Idols are truly a fleeting existence.
In a way you can say that an idol embodies youth beyond just the literal sense of the word, as they signify both in appearance and performance a cute and playful innocence that you can only ever associate with being young. At the very least, that is the prevailing narrative behind Japanese Idols and their lasting power (something that Al and I go over much in depth in our discussion of Tokyo Idols).
Welcome back to another installment of the J-Music Exchange/Rate! To those of you who are not aware the Exchange/Rate is of course the tandem album review series between myself and Al from Omunibasu.Blog wherein each month we go and pick out albums to give to each other from our respective music libraries (based on a specific theme we think up beforehand), that we then talk about and review. This project has been a great way for us to not only recommend to you some of our favorite albums, but for us to also continue to expand our ever-growing palette of artists and bands etc. to listen to. We’ve been at it for a bit so if you’ve been curious as to whether or not we’ve already covered a particular album, go on over to the Exchange/Rate page over at Omunibasu for a listing of all the reviews we’ve made thus far. Tell Al I sent ya 😉
As you may have already guessed, this month’s theme (courtesy of Al), is one about Japanese idol groups. Specifically, we will be talking about albums by idol groups that have since disbanded and ceased any further activity. There is perhaps no other class of artist that has as limited of a time to pursue their dream than the Japanese Idol. Some reach the very heights they sought after, others at times fall just a bit short. Not due to lack of effort or drive, but often times simply to oversaturation and a bit of a bad luck. Surely the process of putting together an idol group has been broken down into a science at this point, but things still need to perfectly align at the end of the day, be it by having a viral TikTok hit song or landing the perfect media tie-up. And even that might not be enough. We commemorate some of those groups here.
I picked out sora toba sakana’s final album deep blue for him to ruminate on and discuss (check out his review here!), whereas Al in turn has given me Rirune!Rirune!Rirune! by Rirunede. Let’s have a listen.
Rirunede (リルネード) is a three member idol group under the care of DEARSTAGE, as part of its healthy stable of idol groups, most notably Dempagumi.Inc and Niji no Conquistador. The trio is comprised of Kurihara Mayu, Shidomi Yuuka, and Kirihara Mizuki. The concept of the group is “2020-nendai no oshakawa”, which roughly translates to ‘[the] fashionably cute of the 2020s’.
(＊Spotify link to the full album)
CDJapan Affiliate Link(s):
Rirune! Rirune! Rirune! / Rirunede
０２・ラビンNν/lovineau (loving you)
０３・もうわたしを好きになってる君へ/mou watashi suki ni natteru kimi e
０５・Sweet Second Date
０６・今夜、ロマンチック劇場で/kondo, romantic gekijou de
０７・純白のリルネード/junpaku no rirunede
１２・ふたりのサマーデイズ/futari no summer days
１３・夏のレコードがまわりだす/natsu no record ga mawarimasu
１５・王道的なLOVEソング/oudouteki na love song
Ａ ｌ : More recently I have seen a handful of idol units disbanding or long-time members moving on and graduating, and as an avid fan of the culture, I think I’m actually starting to realize how bittersweet those can feel. Which is ultimately what inspired this month’s theme, and while most people would probably pick an album from a group that they’ve followed for a while (such as Leap’s choice with sora tob sakana), I feel like mine was a bit of an unconventional-yet-intriguing pick.
For the past month or so, as part of my recent phase of liking non-anime idol groups, I discovered the Akihabara-based unit Rirunede and have REALLY enjoyed their music. Songs like “lovennu” and “Konya, Romantic Gekijou de” have been catchy, fun, full of energy, and just something that is right up my alley. And while they do have an obvious upbeat pop music theme to them, I feel like they still convey a sense of variety with the different uses of instruments and them trying certain styles, like with “Futari no Summer Days” and the more modern take on 80s-esque pop. Add on the trio’s distinct vocals (especially Kihara Mizuki’s deeper tone, which I loved hearing in these tracks), and you got yourself a really charming and lovable J-idol group.
And why I called this choice ‘intriguing’: I pretty much discovered Rirunede literally weeks before they were set to officially disband (September 28th, 2022). My timing was certainly unlucky (lol) but even then, I did feel a bit sad about it, despite only knowing Rirunede for a little over a month. I loved their vibe and overall discography, and I figured it’d be nice to have Leap showcase their stuff since, I believe, they deserve more recognition.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
０２・ラビンNν/lovineau (loving you)
The whole idea behind Rirunede as a project, being representative of what is “cute” and “fashionable” in the current decade, is at a glance perhaps best exemplified by the group itself and how they present themselves: a trio of girls that collectively just entered their 20’s who, when not clad in the conventional matching idol attire, are instead performing in clothing you’d expect to see on TV or in fashion magazines (which is a feat in itself I’d imagine). That being said, while the concept might only encompass the group’s outward image, I would like to think that this theme also extends to Rirunede’s music, if at least going by this album and what you can hear from it.
While Rirune!Rirune!Rirune! is on the lengthier side of albums we’ve reviewed as part of the J-Music Exchange/Rate, I would argue that it’s actually one that can be condensed into three or four distinct sounds to sort of help compartmentalize both one’s listening experience of this album as well as our discussion of it that we’ll be having today. Lovin’ (You) for example represents the most predominant sound in the album, which is this vibrant high-energy Pop infused with elements of light Jazz; a sound that came to prominence within the past couple of years (thanks most notably in part by bands like sumika) and remains to be a bit of a fixture in Japanese Pop today.
I found Rattaparinya to be an interesting sounding track in that, while it does in a way still continue to branch off from the kind of energy that Lovin’ (You) and really most other songs in Rirune!Rirune!Rirune!, the song is the only one in the album that specifically has this lively brass band ensemble as the main instrumental. While I personally will always be drawn towards blaring trumpets (lol), what I found somewhat amusing was that the track ended up being largely reminiscent of an idol group that I had recommended to Al (albeit tangentially) in the form of TEAM SHACHI back when I had him do a review on their album TEAM (check out said review here if you haven’t yet)
On the subject of TEAM SHACHI, there’s actually a parallel that we can draw (or at least that I can see) between the two idol groups in that both feature a seemingly unassuming vocal lineup that otherwise carries some if not a lot of promise. Rattaparinya is a nice little showcase of what Rirunede can do given the fast-paced nature of the song interspersed with slower melodic verses, which give you a good idea of the girls’ respective ranges. While they are all most certainly talented with regard to their singing, if I had to say, I found myself enamored by member Kirihara Mizuki the most. There’s a unique tonality to her voice which just resonates so well in my opinion.
I promise I’ll get to all these sketchy-looking performance videos in just a second (JK, but I mean, c’mon, these past couple are just in some corner with bare white walls) But yeah no, another thing I found interesting about the album is that a decent portion of it consists of songs like Otome-Almeter here which I can’t help but presume is purposely meant to hearken to Japanese Girls Rock more than anything else. Rather, Rirunede (and by extension the team behind them) make such a good acount of themselves in this particular style that if I just heard this song somewhere in the wild without knowing prior who was performing it, I would’ve assumed it was a band.
Although in some ways a kind of sound that I didn’t expect to come across when I first started listening to Rirune!Rirune!Rirune!, it’s one that I gravitate towards the most the more I listen to the album. Of course, a lot of that stems from me just having a soft spot for Girls Rock generally, but there’s also something about when an idol group goes and performs a song like this that has a more band-oriented composition that makes it all the more endearing. At the very least, it’s largely the reason why groups like YanakotoSottoMute and sora tob sakana are so near dear to me. Also, is it just me, or do the verses of Otome-Almeter remind you of INSIDE IDENTITY?
１３・夏のレコードがまわりだす/natsu no record ga mawarimasu
In so far as we’ve talked about Rirunede being an idol group, I think it’s pretty safe to say that not one of the songs I’ve picked out thus far can be considered Idol Music in the traditional sense. I do also believe that it’s not terribly inaccurate to say that Idol Music sees the least amount of representation in Rirune!Rirune!Rirune! across the board. Your mileage may vary, so to speak, considering the vast array of sounds that exists even within Idol Pop (not even counting what you can hear in Alt. Idol) but for the purpose of this review, we can concretize it here as being the cute, catchy, pastel-colored J-Pop that you would typically associate with Japanese idol groups.
Of the few that are present in the album (at least by my count), I ended up favoring Natsu no Record ga Mawarimasu the most. It really just stood out in my first playthrough of the album for some reason. Trying to articulate the experience I had listening to the song for the first time, it sort of gave me a weird feeling of nostalgia. Not to say that it sounds old school or anything of the sort, but because most of everything else sounded like a more modern/contemporary take of Idol Music in comparison. In a way it kinda reminded me, thirteen tracks deep into Rirune!Rirune!Rirune!, that I was in fact listening to an idol group at the end of the day.
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ Ｒｉｒｕｎｅ！Ｒｉｒｕｎｅ！Ｒｉｒｕｎｅ！＞
I’ve always thought of albums by traditional Japanese idol groups as being a strange product. Because the idol-fan/consumer model is set up in such a way that a “single” comprised of one or two songs released in regular intervals within a year is the ideal that is sought after in the industry, what you often get for a full album release ends up being this pseudo-Best Of of most if not all of the group’s A-side tracks. We went over something similar before in a previous Exchange/Rate back when Al and I talked about Best Of albums and, one of the things that you end up doing by plugging an album with all your A-sides is that it just makes it sound like top hits playlist.
Fortunately (or unforunately, depending on how you look at things), not only does Rirune!Rirune!Rirune! hold all of Rirunede’s A-side tracks, the album nearly holds their entire discography. So rather than just being their greatest hits, you’re literally being made to hear all that the group has to offer. Granted, while there wasn’t anything in this album that I would say was revolutionary, the things that the group and the team behind them did well at; from the singing, the compositions, the different genres; was more than decent in my opinion, so it’s a bit of a shame that the group has been disbanded based on what appears to be just lack of a more sizeable following.
Of course, in the fan-driven world of idols, fans are *the* lifeblood after all. But I digress. Rirune!Rirune!Rirune! for me is a fun album if you were looking for a pick me up of the idol variety. It’s got a nice little mix of things where you might find at the very least find one song stuck in your head by the end of it. While there’s certainly some promise here and there, with this being the group having already ceased activities, those will have to sadly remain unfulfilled. I would’ve like to see Rirunede and the team behind them flesh out some of the ideas they had here, but as a standalone release, I think the album does just enough to be something to remember them by.
３.７５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５
７.２５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
Now, for as lengthy of an album as this is I do feel I’m doing it a disservice by only talking about four songs (as I usually do), but a lot of my thoughts on the songs I mentioned above actually overlap with other tracks that I also just genuinely liked from the album so before I formally close out the review I’d like to give a special mention to Tokyo Princess, Konya, Romantic na Gekijo de, and Futari no Summer Days as also being songs to look out for. The rest of the album is not that bad too really so do give it a spin. Unless you happen to be averse to trying out artists/groups who you know won’t make music anymore, in which case, I totally don’t blame you.
What are your guys’ thoughts on Rirunede’s Rirune!Rirune!Rirune! ? Are they a group that you’ve known about prior to reading this review? Let us know in the comments!
Likewise, what are some of your favorite albums by an idol group that has since disbanded or ceased activity? Feel free to share by dropping a link down below 🙂
Lastly, don’t forget to check out Al’s review of sora tob sakana’s deep blue if you haven’t yet!
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