By now you should know that I listen to a lot of artists. Lmao who am I trying to kid? But as far as I know, even though the Oricon Top 10 singles this year hit an all-time pathetic, it was still a pretty eventful year, and the songs released in 2012 were pretty good.
So here's my Top 20 J-Pop Songs of 2012 before we welcome 2013, another year of AKB48 ridiculousness and ayumi hamasaki's further efforts to revive her career.
20. Perfume - Spring of Life
Nothing could have started 2012 for Perfume better than a kickass song like Spring of Life. Scrap all the light, fluffy, cutesy songs that was on JPN. Perfume gave us what we all loved in the first place, and that is their hard-hitting, edgy sound, which is written all over this song.
19. Crystal Kay - Forever
Crystal Kay is still stuck in the darkest depths of the J-Pop industry, but reinventing her sound was just what we needed, and Forever seriously took me by great surprise. The title made me expect a boring R&B ballad all over again, but this is some top-notch quality music that works well for her.
18. Kaela Kimura - sorry
Ever since stepping into motherhood, Kaela has clearly been trying to venture into the more light, mellow sound that is dominant in the first half of her latest album. A pity they all sucked though, except this one. It is the overall mellow and calm arrangement coupled with the catchy beat and melody that makes sorry one of the best songs of 2012.
17. MISIA - DEEPNESS
MISIA has been giving us snoozeworthy ballads after snoozeworthy ballads since 2009, but once in a while she pops out a gem just like DEEPNESS. Still a ballad, but it has an added touch of R&B flavour injected into it with a melodramatic arrangement that makes it work so well.
16. DREAMS COME TRUE - MY TIME TO SHINE
Something always unique about DREAMS COME TRUE is that they can make songs sound outdated yet modern at the same time. It's hard to explain the kind of music they make, but they are able to make consistently good songs even after being in the industry for more than 20 years, and this catchy tune is no exception.
15. Superfly - Force
You would think that Superfly would be stuck in a rut given the genre of her music, but she took what she had and took it up one level. She clearly goes all out on this song and album and it shows.
14. Koda Kumi - Whatchu Waitin' On?
Whatchu Waitin' On? is a generic electropop song yet it's so darn catchy, it's hard for it not to be one of the best songs this year. I put that shit on repeat non-stop when the song came out and is a great song to pop your pussy to.
13. Angela Aki - Kokuhaku
Angela Aki, much like Superfly, has taken a step further with their music this year and Kokuhaku is a great example of how she's venturing into other sounds, taking a more poppish approach to it, and the arrangement is more than just mainly her piano this time round.
12. ayumi hamasaki - reminds me
If you put aside the stupid covers and the whole divorce thing aside, you would find that Party Queen is actually a pretty solid album. I am not going to lie and say that the middle section of the album from call to Tell me why is pretty amazing, and the best song from there is reminds me. It's your typical Ayu rock song that should be on Rock'n'Roll Circus, but if you listen to it with the lyrics, it's one of the best lyrical works Ayu has presented in this album.
11. Namie Amuro - Damage
Namie's Damage came off a bit flat to me at first, but after a while it grew on me and I started singing along to it. Bitch be egoistic and shit because she is clearly talking about herself when she says "...and the god who became a human being."
10. ayumi hamasaki - Wake me up
Wake me up had Ayu not use her usual composers but European composers for once, and this is a fresh new sound coming from her. It is an electropop-rock song that sounds more updated compared to Sparkle and it's catchy as hell. Ayu also takes a different lyrical approach, singing about sandcastles and shit. She must have been spending a bit too much time with Maro on beaches.
9. Namie Amuro - Go Round
The chorus and verses to this song are world's apart, but when put together they seem to work really well. The arrangement and melody is what really makes the song for me. The lyrics for the most part sound like rubbish though.
8. Kaela Kimura - Mamireru
Unlike many songs from her latest album, Mamireru is clearly one of the standout tracks, and this is the edgy side of Kaela Kimura that I've been missing since the release of her +1 album. And it's catchy as hell!
7. JASMINE - Best Partner
JASMINE has been known to give us R&B ballads again and again, but this time it's even better. The strings in this song add on to its grandeur and the lyrics are really heartwarming :) Compared to her previous works, there's clearly been more effort put into the arrangement and that's what I really like.
6. ayaka - Hajimari no Toki
Nothing could have been better as a comeback than ayaka's The beginning album, and she made the right choice of having Hajimari no Toki as its main promotional song. It's one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. It sends a strong wave of nostalgia over you as it is reminiscent to her older works from before her hiatus and that's what I love so much about it.
5. ayumi hamasaki - Song 4 u
At 3 minutes and 45 seconds song, Song 4 u is probably one of the shortest songs she's given us the past few years, but it's also one of the best. It's probably the shortness of the song that leaves you wanting more. The arrangement to this song is so orgasmic and so on-point, I have no clue why she still uses Tetsuya Komuro for some of her songs.
4. Angela Aki - Ai no Tenkyohou
Yes, this is a piano ballad from Angela Aki. Yes, she reused the melody of the verses of One Family for this song. But the overall atmosphere this song gives off is just amazing. It's easily the best song off the album it's in. I really enjoyed the lyrics to this song as well.
3. Perfume - Hurly Burly
Perfume gave us an edgy song with Spring of Life, but if you thought that was the best they could do, you haven't heard Hurly Burly yet. It hits you so hard in the head, you start to have a pounding headache, except it's a good headache. I don't think I'm making any sense.
2. Angela Aki - Creep
SONGBOOK is a fine example of how a cover album should be made. It's not anything like Koda Kumi's ETERNITY ~Love & Songs~ where Kuu showcased variety. Every song in Angela's cover album uses only the piano, but that's what makes it so good - Angela resang and rearranged these songs to make them her own, and she uses what she is good at - the piano, and this is best exemplified by her rendition of Radiohead's Creep.
1. Utada Hikaru - Sakura Nagashi
Come on, don't tell me you didn't see this coming already. Sakura Nagashi is, hands-down, the best song of 2012. While all the other J-Pop female soloists are struggling to remain relevant, all Utada Hikaru does is release one digital single and all doors are shut. Your argument is invalid.
This song emits a level of sadness so great you don't even need to read the lyrics anymore, and as you think about how Utada Hikaru may never come back again, this song also emits an annoying level of nostalgia that may just send you in tears. It has the perfect arrangement, and the perfect buildup towards the climax.
Looking back at 2012, sure, sales-wise it wasn't a good year for the female singers. But it cannot be denied that Namie owned the whole of 2012 right from the very beginning. Her marketing team pulled all the right stops, and they promoted her at a level that not even ayumi hamasaki's stupid team can. All she did was release a single, an album, and a digital single to build up hype for her 20th anniversary, and led to a sold-out tour of all the 5 domes in Japan. Your fave could never.
On the other hand, it was a rather disappointing year for ayumi hotmessaki. It is her poorly-skilled team of people and scandal after scandal that completely overshadowed her music. Party Queen isn't even a bad album. In fact, I loved it. But people are already so turned off by the covers, they already have a subconscious predisposition to how the music will sound like. I have a friend who told me that he doesn't even want to pick up the album after seeing the cover.
Not just that. We also had the divorce. In Japan, we all know that's sacrilegious. And then she announced that she's dating her backup dancer, Maro, which is just full of WTF. She released a completely useless summer best album which flopped hard, and started the 5 release project leading up to her 15th anniversary that could have been done well, but failed terribly. 2012 also marks the first year since her debut to not have a #1 album.
To be honest I don't completely blame Ayu. But she really needs to wake up her idea. She needs some reforms in her team because they are definitely not doing her any favours, and while she's completely aware that she's past her prime, that doesn't mean that she should be driving her career downhill faster than it should, and losing more and more loyal fans in the process.
As we welcome in 2013, what I hope for myself is to be able to catch Namie live in Singapore in April, and if ayumi hamasaki doesn't stop by Singapore for an Asia Tour, I'll hopefully be able to fly to Japan to do so. I sound like a creepy stalker, but I'm not.
Here's hoping for a good musical year in 2013!