Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (September 2018)

This month is gonna be a bit special (!!)

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a live show of one of my favorite bands of all time in SCANDAL this past month, and in my write-up for the event (which you can catch here) I mention having a list of songs that they didn’t play but would have wanted to hear from them. The post was already a behemoth as it is (in relation to everything that I’ve put out prior) so I figured I’d do it as it’s own thing some other time.

WHICH would be now (xD). Yep, for this very special edition of our Monthly Recommendation Round-Up we’ll be having a bit of a SCANDALous September!

This is still gonna end up being the Round-Up y’all (hopefully) know and love though so no worries in that regard but for people who aren’t privy to this series, the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up is a thing I do where I feature Japanese Music at the end of each month. These range from new releases, songs that I’ve only just encountered myself, OR songs that I’ve recently gone back to and would like to share with everyone (as is the case here).

So without further ado, grab your headphones/earphones (for the adventurous lot who don’t mind some Girls Rock blasting through their speakers at this time you are more and welcome to do so as well), set your volumes to a comfortable level, and let’s all enjoy some SCANDAL shall we~?

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In a bit of deviation from how I usually do these (where songs don’t really have any sort of order when I feature them) the songs here will be arranged in how/where I’d want to hear them in a typical setlist lineup. I will also only be featuring songs that they have performed live (or at least in-studio), as these are songs that plausibly could’ve been included in the show that I saw (as opposed to songs that would be improbable to have heard from them / a list for a different time).

STANDARD / EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!

STANDARD was a very weird song the first time I heard it. It’s the closing track to SCANDAL’s fifth full-length album “STANDARD” and, well, here’s the studio version of it in comparison. It’s just… odd, and is really better played in the auditory context of the rest of the album (hence its placement in the album). But when the band played it in their “Festival” Arena Live back in 2014 (the clip above) I was blown away. Of course, I didn’t see it “live” live, but from what I can see; the energy, the crowd — it all made sense. The last line of the song has HARUNA asking “What’s your standard!?”, and to me personally, this is SCANDAL being cheeky and sticking their chests out a bit (which they do deserved to do). STANDARD (the album) is, in my opinion, their most refined album to date and STANDARD (the song) is like the capstone to that — as if to say, this is the height of our brand of Girls Rock right here, so ‘what’s your standard’? A badass track to kick things off.

EVERYBODY SAY YEAH! is the leading track to SCANDAL’s second (and most popular) album TEMPTATION BOX, and is a song that never fails to hype me up. It’s the perfect starter song and, although it’s been brought deeper and deeper into their setlists over the years (even becoming an encore song at one point, lol), I still contend that “ESY!” works best as an intro. Easily one of the songs that I wanted to hear live and in person the most (I was so ready to jump and scream “Yeah!” too), and to be honest I was a bit shocked that it wasn’t even part of their “Special Thanks” lineup at all, let alone as a starter. So as a result, it finds itself on my list instead (xD)

SCANDAL Nanka Buttobase! (スキャンダルなんかブッ飛ばせ)

SCANDAL Nankabutto Base! is a VERY fun and rockin’ track which came out as its own A-side single back in 2010 and subsequently found itself as part of the band’s third major album “BABY ACTION” as well the year after. An important thing to note about this era is that this would’ve been right around the time when SCANDAL was being treated by many as a “Bandol” (Band + Idol) group much akin to who many consider as their predecessor in ZONE — to which this song comes across almost if not entirely as a direct response. Interesting to note is that despite being it’s single release literally being just this song (no B-sides), SCANDAL nanka buttobase remains to this day as one of SCANDAL’s best selling singles, topped only by three songs (“Taiyou Scandalous”, “Awanai Tsumori no Genki de ne”, and “Departure”) in the years following it’s release. It’s also a track with a bit of J-Rock lineage to it too being composed by legendary husband-and-wife duo Yoko Aki and Ryudo Uzaki. A legacy song in every sense of the word.

Hoshi no Furu Yoru ni (星の降る夜に)

B-Sides rarely make the cut for an album lineup let alone a live setlist, but occasionally it does happen, and it’s always surprising when it does. Hoshi no Furu Yoru Ni is the B-Side track for Shunkan Sentimental back when the single for the latter was first released in 2010 and was for the most part a fringe favorite that had not been heard of much if at all at least not in any of their live shows and TV appearances until it curiously found its way in SCANDAL’s Osaka-Jo Hall concert “Wonderful Tonight” in 2013. Suffice it to say it was a largely unprecedented but otherwise welcome decision. SCANDAL’s B-Side tracks are where they get to play around a bit with their sound, ranging from textbook Girls Rock (which the band did branch away from starting with the release of LOVE SURVIVE in 2011) to straight up Rock — which is what we have here. Hoshi no Furu Yoru Ni is a Grade-A banger, and is a pleasant reminder that SCANDAL can throw down and hang with something solid if they wanted to.

Rock’n Roll

But if Hoshi no Furu Yoru ni didn’t convince of SCANDAL’s Rock potential otherwise, I’m pretty sure the ENTIRETY of SCANDAL’s fourth studio album “Queens Are Trumps ~kirifuda wa queen~” will most likely do it for ya. While I did say earlier that STANDARD is arguably their most well-rounded release, QAT will remain (to me at least) as one of, if not the guiltiest pleasure I’ll ever have listening to a SCANDAL album. This album is an outlier in both its presentation and its curve ball selection of songs — ranging from the gritty title track “Queens are trumps”, the ode to women empowerment that is “Pin-Heel Surfer”, to the shockingly vulgar (and surprisingly fun) “Kill the virgin”; really an absolute mixed bag. Which, in turn, made the straightfoward “Rock’n Roll” shine a bit more than it should’ve had it been placed in a different album. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a song literally called ‘rock and roll’, and is nice little exclamation point to what QAT brought to the table in terms of SCANDAL putting themselves out there as a bonafide Rock outfit.

Switch / Aitai (会いたい)

“Switch” and “Aitai” are what I’d consider partner tracks that should never EVER be played without one or the other and together are (in my opinion) just the best pair of “break” songs that SCANDAL has ever performed (to which they’ve continually done so in all of their major concerts that featured the two). There’s just a perfect chemistry both tonally and thematically with them that I can’t really put into words other than that it honestly feels that these two songs are halves of one another — which is funny to think because both songs didn’t even appear in the same album (with Aitai appearing in TEMPTATION BOX and Switch in particular not even making it to any full-length studio album at all until SCANDAL released their first ‘Best” album “SCANDAL SHOW” in 2012, two years after appearing as the B-Side for “Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku Story”), nor were the two songs written and composed by the same group of people.

The only connection that I think we can pull from these sister songs is that the opening lines of Switch are ‘Aitai nante iwanai’ (I won’t say I want to see you) which works as a lead in for Aitai (I want to see you) to follow — as if answering to the former.

BURN

One of the many truths that I’ve unraveled for myself in my years of listening to SCANDAL is that RINA (drums) writes really good songs, which the band or RINA herself came to realize as well starting from the first time they’ve put a song of hers in an album (“Playboy Part II” from TEMPTATION BOX), with each succeeding album having more and more songs written by her — to the point now where we have 8 out of the 10 tracks off of SCANDAL’s most recent (at the time of writing) album HONEY done by RINA. Her lyrics tend to have mature (mostly of a romantic nature) and heavier themes to them, which is a bit funny considering RINA is the youngest of the group (lol) so you’d naturally assume she’d be less privy to these kinds of things compared to the rest of the members. But yeah no, you’ll definitely see that she has a fairly good handle on that in “BURN” here and, admittedly, this song really got to me the first couple of times I heard it. It’s a forceful melancholy (for lack of a better term) that, as its namesake, just sears you with feelings of regret every time you hear the word ‘Burn’ even if you don’t understand everything else that’s being said.

Kagerou (カゲロウ)

Something about “Kagerou” just screams closer track to me. It could be that a large part of it is because Kagerou is the last track off of SCANDAL’s first album “BEST SCANDAL” (2009), thus kinda giving off a natural feeling of closure, but I also think that as a fan the song itself induces a nostalgic sensation to the listener irregardless of whether or not the listener has actually heard the song before or that they knew that Kagerou was one of SCANDAL’s first songs ever release dating back to their indie days; including the likes of the equally iconic “Space Ranger” and the lesser known yet still poplar “Koi Moyou”. These three tracks make up the first three singles the band had released before getting signed with Epic (Sony Records) marked by the release of their major debut single “DOLL”. I mention in my write-up for SCANDAL’s US/Mexico Tour that DOLL is the quintessential SCANDAL song, Kagerou I believe holds a similar distinction in being a song that hearkens back to where it all started for these girls. Really any of those three songs I would’ve loved to hear in SCANDAL’s Encore Set if even for my own personal catharsis.

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Hear anything you like? Did I make you a little bit of a fan of SCANDAL now?
Lemme know in the comments down below!

The songs featured here will still be part of our playlist so if you happened to miss any of the above during your stay here then feel free to just hop on over there and listen to them on your own time (add it to your YouTube dashboard or bookmark the link now if you haven’t yet!)

I’ve wanted to make a SCANDAL lineup for a while now to be honest (even way before I started doing these Monthly Round-Ups). In particular I wanted to make a “SCANDAL Love Story” playlist that would feature tracks that goes through different phases of love starting from first love, to break ups, to falling in love again, after my having found out that the members we all huge fans of the popular J-drama “Tokyo Love Story” (lol) and this was back when SCANDAL only had, like, five albums I could work with (and even at the time I already thought that they’d made enough songs about love and relationships for the playlist to actually become a thing). Perhaps I’ll revisit that idea again some time (xD) I mean, SCANDALous September has a really nice ring to it. 

Next month we’ll be back with what you’d consider “regular” songs for the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up, but while you’re here allow me to direct your attention to my buddy Al’s blog over at SliceOfAlfredo as he too has started a series of J-Music Round-Up posts of his own (a weekly one at that!) so do check those out for more artists and songs to listen to. He has done three already (here, here, and here) at the time that I’m writing this 😀

With that, I bid you happy listening, and see you again next post~!!

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2 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (September 2018)

  1. I’ve only really heard of SCANDAL before, even before the concert post you wrote about them, but after taking a listen to these selections, I can definitely tell why a lot of people like ’em. Their sound is interesting to me, maybe because I’m so used to the more high-pitched vocalist, fun Girls Rock bands such as SHISHAMO. But I love the more mature and heavy-metal vibe (I believe that’s what it is lol) they give off, while still being labeled as a Girls Rock band. Also, of course I’d notice they have somewhat of an “idol” nature to them, possibly because of the costumes/outfits they wore in some songs like “Hoshi no Furu Yoru ni”. But yeah, I think I’ll listen to SCANDAL more often after listening to this bunch of tracks! It’s also pretty cool that they came over here to the Bay Area/United States for a concert.

    And thanks for the shout-out! I’m glad you enjoy the segment lol

    • Funny you mention them having an “idol nature”. SCANDAL is an interesting case study when you view their upbringing from the perspective of an idol fan. For one, they actually performed in different variations of school uniforms (lol) during their first couple of years of performing. They are also very much “produced” much in the same vein as idols are in terms of their multi-media omnipresence how they are marketed (as a “Girls Rock Band” as opposed to just a rock band that happens to be an all-girl group)

      As for their sound, you might also be interested in (slowly) working your up through their discography, as they did have that fun Girls Rock side to them too and I just happened to inadvertently not include an example in my lineup :p like this one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObqUDvR9zeE)

      No prob, and keep up the good work~!!

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