28 January 2013

Music Station Super Live 2012 review

This SP will be the longest at around four hours so far but will be still not the longest of the programs for the end of year/ new year music programs.

Music Station Super Live is the annual special for TV Asahi's regular weekly music program Music Station and it aired on December 21st, 2012. The artists for this special are typically the usual artists that get invited on the show on a regular basis so you get a good taste of who the currently popular artists in Japan are.

The MSSL is MCed by the usual hosts of Music Station, Tamori and Takauchi Yoshie. In fact MSSL is very much an amped up version of the usual show so if you know how the program typically runs there are not a lot of surprises, just everything being done on a much larger scale as they are not as confined as they are in the studio.

Case in point they have all 36 acts that are in the program take the stage at the start, with each being individually introduced, as the show usually starts out with. It is pretty impressive to see all the artists gather on the stage, especially since you have the big groups like EXILE and AKB48 all up on there.

Of course since they cannot do the usual quick talk with all the acts there they just do so with some of the more senior ones, like B'z, who normally do not appear on music programs much anymore so there presence there is rather noteworthy.

When they get on to the performances they do the usual talk with the artist, but either before or after their performance to keep things rolling along. What is nice for the artists that get to talk before their performance is that they will have onscreen the song(s) they will be performing. Like with Kis-My-Ft2 here they will be doing a medley of their songs Ai no Beat and SHE! HER! HER!.

As a change of pace Kisumai perform the rock version of Ai no Beat, which is nice, though I think I can understand why they usually go for the dance version. The rock version makes the song sound a bit choppy at the start.

Of course part of the fun of watching Kisumai perform on roller skates is to see if any of them will have any close calls to falling. There is no disappointment on that front as at the end Fujigaya Taisuke has to grab a hold on Miyata Toshiya to make sure he can stop himself at the end as it looks like he took the last ramps a bit too enthusiastically. But they play it off well so it looks like it could just be a part of the performance.

Next act I want to highlight is Hey! Say! JUMP. During their talk segment they get a bit more information about them put on the screen. If I am reading it right then it says that the average age of the group is 21. Hard to believe it is that high already as they debuted with the average being 15, but they did loose their youngest member and in 2013 the youngest still in the group all turn 20.

They do a medley of Beat Line and Super Delicate. It is a bit surprising to see Beat Line being performed as it is a B-side, but it is a strong B-side that would have fit very well with their more recent singles so it works.

I would have liked to have seen a break in performing Super Delicate on one of these programs, but as it ended up being their only single of 2012 I know that is not going to happen. It is not like I do not like the song but it is not exactly a favorite of mine from the group.

There is not a long wait until another Johnny's act is up. This time it is Kanjani8 and they are dressed in their Eito Ranger outfits, so it is an easy guess that they will be performing ER. Highlight of the MC before is when the group is heading towards the stage is Maruyama Ryuhei tripping over his own feet.

I rather love that K8 have been doing a variety of songs for these programs that they are on. Of course it probably helps that since this is an anniversary year they can get away with using their older songs. But even so they did release enough in 2012 that just from those singles they could have quite a choice of what to perform.

ER is one of my favorite tracks from them and I am just really happy that they decided to perform it for at least one of the shows, especially since the way it was tied into their movie they kinda have to do the whole Eito Ranger thing for it. If not it just would seem off, IMHO.

While I would not say I am a fan of Nishino Kanna I do like a couple of her songs and Always is one of them. She also is one of those artists that may not have a large presence on the physical sales charts but is one of the lead artists in sales in the digital market. I really wish there was a combined physical and digital chart so artists like her could get more recognition by international fans, as they mainly just look to the physical charts (Oricon).

Next set of acts are Superfly and KAT-TUN. Because I am easily amused I had to smile at the fact that Shiho looked like she could be a part of KAT-TUN as their outfits blend in surprisingly well together.

In KAT-TUN's talk Taguchi Junnosuke is able to get his self introduction in that uses puns of course. His bad puns pretty much take over the talk from there on.

Superfly (which is the name of the group, the vocalist Shiho though it the only one that acts as the face of the band) perform their song FORCE, which was the theme song for the popular drama Doctor X.

I love the song and the album it came from as it just has so much energy and it a good solid rock strong. And Shiho just knows how to pull off the rocker vibe so well.

KAT-TUN then go into Fumetsu no Scrum, but I wish they had one of their more rock sounding songs to perform instead so it could have been a good follow up. I honestly have not been interested in a song KAT-TUN has done since Change Ur World and nothing has come to change that.

After teasing about their appearance for the past few commercial breaks Mr. Children are finally up. Of course the big news for them is that 2012 was their 20 year anniversary, which is probably a big part of why they have been so busy this year and are appearing on all these music programs.

The perform Joutoku and it sounds good for the most part. There is still the issue of Sakurai Kazutoshi's voice sounding strained with the big notes, but he seems much better at handling them this time around so his voice does not sound like it is just failing him.

Perfume get to take the stage and talk about their world tour that they did in 2012 before going off the prepare to perform.

Of course Perfume is performing once again Spring of Life. Even though I have heard and seen this performed quite a few times already I still myself enjoying it. I think it helps that the girls are just completely on point with their dancing and look like they are really enjoying performing.

I am glad to see that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is changing things up though with a medley with her song Tsukematsukeru. Fashion Monster gets through in as well but at least it is a bit of a change of pace.

Kyary is good if you need a dose of cute with some weird to the side. I like that she does not stretch the extremes with it either so it is something she can keep up for a while instead of quickly running out of ideas after a while like other artists that go for over the top like her.

About midway through the program it is SMAP's turn. Like most of the artists that have been performing recently they get their talk portion to themselves. Inagaki Goro gets to promote their DVD release of their tour and Nakai Masahiro tries to cover up the promotion by calling him a big SMAP fan.

The group performs Triangle and gift as a medley. Triangle is a single from 2005 so it comes as a surprise for them to perform. It is a nice ballad though, even with Nakai singing, and it seems that this "medley" is more like the two songs SMAP get to sing because they are SMAP.

gift is the main song the group has been singing on these programs being the main song off their album that they released in 2012. The song plays to the group's strengths more than Triangle being a more upbeat song.

Since it has been five years since B'z was on MSSL they give them a VTR introduction with footage from past performances. We get to see that Inaba Koshi has some nice legs that he did not mind showing off in the past.

For B'z 2012 is their 25 year anniversary. It is interesting to see how low key they are during the talk part compared to how fired up they are when they perform.

B'z perform Ichibu to Zenbu and Ai no Bakudan, both big hits for the band with Ichibu to Zenbu being more recent as it was the theme song for the drama Buzzer Beat. Ai no Bakudan is just classic B'z and is the perfect song to get pumped up with.

Fukuyama Masaharu is normally not an artist I am interested in, but one of his songs is an old time favorite of mine, Niji. I fell in love with it back when I was first getting into Japanese dramas and watched Water Boys as it was highly recommended. I still listen to it regularly and I am so glad I have the single as I love just about all the remixes of it. So I was beyond happy that he performed the song here in his song medley for the program.

Maeda Atsuko is brought out with AKB48 as Aki-P seems to be suffering from separation anxiety of some kind and will not let the girl go off and do her own thing without the shadow of AKB48 still firmly attached to her. At least Acchan seems much happier with it though. I really do think what made her decide to quit was a dislike of the constant competition within the group and I do not blame her.

Not a Acchan fan so just going to skip over her performance to AKB48's. Watching all these performances I think I am beginning to understand why people would compare Watanabe Mayu to a robot, there is something that seems nonhuman about her smile. I hope she will be a kind robotic despot for the sake of AKB48 fans.

Again I am mainly looking for my NMB48 girls and thankfully they are not hard to spot thankfully. Yamamoto Sayaka looking great like always.

And there is an endearing quality to Watanabe Miyuki's way of making you think she is the star whenever the camera is focused on her.

I'm not sure how I missed this in my original watch as it comes off as very noticeable now but one of the girls during Eien Pressure took a fall. It looked like she tripped over the back of another girl's foot as she was rushing to get into place. I applaud her for getting back up and continuing on with the performance as that had to have been majorly embarrassing.

Oh hey it's EXILE and they are slated to perform Rising Sun. The fact that it will be in a medley gives me some hope but since all the acts now are getting pretty long time allotments I will not get my hopes up that I will be able to get out of hearing the full song yet again.

And it looks like they are doing a medley like SMAP, where it is really just two songs that they are performing. Thankfully one of the songs is Lovers Again which is not only one of the group's bigger hits but also a favorite song of mine from the group. Since it is a ballad song the dancers look really awkward being there.

Rising Sun is what it has been on all the other programs. At least with the dancers they feel like they have more purpose for being there when compared to their inclusion with Lovers Again. At least until the other legion of dancers get brought out. I think EXILE is just a group I will never completely understand.

As we enter the final hour of the program it goes back to having two acts share a talk segment. TOKIO is up though and they are usually good for their talks, though I still need to work on my Japanese to be able to follow them better.

TOKIO perform KIBOU, which seems to be their song of choice for the season. I just noticed that Nagase Tomoya has a mascot character plushie where his tie should be. Joshima Shigeru has one on his guitar too so I am guessing it probably is the mascot character for TV Asahi or Music Station. That is the thing with these older Johnny's groups is that they love to slip things like this in and you can easily miss them if you are not paying enough attention.

Ayaka seems to garner enough attention to get a talk segment of her own. I still cannot get over her hairstyle reminding me so much of Utada Hikaru. I blame Hikki withdrawal.

Ayaka sings a song off her latest album Hajimari no Toki. I loved the album personally and think it was easily her strongest yet. Going independent seems like it was a good choice for her and thankfully her fans were willing to follow her.

Kinki Kids are the next Johnny's to perform. This year they get to celebrate their 15th anniversary year.

They perform Kawatta Katachi no Ishi, which has the lyrics written by the mastermind behind AKB48Akimoto Yasushi. The duo of course sound great and can probably sing these kinds of ballads in their sleep if they had to.

Next up there is L'Arc~en~Ciel, one of my favorite J-rock bands and the first one I got into. Tetsuya seems to be showing his age at least and I have long passed the point of trying to figure out Hyde. Especially when it comes to his hair. They get to talk about their world tour earlier in the year, including performing in the Madison Square Gardens in New York.

They perform a medley that includes the English version of XXX and their hit song Ready Steady Go. I will give Hyde credit that he does seem to have a good enough handle of the English language to be able to make English versions of songs without much awkward English, or at least he knows to make sure to get someone to look at the lyrics that knows the language.

Ready Steady Go is a a fun song like always and a good song to get the crowd going. Hyde was sounding a bit harsh at times during it. But that is what years of smoking is bound to do to ones vocals.

When I saw the sleeve of the outfit on the screen I knew it had to be a Johnny's act up next and I was right. We have Arashi and Sakurai Sho got to talk about the Olympics as they talked about traveling to places in the past year.

Arashi get a three song medley that kicks off with Akashi. Honestly Arashi is another group that I just have found myself not caring much for their music. I do enjoy some of their songs but most of the more recent stuff, like post 2009 does absolutely nothing for me. The stage with wings thing here is at least kinda cool.

Thankfully they have one of the older songs that I do like performed in this medley, Love So Sweet. Not my favorite but still fun to listen to after all these years.

The medley ends with Wild at Heart though so my interest quickly goes back into waning again. It sounds like a song I should like if I like their earlier stuff but there just seems to be something missing about it to actually catch my attention.

They are the last act I want to highlight though as there are only two acts after them and one is a nostalgia act that I have no nostalgia for and the other is a singer I just never got into.

But the show ends with the main acts on stage and getting asked their final thoughts about performing on the show.

With that it is the end of the program and the final Music Station show of the year. The program is already back in 2013 after the New Year's holidays.

As mentioned earlier MSSL is basically your usual episode of Music Station but set for a bigger stage. Of course there are some other differences but if you enjoy watching MSte than you will most likely enjoy watching this special for it.

It also helps gives some artists that are not going to be seen in other seasonal music programs one to be in, which is nice as you do not always have to see the same faces. Of course there is still some overlap with the more popular ones but that is just something that cannot be avoided.

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