2010 had many ups and downs in music. There were several interesting collaborations, and a couple shake-ups in established groups and bands. While old school rockers like Luna Sea and Kuroyume reunited, other bands went on hiatus (D’espairsRay) or disbanded without warning (Kagrra,). I didn’t notice many noteworthy debuts, and there weren’t a lot of inspiring visuals. In fact, I found more interesting outfits and videos with American singers like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Maybe J-pop/J-rock artists should get inspiration from them. Then again, they should find their own unique looks (like kanonxkanon)
Coolest outfits – “Candela Requiem” kanon x kanon
We were all expecting the duo to be decked in Lolita/ouji frills so their kimonos were a pleasant surprise. Kanon Wakeshima looks like she came out of a Miyazaki film while An Cafe’s bassist manages to make headphones and an iPad suitable accessories for an oni.
Best song performed live – “Ame ni Utaeba” by Miyavi at House of Blues Dallas
I wasn’t a fan of the original single, but the bluesy version he played at his Dallas concert had me, and everybody else, in thrall. Stripped down and soulful, it showcased the mature, sexy side of Miyavi.
Song that brings tears to your eyes – “Hanamizuki” by Yui Aragaki
Yui Aragaki’s version of the 2004 hit is quiet but honest and pure like a child’s view of the world. Although the song’s association with the movie it inspired may be the trigger for my tears, I become a big sap even from reading the lyrics, “May the dreams you hold/ The dreams that shine like rosen gold/ Last forever.”
Song you can’t get out of your head – “Heavy Rotation” by AKB48
Whether you speak English or Japanese, “Heavy Rotation” is simple enough for you sing along. The guitars provide a catchy hook, and the unison of singers leaves “I want you, I need you, I love you” echoing in your head.
Best single – “Tamashii Revolution” by Superfly
Superfly is a small Japanese girl with a huge voice. When combined with funky trumpets and rock ‘n’ rolls guitars, it delivers a powerful World Cup anthem. This song is pure soul and an example why Superfly is a breath of fresh air in the J-pop/J-rock world.
Best album – Red Moon by Kalafina
Red Moon takes us around the world with the sounds of the sitar and shakuhachi, but it still has Kalafina’s trademark operatic vocals and synthpop beats. At the same time, it shows that Kalafina is capable of restraint and less epic numbers.
Best PV – “Candela Requiem” by Kanon x Kanon
Coming to us in “2.5-D”, Kanon Wakeshima and kanon of An Café bring us back to old Japan with a burst of color. The bonsai- and PSP-headed beings may seem bizarre, but they’re not too far from the monsters of Japanese folklore, making the PV a nice tribute to the new and old.
Most WTF PV – “Real Love 2010” by Breakerz
This PV, which contains Daigo in bondage gear and an army of Nazi dominatrices, left me with a lot of questions: does he know he’s doing the Nazi salute? Is he evoking Madonna when he’s lapping up milk like a cat? Why the bandcest? The world may never know.
Biggest disappointment – ALSDEAD’s canceled SoniCon appearance
Reeling from D’espairsRay’s cancellation, Dallas visual kei fans consoled themselves with the prospect of seeing ALSDEAD again. Until they also canceled. On top of being given zero explanation, those who bought passes specifically to see the band were denied refunds. Major bummer.
MVP – Junsu, Yuchun, and Jejung (Tohoshinki/JYJ)
This trio deserves mad props for standing up to their record label. They didn’t let suspension of activities in Japan or U.S. visa issues get them down, and they sure as hell didn’t need to perform for free. This was all on top of developing their acting careers!
Most noteworthy debut – Jin Akanishi
Although Jin Akanishi has yet to release a debut single, his solo career is already in full swing. He has proven he can hold his own, having already written songs in both Japanese and English and toured both sides of the Pacific.
Artist of the year – AKB48
AKB48 has proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with. They performed at AnimeExpo, received the Guinness World Record for “pop group with the greatest number of members”, and beat out Arashi in Oricon Yearly Ranking with “Beginner”, which also made them the female artist with the most consecutive #1 singles. 2010 also showcased their more mature side, as they appeared in lingerie in the “Heavy Rotation” PV and vinyl miniskirts in the “Beginner” PV.
I would like to conclude with a list of artists who will be missed in 2011:
- Piyo – vocalist of Gakido
- Nujabes – DJ and producer, composed music for Samurai Champloo
- Shunsuke – bassist of ElDorado and bis
- K-E-I – drummer of Pepin
- Daisuke – vocalist of Kagerou and the studs
- bice – J-pop singer, collaborated with Sugizo on “Rest in Peace & Fly Away”
- Zill – bassist of Moran)
- Taku – vocalist of Heisei Ishin
Many more artists have also had to go on hiatus or retire because of illness and car accidents so please take care of yourself in the new year.