13 January 2013

NTV Best Artist 2012 review

Another Sunday and another music program special to review. This is the first of the longer ones but it means that there are going to be more artists and more to take note of for me.

Next up for music program specials is NTV's annual Best Artist program. It aired back in November 28th and has a run time of almost three hours, so there are a lot of artists to cover for this one.

Like in the previous end of year program review I will only be going over the acts that interest me because of how long these programs are.

The program kicks off big with the first performance given to Arashi. The perform their song Troublemaker. Honestly Arashi just does not interest me much even though I have tried to get into the group a few times. It is not like I have anything against them but I just cannot feel compelled to follow them outside of checking out dramas some of them get roles in as they tend to get some of the better ones. But this song does nothing for me but that is pretty much my feeling with their newer material. So I like some of their older stuff nothing new has yet to impress.

Sakurai Sho is one of the hosts for this program and he is joined by Hatori Shinichi and Suzue Nana.

While Best Artist also has a concert like feel to it with the live audience it mixes in some more standard music program fair by having a "back stage" portion where artists will come out to go down a hall to the stage. In this area we have "navigators", Akasaka Yasuhiko and Tokushima Erika.

Hey! Say! JUMP is up next with a single medley. I really wish they had a new single to promote instead as I feel like I have heard these songs far too much these days. Sure I love them still and I enjoyed the performance but I really want to see more from this group than what we have been given.

This is the program that debuted Yamada Ryosuke's solo song, Mystery Virgin, which is turning out to be quite the hit for him with sales so far. I have liked the song after first listen and my opinion of it has not changed since. I think I am also finally coming to terms that he is no longer the little Junior he once was, especially with seeing him on Shounen Club when he was a tiny Junior. He has grown so much since then and it is fitting that he was giving a song about maturing.

Another way Best Artist has a more music program feel to it is that they will actually talk to most of the artists performing before they do so. Though these tend to be short as it is partly to help fill time as the stage gets whatever changes it needs done for the next performance. They also tend to do two or so artists at once so they can just have the two perform back to back before having to break again.

Up next after a quick talk, which the group carries mostly themselves, is V6. They are also performing a new song for the first time on TV, and this is the title track of their latest single ROCK YOUR SOUL, as a part of a special medley. The special medley is really just their older song WA ni natte odorou with ROCK YOUR SOUL at the end. It really comes off a bit weird as the two songs are very different in sound and energy so there is no smooth transitioning between them.

Hey it is EXILE time again. And since there apparently is only one song that they know we get to watch them perform Rising Sun again. At least since they did not have their mini army of trainees to bring onstage to join them the performance looked different from the last one.

When they bring out KAT-TUN they are joined by Suzuki Fuku who co-stars with Kamenashi Kazuya in the Yokai BEM Ningen live action series. They had the movie come out this year so he is there to help promote that with Kame. That and be adorable.

KAT-TUN perform their own special medley, which seems to be a thing for Johnny's groups on this program so far. The songs int he medley are, Yorokobi no Uta and Fumetsu no Scrum. And we see that there are "boxes" in the middle of the front audience for acts, like KAT-TUN to use in this program as well as the stages.

Next artist up I feel like paying attention to is AKB48. And they are doing the, let's cram as many of the sister groups in with us, thing they tend to do on these programs. So of course SKE48 and NMB48 are there as well. It will be interesting to see them also try to cram HKT48 in these performances next year after that group has singles being released.

Of course my main interest in the performance is NMB48. Kinda curious to why Nagiichi was picked for this performance and not their most recent single. I guess it does fit in with the rest of the songs performed by the other groups but I guess I should be glad it is not Virginity again.

The labor laws for those under a certain age definitely helps give some variety for the girls performing in these live shows as I know some of the faces here would not have had the chance if the younger girls could have performed. This is assuming that they picked the girls that can perform later in the night so they can do just that, as this line up would indicate. Since newer groups like NMB48 and HKT48 are mainly made up of under 20s they are the ones that have to deal with this mostly.

All the groups in the end join in for Gingham Check. It must be a lot of work for these girls to have to learn so many songs. And that is mostly going for the sister groups as they are expected to learn the AKB48 songs as well as their own plus the theater songs for whatever stage they are assigned to perform for a period of time.

We take a bit of break to look at VTR from Best Artist past. I really wish I had the 2001 show as it had ZONE, and I really want to see more of them for nostalgic sake.

During the VTR if you look at the screen with the guests Maruyama Ryuhei makes it a point to camera bomb the other members of Kanjani8 throughout it all.

So it is K8's turn on the program, and we are only about a third of the way in. They get to be the second artist in the talk segment, which means the only ones in the MC section as the other group got ready to perform. They of course bring up that this was their anniversary year and are just full of energy.

Special medleys do seem to be the theme for Johnny's as K8 also has one. They perform Musekinin Hero and Aoppana. Both fun and energetic songs and actually work flowing into each other. They begin Musekinin Hero in the back section of the audience, which I have to say is pretty cool. I have had "those" seats before at concerts so artists making the effort to get closer to them even for a little while is something I respect.

By the time the start Aoppana they are on the main front stage and just having so much fun on stage. It is hard not to smile with them when they perform as you can just tell that they love doing what they do.

The talk with Perfume has them look at footage from last year's performance from them as there was an issue with the belt on one of the outfits.

Of course they are performing Spring of Life, as this will be their song for pretty much all their appearances on these programs. They get through this performance outfit trouble free and I love the graphics they sue for the screens, even the one on the floor of the stage.

We get a "backstage" break to show who is coming up and when they show NEWS they are missing a members. When asked about it, Tegoshi Yuya explains that Koyama Keiichiro was held up because of his work on News every but should be along shortly, just as Koyama shows up. I am sure this is more to promote Koyama on the news program than anything, but hey it gets me some more NEWS screen time so I shall be happy with it.

I really do not like most of the colored contact lenses Nakashima Mika uses. They tend to just make her look creepy. It is kinda weird as she used them earlier in her career and the ones she used then were fine, IIRC, but lately they just make her eyes scary looking.

But I used to really like Mika but these days she is very hit or miss with me. She sings a medley which includes ORION, that was the theme song to the drama Ryusei no Kizuna which Ninomiya Kazunari and Nishikido Ryo co-starred in with Toda Erika. She couples that song with her latest, Hatsukoi. Her voice sounds a bit rough during her performances. I have found her a better recording artist and a live artist and this performance just reinforces that.

The program is about half way over so they introduce a special medley of some of the performers singing some of their most popular songs.

First up is AKB48 with Heavy Rotation, which really is their big break out hit. I guess in an attempt to spice things up a bit, as you know they have sung this song to death by now, the girls are dressed up in "animal" costumes.

Interestingly enough Shimazaki Haruka gets a bit of a spotlight in the performance even though I do not think she was even in the group when this single was released. I guess everyone needs to start coming to terms with the fact we have a new AKB overlord and her name is Paruru.

And we get Perfume performing a song that is not Spring of Life. The perform Chocolate Disco and while I can listen to their songs being performed on these programs with little issue I doubt I could listen to them on a regular basis. It just is not to my taste.

We then get back to the regular performances of the night. Ayaka's green thing here made me think of astroturf, even though it looks like it is much fluffier than that stuff.

Ayaka sings Tsuyoku Omoi and it is a nice ballad. Of course I have yet to hear a ballad for her that sounded bad, perhaps a bit on the bland side but always listenable. Of course what helps set her apart from the other ballad heavy female singers is that not only does she have a strong live voice but it is also expressive. You can really feel the hope in her voice with this song and feel uplifted from it without paying attention to the lyrics for example.
We finally have NEWS coming out to take the stage.

During the talk with NEWS they bring up the hug Masuda Takahisa promised Olympian Yoshida Saori if she got gold at the London Olympics and play the footage from that. They also point out that she is in the audience as well.

NEWS of course does a medley of two songs, the first being Koi no ABO. I love the little bit of interaction they did with the hosts as they walk the full length of the stage.

This performance of WORLD QUEST is pretty much the music program extent of promotion for the single. A pity as I think it is a single that could have used a bit more promotion but with the year end programs taking over around the release date it is a bit understandable why they could not get on all the usual ones.

I kinda wish Tegoshi would learn how to dial it back with his voice. Because he overpowers so much when he sings he tends to end up sounding shouty and this performance is a good example of that flaw of his.

Mr.Children can probably be considered the artist of the year for 2012 with not only having the top two sales for albums, with each of those selling over a million each, but even getting a third album into the top ten before the year ended. They are also one of those Japanese acts that have been along long enough and been steady enough with their success that they really do not need to go on the music programs to promote if they really do not want to. So it is surprising that the went on so many last year as they usually sit it out.

The level of activity this year for the group, considering they have been touring quite a bit to add to everything else, seems to have stretched some things to thin. Sakurai Kazutoshi's voice sounds a bit worn out at parts, especially near the end of hypnosis with the big notes he just just cannot reach. It is a pity as he is a talented singer and usually sounds better than he does in these programs for 2012. But there is still a lot of the emotion in his voice and that is one of the main strengths of it.

While I would love Mr. Children getting to perform two songs on a program like this, with Sakurai's vocals being what they are I actually rather hoped that they did not get to perform this second song, Jotoku. But it was one of their bigger drama tie-ins so I can understand why they would be asked to do it. On the plus side this song does not have as many of the big notes Sakurai is straining to reach so it sounds better.

In one of the commercial break clips we get to see TOKIO backstage with Matsuoka Masahiro being boss.

When it is TOKIO's turn to talk they do not make it easy for the hosts to rein them in as they are pretty energetic for men in their 30s/40s. Nagase Tomoya gets to promote his upcoming drama quickly before time is up.

Before getting to the TOKIO performance we get another VTR segment where they look back at popular artists from past Best Artist shows. We get blasts from the past like SPEED performing their hit song Body & Soul.

As well as SMAP from 2013 performing their biggest hit, Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana.

TOKIO performs a medley that actually comes off as a medley as there is more than two songs in it. The first song is KIBOU, followed by Sorafune, then Hanauta. KIBOU is the song they will perform mostly for these shows, Sorafune of course is the group's biggest song. Hanauta is a surprise to have there but it is nice to have a song that you would never expect in the mix.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is good to through into the mix as she just stands out, and in some pretty unique ways too. Like deciding to have a fake mustache for the show.

I have no idea what look Hirai Ken is going for, but it does not suit him at all. I think it is mainly the glasses that have to go. Though now that I think about it it almost looks like he is a Japanese adult Harry Potter, as he also has the wild black hair look going on.

This performance of Fashion Monster does not really stand out from what Kyary did before. Different stage and that is about it. She has this performance down pat though, which I guess can be considered a plus.

Hirai Ken sings Kohaku, and I do admit that I really like the koi on the stage screen. It really fits the image he seems to be going for. Honestly with ballads the only thing Hirai can mess up with them with is to pick something that is boring, which Kohaku is not.

Sakurai Sho had disappeared not too long ago and so he gets to return for Arashi to perform a second time. I am impressed that he manages to think he snagged on the set piece when he brushed past it.

Johnny's must have a deal with a drape fabric store or something as the pants for their outfits looks more like something I would expect to see for window curtains. Or perhaps even on furniture.

They show some VTR from 2012's NTV 24 Hour Television program that the group hosted.

Being the final act of the show they get to sing more than one song. The first they do is Your Eyes.

They then finish off with Wild at Heart. I am glad for it as it makes sure things end up on at least a more upbeat song than the previous one. None of the 2012 Arashi singles won me over this year.

The hosts then do some wrap up talk at the end, partly to let the credits roll. With that the program is over for 2012.

NTV Best Artist is nice if just because you do get a lot of artists, as even though I covered a good deal of them I still skipped about half of the artists that were on the program. How strong the who is really depends on who is performing and how well they do.

It is a more subdued song, probably a bit more in line with Kohaku Uta Gassen even with the live crowd. But it looks like a more serious show and most of the artists are older compared to some of the other programs.

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