It’s coming to the end of another year, and here we are at Selective Hearing HQ, writing up our year end Recaps to remember the days gone by and to freshen our minds for a new year, with more Idols! So with another year done and dusted, what has 2013 brought us?

Improvements Galore!

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I think that 2013 has truly been a year of improvements, because with certain groups I have been amazed by just how much they have improved! The first, of course, is Nogizaka46… and wow, what a change! From drab to fab, this group certainly made one big impression on me with their sudden change in not just music, but also how they looked and the quality of their image. Their PV’s this year were fantastic, their costumes spot on, and the girls themselves were amazing. Their music was also pretty darn good, with Girl’s Rule being my favourite song of the year, but Dekopin a close second. Whoever decided that for 2013, Nogizaka46 would show their true skill and talent… well, I applaud and want to hug them, because finally, this terrible group turned into an amazing group!

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Another major improvement in the looks and PV department has to be Morning Musume; whilst they may not be everyone’s cup of tea here, I do think that H!P in general has been doing well, Morning Musume especially. Not only have their costumes become better, the group has a whole has just seemed to blossom thanks to the graduation of Reina. Since she left, things just got better; the visuals, the look of the girls, and the feel of the group overall… it became nicer, more group friendly and less of a Riho effort. There is so much more focus on the individual members, and whilst it’s clear who is being pushed over who, it’s nice to see that the pace of Morning Musume has become one that is focused on the group as a whole and not just two girls trying to fight for the top… though technically, Ayumi and Riho are fighting for the Dancing spot, but still! It’s nice to see Morning Musume portrayed as a group, and not Riho feat. her backing dancers.

It must also be said that, despite how much I despised her vocals last year, Sayashi Riho has really become a better singer this year. She’s still not a good or strong singer, but she has definitely learned how to control what she has, and has pretty much impressed me with how well she is doing. It was great to hear a decent voice singing in these songs this year, rather than one that sounded shrill and cracked. Well done, Riho!

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I also find that, in terms of Indies and unknown Idols, Houkago Princess have improved a vast amount this year as well; they only just returned, but seeing how the look, budget and feel of their PV’s has changed was pretty incredible. They went from filming in a school gym to actually getting a good location, an actual school and school yard, and filming a pretty nice video that looked well done and… well, very pretty and watchable! Now I won’t deny that the HouPri from 2011 and 2012 was bad, because they weren’t, but you could see how low budget their videos were. Looking at them now, they look like a proper group who has management that knows what they are doing, and that is really great to see! I love watching the group I adore once again show the work and effort they have put into their group in the form of a well done PV! It makes me smile, and it made my year to see HouPri back on their feet again and performing in PV’s, and releasing singles too!

The Graduations of ’13

Whilst this year had quite a few graduations (many that made me cry, admittedly), we really didn’t have as many as we did in 2012, which truly was a Year of Graduations for me! No, this year it was a little more low-key, though there were many well-known names that departed the ways of the Idol for a better life, or at least, a life where they could have more solo spotlight…

Which is kind of the case for Tanaka Reina, who ran away over to her band, LoVendoЯ in the hopes of a better singing career. To say that I was rather happy she left Morning Musume is an understatement, because it was finally nice to see the back of her. Of course I hope for the best for the girl, but until she left, Morning Musume really was holding back… and now, they aren’t! Oh, Happy Days!

Not to say she didn’t bring talent to the group though, because she did! Once upon a time, back in 2003…~

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Of course, one of the biggest departures within H!P was not that of Reina’s, but in fact Aina’s! On the day that Otsuka Aina had withdrawn from the programe, it was announced that she had left Hello! Project and Juice=Juice, shocking fans and breaking many little hearts. This was definitely unexpected, and it shocked me and stunned me into a silence. It was basically the equivelant to Ogawa Saki’s 3-day Graduation announcement, except worse

We’re still reeling over it! This is basically the Maeda Yuuka graduation of 2011 going into 2012 and 2013, except Juice=Juice style!

Of course, we also had the graduations of a few big named 48’s, mostly Shinoda Mariko, Itano Tomomi and Akimoto Sayaka, the 3 that most of us payed attention to. For me, it was Mariko, the one who I felt ruled the world.

When she announced her graduation that day during Senbatsu, I just wanted to cry. I mean, I don’t exactly follow the 48’s, but Mariko was my rock in that group (now replaced by the Rock of no emotion, Paruru) and I adored her, however her graduation was pretty understandable… she’s old for an Idol, and she’s an adult with ambitions of her own. So of course she would chase them!

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One of the biggest shock graduation announcement of the year, however, was that of Ruhara Renji’s from Fudanjuku; Ruhara, also known as Harada Mariru if you are going for her tarento name, blogged that she had thyroid disorder back in August, and that despite it not affecting her before, it was now affecting her and that she had been hospitalised. She then later announced that she would graduate from Fudanjuku, as she could no longer strain herself, but she could live a normal life instead.

This announcement broke my heart. Ruhara was undoubtedly my beloved member of Fudanjuku, and so to find out that Ruhara would have to graduate was so sad, however it is so understandable too; Mariru/Ruhara has a critical condition, and so she needs to rest and pursue a normal life in order to get by. It’s horrible that she has this condition, however I knew that the graduation would have to happen, regardless… it was so sad, but it is the best thing for Mariru to lead a normal life now.

This was, by far, my heartbreak of the year. It hurts to know that an Idol you love has to stop what they love, and that they are in pain. But this is for the best.

I also lost other Idols this year, from smaller groups that may not be as well known; once again, Houkago Princess is in there, and they lost their members Noda Hitomi thanks to a scandal where she contacted and met up with a fan, Chiba Sakino who graduated to pursue… well, another group, with Hitomi actually, as well as other members including Shiraishi Rika, who wants to focus on getting into University, and Aiuchi Kohana graduated and is now a gravure model, I think. There were also the sudden graduations of Kana and Lee from Love La Doll, leaving Aya as the sole member of the group. Let’s not forget that, just this September, Afilia Saga also lost another two members; Aria M Milvana, and my precious Emiu Weilschmidt.

And then there was Sea*A’s disbandment, which really killed me. A nail to the heart, if you will. I loved them, and I hoped they would continue for about another five years? But I will stop there now, because this Graduation section has gotten a bit out of hand… yeah.

Of Debuts and Whatnot

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Luckily for me, I had a few debuts that brightened up my year of 2013, the most prominent one being that of Yuuka Ueno. Not quite an Idol, and probably not quite an artist yet, this girl has a beautiful face but an even greater voice that is heavenly and gorgeous in every aspect; she really made my year with her beautiful songs and that amazing ability to just capture me whenever she sang a note of pure innocence and passion. As a singer Yuuka Ueno is truly gifted, and both of her singles have given me great joy over these past few months this 2013. I was so grateful to simply find her when I did, because she is simply glorious.

Another beautiful soloist that I happened to stumble upon was the new Satoyama Idol, who is now sadly defunct sice the end of this year (as a soloist, at least) is Tasaki Asahi, the girl who won my heart with her beautiful piano skills and that look of pure love and happiness at singing and just being able to perform her craft. Honestly, she made the beginning of my year beautiful with her music; that pure look of joy, her amazing talent as a pianist… it was all beautiful, and I wish that she had released more, because it would have been amazing.
Luckily, we have her in Bitter&Sweet soon enough, so yay!

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Of course this year also saw the debut of Hello! Project’s latest group, Juice=Juice! A group that people have pretty much been looking forward to, Miyamoto Karin was finally placed somewhere where she could shine, and where her face would undoubtedly be shown a lot. This was the dream group for many as it included different faces, and different talents and styles. Basically, for many H!P fans, myself included, this group was promising. And yes, they delivered!

We also had the debut of the new 48′ sister group, HKT48 this year! Sadly, this group has yet to truly appeal to me, though they do have some cute songs and girls in the group, however their generic sound really does not appeal to me in any way, so I may have to leave it to next year to truly see if they are worth the wait… maybe…~

Of course, other than a few big names coming out from the H!P and 48′ factories, groups such as fishing Idol unit Tsuribit have also debuted this year! They are cute and tiny, and just that little bit awkward, but I really like them it seems! It’s nice to see a group with a different gimmick, regardless of how… weird it can seem to us foreign fans. They are fun, and whilst they haven’t truly made a fishing PV, I have enjoyed them greatly. I look forward to their 2014!

Losing Interest in You (Sorry)

9nine2Sadly, I have once again lost interest in a few groups this year, namely 9nine and AKB48; really, they did nothing for me this year, and it’s saddening to come to that realization, especially when it comes to 9nine, whom I once loved greatly.

I actually have no clue how I fell out of favour with 9nine, but it just happened, and I have moved on to other groups and girls that seem to keep my interest more. Not to say that this group isn’t fantastic, because they are, but I just can’t keep up with their current look or sound it seems. It’s sad, but sorry 9nine, we just have to let go…

In terms of the 48’s, it’s pretty simple what fell me out of favor with them; their songs. Their boring, bad songs. I don’t know what is up with AKi-P, but their current A-sides and a good chunk of their B-sides have just not appealed to me.
And here I was, thinking that I was starting to like them. I was wrong. (Thank goodness for NMB48)

New Love

But when one loses interest, they also find charm and love somewhere else, which actually brings me to this group;

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Nogizaka46, where everything pretty much went right. They improved, and I fell in love. I was amazed. Actually, a few people were I think… well, the ones who didn’t like their 2012 PV’s that is.

This year, out of any AKS group, it was Nogizaka46 and NMB48 that I started to really like and enjoy this year. These two groups had the strongest songs (other than SKE) and the best PV’s to offer, and they really stood out to me on the market with their great direction, amazing cinematography, and lovely songs. It was nice to find an AKS group that I liked consistently throughout the year, rather than nit-picking at certain things… ahhh, these two groups were amazing this year! 2013 was certainly not unlucky for either of them!

Another group that caught my attention this year had to be Juliet, that R’n’B Gyaru trio of loveable, gorgeous and talented young women who have a talent for just drawing me in! I loved their songs this year, especially Shiawase Navi, a fun and upbeat song that is a different, new sound to their usual tune. It was great to truly discover and enjoy Juliet fully this year. I had a great experience and I hope that in 2014, they will be even better than ever! In fact, I hope that all of these groups continue to produce excellent stuff in 2014! I am looking forward to it all!

Hello! Project Reign Supreme!

Of course, this post would be nothing without a little Hello! Project spotlight! So let’s get to it, shall we?

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This year, I really feel like H!P has been on a roll in terms of better production, better looking costumes and sets, and better promotion all around! Okay, it feels like Morning Musume gets the best of the promotion and the other groups, especially S/mileage, get the short end of the stick, but it is truly undeniable that this year UFP as a whole have gone beyond their usual effort to promote these girls and sell them to the public. Thankfully, it has all payed off and the girls are a little more well known than they were in previous years. Hallelujah!

This year has also shown us just how beautiful these girls have become since their debut, mostly the girls of Morning Musume of course, and how much better they are in terms of singing and dancing now. Girls like Iikubo Haruna, who had no talent except in speaking and her looks, now has more talent in dancing (still can’t hold a tune though!) and Ikuta Erina has also become a fierce dancer, coming close to the talent of Kudo Haruka! It;s undeniable that in dance, Morning Musume have exceeded further than I could have ever hoped, and given that it is now the one thing they are known for, I hope that they formation dancing will continue to get better until that trend eventually dies down. It’s nice to see that they have a gimmick, to be honest!

It was also nice to see that, this year, Berryz Kobo appealed to me song wise; I think there are still ways to go in terms of their PV’s and how they look as a group, because they still don’t fit together in my opinion, but their songs were great this year. Props to the Berryz girls!

Sadly, C-ute were very boring this year… it felt like more of a safe year, though they did take some risks with a few other releases, and they were nice to see, but overall… yeah, Berryz kind of beat them. I have to admit that.

And we can’t forget that this year, Juice=Juice was created. That made many of us happy (and then sad. Bye, Aina -sob-) and we have loved them since! We have had a pretty good year in H!P, I believe. Let’s hope for an even greater 2014!!!

 

The Year of J-Pop

In general, I think that this years J-Pop selection has been good. I have listened to different Idols, I have rekindled and found new loves in groups or singers, and I have basically enjoyed the entire year of music we have had. I do think that this year, the Summer music was better than the rest of the years music, but that’s just me.

Of course I did have a few ups and downs, such as the disappointment of Morning Musume’s Updated Best of Album (major disappointment, actually) and the poor AKB48 releases, but other than that it was a pretty well-rounded year that made my year with J-pop music enjoyable. It was nice to be diverse once again this year and hear new sounds. It was fun!

Selective Hearing and I

I did this last year and want to do it again, because I feel like I need to.

This year, I sadly have not been as active or productive as I want to be, and I hope that in the New Year, I will work harder to produce more for the site. I feel like I have truly slacked, so my New Year’s Resolution is to actually be more productive on the sites I am a part of, especially since Greg has been so kind to me.

That said, despite my lack of writing on here, I have made a new friend in the form of Selective Hearing’s writer, Steve; We are polar opposites in the music we like and what we think about music or Idols, but ever since we started talking on Twitter and Facebook I think that we have really bonded, and I find that he has become one of my greatest banter partners. I know that not all will agree with him, but he allows me to see things from his view, and I tell him my views (whilst confusing him along the way) and basically I have a fun time chatting to him. It was nice to find a new friend, especially one so close to my blogging home.

The Final Word

2013 has, for me, been a good year in Idol music. I think that groups have grown and improved, and I have found new singers and groups to enjoy. I have enjoyed it a lot, and I look forward to what the year 2014 brings me! It won’t be long now before it is upon us, so here is to a better, brighter 2014 with fun music, less graduations, and more cheerful, bright sounds!

Happy New Year to you all! Have a good night, a great day, and enjoy the last few hours of 2013 whilst it lasts!

Chiima~