Oricon’s top 100 selling singles/albums of 2008…so far

Simply put, the Oricon Charts are Japan’s equivalent to the Billboard. A portmanteau of “original” and “confidence,” the list-maker has recently compiled its top 100 selling albums and singles as 2008 hits its mid-point. Some thoughts:

  • There are two EXILE albums in the top three, neither of which I’ve listened to. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that I haven’t listened to every album or single on the lists; I suspect simple uninterest that names like NEWS and V6 evoke are the reasons behind this ignorance. Also: BoA’s THE FACE only made it to 31, 5 Johnny’s Jimusho groups beat out Ayumi Hamasaki’s single, and T.M.Revolution is not on either list. Fair enough.

  • Perfume’s GAME is number 16, Hikaru Utada’s HEART STATION is 4 – the two most deserving albums on this list.

  • Ayumi Hamasaki’s GUILTY is number 8, right under Koda Kumi’s Kingdom – both are probably due in part to the brand names they have become than the actual content of the albums, which were pretty mediocre.

  • There are also two KATTUN singles in the top three, neither of which I’ve listened to. The Japanese are nothing if not consistent in their devotion.

  • Apparently, SMAP is still releasing music. 17 years and counting.

  • It’s important to remember that while there is correlation between sales and popularity (the real reason for putting theses lists together is usually just an easy way to interpret what the public’s “favorite” music is), I suspect a more accurate representation of popularity would be the Japanese iTunes’ Top 25. A quick Google search confirms this list does not currently exist.

  • GReeeeN is all over these lists. I had no idea people actually listened to them, let alone spent money to.

  • But most importantly, nary a Western record is to be seen amongst the top 25 of either chart (if my shoddy katakana skills are correct, the first is Madonna’s Hard Candy at 32). My interpretation is that a) the Japanese are extremely loyal to the home teams, and b) the Japanese music culture is continually expanding, growing, and developing, and like an American who tunes into the radio expecting to hear Leona Lewis, there is simply more interest generated within the market due to the ease and convenience of access. While American music is still omnipresent (and probably just as easy to catch as the new Namie Amuro single – number 8, for those keeping score), the same argument can be made of Japanese music to Americans (re: Internet, although I suspect this will, in turn, incite arguments of language barriers [everyone in Japan is exposed to English in some form on a daily basis and are used to the sounds and texture of the language, whereas Americans are still unaccustomed to foreign languages outside of Western Europe]; also, sheer laziness). But in terms of Japan, cultural loyalty is earning my respect rather than resentment; years ago, the top selling figures were more likely Western, today the Japanese are proving they can hold their own and in some cases, even transcend that of their Western peers. Now if only their appearance on Billboard was just as quotidian.

Below are my picks for Top 25 singles and albums of 2008…so far.

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Friday night shuffle XI

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Bob Dylan – Most of the Time: This is one of my favorite Dylan songs of all time (though it doesn’t sound anything like my other favorite Dylan songs). It’s sad and melancholic and all those other sorrowful words that sum up break-ups. The words are almost painful to hear as Dylan sputters them out almost aggresively, suggesting the very irony of his own words. Regardless of the relatively ‘recentness’ in contrast to his complete discography, it was the first album to do relatively well on charts after a series of born-again Christian gospel records that comprised the 80s. But it’s Dylan, so you know…you won’t regret downloading it.

Piotr Rubik – Please Don’t Go: Yeah, sorry, this shuffle is getting depressing with another break-up song, but you know. Whatevs. Rubik is a successful Polish pop singer with almost flawless English. This song has another mopey feel to it, complete with violins and angst-ridden lyrics (“Please don’t go! Please don’t go!”).

Bon Jovi – Let It Rock: From the band’s highest-selling album, enjoy the opening track of Slippery When Wet, “Let It Rock.” It pretty much sounds like classic early Bon Jovi, you know, a rock-organ intro and predominantly electric guitar riffs. I’ve never really been a huge Bon Jovi fan, but this album is alright.

Placebo – Daddy Cool: Placebo is known for doing plenty of official cover songs, notably “Running Up That Hill,” the almost transcedently awesome cover of Kate Bush’s 80s synth track which made a huge hit in 2006 after being featured in an episode of The OC. Honestly, I can’t choose which song is better, they’re both so musically opposite, yet complement the lyrics both ways. “Daddy Cool” is a rock rendition of an old disco number by group Boney M., one of the many disco groups I was subjected to as a child, having a mother whose favorite performing group used to be ABBA. I was shocked that Placebo would pick such a (semi) obscure disco song to re-do and I was pleasanty surprised to find it used a few of the original vocals, simply placing more rhythm guitars and wasn’t all too bad (more accessible than the original, anyway).

SMAP – $10: SMAP is one of Japan’s all-time most popular boy bands. Of course, the word “boy band” means something different to the Japanese; sure it’s a group made up of boys who sing pop songs and dance, and are made up of the “cute” one, the “quiet” one, etc…but aside from their lack of vocal skills, the group is quite talented in other ways. The boys have been around for almost two decades, making their debut in 1991, and have since gone on to host an exceptionally popular show, SMAPxSMAP that features guest celebrities (both Japanese and American) whom they cook for. They also perform songs, compete in competitions and have short comedy sketches. Each member has gone on to pursue relatively successful solo projects, either in music or TV/movies. This song is a notable early single released in 1994 that was recently resurrected as a duet with Japanese pop queen Ayumi Hamasaki on a recent episode (it was quite comical hearing Hamasaki warble “I want you lady” in English, probably unaware of what she was actually saying).