Beach, watermelons and bikini: a Summer Idol Playlist

The sun is shining, the cicadas are waking up, Tokyo Idol Festival is getting closer… summer is not only about come to Japan but also everywhere else around the world of idol fans! It is the perfect opportunity for us to put up this little list of idol (and j-pop) songs that are perfect to enjoy your summer time with friends.
The songs listed below are chronologically sorted and the list is, of course, non-exhaustive (and probably subjective as well). We will welcome more suggestions from you guys on our social networks to update the list for next year!

Happy Summer Wedding / Morning Musume (2000)

It surprisingly was a bit hard for us to find widely popular Hello!Project songs that fit the theme – their groups might be part of the national idol landscape but they are not exactly the most famous for catchy summer bops. Closest tunes to our list today would probably go back to early Morning Musume, with songs like “Manatsu no Kousen”, “Koi no Dance Side” or, as we are showing just above, the cheerful “Happy Summer Wedding”, released in 2000. This iconic line-up was then led by several now-legendary members like Goto Maki, Yaguchi Mari or W’s Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi.

SMILY / Otsuka Ai (2005)

Although not exactly an idol, any cutesy J-pop enthusiast knows Otsuka Ai‘s name, even if only for her iconic “Sakuranbo”! From her debut in 2003 to circa 2007, the J-pop singer skyrocketed to national celebrity with her catchy, upbeat, sometimes a bit crazy pop songs, before switching to a more mature experimental sound. A couple of them could be listed as great summer songs, such as 2007 drama “Hanazakari no Kimitachi e” ending song “PEACH” or the weirdly crazy “HAPPY DAYS”. We chose to show you “SMILY” and its cheerful music video, showing “Aichin” having fun on the beach, just like everyone should during summer time!

Ponytail to Shushu / AKB48 (2010)

Nothing we will write here will teach you anything new about the world famous AKB48. 2010 popularity election voting song “Ponytail to Shushu” was also one of the songs that contributed to make AKB48 (in?)famous for their bikini music videos and it is even now a classic in karaoke sessions in Japan. Other extremely popular summer songs by AKB48 would be “Everyday, Kachuusha” (2011), “Manatsu no Sounds Good!” (2012) or “Sayonara Crawl” (2013), that all have been looping all over the country the summer of their release.

Coco☆Natsu / Momoiro Clover (2010)

While Momoiro Clover Z did not seem to base their popularity out of particularly summer-y songs, this one specific song keeps being brought up by idol fans whenever we look for idol summer tunes. “Coco☆Natsu” was released in 2010, while the group still had a six-members line-up and was still lacking the Z in their name. Momoiro Clover Z makes sure to bring this one song up at every one of their open-air summer concerts, usually spraying water on the audience with water guns among other refreshing gimmicks.

ViVi Natsu / PASSPO☆ (2011)

Cabin attendants-themed PASSPO☆ started off in 2009 and summer-single “ViVi Natsu” was their second released after their major debut under Universal Music, and ranked 3rd for their first week of sales according to Oricon. After a little sister group (PuchiPASSPO☆, disbanded in March 2018), broadening their activities as a rock band with Band PASSPO☆ and several other big achievements, PASSPO☆ will unfortunately officially break up this year on September 22nd with a final “flight” (live) at Nakano Sunplaza.

Pareo wa Emerald / SKE48 (2011)

Just like their headquarters, Nagoya-based SKE48 has their share of extremely popular summer hits. We can probably also add singles “Gomen ne, Summer” (2010), happy and cheerful “Sansei Kawaii!” (2013) or the more recent “Igai ni Mango” (2017) to the list. “Pareo wa Emerald” seems to be the most popular of them all, always triggering some happily excited reactions in the audience when performed, either by SKE48 themselves or other groups. It is a summer classic for their performances at Tokyo Idol Festival, so if you are around then, you might not be able to avoid it!

Puripuri♥SUMMER Kiss / SUPER☆GiRLS (2012)

While iDOL STREET headliner SUPER☆GiRLS have based their reputation and style on very happy and cheerful cutesy pop songs, their most famous and best-selling summer tune might probably the cheeky “Puripuri♥SUMMER Kiss”. Although it is not the most viewed of their summer songs on Youtube, it is easily one of the most iconic for early SUPER☆GiRLS. Other summer tunes from SUPER☆GiRLS include 2nd single “MAX! Otomegokoro” (2011), and they recently added a new bop to the list with “Bubblin Squash!” (2018).

Dot Bikini / S/mileage (2012)

Again, it was not that easy to find widely-popular summer anthems from Hello!Project groups, but somehow, S/mileage had something for us! The group, now known as ANGERME and focusing on darker cool tunes and sharp dancing, released “Dot Bikini” as their 10th major single. Hello!Project groups are not exactly known for bikini music videos, but S/mileage managed to pull off this festive and catchy tune, showing off some silly moves wearing two-pieces polka dotted swimsuits, although wearing cute skirts instead.

Nagiichi / NMB48 (2012)

Same thing as AKB48 and SKE48 for Osaka-based NMB48: the group also sports their share of summer bikini songs. While “Nagiichi” is probably the most iconic, led by legendary trio Yamamoto Sayaka, Watanabe Miyuki and Yamada Nana, you should also check out “Bokura no Eureka” (2013) or “Durian Shonen” (2015), centered by the now famously engaged-then-graduated Sutou Ririka.

Natsu da ne☆ / Kamen Joshi (2012)

Kamen Joshi is the headliner for agency Alice Project, and has been operating since 2013 at the PARMS theater in Akihabara, alongside sub-units and trainees. Alice Project groups sport a very specific style of music, a strange yet powerful blend between J-pop, rock, metal, rap and electronic music that makes the uniqueness of their weekly performances at their theater. “Natsu da ne☆” is one of their iconic pieces, making idols and audience cheerfully spin their towels up in the air. Other catchy tunes from Kamen Joshi that would perfectly fit within our summer playlist would be their most famous song, “Genkidane☆”, or the uplifting “Daibouken☆”, all in a very similar music style.

Girls Rule / Nogizaka46 (2015)

AKB48’s “official rival” (or more like cousin) group Nogizaka46 stands out with a more conservative aesthetic and sophisticated songs and dances, but it does not mean they are free from the summer song wave. Shiraishi Mai leads the way in the extremely catchy “Girls Rule”, her first center position in a Nogizaka46 single. Other popular Nogizaka46 songs with a summer vibe include “Natsu no Free&Easy” (2014) or “Hadashi de Summer” (2016).

Otsukare summer / Dempagumi inc. (2015)

Introducing DEAR STAGE’s headliner Dempagumi inc. seems like a stretch now they are one of the highest profile idol groups of this era. Before Mogami Moga and Yumemi Nemu‘s departure and the addition of Niji no Conquistador’s Nemoto Nagi and former Beboga!’s Kaname Rin (or more known as Perorin-sensei), Dempagumi inc. released a couple of iconic summer songs and “Otsukare Summer” is one of them! Take your towels out and dance it out!

Summer Nude Adolescence / Yumemiru Adolescence (2015)

Starting in 2012, Yumemiru Adolescence (or also widely known as “YumeAdo”) initially had six very pretty members and their style was very orthodox idol-like. They debuted under major label Sony Music in 2015. “Summer Nude Adolescence” is a cover of 1995 song “Summer Nude” by band Magokoro Brothers. The song was brought back from the past thanks to Yamashita Tomohisa‘s cover version, used as opening song for his 2013 summer drama “Summer Nude”, making Japan dive deep into nostalgia. It might not be YumeAdo’s most famous song, but its history and theme strongly resonated with the atmosphere we call “Japanese summer” and it is definitely a song you should give a chance to!

Natsu no Oh! Vibes / Band janaimon! (2016)

Girls band-but-not-quite Band janaimon! started in 2011 and is now made of six members. While all of them are attributed an instrument (some of them being more indispensable than others), their name just says it: they are not a band! Their style is usually very similar and accidentally heavily associated to several DEAR STAGE acts, although they are conducting activities under Pony Canyon. Their popularity seems to have steadily increased over the years, and they are now approaching top-tier of idol groups in Japan, recently renamed to Band janaimon! MAXX NAKAYOSHI. Their 7th single, “Natsu no Oh! Vibes”, capture their style and a fresh and catchy summer vibe perfectly, and you will never get it out of your head (I know I can’t).

Summer Bokan / Yurumerumo! (You’ll melt more!) (2016)

Yurumerumo! (or You’ll melt more!, whichever you prefer) was formed in 2012 and is part of what we like to call the new wave of idols. Their style breaks aways from the orthodox cutesy acts for a more silly and crazier hip-hop vibe, while still surfing on these Harajuku kawaii tones. “Summer Bokan” is one of these songs you absolutely have heard of if you are used to festivals like Tokyo Idol Festival or Idol Yokocho and never fails to get everyone happily excited.

Heart Sunglasses / 26ji no Masquerade (2017)

26ji no Masquerade is one of the most recent orthodox idol acts and has been receiving steady attention for the past couple of years, since their creation in 2016. The group sports a very fashionable vibe as they were created upon an initiative from fashion magazine Zipper, and their costumes are sponsored by national teenagers and young adults clothing store WEGO. “Heart Sunglasses” is their first single release under an indie label and was already setting the tone for their successful future!

3WD / Task have fun (2017)

Not exactly a summer MV per se, but indie group Task have fun made their big break in 2017 during Tokyo Idol Festival and Idol Yokocho, turning their latest single (at the time), “3WD”, into a summer anthem! As they are getting ready to take over France at Japan Expo Paris 2019, you cannot miss their biggest classic. And you will certainly start dancing along with everyone the second you hear “3WD”, although be careful to not get in trouble with the festival security staff 😉

Kimi wa mujaki na natsu no jyou / Niji no Conquistador (2017)

Bubbly and fresh idol group Niji no Conquistador has been steadily getting more and more fans over the past years. After starting out from the pixiv agency as an “artist idol group”, NijiCon signed with now worldwide famous DEAR STAGE earlier last year. They became quite well-known thanks to the iconic summer songs they seem to be releasing every year! Their latest anthem “Kimi wa mujaki na natsu no jyou” reached over 3 million views on Youtube. You should also definitely check out “THE UCHOUTEN SUMMER” (2015), “Kagirinaku Bouken ni chikai Summer” (2016) or, more recently, “Ai wo Kokoro ni Summer to Kazoe yo” (2019), for more summer fun!

Natsu’n ON-DO / Terashima Yufu (2017)

In a completely different style, former BiS member Terashima Yufu is currently leading a successful career as a “serious idol performing with character mascots” and released in 2017 what happened to be a surprisingly decent hit over Tokyo Idol Festival. “Natsu’n ON-DO” (hit the 1:00 mark of the video to jump straight to the song) is a bon-odori (Japanese summer festival dance) themed song, which means it is rather slow and soothing. Fans happened to be extremely quick at picking up this dance and ended up dancing together in a giant circle in the audience, in front of some discouraged security staff! Thankfully, this small event turned out very peaceful but became quite viral within the indie idol fandom on Twitter. If you are craving these traditional Japanese matsuri vibes, make sure you check this one out!

OIDEMASE~gakuraku~ / FES☆TIVE (2017)

As the entire core concept of FES☆TIVE revolves around Japan’s traditional culture and more specifically its summer “matsuri” (festivals), their entire discography could therefore fit in this list. “Magical Parade”, “Yamato Nadeshiko Sunrise” or the more recently released “Yurayurayurari Koigokoro” all give off some massive Japanese summer party vibes to list a few. “OIDEMASE~Gakuraku~” comes first to mind as FES☆TIVE’s biggest hit so far, making it a classic crowd-pleaser during all the summer idol festivals. Be ready to sweat because you cannot possibly watch FES☆TIVE perform this song without joining in and dancing with the fans! If you want to learn more about FES☆TIVE, make sure to check out our discovery article about these lovely ladies.

Tapioca Milk Tea / Wasuta (The World Standard) (2018)

No need to introduce Wasuta and their chaotic kawaii kitty energy! iDOL Street’s currently most popular act and their unique super-cute upbeat pop style has already started conquering the world, with performances throughout Asia, but also in Paris, France for Japan Expo 2017, and Toronto, Canada earlier this year for Anime North. “Tapioca Milk Tea” was released at the beginning of summer last year and the message is pretty clear: to survive the Japanese summer heat wave, just drop by your favorite tapioca store! The horns are refreshing and upbeat, complimenting the members’ solid singing and joyful energy, in a perfect mix to start off the summer festival season.

Hola! Hola! Summer / akishibu project (2018)

akishibu project aims at conjugating the Akihabara otaku culture with Shibuya’s fashion sense and it is not a surprise that they have a couple of summer tunes in store. “Manatsu no Serenade”, released in their first single back in 2015, is already a staple for every akishibu project performance. A few line-up changes and three years later, akishibu project turned their popularity into a major debut with label King Records, with what would be their second legendary summer track: “Hola! Hola! Summer”! The members welcome the season with happy smiles and fashionable swimsuits in a catchy pop tune that will get you jumping around spinning your towel up in the air.

Summer / CY8ER (2019)

More horns, and more summer vibes! EDM idol group CY8ER are one of the current rising stars of the indie idol scene, and decided to jump in the summer song bandwagon this year. Getting further away from their usual cool electronic bangers, “Summer” is a good change of pace and probably one of the catchiest releases this year. A chill rap beat lead up to the more intense chorus, and its fresh horns that will definitely get you dancing along, just like the members partying all day long drinking sparkling rosé wine on a boat in the middle of the Tokyo Bay.

The list can get quite long and of course, is far from complete! Make sure you add your suggestions on our social network accounts to spread more summer vibes to idol fans who want to discover new things.
And don’t forget to stay hydrated!

Full list

01. Happy Summer Wedding / Morning Musume
02. SMILY / Otsuka Ai
03. Ponytail to Shushu / AKB48
04. Coco☆Natsu / Momoiro Clover
05. ViVi Natsu / PASSPO☆
06. Pareo wa Emerald / SKE48
07. Puripuri♥SUMMER Kiss / SUPER☆GiRLS
08. Dot Bikini / S/mileage
09. Nagiichi / NMB48
10. Natsu da ne☆ / Kamen Joshi
11. Girls Rule / Nogizaka46
12. Otsukare summer / Dempagumi inc.
13. Summer Nude Adolescence / Yumemiru Adolescence
14. Natsu no Oh! Vibes / Band janaimon!
15. Summer Bokan / Yurumerumo!
16. Heart Sunglasses / 26ji no Masquerade
17. 3WD / Task have fun
18. Kimi wa mujaki na natsu no jyou / Niji no Conquistador
19. Natsu’n ON-DO / Terashima Yufu
20. OIDEMASE~Gakuraku~ / FES☆TIVE
21. Tapioca Milk Tea / Wasuta
22. Hola! Hola! Summer / akishibu project
23. Summer / CY8ER

Article and translation by Melody