Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The welcome post

Hello! This is leitoph's back-up blog. Visit my main blog for more info!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Single review: KAGUYA

Only did it after three weeks. I'm not that late, am I?

Artist: NEWS
Release date: January 7, 2015
Tracks: 5
►L-R: Regular Edition and Limited Edition B jacket covers◄

General comments:

This deserves to be called a comeback single.

JPop and KPop groups have different connotations of/for the term comeback. 'Comeback' in JPop means coming back from a significant hiatus, usually accompanied by problems in the group or of an individual member, and so it is considered a big word. 'Comeback' in KPop is less severe; K-ent companies have their groups releasing material commonly after a year or less of receded activities. In short, it happens regularly in KPop. Nonetheless, comebacks are important and are always much-awaited on both of these pop music cultures.

When I said KAGUYA deserves to be called a comeback single, I am pointing to the Korean connotation. Just like KPop groups' comebacks, KAGUYA radiates this vibe of "I'm back after some rest, get your grooves again!" This is true since NEWS wasn't active doing group work last year.

However, it doesn't mean that the single has a KPop feel to it--it is actually the very opposite. The tracks in KAGUYA are very different from each other; it's a crazy variety that you can only find in JPop. The song KAGUYA itself sounded the way I had imagined Japanese pop music to be when I wasn't still a fan!

So far, in all my reviews, the score or rate of the material is put at the end of the post. In this case, I'm giving my numerical judgment now: 3.5 out of 5. KAGUYA deserves to be called a comeback single, yes; it's a single to be celebrated, absolutely! But I see some loopholes in it to not give a perfect score, even the excellent number four. Three means average, and KAGUYA is above that, which is the reason for the decimal.

How the single gets its love from me is the exact problem I see. Variety. The tracks are so unique from one another that it's almost impossible to connect them in a musical basis. To put it simply, think of a medley. KAGUYA's five tracks are hard to combine together in a medley without producing friction in any way. Random is good and I love randomness, but in most objects, even randomness has its proper order. That's what I observe in the single's setlist: there is not enough organization. It bugged me for some time until I realized this major "mistake" of the single.

The upside of being over varied is, it is fun! It is unseasonal. It could stir up different moods. It is like a full-length album in one single. Therefore, as much as I have rants on KAGUYA's inconsistency I could give endless praises on its spontaneous, crazy chaos.

KAGUYA got an 'above average' score but I prefer to change it to 'above normal'--abnormal! It will be later expounded when we get to the track-by-track review. As far as the whole single is concerned, there is a lot going on. It has a lot of restless energy. But I don't forget that in it are two ballads, in spite of my comments that make the single appear full of craziness and just craziness. It has ballads that can make you slow down, close your eyes, and cry.

Compared to NEWS' preceding single, ONE -for the win-, KAGUYA has toned down, literally. It has no belting; I'm not used to this anymore! So it is where another 'loophole' is found. Although never wrong and never will be, I could not give a perfect score on a single without hearing high notes from Tegoshi.

This is not being biased. This is just my personal standard in NEWS songs.

But why need the belting when there are lots of good parts? Yes, there are lots of them. Good vocal execution from all the members. I applaud everyone, especially Shige, for vocally pulling off these tracks in one pack. He melded along the versatility of the single. He's at its peak in the fastest songs, and holds consistent until the slowest track. Noting this... He should do a ballad for his next solo. (PLEASESHIGEPLEASE)

If you're gonna dissect the songs into each member's parts, the one who gets the most part is--apparently Tegoshi, with his adlibs and extra notes--and the least, is Koyama. I've found a loophole again. They don't have an equal footing this time, as opposed to the solo sections in the previous 4-nin singles. Three out of five songs in KAGUYA I barely hear Koyama's voice in clarity. Because it's either Tegoshi does a second voice or Koyama just have little parts in these songs. Not fair. Moreover, I don't see the point when in the previous singles Koyama had already proved his vocal powers. It drives me into thinking there will be more KoyaTego/TegoKoya harmonization in future songs. While it's good that it is not Tegomass who does a 'Tegomass' in NEWS tracks, Koyama needs to have more prominent solo parts. Anyway, he still did a great job in this one!

Back to the lack of belting. To be honest, I'm not demanding of this and I understand the fans who already want to take a break from Tegoshi's belts. However, I expected at least one high and mighty note in any of the songs, yet there wasn't any! Don't include KAGUYA's bridge, I don’t consider middle A a high note for Tego.

Now this could classify as a rant or praise: My biggest expectation failed. Before the previews were out we're only aware that KAGUYA is a song derived from a tale. The description says it's a love song. I'm sure everybody who saw that info imagined a Cherish-like tune with a happier version of Sakura Girl PV, vice versa. Who would've expected it to be Chankapaana 2.0.?...

...BUT WHEN I HEARD IT FOR THE FIRST TIME, I LOVED IT. See, this could classify as a rant and a praise. It is the primary reason why I call it a comeback single. And the PV isn't even a 2.0., of anything. It is something else, a daring interpretation of a playfully dramatic concept. I'll try to post a brief PV review when I get the time.

Song by song comments:

Monday, September 15, 2014

A tribute post: NEWS 11th' anniversary - Interview with Chankapaana all over the world!

How fast does time fly? Fast enough for our beloved group to celebrate its eleventh year of existence before we can even move on from the tenth!

NEWS' 9th anniversary was grand, because it was its first anniversary as a four-member group. NEWS' 10th anniversary was majestic, because the group was obviously in its 10th year. I started making this post, thinking, "What will everyone do for NEWS' 11th year? What will members do on their anniversary? Is there a way to make this September 15 just as memorable as the past NEWS anniversaries? Of course I couldn't contribute much to the fandom and I have always been like that (Sorry I was an inattentive fan back then!)... But I thought I had to keep doing my 'tradition' whenever the fated day of the year comes, and that is to have my own little gift: A blog post dedicated to NEWS.

But wait, there's a twist to this. Unlike my previous anniversary posts, this tribute comprises other fans' thoughts, feelings, and a little bit of their fandom history.. In other words, I did an interview to Chankapaana around the world! (you could imagine me flying to all the countries mentioned in ONE -for the win- *kidding*) Thanks to social networking sites and blogs, I somehow made this a success LOL. The interview consists of three (3) basic questions about the "Life of NEWS Fans"--or simply, what made these people like NEWS, love NEWS, and stay with NEWS. Think of it as the interviews you read in Myojo, Popolo, etc... But instead of NEWS you'll read the fans' words! Yes, this is our Ai Kotoba. #てずてってとってNEWS ♫

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Single review: ONE -for the win-

Super late post but I still wanna do it! I have a lot to ramble about this single xD

Title: ONE -for the win-
Artist: NEWS
Release date: June 11, 2014
Tracks: 5
►L-R: the Limited Edition A and B jacket covers◄

General comments:

This single... Is one of NEWS' most powerful releases, because--and not just because--three of its songs were used in the World Cup. Musically speaking, here are the reasons why.

• Dominantly fast-paced. Even the obligatory ballad is moderately upbeat!

• Contemporary sound. It's obvious in the included remix. But there are other elements in each of the songs that show this single sounds new, fresh, and evolved in terms of style.

• No prominent use of traditional instruments; it's more on technical mixes, effects and experimental beats. This is in relation to bullet #2--contemporary, which is what I'd like to emphasize throughout the review. Read on, I hope you grasp what I mean.

• Flexible member parts. Ever since NEWS became four there has been a more noticeable pattern of how and where the members sing their solo parts. But I've observed that this single breaks the pattern and therefore, it's more unpredictable and unconventional (yes, regardless of the fact that the single has three songs of the same team--I mean, theme!)

• Talking about the members' vocals... Damn, I never knew NEWS would still improve greatly. First of all we get to hear more of Massurap goodness! I approve of Massu becoming the resident rapper in NEWS. His rapping style is unique: his raps are sung. Rap is meant to be spoken with a certain rhythm but Massu coolly sings his rap and you'd still consider it rap. Aaaand I really like the way he does it. Way to go Massu!

• Tegoshi's high notes is the norm in NEWS songs.  But even the norm becomes 'upgraded', with him belting more complicated melodies. Before this single he'd only scream one note flawlessly. (Example: "Chankapaanaaaaaa!" *the last note, which is B flat*) Yet in this single, he belts more than a single high note, sparking out series of high-Cs arranged in the manner of an obbligatoinstead. In my mind I have always used the term soprano obbligato for Tegoshi (yeah soprano is for females but I just love calling it that way :p) but it is now that he has finally shown how much of an effective obbligato he can be.

*obbligato =  a prominent countermelody, often written to be played or sung above the principal theme (in a higher pitch range) [cr: Wiktionary]*

• Shige's vocal power has become vital in 4-nin songs because obviously, the texture of his voice is entirely unlike the three. That texture is what's especially needed in this single, with its generally fast and intense rhythms that gonna have some spunk and guess where would you get it? Definitely, by the coarseness of Shige's voice. It doesn't take long for one to realize that even though his voice is the "odd one out", it has the needed balance for NEWS. It was already heard in the last two singles; but so far in all of the 4-nin releases, the balancing deed is done very well here. In other words, his parts in this single, long or short, adds adrenalin to the excitement initiated by the songs' contemporary feel.

• If Massu improved his rapping, Tegoshi improved his belting, and Shige improved his balancing, Koyama, to be frank, didn't improved in this single... Because I saw his improvement earlier than the rest, in the previous single and album! He has no stand-out moments here, however I realized one thing: he's good with ballads. He isn't the main 'ballad guy' in NEWS but between fast and slow songs, Koyama's tone color is more suitable for the easygoing, relaxing type.

Song by song comments:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Concert review: NEWS 10th Anniversary in Tokyo Dome

above: NEWS singing their self-composed anniversary song Ai Kotoba ~te wo hiite~
below, L-R: Having fun and bowing to the fans

Long ago I was already thinking of doing a review of NEWS MAKES YOU HAPPY! MAKES THE WORLD HAPPIER! concert. Then March 19, the DVD release date, came; and with all of excited NEWS fans I watched the con immediately... Not forgetting my plan to write a review. I watched it 2 times, 3 times, 4 times, 5 times, preparing my cellphone just in case I can think of something to put in the review! But after a week of watching I gave up. Conclusion: I am forever lazy. Or I was just dumbstruck by the awesome concert, maybe.

After a few weeks the LJ comm for Singaporean Paanas, sg_paanas, held a contest. A giveaway that greatly inspired me to do the review--at least in a spontaneous way. So I did! I'm proud that it's my most spontaneous analyzation ever. Most importantly, I never expected that this spontaneity would turn into a beautiful post. I'm very proud of my work okay. *teary-eyed*

This is gonna be long but crammed because the more I want to edit it the more I get lost XD I'll be talking about the concert itself. (excluding the cut scenes)


NEWS10th, for me, is NEWS' best concert so far, even better than the incomparable UtsuCon. The concert's aim to embody the 10 years of NEWS experience, I think they highly succeeded in that. Because unlike their past concerts this one has the most clear division of each parts.

Going deep into each 'part'. The first part is from the intro *compass* to WORLD QUEST, Chankapaana, 4+FAN to the others that followed before they changed into the cute ball-sy costumes. The first three songs show they're in a Johnny's group, obvious from the striking red costumes they're wearing. Yes they're Johnny's; they wouldn't be here without JE anyway. They showed that "NEWS is a Jyanizu group existing for 10 years already and we are so damn proud of that." The concert nailed it with a glorious start.

Then they changed into the black and white costumes and moved on. Moving on from the Johnny's appeal, they showed what NEWS is all about--simple happiness, as obvious at the simple black and white costumes, and the performances themselves. I mean, everyone would agree that Koi Matsuri perf is a favorite! Everybody's having fun, and there are lots of subtle (and not so subtle) member ai moments in this perf and in the previous and preceding performances. This part really shouts NEWS!! all the way.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Opinion post: Depriving NEWS from fans--tragedy or strategy?

One month ago NEWS released its 10th anniversary concert DVD, which is merely half a year after the said concert. Johnny's groups, as far as I know, release concert DVDs in a span of 1 month gap minimum to 6 months gap maximum after their concerts. NEWS' latest DVD is no exception, as it is in the 6-month gap mark. Logically there is nothing to worry about.

But the fandom, who has experienced the highs and lows of the group, has some little rants going in our heads...

NEWS always seems to be on standby. The members have their own activities, of course, so does the subgroup Tegomass; but isn't it saddening that their last single was released in 2012? They only had one release in 2013, and so far, after a month since NEWS10th DVD came out, we're still not seeing any upcoming release yet.

It is never normal for an idol group to release materials in a veeery slow pace, unless that group undergoes a break, a shift, or a problem of some sort. When NEWS became four it was their biggest issue but the biggest improvement afterwards; the four of them, along with the fandom, became stronger and inseparable. They became more natural and constant again in their activities.

But... It seems the constancy didn't last long. Each fan has different takes on this matter; some think that it's fine because there's still the solo activities--at least we get to see the members active in their own ways, and because we've reached the highest level of confidence and trust we have in NEWS, we don't really worry about the pace of the group activities. In other words, nothing's alarming, everything's good.

However, there are people who say that NEWS has passed its prime. They've been around for 10 years and unfortunately, unlike Arashi or SMAP who still soars to the top and still has in-demand activities all the time despite their age, NEWS goes to the side of the senpai groups, which, though being there, are just there... and releases only when the company feels like it. One example is V6. They were once very famous too, but their popularity faded away with time. Maybe this is what's happening to NEWS. And don't forget about the RyoPi incident which honestly took a huge number of supporters away from the group. And what about the younger, fresh acts like Hey! Say! JUMP, Sexy Zone, etc? They're going up drastically. NEWS has no choice but to go to the far, barely seen sides of the Johnny's polygon.

Although there are others who think that the company is just protecting NEWS' statistics as a group with steady #1 releases. Releasing too often may break the stats--think of it, they said, if NEWS is always very active we won't really miss them, and we won't feel subjected to buy their every release--which can mean lesser buyers and lower ranking. In the contrary, when NEWS release their stuff once in a blue moon, we anticipate for that blue moon... With the will to buy everything they have for us.

Back to the original question, the title of the post itself. Is depriving NEWS from us a tragedy or a strategy? Tragedy, because we know that NEWS will never be as popular as they were before? Or strategy, going in a pace that is different from all the other groups? In my opinion, it's a mixture of both; now the suggested way of making things simpler is for them to have their own TV show. (With a good timeslot of course!)

I'm sure everyone agrees with this. Even NEWS say straightforwardly that they want to have a TV show of their own. We know how NEWS' chemistry works, now all that is left is for them to present it regularly on an outlet that fans and even non-fans will see. Seeing NEWS in a different light, we'll forget all the tragedy and boost the marketing strategy as well. This might not bring NEWS back to its highest peak again but we know for sure this is one of our biggest dreams come true.

Meanwhile, I hope to hear a new release from NEWS soon. I wanna feel what the group prepares for us this year, in its 11th year of existence. NEWS がんばってください!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Album review: Tegomass no Seishun

Because I was inspired by this. Ah, no, it's because I've been wanting to post album reviews of my favorite artists' songs, and for a scatterbrain like me it was nearly impossible to do that... But now I have inspirationsssss (Yes, emphasis on the s), and I've formulated a draft nights ago~ So here we go! ♪♫

Album: Tegomass no Seishun
Artist: テゴマス
Release date: January 22, 2014
Tracks: 12 (+2 in the limited edition)
tmns RE tmns LE
► L-R: regular and limited edition jacket covers ◄

General comments:

Tegomass' youth... These two are adults already, not just literally, but by the experience they have as singers, and it somehow showed in this album. Why 'somehow'? Because as the title implies, it is about Tegomass' youth. The tracks, analyze it or not, gives this 'childhood' feeling, like Tegomass is going back to the basics all over again. I'm not saying they hadn't matured enough; in fact, I could not imagine the songs from this album sung/released in earlier years. In other words Tegomass no Seishun (TMnS) is a perfect merge of maturity and youthful vigor in one.

Compared to the previous albums, TMnS is like Tegomass no Mahou who strictly adheres to its theme. Tegomass no Uta is a mix of different styles that you wouldn't really know what is the prevailing theme (if there is any, as uta means 'song' and they must've really experimented a lot in this one). Tegomass no Ai is a mini-album, which means only a few songs to analyze, and so it give a slight impression of what the theme is supposedly about. Meanwhile, Tegomass no Mahou is relevant. You can really hear the 'magic' the album wants you to hear. And TMnS is basically the same. To stick to the theme, I think it's a good thing!

So... How were the songs arranged and executed? How is the 'youth' factor shown?