Whoa! Where’d I disappear to?
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve got plenty of plans to share for this blog, such as more photos, more blog entries, and of course, the beginning of the monthly column version of At Home. However, as some of you know, I’m a devout Roman Catholic. Lent was just around the corner and it was that time where I have to do some self-reflection of what I should be giving up for this year’s Lenten Season. I’ve had some very minor habits that I’ve given up1 and major ones.2 By the time my parents flew out to the Philippines before the start of Lent, I suddenly got somewhat of a revelation.
Thus, I gave up blogging for Lent. It was hard and it was tempting, but I found other distractions that would keep me away from any one of my blogs. I did post a private entry of a major crossover fanfic prologue chapter during Lent on Adri Mars INK, but it wasn’t exactly blogging. That was just posting a prologue chapter as part of my therapeutic writing. Eventually, I faded from posting more, even though I’ve already written four chapters of the major mesh of a crossover saved on my laptop.
During those 40 Days and 40 Nights, I’ve done the following:
- Watching some J-dramas and K-dramas on Netflix
- Playing console video games and mobile otome games.5 Thanks to this, I’ve got a lot of characters incorporated into that therapeutic crossover.
- Rediscovering J-Pop. Only this time, I found myself steering away from Johnny’s/JE boy groups (unlike my past love for J-Pop in which I focused more on Johnny’s/JE than any other group or artist). More on this later.
- Language learning… or a refresher? I started learning a bit of Korean (by trying to memorize the Hangul writing system), but for some strange reason, I end up reverting back to refreshing Japanese again (especially those crazy verb conjugations, particle system, and eep— the Kanji!).
This “Therapeutic Writing” Bit…
So, I like stories that take place in a completely alternate setting with a number of characters from different series altogether meshed up together (because I’m lazy coming up with original names per character). And because this is therapeutic writing, everything is all rough draft. No type of fixing or editing or proofreading. The purpose of therapeutic writing is to write whatever comes to your mind out on paper (or your word processing/novel writing software) as part of a way to relax and clear your head. This is because it’s never healthy to have too many things in your mind all at the same time. I’ve already written four chapters so far but I haven’t posted any of the chapters on Adri Mars INK yet because of Lent.
I password-protect these for several reasons. Even if they’re fanfic crossovers, so to speak, there are a lot of nitpicky readers out there (I am too, I’m admitting) where they start talking about typos, grammatical errors, complaints about the plot, complaints about the characters used (there’s a lot of out of character scenes there, so there’s the warning), complaints about how I skip around scenes too much, you know the deal. But, just because I password-protect them, doesn’t mean I won’t allow anyone to actually read them. Therefore, for those interested, contact me and ask me nicely, and then I hand over the password. 😊
So, what’s this crossover story about? It’s about an indie quintet entering the mainstream with their original songs, original vocals, grassroots-made music not very many people today would normally hear on the radio or anywhere on the internet. They’re not there to revive what music was then, but they were there to return what was rightfully theirs in the first place. That’s all I’ll reveal.
The story takes place in an AU6 Lucis because the FFXV setting is awesome like that. Once it hits April 1st (Easter/April Fools Day), I’ll be posting what I have so far on my writing blog. If you’re interested, please wait for it.
What have I been doing all this time? Why did I abandon you in the first place?
Oh right. I remember now. Moving on.
I was watching some reaction videos from people regarding OPM,7 and most of the reactions have been positive, therefore I’m proud as a Filipino that there are others around the world love the music and the esteemed artists and groups who write and perform them. I still follow my favorite Filipino artists on social media, so that’s not going to go away anytime soon.
And speaking of reaction videos, YouTube has been very kind to show me some recommended videos that aren’t reaction videos. Instead, I’ve gotten quite a number of recommended videos of these stupid comparisons people make between the phenomenally popular K-Pop and the super underrated J-Pop.8 So, I decided to check them and see if these videos have finally shown a much fairer comparison between the groups and artists (and their music) from those two countries.
The J-Pop I’ve always known doesn’t quite narrow to AKB48 or any of its similar cutesy idol groups (Morning Musume from the early 2000s9 and Denpagumi Inc., for example, but Babymetal is awesome in my opinion), and sadly, a number of (hardcore) K-Pop fans would often have the misconception that all of J-Pop is nothing but the cutesy poppy style and anime theme songs, while K-Pop is a lot closer to their liking.10 But, speaking as a J-Pop fan since 1997-1998,11 after seeing a good number of K-Pop music videos and performances,12 to me it wasn’t as impressive or convincing. I can honestly say that whatever it was I was seeing from those K-Pop videos (including the newer ones today), J-Pop groups and artists have already done those types of styles and concepts several years ago.
Even though I feel like my love for J-Pop has been revived, as a fan, I’ve changed. Back in the early J-Pop/Johnny’s days, I was seriously active as a fan online. I owned a massively huge fansite for ARASHI,13 owned and operated a Johnny’s-specific J-Pop fan forum for almost six years, and because I was one of the few who was somewhat fluent in Japanese,14 was a part-time translator for their song lyrics and some magazine articles about them and each of the members. Like any other fandom, the usual drama and other issues arise, whether if it was dealing with your own fellow fans, fans from “rival” groups, or just haters in general. Plus, I was laid off for the first time from my job, which meant that I had to cut back on my fandom and even my activities in running the long-running fan forum and my fansite. Eventually, I quit the fandom altogether and moved on forward and focused on finding a new job.
After over 10 years since I left the fandom, here I am again, finding my love again for J-Pop, but only this time, I’m venturing outside Johnny’s for other artists I should’ve paid attention more in the past. For instance, EXILE and their huge collective of artists and groups in EXILE TRIBE and E-Girls.15 I’m also excited to get to know the boy groups from EBiDan16 – namely SUPER DRAGON, Bullet Train,17 M!LK, and Sakura Shimeji.18 Strong, confident, and badass girl groups also caught my eyes and ears too – FAKY, FEMM, and a new girl group who may be a lot edgier than K-Pop girl group 2NE1, BananaLemon. I started to pay more attention to AAA19 today than I did when they first debuted (around 2005-2006 I think) and they were the first co-ed pop group that I became a fan of. Thanks to AAA also (as well as that top record label Avex), I also discovered a “junior” co-ed pop group that I also ended up becoming a fan of – lol.20
My 💗 and props to MADKID.
Lastly, (for the time being anyway) I would like to say that I seem to tend to follow closely on potential artists and/or groups when they’re fresh in the industry. I felt the same way with ARASHI back in 2000 when I first heard their debut single “A-RA-SHI,” that in probably some ten or so years, they will be one of the top, if not the top, boy groups in the entire J-Pop industry. Even though I quit my fandom and pretty much stopped following them those 10+ years ago, I still have a special place for them in my heart. Even though ARASHI may be presented as an idol boy group, what attracted me to them is their music and their camaraderie with one another.21 After all, to this day, they’re still together, and still going strong– very strong. But alas, I’m moving forward. I had a feeling that my prediction for them was just and it did happen. I’m so happy for them but I will have to cheer for them from afar unlike back in the early days.
I had to mention the latter because, after my J-Pop love revival, one particular group (another boy group) stood out for me. I always respected artists or groups who start their way to the mainstream by releasing their own original work and performance as an independent unsigned artist or group. To be honest, I haven’t come across any artist or group within J-Pop throughout my ten years of being an enthusiast,22 until today, of course. I actually learned of this 5-member vocal and dance group23 from a K-Pop fan’s channel and how this person’s “J-Pop Boy Groups K-Pop Fans Should Listen and Pay Attention To” video had this boy group at one of the top ranks of that video’s list. The group’s name? MADKID.
From what I found through research24, the guys of MADKID released their major debut single, Never Going Back, back in late January 2018. But the group itself go way back in 2014 and started off as an indie group. They’re also very active on social media (mainly on Twitter and Instagram), they have an official YouTube channel, one of the members has his own SoundCloud account with samples of original tracks and rhymes written and composed by him, pretty much you can find them easily everywhere on the net.
The current lineup of the group as of 2017 until today are 3 singers (leader You-Ta, Kazuki, and Shin) and 2 rappers (Lin and Yuki). From their beginnings in 2014, they had two changes in their lineup from their first single as an indie group until early 2017 with Rikito being first (2014- sometime in early 2015), Casey being second (sometime in 2015 – near the end of 2016). In between changes, the group continued on as four members and persevered until they successfully recruited their newest (and hopefully permanent) current fifth member, Shin.25
So, here are a few clips I found on YouTube, starting from their debut single covers to their debut single as an upcoming (mainstream) group:
Here’s their music video of their first single as a group released under an indie label, I Don’t Care. The lineup here as follows (L-R on 0:26): YOU-TA, KAZUKI, LIN, YUKI, and RIKITO. From what I’ve read, they pretty much did everything by themselves here from the song26 to the choreography and even the video itself, so don’t expect “major label” quality. Love the song though!
Japanese cover of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Going Back Together (2015). They added the rap lyrics themselves.
… sometime later, Rikito (member in the white shirt) left the group (I read that he wanted to focus more on his studies, as he was the only member still in high school) and continued on as a four-member group.
Here’s their a cappella cover version of Hikaru Utada’s First Love. Again, they added the rap lyrics themselves.
… sometime later, they recruited a new fifth member, Casey. I actually have heard of him from some 10 years ago. He used to be part of Johnny’s Jr. until he eventually left to pursue his own endeavors.
Here’s their second single, HYPE, with Casey (half-American, you can tell who he is) in the lineup.
Cover of Bruno Mars’s Marry You with Casey on acoustic guitar. Once again, the Japanese rap lyrics were added:
Sometime near the end of 2016, I read that Casey had to leave the group because he and his family moved back to the States to study. Once again, the group continued on with only four members.
With that being said, continuing with only four members, I noticed that their usual style and concept from before (being badass with minimal cursing with the rap lyrics) have mellowed down a bit. They started off with a new single that is a bit more sensitive and heartfelt. Plus, the music videos uploaded starting with this one were not complete and are used as teasers for their singles instead.27 In addition, their first full-length album MADKID was also released with the cover featuring the four of them.
Here’s their first single as a four-member group, Stay with Me, included in their album.
… and their next single, also included in the album, This Love.
Then, fast forward to early 2017, when the guys finally found their third fifth member of the group, Shin. Like Casey being a former trainee under the Johnny’s Jr. system, Shin was formerly part of a 3-member indie boy group, Original Quest. The trio broke up sometime in 2016 and Shin pursued his own music career as a soloist. It was then that You-Ta extended his invitation to Shin to join MADKID as their new fifth member. Eventually, he accepted.
With Shin being in the lineup, I also noticed some changes in the group’s image and style. Aside from the hair color changes and the outfit changes, even the themes of their tracked were somewhat toned down, the rap lyrics that used to have a lot of cursing in them reduced to being (almost?) none, but still good and awesome as always.28
Here’s PARTY UP, their new single featuring Shin in the lineup. In addition, this (and their B-side, Faded Away), would be their last single produced under the indie label Samuraim Records.
… and the B-side single to the one above is another slow ballad, Faded Away. We finally get to hear Shin’s vocals for the first time in solo and blended with You-Ta’s and Kazuki’s voices; a testament that he deserved to be part of the group.
The MV above was also the last MV uploaded in their official YouTube channel (even though it’s only the teaser MV). They had a few other behind the scenes and concert clips after this, but around September 2017, their YouTube channel suddenly became inactive. The group, however, still continued on performing on mall shows, joint concerts, and even on live street performances. There are plenty of fancams of their live performances on YouTube, but there hasn’t been any material coming from them during those months. I guess fans back then didn’t expect that the group has finally decided to step out of the indie scene and were ready to present themselves as a mainstream vocal and dance group.
Fast forward to mid-December 2017. Nippon Columbia, one of Japan’s major record labels, has released a brand-new single, Never Going Back. Even though the group has been around for almost 3 years now, this single marks them as an official vocal and dance group joining in the mainstream J-Pop (R&B/Hip-hop) scene. Unlike their last singles from the previous label, this MV is complete.
Rather than teasing us with just half of the MV, the major label decides to spoil us instead.
… and we were spoiled again with the MV of their B-side single, Stuck on U, released on New Year’s Eve 2017. Their official debut release as a mainstream group was announced on January 31, 2018.
The single Never going Back comes with two other singles, Stuck on U, and another one, Rain. You can purchase their CDs on places like CD Japan, HMV Japan, and Rakuten. Or, if you’re anything like me, they’re also on iTunes (their indie label work) and Spotify (this single and the other two songs).
It would have been really cool if there’s also an MV for Rain, but I don’t think there will be one, because I ended up loving this song. Instead, I found a fancam of one of their live performances singing this song, so I’m adding this as a bonus. 😊
I was already sold when I saw the Never going back MV two weeks ago, so I visited their official website and followed their official Twitter and all five of them on both Twitter and Instagram. When there’s time, the guys do become active on both Twitter and Instagram and do read all of the comments and Tweets (not just from Japanese fans, but global fans as well) and sometimes would like or retweet.29 Also, when there’s also time, they will reply also with their appreciation and thanks.
It’s already April, and MADKID just started their new venture in the Japanese mainstream market. They have been quite busy with their usual live performances, radio guestings, and eventually, TV guestings too. In a way, this reminded me of my first experience with ARASHI back in 2000, when they barely started their new venture as a new group. The problem with this one is the accessibility to reach out to them, even today.30 Whereas with MADKID (and other artists who are not under Johnny’s), you can send all your love, praises, and support to them through social media when you can.
So, the question does come to mind: will MADKID be able to have tours and shows outside of Japan? My answer to that is, they have to find success in their own country first. After all, Japan is one of the Top 10 countries with the largest music industry in the world and knowing how vast the Japanese music industry, it will be difficult for MADKID (and other new musical acts that just started early this year— BananaLemon being one of them) to gain nationwide recognition. I said the same thing with ARASHI before 10+ years ago when they were still new, but look at them now today. There’s plenty of musical acts that have a far longevity, but there are also others who are short-lived as well. I pray that MADKID would have a far longevity for them, changes or not.31
Just as I was about to end this section and my raving of MADKID, another official video of them was just released earlier today (U.S. PST time – 3/31. It’s 4/1 in Japan right now). Just as I thought that they won’t have time to do any more song covers, they’re back with another cover video of Namie Amuro’s single from 2016 (?), Hero.32 This is also the first time that we get to see Shin in their cover MV too!
Whew, good to be back!
I’ll be blogging more often (probably), not just on this one but my other blogs as well. I’ll probably start writing another At Home entry, more J-Pop stuff (other artists too and not just MADKID), more randomness, you know the deal.
Lastly, I miss everyone and I apologize for not writing or responding because of Lent.
Till next time!
On the sidenote...
- eating chocolate, swearing, eating rice [↩]
- watching anime, reading manga, playing video games [↩]
- my brother would stop by every now and then [↩]
- even though the parents set aside some “emergency cash” before they left [↩]
- actually, there is one: an eclectic collection of otome games by Voltage called Love 365. [↩]
- alternate universe [↩]
- Original Pilipino Music, or basically just Filipino Pop [↩]
- Underrated because the Japanese music industry isn’t exactly promoting their artists outside of their own country, unlike the way the Korean music industry does with their groups. More on this later… [↩]
- Again, more on this later… [↩]
- Western pop/R&B/Hip-hop mainstream… [↩]
- SPEED FTW! I still love them even though I don’t hear much of them anymore… [↩]
- that is, the groups/artists post-H.O.T. / Sechskies / S.E.S. / Fin K.L. days… [↩]
- became a fan of them at around 2000. They debuted in Hawaii on my mom’s birthday (September) 1999 Japan time, the day before on U.S. time. I’ve read that they’re Japan’s #1 boy group now since SMAP broke up, but TOKIO, KinKi Kids, and V6 continue to be busy with their own activities too [↩]
- studied Japanese in college for about 5 years including independent study with my sensei so I can learn “colloquial” Japanese… my Japanese (esp Kanji reading and verb conjugations) became really rusty since I left the Johnny’s fandom [↩]
- I love both Flower and Happiness. I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to check out Dream, another E-Girls girl group [↩]
- “Ebisu Gakuen Boys Club” – they’re kind of like Johnny’s in a way but they’re managed by one of Japan’s top entertainment agencies, Stardust Promotion. A lot of my favorite Japanese actors are represented by Stardust, so I’m happy [↩]
- More known in Japan as “Chottokyu,” but outside of Japan and through the internet, they introduce themselves as Bullet Train [↩]
- they’re a young duo with mellow and positive songs and are acoustic guitarists to boot! [↩]
- Read as “Triple-A,” a backronym that stands for “Attack All-Around” [↩]
- Read as “L-O-L,” and you guessed it, it stands for “laugh out loud.” [↩]
- I had an ichiban no member (favorite member), the group’s rapper Sho Sakurai. For some reason, I have a soft spot for rappers then. [↩]
- well, that’s my fault though. Damn Johnny’s and ARASHI… [↩]
- despite their attractive looks, they always present themselves as artists and musicians. More on this later… [↩]
- from reading some fan comments and reading/skimming some articles about them in Japanese [↩]
- From the comments I’ve read in YouTube and their Instagram, Shin also became the fangirl favorite, as he became known as the “eyecandy” of the group for his adorable looks and sunshine smile. I like all five of them though, they’re all equally talented and equally stand out. [↩]
- LIN is the group’s songwriter, though I also think that everyone contributed to the songwriting too. He also has a SoundCloud account with songs written and performed by him. Go check it out when you can! [↩]
- Avex, one of Japan’s biggest record labels, is notoriously known for this marketing strategy – uploaded HALF of a completed music video of their artists. It’s their way for you to purchase the single CD (or look them up on iTunes/Apple Music if those said artists are in there) because the completed MVs (back in the old J-Pop fandom days, they used to be called PVs (promotion videos), but today, they’re referring them as MVs (music videos) now…) are included in them. I think other record labels are using this same strategy also, but I could be wrong. [↩]
- Maybe their edginess and the minimal cursing in some of their songs didn’t suit Shin’s image because he’s too darn cute and adorable and an obvious girl magnet. Plus, he seems to be a warmhearted and kind young man as a person too. He may have a baby face but he’s not the youngest member of the group. As of this writing this blog entry, he and You-Ta are 24, the rest are 23. [↩]
- Yuki liked my tweet when I liked the MV from YouTube, and even if it’s just a “like,” it’s still an honor to be noticed too. [↩]
- None of the Johnny’s acts are on social media, unfortunately… [↩]
- I also pray that they stay with the same members. I like Shin a lot as an overall artist, as much as I liked Rikito and Casey before him. [↩]
- I’m very sad to hear that Namie Amuro will be retiring from the music industry later this year. She was one of my favorite soloists too (along with Hikaru Utada and Koda Kumi). Still, more power to her and I wish her well in her future endeavors. [↩]