I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tomomi Itano -- Dear J

Tomomi Itano (板野友美) was never my favorite AKB48 member. She was an important member of the group, and one that was especially popular among young girls thanks to her fashion gyaru looks. Even so, nothing on her quite caught my attention. Things changed a bit when she released her first solo single, “Dear J”.

Musically speaking, Tomochin was one of the least talented singers in the group, something that became even more striking when she became the first member to launch a proper solo career, in early 2011. What’s even more surprising: since the time of her graduation, around the time “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie” (恋するフォーチュンクッキー) was released (2013), Tomochin easily became the steadiest ex-AKB48 member in the music industry, releasing mildly successful singles and full albums (her second album, “Get Ready♡”, will be released next month).

Released in January 2011, “Dear J” served as Tomomi’s debut single, and it was a big departure from AKB48’s typical sound. In fact, the heavy Technopop sound is very reminiscent of what K-Pop veteran supergroups Girls’ Generation and KARA, but also J-Pop longtime reigning queen Namie Amuro (安室奈美恵), were releasing at the time. Actually, like one of my friends said, Tomochin must have had lots of Amuro’s posters around her room during her “Dear J” era, because everything in this release, from the song and music video to the looks and faces, screams Namie.

Since Tomochin can’t sing, the vocals in “Dear J” are heavily autotuned in a way that we almost can’t hear her true voice behind all the robotic singing. However, it goes well with the club-friendly arrangement, and even with the somewhat dramatic chorus.

In the end, even though “Dear J” may sound like another disposable J-Pop tune, it stood the test of time for me, as I still listen to it a lot after five years of its release. In my opinion, Tomochin has not come up with another great song like this one in the last couple of years, but I agree that 2015’s “Gimme Gimme Luv” comes close at a second spot. I’ll probably give her second album a spin to see what she has on the sleeves.

“Dear J” reached #2 on the Oricon chart, selling 216,781 copies. Lyrics were written by Yasushi Akimoto (秋元康), while music was compsed by Keyz and Carlos K. As for the arrangement, corin. was the responsible.



  1. Good to hear from you again, Marcos.

    In the last several months of my life in Japan, I started seeing a whole lot of Itano's posters in places such as Shibuya. And your remark on her resemblance to Amuro is quite on the mark since I saw her as a merger of her and Morning Musume's Maki Goto.

    There's nothing like Autotune to save the most mediocre of voices. :) As it is, though, "Dear J" is not too bad.

    1. Hi, J-Canuck.

      Yeah, if I'm not wrong, you stayed in Japan until 2012, so AKB48 and the most prominent members were on fire during that time. Maki Goto's comparison slipped away from me, but it's pretty accurate as well.

      As for your impressions on Tomochin's vocals, I like how you're always a little bit complacent when it comes to aidoru singers. I think you, with all the experience towards Kayo Kyoku and J-Pop, just accepts some flaws and limitations in a nice and gentle way. I identify a lot with this thought as well.

    2. Yes, it was actually pretty close to 2012...left Japan in the middle of December 2011.

      In terms of how I grade music generally speaking, I don't have these absolutist notions about how music should be. A lot of critics believe that Starship's 1985 hit "We Built This City" is the worst pop song ever made, but heck, I still like it even though the lyrics are still weird.

      My Aussie movie buddy had an expression that he would often quote to me whenever we saw a movie that would never ever be nominated for any sort of Oscar award: "Look, I will not defend it in any way but still I enjoyed myself watching it."

      That's my attitude toward Japanese pop music. I won't go out of my way to recommend most aidoru music or enka to anyone outside of the J-Pop realm. I realize that most folks will bump into this blog and go "What the hell?!" with a number of the entries. But if it sounds good to me, then that's good enough whether it be aidoru, City Pop or enka. I mean I realize that "Kayo Kyoku Plus" was never meant for widespread promotion so I'm happy if I can find the few like-minded fans like yourself, Noelle, nikala and the rest. It's our own little club. :)


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