It’s that time of the year again, and the first of this decade! This particular year though, due to personal circumstances, I have reduced my picks from 10 to 5. Mostly because I wasn’t as keen as year’s prior about tracking releases. As always there’s no ranking, just some nifty tracks and little blurbs about what made it stick out to me.
As always, this isn’t a ‘best’ list, just songs from the past year that I want to share with you. Here’s hoping to find, or perhaps re-discover some music from this past year. Without further ado, my Top 5 Picks for Japanese Female artists in 2020!
別世界 (Bessekai) – E-Girls
I know, I know; I’ve mentioned E-Girls and this particular song twice prior this year. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise in the slightest that they made it onto this list. As I’ve said a million times, I’m still devastated about their upcoming disbandment. However, now’s not the time for that.
This song is going to age like wine, seriously. The instrumentation is just right; funky, with a bounce to it, but not overbearing on the ear. Karen, Reina, and Yuzuna finally struck that golden balance between the three of them vocally, especially with the layered sections in the chorus. The lines of “Why don’t you shout? Sing it Out! 時代はかわった！Ｗe have just been looking forward (2x)”, are just the embodiment of E-Girls set out to do with this track and their final group activities. It would also be remiss not to mention how absolutely stunning the visuals for this MV are; the seasonal sets, the individual member highlights, the choreography. It came out in January, but this song and MV is the best of 2020, hands down.
Afterglow – ヤなことそっとミュート (Yanakoto Sotto Mute)
YanaMute, is a group that always tends to chill in my reoccurring background music, both metaphorically and physically. I had a bit of a heartbreak as one of the original members, Rena, graduated last year. This was the first track without her, but with new member Tsukasa on the track. As another fun fact, this is their major debut single after signing with Universal Music Japan.
Being honest, I wasn’t sure what I expected with this track as I tend to always be vaguely aware of Yanamute, but I don’t follow them as closely as I do with other groups. I was a bit surprised by how heavy the guitar was in this track, as I tend to associate Yanamute with much lighter tracks in line with the initial opening. I’m not mad at it’s inclusion since it also has an orchestral backing track kicking in there, and backs off enough to let the girl’s vocals shine. While hardcore fans might shun me for this; I think Tsukasa blends in perfectly well with the unit, vocally and visually. Without focusing and comparing tracks, I didn’t notice any major changes in the group’s dynamic. Nadeshiko and Mari still mostly carried the track, and well I didn’t mind that in the slightest since Nadeshiko is my oshi of the group after all. They’ve transitioned reasonable well in my opinion, and I’m hoping to dive into their more recent release “Filament” soon enough!
Drink Up – Los An Jewels
Los An Jewels is not the group I would have picked for me to unofficially fixate on this year. Yet, since the beginning these girls have capture my attention, especially since they had a pretty insane release schedule early this year. Unfortunately, the group has been shaken up as two of the original trio left the project when they officially got signed to Tapestok Records. The group is now a duo with members Benedict, and Fizzney.
Still, the tunes they’ve released are so catchy, in small doses. I tend not to like the over-produced trap-style instrumentations but the group, but this unit makes it work. It’s also nice how they use a bit of autotune to smooth their rap-like delivery the way it is. It’s oddly pleasing to my ear, and makes for a nice pick me up tune once in awhile. I’m curious where the duo will go in 2021, so I’ll be keeping my ears open for more news and music.
午前0時のシンパシー (Midnight Sympathy) – Negicco
Neggico is again, not a group I would have picked for me to hyper fixate on this year. I actually hadn’t even heard much of them aside from a stray single or two that popped up in chika idol playlists. I don’t know much about the trio other then this track, and that two of three members released solo work this year. One of those members having their solo release be City-Pop, which I am excited about. But my lack of background on the group didn’t stop me from absolutely bopping to this track since the day I heard it.
This is really a track that I feel like is hit or miss with any particular listener. I want to say this is a digitalized version of city pop in a sense, but that’s probably my own interpretation rather then being accurate. This song really knows how to embody an idea, midnight sympathy. There’s a lot of piano elements, but that digital snare isn’t too far from the pulse of the track. It’s an oddly appealing track. What really stitches it all together though is the girl’s vocals. I typically don’t like the higher ranges of vocals, as it comes off as grating, but Neggico is special. They have the control and sense when and where to utilize their range, especially when adding in backing vocals like around 1:55. The misty quality of the piano throughout the track, just really seals the deal. It’s been only once and that’s all I’ve needed to play this track at midnight while driving home.
LOVE & SOLDIER – Ringo Musume (りんご娘）
Now I have a lot of prefectural pride for someone who isn’t a native to the area. Given the suggested lockdowns in Japan, I’ve spent a lot more time around various locations of Aomori then prior years. Part of this hometown pride, Ringo Musume the Aomori prefectural idol group. I’ve been trying, and failing to see these ladies. I came into unofficial contact with them at Tower Records where they were holding a limited event that I had failed to register for. Life is cruel. I’ll try again some other time.
“LOVE & SOLIDER” is the lead track of their 20th Anniversary album “Cool & Country” released in September. You read that right folks, bow down to the queens of longevity. Anyway, I was not expected a very disco themed track from the group. From the slinky bass, the digital vocals as the chorus, and that very danceable quality theme i was hooked. That chorus of “I just solider, Iya Iya Iya oh” while grammatically debatable is way too catchy to deny. On top of it all, the MV is really attractive with the women in mature red cocktail dresses, or Nebuta festival attire that’s just the right mix of sexy and fun. You bet it’s been looping in my pick-me up playlists.
With all that said and done, I’m calling this Top 5 a wrap! Be sure to check out my follow ups for other categories as they come out! Let me know your thoughts below on the artists and songs I missed in the comments below!