Iroppoi Twilight Game

For those who like H!P ^_^, plus a learning experience!

Most original name for a group? Funny joke UFP!

So on today’s Hello! Station we got an announcement of a new SATOYAMA unit!

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L to R: Moe Kamikokuryo, Ayumi Ishida, Saki Nakajima, Tomoko Kanazawa

What surprised me was just having Kamiko be the one to announce this as if she was the leader of this unit.  Granted, this announcement is slightly weakened by the fact the other 3 have been in previous SATO units (Ayumi in Harvest, Nakky in DIY, HI-FIN, and Kanatomo in ODATOMO.  It also didn’t help that the name of the unit is a bit lazy and kind of mundane (though it makes the acronym KINK seem very interesting!).

Anyway, they will release an event single, “Furusato no Yume” during the SATOYAMA e Ikou! event / Hinafest date).  This unit won’t last too long with Nakky graduating in June, but it’ll be nice to see what the song willbring.

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Hello! 2016! Let’s see what you have brought for us fans this year?

Seems like it’s that time of year to look back at the year that was 2016.  After the rather amazing amount of new talent being found it felt like things were starting to settle down a bit and the focus was just on making the groups a bit more outstanding and fixing what was needed, of course we gained and lost more as well.  Shall we begin?

Morning Musume ’16

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Starting with Momusu of course, they had begun their 2016 coming right off the graduation of ace member, Riho Sayashi and the release of their last single of 2015 (which was released a couple days prior to the new year).

However things didn’t quite yet end on the sadder side of things when in February, Kanon Suzuki announced that she was graduating fully at the end of April, though it wasn’t without their next single, Utakata Saturday Night! / The Vision / Tokyo to Iu Katasumi to send Zukki off and on the same day a vinyl release of their previous single, Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only.

Not much happened really except their stageplay, Zoku 11-nin Iru! Higashi no Chihei, Nishi no Towa had kicked off during the summer.

Things didn’t start picking up until September when a new single was announced for November, Sexy Cat no Enzetsu / Mukidashi de Mukiatte / Sou Janai before the announcement of 13th Generation cane on 12/12 with just only Kenshuusei members, Kaede Kaga and Reina Yokoyama.

Then on Christmas, we get word that Momusu (plus Kaede & Reina) will be involved on an AKB48 song with Rino Sashihara on their 8th album…it’ll be pretty interesting that’s for sure.

THE SONGS

(NOTE: Once again…it seems that “Watashi no Nanni mo Wakacchanai” has still not been released in a physical (or digital release)…weird that it’s almost 2 years in a row….so once again, can’t review)

(NOTE 2: With the stageplay album, it’ll mostly be about the East version except one track from West which was radically different)

GREAT SONGS

  • Utakata Saturday Night! – Being the main track that really focused on Zukki (sorta), Utakata Saturday Night! was a rather refreshing song to break from the EDM with something that’s more discotheque and just full of life!  I really liked the arrangement and pacing and all the Zukki parts were great (even if the dialogue in the bridge oddly reminds me of Miyabi’s in “Asian Celebration”).
  • The Vision – The 2nd A-side of Zukki’s graduating single also struck a nice chord for me.  I will say that it does kind of come off as “Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe” pt. 2, but there’s something floaty and elegant about the track up to the lively chorus.  What is interesting is that once again, Fukuchan, Eripon, and Ayumi are absent from the song (as they are the dance team so they are silent for a reason).  I was surprised that Masaki and Sakura were the leads, but they sounded great taking up the front slots.  Cool song overall!
  • Higashi no Chi Aritosuka.re (WEST) – As the only song that wowed me from their stageplay, this version of Higashi no Chi Aritosuka.re has this really Celtic kind of arrangement to it and it sounds lively and really adventurous of a song despite it sounds like a group effort as there’s no solo lines.  Not sure if the tune needed a fadeout though…
  • Mukidashi de Mukiatte – For being surrounded by a bunch of other EDM songs in their recent catalog of tracks, I found Mukidashi to be quite surprising and really catchy at the same time.  I feel like the tune goes into trance and more of those heavier sounding tunes.  Plus it does have a lot of good line distribution which helps out a lot!  Definitely the best of their 2nd single of the year.

OK SONGS

  • Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi (TYPE B) – I was surprised Momusu would release a vinyl for the single and it did rang some bells for people, but mostly it did fly by without too much recognition.  The exclusive track though was an alternate version of Riho’s graduation song (well it was supposed to be xD).  The tune itself was stripped down musically and turned into a formal ballad and I have to say while it doesn’t sound like too much effort was put into it, a lot more solo lines were available.  A nice bonus, but it’d take a lot to beat the original.
  • Tokyo to Iu Katasumi – As the first song that was shown off, many fans to me felt like they were split from the song to the outfits/PV.  While the song is still an EDM song through and through, I do enjoy the addition of some guitar riffs to throw spice.  I like the aggression however and the punch with some of the execution of lines is pretty spot on.  Decent song overall!
  • Higashi no Chihei, Nishi no Towa – As the main theme for their stageplay, Higashi no Chihei does remind me of a mix of both “LILIUM” and “TRIANGLE” with the push of a darker song.  I do like that Duu was getting a lot of lines in the track and the remainder of the cast sound great too.  Though it might not be as great as other theme tracks, it does its part well.
  • Suki Dakara…… – When the single preview was released, I was kind of surprised to hear Sakura & Haruka doing a duet together and it actually turned out well because they both were giving such powerful lines throughout.  Though the WEST version is definitely preferred if you like Duu while the EAST is for Sakura fans.  Interesting ballad to say the least!
  • Higashi no Chi Aritosuka.re (EAST) – The Eastern take of this song to me fell a little bit in comparison to its WEST counterpart, but this isn’t too bad either giving us a stronger folksy vibe (something akin to some Kalafina songs).  It’s alright, but it does feel real short.
  • Nishi no Chi Aritosuka.ra – Another track that was also slightly different depending on which version you listen to.  I did end up enjoying both in the same light.  The EAST had more of an acoustic feel while the WEST had a lot more flutes and Ayumi had a different vocal melody with the lyrics.  It’s an interesting set of tracks to say the least.
  • Tsuyoki Koku wo Motomete – It’s nice to see Maasa make appearances throughout.  I do like the darker themes with the march arrangement, but I do feel that Maachan kind of takes me out of the song a bit due to her voice just grating on my ears, luckily the WEST version cuts down on that.
  • Baceska wo Korose! – Another track that reminded me of “LILIUM”, Baceska wo Korose! has a really dark glow in it and the inclusion of electric guitars adds a nice depth to the song.  It also helps that Maasa is also singing through this.  Funny enough that it’s only one of a couple songs that are at a good length.
  • Mayoi no Mori – As one of the more striking ballads from the OST, this Sakura solo really showcased her prowess in her vocal talent and it shown through very powerfully.  One of the better songs here, though avoid WEST’s version (Ayumi sings this by herself instead).
  • Bokura no Shinnen – Probably at the bottom of the OK songs, Bokura no Shinnen might not seem to really stick out, but since it’s a track between Ayumi, Sakura, Duu, and Fukuchan, I appreciated the simplicity of the song.
  • Ou no Tsutome – Even though the WEST version with Ayumi wasn’t all that great vocally, I definitely took to Fukuchan’s solo in the EAST counterpart as she had such powerful vocals and her deep tones really stuck out to me.  Once again, simple in its arrangement, but definitely an impressive track.
  • Teki wo Ute! – Another dramatically heavy song, Teki wo Ute! was a track that kind of broke through some of the monotony of the album.  I still couldn’t tell who was singing but it felt like a mix of Miki and someone else.  It was cool, but like “Bokura no Shinnen” it kind of hung on between being OK or MEH.
  • Sexy Cat no Enzetsu – Maybe it’s just me but I was surprised that Morning Musume would do a song that really had no chorus.  Still, the song is pretty quirky and has a lot punch despite it not really once again sticking out from the normal.  I did enjoy it though, since it was a Oda, Duu, and Fukuchan lead.  It’s an interesting choice for an A-side, but it’s cute.
  • Sou Janai – Like “Sexy Cat no Enzetsu”, Sou Janai doesn’t really bring anything new to the table that hasn’t been already done by Momusu, but it’s nice to see that Maria has the leading role in the track.  The EDM is OK and the song entirely is OK as well…there’s really not much else to say about this one but it falls in the average category for me.

MEH SONGS

  • Utakata Saturday Night! (Kawanabe Hiroshi REMIX) – Seemed like Momusu had once again released a vinyl version of Zukki’s graduation single and it included a remix as its exclusive track.  The remix is still pretty faithful by being disco, but it’s a little bit long and the arrangement doesn’t really move things along and it’s a bit repetitive as things go which makes things a bit more tiring.  Luckily when the group does sing the track, it’s pretty cool.
  • Ai no Kotoba – A lot of the stageplay tracks here are mostly because they kind of bored me and nothing really made them stand out from the other tracks.  Ai no Kotoba did have longer time to have a longer impression, but this song is plain and simple…maybe a little too much, but I appreciate Ayumi and Duu singing together.
  • Wo Tomodachi ni Naritai! – Though there are other songs that just was meh altogether like Wo Tomodachi ni Naritai! which takes up the folk route like some stuff from their “LILIUM” play.  Vocally it wasn’t quite there and the middle dialogue breaks the song for me.  I will say the arrangement was the only worthwhile thing here.
  • Sensou ga Hajimaru – Another case of nice arrangement, but the vocal melody is just a bit boring.  It didn’t help that it was only about 1:20 in length so it didn’t manage to make much of an impression.  There wasn’t even any solos to be had, so it fell a bit flat.
  • Tsumetai Kaze – Didn’t I just hear this arrangement back in “Sensou ga Hajimaru”?  Its got the same kind of angsty feel to it, but the vocals this time were a LOT deeper than I expected.  For a 2 minute track, Tsumetai Kaze went by fast too…meh…
  • Nani mo Kataru na – Seems like all the ballads kind of run in the same vein with similar arrangements to one another.  Nani mo Kataru na does start off with a couple of the girls singing together before some solos happen, but the arrangement is way too copied for me to take interest…
  • Maya no Hi – As the track that ended both discs, I was hoping for something powerful, but nice enough as the closer to happen, but Maya no Hi (like “Nani mo Kataru na” is another one of those quiet to grand ballads but with not a lot of substance behind it.  When I listened to this album it just felt like they were going through the waves at this point…Maya no Hi was a pretty meh way to close things out…

Predictions from last year!

Not sure really since they’ll be starting 2016 without their lead voice Riho, so I assume that Masaki will be taking a stronger role in vocals and possibly Miki & Akane alongside Eripon, Zukki, and Duu.  Musically, I also am not sure especially with Tsunku stepping down…maybe moving away from EDM finally?  Maybe another audition is announced?

Actuality: Well to be fair, Zukki left so she didn’t quite get to shine more than I had hoped for, but Maachan did become center alongside Odasaku for a couple songs.  Musically, it’s been still more of the EDM, but I do feel the whole formation style is gone for now and yes, an audition was announced, but there are no winners yet!

Predictions for 2017: I’m hoping for a push for 12th Gen even if Maria is getting the push currently.  Not sure what else could be said, maybe an album to get things rolling?

°C-ute

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This year for °C-ute was pretty much quiet, but there was some big news.

The year began with the group continuing to promote their 9th album (which had released two weeks before 2016 began).  They followed that up with a new single, Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou? / Summer Wind / Jinsei wa STEP! and its vinyl cut and spent most of the Spring and Summer months touring before in August where they dropped the announcement that the group would disband in June of next year.

They ended off their 2016 with another single (with no mention that it’s their last), Mugen Climax / Ai wa Maru de Seidenki / Singing ~Ano Koro no You ni~ and that was their 2016.

GREAT SONGS

  • Summer Wind – Even though the whole single was great, I did feel like Summer Wind is a really flowing track to listen to.  Being one of the more mysterious songs of the year, Summer Wind is just something different to me and stuck out from a lot of H!P songs this year.  Plus, hearing everyone tackling something a bit slower, but has an energetic chorus was pretty awesome!
  • Mugen Climax – After the announcement of their eventual disbandment, I was hoping that their first single after wasn’t going to be their last single and so far I’m happy it is the case.  Mugen Climax though would be an amazing way to end it since it was just epic in every way!  Taking a little of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and adding a twist.  It’s goth, but done in an idol-like way that it just seemed to work together!  One of the bests this year!!!

OK SONGS

  • Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou? – As the leading A-side of the single (though it could be argued for “Jinsei wa STEP!” as it has more appearances and such), Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou? was a pretty nice piece to hear from them to show off their more mature side.  I do get a nice Motown vibe from it and hearing Airi really impressed me here as well!  Pretty good A-side!
  • Jinsei wa STEP! – Did we move into more of a nostalgic trip?  I seriously got some vaude-like vibes out of this one and Jinsei wa STEP! was pretty cool and gave us a more sassier C-ute this time around.  It’s pretty quirky though and like I said, gave the girls a much more sly sound for the group, a definite grower that is!

MEH SONGS

  • Ai wa Maru de Seidenki – I was hoping the group’s 2nd single would impress me just as much as the first single, but besides “Mugen Climax”, I was pretty disappointed with the remainder of the single.  The first track quickly reminded me of “Bagel ni Ham & Cheese” and “Tokai no Hitorigurashi” just meshed together and forced to be a thing.  It’s a much cuter song than I was expecting and sadly it just wasn’t quite up to par to everything else the group released.  Oh yeah, Mario Kart for sure!
  • Singing ~Ano Koro no You ni~ – As the song from the single that started the mindset that the group is pretty close to being over, Singing is more akin to them looking back in their careers together.  The tune itself has a nice march-like feel to it and all, but it just seems weird (especially since this isn’t their final song).  I do think it’s a nice song vocally though.  Oh yeah, there’s a very odd inclusion of laughter too…which is bizarre in a slower song like this.

ICKY SONGS

  • Jinsei wa STEP! (Lil’Yukichi Remix feat. Cherry Brown) – Probably the worst track of the year, the vinyl exclusive remix for Jinsei wa STEP! was just unnecessary mostly due to Cherry Brown.  The song itself was shifted to more of a hip-hop sound and that in itself doesn’t suit the vocal melodies from the group.  Then there’s the rapper that really just doesn’t need to be there either.  I will give him that his Japanese was decent, but the two ideas just do not go together!

Predictions from 2015

From the way it’s heading and how slow their releases have gotten, I have a gut feeling that 2016 is when they’ll announce their “indefinite hiatus” though if Maimi goes, who’s going to lead H!P?  Ayacho?

Actuality: I guess my gut feeling was correct with the group announcing their disbandment during the year.  Though the question of who takes Maimi’s place is still up for grabs

Predictions for 2017: Honestly, with the group only having half a year left to do anything and them now finished with H!P concerts (except their own), all I can see them doing is releasing one more single and a best album (hopefully the same kind of way that Berryz did).

Buono!

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What a total surprise right?!?  The year began with the COUNTDOWN concert that happens each year at New Years and Buono! actually came back together for some performances that night and announced that they would be holding a concert at Budokan in August (a little early if you ask me to make such an announcement TBQH).

So after about 7 months, the hype was building and the trio announced a DVD single, Solatido ~Nee Nee~ right before the concert was held.

Then after that, pretty much nothing…just all member going back to their respective groups and the leading track ending up on Petit Best 17.

GREAT SONGS

  • Rock no Seichi – I actually preferred the B-side of the single a little more as it really brought back the rockin’ vibes that Buono! was definitely known more for in their later years.  I even like they threw in some nostalgic trips in their with the whole p-a-t-i lines from “Bravo☆Bravo”.  It’s got the same bright vibe as I would expect and the trio sounds great!  Wished it was an A-side so it got a proper PV…

OK SONGS

  • Solatido ~Nee Nee~ – As it was the trio’s comeback A-side, Solatido needed to really catch up after their long hiatus and I feel like the song is a bit more poppy than I felt which reminded me of things from their “SHERBET” mini-album.  It’s a good song for them and worth the wait I’d say.

Overall: After Miyabi left H!P with the “indefinite hiatus” of Berryz, I felt like that meant Buono! was also closing its doors too because she was pretty important to the group and such.  Though I was elated when they were forming together again despite that it was only for a big performance, but the single was a nice surprise too!

Predictions for 2017: With both Airi & Momoko now heading towards graduating from H!P, the question of Buono! disbanding is once again in peoples minds, but I feel like it’ll be true with Momoko actually focusing on teaching and Airi with w/e.  I would say maybe a best album but “The Best Buono!” already exists and the trio hasn’t released too much after that album dropped so who knows…

ANGERME

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Going back to last year, it ended with a surprising announcement that Meimi Tamura would be graduating from ANGERME in the Spring and on top of that, watch the newest member Moe Kamikokuryo debut within the group.

It led to the group’s first single of the year, Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku / Itoshima Distance / Koi Nara Tokku ni Hajimatteru to be released and then we said goodbye to Meimi at the end of April

Skip to July at the beginning of the H!P Summer concerts and a shocking reveal that ANGERME gained another member, this time from the KSS, Momona Kasahara and we waited for her debut single to drop in October titled, Umaku Ienai / Ai no Tame Kyou Made Shinkashite Ningen, Ai no Tame Subete Taikashite Ningen / Wasurete Ageru.

Then we cut to November when they released a preview disc for their stageplay, MODE and that pretty much ended their 2016.

GREAT SONGS

  • Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku – As the leading song for Meimi’s last and Moe’s first single, Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku was easily the standout song for the first half of the year.  The track is hard-punching and very quick-paced for the girls.  I really do love the song and it just and everything energetic and just epic on all accounts!  Also our first taste of Kamiko’s voice is pretty outstanding!
  • Umaku Ienai – Then we move into the 2nd single and debut for Momona and Umaku Ienai was an interesting track to say the least.  Majority of the song is pretty awesome and has that funky style that Takui Nakajima loves to pull (he also did “Taikibansei”).  Though if there was anything questionable, it was the whole 2nd verse to the final chorus where it felt like an entirely different song.
  • Ai no Tame Kyou Made Shinkashite Ningen, Ai no Tame Subete Taikashite Ningen – As the first song revealed with its PV, Ai no Tame… was our technical first listen to Momona and since she has the first line, she had a pretty OK voice albeit sounds better in the lower ranges.  As another EDM song for the group, it might not have the energy or speed like “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku” but it’s still pretty cool and has a cybernetic, yet mysterious sound to it and I loved that!
  • Wasurete Ageru – I’m not sure why, but when I first heard this song, I was easily reminded of past songs like “Ii Yatsu”, “Aa Susukino”, and “Itoshima Distance”.  I also do love the line distribution in this track as it felt so equal and hearing SO much Rinapuu made me squee in joy!  For more of a serious song, it just sounded beautiful.

OK SONGS

  • Itoshima Distance – As I’ve said about “Wasurete Ageru” above, these two tracks do sound similar and has a similar emotional flow to it.  Though this one has a lot of saxophones running about in its arrangement.  I also do love the line distribution here as well and we have an amazing line from Moe.  Also does it feel like 3rd Gen had a lot of push in this one (not like in “Mahou Tsukai Sally”) but pretty close?
  • Koi Nara Tokku ni Hajimatteru – Credited as Meimi’s graduation track (in the same way Zukki’s was handled), Koi Nara Tokku ni Hajimatteru is a weird one to say the least.  As the first Tsunku song since the group became ANGERME, Koi Nara didn’t really do anything for me at first, but as time went by it did grow a little bit.  It has the quirks that I’ve gotten used to from Tsunku, but that chorus with the shoved lines is a bit gross (not like how bad it got in “Egao no Kimi wo Taiyou sa”.
  • MODE – As the theme for their stageplay, MODE is definitely a change of pace in comparison to their main releases as this song is upbeat and poppy to say the least.  I do enjoy the breezy composition and the girls sound pleasant!  Plus, there’s some small parts that are just cute to hear!
  • Sakura no Uta – I love that Kanana got to sing a rather goofy song in her deeper voice and it was actually a good mix (even if the arrangement could be replicated on a CASIO.  Short song, but I definitely thought it was cute.
  • Hanako no Uta – Then we get Rikako’s solo which sounds like a carnival-like waltz and that impressed me initially and then Rikako started singing and she was playful and her rolling some of the words was cool to hear.  A great surprise coming from a member who isn’t normally toted as a strong vocalist.
  • Michiko no Uta – As the ballad of the OST, Moe’s solo did a great job of showing off her vocals (at least in a more solid setting than the one liners in the main releases).  She sounds pristine and I am excited to see what she’ll be like in the future.  The arrangement is a bit sleepy though, I will say that though, but it was more for me to hear Moe.

MEH SONGS

  • Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku (SWG REMIX) – Despite that all of the vinyls remixes were kind of sucky, I do think Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku had some kind of potential.  It did include some of the original sound, but overall, the track is missing something about it and the vocal melody sounds off with the new chords of the remix.  I will admit, the low-bearing electric guitar is cool!
  • Aiko no Uta – After hearing “Hanako no Uta”, this was was the follow-up and the arrangement felt like it barely changed as it still has the waltz style going but instead of Rikako at the helm, it’s actually Rina.  It’s not terrible, but it just sounds WAY too similar to the aforementioned track.
  • Kayo no Uta – You think I’d be wild for the bossa nova track, but it’s led by Kassa and while I’m happy she joined the group, her voice is just still in KSS mode and it still wasn’t all that great.  It’s a nice try, but I just wasn’t into this one in particular.
  • Believe in Me – Ayacho…I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’d be ever OK with your voice being the only one in a song.  I mean it’s better than I was expecting, but her pronunciation of the title is funny and the arrangement feeling like a pseud0-gospel song is also humorous.  What a strange song xD
  • Oshare wa Onna no Sentoufuku – As it was the only other song to feature everyone else in the tune, Oshare wa Onna no Sentoufuku is a bit more respectable track even if Ayacho does take up a lot of the song.  It reminds me of something that Momusu would release back when they debuted.  That said, it’s not too memorable because it does remind me of “MODE” just a bit much.
  • Fashion Magazine – The final track from the OST is sung between Ayacho, Kanana, and Takechan.  I do like the energy of the track and the chorus is somewhat catchy, but once again it does come off sounding a little cheap for me.

Predictions from 2015

I actually don’t know what to expect in 2016 other than watching Moe become active within the group.  Hopefully keeping up with the epic singles that we had this year would be great.  Not sure when Ayaka will announce her graduation, but I know it’s not going to be too long.

Actuality: To say first, Kamiko did manage to really standout from the group even after the surprise addition of Momona.  Singles-wise were pretty damn good especially the 2nd one of the year.  Still no graduation from Ayacho, but instead from Meimi (which I’m surprised I forgot to mention in the predictions >.<).

Predictions for 2017: Same as I said last year, I’m not so sure where ANGERME will land for the next year.  I mean of course, more growth for Kamiko & Kassa that’s for sure.  With Maimi leaving H!P, will Ayacho become the new leader or will she pass and just graduate?  It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next year!

Juice=Juice

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Like last year, it seemed like Juice=Juice didn’t do quite a lot due to the fact they were continuing on this crazy 225 tour.  Though they did surprise us by being the first H!P group to technically release in 2016 releasing in February.  (Tsubaki’s single came out 12/31 but was ongoing for 1/1 too).  What was made interesting about their first single of the year, Next is you! / Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai was that it was credited as a “NEXT YOU / Juice=Juice” single.

NEXT YOU was the fictional group used for Juice=Juice’s TV dorama, Budokan.  What was interesting is that they also were the only group in H!P to release a digital single in Otona no Jijou which was released in March.

Things got really quiet though for a long time while the group was continuing to tour, but the group announced a new single (which was supposed to release back in August but was pushed back entirely to October.  At least it was released as Dream Road ~Kokoro ga Odoridashiteru~ / KEEP ON Joshou Shikou!! / Ashita Yarou wa Bakayarou and they also finally finished their tour in November.

  • (NOTE: As they also performed two unreleased tracks in “Jouro” and “Goal ~Ashita wa Acchi da yo~”, they will not be reviewed until they’re released)

GREAT SONGS

  • Otona no Jijou – Weird that I found the digital single a lot more intriguing and cool as a song for the group!  Despite that it sticks with its NEXT YOU theme (and having “Next is you!” being mentioned in the song, Otona no Jijou really pulls its weight and the lines are quite even, interestingly enough.  It should’ve been a part of the single and not only released via iTunes (or later on Petit Best 17)…
  • Dream Road ~Kokoro ga Odoridashiteru~ – What an unusual song for J=J to release, but I ended up loving it.  I’m really enjoying its EDM sound and how it’s a club vibe but also a ballad in a way (then there’s the chanting to go with the arrangement too!).  There’s only a couple parts that really rain on its parade and that’s the breakdown and the choice to have the song fade-out to end on a weird note.
  • KEEP ON Joshou Shikou!! – There was something that really excited me when I heard that KEEP ON would be sort of a tribute to the late Michael Jackson and it really shows with the funky 80s pop that MJ really crowned with.  J=J though sounds great too and has a lot of punch to this song (even if at certain points, members sound INCREDIBLY flat in execution of some lines).  It’s a surprisingly awesome track and really popped out for the 2nd half of the year!

OK SONGS

  • Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai! – As the song from the first single of the year credited straight as Juice=Juice, Karada Dake ga initially didn’t impress me because it did kind of work next to “Next is you!” a bit too much to my liking, but after a while, it reminded me more of “Samidare Bijo ga Samidareru”  It’s a decent song, but they’ve done better!

MEH SONGS

  • Next is you! – I felt like something was off with Juice=Juice’s first single of the year because neither song really spoke to me.  I mean they both were quite EDM-centric and standard for H!P so maybe it’s why they mostly came off as lukewarm.  With Next is you!, I wasn’t sure what’s up with the song, but it reminded me of something Berryz would do.
  • Ashita Yarou wa Bakayarou – We hadn’t had a rockin’ song for quite a while from J=J (at least not since their “First Squeeze!” album) and I don’t where I stand with the song even as we’re going to the final month of the year.  I do like the edgy rock sound it has, but it gets taken away once the chorus hits and then it feels like its been done before.  Change it and I would’ve been loving the song, but the chorus ruined it for me.

Predictions from 2015

With them, I’m unsure what will happen with Juice=Juice in the next year.  Like I said, they weren’t at H!P’s minds for most of the year and the group themselves were shadowed just by all the other groups due to new members and new debuts, so it’s an awkward phase for them.  Maybe they’ll pick up a new member or two to catch up?

Actuality: Sadly, it seemed like what I said above continued to be the name of the game this year.  They did have the TV dorama, but that ended and it was back to the same bout of silence like we did last year (but with less music, because they didn’t release an album).

Predictions for 2017: With their long-ass tour finally coming to an end, it’s really going to be a surprise to see where the group goes next.  It doesn’t seem like things will change (if anything I would be surprised if Kanatomo graduates due to her endometriosis, but who knows)

Country Girls

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So at the end of 2015, Country Girls were still shaking off all the changes from losing Uta and gaining Nanami Yanagawa Musubu Funaki and they started off with their first single with the group; Boogie Woogie LOVE / Koi wa Magnet / Ranrarun ~Anata ni Muchuu~.

They then started to focus on their stageplay Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru! However, in the middle of it all, it was announced that Manaka Inaba would be going on hiatus due to a return of her asthma which sadly led to her having to graduate in August.

The group then continued on and released their 2nd single of the year with Dou Datte Ii no / Namida no Request before in November, then leader, Momoko Tsugunaga announced her graduation for June 2017 to focus on teaching.

Last thing they announced is a new single slated for February 2017!

  • (NOTE: The group did perform 3 unreleased songs in the year; Mousou Rehearsal, VIVA!! Barairo no Jinsei, & Rhythm ga Yonderu Zou!, but won’t talk about them due to not having a physical release.)

GREAT SONGS

  • Boogie Woogie LOVE – As the first A-side of the year from the group and the proper debut for both Musubu and Nanami, I have to say I was really loving the rockabilly vibe here and the energy is quite awesome for a song like this.  Add on that it showcased the two new members quite a lot (especially Funakki who has such a powerful voice already!).  Definitely a flashy song, but sassy and fun too!
  • Koi wa Magnet – The whole single felt like it was split on focus depending on the grouping.  For Koi wa Magnet, it feels like the spotlight was on Manaka, Risa, and Momoko.  That said, the tune is strangely enough more mature and a bit leaning on the cooler side of songs from Country Girls.  I definitely love the arrangement and style (reminding me of some 80’s J-pop).  Though I’ll probably remember this more for being the PV with the cool Manakan dance solo.  Still, awesome song overall!
  • Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru! – Moving onto the stageplay songs (well, the actually theme for the play), Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru! brings things back to that rockabilly vibe that was pulled from “Boogie Woogie LOVE” earlier in the year.  Yes, it does include Tsubaki Factory (but the release was specifically around for Country Girls).  Still, this was fun and upbeat and all the members sound exciting just as much as the aforementioned!
  • Okite – Sung by Chisaki and Tsubaki’s Riko, Risa, and Kiki, Okite has a cool vibe too, especially in the beginning with the melodic lines and salsa-like groove.  After the opening bits, we get lines from everyone whose singing in a lower range which is awesome!  Short, but memorable!
  • Taman’nai Summer – Sung from Tsubaki’s Kishimon, and Mai, Musubu, and Nanami…I have to say it might not fit here very well because it’s lead mostly by Yumeno, but either way, Taman’nai is upbeat and full-on rock ‘n roll which is pleasant and really fits Country Girls’ overall sound throughout the year.  Cool track!
  • Namida no Request – So the secondary A-side of the 2nd single they released in the year, Namida no Request seemed to focus moreso on Chisaki, Momoko, and Risa than the other 3 members (who were present).  The song itself is a cover of a classic song from The Checkers.  As simple as it is, I really do love it a lot more than “Ranrarun” as a cover and throwing in saxophone solos from Yanamin was a nice touch as well!  Definitely cute but so very them!

OK SONGS

  • Diana – I really shouldn’t even put it here because the song is a Kisora solo from Tsubaki.  After hearing “Namida no Request”, I can see the comparisons between the two, but this feels more minimalistic in arrangement.  I do like Niinu’s vocals here and the saxes are cute too so it’s a pretty decent track in the end!
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll Tsukamitai – It’s nice that a couple tracks from the stageplay have more CG members involved like this song which had Manaka, Mai, Yamakki, and Tsubaki’s Kishimon.  The track itself is another rockabilly track from the OST so it does find itself lost in the songs, but by itself it’s quite exciting and I love the guitar solo!
  • Yakusoku Shite ne – The song that really seemed outta place on the OST was the Funakki & Yanamin duet, Yakusoku Shite ne.  It doesn’t like any of the songs and the intro comes off as something a kayoukyoku singer would use in their music.  That said though, the two members sound beautiful together and when they singing two seperate melodies.
  • Seaside Bound – I love the beach vibe I get from this track sung mostly by Yamakki with Niinu and Ami as backups.  It’s fun and bright and colorful, but quite short and I feel like Kisora and Ami could’ve been passed up and it wouldn’t have been a great loss to the song.
  • Dou Datte Ii no – Because “Namida no Request” focused on the older girls, Dou Datte Ii no had more of a lean towards Mai, Musubu, and Nanami here and as such the song is also heavily bathed in rockabilly/rock ‘n roll.  Though it’s probably the lowest on the OK part because I do feel like the yelling in the song is a bit too much even if the arrangement is also a bit repeating after “Boogie Woogie LOVE” and most of the “Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru!” OST.

MEH SONGS

  • Ranrarun ~Anata ni Muchuu~ As the 3rd A-side from the first release of the year  and the one that seemed to focus on Chisaki and Mai…this Linda Scott cover I think tried to convey a certain cuteness that the two members have, but I felt the song was surprisingly short and really repetitive for some reason and it just didn’t totally gel for me.  I did like the PV though with its storyline and the touch of reminding me of “Choto Mate Kudasai!” and “Mahou Tsukai Sally”…still the song is just kind of blank space for me.
  • Honto no Shimai Mitai – A duet between Manakan and Chisaki, Honto no Shimai Mitai is OK, but I’m not the biggest fan of Manaka’s sugary vocals.  Plus, the arrangement isn’t totally strong either, but it has that diner romantic vibe.  Despite that we did get this in the preview CD and thus had more time, I had completely forgotten it!
  • Kore ga Yume Nara – Same kind of issue here, but this time it’s Manaka and Yumeno and the song is a pretty basic piano/strings ballad.  Not much more to say about it sadly.

Predictions from 2015

With Funaki and Yanagawa joining the ranks, I hope that means we get to see more of them, have Itooshikutte Gomen ne return to setlists and perhaps having Momoko letting this group fly on their own.

Actuality: Well the two new members have shown up quite well and did a solid job this year! and “Itooshikutte Gomen ne” did return to regular rotation which is a nice touch!  What I wasn’t expecting was that Manaka leaving and then Momoko announcing her graduation for 2017.

Predictions for 2017: That said, I’m sure when Momoko graduates, Yamakki will be appointed leader, but I wonder if we’ll get new members to kind of boost it back up beforehand to fill the spaces Manakan and Momochi leave behind.

Kobushi Factory

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Kobushi Factory pretty much sailed through the year with no losses or gains, just releasing a single in the first quarter, Sakura Night Fever / Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin / Osu! Kobushi Tamashii & a single during the summer, Samba! Kobushi Janeiro / Bacchikoi Seishun! / Ora wa Ninkimono and then rounding out the year in November, their first album, Kobushi Sono Ichi.

GREAT SONGS

  • Sakura Night Fever – Even though we had our technical first listen of this song from H!P during one of the concerts where everyone was singing (not sure if Kobushi was created then or not, I think they had just been announced as a unit actually).  This KAN cover though was changed to fit the group’s image and I really like that it’s upbeat and just energetic and exciting and deserved its popularity!  Plus it really gave Taguchi some spotlight in the PV so I really liked it gained her some fans!  Still, LOVE this song a lot!
  • Osu! Kobushi Tamashii – While I did say down below that “Chotto Guchoku ni!’s” problem was a lot with the growly vocals, I actually didn’t quite get bothered by them much here.  As the song follows with some Ouendan substance, the track is pretty much what I wanted and I love hearing everyone especially Minami and Ayaka…they sounded amazing here!
  • Ora wa Ninkimono – Once again another cover is on the great list for Kobushi!  It seems that covers are pretty good for them!  I actually much prefer this version over the original Shin-chan version which isn’t saying much because the original was sung by the main character (who can’t sing xD).  Though I do love how much the girls are having fun and Fujii try to sound like Shinnosuke is humerous and goofy!  Definitely a surprising song for me to fall in love with but damn is this exciting!
  • Isogaba Maware – Moving to the songs from their album, Isogaba Maware might start off like a certain band from the 90s that really characterized the Grunge genre, the song quickly moves away and gives into to its poppy side.  I really enjoyed the melody and harmonies of the girls and just the overall rock vibe I got!
  • Kenmei Blues – If there was a song that I thought was just BADASS, Kenmei Blues was definitely the song to come up front and lay out its colors.  Though props to Hamachan, Minamina, and Ayapan for just sounding cool and sassy.  Though the arrangement is neat as well giving me this kind of slight spaghetti Western vibe throughout.  Yeah, this is up there as song of the year for me!
  • This is Unmei (Kobushi 2016 Ver.) – I LOVE Melon’s original version so when I saw that Kobushi’s cover was going to have its arrangement updated, I was worried a bit, but the changes aren’t very changing, just upping instruments and violins.  I have to say that I enjoyed this version even if it is a bit weaker to the original.  Plus having equal line distribution between 8 members here was fantastic!  Definitely a worthy cover for them.
  • Koi no Jubaku – Not gonna lie, but I always wished Berryz would have updated this song with their current vocals (because this was their 5th single and they were pretty young).  Though with that wish shot down, at least we got a second choice by having Kobushi cover it and it’s what I was hoping for with more mature vocals.  It does sound a smidge more to-the-books and less raw like Berryz’ version, but I really liked the vocals in this one!

OK SONGS

  • Samba! Kobushi Janeiro – Kobushi’s song for the Olympics was a definite change of pace for the group moving away from their pop/rock vibes for an actual samba song.  I do love the partying vibe I get from the track and the girls sound good here (and the arrangement is bouncy and fitting too).  Though I have to admit that when the group’s album dropped this song felt VERY out of place and is the only track to lack some kind of guitarwork.
  • Bacchikoi Seishun! – At least Bacchikoi Seishun! sounded a little more like what I was expecting from the group.  Though I am in kind of an area where I felt like Kobushi tackled a similar sounding track (a little bit of “Dosukoi!”, “Nen ni wa Nen”, and “Chotto Guchoku ni!” all wrapped into one track.
  • Zanshin – As one of the slower songs off the album, Zanshin stuck out to me with its harmonica-led opening and its sentimental kind of sound but without making it a ballad.  It’s a solid song overall and really doesn’t have any probems about it!
  • TEKI – I was worried that we wouldn’t get this song (especially with how many unreleased songs there were this year as it is), but we got TEKI finally and I’m still rather lukewarm about it even if I do like it.  What I mean is that the song is ONLY 2 minutes long and while it does cover everything it needed to, I would’ve rather had saw a minute added at least!
  • Kobushi no Hana – So their album ended with a ballad which is no surprise, but was more taken aback that it was chosen to promote the album.  I do like that they did tackle a ballad for once and for the most part sounded nice (though who knew Sakurako could sound SO PERFECT here).  Though I could live without the lyric smashing in the pre-choruses…that was mishandled a bit.
  • Maji Bomber!! – For a Berryz song that demands power and fierceness, I feel like Kobushi’s cover manages to uphold that style and come off quite cool.  I will say that maybe Risako/Miyabi leads were a little more appealing to me and occasionally I feel the straining here in Kobushi’s version a bit more, but this isn’t totally bad.
  • Kawaii Kare – Another Melon song that I love to death, Kawaii Kare was an interesting song as it brought the Melons to a much EDM-ish area.  For Kobushi’s version I felt like they were struggling a bit in vocals especially letting girls like Fujii and Renako take some of the BIG lines of the song.  Though besides that, decent cover, but could be better in time!
  • Icchoume Rock! – Another Berryz cover, Icchoume Rock!, like Maji Bomber!! is OK overall, but the energy is slightly lacking versus the original but I do again enjoy the line distribution for the most part (Reirei could stop doing the growling anytime now…).  It’s a fun live song, but I think studio-wise its got some problems.

MEH SONGS

  • Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin – Not sure why I was so unmoved by this A-side, but I felt like Chotto Guchoku ni! highlighted an overload of a style that I was slightly getting tired of and that was forcing this VERY aggressive & throaty style (aka growling).  Didn’t help the song was pretty repetitive and just not my kind of song (even if the chorus was nice).
  • Mijuku Hanjuku Torotoro – I’m not sure why I got Buono! vibes out of this track, but this one compared to the other new songs from the album kind of felt forgettable and just doesn’t do much.  I do like the intro and the fact that Kanon Fukuda wrote the lyrics here and the rapping section was amusing at that, but overall…it was a bit vanilla.
  • GO TO THE TOP!! – Just like the track above it, I had a hard time remembering it on the album as it didn’t quite offer anything new that hasn’t had been heard before.  Especially sharing some vibes from “Chotto Guchoku ni!”.  The sound does feel a bit more Western like some Disney pop/rock songs, but otherwise the song is kind of meh to me.
  • Seishun Gekijou – I will never understand why they chose this song to cover (originally a duet between Berryz & C-ute for a stageplay).  It’s a simple piano/strings ballad and there’s an extra male voice thrown in some of the more broader points, but I felt nothing for the tune.  It just didn’t work for them and the male voice mixed in with 8 young girls vocals just don’t mix very well.
  • Da Di Du De Do Da Di! – Of all the Momusu songs there are, why did they choose this one from the 2nd album?  Not gonna lie, I was expecting more out of this one because the original had nods to various other songs that the members from Momusu were doing, but since Kobushi doesn’t have that kind of versatility, the song ended up being more blah and repetitive, especially towards the end!  Just a bit disappointing as a cover.

Predictions from 2015

I really am not sure what could be in store for Kobushi Factory, but I hope they don’t lose a member (because 8 member units that aren’t Momusu have been known to lose members ala Berryz and C-ute).

Actuality: Luckily enough, they didn’t lose any members and instead steamed through very strongly with their releases and just overall attitude and I LOVE that they just melded into this amazing group!

Predictions for 2017: Well, I hope they continue strong and not lose anyone that’s for sure!

Tsubaki Factory

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I felt like Tsubaki Factory had the busiest year this year.  They opened up the year with the release of their 2nd indies single, Kedakaku Sakihokore! followed shortly with a full release of their Thank you Very Berry stageplay before finally releasing their 1st mini-album, SOUND + VISION Vol. 1 in May.

They took a small break until August when they released their 3rd indies single, Hitorijime / Watashi ga Obasan ni Nattemo and not even a week later at a fanclub event, announced 3 Kenshuusei joining the group; Mao Akiyama, Saori Onoda, and Mizuho Ono.

Though they didn’t release anything for the remainder of the year (well, a couple of the members were involved in the Nega Poji Poji stageplay), they are the first group to announce a single for 2017 setting for the debut for the new girls as well as making the transition to major label!

GREAT SONGS

  • Kedakaku Sakihokore! – Released right at the beginning of the year (technically the last day 0f 2015, but it was held to branch into 2016, Kedakaku Sakihokore! was a surprisingly great song for the group!  Considering that I had a full year with this track (was on last year’s Year Recap), it was nice to return to this track.  Still in the realm of EDM as when they debuted, this track just as a lot of punch to it and the duet rap between Kishimon and Risamaru just impressed me a LOT!
  • 17sai – Not going to lie, but I was ecstatic to see this finally make its studio appearance.  As it’s known as Tsubaki’s first song performed as a group, this Chisato Moritaka cover has got a glossy EDM makeover.  I LOVE the beats and while the recording seems very early, I still quite enjoy the peppy beats and cutesy side of the group.  Though, it’ll be interesting how they’ll fit 2nd Gen in.
  • Hitorijime – I was definitely excited to see what Tsubaki would do next after the mini-album and they dropped Hitorijime and what a cool song for the group to get.  It definitely has a Platinum-era MM feel to it but what surprised me a lot was Kishimon who rose to the occasion with her best performance yet!  Not to say the others did a bad job as they handled it pretty well too!  It just surprised me they released the single not even a week before adding new members >.>
  • Watashi ga Obasan ni Nattemo – Another Moritaka cover huh?  Just like “17sai”, Watashi ga Obasan i Nattemo was given the EDM drench and while many people hate it for kind of grossing the original out, I kind of dug it too even if the sawblade synths were a bit much here and there.  At least vocally most of the members have shown growth (Ami especially).  Cool song overall!

OK SONGS

  • Kyoshitsu ni wa Nani mo Nai wa – Something about the march arrangement caught my attention and then hearing Kiki and Yumeno duet for this track was even better as they’re the two best of the 6 members.  Still there’s the problem of the song being too short and all, but it’s one of the nicer ballads.
  • Yumemiru Kodomo wa Itsuka Shiru 2  – While I’m sure having this song on here is cheating a little bit, Yumemiru Kodomo was laidback and relaxing as a listen.  Though once again, a bit too short and a lot of the song was sung by former Berryz member, Maasa Sudo.  Kishimon is in the 2nd half and she didn’t too bad for the most part.
  • Roku Nichi Bozu no Koi – Yup, definitely cheating with this one because it’s only Maasa singing in the track.  Unlike all the other songs on the OST, Roku Nichi is the most aggressive track and it borders to some kind of punk rock sound.  Weird, but I kind of dug it overall!
  • Ano Subarashii Ai wo Mou Ichido – I know the song is a cover (a shortened version) and that Kisora, Ami, and Risa are once again singing together and Kiichan has the lead here which is pretty impressive for the most part.  Unlike other ballads, this once feels a bit more filled out so it was more complete and decent of a listen.
  • Seishun Manmannaka! – So here we are again with the group’s debut single though it’s on this recap due to it getting an edit from the mini-album release.  I still do like the song even if it isn’t as great as “Kedakaku Sakihokore!”.  The changes are pretty small (mostly derived in the final shouts of ~manmannaka!~ changed from just Kiki in the original to all 6 members in the update).  Decent song, not sure if it was worth the update (should’ve kept it for when the new girls joined tbh).
  • Cabbage Hakusho ~Haru-hen~ – As the mini-album was first released at the SATOYAMA event, it was no surprise that Tsubaki would cover this Peaberry song (which was also a redone version of the original Cabbage Hakusho <.<).  Having the Tsubaki members softened the song quite a bit from Riho & Ayaka’s originals, but this song still has the problem of throwing in “Furusato” haphazardly (and not editing it ONE bit).  A bit better than Peaberry’s but still has the GIANT issue.

MEH SONGS

  • Wasuremono – I have to say, while it’s nice that we finally get to hear Kiki get some spotlight, Wasuremono was just a bit boring for me even when Ayasa and Anna (the Engeki girls) join, the song just seemed to just snooze on by for me.
  • Itami wo Close – Kishimon’s solo seemed to be the same way as Kiki’s initially with the boring piano arrangement, but it does change into something a bit more upbeat and goofy.  Sadly the song is a bit too short and doesn’t really feel much completed ended rather abruptly like that.
  • Itsumo Miru Yume – It just seems like the ballads of the play never really left much of an impression and Riko’s solo does showcase her a lot more than I expected and she does show potential.  Still the arrangement is sleepy and kind of passes over me on top of being really short.
  • Onoka Pekoemon – A track sung between Kisora, Ami, and Risa, we finally have a track that isn’t a ballad but something upbeat and funky (and oddly reminds me of “Sexy Cat no Enzetsu” in places).  Problem here is that the song is repetitive like crazy and VERY short too.  I wished it was a bit longer since it had the potential to be good!

ICKY SONGS

  • Oden no Uta 2 – There’s no way to explain it, but this Riko solo bothered me so much when I first heard it.  It’s her, marimba, and accordion.  Very minimalistic and Riko’s voice was pretty cringeworthy here without some kind of help.

Predictions from 2015

Maybe to stick to being an indies group for at least 3/4 of the year before going major (while it was smooth for both Country Girls and Kobushi Factory becoming major so fast, I don’t have the same feelings for Tsubaki currently).  Maybe a new member to strengthen the vocals up…but otherwise I’m curious as they’re the newbies.

Actuality: Wow, I actually got it right with being indies at least til 3/4 of the year gone by (announcing their major debut in February of ’17 in September).  I even called for a new member, I didn’t expect to add 3 into the mix though!

Predicitons for 2017: With the group debuting on a major label, I’m hoping for a smooth debut.  Not sure if the group is ready to lose a member but it could happen and if anything it might be Riko, though it’s just that she’s the only member I’m not noticing too much currently and she now has to compete with 3 new members.

Hello! Pro Kenshuusei / Kenshuusei Hokkaido

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So the Kenshuusei in 2016 were pretty much kept quiet most of the year with the exception of some additions and some losses.

The first big noteworthy thing was in January when the KSS obtained 5 new members in Kurumi Noguchi, Kotomi Ono, Sakiko Kodama, Kirara Yonemura, and Momohime Kiyono.

Then in March it was announced that Miu Takemura had finished her training.

When July hit though, at the beginning of the H!P Summer Tour, after winning the test recital back in April, Momona Kasahara was chosen to join ANGERME.  Then a month later, a new branch of the KSS was announced to be located in Hokkaido on top of Yumei Yokogawa, Nagisa Hashimoto, Momoko Shimano, and Rion Nakano finishing their training.

A couple of weeks later, the members that were going to be a part of the Hokkaido branch were announced; Mei Yamazaki, Haruka Ota, Kanami Ishiguri, Minori Kawano, Ryo Kitagawa, and Hikari Sato.

August came around and a few things happened like Tsubaki gaining three new members in Mao Akiyama, Saori Onoda, and Mizuho Ono and  then a week later adding new members in Ayano Kawamura, Reina Yokoyama, Yuhane Yamazaki, Marie Yoshida, Shiori Nishida, and Rin Hashisako.  

Though it wouldn’t be the last thing because Morning Musume added two KSS into their lineup in November with Kaede Kaga & Reina Yokoyama being the chosen winners.

Add on that many of the KSS were chose to be involved in the stageplay, Nega Poji Poji to which a OST single was released for it.

GREAT SONGS

  • Ima wa Dame – With the release of Nega Poji Poji, I was surprised there was more Kenshuusei members involved than Tsubaki Factory members so I felt like the release itself was more for the former than the latter.  The only song from the preview single that wowed me was Ima wa Dame which was sung by Tsubaki’s Rikoriko and KSS members Kaedii (before she joined MM’17), Horie, Kanatsu, and Kiyono.  I don’t know why, but the song felt so 90s but at the same tim, showcased the girls in such a nice way!  Mostly impressed be Kaede, Kizuki, and Momohime.

OK SONGS

  • Nega Poji Poji – As the song performed by the entire cast, Nega Poji Poji in comparison to other titled tracks to H!P’s other stageplays, I felt like Nega Poji Poji is the most upbeat and idol-like of them.  I do think it gets surprisingly repetitive the longer I listen to it, but if I ignore the chorus, the rest of the song is catchy I’d say!
  • Ima Made Ikitekite Doukou – As the ballad of the release, it was sung by Tsubaki’s Ono and KSS members Takase, Maeda, and Yoshida and Engeki member Onoda.  I thought it was straightforward and simple overall.  I suppose it rides between OK and Meh just because of how plain it ended up.  Though the reggae bit was a nice touch and added some spice to the arrangement.

MEH SONGS

  • Tempura Tabetai – Somehow, I feel like KSS’s Ichioka, Ono, and Nishida and Tsubaki’s Kiki and Risamaru.  It feels like I definitely heard this in a different play before this one with the poppy piano lines.  It didn’t resonate with me and I couldn’t remember it after hearing it.

Other H!P Releases

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Sad to say, but the only other release came in the form of the yearly annual compilation album released by H!P, Petit Best 17.  It did come with a new song, sort-of…

OK SONGS

  • Kiss Yori Saki ni Dekiru Koto (’15 5-nin Ver.) – The exclusive track in question is actually an unreleased song from Country Girls.  That being said considering it’s bracket hints, the song technically was first performed in 2015, before the addition of Yanamin and Funakki and before Manakan left the group.  Hearing the studio version is a lot like the stuff they were releasing in that time period (around “Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne / Tamerai Summertime”).  It’s a cute upbeat track and hearing all the members sound decent!

Gains & Losses

Gains

  • Kurumi Noguchi
  • Kotomi Ono
  • Sakiko Kodama
  • Kirara Yonemura
  • Momohime Kiyono
  • Momona Kasahara (to ANGERME)
  • Haruka Ota
  • Mei Yamazaki
  • Yume Kudo
  • Hikari Sato
  • Minori Kawano
  • Ryo Kitagawa
  • Kanami Ishiguri
  • Mao Akiyama (to Tsubaki Factory)
  • Saori Onoda (to Tsubaki Factory)
  • Mizuho Ono (to Tsubaki Factory)
  • Ayano Kawamura
  • Reina Yokoyama (and to Morning Musume ’16)
  • Marie Yoshida
  • Shiori Nishida
  • Yuhane Yamazaki
  • Rin Hashisako
  • Kaede Kaga (to Morning Musume ’16)

Losses

  • Miu Takemura
  • Meimi Tamura
  • Kanon Suzuki
  • Yumei Yokogawa
  • Nagisa Hashimoto
  • Momoko Shimano
  • Rion Nakano
  • Manaka Inaba

My H!P Member Ranking for 2016

  • 60. Riho Sayashi (-50)
  • 59. Aika Mitsui (-1)
  • 58. Reina Yokoyama (NEW)
  • 57. Haruna Ogata (-2)
  • 56. Mai Hagiwara (-4)

So at the end of the ranking, we start things with Riho.  The reason she’s placed so far back as she is is mostly due to the lack of activity in H!P this year, hell did she even contribute to anything this year?  Add that for some reason she’s still in H!P anyway makes me curious to why she is still.  Mittsi at least did a little bit of work under the company in translating some concerts/performances before she went on hiatus again to focus more on perfecting her English.  After them, Yokoyoko is in the back because despite being the newest member to join H!P, we really haven’t heard her voice yet and with her being a Kenshuusei for less than half a year, there’s really not much info on her yet, so by next year I’m sure she’ll climb up the ranks.  Haachin is definitely showing some improvements, but the lack of focus for the 12th gen hasn’t really been good for the girls this year (except Maria).  She’s still the worst in the group, vocally, but her personality is shining quite nicely.  For Maimai, it feels like she’s over being an idol as she was going from being in a scandal to actually sounding worse than she did in years previous.  I think with the group disbanding next year, I’m actually happy to lose her voice in the company honestly.

  • 55. Mizuho Ono (NEW)
  • 54. Maho Aikawa (-8)
  • 53. Ami Tanimoto (+4)
  • 52. Akane Haga (-37)
  • 51. Miki Nonaka (-11)

Just like Yokoyama, Mizuho has only been a Kenshuusei for a little bit, but at least she had a test recital to get our first full listen before she joined Tsubaki and she definitely sounded a little like Chisato there.  I still do think she’s pretty enigmatic at the moment but that will change when she debuts in 2017.  I feel like Aiai was pretty much in the back this year what with Moe & Momona debuting and such.  She did have some good lines like in “Ai no Tame…” and “Wasurete Ageru”, but she didn’t stand out too much for me this year.  While Ami has shown growth as a member in Tsubaki, she stills comes off supremely green and a bit weak in the group.  With 3 new members having joined, she’s going to have to work harder to stand out.  I’m not even sure what I feel about Akanechin currently because it feels like she has the potential to really be a strong vocalist, but like I said above, 12th Gen felt forgotten this year and Akane’s big moment was the short spoken line in “Mukidashi de Mukiatte”…hope she gets pushed a little in 2017.  That said Miki also had that problem, but she had a bit more lines than Akane.  Her English side is being used, but not to its full potential IMO.

  • 50. Haruna Iikubo (+2)
  • 49. Saki Nakajima (-11)
  • 48. Mao Akiyana (NEW)
  • 47. Maria Makino (+11)
  • 46. Riko Yamagishi (-5)

For Harunan, she more or less stayed in the same setting, she did get more push this year than in quite a while, but she’s still an odd voice to listen to as well.  I feel like her time is starting to come to an end with the group though, but here’s hoping she starts getting pushed a little more.  Nakky once again fell to the wayside for me this year, but it’s not due to anything she did, it’s just that it’s been more of a Airi, Maimi, and Chisato show this year.  I’m hoping their final releases get some push for her.  Maopin is pretty new and we haven’t heard her much quite yet in Tsubaki, but from the KSS test, she did pretty well and won the Dancing award so I feel she’ll be a great dancer for the group.  Of the 12th Gen, Maria got the big push by having lead vocals in “Sou Janai” at the end of the year.  While I felt like there were better singers who could’ve sounded better overall.  She does do a good job selling it though and maybe she’ll get more training.  Rikoriko actually went up?  I actually felt like while she did better than some members, she almost felt invisible this whole year.  Like I said with Ami, with new members, Riko will have to work REAL hard to stand out (especially since she’s leader of the group).

  • 45. Natsumi Taguchi (+8)
  • 44. Nanami Yanagawa (+4)
  • 43. Saori Onoda (NEW)
  • 42. Ayaka Wada (+6)
  • 41. Kisora Niinuma (-6)

Taguchan primarily caught my attention early in the year with “Sakura Night Fever” where she played the main role of the tree and I’m not sure why but since then she’s been in and out of the music (mostly back girl, but she still gets solos).  She’s tiny, but she’s quite adorable when she gets camera time so I’m hoping to see more of her!  Since she debuted this year, Yanamin came out of the gates, kind of meh.  She was overshadowed by her gen-mate, Funakki and only really stood out in “Namida no Request” due to her playing saxophone in it.  I’m hoping to see more about her in the new year, but right now she’s just kind of there.  With Saorin, she has been doing well with herself before becoming a member of Tsubaki Factory.  She had the stint with PINKSS and then her recital performance of “Watarasebashi” (with a recorder solo, no less).  So she’s been wanting to debut quickly and now she will in Tsubaki.  With the recent announcement that Ayacho will become the next H!P leader after Maimi graduates, I was surprised as she’s also close to graduation age.  Beyond that, Ayacho was Ayacho this year, being the last original member from what was known as S/mileage, I feel like Ayaka is letting the other members get the spotlight and sharing the fame with the new girls!  Niinu like a couple other members were having trouble sticking out, but unlike them, Kisora is one of the main vocalists so it seems a bit weird all the same.  I have hopes that she’ll get better once they fully debut!

  • 40. Rena Ogawa (-3)
  • 39. Momona Kasahara (NEW)
  • 38. Rio Fujii (-16)
  • 37. Ayano Hamaura (+2)
  • 36. Ayumi Ishida (+7)

Renako might not be Kobushi’s strongest vocalist or dancer, but her visual appearance is just glowing and you know she’s trying her best and her voice is quite noticeable in the songs she’s gotten solos in which helps her to stand out too!  While I didn’t think too much about her in the first half of the year, Kassa was a little invisible except for the KSS test recital (where she won), but I wasn’t expecting the announcement that she would join ANGERME (especially a single after Moe’s debut AND Meimi’s graduation.  Though she’s starting out OK, a bit better than Maho when she debuted with the group and she has a nice low tone (when she goes for it that is).  Riorio is just a fireball for Kobushi and she was practically pushing her way to the front with her nods in “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro” and her Shinnosuke impression in “Ora wa Ninkimono” to powerful lines in the group’s cover of “Kawaii Kare”.  While she isn’t as the same caliber as other members in Kobushi, she’s a force to be reckon with.  Maybe I should have switched Rio with Hamachan but she’s been a pretty solid performer this year and she keeps getting better, especially in the vocal department.  With Riho gone, it seems like Ayumi has been pushed a little more as a voice within Momusu.  She’s still a pretty amazing dancer and while her voice is a bit wonky sometimes, she powers through it and I can’t blame that on her!

  • 35. Rikako Sasaki (-4)
  • 34. Chisaki Morito (+13)
  • 33. Akari Uemura (-6)
  • 32. Momoko Tsugunaga (0)
  • 31. Erina Ikuta (-15)

Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like because of all the ANGERME happening throughout the year, some of the members were kind of pushed back to make due for the new members (and graduating member).  Rikako felt like one of the ones that was hit the most, though she did get major lines in a couple of the A-sides (primarily “Itoshima Distance” & “Wasurete Ageru”).  She still is quite the lead though in dances so she has that to handle things!  For the first time since she’s joined, I’ve started to notice Chii-chan a bit more and she’s getting better too.  Her personality is starting to show and I do like that she’s let her hair down so now she looks a bit more mature.  She’s still outclassed vocally by Funakki, but she’s getting there.  Aarii like I said about other J=J girls were in the back this year with not much to remember them by.  I’m not sure why, but she kind of went under the radar for me (though her shots in “KEEP ON Joshou Shikou!!” were pretty neat!).  With her recently announcing her graduation, Momochi has had a pretty good run and her help with Country Girls actually has done her much better than her time in Berryz (though she’s toned down that sugary voice a LOT since then too).  Eripon…she just looks so good these days and can really pull off that sexy look (especially in “Sexy Cat no Enzetsu”).  She’s also starting to get a bit more facetime in the group and she nails her lines quite nicely too!  A very impressive showing, but not quite a shocking as it was last year.

  • 30. Mai Ozeki (-8)
  • 29. Rina Katsuta (-3)
  • 28. Maimi Yajima (-20)
  • 27. Yuka Miyazaki (+9)
  • 26. Minami Nomura (-7)

After such a rambunctious year, it feels like my oshi in the group keeps going between Mai and Musubu and sadly the latter one, I do feel her early tomboyish character is starting to die off for a more elegant look and she looks and sounds great still, just the storm of new talent had got the best of her and she dropped due to that.  Same can be said about Rinapuu as I felt like she had her biggest year yet.  She was a surprisingly major voice through their 2nd single of the year and facetime has risen for it.  She has come a long way and it’s great she’s getting her due process!  Not sure why I put Maimi this low this year, but I felt like she didn’t really stick out this year and songs were more focused on Airi & Chisato.  She was in the middle, not bad, not good, just passable I feel like.  Yukanyan for some reason gained a few places, but I still didn’t find too much about her, but everyday she looks so much like Junjun…but she did have some decent exposure in the two singles that were released, but the rest of the group had a bit more to show (once again).  Of the Kobushi members, Minamina sits in the middle even though she is a part of the leading vocals, just not as promoted as much as Rei, Ayaka, or Ayano it seems, but she sounds decent and she has those memorable lines in a lot of the A-sides they’ve done!

  • 25. Rei Inoue (-11)
  • 24. Risa Yamaki (+20)
  • 23. Risa Ogata (+6)
  • 22. Sayuki Takagi (-9)
  • 21. Kiki Asakura (+13)

From being a surprise when Kobushi Factory debuted last year, Reirei seems to have gotten comfortable as a lead in the group and she has pipes amongst the group which is great, but I think Rei dropped a bit from some of the growling that was occurring (I hope they move away from that in the next year).  A big jump for me is Yamakki rise in the ranks as she was pretty amazing this year and she’s gotten to be a more dependent member (especially after Manakan left).  Seeing as Momoko is leaving though, I’m pretty sure she’ll pass the leader torch to Risa and she’ll lead Country Girls well!  Risamaru also seen some growth as she was pushed as a lead in “Kedakaku Sakihokore!”, there’s something about her that strikes me in a good way, it’s like she’s quite talented and she’s hidden some of it away.  Though with new members, let’s see how she does in 2017!  For Sayubee, I feel like she’s a little overexposed in the group being the power vocals between the 5 and the straining is starting to show a little bit even if she’s impressive at tackling those big vocals.  I feel like she might injure her vocals though if this is going to continue for a couple more years sadly…Not only does Kiki remind me of Ai-chan, she’s got impressive vocals despite not having the push yet.  I’m still kind of weirded out by the wonky eyes, but she’s growing on me and she’s quickly becoming a great asset to Tsubaki!

  • 20. Sakurako Wada (+13)
  • 19. Meimi Tamura (-12)
  • 18. Manaka Inaba (-6)
  • 17. Kaede Kaga (NEW)
  • 16. Mizuki Fukumura (+8)

For being one of the more support members of Kobushi, Wadasaku sounds like she’d be more of a center voice but really isn’t for whatever reason.  She really showed her awesome vocal skills in “Kobushi no Hana” and would prefer her voice sometimes over Ayapan…maybe we’ll see a push for her in the year?  Despite having one single before graduation, Meimi didn’t quite have as much fanfare as I was hoping for, but she left on a good note becoming one of S/mileage/ANGERME’s best vocalists!  It was even sadder with Manakan’s sudden departure as she also had one single she was involved in the year.  She was pretty prominent though in all 3 songs and she gave cool, cute, and sassy and it just feels like we lost an amazing member WAY TOO soon, but health is more important, so I understood why she had to graduate.  While it might be a little too early to be placing a new member this high, Kaedii has been in H!P KSS for a REALLY long time and seeing her being added to Momusu was shocking, yet refreshing from the younger crowd joining.  Kaede had a good year otherwise, her test recital was different for her and she sounded just as impressive as she had years previous.  Not to our Momusu leader, Fukuchan, she started to get more push as a lead and she sounds just as good and clean as ever.  I have to say, there’s not much to say xD and it’s not the lack of her doing anything, but she’s keeping a good foot to the group and she’s still quite a joy to watch and she keeps getting cuter for some reason xD.

  • 15. Masaki Sato (+3)
  • 14. Kana Nakanishi (-3)
  • 13. Kanon Suzuki (-10)
  • 12. Moe Kamikokuryo (+44)
  • 11. Yumeno Kishimoto (+14)

I’m kind of enjoying the push that Maachan has been getting and she’s getting more charismatic in her performances which is still giving me hope that her voice will mature in a great way, though this recent revelation of her back issues and her current break is worrying to say the least, hoping she’ll return and be healed to perform soon!  Kanana might not have had the spotlight as she had in previous years, but she’s still ANGERME’s secret weapon with her voice and whatnot.  Considering it felt like Rina and the new girls had a lot more facetime, I hope she isn’t pushed back again.  Ahhh, my favorite Momusu member as of late graduated this year and it kind of came just after Riho did.  With Zukki, it was short timing and we only had one more single to hear her sing and while most of the single didn’t have her up front, we did get “Utakata Saturday Night!” which showcased her quite proudly!  Still a bit bummed about her gone, but I’ll survive!  It seems people forget that Kamiko actually debuted this year though joining the group last year.  I have to say right out of the gate, Moe’s voice shocked me and despite her height, she’s a powerhouse waiting to happen!  Not sure how UFP will handle her in the next year since while the first single focused on her (and Meimi leaving) the 2nd had a bit more focus on Kassa…though Moe had some standout moments too!  After debuting, I wasn’t sure where Kishimon would land, but after hearing her voice in “Hitorijime” I was blown away and she’s got to be the best vocalist in Tsubaki currently (though it could change with the new generation).  Also the short hair she’s donning is very much better looking than the long hair she had.

  • 10. Karin Miyamoto (+7)
  • 9. Ayaka Hirose (0)
  • 8. Musubu Funaki (+20)
  • 7. Sakura Oda (-1)
  • 6. Tomoko Kanazawa (-4)

Kicking off the top 10, we bein with Karin who for some reason managed to creep back into my interests.  Even though as I’ve said, Juice=Juice didn’t quite have the fruitful year that other groups did (mostly because of their tour), but Karin stood out in all the PVs.  Unlike Sayuki, she doesn’t seem to be stressing nor taking her ace role to quite the degree.  Not a bad year for her.  Funny that Ayapan remained in the same spot this year, but honestly she’s doing just fine currently.  Her voice is still one of the major things that powers Kobushi’s songs and she has a cool attitude about it all.  I just enjoy her everytime she has lines as she’s one of the best vocalists in current H!P (not counting C-ute xD).  Though it was challenged easily by the other new Country Girls member, Funakki who just kicked down the doors to impress and boy did she in “Boogie Woogie LOVE”.  Since then she’s kind of become the comedic one and she’s so cute but yet has this awesome voice on her that rivals some of current bests!  I can’t wait to see what will come of the next year!  Odasaku, while still sounding amazing and leading the vocals in Momusu just slightly lost a spot, but she’s consistent and I’ll take that.  I will say this recent pushing of Sakura and Masaki together is interesting, but I wonder how long it’ll take before they try other duet lines.  Kanatomo dropped a few spots due to once again the lack of J=J this year and the small hiatus she took.  Still, Tomoko is a pretty awesome singer and since she’s back in the group, she’s getting lines but Karin/Sayuki is once again taking majority of lines.  Hope things will go better for her in the new year.

  • 5. Mizuki Murota (+16)
  • 4. Akari Takeuchi (+16)
  • 3. Haruka Kudo (+2)
  • 2. Chisato Okai (-1)
  • 1. Airi Suzuki (+3)

Not sure what happened, but somehow Murotan & Takechan rose to the occasion and risen up through the ranks to make top 5 this year for me!  From Mizuki, she looks like she’s naturally loving her position in ANGERME and considering she’s the go-to member for vocals in the group, she’s getting a nice push and really sticking out (plus that smile & wink combo she pulls is infectious!).  Takechan though stepped up as a lead vocalist and it especially showed once Meimi left the group, but it’s cool to see her grow even more from when she debuted in S/mileage.  Duu seemed like she was getting pushed this year and her husky voice was getting easier to point out in songs and her being one o the 3 leads in “Sexy Cat no Enzetsu” was awesome!  Last, but not least the top two are C-ute members!  While I love Chisa, even I have to admit that Airi had to be the top member, but both members really brought it this year vocally and performance-wise.  Airi just outdid Chisato for just being all over C-ute (and Buono!) this year and she just is hands down the best member of the year.  Chisato though was great too and it makes me wonder where she’ll end up once C-ute ends…

Kenshuusei

  • Rin Hachisako
  • Yuhane Yamazaki
  • Shiori Nishida
  • Marie Yoshida
  • Ayano Kawamura
  • Mei Yamazaki
  • Yume Kudo
  • Kanami Ishiguri
  • Hikari Sato
  • Haruka Oota
  • Minori Kawano
  • Ryo Kitagawa
  • Mizuki Kanatsu
  • Kirara Yonemura
  • Kokoro Maeda
  • Reina Ichioka
  • Kotomi Ono
  • Sakiko Kodama
  • Kurumi Noguchi
  • Momohime Kiyono
  • Hikaru Inoue
  • Kizuki Horie
  • Ruru Danbara
  • Kurumi Takase

PHEW! DONE!!!!, let’s see what 2017 will have for us fans!!!

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Petit Best 17

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Track Listing

  1. Jinsei wa STEP! / °C-ute
  2. Utakata Saturday Night! / Morning Musume ’16
  3. Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku / ANGERME
  4. Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai / Juice=Juice
  5. Boogie Woogie LOVE / Country Girls
  6. Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin / Kobushi Factory
  7. Hitorijime / Tsubaki Factory
  8. Solatido ~Nee Nee~ / Buono!
  9. Otona no Jijou / NEXT YOU
  10. Jinsei wa STEP! (Lil’Yukichi Remix feat. Cherry Brown) / °C-ute
  11. Utakata Saturday Night! (Kawanabe Hiroshi REMIX) / Morning Musume ’16
  12. Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku (SWG REMIX) / ANGERME
  13. Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru! / Country Girls
  14. Higashi no Chihei, Nishi no Towa / Morning Musume ’16
  15. MODE / ANGERME
  16. Kiss Yori Saki ni Dekiru Koto (’15 5-nin Ver.) / Country Girls

1. Jinsei wa STEP!

Opening the compilation is C-ute with interestingly the 3rd A-side of the first single they released this year!  I’m rather surprised as I felt like “Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou?” was promoted more but hey.  Taking more of a quirky 40’s vibe for the song, Jinsei wa STEP! is quirky and quite upbeat!  I do love the vocals here a lot from Airi and Chisato and the vocal dives they take are really cool!  Good choice, but I’d love “Summer Wind” but I understand why this was chosen.

2. Utakata Saturday Night!

Momusu comes next and they chose Zukki’s graduation song (well of the three A-sides from the single this had the most Zukki in it).  Already from the start, I LOVE the discotheque arrangement we got and it just has a lot of snap and personality within.  Add on that we get to hear all the girls with solo lines is great (with focus on our graduating member).  I still do get dejavu vibes from Zukki’s interlude as it reminds me a lot of Berryz’ “Asian Celebration” and all.  Still, what an awesome song from the group!

3. Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku

Moving onto the ANGERME selection, I was not surprised that this song was chosen as this was a BIG hit with fans this year.  Also being Meimi’s final single with the group and the debut for Moe, Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku had a lot of things to cover.  What we got though was a cool EDM track that was speedy, exciting and just epic!  Meimi got some of the rapping lines and Kamiko had a couple solos too on top of giving the remainder of the group something neat.  Definitely a favorite of mine through the year and always seems to pump me up with every listen!

4. Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai

I definitely felt like Juice=Juice had it somewhat rough this year with their ongoing tour and just overall tight schedule and it kind of showed through their first single this year.  While I wasn’t totally into the Juice’s first single of the year, there had to be SOME representation and they chose the one that’s credited under the group’s name and not NEXT YOU.  Karada Dake ga… does feel like a mix of their current sound but also some EDM and while it’s normally a good thing, I felt this one is just a bit to the books here.

5. Boogie Woogie LOVE

Next up, we have Musubu & Nanami’s debut A-side, Boogie Woogie LOVE and boy does it stick out!  I really do love its rockabilly styled arrangement and really did wonders for the girls especially Musubu who just rocked her lines like no ones business.  Although this was also the last time we get to hear Manaka as she left the group after this single…Still, great song and a good way to showcase the new members!

6. Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin

I could say the same for Kobushi’s selection here.  I would’ve loved the other two A-sides over this, especially “Sakura Night Fever” as it was the heavily promoted track, but yeah we got this.  My problem with Chotto Guchoku ni! is that the growling the group was pulling was starting to grate my eardrums and it sounded bad with some of the girls.  It was also a bit repetitive for me too.  Not one of their best songs, gotta say.

7. Hitorijime

I actualy was expecting “Kedakaku Sakihokore!” on here but it’s the only (2nd half of the year release on here, well except Buono! and one of the OST songs).  I love the opening of the track with the guitar lick and then a bopping dance beat!  The track itself reminds me of some Platinum era Momusu songs, but more updated.  I also found myself loving Kishimon’s voice here a LOT as it sounds so good and pro and the other girls handled it just as well.  It’s great for the 6, though I’m more curious to Tsubaki now as a 9-nin!

8. Solatido ~Nee Nee~

Who knew Buono! was actually going to come back and release a single!  Well, I mean we knew of Buono!’s return since the beginning of the year.  Solatido of course did have the push of the two A-sides of the single.  I think of a return, I wasn’t expecting the song to be a more cuter song than what they had in a couple singles ago.  Though it’s great to hear Airi, Momoko (and especially Miyabi) together again for what could be possibly the last time (as C-ute and Momoko are to graduate next year).

9. Otona no Jijou

So if you don’t know who NEXT YOU is, it’s Juice=Juice as they’re portrayed in their TV dorama, Budokan from earlier this year.  Though this wasn’t released as a single (more like a digital single and then on a bonus disc on the blu-ray of their drama.  I was surprised they included the song here, but between this and “Next is you!”, this is SOO much better!  While it didn’t totally offer anything extremely new to the table, its EDM sound is cooler and it felt like an overall stronger song.

10. Jinsei wa STEP! (Lil’Yukichi Remix feat. Cherry Brown)

So bringing back remixes to the Petit Bests, we have 3 of them next and they were all vinyl exclusives from their respective singles.  Jinsei wa STEP! initially sounded like it was using the original arrangement, but the song starts to take an urban twist.  Though it feels like the remix focuses more on Cherry Brown (who is also Lil’Yukichi).  The song does feel more Amerianized, but it just didn’t work and the song was kind of an afterthought here.

11. Utakata Saturday Night! (Kawanabe Hiroshi REMIX)

My feelings towards the remixes from the vinyls were lukewarm at best, but if there was one that I felt was OK, it might be Utakata’s as it was more of that cool disco style and while Hiroshi took it to a different side of disco, it was interesting to say the least.  The repeating ~utakata~ was cemented onto me, but the vocals sound a lil more raw too.  Though my main issue is how little the arrangement pushes the song barely even making me notice them, but letting the vocal melody carry the track…not bad, but could’ve been better.

12. Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku (SWG REMIX)

Then we have ANGERME’s remix and the arrangement was changed entirely to be a little more dull and empty and added some echo filters to the verses.  I feel this remix was lacking the oomph that made the original so epic which meant it was hard to make a decent remix out of it.  It does add some of the synths of the original later on and added piano was interesting, but the original still trumps it heavily!

13. Kizetsu Suru Hodo Aishiteru!

Then we have the stageplay songs next, the first coming from Country Girls (we some added help from Tsubaki, Kenshuusei, and other members as well).  So in Country Girls fashion, it’s no surprise that the song is another rockabilly track.  I do love how upbeat and cute it gets and each member adds some nice moments with solo lines and duets.  Cute song!

14. Higashi no Chihei, Nishi no Towa

Then we have Momusu’s play and luckily it’s the main version (from the single OST).  This track is pretty serious and the sort of Braveheart-like atmosphere is pretty unique from the rest of this compilation.  A pretty grandiose track that’s for sure and hearing Ayumi, Duu, and others just impresses me a lot!

15. MODE

I guess in a last minute inclusion, we have the title track from ANGERME’s play that actually whose OST came out in November.  With Kamiko and Ayacho opening MODE, I really enjoyed the cutesy and bright atmosphere of the track a lot and they sounded good altogether.  Though I do love that ~dabadabada~ part, that actually was too cute!  Still, of the three OST songs, I liked this one the most!

16. Kiss Yori Saki ni Dekiru Koto (’15 5-nin Ver.)

We finally have an exclusive track for the release and its this Country Girls song.  Now this track has been performed for quite a while (a bit before Funakki and Yanamin joined, hence the ’15 in the name).  So I was a bit interested in this track in studio form.  With only the 5, the tracks has a lot of Manakan, but I heard some Chisaki and Mai too and I was liking the upbeat poppy feel even if it is between the cute side of the group and the rockabilly sound they adopted after.  Actually it comes off a lot like “Koi Dorobo” for me.  Not bad, but feels strange that this is the ONLY exclusive, considering there was a LOT of unreleased songs this year.

Tracks Recommended

  • Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku
  • Utakata Saturday Night!
  • Boogie Woogie LOVE
  • MODE
  • Hitorijime

So we’re finally here with the 17th iteration of this ongoing compilations!  Sadly, I feel like this is one of the weaker PBs because it definitely felt like they ignored a LOT of the second half of the year (like a lot of the singles released were REALLY good).  Remixes were a bad addition and should have stayed on the vinyls and brought more songs like “Umaku IenaI”, “Dream Road” and even “Mugen Climax”.  Though I guess it’s OK for the most part, the exclusive track felt a little anticlimatic and other unreleased songs could’ve been added too.   Overall, OK, but there could’ve been more to it.

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Let’s say hello to our 13th Generation!

Yup, we finally have our new Generation (going through two auditions once again).  Though no actual new members, but chosen from the Kenshuusei!  So let’s get to know them!

Kaede Kaga

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One of the eldest Kenshuusei, joining back in 2012 alongside Kanatomo, Maria, Wadasaku, Kishimon, and Ichioka. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting her to win due to her age and straight-up 4 year tenure in the trainees program.  Though she’s pretty impressive as a vocalist and has grown during the time and her adding to Momusu will probably lead to her being a main vocalist which is great (we really needed more vocalists).

Reina Yokoyama

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The other new members is the opposite to Kaedii by being from the most recent batch of Kenshuusei!  Yokoyama hasn’t really done anything too huge in the program (hell, I haven’t been able to hear her proper yet).  There’s not much of an opinion so I’ll just have to wait til their first single before making a complete thought out of her.

Overall, I feel like a 2-nin is a bit disappointing because that just meant these auditions were just done primarily to fill the spots that Riho and Kanon had left behind when they graduated and it’s looking like Kaede might fill Riho’s spot while Reina will have Zukki’s.  I would’ve chosen better girls too to add onto the group.

 

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Warp back to 2000…Year Recap!

Welcome back!  We finally hit the new millenium and so many things happened after the shocking popularity that came from both Momusu’s “LOVE Machine” and Petitmoni’s “Chokotto LOVE”.  Though a lot of things happened last year, it surely didn’t beat 2000 and its many changes (in sound and looks) so let’s dive right in!

Morning Musume

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After the explosion of popularity from LOVE Machine, many were curious to what Morning Musume were going towards for the new millenium as it meant a new start (on top of Aya Ishiguro‘s graduation at the beginning of January).

After Ayappe’s graduation they released a single in Koi no Dance Site before they were mixed and matched with various other H!P members for the first time in the annual shuffle units.  Then they released their 3rd album, 3rd -LOVE Paradise-

Before April, the group were holding auditions for a new generation and the outcome was four winners in Rika Ishikawa, Ai Kago, Nozomi Tsuji, and Hitomi Yoshizawa as the 4th Generation and promptly debuted with the group’s next single, Happy Summer Wedding.  Though quite shortly after (4 days) the single’s release, Sayaka Ichii announced that she was leaving the group to be a singer/songwriter.  On top of the group (and other H!P members) being involved in a movie called, Pinch Runner.

Rest of the year ran a bit more smoothly with two singles in I WISH Renai Revolution 21.  Though they released two more albums; a best album only sold through their Hawaii fanclub store and the other…a bizarre wake-up call release (no music >.>).

GREAT SONGS

  • Koi no Dance Site – So how do you follow-up something like “LOVE Machine”?  Well, it seems the answer to that is Koi no Dance Site which became the group’s highest selling single in a week through ORICON.  It’s awesome to see why because while the aforementioned song changed the dynamic of the group to something more idol-like, Koi no Dance Site went a little more international by having a little more of an Indian flair to it.  Add in all the exciting shouting and whistles (which were done by the girls themselves) and you have this exciting track and left us with a SEXY BEAAAAAAAAAM!~
  • Aisha Loan de – I’m not sure what theming there was to the album, but after “LOVE Machine” the first new track has a bit of a nod to The Knacks’, “My Sharona”.  I do love that the song is poppy, but has guitars and drums.  There’s just something about this song in particular that really popped out at me from this album and maybe it’s that heavy 90’s pop feel?
  • DANCE Suru no da! – If there was a song to stick to Momusu’s idol feel, I think DANCE Suru no da! would be a great representative as it’s funky, a little bit disco-y, and just such a fun, upbeat track.  I do wish there was more solos, but what we got is passable and I just found myself dancing along.  Also, along with “Aisha Loan de”, there were PVs for both, but they appeared after 4th Gen joined and Sayaka left.
  • Omoide – It feels like it’s been quite a while since Momusu went for something R&B and Omoide fills in the space after the rush of idol pop came in.  The song itself is just covered in solos and I’m loving Sayaka for some reason the most here.  It’s just a really smooth and good track!
  • I WISH – At least the 2nd single to include 4th Gen actually felt like an introductory piece for them!  I really do like the innocent, yet upbeat sound of it and really showed off some nice melodies within the members.  Then again, there was a whole LOT of Gocchin to be had.  Still, it is a pretty great song and fan favorite for a perfectly good reason!
  • Renai Revolution 21 – Ending the year, Renai Revolution 21 showed a nicer group performance!  I’m loving the funk/disco arrangement and the whole ~chou chou chou ii kanji~ line is humorously amazing.  This is another huge song for the group and I can’t blame them since it’s so catchy and the space theme has been working for them!

OK SONGS

  • WHY – Taking after when Taiyou to Ciscomoon did “Chinmoku”, WHY is another song that while sounds simple is actually quite difficult.  This song and the aforementioned track share this syllable gimmick where each member sings a syllable throughout the entire track so the intricacies are there.  The song is a bit slower (as expected), but I do like the dreamscape-y feel I get.
  • Happy Summer Wedding – For such an A-side to be both a debut for a generation and a graduation single, Happy Summer Wedding is kind of a track that’s actually surprisingly one of the weaker A-sides they’ve had (IMO).  I mean yay, Aibon, Yossie, Rika, and Tsuji debuted here, but they had little appearance (like with 2nd Gen when they debuted).  Even Sayaka had very little fanfare as the lead here was actually Yuko (who ironically is the only member in that age range at that time to be talking about weddings >.>).  Oh yeah 2nd A-side in a row to have an Indian twist?  C’mon…
  • Inspiration! – Maybe it’s the Indian thing that’s getting me all bored, but at least this strays away after the intro to something more discotheque.  As the B-side from “Renai Revolution 21”, Inspiration! is more funky especially in the verses whereas its chorus is a bit more poppy.  Either way, I really do like hearing the new members coming into their own.  Pretty decent song I’d say!

MEH SONGS

  • Koi wa Rock n’ Roll – So the B-side of their best selling single to me just comes off strange and kind of out of nowhere for the group.  Compared to the exciting and wild A-side, Koi wa Rock n’ Roll is a bit more chilled out, but for some reason strange due to the lighter vocals and random tempo changes (when the prechorus is faster than the chorus, it’s a bit jarring).
  • Koi no Dance Site (Groove That Soul Remix) – So Koi no Dance Site, like “LOVE Machine was released with a vinyl that included 3 remixes!  The first sadly didn’t resonate with me primarily because of its 8 minute length.  Though the arrangement sounds more fitting for a group like Taiyou to Ciscomoon to be quite honest.
  • Koi no Dance Site (M.I.D. KH-R CLUB MIX) – The second of those remixes took more of a sort of Eurobeat style this time and I felt like this one was a little too busy in arrangement and the song (and melody) feels almost drowned out.  Just was forgettable.
  • ~Ohayou~ – The opening to their 3rd album kicks out with a bit of a poem to some flowery, nature-loving music.  The arrangement is pretty and the reading of lines is nice, but I suppose not being totally tied-in to the language, it seems weird that a poem opens up an album?
  • Kuchizuke no Sono Ato – After having a couple songs from “Second Morning” to listen to prior to this album, it was the FIRST thing I thought of when I took a listen to Kuchizuke no Sono Ato.  Something about that relaxing pop track with focus on acoustic guitar just bores me and since we’ve ran into this a couple times already, I’m ready to press next!  Though the bridge stuck out to me the most, ironically enough.
  • Lunchtime ~Rebanira Itame~ – Probably one of the weirdest (and still is to this day) interlude for an album, we have Lunchtime.  While the story behind is cute and it’s quirky and absurd, having it as an interlude is a little bit strange (especially after “Koi no Dance Site”).  Strange, but has its moments.
  • Harajuku 6:00 Shuugou – I wasn’t sure what was going on with the opening dialogue of this album song.  It sounded like a discussion between guys and girls amongst warfare noises?  I’m not sure, but after that the song kind of turns into this peppy samba-esque track?  I don’t know what’s up with the tune, but I’m not really into it!
  • “,,,Suki da yo!” –  I hate to say it, but this song could’ve had the potential to be an amazing track, but just whoever did the mastering screwed up!  What I could grasp is that it would’ve been a great party track with horns and all the glitter, however the music is sooo diluted and sounds quite unfinished (no bass really).
  • ~Oyasumi~ – So like the opening, we have a spoken epilogue that closes things out in a similar fashion with a guy telling the ladies to sleep and they say goodnight.  Nothing too much to note, even the music in the background is not even that important.
  • Tsuugaku Ressha – I’m not sure why I confuse this with “Koi no Shihatsu Ressha” but here’s the B-side to “Happy Summer Wedding” and I was not surprised that 4th Gen was omitted here (not sure the reasoning why, but hey).  The tune is definitely playing up some 90’s R&B (almost like Janet Jackson for a second with the beat and bubble popping).  I do like that all 7 members get solo, but it is missing something great and feels a bit generic.
  • Akogare My Boy – As the B-side of “I WISH”, I was hoping for more 4th Gen appearance and it happened which I’m grateful for, but this song wasn’t a good one for me.  Mostly due to the mechanical performance and one again like “Koi wa Rock ‘n Roll”, the tempo gets thrown off in various places which makes things difficult.  Mostly it’s the robotic singing that took me out.

ICKY SONGS

  • Koi no Dance Site (PANDART SASANOOOHA Remix) – The last of the remixes from their “Koi no Dance Site” single, I’ve actually come across this name before when they did remixes for Ayumi Hamasaki.  Just by going by the name, this remix has a much more heavier Indian sound that the original arrangement alone!  It does take a while for the song to kick in and by then the timpanis get annoying and the extra sounds just ruin the rest of the track…Just not good…

OVERALL: I would say that Momusu had a pretty busy year and the new members are sounding nice currently.  I wasn’t too phased about Sayaka leaving the group as she wasn’t exactly a front member like Nacchi, Gocchin, or even Marippe.  Still releases this year were pretty good, albeit I will never understand the “Wake Up Call” album and what use it has being in their discography.

Michiyo Heike

heike-jpg

oneroomnatsuainochikaraforourself

So unlike last year where Michiyo ended up releasing only two singles and just kind of overall was quiet, it feels like she had more of a presence this year!  She actually was a part of the shuffle units at the beginning of the year before releasing her next two singles; One Room Natsu no Koi Monogatari Ai no Chikara.

Then she released her first best album, For ourself -Single History- and so ended her 2000!

OK SONGS

  • One Room Natsu no Koi Monogatari – As the first A-side of the year, I have to say that I was surprised that she was changing sounds moving away from her pop/rock beginnings and taking up more of what Tsunku was throwing out there.  I enjoy the sound of it, giving it a more brassy disco vibe to it.  While I still don’t think Michiyo vocally stood out, the song is having her catch up to other H!P acts!
  • Ai no Chikara – It just seems Michiyo is going through a weird transitioning period with dealing with her music and direction.  I do think R&B suits Michiyo as seen with this song and I enjoyed that she sounded more into it than she did with her single before this.  I could deal with less CASIO synths, but this is a decent track!
  • myself – Originally a song meant to be on “scene” but ended up being the lone new track on her best album myself is actually a decent track and enjoying the pop/rock vibes here before she ended up taking in R&B/Pop songs.  My only qualm though is that the arranging is a bit too loud and I have problems hearing what Michiyo is singing.  Otherwise, I liked it a lot!

MEH SONGS

  • Suteki na Koi Suteki na Yoru – As the B-side from “One Room”, Suteki na Koi feels like a tiring song to get to.  I mean, its mid-tempo sound isn’t what totally brought me down but it was more of the lack of conviction I had listening to Michiyo in the track.  It sounds familiar though (well the melody does at least).  Not really a memorable track.
  • Tokai no Yoru – Why does this sound like something I would hear later from H!P?  It sounds like an arrangement that Miki Fujimoto, Aya Matsuura, or even Maki Goto would’ve used somewhere in their discography.  Sadly, just like the above track, it’s a bit slow for my tastes and the feeling is just as not there as well.  Pretty meh…
  • Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM~Michiyo Heike Version – The other track that was exclusive to the best album was a self-cover of Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM in which she was a part of that shuffle group.  Though besides the song now sung entirely by Michiyo, they added some unnecessary things like some kind of Tsunku-isms and MCs.  It does sound like she is struggling a little with this one…yeah, it’s really not meant to be sung solo IMO…

OVERALL: Even though she did release more than she did last year, I think she kind of dropped the ball by changing her direction of music (partly due to Tsunku taking over from Hatake).  Add on that best album and I’m wondering why a release only after one album?  Weird year to say the least for Michiyo.

Yuko Nakazawa

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shanghainokaze

Just like last year, Yuko didn’t seem to really pay much attention to her solo side of her career only releasing one single (again) in July with Shanghai no Kaze.

GREAT SONGS

  • Ame yo – Surprisingly enough that the better song was its B-side!  At first listen, it did rather remind me of Tanpopo’s “Last Kiss” with that whispy mysterious feel to it.  I still do end up thinking it feels more like a song from the 90s and I appreciate that and Yuko sounds really dreamy!

OK SONGS

  • Shanghai no Kaze – Listening to Shanghai no Kaze, it really did give off a bit of  a Chinese vibe but still retaining that slight Enka vibe, but you can also notice that Yuko isn’t quite as obvious with having so much vibrato so it kind of feels like a proper ballad, just with some erhu.  It might not be the standout release in H!P, but it’s a pleasant tune overall!

OVERALL: Like I said last year, it feels like Yuko was more focused on Momusu and it seems she had taken that approach once again a year later.  Though I will say her lone single was a lot better than “Junjou Koushinkyoku” was.

Tanpopo

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So with Ayappe graduating, the future for the group was put on hold for quite a while (and while they finished promoting “Seinaru Kane ga Hibiki Yoru” too).  Though surprisingly enough they were revitalized in July when new Momusu members; Ai Kago & Rika Ishikawa were chosen to join the group making them a 4-nin and with that released a new single with the new lineup, Otome Pasta ni Kandou and that was really it for the year!

GREAT SONGS

  • Otome Pasta ni Kandou – I guess Tanpopo was also another act that ended up moving in a different diretion.  Instead of keeping a more mature and serious sound that the original trio had, the 4-nin’s first single was actually quite a bit cute.  Something about the song reminded of motown music and at the same time keeping up with such an adorable feel.  A really pleasant track and I liked that Aibon and Rika was able to get some push outside of Momusu!

OK SONGS

  • Watashi no Kao – Then we have the B-side which did bring back more of the mature side which was quite nice and it was another ballad for the group.  I was surprised that there was as much Kago as there was and she sounded surprisingly good (future endeavors seem to lower it a little bit).  Definitely feels like a good ballad for the group and was a worthy B-side!

OVERALL: With Ayappe leaving H!P, I felt like her voice was going to be missed primarily from the fans that were into Tanpopo.  It was surprising to see them being invigorated by adding Rika and Aibon, but did the music have to change too?

Taiyou to Ciscomoon / T&C Bomber

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dontstoprenaichuuheymahiru2nd-stage-1

When we left off the group, they had just lost Miwa and we got a rather sad finish for the year.  Though in a twist of fate for some reason, in January it was announced that Miwa was actually returning to the group, but the group’s name was also changed to T&C Bomber but there really wasn’t a true reason as to why it happened though.  Of course things started out with the shuffle units (the first thing Miwa did after returning) before releasing their first single under the new name, DON’T STOP Renaichuu in April and another; HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou in July.

Sadly in August on ASAYAN, the group announced that they would be disbanding at the end of the year to focus on solo activities and would release their final album, 2nd STAGE and then promptly disband after a final tour at the end of the year. (well, Miwa and RuRu would go on to having solo careers outside of H!P and Atsuko would open an audition to make a new group within the company.  Miho though just dropped out of the spotlight, but has been doing choreo for groups these days.

(Marui Taiyou (4-nin) will be found in the other releases as it was first released on the Petit Best)

GREAT SONGS

  • DON’T STOP Renaichuu – Was this a rejected Coconuts song?  Because honestly, DON’T STOP Renaichuu has that tropical sound down pat for this one, luckily it is with better vocalists this time around.  It just suits the quartet so nicely and I really liked RuRu in this one as she sung in a lighter environment.  Though the other 3 managed to soothe my ears as well (Miwa maybe a little less, but she sounded like she got better at singing in her brief hiatus).  Overall a pretty catchy and lighthearted song for an A-side that really sounded nice!
  • HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou – As the group’s final A-side, HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou took the group to a different level of sound by being more ethnic and danceable by taking the kind of Indian touch (like “Koi no Dance Site” and “Happy Summer Wedding” did for Momusu.  This track though was full of sass and power and I really loved that T&C were able to leave us with this one more badass track before disbandment.
  • Be My LOVE – As we get into their songs from their last album, Be My LOVE is actually a pretty cool song even though it wasn’t the album’s intro song, but it took over well after “HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou”.  I like the poppy vibes it has and while the Tsunku rap was a bit out of place, it’s a song that I normally come back to.

OK SONGS

  • Kawaii Hito – There’s just something about this kind of Mediterranean sounding arrangement that pulls you into a lull.  At least the arrangement is just pleasant, though I think the whispy vocals from all the members was a bit intrusive.  I’m not sure if Miwa and Miho are suited very well for that kind of situation, but I will say it was better than the other B-side of the year.
  • Ai no Kaisuu – 4 of the tracks of “2nd STAGE” were actually solos for the members.  Ai no Kaisuu was Atsuko’s track and it’s no surprise the track is more R&B tinted and suited for Atsuko’s vocals.  Overall it’s a decent track, if not a little safe…it does remind me slightly of “Everyday Everywhere” though…
  • Aisuru Hito e – Next up is RuRu’s solo track and while it’s a step up from Atsuko’s track, it still doesn’t quite reach to greatness as the arrangement is still kind of plain.  At least I approve of RuRu’s vocals being rather stellar and the chorus stuck out a lot to me.
  • Office Love – Last, but not least, we have Miho’s solo which is funny enough the slowest of the four.  I could use less MC (actually a lot of T&C songs could’ve used less to be quite honest haha.  It’s a pretty standard mid-tempo R&B track and while Miho isn’t my favorite voice either, the song worked well with her.
  • YES! Shiawase – Like I said above, Tsunku could be used less in this song.  As the final track off their album, YES! Shiawase is a bit brighter than previous songs they’ve had, almost harking back to their first album, closest to something like “Magic of Love”.  Take out the rap sections and the song is a LOT better.  Interesting way to end the album and sadly their career as a group.

MEH SONGS

  • Go Go Tokyo – Initially, I actually liked the opening with the staccato lines and the whole surfer pop sound it was going for, but once the actual song kicked in, I was a bit shocked at how idol-ly it sounded for the group.  There was a lot of Miwa (probably celebrating her return and all), but this wasn’t the song for her…vocally was a bit unpleasant at points and the music was uninteresting after a while.
  • Mata Yacchatta ~Shibuya de ALL no Hi~ – Probably my least favorite of the 4 solo tracks, Miwa’s song is a bit weird to me.  I can tell it’s trying to be playful and cute and I will say Miwa has definitely improved vocally.  The song itself though sounds a bit like last minute made and on top of that, the arrangement has some weird things going on, though the muted trumpet is cute.  Overall, it just didn’t work for me.

OVERALL: I’m still pretty sad that T&C Bomber would disband at the end of 2000 because they were patching up what was missing (Miwa primarily) and were getting some pretty awesome A-sides.  While I’m not entirely sure why the break-up happened, it still was sad to see the best vocalists H!P had to offer bid adieu…

Coconuts Musume

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After a rather nice debut and second single, it was a little bit not of a surprise that Coconuts begun the year with some surprising news that Chelsea Ching and April Barbaran had announced they’d be leaving the group (ultimately what most fans would call having homesickness and having a hard time fitting in the Japanese culture (plus they barely spoke the language).

Though in the same month they held auditions once again in Hawaii and came up with one winner in Lehua Sandbo and she debuted in the shuffle groups before debuting within her group in May titled, Tokonatsu Musume.  Then came a special single released for the fanclub in Hawaii simply titled The Single (which was 3 songs they’ve released already).  The group then released their next single in July, Watashi mo “I LOVE YOU” before the group once again lost another member in Danielle Delauney in October due to a mix of why April & Chelsea left and an injury she sustained beforehand and the group just continued on for the rest of the year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Watashi mo “I LOVE YOU” – The second A-side the group released was still more of the cutesy side of Coconuts, but at least it felt like it was handled a lot better than what “Tokonatsu Musume” did.  I’m not quite sure what genre this would fit, but definitely gives me a quickstep kind of vibe.  I do think Lehua stood out the most from the song strangely enough, but I still love Ayaka, Mika, and Danielle moreso.  It’s a perky and silly song and I enjoyed that a lot from this song!

OK SONGS

  • Tokonatsu Musume – After the first two singles being a little more catered to the more mature crowd, I was surprised they hammed it up on their 3rd A-side!  Being the debut single for Lehua and first without April & Chelsea, I wasn’t sure what to think about it really because it was upbeat and cute for the group.  I do think Lehua’s voice was a bit more unfitting to the genre than I thought (Danielle too), it was a pretty cute song I guess.
  • Watashi mo “I LOVE YOU” (Samba de CoCo Remix) – Funny enough, the remix for the 2nd single wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it’d be.  It’s definitely stylized as a Samba song with the rhythm and background whistles and fun vibe.  Not sure if I totally agree with dialing down the girls and slapping some echo filter on them, but the remix is pretty decent!

ICKY SONGS

  • Tokonatsu Musume (Reggae Version) – You would thing that because the group has a tropical feel to them that a Reggae version of the leading track would be great, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Something about this remix is just lacking every place and the Jamaican rapper is more than annoying.  It’s just missing a beat too, it feels lacking to say the least…

OVERALL: Maybe it was just from the shtick that was formed, but I wasn’t surprised that April, Chelsea (and later on Danielle) would leave due to them missing home and it was pretty quick how they came and left too.  Though I was happy they tried to bring the group back by adding Lehua so I’ll be following them and see what happens next!

Country Musume

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hokkaidoshalalakoigasuteki

After the rather tragic beginnings of the group, Country Musume decided to walk forward and see where things would go with just Rinne at the helm.  She begun the year in April with the 3rd indies single, Hokkaido Shalala.

Before the release though was an audition, but that came up empty.  They tried it again after the release and a new member, Asami Kimura had joined (she was a worker at the farm where the original trio had their training at) and released their 4th indies single, Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu (which was also the theme for their movie!).

However, the group held 2 more auditions which both failed and at the end of the year a surprise was that the group would be going major!

GREAT SONGS

  • Aa Koishikute – I have to say, the B-side from “Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu” really popped out for me for some strange reason.  It’s not much different sounding from the A-side, but the minimalistic arrangement and strong melodies between the duo was dreamy and pleasant and not a mess!  Really pretty ballad from the duo.

OK SONGS

  • Hokkaido Shalala – Being the 2nd single with just Rinne by herself, Hokkaido Shalala is a little more upbeat than I expected, but I really like this idea that Rinne is playing the acoustic guitar.  It definitely reminds me of something from Momusu’s first album due to the 90s pop feel it has.  It definitely was a better representation of Rinne’s growth as a singer!
  • Hokkaido Shalala (Coupling Version) – Not exactly sure what was the reasoning for including another take of the song, but the coupling version has a different intro and the song itself is a little faster than the single cut.  I actually might prefer this over it just because it’s a smidge faster and you can hear Rinne’s vocals a little better.
  • Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu – As the debut for Asami happened, I was interested to see how she’d fit next to Rinne and she was already pushing better as a vocalist, Kimura sounded green and a bit unexperienced.  The song itself is more or less what we’ve been getting since Rinne took solo.  It’s an alright song, but nothing quite stand-out.

OVERALL: After 1999, I felt bad for Rinne having to continue on, but she was able to put out pretty good songs even after the addition of Asami.  With the annoucement of the duo going major and given to Tsunku, I wonder what magic he has in store for them!

Chinatsu Miyoshi

miyoshi

anatanoshirts

Chinatsu had a pretty short year releasing what would be her final single, Anata no Shirts to Love song in May and then announced she’d be leaving the company in September due to monetary issues within the company.  Though she like a couple other artists had also taken part in the Garage series (she appears in the 4th volume).

GREAT SONGS

  • JOY! JOY! JOY! – At least the single wasn’t entirely a ballad-central.  The B-sides was poppy and upbeat and once again the 90’s vibe is even more apparant in the song.  At least Chinatsu sounds more lively and decent, it’s just sad that she didn’t get to perform this before she left H!P.  One of the more great early H!P songs IMHO and is seriously underrated!

OK SONGS

  • Anata no Shirts to Love song – As Chinatsu’s final single, Anata no Shirts to Love song wasn’t quite as upbeat as previous singles and I kind of liked that a lot.  Due to this being produed by Kaoru Sanada though, it felt like she was being held back as the sound and arrangement was starting to sound HEAVILY dated.  I do enjoy the song though and while it tends to drag after a while, it’s a fuzzy good kind of dragging.

OVERALL: It’s pretty sad to see Chinatsu leaving the company (without an album, mind you) so her discography is pretty small in comparison to many other groups.  While she was the only artist produced by Sanada, I’m also kind of glad we didn’t get anymore of this CASIO-heavy 90’s pop.

Petitmoni

petitmoni

seishunjidai

Despite the fact that “Chokotto LOVE” was HUGE and the sales were off the charts, Petitmoni was quite in the dark for the first half of the year, mostly due to Sayaka also leaving H!P during the first quarter of the year.

Though when Tanpopo was revitalized after Ayappe left, Petitmoni was also brought back with a new member from the new 4th Gen of Momusu, Hitomi Yoshizawa, and released their first single together, Seishun Jidai 1.2.3! / Bicycle Daiseikou!.

 MEH SONGS

  • Seishun Jidai 1.2.3! – I feel like Petitmoni didn’t quite have a set genre or style to their music, even after Sayaka left the group (as they only had 2 songs in their repetoire) so when I first heard the kind of underground jazzy riff mixed in with some rapping courtesy from Gocchin, I was a bit perplexed and confused by it.  There wasn’t a whole lot of Kei-chan or Yossie (enough to get by, but Maki was definitely still a good portion).  I do love the string bass and urban sound, but for some reason, this song doesn’t stick with me very long.

ICKY SONGS

  • Bicycle Daiseikou! – Not sure why this was considered an A-side (with no PV, mind you), but this was a weird song for so many reasons, primarily due to the fact that it sounds way too childish for Petitmoni (even though it does widen their spectrum).  Not a lot of solos to be had and the trio are rather meh and then random spots of jazz-like sections as well.  It’s a VERY weird song and one that I ended up disliking after a while.

OVERALL: Even though they took a while before the trio released a new single, Petitmoni’s change in its lineup was surprising to say the least and while I have high hopes, I feel like their lone single dropped the ball as neither song really popped out at me. Here’s hoping they come back strong next year.

Melon Kinenbi

 melon

amaianatanoajikokuhakukinenbi

So to go back to the previous year, auditions were held to have proteges for Momusu and Michiyo and winners were found around August and included Ayumi Shibata, Masae Ohtani, Hitomi Saito and leader Megumi Murata.  The group would go silent until the unit’s name, Melon Kinenbi was announced in December.

So the group began their 2000 with their debut single Amai Anata no Aji in February and a second, Kokuhaku Kinenbi in June and then kind of disappeared for the rest of the year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Amai Anata no Aji – I was pretty surprised the Melon’s would actually debut with more of a mature track in comparison to most of H!P at the time.  As a song, this has a whole lot of Masae here and while you can tell all four members sounded somewhat green.  Still, the song itself is pretty interesting with its arrangement/direction and and even though the chorus is pretty repetitive, I actually dug it, but definitely not one of their bests.
  • Fuwafuwafuu – I wasn’t expecting Melon Kinenbi to pull off a more mature and sexy kind of song in Fuwafuwafuu, but I’m really loving this bossa nova vibe in the arrangement and with the song almost split in half like Ayumi/Masae & Megumi/Hitomi.  It’s a chill song and a total surprise for me!

OK SONGS

  • Kokuhaku Kinenbi – As the group’s 2nd A-side, Kokuhaku Kinenbi took the group into a bit more of a happier route and I loved the intro and then turns into more of cute song like what “Skip!” was trying to be but failed.  I also like that it sounded like some of the disco songs during this time period.  Decent follow-up I’d say.

MEH SONGS

  • Skip! – As the quartet’s first B-side, I wasn’t sure what was coming from a title, but I was definitely less impressed with this in comparison to “Amai Anata no Aji”.  The entire song is sung in unison (and sadly messy unison at that) and the only solo line is from Masae.  The arrangement is upbeat but nothing that totally stands out to me…eh…

OVERALL: As the newest group, Melon Kinenbi to me sounds like they had a rocky start and wasn’t sure what to do with them, just from hearing all 4 of these songs.  While my thoughts aren’t totally on the positive side, they have a LOT of potential!

Yuki Maeda

maeda

nakiusagi

So in April just out of the blue on an episode of ASAYAN, Momusu member Iida announced that there was a new soloist joining and her debut single was like a week and a half a way.  So we got our introduction to Yuki Maeda as the new enka artist (good timing since Yuko was starting to move further away from the genre).  She released Naki Usagi and that was pretty much it beside replacing Danielle in Akagumi 4 when she left H!P.

GREAT SONGS

  • Honki de Shikatte – The B-side of the single actually worked a bit better as it showed off even more of Yuki’s vocals and she has a lot more control and beauty behind it!  I actually also loved the arrangement a bit more than “Naki Usagi’s” to be quite honest!  It’s one of the more surprising songs to come from H!P in 2000.

OK SONGS

  • Naki Usagi – For being the newest soloist for H!P, I wasn’t expecting her vocals to be on point as it was in her debut, Naki Usagi.  There’s something about Yukidon’s voice that really stuck out (maybe even more than Yuko’s did).  While I feel like this song is more kayoukyoku than enka itself, it’s pretty catchy and bright.

OVERALL: As someone that just kind of came out of nowhere to be added to H!P, Yuki managed to impress with her debut single with a lovely voice and strong control and a great addition to the company!  I was a bit bummed that it was her only release and just performed the remainder of the year…

Sheki-dol

shekidol

kokoronopheromone

So during May, they held their 4th Michiyo Heike & Momusu protege auditions and it actually had 3 winners in Ami Kitagami, Aya Matsuura, and Ibuki Oki.  Though the decision was made that Ami & Ibuki would be made into a duo unit while Aya would work on becoming a soloist.  The duo was named Sheki-dol and in preparation, they started to perform at H!P concerts until November when they released their first indies single, Kokoro no Pheromone and so ended their 2000.

OK SONGS

  • Datte Datte – The B-side wasn’t much better than the leading song, but I do think vocally they put a little more effort in working on their melodies together.  Yeah, once again no solos. Still the arrangement was done better and the performance was a bit more together.

MEH SONGS

  • Kokoro no Pheromone – Being the duo’s debut song, I was surprised that I wasn’t totally into it though I wasn’t expecting the sound to be more like rock n’ roll like some of Michiyo’s early releases!  Sadly, there wasn’t solo lines so I couldn’t tell the different between Ami or Ibuki…

OVERALL: I’m really not sure what to think of Sheki-dol at the moment because despite them being winners of the same audition that Melon Kinenbi just won earlier in the year, they don’t seem to quite stand out like they did.  Their lone single really didn’t do much to give them a way to stand out, but I’m hoping they come into their own next year.

Minimoni

minimoni-002

So towards the end of the year, Mari Yaguchi had asked Tsunku to make a group of members that were shorter than 4 ft. 11 in.  So that ended with a group initially made of herself, and 4th Gen members Nozomi Tsuji & Ai Kago.  They started to perform, but at the end of the year found their 4th member in Mika Todd from Coconuts Musume.  Even though they haven’t debuted yet, it was sure they will in the new year!

Other H!P Releases

thegarage3akainikkichoukiiroiosoraaoisportscarthegarage4petit-best-ki-ao-akapinchrunner

Starting back last year, The Garage series had continued on this year with 2 more editions, but the series had ended and while 3 & 4 added Chinatsu to the list of H!P ladies involved.  (Once again, it isn’t a full H!P release so I won’t be covering).

So in a grand surprise and shock to fans, Tsunku announced shuffle units to kind of have a bit of a competition to see who can sell the most of their singles.  Of course not every H!P member was involved (Melon Kinenbi were still too new and Country Musume & Chinatsu Miyoshi were produced by someone other than Tsunku so they were left out too).

  • Akagumi 4 – (Yuko Nakazawa, Miho Shinoda, Danielle Delauney, Maki Goto) – The first was the red quartet of Yuko, Miho, Danielle, and Maki and they were actually given the upbeat ballad, Akai Nikkichou.
  • Kiiro 5 – (Natsumi Abe, Michiyo Heike, Kei Yasuda, RuRu Honda, Ayaka Kimura) – Then we have the yellow group that sung they upbeat funk song, Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM
  • Aoiro 7 – (Kaori Iida, Sayaka Ichii, Mari Yaguchi, Atsuko Inaba, Miwa Kominato, Mika Todd, Lehua Sandbo) – The last and final blue group was given the pop/rock track, Aoi Sports Car to Otoko.  (NOTE: This was also the debut for Lehua and the return of Miwa).

This was followed up a month later by Petit Best ~Ki Ao Aka~ which was the beginning of a yearly compilation of some of the more memorable songs (though this was the only in the series that was released early in the year so it has a lot of stuff from 1999 up to the shuffle units that had just happened (and rarities).

Last, but not least, there was an OST for the H!P movie, Pinch Runner (NOTE: which for this post I will only put down the two remixes because the remainder of the OST is instrumentals, a Sharam Q song, and a Stardust Revue song).

GREAT SONGS

  • Akai Nikkichou – It’s no surprise that due to Gocchin’s sheer popularity, Akai Nikkichou won with the most sold.  I really do love that Danielle had the opening dialogue in the track (and she was rather the best performer in the track even if Maki had about like 80% of the song to herself (which was my only qualm as she was pretty weak, but to be fair she was struggling with the emotion.  Still, it’s a pretty amazing song and later on in the future, this would be an amazing track to return to!
  • Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM – As Kiiro 5’s song, I actually quite liked this one too even though I feel like the 5 chosen could’ve powered this song a bit more because it has some of H!P’s best vocalists involved and it didn’t seem like things were 100%.  Still, the song is pretty exciting and I really like the disco arrangement and the beat was infectious!
  • Aoi Sports Car no Otoko – Yeah! I really liked all of the shuffle songs!!  Aoiro 7 surprised because it was more of Sayaka’s big lead and honestly she totally owned this song, but that’s not to say that the other 6 girls were bad.  I do like how loud and wild it gets and there’s some interesting parts like Lehua’s first line and Miwa’s werid minyo-laced line.  It’s a crowd pumper and I love that a LOT!

OK SONGS

  • Toumorokoshi to Sora to Kaze – I was pretty surprised that Nacchi got a full solo track on the Petit Best and it was due to this track being a CM song.  As a song though, it definitely is reminding me of something in the 70s with the guitar flickering and overall poppy sound.  I do chuckle at the low voice saying  ~toumorokoshi~…it’s odd.  I like that Nacchi did a track by herself and she sounds great!
  • Marui Taiyou (4-nin Ver.) – So hearing Marui Taiyou wasn’t going to change much because the arrangement had remained the same, but the sheer difference is that Miwa is actually back as she was gone from the group when this A-side came out originally.  Still with Miwa is back, the song is still sung in unison so it really didn’t matter in the end…just an ok track.
  • Omoide (BEAT WAVE SPIRAL MIX) – It feels like Pinch Runner’s remixes were very off the wall and really wanted to change the songs around.  With Omoide, the song is now sounding pretty eurobeat, but it does work in a weird way.  I like the build-up from the verses, but the volume of the girls could’ve been raised as I felt the music was covering them a little bit.

MEH SONGS

  • “Yamucharou CM Song” – Snuck away as a hidden track after the end of “Hello! no Theme (16-nin version), we have this really short track that was used in a CM.  As it’s Momusu, the track is lively and ubpeat and a tad silly with banjo involved too!  Sadly, due to its reason of being and the short time length, it’s pretty repetitive and tries to be catchy but it doesn’t work.

ICKY SONGS

  • Hello! no Theme (Akagumi 4 version, Kiiro 5 version, Aoiro 7 version, 16-nin version)  This isn’t the fault of the girls, but I just loathe this song so much!  I know this song was the theme song for their show, Hello! Morning and all, but this song is just WAY TOO repetitive and them saying the word hello is just ridiculous!  Doesn’t help that there’s 4 versions of the song (one on each of the shuffle unit singles and a version from Petit Best that included everyone).  It’s just not a song for me, but I suppose it has longevity and importance.
  • DANCE Suru no da! (MASTERS OF FUNK Flavor Remix) – So Pinch Runner’s OST included two exclusive remixes of songs from their 3rd album and first is DANCE Suru no da! was straight up ruined by the remix.  It felt like an entirely different track because most of it just rapping and totally erases a lot of the original song.  Once Momusu starts to sing, the vocal melody doesn’t suit the urban sound very much…this was a BAD remix IMHO.

Gains and Losses

Gains

  • Masae Ohtani
  • Ayumi Shibata
  • Megumi Murata
  • Hitomi Saito
  • Miwa Kominato (returned)
  • Lehua Sandbo
  • Yuki Maeda
  • Rika Ishikawa
  • Hitomi Yoshizawa
  • Ai Kago
  • Nozomi Tsuji
  • Asami Kimura
  • Ami Kitagami
  • Ibuki Oki
  • Aya Matsuura

Losses

  • Aya Ishiguro
  • Chelsea Ching
  • April Barbaran
  • Sayaka Ichii
  • Chinatsu Miyoshi
  • Danielle Delauney
  • Miho Shinoda
  • RuRu Honda
  • Miwa Kominato

My H!P Ranking for ’00

  • 34. April Barbaran (-13)
  • 33. Chelsea Ching (-17)
  • 32. Aya Ishiguro (-30)
  • 31. Aya Matsuura (NEW)

Most of the ladies that are in the back are due to the fact they left H!P in the first month of the year.  I put April and Chelsea in the back because for better or worse they really left no legacy behind.  In the case of Ayappe she had left with both Momusu and Tanpopo under her resume so she left with more stuff that she’s remembered for.  Aya hasn’t debuted yet, but congrats on winning the audition!

  • 30. Nozomi Tsuji (NEW)
  • 29. Rika Ishikawa (NEW)
  • 28. Ayumi Shibata (-3)
  • 27. Asami Kimura (NEW)
  • 26. Miwa Kominato (-6)

We also had our first reactions to the new 4th Generation of Momusu and currently Tsuji hasn’t really stood out amongst the new members yet.  Maybe with the recent announcement of Minimoni will actually help her out.  Same could be said about Rika even though she’s had some time with Tanpopo…but I feel like a lot of focus went onto Ai.  Of the 4 Melon members, I feel like Ayumi is the weakest member as her voice is a bit higher than the remainder of the group.  Though she does look like she has the potential as well to stand out.  Asami seemed to have joined Country Musume by rather random circumstances and despite my elation that Rinne isn’t alone anymore, her voice needs work so there’s time!  I was pretty happy to see Miwa returning, but then I was reminded that she was still the weakest voice from T&C Bomber.  Despite the group having its end, she was the missing piece of the puzzle when she left last year.

  • 25. Ami Kitagami (NEW)
  • 24. Ibuki Oki (NEW)
  • 23. Lehua Sandbo (NEW)
  • 22. Kaori Iida (-5)
  • 21. Hitomi Yoshizawa (NEW)

With the newest group created (not counting Minimoni), Sheki-dol members Ami Ibuki rank together mostly due to the fact, their single didn’t help seperate differences between the two.  Though they do sound decent and they suit the genre of music they’re covering as well.  As the newest addition to Coconuts Musume, Lehua was a unique addition and she could sing in Japanese quite well (though her tone was nasally for a bit).  Kaori to me this year, felt way back in the background and I’m not sure why…it’s not like Tanpopo was shutting her back either.  Though I do give her credit for introducing fans to Yuki so I suppose there’s that as well!  Hitomi rounds this 5 out due to her being the lone new member introduced to Petitmoni and she has a solid voice at the moment.  She also found herself standing out in Momusu early enough, but most of it came from Petitmoni.

  • 20. Chinatsu Miyoshi (-8)
  • 19. Kei Yasuda (-13)
  • 18. Ayaka Kimura (-9)
  • 17. Ai Kago (NEW)
  • 16. Megumi Murata (+9)

Despite that she left in the year, Chinatsu felt like she was getting used to her voice and was more confident especially in the lone single she released.  Still, she did end up leaving and I couldn’t put her more at the top.  Kei-chan, like Kaori was also kind of pushed to the back of the line, but she did do a fine job within the year sticking out in Kiiro 5 and Petitmoni.  She’s getting better too as a vocalist…it’s just sooo good.  Ayaka though was in the same boat as Keichan, but luckily she stood out more from the Coconuts releases!  She’s still the member with the best Japanese in Coconuts so that’s real good for the other 3 members to have relied on.  Aibon though was probably the 4th Gen member that was promoted a lot having a lot of visual appearance in “I WISH” and her inclusion to Tanpopo and now Minimoni.  Vocally she’s got the highest pitch (but she’s also quite young as well).  Megumi is pretty mid-tier in Melons so I feel like she has room to grow, but she’s quite appealing for me.

  • 15. Hitomi Saito (+11)
  • 14. Sayaka Ichii (-4)
  • 13. Mika Todd (+5)
  • 12. Michiyo Heike (+2)
  • 11. Atsuko Inaba (-7)

Hitomi got a position higher than Megumi because she had a smidge better of a voice and she could handle doing sexy (even though they are still rather young).  I’m actually interested to see how she does in the later years!  Icchan was another member that didn’t last very long, but she was able to lead Aoiro 7 and having more of a secondary lead in some of Momusu’s songs.  She had a lot of personality to her, so losing her was a blow, but there’s been bigger hits.  Mika was also able to put herself out there and she’s gotten better a singing so that’s a very good sign of things!  With the announcement of her joining Minimoni, I am quite curious to what she’ll bring to the group.  Michiyo did a little more focusing on her solo releases and was able to join Kiiro 5, but I feel like this best album is an omen for some reason (way too early for me).  I did like her appearances and the change for Tsunku to do her songs…but still feels strange to me.  As the only member to remain in H!P after disbandment, Atsuko did an OK job for the year, I do feel like other T&C members stood out better, but she was able to be leveled and average in a good way.

  • 10. Masae Ohtani (+17)
  • 9. Natsumi Abe (-1)
  • 8. Rinne Toda (+5)
  • 7. Miho Shinoda (-5)
  • 6. Mari Yaguchi (+1)

Right from the start, Masae was chosen to be the leading voice is both A-sides and I’m not arguing with that as she can handle a song quite well.  Great vocals for being someone green to the company.  I can’t wait to see what she brings in later years as well!  While Natsumi is slowly receding as lead voice (to Maki), she did have a good year and having a solo track showed that she was a pretty good singer outside of Momusu too!  After last year, Rinne somehow became a much better singer and made the Country Musume singles quite nice to listen to.  It is a bummer she didn’t get to join in with the shuffle units, she still was a pretty nice voice to hear!  Miho, like last year was quite the same level as she was last year (just some members did much better).  Still an amazing singer and her addition to Akagumi 4 really helped out with that.  Sad to see her leave H!P though, but she left such a cool legacy behind.  It seems like Marippe has had a lot of push this year IMO as she had both Momusu & Tanpopo to handle and at the end spurned the idea for the concept for Minimoni so it seems like big things are going to happen for her!

  • 5. Maki Goto (0)
  • 4. Yuko Nakazawa (+15)
  • 3. Danielle Delauney (+8)
  • 2. Yuki Maeda (NEW)
  • 1. RuRu Honda (0)

The push for Gocchin is even more apparant this year due to her having so much face time and had a lot of lines given to her in each act she was involved in.  I know she was the de-facto ace of Morning Musume, but couldn’t we have had push for other members???  Yuko might not have done too much more than she did the year previous, but her solo release was decent and her switch away from Enka (and promptly handing it to someone who’s more capable of handling the genre) was a good move.  With Danielle she definitely impressed me this year.  With having the opening dialogue to “Akai Nikkichou” and her Coconuts releases were pretty good for her voice, it’s just saddening that she ended up leaving in the Fall.  She will definitely be missed!  Even though its only been one single, Yuki already managed to surprise me with a lovely voice and control in Enka/Kayoukyoku typed songs.  She might be the de-facto wild card in H!P, she’s an amazing vocalist, but RuRu once again topped the list, but it’ll be her last time due to T&C disbanding.  I felt like she didn’t strike me as good as she did last year, but she’s still by far the best H!P vocalist they’ve had!

 

 

NEXT TIME: 2001 (although it might be 2016’s coming up next!)

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2003 Nendo Hawaii Genteiban Hello! Project Best 3

hellobest3

Track Listing

  1. Ne~e? / Aya Matsuura
  2. Please Don’t Cry (Musical version) / Maki Goto, Atsuko Inaba, Mika Todd, Mai Satoda
  3. Rock ‘n’ Roll Kenchoushozaichi ~Oboechaina Series~ / Minimoni
  4. Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyoutanjima / Morning Musume
  5. Watashi wa Kono yo de Ichiban Bijin / Yuko Nakazawa
  6. Haya~i Norimono / Risa Niigaki, Atsuko Inaba, Asami Kimura, Aya Matsuura
  7. HEY! Mirai / Morning Musume
  8. LA FILLE D’IPANEMA ~Ipanema no Musume~ / Kaori Iida
  9. Giniro no Eien / Miki Fujimoto
  10. Akai Freesia / Melon Kinenbi
  11. Eigakan ga Aru Kara sa! / Aya Matsuura, Ayumi Shibata
  12. Uwasa no SEXY GUY / Maki Goto
  13. Boogie Train ’03 / Miki Fujimoto
  14. Date Biyori / Aya Matsuura
  15. Hareta Hi no Marine / Maki Goto
  16. Ganbacchae! / Morning Musume, Hello! Project Kids, Maki Goto

1. Ne~e?

So the album kicks off with an Ayaya track (her 9th single) and just by looking at majority of the album, the first song is quite sugary and upbeat.  It has a certain summery vibe to it and during this time Aya was just a force to be reckoned with and this song is goofy, but still true to what Aya was pulling off (this song was a part of her 3rd album).  I really like the track, though I feel like it might’ve been starting to stretch slightly thin as far as I was in her discography.

2. Please Don’t Cry (Musical version)

At the same time, I was curious to some of these songs that I haven’t come across and this was one of four songs that I had to research a little on.  Please Don’t Cry is a song that originally came from Gocchin’s stageplay, “Ken & Mary no Merikenko On Stage!”.  It’s also sung by Maki, Atsuko Inaba (from the disbanded T&C Bomber), Mika Todd, and Mai Satoda.  Now this one is pretty funny as it’s a bit more lowkey, but at the same time, hearing the girls singing in a hot emotional mess is funny.  It is pretty short though not even making it to 2 minutes.

3. Rock ‘n’ Roll Kenchoushozaichi ~Oboechaina Series~

Next up is a Minimoni song (the technical actual first single with Ai Takahashi as a member of the group and replacment for Mari Yaguchi who left to form ZYX).  It feels like this little era for Minimoni took a strange turn as they went more for a educational route though this song is actually a Chisato Moritaka cover.  As I mentioned before, the song is educational covering prefectures and their capitals by tying it to food as well.  Minimoni’s cover is pretty boogie-woogie sounding and a bit groovy to hear.  I will say it is a slight bit tamer than most of their previous releases, but I do like it teaches things.

4. Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyoutanjima

I feel like the theme overall for this album so far, is like cutesy J-pop (seems like a lot of the end of 2002 and most of 2003 felt like H!P was going through this kiddy phase).  Morning Musume was definitely guilty of this and this track was actually an A-side for them.  Even though this is one of a couple bizarre songs in their collection, this was also a cover song.  I do like the kind of tropical feel it gave off and it feels like a lot of the members got spotlight.  There was one part that made me wince a little (the ~hyoutanjimaaaaaaa~ line had one girl sound REALLY off pitch, but slide into correction).  It is a decent song nonetheless amongst this crowd of cutesyness.

5. Watashi wa Kono yo de Ichiban Bijin

Continuing on, we have an OST song, this time from “Minimoni ja Movie Okashi na Daibouken!” and it’s a Yuko Nakazawa track (who if I remember correctly, played the villain in said movie).  The song is just as sugary sweet as the movie was, though Yuko sounds like she was having fun with this song.  Honestly though, it’s an OK song, but I’m kind of over it.

6. Haya~i Norimono

Next is a track from the Douyou Pops series (specifically “Shinsaku Douyou Pops 2”).  Damn, there’s just too many kiddy songs on this compilation (this one kind of takes the cake because it is a children’s song).  Arrangement-wise, it’s pretty fitting for the time and I found it amusing that it’s Gaki, Ayaya, Atsuko, and Country Musume’s Asami together here.  Sadly, once again I find myself wanting to skip over it not because it’s bad, but because it’s sugar overload!

7. HEY! Mirai

While this isn’t quite as sugary as previous songs, HEY! Mirai is pretty much known as a cute song due to its tie-in to Koinu Dan no Monogatari.  While I was surprised it did get a PV, it was with cute puppies so that’s always a win!  I do like that there’s some guitarwork here to shake things up for the cute songs and once again enjoying the amount of lines all the girls get.  Decent song, but understandable as an album track/soundtrack song.

8. LA FILLE D’IPANEMA ~Ipanema no Musume~

At least things seem to change for our next track which comes from Kaori Iida, from her first solo album.  I think most fans notice the sheer 180 as this song is sung entirely in French (weird since the original song was sung in Portuguese).  I do like the whole Mediterranean Cafe feel I get from this and a sweet change of pace from the previous 7 tracks.  Plus the saxophone is quite pleasant alongside to smooth arrangement.  While I don’t know how Kaorin did on her pronunciation, it did sound decent.  Overall a pretty cool and chill track.

9. Giniro no Eien

Then we get a random album track from Miki Fujimoto from “MIKI 1”.  While I figured a lot of releases were R&B tinted, Giniro no Eien was definitely catering to the fans that were still under the charm of “SHALL WE LOVE?”.  It does become slightly more poppy in the chorus, but it seems like safe fare from Mikitty.  Overall, it’s a decent track, but a little randomly added to this compilation.

10. Akai Freesia

At least we get to a rather popular song from Melon Kinenbi.  As the group’s 8th single, Akai Freesia might not be what I’d consider an amazing song, but it is a one of their fan-favorites (even then, the 6th Gen auditions had this as its main song).  The song itself is upbeat and mid-tempo.  There was a lot of Ayumi, but she was the groups ace so no surprise…but the remaining 3 did have solos throughout.  Not a favorite of mine, but it’s passable.

11. Eigakan ga Aru Kara sa!

Our next track is another one from a stageplay, this time from Ayaya’s Sougen no Hito OST.  This specific track though is a duet between Ayaya and Ayumi Shibata!  Being another short track (about 1:30 long).  Sadly, we do return to the slightly cute songs.  I feel like the jazzy vibe of the track is nice, but it does also feel like a morning cartoon at points.  Plus, it goes into ~la, la, la~ mode towards the end which is pretty meh.  Still, it’s an ok song, but nothing too memorable.

12. Uwasa no SEXY GUY

Going into something a little more mature, we have Gocchin’s 6th single and I was once again happy to see something different on this album.  I really like the sexier glow from this song and Maki’s vocals suit the arrangement (though the male backup could’ve been left out).  Plus the little bits of James Bond styled guitar licks added some sass to the track.  Good song, overall!

13. Boogie Train ’03

Unlike the random addition of “Giniro no Eien”, I felt like Boogie Train ’03 made a bigger impact to fans.  I actually really like the intro here as it shown off Miki’s vocal skills (plus that high note was great!).  The tune is pretty upbeat and fun to listen to on top of Miki’s full voice that really brought the song together.  Definitely one of the best of that year for sure!

14. Date Biyori

Another random inclusion, an Aya Matsuura song from her sophomore album “T.W.O”.  It feels like the current sound from Country Girls started here.  The track has a strong rockabilly/boogie-woogie sound to it and I’m not arguing one bit because it’s bright and fun to listen to as well.  Definitely another great on this compilation.

15. Hareta Hi no Marine

Then we have an album song from Maki’s first solo album “Makking GOLD 1”.  I was surprised that Tsunku opened the song with ~HAVE A GOOD DAY!!!~ and kind of doing his typical backing he does in various other H!P songs.  I want to like this song, but it feels rather generic and forgetful compared to other songs here.

16. Ganbacchae!

So the final track was another song that was from Koinu Dan no Monogatari but features Morning Musume, Maki Goto (as she had graduated shortly before this came out), and the Hello! Project Kids (Berryz Kobo & C-ute before they joined their groups).  That said, no surprise it’s another upbeat and cutesy song.  Though to be more correct, Morning Musume and Gocchin had all the solo lines while the other 15 kids had the chant of the title and a few small words here and there.  It’s an OK song, but I never was into this one either.

Tracks Recommended

  • Date Biyori
  • Ne~e?
  • LA FILLE D’IPANEMA ~Ipanema no Musume~
  • Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyoutanjima
  • Boogie Train ’03

As the 3rd and final H!P Genteiban Hawaii release, I felt this was the weakest of the trio.  Primarily because majority of the album was filled with cutesy kids-like songs and the occasional mature track, but I felt like this was a weak year altogether.  Adding on the short stageplay/movie songs and it just wasn’t working like the 1st two albums did.

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Warp back to 1999…Year Recap!

Stepping up for the last year before the new millenium begins, we have one more set of 12 months before things really kick of for Hello! (or Hello! Project as the name was changed once more groups & soloists had joined.  Though to say the least it was a very rocky year as it has the first members start to leave, our first member passing away, and some bizarre decisions as things go!  So let’s recap the year that was 1999!

Morning Musume

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memoryseishunnohikarimanatsunokousenfurusatolovemachine2ndmorning

Kicking it off with Momusu, the year began with a surprise announcement that Asuka Fukuda would be graduating in April do focus on studies which made the group’s next single, Memory Seishun no Hikari her last single with the group which included a song that was all hers!  After the the group kind of went into a weird funk with their next singles, Manatsu no Kousen Furusato (which the latter suffered in too much of one member before finally rounding the era out with their sophomore effort, Second Morning.  Though during that, auditions were held for Morning Musume and proteges for the group and Michiyo Heike.  For Morning Musume, they ended up with a winner, Maki Goto and ended up joining the group for their next single, LOVE Machine which ended up being a MAJOR MAJOR HIT for them, but it came with a cost.  The announcement that Aya Ishiguro would be graduating in January of the next year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Happy Night – As the overall B-side from Asuka’s final single, Happy Night is surprisingly good and telling of the times for the end of the year it feels.  Unlike the slow vibes of “Memory Seishun no Hikari” and the depressing tones of “Never Forget”, this is a song that really lets its hair down!  I am surprised that Sayaka and Kei had the only solos, but it’s a fun discotheque kind of track!
  • Manatsu no Kousen & Manatsu no Kousen (Vacation Mix) – Despite me having problems with the A-side of the last single, Manatsu no Kousen tried to set things back on an upbeat track with their summer song, Manatsu no Kousen.  While there’s the obvious push going on for Natsumi, she had a pretty solid voice though her high notes were pitchy to say the least.  Still, it sounds very upbeat and very 90’s.  Just wish there was more of the rest of the group!  The Vacation Mix found on their second album made things a little more clearer and the levels of sound were fixed a bit more. Honestly it didn’t do too much to change things around and I liked that.
  • Otome no Shinrigaku – Who knew Kei and Sayaka would basically get a song to  themselves here!  Funny enough this was the song that ended up being the catalyst for the creation of Petitmoni!  Back to the song, it’s probably the funkiest of them and it’s quirky and fun.  I am a little buzzed that headphones are bad for this because Kei sings through the left side and Sayaka on the right…so it’s a bit strange for me.  Still without them, it’s a solid song!
  • LOVE Machine – Though after the album, I think the standards were set PRETTY high with LOVE Machine which was the debut song for Maki (though also the last for Aya).  Unlike most of the songs here (exception of “Happy Night”), LOVE Machine was its own beast entirely going for more of a discotheque kind of sound.  This song is a legendary song for H!P and for good reason!  Great lyrics, awesome arrangement and new member Maki brought it as she was kind of the main here!

OK SONGS

  • Memory Seishun no Hikari – As the last A-side to include Asuka, I kind of felt letdown here with how much Nacchi was here.  Despite the obvious ace pushing going on in the song, the chilled out R&B style really suited the kind of vocals all 8 had at the time and wasn’t begging too much.  Though there are some unfortunate oddities like the rapping and the ending itself (sorry, but please no more adlibbing).  It’s a good song overall, but it does have a couple of problems.
  • Never Forget & Never Forget (Large Vocal Mix) – So for the first time in H!P history we have a single with 2 B-sides, but that’s only because this single was the first graduation single and I think Tsunku wanted to do something special for Asuka and so she got a solo track!  As for the song itself, it sounds a lot like stuff from the group’s first album, but with more Asuka lol.  Well the rest of the group is there, but they’re more like backups here.  From the album version, I feel there was no changes there…although maybe Momusu has more of a presence in the song…it’s still Asuka though so they’re just in the same slot.
  • Koi no Shihatsu Ressha – As the B-side from “Manatsu no Kousen”, Koi no Shihatsu Ressha sounds less old-timey and a bit more like Western Pop with the light guitar pop/rock sound.  Though the kind of reggae-ish verses were interesting to say the least.  Plus, it feels like Kaori and Yuko join Natsumi in solo lines which is always nice.  I really ended up liking the song even it feels a little like something left off the first album like “Never Forget”.
  • Furusato – I really do have a love/hate relationship with this song for sure.  I really do love that Momusu tackled a ballad for an A-side and it sounds beautiful and the lyrics while sad (because it’s basically about being homesick) were sweet. I just wish it wasn’t JUST Natsumi singing here.  Don’t get me wrong, she sounds good, but good lord you could’ve had the remaining 6 do something besides being back-ups…
  • NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY – Opening the group’s sophomore album, NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY followed suit to the group’s sound at the time with the whole urban R&B sound.  At least it didn’t have the raps as “Memory Seishun no Hikari” and “Wasurerannai” contained.  The opening was a bit aggressive, but it really smooths out after a while!  Not a bad track overall!
  • Daite HOLD ON ME! (N.Y. Mix) – Like “Manatsu no Kousen”, Daite HOLD ON ME! also got an album version and just as the aforementioned song, the changes are pretty minimal from the cleaner arrangement and changing the rapping section by making them filtered and the 2nd verse kind of following the “Sexy long version” from the “Morning Cop” OST.  Other than that, I would say it’s a mix of both versions?
  • Koi no Shihatsu Ressha (Album Version) – I should say that I was surprised to see a B-side get edited for the album as I wasn’t there to know if this song was a big song for them to garner the edit.  Unlike the light reggae sounds, Koi no Shihatsu Ressha’s arrangement has changed a LOT compared.  It’s a bit more poppy and synthy and sounds like some 90s pop.  I do think this sounds more complete and fulfilled so it definitely sticks out from the album!
  • 21seiki – As the B-side for “LOVE Machine”, I wasn’t expecting the sound of it to be rather familiar to songs on “Second Morning”.  What makes this one different is that while the arrangement is pretty much acoustic, the song is entirely sung in unison so no one really sticks out here.  The tune is pleasant and heartwarming, but it’s a pretty decent B-side so far.

MEH SONGS

  • Wasurerannai – If you missed the Momusu that did songs like “Summer Night Town”, “Daite HOLD ON ME!” or “Mirai no Tobira”, then the B-side from “Furusato” might tickle your fancy, but for me it’s just a hot mess and the rapping section is just strange to me.  It’s like they were trying to be classy but also edgy like TLC here and it just didn’t work together this time around.
  • Suki de×5 – I figured that the group wanted to tackle a big band kind of song and they tried that with this song.  I like the genre they were going for, but the song almost felt too flat for me.  I did also enjoyed hearing the ladies in a more sultry sound too, but a lot of the song does come off as a little awkward here.
  • Papa ni Niteiru Kare – I’m not sure why the new songs are mostly going over my head, but I feel like that’s the case with a lot of the “Second Morning” songs.  Yuko, Natsumi, and Kaori seem to be the leading ladies in the song, but the overall breezy pop sound, doesn’t seem to connect to me.
  • Senkou Hanabi – Another Natsumi focused song?  It seems this album is heavily centered around her this time around which is slightly bothersome.  With a little help from Sayaka and Kei, Senkou Hanabi is sounding a little bit like some of Michiyo Heike’s things.  Sadly, it just doesn’t leave much for me and I simply ended up forgetting about it.
  • Da Di Du De Do Da Di! – As the closer for their album, this odd-titled song made for a decent ending if the song wasn’t as long as it felt.  The lighthearted acoustic arrangement does sound nice but there’s some quirky things like how Yuko and Kei can’t sing together (they have lines that they completely miss!).  Add that the ending while cute with the mentions of “Morning Coffee”, “Karasu no Nyoubou”, “Last Kiss”, and “Happy Night” references…definitely dragged the song out TOO far for me.
  • LOVE Machine ~analog remix~ – A month later after the single’s release, LOVE Machine was released as a vinyl and came with a remix and a secret track.  The remix is 7 minutes in length and funny enough tries to urbanize the song a bit.  I sort of dug it, but it is just a bit too long and the verses have like no emotion to it.  Sadly not a great remix.

ICKY SONGS

  • Secret Track – Yeah it had to go somewhere, but the vinyl has a secret track, but it’s just background sounds and whoa, whoas and all that…why is this a thing?

Overall: After going through their 1st loss and having Gocchin take up the mantle, they had a pretty straightforward year.  Though while I thought their 2nd album was pretty meh, their singles were still the strongest releases!

Michiyo Heike

heike.jpg

anatanoyumeninaritaiscene

Unlike last year, it feels like Michiyo really stepped down on releases for some reason.  It could’ve been from the dwindling sales, but only releasing these two singles, Anata no Yume ni Naritai and scene, this was her only contributions to H!P in the year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Anata no Yume ni Naritai –  I feel like Michiyo’s pop/rock songs are getting a bit more easier to listen to and this song was a pretty good showcase of sounding 90s but having a good rock sound to it.  It does sound a tad bit dated in places but that’s always been the case for Heike’s music so it’s nothing new.  Still, it’s a cool song for Michiyo!
  • return – Funny that I thought the B-side to “scene” had a bit more oomph to it.  This time Michiyo switched things up and gave us a sultry performance with some cool R&B.  I’ve never heard Michiyo taking up a breathy style to her voice and she could’ve sung “Memory Seishun no Hikari” on her own to be honest!

OK SONGS

  • scene – As for the other A-side she released in the year, scene toned things down after the set of edgy singles she’s had and it’s a temperate letdown.  For me, it does sound a bit too laidback for me to really care.  It does have a certain anison feel to it, but scene is otherwise not one of her bests.

MEH SONGS

  • Haru da yo – I didn’t think Michiyo would once again make the B-side of the single more along a cuter route than the leading track.  Even if it doesn’t sound as corny as “Shinkokyuu Shiyou!!”, the song is a bit out of character and doesn’t really suit Michiyo’s grittier set of vocals.

Overall: Compared to last year, I’m not sure why Michiyo’s releases kind of were on the downlow for the year besides the fact there were multiple auditions, but still was rather low with just two singles.

Yuko Nakazawa

nakazawa

junjoukoushinkyoku

If you thought Michiyo had a slow year, Yuko’s solo career went even slower releasing her lone single of the year, Junjou Koushinkyoku.  Though she could use the excuse that she was pretty busy with Morning Musume to focus on this (plus I wonder how much she wanted to continue being an Enka artist.

OK SONGS

  • Junjou Koushinkyoku – Of all the enka songs, I’ve heard, most of them seem to really gel into each other and I end up mixing up the melodies to other songs.  This seems to be the case for Junjou Koushinkyoku as it feels like this could easily been on her first album.  I do like upbeat enka songs though, so it’s nothing to outrageous, but nothing ultimately memorable like “Karasu no Nyoubou” was.
  • Heisei Rhapsody – Which follows into the B-side of the single as it’s got the same upbeat arrangement, but luckily the melody is a little more playful and I remembered Yuko’s vocal performance more.  It’s a smidge better than the leading track, but at the same time…just as middle-of-the-road.

Overall: I guess it shows because Yuko was really busy dealing with Momusu that she would only release one single for the year…a bit sad as I like her voice, but she was kept busy!

Tanpopo

tanpopo.jpg

mottotanpoposeinarukanegahibikuyorutanpopo1

 After having Tanpopo being created at the end of last year, it seems Tsunku decided to put some focus this year on them with their first single, Motto.  Then less than a month later we see them releasing their first album, TANPOPO 1 and because of the album managed to release a recut single for Tanpopo.

Sadly, towards the end of the year, Aya Ishiguro announced that she was graduating in the beginning of the new millenium and thus made Seinaru Kane ga Hibiki Yoru her last single with the group.

GREAT SONGS

  • Wakattenai ja Nai – Seems like the trio’s first album was going to start off really nicely with “Last Kiss” first then this song which is styled a bit like boogie-woogie, but a little more classier.  There’s just something about Aya’s voice that really suits the song and she really gives it a sexy glow.  Oh yeah, it’s a solo song just for her!
  • Sentimental Minamimuki – Next is Mari’s solo track and I would say of the three, this one stuck out the most in the best way.  I’m surprised that it was supposed to be styled as U.K. R&B, but either way, it gives me this nostalgic vibe and the beat is just on point.  My only qualm though is that Mari is hitting some notes that she can’t exactly hit right in the chorus, but otherwise, it’s mad catchy.
  • ONE STEP – It feels like this song came from the same vein as a lot of Taiyou to Ciscomoon’s songs during the same period.  Though it has its own smooth twist that lets the trio have a little more fun with the song.  I do like the piano melody and just gives me this cool and sultry glow that Tanpopo had down to a T.
  • Tanpopo – Another album song that surprisingly caught my attention, the song named after the group had a pretty breezy, but strong 90s pop sound to it which stuck out to me.  Still a bit too sung lightly for me, but it’s an ethereal kind of song and I enjoyed this too much!
  • Suki – That Spanish guitar opening definitely took me by shock and unlike the majority of the album, this one tries to be upbeat and sultry in the same experience.  I really like the latin vibes out of this one and I just REALLY think these soft sung vocals suit this track!  One of my favorites from the album!
  • Tanpopo (Single Version) – I suppose this song really stuck out to people enough that it was to be rereleased as a single!  Initially, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two versions, but I feel this one sounds a lot better structured.  Still, one of the trio’s best songs!
  • A Rainy Day – Seems like Tsunku took some liberties from “Suki” for this B-side from “Tanpopo”.  I like the atmosphere of the song giving off this bright and party-like atmosphere and the trio sound pleasant here even with the brass going on and Engrish throughout.  I loved this song!

OK SONGS

  • Motto – As the group’s 2nd A-side, Motto is definitely still a bit more mature than what I was expecting from a H!P group, but not quite as wispy and sensual as “Last Kiss”.  As being another 90s R&B-like track from the trio, Motto is decent, but there’s something a little weird about it.
  • Ai no Uta – Opening with what could fit a spaghetti western movie, the B-side of “Motto” is actually pretty interesting as well as it’s got the trio singing in a lower, wispy style and I found that unique even the ~chu-lu chu-lu~ sections.  It’s refreshing that’s for certain and one of the stranger H!P things that worked.
  • Motto (album mix) – Seems like all of the leading songs got a new album version, but the original Motto didn’t make the album cut.  Unlike the original, the arrangement is a lot more sultry and softer and less sounding like a H!P track.  I do enjoy it more than the original, but it’s still not quite my favorite (though I heard it has never been performed live?)
  • Tanjoubi no Asa – With a piano intro like the one we got here, Tanjoubi no Asa felt a bit lacking somewhat despite the song’s melody to be memorable.  It took a bit while for the song to grow on me, but it’s slightly memorable even if it’s sung way too lightly for me to catch on.
  • Seinaru Kane ga Hibiki Yoru – As Ayappe’s final single for Tanpopo, Seinaru Kane ga Hibiki Yoru was obviously their Christmas song and despite how popular it got in later years, I never got into J-pop Xmas songs very much and this one doesn’t really stick out for me.  Vocals are of course just fine and the song doesn’t sound too bad as it reminds me of “Tanpopo” a bit.  I also would put the solo versions here as well (the B-sides, I suppose)

MEH SONGS

  • Kataomoi – Sadly, Kaori’s solo is somewhat a forgettable track from the album for me.  It definitely carries itself like something from Momusu’s first and second album and on top of that, Kaorin sounds a bit too light for a song with this loud of an arrangement.  Just kind of a slow burner.
  • Last Kiss (Album Version) – Closing their album, we get an album version of Last Kiss which also opened their album!  Though sadly, I didn’t think this version stood close to the original despite the intentions.  Replacing the arrangement by an all strings ensemble without resinging the tune is a mixture for issues and it’s really apparant that the two ideas clashed a bit too much.  Like I said, it’s a nice idea, but they really should’ve took some effort here!

Overall: Seemed very shortlived for Tanpopo with the three with Aya leaving and all.  Though I do think they had a solid year of releases and shockingly did better than Momusu did overall this year (though another group also did pretty damn good too, but we’ll get to that shortly).  Sad to see Aya leaving, but I wonder if it means Mari and Kaori are going to push forward as a duo, or something else?

Taiyou to Ciscomoon

taiyou-to-ciscomoon

tsukitotaiyougatamekirauchuudelatataeverydayeverywheremagicoflovemaruitaiyoutaiyouandciscomoon1

Back in 1998 in November, Tsunku announced an audition to further out Hello! roster and such and this one in particular was shown on ASAYAN.  Initially the process led with 8 finalists split into two groups (San Fran & Cisco Moon) and trained a bit.  Initially, Atsuko Inaba, Miho Shinoda, and Miwa Kominato were the winners but the last member was left for the remaining 5 until RuRu Honda was the final piece of the puzzle impressing Tsunku with her vocals (also her name changed in the period as well).

After the 4 won, they were sent to the United States to train under various American styles of music and in April, debuted with Tsuki to Taiyou.  Though it was a challenge as if they didn’t do better than Momusu’s “Ai no Tane” they wouldn’t go any further than their debut.  They succeeded easily!

After a month with that, the group would go and release a single each month for 4 months with Gatamekira, Uchuu de La Ta Ta, Everyday Everywhere, and Magic of Love before releasing their first album, Taiyo&Ciscomoon 1.

Sadly after that, the company announced that Kominato would leave the group leaving Taiyou to Ciscomoon as a trio and released a single Marui Taiyou -winter ver.-.  That was all of 1999…very shocking end to the year to say the least!

GREAT SONGS

  • Gatamekira – I think for me, the group didn’t really start to kick some ass until their 2nd single and thank god that they were able to continue as a group because we wouldn’t have got this gem!  Following the sultry R&B sound, I think this song basically showcased RuRu’s vocals on top of everyone’s stronger appearance.  Is that Tsunku I’m hearing???
  • Tsuki to Taiyou -sexy beam remix- – I should mention that their singles after their debut have many remixes that I’m going to have to tackle.  The sexy beam remix of Tsuki to Taiyou really chills things down and finally the melody of the quartet can shine better to a better arrangement and it’s a MAJOR upgrade to the song.  Definitely a cool, laidback song to jam along to.
  • Tsuki to Taiyou -more cool remix- – Alright, this is a nice throwback to some Eurobeat stuff that Americans were drowning in during the early 90’s.  The other Tsuki to Taiyou remix is just as cool and hearing RuRu’s ad-libs are just pleasing to me!  The chorus is slightly disappointing, but the arrangement for the remix is cool and the added rap section was nicely added in.
  • Uchuu de La Ta Ta – As the group’s 3rd A-side, Uchuu de La Ta Ta begins with some spoken dialogue in Chinese from RuRu which was unheard of in H!P!  Unlike the darker side R&B, Uchuu de La Ta Ta sounds exciting and bright and you can hear it in the quartet.  I really do love the verses though…always sing with it!  What a wonderful song this turned out to be!
  • Everyday Everywhere – Despite Tsunku saying this isn’t a ballad, it is their slowest A-side yet.  With the track’s simplistic R&B beats and piano/guitar melody, it let the group manage to show off their smoother sides and group dynamic overall!  I really love this song a lot and just dug the groove overall!
  • Uchuu de La Ta Ta -after summer remix- – The second remix for Uchuu de La Ta Ta took the song in a TOTALLY different direction by making it more beach friendly (to the point where even Coconuts Musume could’ve done this).  Even though it doesn’t have as strong of a beat as I would’ve liked, the summery vibes are aplenty and that stuck out nicely!
  • Magic of Love – Like with “Uchuu de La Ta Ta”, the 4th and last of the single rush sounded like a song that makes you happy no matter what and this disco track also felt like it really worked along the skills the 4 have.  I especially LOVE the big RuRu solo in the bridge…she just really worked the hell out of this song.  Definitely deserve the love it gets today (even if Juice=Juice doesn’t come close to this amount of awesomeness).
  • Chinmoku – Probably the only song off their album that really caught me by surprise, Chinmoku is a weird song for them in a couple ways.  It did take the quartet to more of a Bossa Nova vibe here and that the lyrics are split into their syllables, so the members get one with every time they sing.  Though the girls are singing in a whispy way, the song is pretty classy and the gimmick behind it is unusual, yet cool at the same time.

OK SONGS

  • Tsuki to Taiyou – As the group’s debut, Tsuki to Taiyou sounds pretty familiar to more of the urban sound that Momusu was doing at the time.  I will say that immediately that all 4 members had smooth, silky vocals that resonated to me with this one.  Though the song does sound a smidge jumbled here and there and the chorus kind of came out of nowhere.  Still for a debut, this was impressive!
  • Get on my Love – As the B-side from their debut, Get on my Love felt more like a TLC song.  It did feel more focused than “Tsuki to Taiyou” did and the vocals were able to freely stand out.  I enjoyed enough, but it still doesn’t seem quite right despite the sales say.
  • Gatamekira -GTS more energy remix- – Gatamekira’s first remix definitely took the song to a different spot than I thought it would especially for dragging the opening as long as they did.  Once the verses kick in, it picked up, but not in the way that I thought it would.  I actually think the original has more energy xD
  • Versus – Funny that it took towards the end of the year that we’d get another B-side.  From “Magic of Love”, Versus was going up an already amazing song and I figured it wasn’t going to last very long of enjoyment.  The tune is decent, but it’s lacking that soulful energy that most of TaiMoon’s previous songs had.
  • Be Cool Down – Going into their album songs, Be Cool Down is the first new track and it does show the group in a slightly different direction taking a stronger R&B sound here.  Though it’s definitely a Miho/Atsuko duet as the other two only say the title of the track here and there.  I really do love the smokier vocals and chilled atmosphere…interesting song!
  • ENDLESS LOVE ~I Love You More~ – As the last song off the album, ENDLESS LOVE takes the group back into disco-land and while it’s once again led by Miho and Atsuko, it’s actually a memorable song amongst the other tracks and feels like it could’ve been a single.  Bright song and fun to listen to!
  • Marui Taiyou -winter ver.- – After Miwa left the group, we were left with a trio and Marui Taiyou which is the group’s winter entry.  While I do enjoy the upbeat sound here, I was a bit bored due to the song being sung entirely in unison and such.  I suppose it’s OK, but they’ve had better A-sides.
  • Magic of Love (Masters of funk remix) – This remix of Magic of Love does keep things a little close to the original in comparison to the other remix.  Actually it might be a little too safe as it’s REALLY straightforward.  It’s a decent remix if not slightly bland.

MEH SONGS

  • Gatamekira -digital gigolo remix- – I’m not sure what happened with this remix, but this one is a bit annoying and just doesn’t work with the vocal melody.  I do like the deeper synths and all but with no sticking beat and the overall weird flow, it just didn’t do well for me.
  • Uchuu de La Ta Ta -super afro remix- – I was hoping that the remixes for Uchuu de La Ta Ta was going to be decent, but I feel like the song was left behind for the music, which I was surprised it took H!P this long to end up here.  The parts that do appear are short, but it worked with the beat…sadly, as a whole, it was forgettable.
  • Everyday Everywhere -crazy dance remix- – You would think that I’d love this remix as I love EDM tracks as it is.  Everyday Everywhere’s first remix could’ve been that if it hadn’t felt empty and repetitive.
  • Hey You! – Another album song, Hey You! feels quite disjointed as a song due to both the arrangement and once again the members not really connecting vocally (RuRu and Miho lines are VERY rough).  As for the music, the rapping is meh, the arrangement while more urban, just felt empty as well.  Just bleh!
  • Sunrise Soredemo Hi wa Noboru – What a weird way to open this song with such chaotic chords!  The song it feels like is taking some notes from “Mirai no Tobira” with the overly R&B/Urban sound.  Add that it’s a Miwa-led song with Atsuko and Miho appearing in and out and the song is a bit of a hard listen.
  • Magic of Love (T.Y.P. remix) – Not sure what to think of this Magic of Love remix because it seems to remove all the fanfare-like substance that the original had (and surprising that Miwa was left intact despite she left).  There’s just something missing even though the idea does sound good.

ICKY SONGS

  • Everyday Everywhere -sugee reggae remix- – Though I think what took the cake here in bad moments is releasing a 9 minutes reggae remix.  Not only is it too damn long for my tastes, it drags FOREVER and it’s repetitive at that.  It really doesn’t work and luckily isn’t a main track (or given to Coconuts Musume for that matter).
  • Introduction – As the opening of their album, Introduction does very little for me being 30 seconds and the group doesn’t even sing, instead a rapper does some things…just a weird intro.
  • Interlude 1 ~Breath~ – Yes, their album was chockful of interludes and such.  Breath is the first up and for being a minute long, it does make me feel awkward hearing the door squeaks and breathing in the background.  The music does gradually get a little better towards the end, but that’s the last 20 seconds.
  • Interlude 2 ~Soul Train~ – These interludes are just not sticking at all, at least this one is slightly memorable due to Miwa’s Minyo vocalizations.  But that’s about it!
  • Interlude 3 ~Waga Omoi~ – The last of the interludes does begin with a ringtone of “Tsuki to Taiyou” before it goes into urban sounds and a RuRu monologue before it ends.  Strange…
  • Finale – Of course we’d have an outro…  So the album closes out with some footsteps and a heartbeat before what sounds like a door shutting and a crowd screaming.  I suppose it’s meant for something, but it’s just unusual overall.

Overall: For such a year, I feel like Taiyou to Ciscomoon hit the ground running and definitely scored most releases this year (even more than Morning Musume and Tanpopo).  I am a bit shocked at Miwa’s sudden departure and the excuses from the company as to why..but I mean now we have three alto singers together…so who knows what the trio can pull off for the new millenium.

Coconuts Musume

coconuts

halationsummerdancenchance

Back in November of last year, auditions were surprisingly held out in Hawaii by Makoto to find a new group with an international flavor and out of 1500 girls, only 5 passed: Chelsea Ching, April Barbaran, Danielle Delauney, Ayaka Kimura, and Mika Todd.  They were shown off in May to a bewildered Momusu on ASAYAN and shocked people further when their single was announced as Halation Summer / Summer Night Town (English Version).  Though this single was released simultaneously as Country Musume’s debut in July.

A month later, they would release their 2nd single, DANCE & CHANCE.

OK SONGS

  • Halation Summer – As the group’s debut, Halation Summer is a bit wild for a debut.  Considering that 3/5 of the group didn’t have a strong grasp at the language.  It does have a strong tropical theme which was their whole shtick.  The song was fun although language was weird but the heavy amount of Ayaka helped out a lot!
  • Summer Night Town (English Version) – Though I was most surprised that their other debut song was a cover of Momusu’s 2nd A-side AND in English which was handled a lot better than “Halation Summer”.  My problem is the vocals aren’t harmonizing very well, although they are doing vocalizations (thinking of Taiyou to Ciscomoon).
  • DANCE & CHANCE and DANCE & CHANCE (English Version) – There’s something familiar with DANCE & CHANCE although I think that sound becomes more apparant next year.  Anyways, Coco’s 2nd A-side is a little more dance-centric and less tropical sounding like their debut.  Of course, I feel like Chelsea really showed up as she’s doing the vocalizations this time around and she sounds amazing!  Once again Ayaka does the Japanese for the most part which I’m fine with.  Also there was an English version which actually made the tune better as well!  Good second single!
  • Zurui Onna (English Version) – Surprise, Surprise!  Coconuts actually ended up covering a Sharam Q track, this time Zurui Onna and honestly this sounds pretty good in English and the harmonizations have been worked on a little bit as well!  It’s a lot more poppy than one would think, but it’s a decent cover!

Overall: Of the 4 new groups introduced this year, I feel this is one of the more interesting ideas by having 5 Hawaiians put into a group.  I’m a little worried that maybe the gimmick will run short or the girls might start having issues continuing to sing in Japanese…

Country Musume

Countrymusume_1999

futarinohokkaidoyukigeshiki

So in March, another audition was announced but this time wasn’t from Tsunku!  This one was from Yoshitake Tanaka who thought he could kick off a group just from his love of farming & nature.  From the auditions there were 9 finalists and they were sent to work to a farm until 3 winners were chosen: Hiromi Yanagihara, Azusa Kobayashi, and Rinne Toda.  They were to debut with their indies single, before tragedy struck and Yanagihara passed away in a car crash.  The parents were giving the choice to either stop the release or let it release and they chose the latter giving Futari no Hokkaido as the group’s first release (which was an indies single)

However a month later and Kobayashi would announce she was leaving.  Most people think it’s either from a scandal or just her not being able to cope with the loss of Yanagihara.

After that a couple months went by before Rinne returned with a second indies single, Yukigeshiki was released to the public and that was the year basically.

GREAT SONGS

  • Yuki da Yori – Did Rinne join Tanpopo?  This song is so light and more mature than previous efforts and this was a B-side!  There’s just something about Rinne’s voice here that just seemed to work and she wasn’t straining like she was elsewhere.  Very nice and relaxing song and her acoustic guitar lines are just really pretty!

OK SONGS

  • Futari no Hokkaido – As the trio’s debut (and only one with the 3), Futari no Hokkaido definitely reminds me of like early H!P for some reason.  Opening with a horse neigh and spelling Hokkaido then turning into some diner-friendly song, it stuck nicely.  Though Rinne had the only solo, the song isn’t bad and was a nice debut even if it was a rather bittersweet song.
  • Morning Gyuunyuu – If the title wasn’t slightly apparant, it’s a sort of cover? of “Morning Coffee”.  I will say I’m happy that Hiromi and Azusa have a much stronger appearance here as all three have solo lines throughout.  I did find it funny that at how country the arrangement is, they threw in some idol-rapping lines in as well.  Weird idea, but it slightly worked!
  • Yukigeshiki – After the chaos that befell the group, after the break, when Rinne came back, it was surprising to see she’d be all by herself for this A-side (a rather bold move to keep the Country Musume name alive).  This song had Rinne and an acoustic guitar which was interesting.  I really did enjoy the lighter country sound but I’m not entirely sure Rinne could handle things by herself quite yet.

Overall: What a tragic year this was for this group who had such a hopeful start. I mean R.I.P. to Yanagihara, but going from 3 to just Rinne by herself, I feel bad for her, but also quite respectful of continuing despite the hardships.  Be interesting how this story continues next year.

Chinatsu Miyoshi

miyoshi

unchainmyheartloveyesido

In February, an audition was held for the 1st Protege for Morning Musume & Michiyo Heike and out of 2000 applicants, Miyoshi was the lone winner and was given a solo career to run alongside Yuko and Michiyo.  However, she was produced by Kaoru Sanada and not Tsunku and released her first two singles Unchain My Heart Love, Yes I do!

GREAT SONGS

  • Unchain My Heart – When she was announced as a winner than given her solo career, I would imagine many were curious where she’d fit between rocker Michiyo and enka-tinted Yuko.  Luckily, Unchain My Heart was more of an upbeat ballad, but felt very 90’s too. Chinatsu’s vocals to me were a little rough, but had a sense of maturity to them too.  It might sound a bit behind the times, but it’s definitely a memorable song!

OK SONGS

  • Namonaki Generation – As the B-side of “Unchain My Heart”, Namonaki Generation reminds me of Michiyo Heike’s works as it had a little more guitarwork and a serious sound to it.  While not as strong as the leading song, it’s nice that she’s a little versatility.  Plus the verses were pretty neat!
  • Love, Yes I do! – As Miyoshi’s 2nd A-side, Love, Yes I do! is actually a lot like “Namonaki Generation” without too much guitar.  The song is a bit more upbeat and bright and has a certain romantic feeling to it.  It’s a good song, but also somewhat like we’ve had this in her previous single.
  • Lonely Surrender – Another similar song eh?  It actually now reminds me of “Unchain My Heart”, but there’s some nice guitars and stringwork and a little bit of synthwork too.  It’s OK, but could be better.

Overall: For someone to win an audition and become a solo artist is pretty big in its own right and I congratulate Chinatsu for winning, but I’m not sure about the style of music she got as it’s kind of behind the times and a little generic maybe.  Let’s see if she gets better in the next year.

Petitmoni

petitmoni

chokottolove

Last, but not least, it seems like H!P wasn’t quite done making units and in October created Petitmoni to further push new member Goto.  About adding Sayaka and Kei, he thought they sounded great together in “Otome no Shinrigaku”.  Though with the end of the year coming close, they only managed to put out their single, Chokotto LOVE.

GREAT SONGS

  • Chokotto LOVE – As the trio’s debut, I wasn’t expecting quirky and cute for Chokotto LOVE, but it definitely did wonders for all three members by having them with multiple solos and just that perky energy.  I actually really enjoyed the three together as their vocals meshed well together and they gave the song such a fun atmosphere.  I even liked that the PV was essentially put after “LOVE Machine”.
  • DREAM&KISS – Wow, what a trippy song the B-side of the single was!  With an otherworldly arrangement with a bunch of synths, this Petitmoni song is for sure dreamy with its composition and the trio sound great once again (each member gets two solo each).

Overall: Even though I know the unit was created just for Goto and Tsunku’s love for “Otome no Shinrigaku”, I’d say this is a pretty hopeful and exciting trio as Sayaka and Kei needed something to get them out there and Maki was kind of the push and lead they needed!

Melon Kinenbi

melon

So during the year, more auditions happened and the 3rd Michiyo/Momusu protege auditions ended with these four Megumi Murata, Masae Ohtani, Ayumi Shibata, and Hitomi Saito winning in the end.  Despite the win, they didn’t become active during the year only with the news of their name being announced in December as Melon Kinenbi…

Other H!P Releases

thegaragethegarage2

So the only releases that sort-of include H!P members were of these two singles from the show THE GARAGE.  Though it featured artists that were under zetima who were at the time Momusu & Taiyou to Ciscomoon and other non-H!P artists. Both The Garage Vol. 1 & 2 had three songs each.  (sadly I haven’t been able to find these songs, nor could I really say these were H!P releases, but I thought to mention it).

Gains & Losses

Gains

  • Atsuko Inaba
  • Miho Shinoda
  • RuRu Honda
  • Rinne Toda
  • Chelsea Ching
  • April Barbaran
  • Danielle Delauney
  • Ayaka Kimura
  • Mika Todd
  • Chinatsu Miyoshi
  • Maki Goto
  • Masae Ohtani
  • Ayumi Shibata
  • Megumi Murata
  • Hitomi Saito

Losses

  • Asuka Fukuda
  • Hiromi Yanagihara
  • Azusa Kobayashi
  • Miwa Kominato

My H!P Member Ranking for ’99

  • 27. Masae Ohtani (NEW)
  • 26. Hitomi Saito (NEW)
  • 25. Megumi Murata (NEW)
  • 24. Ayumi Shibata (NEW)
  • 23. Hiromi Yanagihara (NEW)
  • 22. Azusa Kobayashi (NEW)
  • 21. April Barbaran (NEW)

At the end are Melon Kinenbi because other than being the winners of the audition, NOTHING has really popped up about them, so they round out the end.  Let’s really start with the lower end of the spectrum; while I know the loss of Hiromi was huge and the after-effect of Azusa leaving impacted Country Musume, I feel like the lone single for them didn’t do them any favors vocally I think because Rinne was the front member.  I mean you didn’t hear them in the A-side and the B-side had them rapping a lot of the song (for their solos)…I feel like they really didn’t leave too much of an impact.  As for April, I didn’t even know if she had a presence in the group as she only had one singluar solo in their songs and the other 4 just stood out exponentially further than she did…

  • 20. Miwa Kominato (NEW)
  • 19. Yuko Nakazawa (-18)
  • 18. Mika Todd (NEW)
  • 17. Kaori Iida (-9)
  • 16. Chelsea Ching (NEW)

I felt like Miwa was actually the weak link in Taiyou to Ciscomoon despite she had the best control in her tone of voice.  With her Minyo style of singing, she was able to basically hit notes like a laser beam, but with her high pitched voice going against ther other 3 members’ lower tones, it was a bit awkward at times.  So surprised to see she left the group, but we’ll see what happens in the next year!  From being the top last year, I felt nothing from Yuko this year despite her releasing one single.  Even in Momusu, Yuko was kind of pushed back in favor for Natsumi.  It just wasn’t a strong showing in the year.  New member, Mika was kind of middle of the road for me this year as her prominent appearance was in “Summer Night Town” when she debut with the other Coconuts members.  Like Yuko, Kaori found herself pushed towards the back when Natsumi got the overly done push, but unlike Yuko she also had Tanpopo where she became a bit stronger of a presence and sounded really pleasant!  Coconuts’ Chelsea might’ve been put towards the end if it wasn’t the impressive showing for “DANCE & CHANCE.  Otherwise she’s kind of forgotten due to her lack of knowing the Japanese language, but meh.

  • 15. Asuka Fukuda (-12)
  • 14. Michiyo Heike (-12)
  • 13. Rinne Toda (NEW)
  • 12. Chinatsu Miyoshi (NEW)
  • 11. Danielle Delauney (NEW)

As the first Hello! Project member to leave, I feel like Asuka got a pretty good deal with a solo song for herself, though the single she left on was the beginning of the Nacchi push so it kind of felt like it went over people’s heads.  Michiyo had a MUCH quieter year this year with only two singles released, not sure what happened but she just wasn’t quite as in the front but it was an OK year for her.  With all that she’s been through this year, I’m surprised Rinne chose to continue her career under the Country Musume name despite the losses they endured.  I also seem to really enjoy that she’s playing guitar in her music now, very cute and seperates her from the other members!  While I feel that Chinatsu came out of nowhere to debut under a different person (like Rinne), Chinatsu comes off pretty mysterious to me but her music is pretty light and good to enjoy on slow days.  Some really strong things happened where Danielle was the first White gal to join H!P.  Yes, she sticks out, but she has a really sweet voice and can really pull off some great vocalizations.  I’m definitely going to watch where she goes!

  • 10. Sayaka Ichii (-4)
  • 9. Ayaka Kimura (NEW)
  • 8. Natsumi Abe (-1)
  • 7. Mari Yaguchi (-2)
  • 6. Kei Yasuda (+3)

A lot of these Momusu members would have been pushed towards the back if not for the sheer fact that there was sub-groups.  That was the case of SayakaMari, and Kei.  Although they were put in their places just for vocals alone which is still pretty impressive that none of them really had Momusu spotlight this year.  Ayaka is clearly the only one comfortable singing in both English and Japanese so it’s obvious that she’s pretty much the lead in songs for now!  As for Nacchi I was a bit surprised how much push she got before Gocchin joined the group as she nearly became the only important member in Momusu no thanks to “Furusato” and some of the tracks off “Second Morning”.

  • 5. Maki Goto (NEW)
  • 4. Atsuko Inaba (NEW)
  • 3. Miho Shinoda (NEW)
  • 2. Aya Ishiguro (+2)
  • 1. RuRu Honda (NEW)

It hasn’t been very long but I feel like Gocchin was there to pretty much knock down the wall that was the Nacchi hax and gave us a mind-blowing single in “LOVE Machine” and would continue into the creation of Petitmoni.  Will this wave continue to flourish?  For Atsuko and Miho they’re both kind of at the same talent and power which is still pretty impressive with them also being in the same group.  I just really love these lower vocals for sure!  While I am really sad to see Ayappe leaving in the new millenium what she did this year was quite amazing and her vocals in Tanpopo are just amazing!  Seriously though I think the clear winner this year was RuRu!  Who knew a member could come into H!P with such amazing vocals and talent would seriously show up the remainder girls?  She really does have a classy presence and those vocals are so powerful…yeah she’s definitely the best H!P right now!!!

 

 

NEXT TIME, THE NEW MILLENIUM!!!

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H!P Profiles: Hello! Pro Kenshuusei Hokkaido

ksshokkaido

Top Row L to R: Hikari Sato, Haruka Oota, Mei Yamazaki
Bottom Row L to R: Kanami Ishiguri, Minori Kawano, Yume Kudo, Ryou Kitagawa

Back in 2015, H!P announced an audition for a group in Hokkaido (well, technically that was never totally confirmed to be a group, especially with the outcome).  Either way, the auditions came and went but there was silence for quite a while before emerging in July at the Summer concerts where these 7 were announced as Kenshuusei but not quite a part of the collective it seems.  See, as they are from Hokkaido, performances would be difficult because of the traveling they’d have to go through, so from that they decided to seperate them and make them a branch of the KSS.

Discography

SINGLES

  • Real☆Little☆Girl / Kanojo ni Naritai!!! (Hello! Pro Kenshuusei Hokkaido Ver.) (indies)

Overall: This is an interesting twist as the whole Kenshuusei thing was pretty standard it seemed.  While this does remind me of H!P Kansai and how much of a flop it turned out to be (SINA *cough*).  Though it’s funny they have an official picture whereas the KSS vanilla has none and the fact these 7 released a single together…is this a group waiting to happen?!?

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°C-ute to disband in 2017

cute

Today, it was announced that the eldest group in H!P currently will disband at Saitama Super Arena in June of 2017.

Honestly, while the timing was surprising, the overall thoughts were that it wasn’t as much of a shock considering the tenure they’ve been pulling since they’ve debuted.  I love the group and as much as I think Airi, Maimi, and Chisato were the vocal powerhouses, Saki and Mai were pretty integral as well!

More news is that they’ll release one more single and won’t take part in the Winter H!P concerts.  Makes me think there’ll also be a best album thrown in like when Berryz called it a day.

Don’t know what other surprises are in store, but it’ll be a nice run towards the end!

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Tsubaki Factory gains 3 members?…WHT?!?

Yup!  Announced today at a Fanclub event, the group annouced 3 new members (all from the Kenshuusei…so let’s get to know them!

Saori Onoda

onoda

Probably the most familiar face of the trio, Saorin kind of took up Karin’s mantle when she started doing the Pinkss stuff and even then she surprised many for her Shindan Test performance opting for a recorder solo!  To me she stands as a good face for the group next to Yumeno currently.  It’ll be interesting to see what she’ll bring, but I have a feeling she’ll be a lead next to Yumeno and Kiki.

Mao Akiyama

akiyama

The next gal up is Mao Akiyama!  Though I am sad to say that between her and the other girl that’s coming up, I don’t have too much of an opinion on them.  With Akiyama though, she is known for her dancing abilities so that’ll come in handy for more upbeat songs.  We’ll see how things go!

Mizuho Ono

onomitsu

The last girl, Mizuho is really an enigmatic to the group as she kind of runs in the middle of the road leaving nothing that really sets her apart from her KSS sisters.  She has gotten better singing since her induction to the KSS, but how it’ll stand amongst the other 8 will be interesting.

Overall, I feel like moving Tsubaki to a 9-nin group might be a little overkill, but I feel like the group really needed a spark as not many fans are won over quite yet.  While I see Saori being a good choice, it’ll be worth seeing if Mao and Mizuho can add something else as well!  Though announcing this not even a week after the 6-nin released “Hitorijime / Watashi ga Obasan ni Nattemo” is beyond weird

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