome, but this song? Nah. It's too sweet and syrupy for me. The lyrics are like something a high schooler who is infatuated with a classmate would write. Ok, I get it, it's supposed to be a good-feel song but instead I'm just like, "This music video is embarrassing. What in the world am I listening too?!" This was not my favorite at all. However, I'll give it 2/5 because I feel like I could tolerate listening to it from time to time, and because Nana and Ryoha are in this xD (I am biased, yes I am). 

Finally, we have Juunjun Na Slave, sung by Team A. So, I'll admit, the beat to this song is much more to my liking. I'm not sure I like the music video though. I find it forced and I felt like the dance could have been much better but just wasn't highlighted enough meh. The lyrics are also nothing special at all which really sucks because I hoped they would be better than Ima, Happy. Well, overall this song is "alright" for me and I would give it a 3/5.

I felt like Type A of the single was missing much stronger B sides. To be quite honest, I regret not having bought Type D instead. I find Team 4's song much stronger overall, with its latin flair. So overall, I would the Type A of this single a 3/5. Not the best single, but the title track made the purchase worth it. :)

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