music

Did you know Ayumi Hamasaki released a new single? Apparently neither did anyone else…

Even if you have only the barest passing knowledge of Japanese music, there’s a very good chance you know the name Ayumi Hamasaki. Arguably the queen of Japanese solo pop artists, between 1998 and 2012, she managed to move over 50 million units including both singles and full albums. That’s a number so big, I need all my fingers, toes and a calculator to keep track of everything! She’s even crossed international boundaries with numerous fans around Asia and managed to be a star for over a decade in a country where pop stars come and go like…well, pop stars.

But is her glory finally at its end? While we’d be loath to make any proclamations about the future, the sales for her newest single “Terminal” have been nothing short of dismal, apparently shocking many music industry insiders.

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Amazing schoolgirl drummer nails anime theme, and her music career is just getting started

Compared to a lot of other anime, the premise of K-On! is decidedly down-to-earth. It’s about a group of high school girls who form an after-school rock/pop band, and none of them are reincarnated princesses or commute to school in a giant transforming robot built by their brilliant but aloof father. They just hang out and play music together.

Still, there’s one big break with reality that comes at the start of each episode, when instruments are obviously played by studio musicians, and not actually a bunch of teenagers, for the theme song. You really can’t fault the producers for this decision, though. After all, where are you supposed to find an actual high school girl to perform the manic drum beats used in the anime’s second opening?

Ah, we see Kawaguchi-san is raising her hand.

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I Won’t Let You Down: new music video from OK Go wows us with Honda drones and unicycles

OK Go, the alternative rock band who blew us away with their unique treadmill choreography in the music video for their 2006 hit Here It Goes Again, have come out with an even more impressive video, this time featuring dozens of Japanese girls, a drone and a motorised unicycle from Honda.

Filmed in Japan and inspired by the group’s trip to the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, this latest music video was released on October 27 and has already reached close to two million views on YouTube. Check out the video after the break to see just how awesome these boys can be when they team up with a leading director and choreographer from Japan.

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Take a tour of video game history and violin majesty with Teppei Okada

The Super Mario Bros. theme song has got to be among the most covered melodies online. From guitars to ancient Chinese shengs, it’s hard for anyone to not want to knock out those opening notes: d-do do d-do DO do.

So with all the videos of people playing the song online, it’s hard to stand out. Hard unless you’re Teppei Okada (a.k.a. Teppei Sensei) of Fukuoka Prefecture. This guy not only does a subtly beautiful rendition of the classic platformer’s background music, but he recreates the sound effects of the game such as collecting coins and breaking blocks.

And Mario is only the tip of the video game iceberg for Teppei Sensei. His skills reach out to a variety of titles on generations of Nintendo consoles and beyond.

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Massive 5-CD Final Fight soundtrack set lets you hear the game’s music without the punching

It’s been 25 years since the arcade release of video game developer Capcom’s Final Fight. While it wasn’t the first side-scrolling beat ‘em up, at the time of its release it was far and away the best, and the number of sequels Final Fight spawned makes its title almost as ironic as the long-running Final Fantasy’s.

In honor of the classic hitting the quarter-century mark, Capcom’s green-lit a Final Fight CD release. No, it’s not a sequel, nor is it a reissue of the Sega CD version. Instead, it’s a soundtrack collection for practically the entire franchise.

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Rain? No Problem! Not even impending typhoon can keep away fans of J-POP singer Nicholas Edwards

This past Monday was a holiday in Japan, Sports Day to be specific, which meant many of us had a three-day weekend. Unfortunately, it was also the second weekend in a row that Japan was hit by a huge typhoon, causing torrential rain, flooding and disrupted air and land transportation throughout large parts of the country. And while the Tokyo area was by no means the worst affected part of Japan, we still had huge amounts of rain and our share of canceled flights as the typhoon made its way across Japan.

So, Monday, October 13 really wasn’t ideal timing for a certain J-POP singer to be giving a live mini concert outdoors. Well, the singer scheduled to perform that day just happened to be Nicholas Edwards, the American singer who moved to Japan from Oregon, whom we introduced on our site last year. Apparently, his fans were in no way deterred by the approaching typhoon — they weren’t about to miss a chance to see him perform up-close. And we wanted to share with you just how loyal Japanese fans can be!

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Awash in a sea of sound: The ambient electronic music of Sapporo artist Unii【J-Tunes】

We’ve covered a lot of ground with J-Tunes, from an underground grindcore band to mainstream melodic dubstep, and today is no different! We recently got a chance to check out a show featuring the Sapporo-based electronic artist Unii and were so impressed that we had to share her music with our readers!

Check out our interview with Unii, where we talk about her music, world-wide touring, and the state of experimental electronic in Japan and abroad. We’re sure you’ll enjoy her sweeping, ambient soundscapes and ethereal singing.

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Protest song featuring Hatsune Miku gets love from Hong Kong

Nearly two weeks into the Occupy Central protests and things have hit a bit of a malaise. The Hong Kong government has cancelled previously promised talks and protester numbers have been on the decline. Organizers are hoping for a surge in support soon to maintain the demonstration.

Meanwhile, a song produced by Toshiharu Mineoka has helped to energize people featuring the vocaloid stylings of Hatsune Miku. Titled “Umbrella Revolution,” it has been generally well-received in Hong Kong and Taiwan since its posting on 1 October. The video’s YouTube page has been inundated with messages of thanks from people in Hong Kong such as “I cried when I first heard the song (and I don’t even know Japanese).”

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Sleeping next to your celebrity crush hug pillow not enough? Now you can peel his clothes off

We recently looked at the physical and psychological benefits of sleeping with hug pillows, or dakimakura as they’re known in Japan. But while that discussion was limited to plain, undecorated dakimakura, it’s no secret that a large number of jumbo-size pillows in Japan are adorned with drawings or photos of the owner’s anime or celebrity crush.

Sometimes these dakimakura end up being used for relatively chaste purposes, like a romantic train ride. We don’t think it’s going too far, though, to speculate they’re also put to more lascivious means as stand-ins for obsessive fans’ lust towards their unattainable objects of desire. As a result, one new dakimakura allows you to tear the clothes off a rock star.

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Big in Japan, not so much in the U.S. – Fangirl furious over Arashi concert ticket price gap

For many of Japan’s most successful music acts, there’s a huge gap between their popularity at home and abroad. Five-man vocal unit Arashi has been at the top of Japan’s boy band heap for years, and while they’ve picked up a few ardent devotees in the U.S., their fan base there is miniscule compared to their legions of followers in Japan.

This became even clearer than usual last week, when Arashi had a concert in Hawaii. The effective cost of a ticket bought in Japan for the event calculates out to some 100,000 yen (US$925), but in Hawaii, you could pick up a ticket for less than a fifth of that price.

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Japanese flutist keeps her cool, plays beautifully even with a butterfly crawling across her face

Part of my job at RocketNews24 is providing English titles for the videos on our YouTube channel. So my knee-jerk reaction when stumbling across a clip, from a different source, with the title “flute performance butterfly stop the face” is to point out the capitalization and syntax errors.

But you know what? Full points to whoever thought it up anyway. That jumbled cocktail of nouns and verbs just about perfectly captures what would run through any of our heads if we experienced what the woman in the video did: a butterfly crawling around her face in the middle of an important flute performance.

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Norwegian rocker with insane vocal range covers anime songs and more【Videos】

PelleK is a Norwegian rock and metal singer who doesn’t just limit himself to screaming about death and darkness, and uses his amazing vocal talents to cover anime songs and more, uploading them to YouTube for everyone to enjoy. Check out his awesome voice and performances in the videos below.

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Japanese national anthem delights foreigners, Japanese commenters have no idea why

Depending on your travel and Olympic games viewing habits, you may not get the chance to hear national anthems that aren’t from your own country very often. Which is kind of understandable…the songs are supposed to be inspiring, but it seems like at lot of them are either about killing everyone or marching. Marching might be a great way to burn calories, but we could do without songs about it.

However, it turns out that Japan’s national anthem, the incredibly short “Kimi ga Yo,” is a bit of a hit with folks from everywhere but Japan…a fact that’s left quite a few Japanese Internet commenters thoroughly confused.

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Perfume announce re-release of LEVEL3 in time for world tour in November

Perfume have announced an autumn release date for a new bonus edition of their album LEVEL3. The worldwide release in October will come just before the Japanese girl group make their US concert debut in early November. LEVEL3 was released in Japan last year, and the worldwide re-release will be via label Astralwerks.

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Dance! Dance! Dance! –  Girl groups that “bring it on” 【Videos】

Dancing is an important element of an idol’s performance even though choreography can be quite a task, especially when a group has so many members and the stage is small. One of the charms of Japanese idols is that fans can watch them develop; even if they aren’t the most talented, they’re still cute and fun to watch.

However, this doesn’t mean that all girl groups in Japan are like that! This is not to say that one is better than the other as they are both fun to watch, depending on the situation. We compiled a short list of a few groups that dance like they own the stage every time they’re on it.

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Fan makes functional Hatsune Miku digi-keytar

Hatsune Miku has been known for helping blaze the trail to the future for quite some time now. From her futuristic look, to her function as a vocal synchronization software, Miku has inspired AR apps, 3D hologram concerts, and more. Now it seems that this digital pop-star has inspired her fans to take that extra step into making tomorrow come today. Using Hatsune Miku as a muse, one Niconico Douga user has invented a unique new musical instrument, simply known as Ano Gakki (“That Musical Instrument”).

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Move over Beats, there’s a new overpriced set of headphones on the market

So, you love to blast your music wherever you go, but you can’t find any headphones fashionable enough to match your wardrobe. While that’s not likely a problem many of us have, someone has found a solution! Chanel–yes, Chanel–will be releasing their newest fashion accessory–headphones–mid-September. And, don’t worry, fashionistas, they are exactly as expensive as you would think they are!

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Totally metal newborn shows off hardcore cuteness for approving musician dad

From looking at his Twitter profile, you might conclude that Hazuki, singer for the Osaka-based Grollschwert, is a pretty metal dude. He describes the unit as a “melodic deathrash metal band,” and his own vocal style as guttural, growling, and screeching.

Still, even the most dedicated musicians can’t be hardcore all the time, and the vocalist has recently been sharing pictures of his adorable newborn baby daughter with his Twitter followers. It looks like metal is in the family genes, though, as the baby has already executed a perfect double devil horn salute.

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Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation: Japan’s awesome all-woman grindcore band【J-Tunes】

When people think of Japanese music, their thoughts usually turn to J-pop or BABYMETAL–and while nothing is wrong with that, there’s a lot more to be found! We’ve been exploring some of our favorite music in Japan over the last few months, but there’s still a massive universe of artists left to discover. Today, we’ll be breaking out the jackhammer and drilling deep into the world of underground Japanese metal, specifically grindcore and the internationally acclaimed (but still largely unknown) band Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation.

From overseas touring to being a woman-only band in a male-dominated scene, this interview is sure to keep even Top 40-loving readers interested.

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J-pop group “Chubbiness” releases first music video, possibly look even less chubby than before

Back in January this year, we brought you news of an emerging J-pop group going by the name of Chubbiness. The idea behind the outfit was that, as well as being accomplished singers, the members were all “puniko“, or slightly chubby girls. Compared to most J-pop groups, which are very often populated with girls who are all pointy elbows and shoulder blades, Chubbiness just about lived up to their name, but few Westerners especially would ever think to call them “chubby”.

Eight months later, Chubbiness have launched their first official song, complete with an accompanying music video which shows them tucking in to a table full of sugary treats while singing about how there’s nothing wrong with being a bit on the big side.

The only thing is, after watching the video a handful of times, we can’t help thinking that if anything the Chubbiness girls actually look even slimmer now than when they were first introduced to us…

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