The first round of the Anime Music Tournament is underway. The organizers have made all 256 nominated tunes available in a convenient two-gigabyte download. I’ve been working my way through it. Since they usually picked the full-length version of each song, there’s just a bit less that twenty hours of music. It’s going to take me a while to listen it all.
A few comments on what I’ve heard so far:
1. Is this the best anime has to offer? There are some good tunes, but the majority are forgettable.
2. About half the songs sound alike. You can tell them apart if you listen carefully: song A has a disco-ish rhythm section, song B has a particularly breathy singer; song C has piano and strings; song D has distorted guitar and strings; etc. But the similarities are greater than the differences. They’re all based on the same template, all feature nasal girl singers at the upper end of their ranges, all are overarranged and overproduced, and they all blur together in my mind.
3. Masumi Itou, by virtue of her superior songwriting skills, has earned the right to sing in a little-girl voice if she wants to. All other female vocalists need to learn to use their full vocal ranges and sing full-out.
4. Japan needs altos, baritones and basses.
5. I forbid all use of string sections, real or sampled, in popular music. Synth pads, too. After listening to hours of gooey music, it takes something like The Rodeo Carburettor to blast the slime out of my ears.
6. What the hell is Yes doing here? “Roundabout” is an old favorite, and I prefer it to the vast majority of the other nominees, but it’s an “anime” song only by the loosest possible definition. (Beware: the track included in the big download skips once near the end. If you have another recording — and you should — listen to that instead.) ((I have no problem with including such numbers as “Duvet” or “The Sore Feet Song,” since they are generally unknown outside of anime, but Yes has an enormous world-wide audience.)) ((Let me offer a deal to the tournament organizers: “Roundabout” can remain in the running if they can explicate the lyrics.))
7. Those who only know “The Sore Feet Song” from watching Mushishi are in for a surprise.