SoundBreak: Heavy Rotation

Eight songs to give your replay button a workout

AKB48 member Haruka Shmazaki on the front cover of the TYPE-A edition of the groups 40th single “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai.” Official album artwork.

AKB48 member Haruka Shmazaki on the front cover of the TYPE-A edition of the groups’ 40th single “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai.” Official album artwork.

The spring semester is over and summer is just around the corner, no matter how gloomy it may look outside. Time to sit back and relax after a semester of long study hours, tests, essays and seemingly never ending math equations about some train leaving a station at 12 p.m. then asking how many apples some dude named Johnny has. However, instead of giving you a list of cliché summer songs to play during those long awaited day’s off here’s a list of just some really good songs that will cause some serious earworm and give your replay button a workout.

1. AKB48 – “Ponytail to Shushu” (translated to “Ponytail and Scrunchie”)

Released in summer 2010 AKB48’s 16th single “Ponytail to Shushu” is the epitome of the phrase “fooled you.” You would think with such a happy-go-lucky, feel good instrumental that practically screams the words “summer anthem” that this would be just the typical fun summer song about beaches, bikinis and youthful ambitions. Well, think again. While the music is very well crafted, happy and up-tempo, the lyrics speak otherwise. Hiding behind the groups’ stunning harmonies are lyrics that weave between blissful fantasies and the harsh realities of unrequited love. Who says the soundtrack to an unrequited romance had to sound so slow and depressing?

2. Electro Velvet – “Still in Love With You”

Electro Velvet isn’t a household name yet, but across the pond the duo is the talk of the town. “Still in Love With You” is an unusual yet stellar musical mixture of modern electronic and classical swing music of the 1920s. Although the song is a bit odd at the first listen, it grows on you and manages to get stuck in your head so much that you just have to listen to it again.

The vocals on this song are especially interesting. The more relaxed style of Alex Lark and the more soulful style of Bianca Nicholas play off of each other very well. Then again, you can expect nothing but the best from the front man of the most well known Rolling Stones cover band and a woman who performed in of members of the Royal family. However, the duo is best known by being selected by the BBC to represent the United Kingdom in the World Cup of all music competitions, the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest.

3. AKB48 – “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai” (translated to “We Won’t Fight”)

Summer time for AKB48 usually consists of usually summertime themes songs and music videos. This time around the girls traded bikinis for battle armor and replaced the sunny beach for a post apocalyptic wasteland. Led by 9th generation member Haruka Shimazaki “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai” is a mid-tempo pop song and while it doesn’t the stereotypical AKB48 “summer” sound it stands as one of the best singles the group has put out this year. The music video is also a feast for the eyes. Directed by Keishi Otomo (best known for his work on “Rurouni Kenshin” film)”Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai” is an action packed almost 9 minute epic going back and forth between fierce battle scenes between the girls and unknown solders; and the girls performing on elaborate sets reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s classic film “Metropolis.”

4. Anberlin – “Losing it All”

Anberlin is living proof that all good things must come to an end. Over the band’s 16 year career they released 10 albums, became a staple band at Warped Tour and has gone through two minor line-up changes. The band’s last album “Lowborn” was released in 2014 and consisted of 10 songs. However, a stand out track from the otherwise brilliant album is “Losing it All.” “Losing it All” really stands out as a track that shows how far the band has come over the years. The song has that standard brilliance that almost every single Anberlin song has but this song almost acts a much more mature throwback to the classic Anberlin alternative rock sound circa their 2005 release “Never Take Friendship Personal.”

5. HKT48 – 12 Byou (translated to “12 Seconds”)

HKT48 (AKB48’s sister group in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture) is apart of one of the most successful Japanese pop groups of all time. Having been around for four years the group has made a huge impact during the latter two releasing five singles and selling over a million singles between the five. The groups latest single “12 Byou” is a rock/pop influenced song with electric guitar pushed to the front of the track; all while keeping HKT48’s standard J-pop idol sound. Lyrically, the song is a cute and cleverly written ode to how long a kiss lasts. “12 Byou” is also one of those songs that get stuck in guaranteed to get jammed in your head not only because its catchy as hell, but because it’s a genuinely good song. It’s defiantly one that will make great use out of your replay button.

6. Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood”

Generally, when a pop and hip hop artists collaborate on a song the result is usually a ho-hum crossover that was made for guaranteed radio play. However, when you take pop music’s reigning princess Taylor Swift and one of the best rappers of today, Kendrick Lamar the result is extraordinary. While “Bad Blood” is already on Swift’s multi-platinum album “1989” the version with Lamar premiered at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards to much fanfare. This isn’t your average pop star/rapper collaboration either. Instead of getting a less than stellar 16-bars towards the end of the song, Lamar gets two verses and completely slays them, much like he did with his latest release “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Swift’s parts in “Bad Blood” are very well… Taylor Swift. I mean what can you say about someone as talented as her who has already pretty much conquered the world.

7. SCANDAL – “Image”

SCANDAL isn’t your average rock quartet. Hailing from Osaka the group formed in August 2006, made their official label debut a couple years later and their star has been rising ever since. Their song “Image” is one of the many standout tracks from the band’s latest release “Hello World.” “Image” showcases the girls’ growth as musicians through having a much edgier and mature tone than SCANDAL’s previous releases. Written and composed by SCANDAL lead guitarist Mami Sasazaki, the song is about different perspectives, taking the world on and believing in yourself, no matter how dark the days may get.

8. AKB48 – “Heavy Rotation”

“Heavy Rotation” is hands down AKB48’s most popular single. The music video has over 100 million views and counting on YouTube, was certified triple platinum by the RIAJ Digital Track Chart and was number three on Billboard Yearly Japan Hot 100. Written by the groups’ producer Yasushi Akimoto and composed by Yö Yamazaki “Heavy Rotation” compares that certain special someone to a song that gets in your head and is stuck on repeat. Which is ironic considering how catchy this song is. By the end of it you’ll be singing the lyrics and humming the melodies and harmonies, guaranteed. The music video is a must-see as well. Directed by Mika Ninagawa, the music video is a cute and fun take on what goes on behind closed doors at a girl’s high school. While it has gained some controversy, this is one of those music videos that you have to see and judge for yourself.