You people drive me crazy! In eight full days to vote, you still managed to have ties from the first ballot right up through early last evening, and you didn’t fare that much better on the other ballots. I’m kidding, of course; the reality is that this was in a lot of ways a commentary on the diversity of our community and at-times-unexpected preferences off the beaten path. It was also an emphatic boot stomp in a number of categories as somebody’s very good year meant that they dominated the results.
There are winners here based on voting, but every person, group, incident and song that was nominated is worthy of praise, and those that made it this far deserve a lot of respect for winning hearts and minds. What follows is your preference, though, paired with my own commentary (I OWN THIS PLACE!) for reference in the Match a Maniac Challenge.
Special thanks as always to Kerrie for providing the artwork (BUY HER STUFF), and thanks of course to our gifts donors from NECRONOMIDOL and PiGU, both of whom deservedly figured among your finalists and will no doubt be a big part of what we talk about in 2017 and beyond.
Without (additional) further ado, I give you your Best of 2016:
Surprise of the Year
It should come as no surprise that you all overwhelmingly viewed BiS’s sudden out-of-nowhere announced return to life as the biggest surprise in idol of 2016. BiS was dead, all of its former members having moved on, in many cases thriving away from Pour Lui’s brow-beating bosom. And then it was back, “BiSBiS” was winning hearts and 10 frenetic autumnal weeks made it clear that BiS was back and in it to win it.
Maniac says: I couldn’t agree more. People tend to have lots of what-were-you-doing-when moments in life, and a big one for me was the sudden Twitter explosion following Pour Lui’s announcement and the video slowly finding its way to international platforms. I was wrapping up a meeting and looking at my feeds just out of boredom; months later, I’m still recovering.
Letdown of the Year
Fittingly, and in just about every way, it’s the brief upstart-downstart tenure of BiS’s audition rejects, formed into an official sister/rival group that, as billed, seemed to have everything going for it. There was official press, an official debut, website, merch, Twitter accounts and all the other accoutrements of an idol debut in place … and then, not 24 hours after SiS had wrapped up their live and gotten people all excited, they were disbanded. Very possibly just an elaborate troll job, and it almost spawned the most stupidly ambitious project in the history of this site, but. Now the surviving members are doing well in GANG PARADE and SiS will live on forever in documentary form; that only slightly mitigates the sting.
Maniac says: All of that business was pretty crappy, especially following it in real time, but Babymetal’s lame announcement at the end of Black Night at the Dome was bigger for me. And no, not because of the Moa-is-dead conspiracy theory, but because it carried a weird feeling that Babymetal crested right in that moment. Yeah, the Chili Peppers and now Metallica, and I’m sure that there’ll be some other big moves left in the near future, but man, even an announced graduation would have been a better capper to a great year than a live-viewing schedule.
Saddest Graduation of the Year
By the slightest possible margin, Fruitpochette’s Teratani Mina edged out Hug Me, ex of BiSH but currently BFF of First Summer Uika. This was really interesting; the other votes cast didn’t make it look like there were clear cohorts between trad-vs-anti or metal-vs-punk or whatever, so I think a lot of people in general had their feelings and stuck to them. That’s cool, and though Mina’s the winner, Hug Me’s no less missed (well, about 3 percent less missed, but you know what I mean).
Maniac says: I really hate when idols I like, personally, graduate. Every graduation on here sucked for me (there were others, like 969, that similarly made me wonder what’s the point). But Ayano and Mizuho are basically tattooed across my exploration into alt-rock idol. Three years from now, I’m going to be wondering why this ever happened, and I won’t even care.
B-side of the Year
I really didn’t see “earth,” a perfectly cool song that’s the sidecar on a single that wasn’t tremendously well-received (vs. last year’s “OTNK” in particular), pulling this one off, but that’s exactly what happened, and by a huge margin; there was a 40 percent bigger difference between “earth” and “TRACE” in second place than between “TRACE” and PiGU’s “(Try Sometime) Do the Shake-It!” in third. Here, though, there was definitely a pro-WACK pattern among other lines on the ballot.
Maniac says: This was a hard one for me, and I swear upon a stack of holy texts that I almost gave it to PiGU by dint of the fact that “Shake-It” had me listening to their Spotify on repeat, but I ultimately considered that a B-side is part of a whole, and that’s where a lot of its value lies, and to that end it was going to be “TRACE,” which I’m pretty sure is PassCode’s heaviest song ever and easily in their all-time top five, at least for me. Q’ulle almost got the nod, too, for what it’s worth.
Debut of the Year (individual)
This wasn’t even close. Ayuni D won a lot of hearts when she joined BiSH as Hug Me’s replacement, but she was still obliterated by Hanako-san. That tends to happen to people. Clearly nobody was too bothered by the distinction between first performance and first physical release that wound up being the rule for debuts, because Hanako-san’s previous experience and exposure were meaningless to the veritable hordes who voted for her.
Maniac says: I enjoy Hanako-san, but maybe not as much as the next person. For me, it was clear and easy: All you need is Ayuni D, even though I wanted to find a way to give props to my beautiful disaster, Hiiragi Fuyu.
Single of the Year
The way to interpret what constitutes a single was a little bit fluid, admittedly, but including tracks that were used (especially in video form) to promote a larger release was not only probably the right decision, but a decisive one for this category: In the end, Billie Idle and “Nakisou Sunday” edged out Babymetal and “Karate” by a single vote; if there were a Shocking Best of 2016 Vote of the Year category, this would probably be the winner. It’s probably because bi bi bi bi bi was the best “driving somewhere” album of 2016.
Maniac says: I was way off from you guys even during the nominations for this one; like I was saying about the B-sides, I like for singles to be taken as the sum of their parts, and I didn’t like a 2016 single more than BiSH’s “DEADMAN”; lots of people groused about the title track’s length, and its old-school hardcore approach was off-putting to many, but I loved it, even though I’m less crazy about “earth.” The title track is just that damn good.
Performance of the Year
This was one of the more competitive categories (that I spent yesterday complaining about, you jerks), but BiSH’s Less Than Sex tour finale (and its epic performance of “Orchestra”) just beat out Maison Book Girl and Babymetal.
The part you’re looking for is right around 4:30
Considering that this literally could have gone to any one of them (three total votes of separation!), I don’t need to feel too badly in:
Maniac says: Really, you guys? You weren’t overwhelmingly swayed by the sheer epic power of the Tokyo Dome x2? Wild.
Debut of the Year (group)
Battle lines were drawn here so deeply that this result could be seen from miles away. A solid 40 percent of the vote went for Yanakoto Sotto Mute, but an even solider 50 percent went for Yukueshirezutsurezure. No other category had as high a share of votes cast for its winner, its runner-up or its top two. Amazing. And considering how good the year really was, debut-wise, that says a lot.
Maniac says: I flipped this at the last second, right before I sent it to Phillter to verify, and regret nothing; you all know how I love me some Tsurezure, but it’s Yanamyu who I see as the literal perfect idols; their two EPs released to date are just about flawless, they’re visually compelling in a very unique way and, for important bonus points, they’re very accessible to Westerners in the availability of live video. That all matters to me, and I made a hard choice. (I also wish that Dots hadn’t gotten onto that compilation disk, because they’d be great sleeper candidates for next year)
Collaboration of the Year
This was a big surprise, too, but you guys made it by a pretty comfortable margin. Hirano Nozomi being joined by her ex-BiS family friends was nice, and it was a solid second place, but the combination of Screaming Sixties and 6% Is Mine won going away. Ironically, it’s actually Montero’s other project in Tau that seems to be getting the attention now, but who can deny Zekkyou’s work with the band that created them?
Maniac says: Yeah, Zekkyou Is Mine is pretty cool, but I felt very comfortable giving the nod here to Oyasumi Hologram’s work with VMO. What do you get when you combine twee hipster idols with innovative black metal? Sheer joy, that’s what. I hope they eventually join forces on a permanent basis, OYSM’s burgeoning career be damned.
Video of the Year
This was the most angst-riddled category of all; as soon as one tie would break, another would take its place. For a little while, it was a four-way death match. I was very upset with you people! But the real truth is that this was a really deep, strong field, and the way the final breakdown shook out speaks again to the cool diversity we have among us.
Yes, Virginia, there is a tie, even after I invited Tiebreaker 1 to intervene. NECRONOMIDOL and DEEP GIRL were both involved in the leaders’ battle royale from the moment votes were first cast, and they ultimately never separated. So congratulations to them both! And also congratulations to the surprise third place winner, Up Up Girls and “Barebare I LOVE YOU,” which was all of a single vote behind those two, receiving no award but definitely deserving a mention for that.
Maniac says: This was a very hard one for ol’ Maniac, gang, and I had Necroma penciled in as my winner until I took a final pass through the finalists and decided that “I kill” deserves a little bit of extra credit for being a pitch-perfect marriage of music, message and visual storytelling. Nonetheless, my top two was the same as yours, and with about as much difference.
You guys came within a hair’s breadth of doing it again, and again in a really competitive field. But it was ultimately Maison Book Girl, who, granted, are already kind of in the process of taking off, who won out over Yukueshirezutsurezure by a very slim margin, and Tsurezure themselves could arguably be viewed as being in the same spot in their careers, too.
Maniac says: My turn for a tie! And I have good reasons for it, because I considered domestic (Japanese) and international as separate breakthroughs. Is that cheating? Maybe a little! Nonetheless, I feel pretty strongly that Osaka Shunkashuto‘s going to have a 2017 on par with PassCode’s 2016, and MAINA is about to become a household name. In Japan. Internationally, and you’ll get to stop laughing when it happens, I see big things brewing for Guso Drop.
Song of the Year
This was another really deep field with a ton of high-quality final nominees, and a scatterplot of the vote totals for them would show a tight little cluster … and one huge outlier. Believe it or not, BiSH and “Hontou Honki” laughed in the face of parity and almost doubled up Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da’s “Ueyueyuo~Hinekurenotari” in second place. Wild.
Maniac says: Were you all drinking during this part of the voting? “Hontou Honki” is fine and all, but it’s not even the best song on its own album, let alone from BiSH over the course of the year. No, the song of the year, which is paradoxically also a B-side that I liked less that way because “Mudai Gasshou” doesn’t really win me over, is Zenkimi’s “Ueyueyuo~Hinekurenotari.” You also could have talked me into “Syncopation” or “psychopomp,” both of which have previously owned my entire heart, but Zenkimi just really knocked this one out of the park.
Performer of the Year
You may begin to see a pattern emerging here, and I won’t argue with the will of the masses. Aina the End, center of BiSH and now a surgically enhanced musical cyborg (I don’t understand how vocal chord nodules work), was your runaway favorite in this category. And I thought it’d be Su-metal in a way; she was second, but just barely over Yuna from PassCode. I mean, fair enough, Aina is basically perfect at what she does and has been the focal point of a huge emergence, so …
Maniac says: No, you guys are nuts. Again, Aina’s great, and Su-metal is sublime, but if I wanted to create the perfect idol polymath, it’d be MAINA. We still don’t have any idea of what her ceiling is, whether as singer or dancer or idol or all three at once plus whatever else she wants to excel at. She’s amazing, and while SSFW didn’t do a whole lot in 2016, their center sure as hell did.
Album of the Year
I thought this was going to be a slugfest between Babymetal and BiSH fans, to be honest; much to my surprise, while you did vote for KiLLER BiSH with great enthusiasm, those who didn’t were spread all over the rest of the nominees. This was not my choice, but it was a good choice: KiLLER BiSH isn’t impeccable, but its highs pretty much are the ceiling, and most of what supports those highs is better than a lot of groups can even hope to put out. It is great, and it’s a good winner, and you should be very excited to see where BiSH goes next.
Maniac says: But it’s not perfect. I went to my reviews to work out the problem of this particular category, and I saw that I’d only ever given out 4.5s for eligible releases twice, for KiLLER BiSH and NECRONOMIDOLS’s from chaos born. One’s an album, the other’s an EP; one is great despite some weak spots, the other has no weak spots. It’s a weird comparison for two pieces that have no real musical similarities, but I had to settle it somehow, and I ultimately came down in favor of from chaos born for hitting just the right notes over and over in six gems of songs.
IDOL of the Year
Finally we agree! I know all of the arguments in favor of this or that other final nominee, and they’re good arguments, but they weren’t as compelling as BiSH’s fast-rising star.
At this time last year, they were still just an iffy official successor to BiS with a very good debut album and one single and some additional video content released, but there were no guarantees. One full year later, they’d put out two more albums, a single (that deserves your love) and legitimately impressive videos, performed at some of the biggest events in Japan and crushed their own one-man tour. Nobody managed to do as much as well, and rise as high as quickly, as did BiSH. A lot of idols had a great year in 2016, but nobody quite put it all together in the same way.
So congratulations to you, BiSH, and congratulations to all of the community winners and Maniac picks because I’m cool like that. May 2017 be even more loaded with incredible music and shocking turns of events (none of them graduations, please and thanks) and controversial decisions and international touring.
Your reactions, please. This was your vote, after all — out of a little bit more than 300 total ballots cast (whittled down a little bit to remove duplicates ad do-overs), the community’s consensus was sometimes emphatic and at other times more undecided, but we got here. Thank you for nominating and complaining and commenting and voting! Try to be a little more diverse next time! (I kid, I kid)
The Match a Maniac Challenge winner was Chris, and the winner of the Brutality Prize Pack for being the least in sync with the community results is known (s/he got 2/15! how is that possible!) but awaiting confirmation.
For the whole mess of other prize doodads, be on the lookout for email from maniac@ today/tomorrow; I’d like to get everything into the mail before Christmas so that a few folks at least will get their goodies early.
I have one additional ask: You see how we have this big list of really great stuff? Share this with people you know who might be curious about the hard side of idol. If you’re the beneficiary of our idol friends’ generosity, think about sharing the music with others, or using the fact that you’re wearing a logo to start a conversation. You don’t ever need to talk about Homicidols.com, but you should tell people about the awesome people and the awesome music that they make.