B'z "C'mon" Review

Written by Zer0

Alright, B'z, you've been my buddies ever since I got into j-music. You're one of my favorite bands ever - hell, one of Japan's favorite bands ever. Your albums over the last decade, however, have alternated between "eh, kinda crap" and "meh, pretty good I guess." So how have the boys fared on this outing? Let's find out!

 

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GK's Top 5 Albums of 2010 [so far]

While this first half of 2010 doesn't seem to be as "quality" as the first half of 2009, there still have been a handful of really good albums that you should take notice of. We offer this list to those who do not have the time to go through the copious amount of Japanese releases each year. We highlight what we believe to be the best based on our individual tastes. Hope you all enjoy it!
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It's Your Money, Not Theirs: A Public Service Announcement

Written by: Zer0

Every three or four months, the Japanese record labels have their "seasonal" release - their Spring love song, their upbeat Summer party song, their nostalgic Autumn mid-tempo number, and the essential Winter ballad. They all seem to come out at once, and many record labels release multiple versions of singles and albums, often with different artwork, different tracklists, and different first-press bonus extras. This leads to a rash of complaints. They're pretty predictable. They all go something like this:

"The record company is sucking us dry!"
"So expensive... they're stealing my money!"
"mean money-grubbing record label!! I'M GONNA GO BROKE!"
"The record execs are awful, releasing all these versions of singles!!"
"A concert DVD and a new single IN THE SAME DAY!? So EVIL!!"

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Ayumi Hamasaki Used To Be Remixed Like What!

Written by Zer0

"Honestly, when my producer Max Matsuura talked about remixes, there was resistance on my part. I wasn't at all okay with it. My producer and I talked about [ayu-mi-x] and decided on it together, but I don't really get remixes. Still, [Matsuura] is a producer who's been influenced for years, decades even, by dance music, and has worked alot on the 'remix' genre, so he really persisted in explaining it to me, and eventually I came to an agreement with him."
--Ayumi Hamasaki, beatfreak magazine, 1999

Okay, so the remixes are kinda Max Matsuura's thing. He was really into club music, which is to be expected given his status as co-founder of the late great Velfarre disco. He was very passionate about his newfound star, Hamasaki Ayumi, having a remix album that reworked her "A Song for XX" album's songs into dance versions. So, despite Hamasaki's misgivings, remixes started happening. And it wasn't just Spring 1999's "ayu-mi-x" album, either.

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Acid Black Cherry 2009 tour Q.E.D. DVD Review

Written by Erin Grace

Acid Black Cherry is the brainchild and solo project of yasu, vocalist from Janne de Arc.  Although yasu has recruited several different j-rock artists for A.B.C. albums and singles, playing with him for the “Q.E.D.” tour are Akihide from BREAKERZ (guitar), Yuki from DUSTAR-3 (guitar), Shuse from La’cryma Christi (bass), and Junji from Siam Shade (drums).  The DVD features the final live of the tour, at the Nihon Budoukan. 

The concert opens with the quietly energetic strings from “Mother” and a shot of the stage covered by a huge curtain shaped like what appears to be the Virgin Mary.  Although watching the Q.E.D. concept video on disc 2 makes it obvious that the curtain-statue is actually the Black Maria, watching it ascend at the beginning of the concert to reveal the band is so full of Japa-cheezy religious non-significance that I can hardly stomach it.  

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BENNIE BECCA: A Match With the Potential to be Made in Heaven

Written by Erin Grace

“BENNIE BECCA” is the self-titled album created by the BENNIE K and Becca collaboration.  In this album, Yuki moves away from the mic to focus on producing, leaving Cico to rap against Becca, a newer artist on the J-Rock scene. 

I was excited coming into “BENNIE BECCA.”  Although BENNIE K isn’t my usual M.O. music-wise, I’ve always loved their hip hop fusions with different musical styles – their album “THE WORLD” was a particular treat for me

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Analysis of Ayumi Hamasaki's "Rock'n'Roll Circus" PVs, Part Three: "Lady Dynamite"

Written by Jaylee

Hamasaki Ayumi is one of if not the biggest stars in Japan. Her popularity has declined over the years but she is still one of the most recognizable names and faces in Asia. Throughout her career she has crafted videos with deep symbolism that critiqued the record industry and fame culture. She has touched millions of fans through her personal lyrics. She is an artist who wears a pop mask.

In part three of our “Rock’n’Roll Circus” PV analysis, I will be delving into the symbolism and inspiration behind the video. Just a warning, this analysis is more image based than Zer0's and may not be suitable for children.



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Analysis of Ayumi Hamasaki's "Rock'n'Roll Circus" PVs, Part Two: "Microphone"/"Sexy little things"

Written by Zer0

"Traditional, ethnic, European... With all these various sounds put together, it's rather 'circus-like'... The new album's title, 'Rock'n'Roll Circus', has alot of funny, frightening, sad, and strange subtext, but to me that's just what 'rock & roll' is."
--Bea's UP, May 2010

The album's title, "Rock'n'Roll Circus," is one of the few Hamasaki Ayumi album titles that doesn't correspond to a track on the album. The two sounds - "Rock & Roll" and "Circus" - are best assigned to two of the buzz tracks, "Microphone" and "Sexy little things," respectively.

 

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Analysis of Ayumi Hamasaki's "Rock'n'Roll Circus" PVs, Part One: "Don't look back"

Written by Zer0

SPOILER ALERT - The video covered in this article has a twist ending. I highly recommend watching the full video before reading any further.

"[Rock'n'Roll Circus]...basically has a feeling of 'back-to-basics.' A feeling of Hamasaki Ayumi, and less of adventure. More digging down into the foundation. Which isn't to say I'm taking a step backward. It's about expressing my feelings on things I've always liked, but as the person I am now."
--SCawaii, February 2010


The reception for Ayumi Hamasaki's first few singles was lukewarm at best. But when her first full album, A Song for XX, was released on New Year's Day in 1999, it hit number one on the Oricon charts its first week. What happened? The world got to know Ayu.

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Jaylee's Top 10 Ballads of 2009

 Written by Jaylee

As the end of winter draws ever closer I find it appropriate to rank my favorite ballads of 2009. I was finding it hard to classify what makes these songs so great. I decided to cut my word count in half and just let the songs speak for themselves. So put on your Snuggie, make some tea, grab a box of tissues and enjoy some absolutely lovely songs.

 

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GUEST REVIEW: Mienai on Gackt's Re:Born

Written by Mienai

After 4 years without a new original album (2007's 0079-0088 was a Gundam cover album, and 2009's Slo-Pachinko Gladiator Evolution Original Soundtrack was just that -- a soundtrack), GACKT has returned with a new album entry in the ЯR (Requiem et Reminiscence) Project, RE:BORN. But does RE:BORN stand tall, or does it fall on its face?

Gackt Camui is an Okinawan musician, composer, lyricist, poet, author, actor, designer and model. Usually referred to by his mononymous stage name, GACKT. He is known for his work with Malice Mizer, and for his solo artist career after leaving Malice Mizer. In addition to Japanese, he has performed in English, French, Korean, Cantonese, and Mandarin. The man is nothing to laugh at, and neither is his talent.

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The Rise, Fall and Rise of Ami Suzuki

Written by Zer0

Newer followers of Japanese music might not know it, but dance-pop diva Ami Suzuki was a household name among J-pop fans between 1998 and 2000. Produced by the legendary Tetsuya "TK" Komuro, Suzuki consistently charted very well, and was considered by the media to be the most worthy rival to Ayumi Hamasaki. Then, in 2001, Suzuki's family sued her management company, and suddenly no one wanted her. Her return to the music industry in 2005 was nothing short of a miracle - and the result of a daring act by avex trax's Max Matsuura.

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The Second Coming of Ringo

Written by Erin Grace

When I heard the news, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

“Wake up, everyone! Ring the bells! Clap your hands! Sing! Dance! Shiina Ringo is back!”

That response always makes me feel foolish. Technically speaking, Ringo never left us. Oh, there was the threat as far as back as 2000 when she said that she would leave after producing her third album, and the threat became palpable in 2003 when she had her beauty mark removed and “retired.” But she couldn’t stay away from us any more than we can stay away from her. She started up the band Tokyo Jihen in 2004, barely a year after she quit solo work, and continued playing brilliant music with them. All the while, there were signs that she’d come back – a collaboration with Saito Neko in 2007, a best-of collection release in 2008. Like the fascinating backward rush of the sea as a tsunami rushes in, she seemed to be leaving only to come back bigger and stronger.

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LOVES & THANKS ~Fifteen Years with GLAY

LOVES & THANKS ~Fifteen Years with GLAY
Written by Erin Grace

Fifteen years.

Or, if you’re any kind of GLAY fan at all, you know it’s actually nineteen years.

Or, if you’re not just a rabid Jiro fan posing as a full-on GLAY fan, you know it’s actually twenty-one years.

There are two things about this that freak me out:

1) I was ten when GLAY went pro, six when the band picked up Jiro, and only four years old when the original three formed into a band, and I’m one of the oldest American J-Rock fans.

2) One of the major influences in my life was created by a bunch of fifteen and sixteen year-old Japanese rock-wannabes.

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