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Dec 31 2014

Five J-Pop Picks for 2014: Idols, Mannequins and Kyary gets Sentimental

2014 Year-End picks
by DJ Greg Hignight

NekoPOP-Kyary-Yumeno-Hajima-RingRing-A

Here’s a look at what I enjoyed in 2014. It’s by no means a “best of” list. There was so much great music from Japan (and around the world). With that in mind, here’s a few of my choices for what made this year awesome in J-Pop!

I’ll begin with my favorite idol picks for 2014. First up is HKT48’s “Idol no Ouja”. The Hakata, Fukuoka branch of the 48G empire shined this year with a series of bubbly, high energy singles including this number featuring the group’s heavy hitters like Meru Tashima, Rino Sashihara, and Nako & Miku. It’s essentially their “throwdown” track declaring Team H’s guts and idol spirit. It’s been a somewhat lackluster year for the other 48G groups, but for HKT48, it was stellar.

My second idol pick is AKB48 Future Girls’ “Seikaku ga Warui Onna Noko” (“Girl with a Bad Personality”). This fun and witty song is driven by a rock arrangement, accompanying a vivid and lively music video. The Future Girls subunit features the members ranked between #49 and #64 in the general election, including Ichikawa Miori, Oba Mina. Jonishi Kei and Okada Nana.

Next up, the collaboration between edgy electronic rap unit Charisma.com and TEMPURA KIDZ (who began as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s backup dancers). “Miira Kiraa” (“Mummy Killer”) is a bombastic, clever and catchy song, and the video is amazing. Charisma.com was formed in 2011 by MC Itsuka and DJ Gonchi. Their entry into the J-Pop scene has really stirred things up, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Here’s probably the most bittersweet MV of the year, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s graduation-themed “Yume no Hajima Ring Ring” (“The Beginning of a Ring-Dream”). Kyary’s emotional meditation on packing up and moving on (crafted more like a Perfume cut from mutual producer Yasutaka Nakata) showed that even her pop magic must eventually change and evolve. A reflection of the J-Pop and Harajuku fashion fandom itself maturing, it was a reminder that all things become a part of the past, but that we can also look forward to what the future brings. Of everything she’s released, it’s my personal favorite.

Among the great albums released this year, nothing was perhaps as unique or surprising as the debut of FEMM (Far East Mention Mannequins) with “FEMM-Isation”. The genre-breaking J-Pop duo released fourteen MVs as part of their aggressive launch, including my pick for song of the year, the sly and clever “Fxxk Boyz Get Money”. This electrohop anthem is a serious jam, and although the title is provocative, its all about Girl Power.