30. GU-GU LULU – Caution
GU-GU LULU was probably one of the most anticipated new groups in 2018 and it’s easy to see why when you take a look at the members. It’s kind of a rock/alt idol supergroup that includes former members of BELLRING Shoujo Heart, Nato Kan, Living Dead I Dolls, Koutei Camera Girl, Guso Drop, and MIGMA SHELTER. Personally, I was a casual fan of some of the groups listed, but I never really got into any of them or got to know the members, so I didn’t go in to GU-GU LULU with any expectations. Well, whether you’re familiar with any of the girls in the group or not, you should definitely check out their first single Caution. The song has a really interesting funky and retro sound with some great guitar riffs and bass lines thrown into the mix. The vocals are cuter sounding than you might expect, which could turn some people off, but I personally think it adds a lot of charm. I haven’t really heard any idol songs like Caution and I’m completely on board to hear more songs in a similar vein.
29. 143~ – FIRExFIRE
Right after GU-GU LULU is another highly anticipated new group that debuted last year, 143~. Okay, maybe not highly anticipated, but I know some people were pretty excited about it, particularly since the group includes Juri (ex CANDYIISTRIPE_NEO) and Rinka (ex CANDYIISTRIPE_NEO and Lolisyn). I like Rinka, so I was excited to see what the group would be like. While I haven’t seen the group in person, from what I’ve seen on YouTube and heard from friends who have seen them live, they seem like one of the more polished indie idol groups out there. They’ve released a good deal of music already on YouTube and Soundcloud and it’s really good in general, but my favorite is definitely FIRExFIRE. I think FIRExFIRE was the first song the group every released and man, they got off to a good start. First off, it easily has one of my favorite instrumentals of the year. I’m not sure if 143~ ever do band sets, but it’d sure be cool if they did. The rapping in the verses adds a cool flair to the song and the vocals in the chorus sound great. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing this song get a music video in the future.
28. Tacoyaki Rainbow – Sotsugyou Love Tasty
I was kind of underwhelmed by most of Tacoyaki Rainbow’s songs this year (as I have been in general since they signed with avex), but I ended up loving one of their 2018 songs: Sotsugyou Love Tasty, off their second album Double Rainbow. The group is known for their wacky, energetic songs, but Sotsugyou Love Tasty takes it in a completely different direction with a much more subdued, melancholic sound. As the group’s members mature, it’s nice to see a song like this that takes the group in a different direction without being generic or losing their quirky style. Sotsugyou Love Tasty somehow manages to be sad, adorable, and catchy at the same time and I’d love to see more creative releases like this from them.
27. Juice=Juice – Vivid Midnight
I was a huge fan of Juice=Juice back when they debuted (that was in 2013, time flies…), but recently, I’ve found a lot of their releases to be a bit lacking. Vivid Midnight was just what I needed to get excited about the group again. The song and fashion have a definite K-Pop feel to them, but it doesn’t feel like they’re ripping anyone or anything. Vivid Midnight manages to feel fresh and energetic and it never fails to get stuck in my head and put a smile on my face. This song was my favorite Hello! Project song of the year and I think it’s a near perfect song for what it’s trying to do: capitalize on the K-Pop trend, still keep traditional Hello! Project fans engaged, and make the listeners smile.
26. Beboga! – Be!
Some of you might be a little confused by my inclusion Be! on this list. Yeah, I admit, Cocoa’s solo at the beginning is pretty terrible and in general, the vocals are pretty bad. I wouldn’t blame anyone for being turned off by those points, but this song is just so dang fun that I don’t even care. And isn’t that what Beboga is about? I really like the rock direction they took with this song and how the personalities of the girls were able to shine so well. I’ll miss Beboga, but I’m glad that they were able to end on a high note.
25. HKT48 – Hayaokuri Calendar
I’ve always like HKT48’s high-energy songs like Suki! Suki! Skip! and Melon Juice and I think songs like that are what the group does best. Luckily, this year’s single Hayaokuri Calendar was exactly what I wanted from them. It’s easy to sing along, the girls sound like they’re having a blast, and it’s made for live performance with the choreography and shouting parts in the chorus. This is my favorite HKT single in years and it’ll be interesting to see what direction the group goes in without Sasshi, Sakura, and Nako.
24. Last Idol – Ai Shika Buki ga Nai
I’m not sure how much I’ve talked about Last Idol on this blog, but I’m really surprised they don’t have more of a Western fanbase. The group’s got everything: most of the girls are from underground idol groups or have concurrent positions in underground idol groups, Tsunku, Aki-P, and Rino Sashihara, along with others, are involved in writing songs for them, they have their own idol survival show that’s pretty entertaining (I’ve watched part of it). And, of course, they have some pretty great music. I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of their songs this year, but my favorite was the theme song for the live action Gakkou Gurashi movie, Ai Shika Buki ga Nai. It sounds kind of like something Keyakizaka46 would do, but I think Last Idol really make it their own. Ai Shika Buki ga Nai has a cool, epic sound with great production values behind it and I’m a big fan of the piano instrumentals. If you like Keyakizaka or more mature idol songs in general, give this song a shot.
23. Namennayo Harajuku – Omoide Lens Filter
I’ll be honest: I don’t think there will be many people who love this song as much as I do. Namennayo Harajuku was one of my favorite idol groups and this was one of their only songs to strongly feature Mami, my oshi in the group. The group also disbanded last year and this was their last release. Omoide Lens Filter has a bit of a rough, indie feel, but it’s one of the cutest summer songs I’ve heard in a long time and manages to make me want to both smile and cry at the same time. Sadly, Mami seems to be done with being an idol, but half of the members moved on to what seems to be Namennayo Harajuku’s successor group, 1 Chance Yeah Hoi. Give Omoide Lens Filter a listen and if you’re a fan, maybe 1 Chance Yeah Hoi is the group for you.
22. Dempagumi.inc – Girametasu Dempa Stars
After Moga left, I didn’t have an oshi in Dempagumi.inc. Since I was a fan of both Perorin and Nagi, I was actually pretty happy when they joined the group. However, I was a little apprehensive when I heard the first release with the new lineup, Oyasumi Polaris Sayonara Parallel World. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but it just didn’t feel like Dempa to me. I was worried they wanted to take the group in a new, worse direction, but Girametasu Dempa Stars quelled my fears. It’s very much a classic style Dempagumi song and in my opinion, it’s one of the group’s best. I haven’t enjoyed a Dempa song this much in a long time and it’s the perfect song to end a live. Girametasu Dempa Stars is a wild, energetic, emotional ride and it certainly got me excited about the future of the group.
21. Q-pitch – Tsubuyaita
Q-pitch is one of my recent idol discoveries. They’re an interesting group; Q-pitch is pretty indie, but at the same time, they’re attached to a pretty big agency, ShibuyaTV. They don’t manage any other idol groups, but they’re involved with a lot of other things. Some of the things ShibuyaTV runs include the Shibuya O venues, most of the big billboards in Shibuya, the FOTO-JO satsueikai studios, a vocal school, and a number of TV stations. The group itself remains pretty small because, well, I guess ShibuyaTV isn’t very good at managing an idol group, but because of the agency’s connections, they get spots in Tokyo Idol Festival, they had an childrens anime tie-up, they get to have solo lives in some pretty big venues, and their music is very well produced. Tsubuyaita is one of my favorite songs by them. The recorded vocals sound great and I can’t get enough of the intro. Q-pitch deserves a lot more attention; their songs are high quality and all of the girls are cute. If you’re looking for a new group to get into, try Q-pitch!
What do you think of my choices so far? Let me know here or on Twitter! I plan to try to wrap up this series in the next couple days, so see you again soon!