21 January 2013

FNS Music Festival 2012 review

Next up for the year end programs is FNS Music Festival (Fuji Network System Music Festival) that is the first to have aired in December. It aired on December 5th on Fuji TV and was filmed in the Grand Prince Hotel.

FNS Music Festival is a bit different than the other music programs as its main focus is on collaborations between different artists and their is no live audience outside of the artists themselves at the hotel this is all filmed at. It also features a live band, though not all artists use it. This is also one of the longer programs running for around three and a half hours.

The show kicks off with SMAP performing their fan favorite song, SHAKE. A great way to start anything as it is a great song to liven anything up with and it is easy to see why it is such a favorite at concerts.

We also get to see a bit of the collaboration element of the program as on the other stage, as the place is set up to have two stages with a seating area in between them, is a gathering of a good chunk of the artists that will be in the program singing and dancing along.

After a couple of performances we get to meet the hosts of the program, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Takashima Aya.

TOKIO collaborates with Yokoyama Ken to sing their song Haneda Kuukou no Kibou. Yokoyama Ken has that gravely tone to his voice, which does work with rock songs but can be off putting for some.

The ad breaks give us some shots of the audience, which as mentioned earlier are just the artists participating in the show. So there are some fun little moments to be found in them with those that know to make any screen time count.

We do break away from the hotel to in front of the Fuji TV studio in Odaiba for a performance by Sexy Zone. I am assuming this is partly because they all would not have been able to stay for the full show at the hotel because of the age restrictions. Of course we have Sexy Summer ni Yuki ga Furu being performed. I do not think I will ever like this song but at least it is being performed during the right season for it.

One thing I love about this program is that we get to see more than just the usual songs selected to be performed by groups at the other year end shows. EXILE actually gets to prove they know more than one song as they perform one of their older hits, Choo Choo TRAIN in a collaboration.

Also to finally note during the performances they do quick cuts away to the audience so even if you do not like the artist performing you can still catch glimpses of artists you may like. Or just see other acts enjoy watching someone else perform for a change.

It was nice to see Kondo Masahiko show up on one of these year end programs other than Johnny's Countdown. It is probably easy to forget that he was really a big thing during his day and as such still has a place on these shows with the rest of the nostalgia acts.

I really do not care for Golden Bomber but Go Hiromi is always worth watching. Especially when you take into account that he is 57 years old. Go is also an ex-Johnny's and easily the most successful one to have left the agency.

One of my personal nostalgia acts, being one of the first J-pop acts I discovered and enjoy/enjoyed in T.M.Revolution. So I loved this performance because not only was it him but the AKB48 members being used as his dancers include NMB48 members Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki. It is amazing to see an old love mixed in with a new one so this is easily one of my favorite performances of the show.

Arashi is one of the few acts that get to perform one of their songs without any kind of collaboration, but that is probably more for the fact that I doubt they were actually there. This guess is based off of the fact that they have not been since once in the crowd of artists and there are no cut scenes to show an audience even there for them. I guess they could not fit this around their schedule or something. But not having them actually there with everyone else and obviously so makes it a bit of a let down seeing as the big thing with FNS Music Festival is seeing all these artists together.

I was initially disappointed that it was Tegomass on this program and not NEWS but honestly I think it worked out for the best. Tegomass work well as a duo and fit in well with their collaborations like this one with Sukima Switch and Teppei Koike singing Zenryoku Shounen. And the fact that they have more than just this is probably because they are there as a duo, as with the other Johnny's they mostly remain with their group and not do collaborations. So they were probably picked so Johnny's had another act that could do collabs with the other artists there.

Sadly even here there is no escape of Rising Sun. I wonder if the members of EXILE are as tired of performing the song as people are of hearing it.

And of course we have a AKB48 medley, which I spend most of my time looking at the NMB48 members mixed in with them, especially Sayaka. Though to note they seem to be singing without a backing track so it is interesting to hear what these girls sound like actually live.

Hey, we get an audience cut scene with Kis-My-Ft2 here. Senga Kento actually looks like somebody in it too even with KiFt there as well. So he has much to look proud about.

Back with AKB48 we have the new overlord (Shimazaki Haruka) performing her song, Eien Pressure. I think fans are just going to have to come to terms that this era of AKB48 will be ruled by dead fish eyes v.02 and the android (Watanabe Mayu).

And if it was not bad enough having to sit through one of these pre-recorded performances by Arashi we have another. Still have the same issue I had with the first except I like Wild at Heart less than Face Down so this is just a little extra boring for me on that front.

Nice to see Hirai Ken here, even if he seems to be wearing pajamas. But he and his label mate, YUI, get to sing a duet together. I do not think I will be able to get over Hirai's outfit here. I really do not get Japanese fashion sometimes.

Mr. Children continue to show up on these programs as well, though I really hope they skip one or two eventually. Normally I would be excited to see them perform so much but with Sakurai's voice sounding as worn as it is I would rather he relax and let it recover some. But on the plus side they perform Marshmallow Day, which is not as vocally taxing as the other songs they have performed on the other shows. I am disappointed that they seem to also be pre-recorded, but for them it is not as surprising as all these music show performances are out of the norm for them to begin with.

Back when I was trying to expand my J-pop horizons I picked up the Japan Gold Disc Award 2002 CD collection to sample new artists with. One of the tracks on it was Hitori by The Gospellers. I never got into that group but I liked the track, so seeing The Gospellers collab with Tegomass for that song on this program is another personal highlight for me. The standout thing about this song is that it is all in a cappella. This means lots of beautiful harmonizing and no shouty Tegoshi Yuya.

Love the little Shin Domoto Kyoudai regular cast member love here with Nishikawa Takanori and Takahashi Minami watching fellow regular and Takamizawa Toshihiko, guitarist/leader of THE ALFEE, here. These kinds of interactions are probably one of the biggest draws for me for this year end special.

I am loving these sponsor breaks as they are giving some good chances for those who are not going to get a lot of stage time a chance to be seen.

Hey! Say! JUMP finally take the stage to perform their lone single of 2012, Super Delicate. Not much to say here as there was nothing that really stood out about it from all the other times they performed the song.

The MONSTERS are live though, we get the crowd shots to confirm it, and the song seems to be growing on me. Not to the point where I will buy the single, but it is getting to the point where it is tempting.

As if Go Hiromi needed a reason to look even more boss he has AKB48 back dance for him for his second performance of the night.

Then he has E-Girls (which includes Fujii Ryusei's sister SHUUKA here) be his back dancers for another song.

It must be the part of the program that all the old men get to show their stuff as Matchy resurfaces to perform again.

Joshima Shigeru seems to be enjoying it, and he looks like he would be able to fit right in with them.

And Go is still on a roll as he is performing again, this time the Japanese version of Livin' La Vida Loca, Goldfinger '99. Not sure how the song changed so much for the name change to that, but hey more Go and we get to see that some of the EXILE dancers can do more than just dance with NESMITH and SHOKICHI joining him on this.

And you know someone is legendary when you have Kimura Takuya singing and doing the hand movements along with you.

If there was one collaboration that surprised me the most it would be Wada Akiko with Miyavi. I have been a long time Miyavi fan and I was really happy to hear that he would be on the program though I was really curious what he would do as he is not exactly mainstream. But it looks like the wisely chose to use him as a guitarist, his strength as a musician. But I would not have thought he would collab with someone like Wada Akiko. I guess their images just did not seem like they would work and yet somehow it did.

I sometimes wonder how many of the international J-pop community would know of acts like Aikawa Nanase. She was a part of the rock boom of the 90s and helped pave the way for female J-rock acts after her but I feel that if I bring her up to other international fans most will have no clue who she is. I would recommend giving her songs a listen at least, she has some great hits, like the one she sings with Mizuki Nana here, Yumemiru Shoujo ja Irarenai.

Still loving these audience shots as you can tell which groups know how to into things. Though I am not sure the banana in the jacket pocket is the way to go there for Nagase Tomoya. It is bound to leave a bit of a mess.

V6 takes to the stage to perform and get to do a collaboration. While I am more than familiar with Miyavi I sadly do not know who the other guy is. I feel like I should as he has been in several other collaborations in the program and has the air about him of being a long time veteran of the J-music scene. In any case we get an acoustic version of Ai Nanda which sounds great.

Oh, Hirai Ken, you are just going to be a fashion disaster for this program aren't you? And even though I thought you could not top the pajamas you do so effortlessly with the Harry Potter glasses, over the shoulder rug with fake parrot. At least you sound good.

Kis-My-Ft2 do their usual performance of Ai no Beat -dance version-, and really there is nothing much to say as they really do not change anything up. I wonder though if there is more or less pressure felt to perform in front of other artists in the industry instead of fans though. Especially if you are a newly debuted group like Kisumai and have nothing compared to the records of the legendary artists that have performed already.

When Kinki Kids perform they have the Domoto Brothers Band, that is made from the regular cast of their Shin Domoto Kyoudai program, perform with them.

Next Johnny's is Yamashita Tomohisa performing Ai, Texas. I honestly had not heard the song until this performance and I can see why people did not care for it. It is not the kind of song I would care to listen to again.

There is another pre-recorded performance for Mr. Children. It is one of the songs sung on the other music programs and runs into the same issue that it did before where Sakurai's voice is too worn to really do the power notes of the song and sounds like it is disappearing on him if he tries to go for them.

We then get a large group piece as Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is covered. We get an interesting grouping here and I wonder how many of them understand the meaning behind the lyrics of this song, as it is song all in English.

We get a Johnny's collab on the show as Matchy has TOKIO, Kinki Kids and Tegomass back him in performing his song Let's Go. It sounded like Tegoshi forgot he did not have lead vocals during his parts as he sounded almost as loud as Matchy during them.

SMAP end up closing the show with their song gift. Nakai Masahiro steals the show with his over exaggerated dancing.

FNS Music Festival helps bring in something a bit different from the other special music programs during this time of year with its performances. It is probably a special though that may not be the most enjoyable for those who do not know who a good chunk of the artists are though, as it is a bit of a who's who of the J-music industry.

But it has its moments throughout with the interactions of the artists that just typically is not seen all that often, or at least with the mix that you get for this program. And some of the collaborations are just excellent and worth a watch so if you feel you have a good handle of the J-music scene go ahead and watch the full thing. If not then just watching the clips of the artists you do know would be fine.


nanu b said...

It´s always great to see Johnnys interaction. I love Tokio and V6 playing and being silly!!!

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