Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time Capsule Reviews: Suki Suki Daisuki

Man oh man oh man, this month's Time Capsule Review poll was close! I think putting it up later didn't help matters; I just didn't have time earlier in the month. For a good portion, four of the five releases under the poll were tied! Then Girls' Generation's Flower Power took the lead, only for Togawa Jun's Suki Suki Daisuki to tie it at the last minute! So then I had to do a Sudden Death tiebreaker which only one person voted on! I think the time limit didn't help; if a tie ever happens again, I swear the Sudden Death round will be longer than twelve hours! Still, we have a winner and that winner is Suki Suki Daisuki!

Let me tell you, I am stoked to review Suki Suki Daisuki. I haven't gotten to talk about Togawa Jun nearly as much as I would like, which is a shame because I am a huge Jun fan. Some of you might be wondering, "Nia, why are you reviewing Togawa Jun? Isn't she not an idol? Have you finally lost that last marble?" It is true; Togawa Jun isn't really technically an idol. However, she way she promoted herself in the early years was vaguely idol-like, if traditional idol groups were insane and sang about insects and getting their periods. I talked about Jun in my unconventional idols editorials. Personally, I see her four solo albums as her "idol" music, with Suki Suki Daisuki, the album of today's Time Capsule Review, being the last of her career as an "idol." I use that word very generously here. With that in mind though, let's step with caution into the frightening world of Togawa Jun and see what terror she served up with Suki Suki Daisuki!

1. Herikutsu Boy

Starting off the album and setting the tone for the rest of Suki Suki Daisuki is the positively cheery Herikutsu Boy. You know those songs that just sound like a product of their time? Herikutsu Boy sounds like it was made in 1984. And yet it also sounds like it took some cues from some of the doo-wop songs of the 60s, especially with the backing vocals. Herikutsu Boy is only two minutes, but it's a really energetic! Compared to Jun's other albums, Herikutsu Boy is definitely one of her most upbeat album openers, not to mention one of her more idol-sounding songs. Herikutsu Boy is fun and upbeat to the point where it's almost silly, but that silliness is endearing! I also like the way Jun sings Herikutsu Boy; her voice sounds totally saccharine but she sings the song with so much energy. Herikutsu Boy is a quick little song, but I love it. It's one of my favorite songs on Suki Suki Daisuki and the over-the-top perkiness matches the tone of the album.

My Rating:

2. Suki Suki Daisuki

Look, this was number one on my list of favorite idol songs. You know this song is my jam. Suki Suki Daisuki is to me, the perfect summation of Togawa Jun's music. The song showcases her over-the-top theatrics, her crazy-varied vocals, and her strange, often disturbing lyrics all with a very catchy chorus. Suki Suki Daisuki starts off deceptively cute, much like a typical idol song. Then the chorus starts and Jun switches her vocals from cute and high-pitched to deep and powerful. And it is awesome. Everything about Suki Suki Daisuki is awesome, but what sells the song is how well Jun delivers the lyrics. Her vocal style is so weird, but it works for her. I also love how Suki Suki Daisuki sounds equal parts cute, flirtatious, seductive, and batshit crazy. The punchline of Suki Suki Daisuki translates to, "Say you love me or I'll kill you!" Deranged and insane? Yes. Crazy and over-the-top? Absolutely. Suki Suki Daisuki isn't for everyone, but I love this song.

My Rating:

3. Angel Baby (Extra Version)

After that three minutes of thirty four seconds of delightful insanity, we slow things down a bit with Angel Baby (Extra Version). Something to note about this song is that it's sung entirely in English! Jun's pretty decent at singing in English, and I can understand just about everything in Angel Baby (Extra Version). Which may be for the worse, because the lyrics to this song are sappy. I think they're supposed to be sappy in a sarcastic way, but with the slow tempo, I think the sarcasm isn't quite as apparent as it needs to be. You know those old 1950s slow dance songs? That's the sound Angel Baby (Extra Version) draws from. Conceptually, I can see that working, but here Angel Baby (Extra Version) sounds very, very slow. And there are parts where Jun's voice gets a little too shrill for my ears. If I'm in the right mood, I enjoy Angel Baby (Extra Version), but usually, I skip this song when it comes up in my shuffle. Luckily, there's better to come!

My Rating:

4. Sayonara wo Oshiete

Anyone heard of Francoise Hardy? If not, Sayonara wo Oshiete is going to sound like a really good Togawa Jun sung. In actuality, Sayonara wo Oshiete is Jun's own Japanese version of Francoise Hardy's French-language Comment te dire adieu? The original French version is pretty cool (and check out MEG's cover of the French original!). Lyrically, Sayonara wo Oshiete is pretty different from Comment te dire adieu? although it still keeps the same general message: bidding farewell to a lover. However, Sayonara wo Oshiete goes a little more supernatural; the singer promises should she die in an accident, she'll come back as a ghost to say goodbye. A very Togawa Jun sentiment, and I like the way she delivers Sayonara wo Oshiete. She uses a deeper voice, which is nice after the high-pitched Angel Baby (Extra Version). Comment te dire adieu? is a seductively melancholic song, and Sayonara wo Oshiete captures that seductive melancholy nicely!

My Rating:

5. Zukei no Koi

Zukei no Koi is a funky little song. It's another song off Suki Suki Daisuki that sounds very much a product of its time. Still, I like Zukei no Koi! It's got a very quirky instrumental, and I love the variety of sounds mixed into the song. The only thing I think could have been done better are the vocals. Jun sounds fine, but... Zukei no Koi isn't quite as energetic as I think it could have been. I mean, this song's by Togawa Jun, so I know she can pull off high levels of energy. She sounds like she was in a completely different place mentally when she was recording this song. I feel like Zukei no Koi would sound better if Jun had sung it the same way she did Herikutsu Boy or Suki Suki Daisuki. The current vocal arrangement is fine enough, but it doesn't match up with the weird energy the instrumental has. I still listen to Zukei no Koi a lot, but listening to it from a more critical standpoint, the song could have been better. It's still a worthwhile listen though!

My Rating:

6. Aurora B

Aurora B is about the closest we get to a ballad on Suki Suki Daisuki. Even then, it's... weird. I'm not quite sure what to categorize Aurora B as. Maybe a rock ballad? Alternative ballad? Alternative rock ballad? Whatever this song is, Aurora B is a very clear change in tone. Coming right after the funky, upbeat, Zukei no Koi, Aurora B definitely has a more melancholic sound. I wish I could find an English translation of Aurora B online, because I'll bet the lyrics would explain a little better what sort of tone the song is going for. There are parts where Jun is ad-libbing, and it sounds like she's crying. In song. Does that makes sense or have I lost everyone? I've never been able to figure out if I like Jun's vocal choices in Aurora B. She sounds a little sappy at times, but then I also like the instrumental a lot along with the melody. Aurora B's not my favorite song on Suki Suki Daisuki, but I think it's an interesting song nonetheless.

My Rating:

7. Koi no Corrida

Picking up the speed after Aurora B is Koi no Corrida which sounds like something out of an opera. Not a serious opera, something like What's Opera, Doc? Koi no Corrida gives Jun a chance to sing more operatically than on previous tracks, again showing how crazy-flexible her vocal styles are. I love hearing Jun sing in opera-style; the style is perfectly over-dramatic for her. And that's how Koi no Corrida. This song is completely over-the-top, with a full-blown orchestra and backing chorus accompanying Jun's vocals. I think it's fun how Koi no Corrida is such a short song; normally operatic songs are long and drawn out, but this one's quick and snappy. I wouldn't have minded Koi no Corrida being maybe a minute longer, just to hear more of that classical-sounding instrumental. Koi no Corrida is the farthest the album gets from pop, and while it may seem like a weird foray, I think it's a refreshing change of pace! Besides, we have one more song to go...

My Rating:

8. Osozaki Girl (Extra Version)

After the operatic Koi no Corrida, we veer back into shiny happy pop territory with a strange twist! Osozaki Girl (Extra Version) is infectiously catchy; repeating the title fifty times accomplishes that! Translating to "Late Blooming Girl" Osozaki Girl is exactly what you think it's about: sex! Or at least getting into a relationship leading to sex for the first time. Osozaki Girl is actually kind of an adorable song. Jun sings it very sweetly, and most of the song sounds like a happy little pop song. Until the middle verse where she goes absolutely crazy. I'm exaggerating, she doesn't go completely crazy. Maybe only 60% crazy. After two minutes of singing in her cute voice, Jun starts singing in an almost guttural voice. It's weird and comes completely out of nowhere, but delightfully weird. Ending on the same general tone as Herikutsu Boy, Osozaki Girl (Extra Version) is a fitting end to Suki Suki Daisuki: equal parts affectionate, and equal parts crazy.

My Rating:

The Verdict

What I love collectively about Jun's solo albums is that each one has a very distinctive genre it borrows from. Tamahime-sama was alternative, Chojiku Korodasutan Ryokoki was electronic, and Kyokuto Ian Shoka was enka. As Jun's last full-length solo album, Suki Suki Daisuki is by far her most pop-sounding one. Which is not a bad thing. In fact, it's kind of amazing. Because Suki Suki Daisuki is pop as handled by Togawa Jun. Suki Suki Daisuki is eight tracks of Togawa Jun playing with pop from every angle imaginable: the saccharine love songs, the catchy, repetitive idol songs, the seductive, mature songs, with the one common thread tying everything being her melodramatic vocals. With all these songs is Jun's biting, sadistic lyrics, ranging from the murderous and deranged Suki Suki Daisuki to the overly sweet Angel Baby (Extra Version). I wish I could find translations to all the songs on Suki Suki Daisuki, because the lyrics I can find are fantastic. Jun's lyrics are insane and weird, but she has a very clear way of expressing herself, as showcased in Suki Suki Daisuki. Combined with her dramatic vocal style, Suki Suki Daisuki delivers a very distinctive collection of songs.

That distinctiveness is what keeps even the weakest tracks on Suki Suki Daisuki from being a failure. However, I will say that I like Suki Suki Daisuki as an entire album than for each individual track. Going through each track on Suki Suki Daisuki, this isn't the strongest Togawa Jun album. Songs like Angel Baby (Extra Version), Zukei no Koi, and Aurora B could be better, and considering this album is only eight tracks, there isn't room for songs of poorer quality. In spite of the lower quality, even those songs still have enough appeal for me to enjoy Suki Suki Daisuki. The best tracks off Suki Suki Daisuki are Herikutsu Boy, Sayonara wo Oshiete, Koi no Corrida, Osozaki Girl (Extra Version), and of course, the titular Suki Suki Daisuki. Those tracks are the highlight of Suki Suki Daisuki. As a whole though, this is one of my favorite idol albums, even technically it may not be an idol album. If you like groups like BiS or Bellring Shoujo Heart, I can't recommend Suki Suki Daisuki enough. And Togawa Jun's work in general.

Even with a few minor pitfalls, Suki Suki Daisuki warrants four and half apples from me. Tamahime-sama is still my favorite solo album of hers, but Suki Suki Daisuki is my second favorite. This album is about the closest to idol pop Jun got, and even then, it's her own warped take on idol pop with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, melodramatic vocals, and a memorable collection of songs. Suki Suki Daisuki is a relatively quick listen but a worthwhile one. So off you go! Listen to it!


  1. omg another article about Jun! yaaas

    I really liked your insights on every song and I basically agree with everything, even the highlight songs which are also my favs. I personally think SSD is too eclectic for my taste, but somehow manages to be consistent along the way, probably due to how short it is. Despite the deliberate cheese the poppiest songs are super catchy and with the variety on idol production nowadays I kind of wish more legit idol groups attempted SSD or even Ozozaki Girl. So far only BiSKaidan has dared, and their cover version was great, we need more of this! to be fair, Jun's songs are very difficult to pull off due to her vocal acrobatics, but there are ways to get around those.

    There aren't nearly enough translations of her work as you said. I feel like so many references and social commentary are lost without knowing the meaning of the lyrics, specially on her second album and Guernica. That "memory and gender in the music of Jun Togawa" essay, that I'm sure you've read, is an example of what I'm saying. Her works can be analyzed in lots of different ways. About the lyrics of Aurora B, the song is also a cover, and this video has the lyrics but I don't know if Jun translated them in her version or not.

    And speaking of covers, there's another version of Sayonara no Oshiete (it's also in her Tokyo Barbarism album) what do you think of it? it's interesting hearing the differences between this and the album version. That was all, thank you so much for your post, and your other reviews. I keep looking forward to them.

    1. Thank you! I have been dying for another idol group to cover Suki Suki Daisuki. I'm not big on noise, so the BiS Kaidan version is... not my cup of tea. To put it nicely. You're right about the vocals; they're extremely challenging, especially for idols who probably don't have a lot of vocal training... Still, I'd love to see an idol group cover Suki Suki Daisuki. Or Oomori Seiko. I think Oomori Seiko would rock a cover of Suki Suki Daisuki!

      I have read "Memory and Gender in the Music of Jun Togawa!" Such a great essay. I wish there were more works that went deeper into her music and themes. I'd write one myself, but I don't have the sources along with the language barrier. There's such a contrast between Jun's cover of Aurora B and the original. I like how Jun's vocal style comes through on her version! It's a very cool cover!

      Agh, the link for Sayonara wo Oshiete is dead! I'll half to look around for the Yapoos version. Thanks for commenting (and sorry for replying back so late).