Well, here I am getting on another bandwagon late… But still, better late than never, for I have given Sakura Gakuin a chance, and I like what I hear. Yeah, it’s over a year old, which in J-pop time is probably nearing senility, but I don’t really care. I’d like to throw out a thank you to the other J-pop blogs that talk about these kids frequently – after hearing about them often enough, something clicked (BABY METAL, actually), and I tried them, and now I want to share as well!
Sakura Gakuin are working on their next release, Verishuvi, but I’ll be giving my thoughts on their long-since-released first album, Sakura Gakuin 2010 ~message~. Here we go!
1. FLY AWAY
I immediately liked the rock sound when the song began. Once the vocals kick in, I’m instantly in love – I’m a real sucker for cute J-pop vocals with a rock backing track. The song is catchy right away, and sets a good mood for the album. I’m already wondering why I didn’t get into this earlier.
2. Hello! IVY
This song sounds like one of Hello! Project’s big group unison songs, mixed with rock. Like if you took Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru and made it more fun and relevant. It’s cute and fun, and the music keeps it fresh.
I notice the individual vocals of the girls more in this song than I did in the previous 2 tracks, although I can’t really tell them apart right away like I can with some groups. However, they can sing, and don’t sound bad. Anyway, overall, this song isn’t as strong as the previous two for me, but it was still very enjoyable, so the album is 3 for 3 thus far.
4. Happy Birthday, by Mini Party
This song has a totally different feel from the preceding songs, and it’s the first by one of the Sakura Gakuin sub-groups, er, clubs.
Sakura Gakuin takes the school puns a bit further than just the name and uniform, and has made each sub-group its own school club. The cooking club is Mini Party, and this song only features the members of that club and is in the style of music that club does.
So what we have here is an electronic pop song that’s just a fun, cutesy, bubbly cupcake of adorableness. It’s completely different from the other songs, but it’s wonderful and happy. I can’t help it, I love it.
5. Princess* A La Mode, by Mini Party
It’s another song from the Cooking Club, and much like the other, it’s got a cute electronic pop sound, and is rather enjoyable. I especially love the chu-chu-lu-chu-chu-lu-chus, it’s so cute.
There is heavy use of auto tune throughout this. I’m not usually a fan of auto-tune, in fact I bitch about it frequently, but I actually didn’t mind it here, especially since it only seems to be in the Mini Party songs and not all over everything.
6. Brand New Day, by SCOOPERS
This subgroup is the newspaper club, but the sound isn’t as radically different as Mini Party’s was. In fact, this song blends right in with the sound of the first 3 tracks on the CD. That’s not bad, though, because it’s a great rock sound, and I do like the opportunity to have fewer girls to concentrate on.
The only thing I didn’t care for with this song was the messy breakdown in the middle of the song, but it was short, and the song is very good otherwise.
7. Dear Mr. Socrates, by Twinklestars
This group gets the award for best name – Twinkestars is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. They are the baton club of Sakura Gakuin, and from what I hear, their sound is similar maybe a little less rock and a little more pop, with some piano in there.
The song, despite its strange title, is pretty cute, and pleasant enough. My favorite thing about this one was that I was better able to hear some of the girls’ voices than in other tracks. I like that about these sub-groups. I’m going to have to start watching PVs now, so I can put a face to each voice.
8. Medaka no Kyoudai, by sleepiece
This one is the “Go Home” club. Their name is weird. Their sound is different from the other groups, but I don’t know quite what I’d call it. The song is kinda cutesy, and a little circusy, but not a favorite of mine. So far it’s the weakest of the album, with the rather annoying nyan nyans and whatnot getting on my nerves a bit.
9. Do.Ki.Do.Ki.*Morning by BABYMETAL
The Heavy Music club, BABYMETAL, has come to rescue us from that last track. This is actually the song that made me give this album a shot. You might not expect it from a J-pop fan, but I like a fair bit of metal, and the combination of J-pop cute with metal music intrigued me. Sure, it’s nothing near the talent of some of the real metal artists out there, but I really enjoy the two genres colliding in this group. We have hard and fast guitars blazing in the back ground, and high-pitched, cute vocals from the girls meshed into one song that’s both rocking and cute at the same time. I love it!
10. Yume ni Mukatte
The clubs are done and we’re back to everyone together in this track. This was one of the lead singles, but I don’t find it as good as many of the other tracks. It’s OK, but I’d rather most of the other tracks.
Are we at the last track already? This album seemed to go by so fast! This song is a typical, but good ending track, complete with sway-able melody and endless lalalas in unison. It’s nothing innovative, but it’s a great way to end the album.
So, yeah, Sakura Gakuin – definitely worth checking in to. I really liked the sound of most of the stuff, and although the clubs are a little confusing, I like the idea as it gives the group a way to have more than one signature sound and showcase different members.
Sakura Gakuin’s next single, Verishuvi, will be released on 12/21/11, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for it after having enjoyed this album so much. Hopefully it will be as great as their other material!