One of my favorite things to do when I’m bored and browsing Youtube is search out for any kind of fan work with my favorite J-pop songs– whether it’s watching people sing along to their favorite songs, make entire PVs based off of the originals, dance out the choreographies, or even make their own artistic interpretation of the song on [insert-instrument-of-choice-here]. Some are more common than others, of course– but I’d have to say my favorite is the last– coming across someone playing out a song on whatever instrument, and I’ve been finding more and more piano versions of songs lately, and just been blown away by them.

I’ve always loved piano music; I started taking piano lessons when I was a tiny kindergartener– about 5 or 6 years old at the time– up until I was about 11 or 12, when I switched to trumpet. But solo trumpet music has never been as appealing to me as solo piano music has been– and even today, I appreciate a good piano piece. Just yesterday, I was attending a club meeting in my school’s student center; we met on the top floor, where there’s a lot of open space and seats scattered around for studying, a few meeting rooms, massive windows to the outside, and one roughly tuned piano. All the meeting rooms were being used at the time, so we met out in the more open area. Right as we were about to begin, one guy had come upstairs and was sort of looking around timidly like he was lost– we weren’t sure if he was looking for our group, but soon enough, he plopped down rather casually at the piano. We all chuckled a bit, wondering if he was just going to hang out there if he couldn’t find us, but soon enough, we found out he really wasn’t lost– he actually came up to play the piano! There was rarely a time when I’ve been in the student center and heard someone playing, so when he actually did start playing, everything over at our table got incredibly quiet. Nobody even wanted to start the meeting because we were too enthralled, listening to this guy bust out his piano skills out of NOWHERE. Despite the rough tuning of the piano, the song was beautiful.  We all just wanted to sit there and listen– I mean, we did get started eventually, but I was just so amused that we sat there for a few minutes, just listening, not saying a word. When the meeting was over, he was still there and playing, and I climbed down back to the first floor where I was going to buy myself a soda. As I was heading down, the reverb of the piano was stunning. You could hear it throughout all three floors, since the structure on the inside of the building is completely open. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave as long as that guy was still playing! Unfortunately, I had a ton of other things on my schedule, so I did– but I hope that guy comes back– you know, weekly! I really think people– even my peers that blast screamo music and unintelligible hip-hop during all hours of the day– no matter who they are, can really enjoy a good piano piece.

So, anyway! Instead of leaving my favorite J-pop-related pieces on Youtube for others to come across, I decided to take a moment and share my favorites and hopefully give them some new viewers, because there are some really amazing pieces out there!

The first user I’m going to focus on here is like a MACHINE on Youtube– ChuNatsuPata. If you’ve ever seen a piano rendition of a H!P song on Youtube, you’ve probably come across one of his (I’m assuming they’re male, but correct me if I’m wrong!) He’s got so many fantastic ones on there, so I’ll just pick a few of my favorites.

This first is ‘Haru Beautiful Everyday,’ a song from Morning Musume’s latest album– the duet by Aika and Eri. I love how this song sounds just like the original, but at the same time, it creates a LOT more imagery– for me, anyway. Not to nag on Aika or Eri’s voices or anything– just this piece sans vocals is absolutely beautiful, and creates a lot of gorgeous images in my head– particularly springtime scenes, fitting with the song title. And, for some reason, to me, it sounds like it would be a piece featured in the middle of a movie– in one of those slowed-motion scenes where the picture gets softened, and your thoughts immediately go into sentimental mode. The dynamics in this piece are subtle and fantastic– the crescendos don’t come up inappropriately and surprise you and flow compeletely with the piece, and at the end, there’s this wonderful decrescendo to the finish– and that aforementioned movie scene fades off somewhere into the recesses of my mind.

Now, to completely contrast ‘Haru Beautiful Everyday,’ we have ‘Onna ni Sachi Are!’ This piece is much, much more interpretive– they’ve taken some artistic license with the song and gotten a little creative in the beginning, which just makes the song THAT much more epic. The song is most DEFINITELY ‘Onna ni Sachi Are,’ there’s no mistaking it, especially when the piece moves into the first chorus. At that point, singing along is NOT an option– it is a MUST– er, for me, at least. I just can’t help it! But what makes this so fantastic is it shows off the variety of this guy’s style. Where ‘Haru Beautiful Everyday’ had really subtle dynamics– this piece is VERY much more, for a lack of a better word, in-your-face. The crescendos are sudden, the piano-playing is intense!

Now for the last feature in this ChuNatsuPata series– his latest creation, his rendition of C-ute’s ‘Meguru Koi no Kisetsu!’ While ‘Onna ni Sachi Are,’ was interpretive in parts, this COMPLETELY transformed the original. He took this upbeat, poppy piece, and made into a jazzy swing piece! (Which is fantastic for me, because I’ve always been a closet jazz and swing fan.) But, honestly, you’ve got to hear this one to believe it. This one gives me the images of all the C-ute girls dressed up like flappers and dancing in a swanky club where the air’s thick with cigar smoke and excitement. (And I apologize if I’m getting my generations messed up here, it’s just how my brain interprets it!) (PS, Erika would look AMAZING in flapper-gear. Just imagine it!)

This one’s much too short, but worth a listen, anyway! A softer interpretation of C-ute’s ‘Wakkyannai (Z),’ made into something akin to a lullaby. Actually, it reminds me of Christmas, for some reason. Like something you’d hear played on an adorable Hallmark commercial for the season. Not to insult the song by comparing it to a Hallmark card, of course! I think it’s amazing how such a song can go from its super-genki original style to something as soft and melodic as this. It’s a cute little jingle, and I only wish they did the whole song!

This one I never expected to find! AKB48 piano renditions! This one features a bit of a medly; it starts off with ‘Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru,’ then switches to ‘Skirt, Hirari,’ and finishes off with ‘Virgin love.’ Each of them are very much like the original– so, once again, it’s very easily to find myself singing right along. But these can all be appreciated as renditions of their own, as well. Seifuku’s got a particular sound to it that makes it a little… hmm, I don’t know how to describe this. But it’s a little more standout than the other two– either way, it sounds fantastic. If you like that one, he’s also got a second video of AKB48-meets-piano, where there’s more songs, including some of the lesser-known ones like ‘MARIA,’ ‘Namida no Shounan,’ and ‘Kimi wa Pegasus,’ so if you’re a fan, definitely check out his other video!

This last one is my favorite out of the bunch. It’s Suzuki Airi’s solo song, ‘Tsuugaku Vector,’ piano-ified. Unlike the rest, it’s got a few sound effects in the beginning and the end, and the sound’s played over footage from the making of Airi’s PB. So you don’t get to actually see the song being played, but it’s magnificent nonetheless. The piece is absolutely brilliant– and it actually makes me like the song more than the original ever did. There are amazing parts during, well, what’s the ‘instrumental break’ in the original song, that lead up to a beautiful last chorus. The entire thing is fantastic– really pleasant to listen too– and I do think I’ll be loading up so I can take that audio and put it on my iPod.