It’s no doubt now that the top selling girl groups in Japan all belong to the 48s family, or as I like to call them, the Crazy 48. The month of May has been riddled with releases from AKB48 and related groups, building up to the Senbatsu Election coming in two short weeks. Summer is also well on its way, so in preparation the three main groups NMB48, SKE48, and AKB48 consecutively released bikini-clad summer singles for the masses. Which one did it the best? Let’s find out.
NMB48, hailing from Osaka, started it off with Nagiichi. The title is actually a shortened “Nagisa de ichiban kawaii GIRL!!” Usually fans are the ones who shorten titles, but this time they’ve turned it around on us. So, the song, it begins with some sweeping synth lines and then goes right into this rock driven, bright and open song. Completely nothing wrong with it, but my only problem is… it sounds pretty damn bland. NMB48 should be new and fresh, but what we get with Nagiichi is something we’ve already heard. Where is that cool air from Zetsumetsu Kurokami Shojo or fanfare and funk from Junjou U-19? Two of AKB48’s most popular songs are their staple summer singles Ponytail to Shuhu and Everyday Kachuusha. Nagiichi sounds like a mix of both and gives me a feel that it’s kind of just riding off the success of those two previous songs, but doesn’t capture any of it. With Yamamoto Sayaka’s bikini top unable to contain her chest, Nagiichi’s PV is a pretty decent service to fans, if you’re into what some call it “DISGUSTING BIKINIS”. It deserves to be the theme for summer… and boobies.
The following week, Nagoya’s representatives SKE48 released their summer single, Aishiteraburu, a ridiculous amalgamation of two words that mean the same thing, “Aishiteiru” and “I Love You”. Well, it is a summer song. It’s big and open and bright like a summer song should be. Orchestral synths float around in the back and provide backing to a pretty crunchy guitar rhythm. It’s pretty much the same as Nagiichi, then? But don’t forget about SKE48’s signature high energy. It’s injected into the song and it definitely sets the two singles apart. Right when the song starts you hear the motif it’s going for with the “Aishiteru!” and “I Love You!” chants, which become the main hook for the song. And for a happy summer song, it works in my book. It should be pretty fun at concerts too. Aishiteraburu’s PV is bright and colorful. No bikinis this time, but SKE’s senbatsu members braved the wind and the waves to perform on a floating platform in the middle of the ocean. Good to see no one slipped off and smacked their face into some coral underneath.
So the flagship group AKB48 has the most important single, and I’m gonna say it right now, probably the best one out of the three. Manatsu no Sounds good! is not only AKB48’s summer single, but as with previous summer singles, it is the one you must buy to have a vote in the all-important Senbatsu Elections because it affects all groups including NMB48 and SKE48. Manatsu no Sounds good! takes the slowest tempo among the three. It doesn’t have a driving rock force underneath; rather it uses a pretty good bass line to get across. It’s got a bit more groove than the other two, and almost has a bit of old school 80s idol flavor in the arrangement. Though it doesn’t have the energy of Aishiteraburu, I enjoy Managuu’s melody a lot more than both Aishiteraburu and Nagiichi. Managuu also makes most use out of the synthesized horns compared to the other two, using it as a prominent part of the arrangement. And if you know me, I love the fanfare. I would love to see a live arrangement for this song. The PV for Manatsu no Sounds good! is the most confusing. It certainly got people talking, though. Main senbatsu members are near dead from what looked like was an explosion, and as younger members try to help their senpai they vomit blood and die from acid rain. Of course we get the obligatory dancing-on-the-beach-wearing-bikinis part too. AKB48 is gearing up for a big shift in members, and this PV is telling us. With their ace Maeda Atsuko graduating, AKB48 is looking to Watanabe Mayu to replace her as the center. No complaints from me. I will gladly “Itadakimayuyu”.
So, three singles in three weeks by the top girl groups in Japan. They have the crowns right now, and it doesn’t seem like any other girl group can contest that for a long while. Out of the three summer singles though, I gotta say Manatsu no Sounds good! takes the cake. It strays a bit from the usual AKB48 sound with the arrangement, but not too far off to scare their fans into something completely different. SKE48’s Aishiteraburu takes a small cupcake for their endless energy that can’t be matched (probably only by Momoiro Clover Z). I can only imagine the fun that song would be at their concert. And NMB48’s Nagiichi brings in the rear with the rehash attempt of two already good songs. In the end, summer singles are all about fun. NMB48, SKE48, and AKB48 certainly make the summer fun with their singles.