Sunday, January 1, 2017
Marcos V.’s notes on “67th NHK Kohaku Utagassen” (第67回NHK紅白歌合戦)
That’s a post about my impressions on 2016’s edition of “NHK Kohaku Utagassen”. I don’t intend to talk about every single performance, but just about the ones that took my attention – for good or bad. Honorable mentions goest to PUFFY and their hit medley comprised of debut song “Asia no Junshin” (アジアの純真) and the always great “Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera” (渚にまつわるエトセトラ), but also to Kanjani8 (関ジャニ∞) and their surprisingly fun “Zukkoke Otokomichi” (ズッコケ男道).
I will start with the “48 Family” groups, which were not at their best, nor at their worst. AKB48 performed their first number one song, “RIVER” (2009), and that was quite nostalgic. It’s also a reminder of one of the group’s best songs to date. As for “Kimi wa Melody” (君はメロディ), I only listened to it around the single’s release date back in February, but it sounds as uninspired as before. Where’s the great “High Tension” (ハイテンション) to end the year in a good way, girls? Other similar groups were Nogizaka46 (乃木坂46) with the boring “Sayonara no Imi” (サヨナラの意味) and Keyakizaka46 (欅坂46) with their debut “Silent Majority” (サイレントマジョリティー). The latter is not a bad song, but I prefer “Futari Saison” (二人セゾン), which they released in November. In the end, nothing truly outstanding coming from the "Alphabet Groups", but still mildly enjoyable stuff.
I was a little bit disappointed with Hikaru Utada’s (宇多田ヒカル) performance, and part of it was because I expected her to perform on Kohaku’s stage. Well, I understand she preferred to end the year where she’s currently living with hubby and her little boy, but I was waiting to see her on that iconic stage for the first time. As for the performance itself, it wasn’t her best either, and “Hanataba wo Kimi ni” (花束を君に), although very fine, isn’t the most interesting song from her latest album, “Fantôme”. I understand she had to sing it, as the song was a tie-in to a NHK drama. The same can be said about Perfume... “FLASH” is not the best song they offered in 2016, but it was – unfortunately – their sole promo song the whole year, and also associated with a NHK drama. I just hope the trio have a better 2017.
I truly respect X JAPAN for their history and the importance of the band for japanese pop, but singer TOSHI wasn’t in his best days (maybe he always sounds like that, but I can't say). Other rock bands, such as RADWIMPS and THE YELLOW MONKEY were not able to entertain me as well, but that’s probably just because I don’t care for rock in the first place. The only one I liked was -surprise, surprise- TOKIO, and that’s basically because they sang “Sorafune” (そらふね) – a song I like very much.
Even though Seiko Matsuda’s (松田聖子) latest ballad, “Bara no You ni Saite Sakura no You ni Chitte” (薔薇のように咲いて 桜のように散って), is not my cup of tea, she did a great performance alongside YOSHIKI. I was truly happy to see her on stage singing new quality material instead of just rehashing the old catalogue.
About enka artists, the night’s highlights for me were Yukino Ichikawa’s (市川由紀乃) emotional performance, Kaori Mizumori’s (水森かおり) epic and beautiful staging, but also the new arrangement of Sayuri Ishikawa’s (石川さゆり) classic “Amagi Goe” (天城越え), as well as Fuyumi Sakamoto’s (坂本冬美) amazing “Yozakura Oshichi” (夜桜お七). The latter was probably the song I liked the most in this Kohaku’s edition – thanks to the gorgeous arrangement and all the unexpected changes between a slow ballad and a fast-paced dance pop song. A truly amazing and inspired tune, for sure!
Now, among things I truly disliked, there was SEKAI NO OWARI (I just don’t get that group), the always horrible and far from sexy Johnny’s group Sexy Zone, AAA (I like male vocalist Nissy, but just when he’s working on his solo career), Kana Nishino (西野カナ) (everything she releases sounds so bland) and the worst of all in my opinion: Sandaime J Soul Brothers. Man, I can’t stand what they do. Really! They take what’s worst in contemporary American pop music and turns it into a very bad caricature. I’d rather watch Golden Bomber (ゴールデンボンバー) perform “Memeshikute” (女々しくて) again and again instead of anything coming from Sandaime.
Last but not least, ARASHI (嵐) ended the night performing three of their classics. From what they sang, “Happiness” is easily my favorite. I’d love to see a classy performance of their best single in a while, “Fukkatsu LOVE” (復活LOVE), but they just decided to do a performance embedded in nostalgia (it’s understandable, especially since SMAP is no longer among us as a group anymore).
And that’s it for my “67th NHK Kohaku Utagassen” review. I hope we all have a great 2017, full of the best life can offer... and that includes good and old Japanese music.