J-Pop Sunday – Berryz Kobo

We haven’t had any idol pop in a while. Considering how big a part of the Japanese music scene it is I think it’s time for some more idol nonsense. To be honest I’ve been trying to avoid writing about idol groups; there are only so many times I can say “Look at this horde of cute Japanese girls and their super happy pop!” and I will eventually have to talk about AKB48 at some point if I do too much on idol groups. I’m trying to avoid that. I don’t dislike AKB48 – “Flying Get” is one of my favourite J-Pop songs – I just dread the day when I have to properly research them. A lot of skeletons in that cupboard, you know? Plus the obvious comparisons to NWA and then all their spin-off groups and then-No! I’m not getting into that right now! We’re going to look at Berryz Kobo today! Simple, straightforward, Berryz Kobo!

Love that zebra print.

Quick Guide:
Act Name: Berryz工房 (Berryz Kobo/Berryz Workshop)
Line-up – 7 lovely young female vocalists:
Saki Shimizu (清水 佐紀) (Group Captain)
Momoko Tsugunaga (嗣永 桃子)
Chinami Toknaga (徳永 千奈美)
Maasa Sudo (須藤 茉麻)
Miyabi Natsuyaki (夏焼 雅)
Yurina Kumai (熊井 友理奈)
Risako Sugaya (菅谷 梨沙子)
Years Active: 2004-Present
Genre: Pop
Kaito’s Choice Tracks: Shingisukan (ジンギスカン/Dschingis Khan) (2008), Ryuusei Boi (流星ボーイ/Meteor Boy) (2009) Ajian Serebureishon (アジアン セレブレイション /Asian Celebration) (2013)
Fun Fact: I honestly don’t know which one is which.

Although just a moment ago I was bemoaning the many offshoot groups of AKB48, Berryz Kobo are distantly related to the idol powerhouse that is Morning Musume. The Berryz are another group that operate under the supervision of producer Tsunku and are a part of his “Hello! Project” idol group empire. In 2002 Tsunku set up auditions for new “Hello! Project” talent and in 2004 – after two years of professional training – eight of the girls who auditioned became Berryz Kobo. Unlike many idol groups Berryz Kobo doesn’t have a constantly changing member line-up and has had the same members from the day of its’ foundation – with the exception of Maiha Ishimura who left in 2005 to focus on her studies. Good for her!

The first song we’ll have a look at is the group’s biggest selling single. And the strangest. “Shingisukan” was released in 2008 and is a Japanese cover of Germany’s 1979 Eurovision Song Contest entry “Dschingis Khan”. I’ll let that sink in; a J-Pop cover of a 70’s German Eurovision entry. “Dschingis Khan” was originally performed by the group “Dschingis Khan” – which of course is the German pronunciation of Genghis Khan. Yes, the song is about Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan. It’s a J-Pop cover of a German 70’s Eurovision song about Genghis Khan. And I love it. Although, the Berryz Kobo cover tones down the more explicit lyrics of the German original that referred to war, sexual conquest or the alcohol. Which does beg the question, what could be left?

Somehow, this sold over 37,000 copies in Japan.

Moving away from Mongolian conquerors and slightly closer back towards the realms of sanity – or at least as close we can get in the world of J-Pop – we have “Ryuusei Boi” (Meteor Boy). My favourite Berryz song: The combination of the funky detective vocal, guitar and drum riffs in the backing track – in fact the whole backing track – and naff green-screen effects in the video give it a certain charm.

“Never Give Up! Never Give Up! 1, 2, 3! GO!”

“Asian Celebration” is one of the more recent Berryz Kobo singles. Released back in March “Asian Celebration” is catchy, cheery, upbeat, has random Engrish in the chorus and legs. Your J-Pop Trope Bingo cards should be full by the end of this one. I didn’t actually like this one at first, but it grew on me, although I’m still not too keen on the electronic harmony towards the end.

Love the floor tiles.

More Berryz Kobo:
Official Website: http://www.helloproject.com/berryzkobo/
Official Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/berryzchannel
Official Twitter (Japanese): https://twitter.com/Berryz_kobo