You could argue that Idolmaster’s music is a more crucial part of the series than any other. Of course it is: it’s what they got all these characters together for, to make music. With such a large line-up comes large expectations, and Idolmaster meets them. And some.
The great thing, I’ve learned, about having 183 idols (well, OK, around 75) singing your songs is that the variety that comes with each is wonderful. That alone makes a difference more than anything else. Oh, sure, the idols all have more than one song to them. But what they do is appear with different idols at different times. Given the right combo, the results can be spectacular.
Of course, this variety doesn’t count for much if you don’t then do something special with it. This is where my concerns lied most of all. Now, I like a lot of music. But I couldn’t be asked to choose my favourite songs, most of the time. And that’s because I mostly like anything that sounds good, no matter what genre it is. Some genres more than others, yes, but I can take it or leave it with most. And yet the J-pop that Idolmaster aims to emulate is the genre that seems to get me least of all. There are songs from the genre I like, for sure, but mostly they get a helping from elements of other genres, too. Now, I knew Idolmaster mixed other genres in from time to time. And yet I was led to believe that it took it far enough for the songs to no longer be considered J-pop. Fine, but these, I reckoned, would be the exceptions to the norm.
I was wrong. Very wrong. Not only does iM@s get its mixtures of genres right, not only does it emulate J-pop very well, not only does it spin off to other genres, it can do all of these absolutely brilliantly.
As I mentioned in my C93 piece (which I will follow up on with three more in the coming days, now artists’ works have been scanned and Touhou is out on Steam), I finally reached the all-important Level 50 in Starlight Stage recently. And that means I’ve been able to listen to each and every one of the game’s songs. So now, I can give a proper review of each song considered important enough to feature in iM@s’ tapping game. Of course, that’s not every song in the franchise, so a couple of good ones will be missed out here. But most of the big hitters will be covered, so don’t you worry. Consider this the closest to a proper review I’ll ever give of its music, as to try and do a full-blown description would require adjusting to damn near every single new song that comes out. Which, as it turns out, is quite hard. No, not every song here is great, but then a lot of Idolmaster gets by with imperfections because its best stuff makes it all worth it in the end. And yes, I know I did a top 20 before, but even my opinion on that is still changing. Trust me, it’s worth it to talk about all of those again. So, with that, let’s go.
Onegai! Cinderella: Of course, as we observed recently, Onegai! Cinderella is the greatest song ever made in every single way according to every single Idolmaster CG fan in the world…apart from me. Look, it’s fine. Just fine. And it’s a worthy theme for the series. But it’s not the be all and end all. Then again, I doubt everyone else thinks it is really. As another person observed, people just went to Onegai in the survey when they weren’t sure how to answer some of the numerous questions about the songs – some of which were rather too vague. Hence why everybody ‘loves’ Onegai. All those solos can’t hurt, mind. None of which are better than Chihiro’s.
Todoke! Idol: NewGen but with AnKira. Another typical idol-ish song. Not anything special, though.
Star!!: Hey look, it’s the OP for the anime. It does well in that regard, and it’s a catchy enough theme. Not a bad effort for a 13-idol mash-up. And anyway, some songs manage to dwarf even that. One of the better ‘proper’ idol songs.
S(mile)ING!!: On the one hand, Uzuki’s voice does actually sound quite interesting in this at times. On the other hand, it’s Uzuki’s image song. And therefore associated with my least favourite bit of the whole anime. So I’m not willing to give it much sympathy. Nor am I willing to give any to the tear-jerkers who named this song the one that makes them cry the most. This is a cheerful song, for chrissake.
Never say never: A seriously good – and inspirational, at least as much as singing ‘Tsuyoku sou tsuyoku’ strongly can be – piece from Rin, marred only by the fact it seemed hellbent on not letting me FC it. Like, literally. In my most notable attempt, I had the whole thing in the bag, and then on the very last double note, the game inexplicably decided to give me a ‘bad’ despite me actually hitting it perfectly. Thanks for that. I did conquer it eventually*, and just as well because it’s a great listen. Rin’s powerful voice is something to behold. She’s well worthy of being Cinderella Girls’s most iconic character (the Kaede Takagaki’s of this world potentially not withstanding).
*Right now, it also happens to be the song I’m most likely to make my first Master FC. Which would be ironic, all things considered.
Mitsuboshi☆☆★: Woo, this is lots of fun as expected of Mio. As I’ve mentioned before though, the best part of this song is her dance, which is really bloody hectic and looks it in Mio’s more adventurous outfits. I’d happily take her CinFes at some point, just to see what it’s like on my phone. She looks bloody spectacular in that, you know.
Onedari Shall We～?: The good news is I now have a CinFes Miku to enjoy this song with. Obviously I’m no big fan of Miku, but this song is honestly fine. Just a little bit funny, something very different on a musical level and not what you’d expect from the walking gimmick that is Miku. They could have done something quite mad with her image song, but they ended up with something really rather lovely. Goes to show what high standards this series has with music.
Twilight Sky: I’ve seen people give this song a bit of stick, and perhaps there were better ways to sum up Riina than just making her go “Tsuranatte” over and over again. But then maybe they just wanted to highlight her being a poser. In an ideal world, she’d have something close to Natsuki’s song as an image song. But then I suppose it was still early days when they commissioned hers.
DOKIDOKI Rhythm: The kind of silly and fun-loving song you’d expect out of Rika. The lyrics are a bit all over the place, and in places even a little questionable. A reminder to everyone – which I wish more people would heed – that she is 12. But, again, this is Rika and I’m not sure what else to expect from her. But even if she might have misunderstood her favourite influence, it’s still a lovely enough song.
Kazeiro Melody: One of the slowest, most innocent songs the franchise has to behold, this could only be Chieri’s theme. It’s not gonna pull down any trees here, but it’s soft and sweet enough for me. Much like Chieri herself, actually. Which is kind of the point. In that regard, this song is an unqualified success.
Marshmallow☆Kiss: Vintage Kirari silliness here. Although the lyrics are very un-Kirari-like indeed – again, possibly a consequence of ye olde ‘early days’ of CG. Like, really, if you gave Kirari an image song tomorrow, no way would it come out like this. People have taken the piss out of this song because of that, but the music itself is perfectly fine. You can call this the ‘puni puni’ song or, failing that, the ‘Daisuki chu’ song as well. Although now I will only ever know it as ‘the marshmallow cheeks’ song after one especially hilarious comic based on it. Unless she means the balloons they’ve tied to the back of her CinFes model. Which, incidentally, are bloody hilarious.
Anzu no Uta: ‘Song’ is a pretty loose term in this case, but then this is Anzu and she doesn’t do music like anyone else. It’s more of a speech if anything, and to the tune of those who want their eight days off a week it bloody works. Of course, the main thing is, at the end of the day, this is really, really funny. Although for all we know, with her CinFes card, she could be getting into Eurobeat next. Someone’s got to make that joke with her unawakened art, surely.
Tsubomi Yumemiru Rapsodia ～Alma no Michibiki～: As dark, edgy and utterly nonsensical as you’d come to expect from Ranko-chan. This original image song of hers is darker than her other song as Rosenburg Engel, which we’ll be getting to in a moment. If that’s your sort of thing, great. It’s not mine, though.
Chocolat Tiara: A lovely demonstration of Kanako’s silky, smooth voice. And a lovely song too at that, one that’s easy on the ear as well. Maybe a little too fast than is ideal for her, but still, the music is great. I enjoy this one, one of my favourite Cute songs.
Venus Syndrome: “Do you know benis? Be your benis.” Curse the Japanese for forgetting to include the letter ‘v’ in their alphabet. Poor, poor Minami. This potential Freudian slip aside, I have to say this song is magnificent. I particularly like the fact it seems to sound a little bit retro. There’s a bit of the 90s about it, and Minami’s singing suits it down to the ground. Hard to know what’s making her so sad singing the song, though. Perhaps the realisation she has been made to tell everyone to ‘be your benis’. Maybe that’s why she’s so popular. That, and she is just a little bit attractive. Also, among the many guitar solos iM@s throws into its songs, Venus Syndrome’s is probably the best. It’s more seamless than most, it’s actually an incredibly epic section that doesn’t feel thrown in for the sake of it, and it’s not so long you just want the song to get on with it. Probably why they even went and threw it into the Starlight Stage version.
Romantic Now: Rika’s misunderstanding extends to Miria, who is meant to be everyone’s favourite little sister (or, as people weirdly insist on calling her, daughter). The poor little thing. I’m torn as to what to think about this, considering the music itself is rather ‘meh’. Here is the most innocent of cinnamon rolls seemingly handing in her innocence card. I really, really don’t know what to think. It’d be a little sweet coming from anyone else…but she’s 11. I want to like it. Miria is just too sweet. But…man. Why must they do this to her?
You’re stars shine on me: Here’s a slower song from everyone’s favourite mispronouncer, hence the incorrect name. Anastasia’s image song is lovely stuff, simple and effective. One for the relaxers, this one. Nothing too spectacular, but then Anya is the kind of idol that can swing both ways musically. She’s that kind of very, very good, and variable, idol.
TOKIMEKI Escalate: Here’s the first top-tier song, a world-class song from an idol who is now spending her time proving to me she’s even more amazing than I first thought. I’ll say it again; Mika Jougasaki is simply a-ma-zing. She’ll be even more amazing if she finally gets that perm soon (they have to give it to her this year, else they’ll run out of voiced idols), but she has a remarkable song on her side as well. A hype head-banger to the extreme, Tokimeki is a song that can be best described as an absolute rave. No song gets me dancing quite as hard. And the lyrics are quite magnificent as well. Firstly, because it is about the only song that uses cider as a metaphor. Which is both hilarious and delicious. And secondly, the lyrics are so Mika. Her hyper-sexuality is actually coated with a hint of reluctance and I think Tokimeki reflects that very well. Oh, and it helps that her singing is terrific as well, too. Makes up for that otherwise kinda odd voice she has. So forgive me for calling this a most fantastic song. All hail the ultimate gyaru.
Naked Romance: This song is the series’ biggest surprise for me; it doesn’t have the typical ingredients of music I’d like, and yet when I finally heard it for the first time I actually found something rather brilliant. I also found myself FCing it, which is faintly incredible. All credit to Miho, though. She’s a relatively ordinary idol with an extraordinary theme. It’s not like other Cute songs, that’s for sure. The instrumentation is near perfect. Just make sure you don’t actually type in ‘Naked Romance’ without the ‘Idolmaster’ qualifier. Else you’ll end up having your own ‘I’m sleeping with Producer-san’ moment. Maybe that’s the reason behind the name.
Angel Breeze: The first opinion I heard of this song, before I heard it, was that it was ‘too 80s’. That perked me up immensely because if there’s one era of music that rings best with me, it probably is the 80s. So I reckoned Mizuki would deliver. Alas, I was to be disappointed. It is a very 80s song…just not the sort of 80s I’m into. It’s fine by itself, just not my cup of tea. Shame, that.
Apple Pie Princess: This is a very silly song. The sort Airi probably deserves, but unlike others there isn’t enough else there to make it anything interesting. I suppose if anything it turns out as unintentionally hilarious more than anything to me, courtesy of a series of ‘yay’s which aren’t nearly as enthusiastic as the usual affair for this series, and which I consequently find really, really funny. Yes, I know. My sense of humour is inclined towards very meta stuff, so you’re probably not bothered about it. But this is the kind of ‘yay’ I can join in with, with my voice, which observers have called ‘half-dead’ in the past. Whoop de doo.
Everyday Dream: As an idol dominated to the point of ruination by the sort of character trait that could literally get her arrested in real life, we can only really judge Mayu’s song by her lyrics. And they’re about what you’d expect: stalkerish. I wasn’t going to comment further, but I must touch on one actual line they made her sing:
Anytime it constantly echoes in my bosom
…What…the…fuck? Like, no. Really no. Other than that, the rest of the song speaks for itself. Needless to say, I do not enjoy it.
Bright Blue: A song as humble as Fumika herself, but while it suits its singer very well its humbleness isn’t necessarily a great thing in this case. The song is fine, but because it’s in that halfway house between relaxation and all-action, it isn’t all that remarkable. Fumika’s voice is soft and sweet, but it’s the sort that would work most of all on either the softest (of which she has…none) or hardest (see: Saite Jewel, Illusionista) songs. This is sort of neither. Just a few little changes could do it a world of good.
Rockin’ Emotion: A song that is Natsuki through and through, and of course, famously, not a CM. Because apparently the series’ most handsome beast is not worthy of being in the elite. And considering the total lack of time at Bamco Towers for anything other than Starlight Stage, she won’t be joining them any time soon, one would suspect. Either way, this is actually a bit too generic in rock terms, I feel. Other songs do Natsukichi a great deal more justice, even though she has to share them with others. But with rock, that’s probably the way it’s meant to be, really.
Hanakanzashi HANAKANZASHI: So good they named it twice? Alternatively, they could’ve named it ‘Konchikichin’, which sounds lovely in song. Seriously though, this fits Sae properly well. It’s also vintage stuff from IOSYS, up to and including just about everyone liking it. I’d say I do now, too. Especially now that I’ve FCd it. On Pro, of course. I have been forced to play it on Master and it turns out that it’s really quite difficult. Although it probably didn’t help that my friend’s voices were getting in the way.
Hotel Moonside: Yup, still my favourite. But rather than bang on about how important it is to me again (did I mention it got me into iM@s?), I’m instead gonna focus on what a brilliant piece of music it is. Which I’m pretty sure I haven’t actually done yet.
Kanade’s theme is, of course, the series’ biggest example of out-and-out EDM and it serves to make it one of the consensus favourites across the series; it turns out lots and lots of people quite like the genre. I count myself amongst its fans. Indeed, while I listen to all sorts of genres, EDM shines out as my clear favourite among them all. So I know what I want from my dance tunes. And when I first touched upon it I knew I’d touched upon something a little bit special.
You’ve got the buildup, executed magnificently, the beat, which is insanely good throughout, instrumentation which does its job absolutely perfectly, a progression that keeps you wanting more and more, and its iconic hook, the ‘1, 2, kiss, kiss’. Which brings me on to its singer. I’m not raving about how much I love her here; long before I knew a thing about her, I knew Kanade only as a damn good vocal to this song. If you’re going to put any singer in your EDM, you’d better make sure you get it right. Kanade pulls it off with aplomb. Her ever-lovely, ever-husky vocals make this song what it is. I have seen people accuse her singing of being ‘too synthesised’ in this instance. But that’s only in comparison to her other stuff. We’re not talking about ‘her other stuff’ here, though. In the context of Hotel Moonside, they’ve got it spot on. They set the tone just right. Here, she’s bloody brilliant.
The only possible nitpick I could have is with the lyrics, and even they are still pretty great. After all, who cares what they mean? She sounds bloody great just saying the damn words. The only thing I’ve noticed is that, her insistent use of handcuffs as a metaphor here appears to have given license for some people to insist that she is actually a kink extraordinaire. Not that I’m calling anyone out here, you understand… Although I now suppose I have to clarify that no, I did not get into Kanade on the basis that she’d make me feel what it’d be like to be arrested.*
*I’m sure there’s a ‘she’s only 17’ joke in there somewhere, as invoked by several people upon finding out how old she really is, but such a joke would be entirely lost on me, because no matter how old you think Kanade looks, she is legal where I am.
Seriously, though. In catering to my favourite genre of them all, what they’ve ended up with is a tune that will stand above all else, for all my time as an iM@s fan. Well done, I say. Thank you, even.
Osanpo Camera: The most interesting bit about this song to me is the little intro and ending jingle that also happens to be the theme of Aiko’s radio show. The rest is disappointingly nondescript, to me. I suppose that probably fits how I view Aiko, as well. Just a shame that in this case, it’s not necessarily a good thing.
Märchen Debut!: No way were they going to hold back on the gimmick master’s theme; Nana’s theme hits all the marks, and some. Of course, there was only one possible circle they could’ve called upon to make such a thing, and that was IOSYS. They have form with other usamins, after all. But despite this, and what is clearly a very fitting image song, you won’t be surprised to hear that I rarely give this song the time of day. Not that it stopped me FCing it immediately upon unlocking it, you understand. It must be a thing with IOSYS. Then again, if it was, I would have FCd the song I like from them most of all (of which, more later).
I will get on to describing all the other songs a bit later. Partly because this post is getting quite long as it is. But mostly because there’s a thing I’m doing with the next song I’m talking about and I haven’t finished it yet. Stay tuned.