Friday, November 29, 2013

Idols and Artists (and Which Ones Are My Favorites)

You know... idols are really manufactured.

Pretty startling revelation, right? I mean, wow, I bet you guys didn't know the Wonderland covered such unique, thought-provoking ideas! Maybe my next insight will be that humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide! Enough of being Captain Obvious, I think everyone over the age of ten who follows idols know that they are manufactured. They are a product tailored and altered to cater to a specific audience and make lots and lots of money. Of course, that doesn't mean idols can't be creative. Groups like BiS and Momoiro Clover Z show just how far you can stretch the "idol" image. At the end of the day though, both are just as manufactured as AKB48. However, idols themselves have contributed to the creative process that goes into producing an idol's image and music. Idols like Sashihara Rino and Kitahara Rie have dabbled in the production departments of idols, and there are even a few idol groups (like Tokyo Girls' Style and BiS) who have written lyrics to their music.

But at the end of the day an idol is not an artist. No matter how good their music, how interesting their music videos, an idol does not have the same creative freedom an artist does. Unlike an artist, an idol is created usually by a company with a certain idea or gimmick, whereas an artist creates their own image and writes their own music. An artist attracts an audience; an idol is made for an audience. I could go on all day about the differences between idols and artists, but that is a subject I wish not to delve deeply into. All I'm trying to say is idols are manufactured and despite this knowledge, I still love listening to them. I think choosing not to listen to a group or a singer because they don't write or produce their own music is a silly reason not to follow them. In my opinion, as long as the music is good I don't care if a group of elves wrote it. I know not everyone shares that sentiment, and that's completely okay, but I long ago got over the fact that idols are manufactured. That doesn't hinder my love for idol music one bit.

Besides, idol music is what led me into J-pop in general. I started with Perfume, moved into idol music, and finally branched outward to J-pop artists who aren't idols. Since then, I've really been trying to explore all the facets of the mainstream J-pop industry. I know that the market is a little oversaturated with idols right now, but I've still found some really cool artists that I like. What I really love about J-pop is that it seems very... diverse. Like yeah, there's mainstream pop, but then you've got rock, indie, Shibuya-kei, technopop, dance, a variety of different genres that do pretty well. I'm not trying to say the J-pop industry is better than other nation's music industries; it's just different. And that's why J-pop has always appealed to me. Anyways, over the past few years, I've started to get into J-pop artists that aren't idols. I've noticed that I listen to a lot of female J-pop artists... in fact, that's mostly what I listen to in J-pop. It's kind of weird because my English-language music is much more balanced in gender. I mean, I listen to Yellow Magic Orchestra and a little bit of Luna Sea and Flow, but other than that, I can't think of any other male J-pop artists I listen to, not actively at least.

Even then, all my favorite J-pop artists are female, save for one. I guess because I like to listen to music I can sing along to? Even then, that doesn't make sense as I can't sing for shit in Japanese. I really can't explain it; maybe it's just a subconscious bias toward female J-pop artists? That being said, I just wanted to drop a few of my favorite non-idol artists in J-pop into the Wonderland! I know, I know, it's not what I usually do; just relax and your regular programming will return shortly! I don't have a lot of J-pop artists I really like yet, but the handful I do listen to, I really listen to. These are artists where I have at least ten, sometimes twenty songs on my iPod by them. But for this, I just listed three songs I like from each of them under this post. Unfortunately, I was only restricted to the music videos on so I wasn't able to include all my favorite songs... Still, here are my favorite artists!

...I'd have sparkles or fanfare or something here if this wasn't a written post... uh... APPLAUSE! TO THE LIST!

Oomori Seiko

I will say Oomori Seiko took some time to grow on me. Frankly when I first heard her voice, I couldn't stand it. She sounded like she was screaming/wailing the lyrics, how else was I supposed to react!? But unlike some singers, I think Oomori Seiko's singing style is intentional. As someone who likes nice, on-key, clear vocals, this has always been a style that's hard for me to get used to. However, through what may be desensitization, it can grow on me, if the music is strong enough. For Oomori Seiko, her music is! Her debut album, Mahou Ga Tsukaenai Nara Shinitai, is one of those albums that needs more than one listen for me to form a proper opinion of it. Oomori Seiko's debut album very slowly grew on me with each listen, and as of now, it's one of my favorite albums of 2013. Part of Seiko's appeal for me is that she's an indie artist, one of my favorite genres of music in general. She just has a very nice blend of sweet, quirky songs combined with a distinct, if rather odd voice to go with them. What I also like about Oomori Seiko is that she's a huge fan of idols, including Hello! Project. So much that her upcoming second album features a cover of a Tanpopo song! I always find it really cool when artists are into other artists, especially idols. It makes them... relatable in a weird kind of way? Needless to say, I am looking very much forward to Zettai Shoujo, which actually releases in a couple weeks! The album cover looks cool (not quite as cool as Seiko's homage to Shiina Ringo cover though) so I'm hoping the music in it is equally cool!

Aira Mitsuki

Despite the fact that Aira Mitsuki just went on hiatus, I still decided she deserved a spot on the list! It saddens me deeply that Aira Mitsuki has gone on hiatus, and I hope she doesn't go on the Saori@destiny path of retirement. She's just such a cool artist; surely she's still got a few more songs and albums left in her! Yeah, I discovered Aira Mitsuki around the same time as Saori@destiny. Much to my chagrin, Saori@destiny had already retired; luckily Mitsuki was releasing one more album before her hiatus! That was I'll Be Back, and hopefully she will be back. I really love Aira Mitsuki's image and how she's billed as "Technopop Icon Aira Mitsuki." The title fits well for her. There's something very futuristic about her music, and not just because it's technopop. Like I could legitimately see this being played in the future; or a sci-fi version of the future. Maybe Star Trek? Hell, if Kyarypamyupamyu can play in Star Trek, Aira Mitsuki fits perfectly! Visually she always has really striking imagery, from the Barbie doll look of Plastic to the mystical flying train on I'll Be Back. I think part of why I really like Aira Mitsuki is based on how sheer awesome her single and album imagery are. Of course, her music is equally awesome. I especially love the lyrics to her songs; even in the translations, the wording and concepts are so interesting and introspective. Aira Mitsuki's songs cover so many ideas from emotion to space travel to technology to so many other well-explored ideas. I really do hope she will be back; I need more of her interesting music!

Recommended Songs
- Galaxy Boy
- Sayonara Technopolis
- Plastic Doll


She's probably the youngest artist on the list, being only nineteen years old. Technically, she's young enough to be an idol! However, Hanae is a singer-songwriter, currently with only six singles under her belt since her debut in 2011. Despite the fact that she hasn't released much, the songs she has graced the world with are delightful. I first discovered Hanae quite by accident, when I more-or-less found her PV for Boyz & Girlz. I really loved the breezy, whimsical nature of the song and the PV was really cute. Unfortunately, I can't find a lot of information about Hanae, just her releases. Even her Generasia page isn't regularly updated. It's a shame because she's released some really good music. Her music actually reminds me a lot of Kimbra's, but maybe a little more raw. What I really love about Hanae's music is that each song has this very quirky, slightly offbeat sound still nested in pop. She has a very high-pitched, smooth voice that really gives a lot of life to her music. Not to mention her music videos are absolutely adorable. A little a weird at times, but still really cute. If Kyarypamyupamyu toned her PVs down, they'd look like Hanae's. I find Hanae to be very charming and charismatic, with cute pop music and a light and breezy sound. My only complaint about Hanae is that she's kind of obscure, and accessing a lot of her content can be difficult. Still, if you can find her material, I'd check her out! She's releasing her first album, Jikkai Quiz, on Wednesday, and I can gladly say I am looking forward to it!

Recommended Songs
Kamisama Hajimemashita
- Boyz & Girlz
- Koi wa Shinsei Roma


I'm a fan of Perfume and Kyarypamyupamyu, of course I'm a fan of Capsule! Or should I say CAPSULE? After all, that is technically how their name is spelled now. Eh, typing in all caps makes me feel like I'm yelling at my readers so Capsule it is! Funny enough, I was a fan of Perfume before becoming a fan of Capsule. Even now, I'm still not as huge a fan of Capsule as Perfume; then again, it is Perfume... I am very slowly getting into Capsule, but I'm finding that the farther back I go, the more of their stuff I'm liking. What I like about Capsule is how much they've changed and evolved since their early days. There's so many different styles of music their discography encompasses. It's a little underwhelming trying to browse through all of it! But I am slowly wading my way through both the old and new of Capsule and absorbing all their different sounds. As much as I love Perfume, I think Capsule is where Nakata's musical talents really shine. After all, Capsule is like his pet project where he can experiment in whatever styles he wants. With Perfume, he's restricted more to their general sound. Listening to Capsule made me realize just how far his composition abilities extend. He's written some really cool stuff in Capsule, and the voice of Koshijima Toshiko just helps enhance his music. Yeah, I really love Toshiko's voice; it's so clear and works well with Nakata's music. One of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of Control is because of the lack of Toshiko. Still, Capsule is such a cool group, and definitely one to check out if you want to hear the more experiment side of Nakata's music.

Recommended Songs
- Retro Memory
- Sugarless Girl
- World of Fantasy


What I really love about Meg is that she's virtually un-Google-able, unless you use her real name! I kid, but seriously trying to find any of her music is a pain in the butt. But it's worth it because her music is freaking awesome. Even better, she's got a decade of it to peruse through! Since 2003, Meg has released eight albums and twenty-one singles her first being Kasa to Shizuku and her latest being Kiss or Bite + Save. While today she releases more techno music, her early work has a lot of musical variety ranging from house to groovy funk. Check out her debut album, Room Girl, to see what I mean! However, I didn't find her earlier work until later; I was first introduced to Meg through her work with Nakata. Big surprise there, huh? The first song I heard by Meg was Lies, and that was what immediately hooked me to her music. I love Lies, it's one of my favorite techno songs. From there, I found the rest of her Nakata-era music and then after that, I starting look at her pre and post-Nakata music! What really makes Meg stand out is definitely her voice. I can't really describe it words... it's just one of those voices you know when you hear it. Even in her techno songs you can still hear her voice through all the vocal editing. I also think it's really cool she writes all her songs; she's penned some really great lyrics that give a layer of genuineness to her songs. As a techno artist, her ever-changing visual and musical style makes her one of my favorites. What else can I say other than I'm totally hyped for the release of Continue?

Recommended Songs
- Groove Tube
- Precious
- Trap

Shiina Ringo

Shiina Ringo is one of the more recent artists I've discovered but my god, do I wish I'd discovered her sooner. You know those artists you just feel really cool listening to? Like if a friend discovered you listen to that artist, you'd be completely okay with it because that artist is so cool? Shiina Ringo exhibits a level of coolness that I will probably never reach. To try and describe Shiina Ringo's musical style is like trying to describe Nikola Tesla's inventions: generalization just won't do. Shiina Ringo has a myriad of styles she's dabbled in from jazz to rock to enka, you name it, she's probably dabbled in it. And it. Is. Awesome. I can't properly put into words my reaction on hearing Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana for the first time. I think I might have been crying tears of joy. It was three in the morning so details are a little fuzzy. And Muzai Moratorium, Shouso Strip, and Sanmon Gossip are all divine. But my favorite always switches back and forth between Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana and Shouso Strip. How am I supposed to pick though? Musically, Shiina Ringo is such a wild card; I never know what she's gonna release next. One day she'll collaborate with Nakata Yasutaka, the next day she'll record a soundtrack for a movie! All I know is that I can usually assume that whatever she does release will be some degree of awesome. I also love her nasally voice; it sort of grew on me the same way Oomori Seiko's did, although her bombastic music probably helped. I still need to listen to her music with Tokyo Jihen, although I'm certain it's just as awesome as her solo work!

Recommended Songs
- Honnou
- Meisai
- Tsugou no ii Karada

Mizuki Nana

I figured I ought to save the first for last... if that makes sense. Mizuki Nana was the first J-pop artist I ever started listening to that wasn't an idol group. Most of the artists on this list I started listening to when I was around fifteen or sixteen. I started listening to Mizuki Nana when I was thirteen. Thirteen. The only other J-pop act I listened to before that was Perfume. The largest number of songs by one artist in my iTunes library is also Mizuki Nana: I have eighty-six of her songs on my iPod. To say I adore this artist is a mass understatement. Mizuki Nana is not only my favorite J-pop singer, she is one of my favorite singers in general. I waxed poetic about her voice in my editorial about lip-syncing and for good reason; this woman's voice is mind-blowing. Before watching her concerts on Youtube, I didn't even know it was possible to sound so clear and so strong, but she does. She's one of the most consistent performers I've seen, and she has such a wonderful range and she's so expressive and I think Mizuki Nana is the reason I'm so nitpicky about vocals in idol music. It's not your fault, Sayashi Riho, it's only because of Mizuki Nana I constantly pick at your strained vocals. Not only does Mizuki Nana have a great voice, she has equally great songs that show how great her voice can be. She can sound cute, serious, epic, sweet, sad, and her songs always match the tone she's trying to convey. Her songs often feature epic orchestras or adorable pop jingles, but most of the time Mizuki Nana's songs work perfectly.

Recommended Songs
- Heaven Knows
- Astrogation
- Synchrogazer

So, any of you guys have a few favorite non-idol artists? Because if you guys like any on this list we should totally talk about them. Just saying.


  1. My favorite j pop artists: Nishino Kana, miwa, Yui, Ayumi Hamasaki, Lisa, Ayaka... It can go on. Similar to you, I don't adore male artists.

    1. Ooh, I like Ayaka! Or what I've heard of her; I've only listened to two or three of her songs. Still, she's on my list to check out! I've heard of a few of those other artists too...

  2. Well, it's kinda REALLY hard for me to say some non-idol artists... But I really like DREAMS COME TRUE(it's a awesome group,hear it!), Anri(she made the actual J-Pop face, knew that?), Kumi Koda... I'm starting to hear auntie Hamasaki by now as well.

    1. I have heard of Dreams Come True! I just haven't listened to any of their music; I'll have to check them out sometime! I've definitely heard of Koda Kumi, even listened to one or two of her songs. She has a very... bold image. I think it's interesting that she started out auditioning for Morning Musume!

  3. Superfly, Namie Amuro, Shishido Kavka, and E-Girls stand out as some good non-idol pop (and pop/rock) artists.

    The misandry continues.

    1. I've heard of three of four of those artists! Haven't heard of Shishido Kavka but her name is really interesting... I might check her out just because of that...

      It may be misandry... or it may be GIRL POWER! YEAH!

  4. My first non-idol artist that I listened to and one of the artist that got me in to jpop, and still one of my favourite is Utada Hikaru.

    I still listen to her songs every now and then and I still get chills listening to them, especially the song Final Distance

    sad that she'll probably never come back to the music industry though :( ...hopefully she does though lol

    1. I've heard of Utada Hikaru! She did the songs for Kingdom Hearts, right? I haven't played the games but I think she does...

      I know she's a really highly-regarded artist in Japan, but I just haven't gotten around to listening to her. I really should though! I'll definitely check out Final Distance when it's not two in the morning and I'm actually awake!

      I did know she was on hiatus. Pity since she's such a talented artist. Still, it's her life, and she did have a long, successful career.

    2. Yea she did two songs for kingdom hearts, hikari and passion, both awesome songs as well

      and yes, you should listen to her songs they're good! well at least to me they are ahaha

    3. I listened to Final Distance! It's a really pretty song and I LOVE her voice. So deep and resonant, but really fragile and delicate at the same time. I'll definitely have to look more into her music!

  5. There's definitely something to Mizuki Nana's voice that I quite like. She has a lot of stuff to check out and for reasons even I don't understand I really like browsing through new stuff when I'm overtired at 4am, so you can guess what I'll be doing next time I'm pulling one of those all-nighters. Thanks for sharing these suggestions, Nia.

    I find the voice of Yuki in Bennie K to be really terrific. I'm not a fan of all their songs, but Dreamland and Sunrise are pure melodic magic.

    1. Oh god, I love her voice so much. I could probably write a whole post about her voice, but that would be kind of creepy. Personally, I prefer Nana's later music; she has some great early songs but a lot of pre-2005 material ranges from good to... odd.

      I have not heard Bennie K but the names sounds interesting! I'll have to give the two songs you mentioned a listen! Thanks for the name drop!

    2. It took two 4am's to arrive at 35. The number of Mizuki Nana songs that have migrated to my wishlist and I hope soon to make welcome into my music collection. Mizuki has a great voice and I love how it skirts the border of "squinky" without ever trespassing on the annoying side. I could have bagged even more songs but had a hard time with over-composed arrangements and weaker production on certain albums, which I guess is to be expected over such a large body of work. Damned if she isn't prolific!

      I did a bit of reading. She does a ton of voice acting as well, so I'm guessing she's gotta be the hardest working person in Japanese show business!

      Can't thank you enough for this tip, Nia!

    3. Nice! She's got a pretty big discography so listening to everything is quite the challenge. Nana's voice is definitely one of her strongest points and usually what pulls me through some of her weaker songs. But I'm glad to know you've found a few songs of hers you like!

      Yeah, I probably should have mentioned she's a seiyuu. I don't watch a lot of anime, but I've seen two or three things she's voiced. She's quite prolific as a seiyuu and as a performer!