Iroppoi Twilight Game

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

So the Kenshuusei is getting another new unit?!? Oh wait….it’s not permanent

Not even 2 days before the Summer concerts begin is when we get an announcement of a sort-of new unit within the Kenshuusei….not surprisingly named Hello Pro Kenshuusei Unit.  The idea behind is that they’ll watch over the members involved, but will swap girls out here and there for the time beings (slightly like BEYOOOOONDS?).  At least for now the current 5 girls are

Yonemura_Kirara_2018Ishiguri_Kanami_2018Kubota_Nanami_2018Kanemitsu_Ruru_20181Saito_Madoka

Yup, the members you see here; Kirara Yonemura, Kanami Ishiguri, Nanami Kubota, Ruru Kanemitsu, and Madoka Saito were the ones chosen to start things off, not sure if they’ll get an original song too, but it is interesting they’d announce this 2 days before the concerts begin but I do think most of these girls seem ready to do something bigger, but goodness is the KSS getting small x.x

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ANGERME News incoming!

Well, it seems that in the weeks before H!P’s Summer tour, ANGERME has had some news regarding the group and I felt it was the right time to start talking so let’s get the first big news out of the way!

Rina Katsuta announces graduation

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Couple weeks back, Rinapuu announced that she was graduating from ANGERME at the end of September to focus on studies (which is a fair conclusion)

To me, Rina was like the underdog when it comes to S/mileage/ANGERME because when she was first added to the group, she did look odd (lazy eye was pretty prominent) and she didn’t get many lines (or a song like Yattaruchan to boost her up like it did for Kanana).  Though for whatever reason when the name changed in the group, Rina was starting to have more solos and prominence and presence all in one!  She was always a great member and while her low energy performance might stick out in a rather rambunctious group, it made her feel like the mom of the group (next to Ayacho was) so it’s going to be sad when she does leave!

New Member joins the group!

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Not even a day of warning and ANGERME teased something new was going to happen, well a couple hours later, it was announced that a new member has joined the group! (Katsuta replacement?) Either way it’s none other than Rin Hashisako who was a Kenshuusei member prior to the announcement!

Honestly, she has been growing a lot since joining and her voice is getting better and better as evident from the Test Recitals they’ve been doing!  Young, but she might be a great asset to the group, just surprising that she was added only 1 single (and an album) after Ise & Oota were so watching these 3 will be interestings!

 

I’m already pumped to see what the Summer concerts will bring (with Hashisako, 3 new Momusu members, the two new members for Juice=Juice, and BEYOOOOONDS performing more, and hopefully some new releases to fill the summer with).  It’ll be awesomes!

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Morning Musume to finally bring in new members!

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I mean what a surprise that we’re getting new members in both Juice=Juice and Morning Musume to essentially (fill in the spots), here I feel like the 3 new members that we got were added to kind of fill the void that Kudo, Ogata, and Iikubo left.

Also there isn’t pictures of the members by themselves quite yet so we’re going off this one above.

 

So going from L to R, we begin with Mei Yamazaki who was a part of the Kenshuusei Hokkaido branch.  Honestly, it’s a good choice and I’m sure she and Miki could have some kind of English conversation which would mean more push for the group to be world wide.

The other two girls in order, Homare Okamura Rio Kitagawa are brand new members and rightfully the winners of the auditions (unless more finalists get placed elsewhere).

Not quite sure how they’ll stack up within the group, but so far it seems like it’ll be an interesting ride with this 15th Generation!

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Juice=Juice comes in with the shadowdrop of new members!

Well, not quite a shadow drop, but we only really had 2 days to brace ourselves for new members to join the group (arguably assuming they’re to kind of take the place that Yanagawa & Miyazaki left behind since they graduated/is graduating so let’s talk about it!

Yume Kudo

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The first girl announced was Yume Kudo from the Hokkaido branch and I was happily surprised with this addition and she did win the Dancing award at the Kenshuusei test so seeing her being added was pretty awesome.  I am curious to see what’s going to happen with the Hokkaido girls now that there’s only 4 left (Ishuguri, Yamazaki, Sato, and Kawano).

Riai Matsunaga

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Well hot damn, one of my favorites in the current KSS line-up also seemed to have been given the green light to join the group!  Yeah, she won the Test Recital and she’s been super solid since joining the Kenshuusei so I’m super happy to see she joined.

 

Can’t wait to see them debut (seems like they’ll be shown off first at the group’s next Budokan live!

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Morning Musume PVs Through the Years!: Arigatou Harunas!

It’s that time again!  This time we’re going through a set of PVs that were set when both Haruna Ogata and Haruna Iikubo graduated from H!P (basically all of 2018).  So that mean’s we will be talking about: Are you Happy?, A gonna, Furari Ginza, Jiyuu na Kuni Dakara, and Y Jiro no Tochuu!

Are you Happy?

The Song: As I said at the top of the post, these singles are graduation singles, this along with “A gonna” marked the graduation for Haruna Ogata specifically, but honestly, if you had told me this was, I wouldn’t believe you!  It’s mostly because she really only gets one solo line in the song and she wasn’t totally shown off heavily to really show that it’s her last single with the group.

What Genre is it?: EDM mostly with a little bit of a African touch in it (the bridge) but the rest is a synth haven.

The Premise: None

The Setting: I think personally, the setting is the most interesting part of the PV because it’s shot at a place I’ve seen before in Nami Tamaki’s “Realize” PV and it’s in front of and in the plaza of the Fuefukigawa Fruit Park.  Other than that there’s a night shot on the other side of the park which is neat and features rainbow lights in the background!

The Outfits: Simple Silver & White outfits for the entire song.  Nothing much to say about them really, kind of sticks out in the day shots, but otherwise yeah kind of boring IMO.

The Choreography: I think the other thing from the PV that stuck out was its choreography as it’s a bit quick-paced but it seems slightly messy at times too.  The odd pre-chorus section where the girls start doing this weird wavy dance circle around Sakura & Mizuki was super awkward and the hopping in the bridge just felt strange to me, but the rest was cool I’d say

PV as a Whole: I want to like the PV as theres points where I do, but other times I feel like it’s a bit messy due to both the choreo and the song itself.  Are you Happy? might not be on the higher echelon of their EDM songs in their catalog, but I suppose it’s decent.

A gonna

The Song: While it was performed earlier than “Are you Happy?”, A gonna was the unique one off the single as it had a different sound, slightly drifting away from EDM here.  Nothing much important to say here, but once again, there was not a lot of Haachin to hold here as she definitely stood out less here.

What Genre is it?: Slight EDM vibes (especially that early bridge after the second run in the chorus) but it has a little more of a hip-hoppish vibe to it (some trap beats included too).

The Premise: None

The Setting: I want to say that A gonna’s set reminds me a bit of a darker “Umaku Ienai” from ANGERME due to the stage-esque setting and the random stuff lying about.  I mean the messy garage-like area is cool and I like how there’s a car and some interesting set pieces to look at was good, but that’s really it…no alternate locations, just solo shots and group shots in and around the space.

The Outfits: This time it seems the group is wearing casuals this time around.  Though I had to say that the only girls that really stuck out to me were Maria (looked unique among the crowd) and Chisaki and Reina (they wore yellow and that popped out a LOT).  Every one is OK, but the white is heavy!

The Choreography: I really am not sure what to think about the choreo here honestly, it’s also just a bit too messy for my liking, but there are certain parts that it sticks out, but adding with the casual clothes make it seems a bit much to me.  Plus some of the robotics were strange and just the overall hits just don’t work.  Yikes!

PV as a whole: I kind of like the fresh take of the group for the PV for A gonna, but mesh that with the frankly weird choreography and odd way the song is, it feels cool, but weird all at once.  I’m not sure how to feel about this song and PV quite yet xD.

Furari Ginza

The Song: Finally getting into Haruna Iikubo’s graduation single, we start with Furari Ginza which felt like the experimentation track off the single because it sounded different than the last couple A-sides we’ve had from Momusu.

What Genre is it?: Not sure where I’d completely put it, but maybe like swing/pop maybe?  Something a little nostalgic for back when I’d say.

The Premise: Not really much of a premise, but it does show of some semblance like Maria and Kaede flirting with the rest of the group (as they’re dressed like guys).

The Setting: At the opening, it did seem weird with the cutout backdrops, but luckily once the song begins, the group is placed in a little city setting (ala cardboard cutouts like Hello! Morning almost).  It’s cute I’ll give it that.  Solo shots though are done in front of blue curtains with flashing lights too.  Add in some extra odd shots of the old timey-wimey filters and some green-screen shots and there’s Furari Ginza.  Kind of happy with this setting for sure!

The Outfits: There’s a certain kind of old time feel with the main outfits for this song with each member having some unique color schemes and jewelry and what not but I think Maria and Kaedii got lucky because they get these suits and moustaches as they’re playing the men woo-ing the ladies.

The Choreography: While it is a step up from the previous single, Furari Ginza’s is a little reminiscent of the old formation dances and such and I love how they break up into smaller groups of girls with their own choreo simultaneously going on with the main dance too!  Though I do cringe at the dab at the end of each chorus, the choreo is fine!

PV as a whole: While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the song, the PV definitely helped it out in many ways by being fun and silly and kind of catchy to listen and watch as well.  I like the brightness of it all and the teasing from Maria & Kaede was pretty fun too, probably my favorite PV of the 5 here!

Jiyuu na Kuni Dakara

The Song: As the other A-side, Jiyuu na Kuni Dakara was the song that would fill the group’s EDM quota and here we are!  Nothing special to note here sadly, but I mean the song was just awesome like “Mukidashi de Mukiatte” was!

What Genre is it?: Full-blown EDM here!

The Premise: None

The Setting: There are 2 main settings for this song surprisingly.  The first is the one set for the dance-shot and it’s a raised platform with some glass windows? appearing behind them…kind of an odd choice and slightly basic if you were to ask me, but the other set used for the rest of the PV (mostly solo shots or group shot) is just the room with what I would say paper towel hanging around them and the girls kind of fly in and out of between them.  If I had thought that Up-Front blew their money for “Furari Ginza” then I am shocked at how basic this PV looks to me.

The Outfits: Not quite sure what happened with the outfits either because there’s only one for this PV and it’s on everyone!  It’s kind of like an odd seifuku/suit outfit to me.  Though it kind of kills me that the suit is poop brown (with a white button-up & tie) and their dresses are like black/white/tan plaid which is just not good with black heels & socks).  Just not good here!

The Choreography: Actually, I don’t remember too much of the choreo here because not a lot of it was shown to be honest.  Of the shots we did see, it’s pretty powerful and works for the song.  Though I think I was more impressed at the rest of the video showing off some rather sexy glares from the members (some intentional, some not so much).  I feel like this was supposed to be a little out there in that kind of way, but I don’t know, the glare game was strong with this one.

PV as a whole: For as basic of a PV we got for this A-side, I think it kind of worked but in other places it didn’t.  I think the dance-shot really nice and the blue added some softness the remainder of the PV which had lots of browns involved (though I think the cheap construction paper drapes? were VERY cheap looking).  Great song, but I think they could’ve spent more on this one!

Y Jiro no Tochuu

The Song: Surprising that we actually got a PV for this song which was the goodbye song to Harunan (was also the B-side of the single too).  Kind of nice to see Harunan off considering Haachin got nothing for leaving the group oop!

What Genre is it?: It’s a mid-tempo sentimental song, but it’s a little more up-tempo than I was expecting from it.

The Premise: None

The Setting: So the PV as you can see is performed in a live setting, but isn’t a live persay.  It was shot at their ~GET SET, GO!~ tour stage which is kind of weird and made me thing it was rushed a bit.  Not quite the most intriguing of sets TBH.

The Outfits: I’m guessing these were tour outfits too, but the whole pink/black candy stripe outfits really seemed off for me (cute though, but could’ve been like Harunan’s colors (Honey & Chocolate?).  Maybe it’s just me.  Dunno, it just doesn’t seem to click with me.

The Choreography: Seems pretty simple in comparison to the other tracks in this post, but at least we can see a good portion of it because of the live-ish performance of it.  Nothing too demanding or difficult looking, but hey at least Harunan is like front and center for most of it

PV as a whole: I mean it could’ve been worse, but it did feel off that it was a live performance without the crowd watching essentially.  I don’t know, but couldn’t a proper PV have been better for something like this?

 

NEXT TIME: WELCOME TO THE REIWA ERA!

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Warp back to 2002…Year Recap!

Here we are at 2002, or as I like to call it the year of too much Hello! Project because there was so many releases and the popularity of H!P was at an all-time high at this point so shall we get this over with!

  • NOTE: Because it’s such a BIG year of releases, Douyou Pops & FOLK SONGS will get their own separate sections so it doesn’t clutter with the Other H!P Releases from the year, though I won’t review the Douyou Pops as many of the tracks are short and based off of Children’s songs.)

Morning Musume

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Kicking it off with our main group, Morning Musume continued to ride the high with releasing Souda! We’re ALIVE in February and the release of their 4th studio album in March, 4th “Ikimasshoi!”.

Then before July, we get news that Maki Goto was going to graduate out of Morning Musume to focus on her solo career and so came the last couple things she was involved with like their stageplay, Morning Town & her final single with the group, Do it! Now.

The group would finish off the year in October with their single, Koko ni Iruzee! and in December would release a best album only sold through their Hawaiian fanclub/store.  Though it was also announced that 2nd Generation member, Kei Yasuda was graduating from Momusu in 2003!

GREAT SONGS

  • Souda! We’re ALIVE – I guess I wasn’t prepared when Morning Musume kicked off their 2002 with a spazzy and groovy song with Souda! We’re ALIVE.  I mean we did have a couple singles prior (“Renai Revolution 21”. “The☆Pea~ce~”, and “Mr. Moonlight”) to show off a more vivid and varied Momusu and this song continues this affair.  I love how loud the girls are and the producer just throwing in random moments like saying ~boom boom~ over and over and over again and the smidge Russian Jig that is the bridge is just funny!  Silly song, but really catchy!
  • The☆Pea~ce! (Complete Version) – Moving to the opening track from the 4th album, I wasn’t expecting them to update this song (and “Renai Revolution 21”, but it makes sense considering that there was a lineup change here.  Although I don’t think I hear the new generation here in the song (if they are, it’s mostly background).  I think the only difference between this and the single cut is that the faux endings that happen at the end of the song is drawn out more.
  • Ikimasshoi! – As the title track for their album, Ikimasshoi! had to be the memorable song I feel like and they didn’t let up on this energetic track. It does feel like a song made for live performances and less so for the recording, but it had to happen I feel like.  This one had solos everywhere for all the members and hell, Tsuji sounded the most into it and wasn’t that bad!  Great song!
  • Suki na Senpai – I was quite surprised to see that for the first time in Morning Musume’s discography, a generation gets a song to themselves (discounting 1st Gen for obvious reasons).  Seeing Konkon, Gaki, Ai-chan, and Makochan get this upbeat and happy song about being true to their older members is cute and shows us more of these new members that had joined less than a year ago.  It’s even better when future gens of Morning Musume (and S/mileage) get to perform this as a kind of introduction for fans to get into!
  • Renai Revolution 21 (13nin Version) – As the eldest song off the album, I had no shock to see that it too was updated for the album to include 5th Gen and take out Yuko (if you recall, this was her last single with Momusu).  Most of the song was left untouched, but they did have to replace Yuko, so her solos ended up going to Kei-chan & Aibon.  That said, 5th Gen seemed to just be way in the back here.  Otherwise it’s just the same song but slightly tweaked.
  • Do it! Now – Ahhh, we’re finally entering what would be Gocchin’s final single with Morning Musume!  Interesting that the song is a bit more mature than the last couple of singles, taking more of an R&B groove for this one which fell in line with Gocchin’s style at the time.  Of course, since she was the ace, she got a lot of vocal time, but at the same all the girls contributed somewhere (mostly in the rap break which was awesomes!).  The only odd thing is Gocchin & Konkon harmonizing together, couldn’t be oddly put together as much as it was, but this is such a standout song and a great way to lead Gocchin out of the group.

OK SONGS

  • Morning Coffee (2002 Version) – It seems odd that the group is already releasing a self-cover of Morning Coffee considering it wasn’t even their 5th Anniversary yet?  Anyways, the B-side to “Souda! We’re ALIVE” seems a bit strange but considering there were only 2 members left that sung in the original (Nacchi & Kaorin), I guess it’s appropriate.  The song itself got some minor changes in arrangement, sounding a bit more acoustic?  Maybe natural sounding?  Still, the big difference is in vocals and while the aforementioned two above have the most solo lines, the remainder of the group did get solos as well which is quite nice.  I say that, but there’s some odd vocals (primarily from Makochan, Konkon, & Tsuji).  It’s OK of a self-cover, but the original had better vocals.
  • Ii Koto Aru Kinen no Shunkan – The first new track off the album, Ii Koto Aru Kinen no Shunkan feels very nostalgic for some reason to me and I haven’t really listened to this song before!  The tune just has an upbeat, hoppy feel to it and it’s nice to see the girls getting solos all over the place!  It’s not harmful, but it doesn’t seem to grasp me as much as other songs of theirs do.
  • Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ (Long Version) – Not sure why they decided to include a long dialogue-heavy intro in front of Mr. Moonlight but it’s here I suppose.  Adding 2:55 of just storyline dialogue, I feel like maybe it could’ve been an interlude, but it really kind of makes the listener wane.  If you know Japanese then you might be interested in the story, but otherwise, I would stick to the single cut without the prologue.  Regardless, Mr. Moonlight is still an amazing song!
  • Hajimete no Rock Concert – Not sure what the song has to do with a rock concert, but I feel like this song took a page from Maki’s singles last year by making it a very 90’s-esque R&B song.  Only sung by 6 of the members; Iida, Yaguchi, Yasuda, Goto, Tsuji, and Ogawa, I feel like it was an interesting grouping of members.  Definitely took notice of Makochan having all the dialogue lines here as well as some smooth vocals out of Kei-chan and Kaorin.  Overall, it’s a sweet song and Makoto got some good time in here to show off.
  • Densha no Futari – As another song that doesn’t feature all the members, this time; Abe, Ishikawa, Yoshizawa, Kago, Takahashi, Niigaki, and Konno, this one feels a little unique on the album with the slight Celtic or Arabian mix going on in the song.  Either way, the song is really interesting and for some reason Konkon gets a lot of lines (she does come off a little quiet versus her 2 other gen-mates.  Still, the song is upbeat and kind of gets stuck in your head.
  • Honki de Atsui Theme Song – Interesting to see this come up next because I thought maybe it’d be a ballad, but in fact it’s an upbeat silly kind of song that has slight disco vibes, but mostly just a poppy little ditty.  Funny that unlike “Densha no Futari”, Konkon seems to be the lone member without a solo line.  Still, the song is nice and its chorus is really catchy!
  • Nanni mo Iwazu ni I LOVE YOU – As the album closer, I was wondering if there was a ballad to be found considering all the other tracks were upbeat and fun songs mostly.  This is probably the closest we get and it’s a nice track overall with lots of solos for the girls and kind of a sentimental feel to it.  Slightly chintzy, but it works as the ending song I’d say.
  • Chotto Ikashita PURE BOY – As the B-side to Gocchin’s graduation single, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I feel like this is one of the more interesting ones so far in their discography.  Yeah, it does give me slight “Summer! Reggae Rainbow” vibes, but the fact that all the members get solos (the song is nothing but solos), really caught my attention.  It could’ve been a little more uptempo, but it’s a decent B-side!
  • Koko ni Iruzee! – As the first single post-Gocchin, Koko ni Iruzee! was back to the upbeat silliness the group was heading towards before “Do it! Now”.  Taking more of a ska sound for this track, the tune to me felt very frenetic and bouncing off the walls which kind of prevented me from fully liking it, but it’s such a carefree song about perseverance that it just works.  Still, not a song that’s high up in best A-sides.

MEH SONGS

  • Otoko Tomodachi – I think the first miss from their 4th album is this Nacchi solo.  Maybe it’s just me but I feel like it was phoned in for the album despite it just being Natsumi singing (well, 5th generation is here but they’re backup singers).  I don’t know why I’m just disinterested in it, but the arrangement feels like it’s missing pep or energy in it.  There are moments where I hear sitar, but beyond that it feels like leftover from their previous album.
  • Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru (Album Version) – Another B-side makes an album huh?  I feel like just like with “The☆Pea~ce!” & “Renai Revolution 21” it feels like it was meant to just add 5th Gen to the mix and I think that’s the case here, but the song was also cut down a minute as well.  Doesn’t do much for the song as I still feel bored from it.
  • Jun LOVER – As the B-side to “Koko ni Iruzee!”, I also wasn’t quite sure what to expect because of the energetic nature that was the A-side, but I was pretty disappointed with Jun LOVER.  I did like the intro and the melodies in the ~la, la, las~ but once the vocals come in, I’m straight up bored by it.  It doesn’t help that the girls were given this odd filter that kind of overpowered the girls at various points in the track too.  I do kind of like how it sounds like some old Beatles song, but it’s just bleh.

Overall: Morning Musume in 2002 was pretty interesting with fitting in the new 5th Generation further with a new album on top of the surprise graduation from Gocchin too.  I mean she’s kind of what made Morning Musume huge (“LOVE Machine” and what not), so her loss is kind of huge for the group, but I have faith they have the staying power especially with growing faces and surprising talent!  Plus it didn’t help they were ALL over the releases this year from the stageplay, FOLK SONGS, Douyou Pops, as well as their Hawaiian releases!  Just everywhere!!!

Michiyo Heike

Michiyo+Heike+Kekkyoku+Bye+Bye+Bye+First+Press+3

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As the year began, we got a lot of nothing up until June when she would release her single, Murasaki Shibiku and shortly after got involved with the Shuffle Units of the year before unsurprisingly announcing her graduation for the near end of the year (November 7th).

OK SONGS

  • Murasaki Shibiku – As the final A-side from Heike, I thought this song kind of was reminiscent to T&C Bomber’s last song, “HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou” due to the similar ethnic vibes I got from both tracks.  I will say, this song felt like something that would lie nicely in Hello! Project’s binder of songs (Heike’s songs while good never truly felt like H!P music, mostly from the fact Tsunku wasn’t the producer most of the time).  It’s not bad, but nothing totally memorable, but a decent way to say goodbye.
  • Yume no Hanashi – As the final B-side though, Yume no Hanashi felt more like what I was accustomed to hearing from her and she sounds silky smooth, but I wasn’t expecting the chorus to be an acoustic pop track vs. the warm and desert-y vibes I got from the verses.  It’s a little bit of stretch for me and doesn’t quite work as well as I wanted.  Still, not a bad B-side!

Overall: Considering this was Heike’s final year within H!P, I felt like she was toned down and her only single wasn’t all that memorable for me despite being one of her overall better ones.  Still, as the literal winner and one that kind of was the leader of H!P, Michiyo is definitely one that’s important to H!P’s history.

Yuko Nakazawa

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tokyobijin

If you didn’t think she did a lot last year, then she REALLY didn’t do much for this year.  Only releasing one single, Tokyo Bijin, in August and was involved in the two FOLK SONGS that were released in the year she just was kind of in the back this year (she wasn’t even a part of the Shuffle Units :0 (though she wasn’t in last years either).

GREAT SONGS

  • Klaxon – At least the B-side was a big more forgiving and brought a kind of new style into the picture.  I guess they took from the Melon’s track, “Fuwafuwafuu” by making the tune into a bossa nova vibe and had Yuko sing in a more soothing and hypnotic style.  I wasn’t expecting this as a B-side, but goddamn was this what I needed from her…who decided “Tokyo Bijin” was a better A-side???!?

MEH SONGS

  • Tokyo Bijin – As Yuko was drifting even further away from her Enka roots, I think she completed the adventure by releasing Tokyo Bijin.  What I can say is that the song just feels straightforward breezy pop, but at least Yuko sounds good singing.  Though the choruses felt kind of anti-climatic and the weird triplets at the end of the passage feels incredibly awkward.  Just kind of a forgetful song.

Overall: While Yuko’s year was pretty much a shot in a pan, despite the FOLK SONGS involvement as well…she kind of became a little boring for me as a presence (even though she still had her role in Hello! Morning/Idol wo Sagase!) and she became H!P’s leader after Heike graduated so it felt like maybe she’s finally coming back.  Her lone single was ew (though the B-side was lovely~).  Ehhh…

Tanpopo

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Tanpopo this year caused quite a stir!  Of course after having a good amount of singles, you would think they’d be good with an album, right?  Well, in July it was announced that Tsunku wanted to reformat the group and graduate Iida, Kago, and Yaguchi and replace them with recent 5th Gen members, Niigaki and Konno and for some strange reason as this was a Morning Musume sub-group, broke that rule and added Melon Kinenbi’s Shibata.  Though they did release a best album to close out the 2nd Generation Tanpopo in September, All of Tanpopo.  The new Tanpopo would go and release their first single, BE HAPPY Koi no Yajirobee at the end of the same month.

(Future Moment: It should be said that after the single, Tanpopo never really came back until the revival units of 2009.  I’m not sure what happened or why they never continued to push them or Petitmoni really after this year, but hey…)

OK SONGS

  • Tanpopo (Grand Symphonic Version) – A reworking of Tanpopo?  Kind of an interesting choice given that this is kind of their namesake, it was bound to happen.  What I wasn’t expecting was Ayappe to make a return just for this song and she’s kind of relegated to the back 3 with Aibon and Rikachan here.  I do like the arrangement here as it’s very orchestral and pretty and suits the song’s melody nicely.  I could’ve honestly done without Rika and Ai though.  Their young vocals kind of just stuck needles into what was the original trio’s more sultry and mature vocals so it’s kind of an awkward sound to me at least.  Still, this is WAY better than the self-cover they did last year on the quad-release with Petitmoni, Minimoni, and Yuko.

MEH SONGS

  • I & YOU & I & YOU & I – Other than the oddball title, the only NEW track from the best album is kind of a forgettable one to be quite honest.  Unlike their singles (and B-sides), this one felt more like a throwaway song that’s sort of cute and uses poppy tones with an electric guitar.  Feels like something I could’ve seen from Momusu’s 2nd album…yeah meh…

ICKY SONGS

  • BE HAPPY Koi no Yajirobee – After all the hubbub of the switching of members, I kind of was curious to what it would be like because now none of the mature vocals are left in the group.  What it came down to sadly is this really awkward poppy, hip-hoppy sludgefest.  I love Gaki now, but back then she really sounded strange to me and her “rap” is cringy.  Konkon (my oshi) also sounded bad too…Rika was in the middle and surprisingly the non-Musume girl, Ayumi sounded the best here…yeah it was a mess of a song and luckily future performances have made this way better.  The original was just too rough and sounded bad…worst A-side of the year for sure.
  • Yarutokya Yaranakya Onna no Ko – I hoped that the B-side was going to be a smoother ride, but instead I feel like there was a bit of an identity crisis here.  Like Rika, keep this song for Country Musume…why is it a song for Tanpopo of all things?  Yeah, this is DEFINITELY a country song and once again just awkward performances (cept for Rika, who was used to this and Ayumi who was the best sounding member here).

Overall: Wow was this a rough year.  I mean, I was starting to get into this 2nd Generation of Tanpopo but the rug was swept from under our feets.  We did get to see a small return from Ishiguro, but it pales in comparison to the trash heap fire that was the 3rd Generation.  Granted if these 4 came back today, I would be happy and curious to see what they could do, but BE HAPPY Koi no Yajirobee was just one hell of a bad single…

Coconuts Musume

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Unfortunately, Coconuts Musume was basically non-existant this year…especially after the graduation of Lehua in February and a failed audition.  The remaining two members though continued to be active within H!P however (Mika in Minimoni, Ayaka in Petitmoni, and both involved with Shuffle Units and the Hawaiian project).

Country Musume ni Ishikawa

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Not even 2 days into the year that we’d get a surprise announcement that a new member would join the group, Mai Satoda, who originally auditioned for Morning Musume and lost.  She would make her debut with the group in April with the single, Iroppoi Onna ~SEXY BABY~ and then another announcement was made when the last original Country Musume girl, Rinne Toda announced her graduation for October.

The remaining 3 would release a single in November titled, BYE BYE Saigo no Yoru.

OK SONGS

  • Iroppoi Onna ~SEXY BABY~ – As the first single to introduce Mai Satoda and final single for Rinne Toda, I wasn’t expecting Iroppoi Onna to be a mix of Country and a sexy dance track all wrapped into one!  Besides the eccentric mixture, the song is kind of cool and groovy especially since we get to hear all the members here.  Mai’s voice is quite deep to kind of stand out from Rinne, Asami, and Rika’s more girlier vocals.  It’s a different song for the group no doubt and being both a debut and a final single for 2 members respectively was going to be rough to handle.  Overall it’s a good track!
  • Onna no Ko Toshirabe Time (new version) – So the B-side to “Iroppoi Onna” features an updated rendition of this album track that was on their first album from last year!  It’s about 20 seconds shorter with a new arrangement and Mai Satoda joins in as well!  I think the line distribution was evened out to include more Rika as well…still not a terrible song, but I think its A-side is still better!
  • BYE BYE Saigo no Yoru – As the other single the trio released in the year, BYE BYE Saigo no Yoru is pretty poppy and cutesy.  I was surprised at how much Mai there was (considering she is arguably the group’s best singer at the time).  Definitely a cuter song from the group, but not quite like the last couple of singles were (Future notice: Strange this would kind of hint at Rika leaving the group).

MEH SONGS

  • BYE BYE Saigo no You (Airly X’mas Present Remix) – As the technical B-side to the single, the A-side was given a Wintry remix and boy it’s an awkward one.  I thought the change to a Wintry remix was a great idea, but to change the song as well into an odd 90s hip-hop remix with some jingle bells was just not right.  Some of the song does start to sound OK with the arrangement, but mostly I liked the original much more.

Overall: I was pleasantly surprised to see that a new member was joining but simultaneously sad to see the last of the original trio, Rinne, was graduating as well.  Though the two singles they released were decent I’d say, nothing huge, but passable from Country Musume, wonder what will be happening next year!

Petitmoni

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Petitmoni had a pretty interesting year to be quite honest.  It started with the group announcing that Goto and Yasuda were leaving because Gocchin was soon to graduate Morning Musume and was wanting to focus on her solo career while Kei-chan also announced her pending graduation as well!  So to sort of celebrate I guess?  They released their only album, Zenbu! Petitmoni that had all their songs up to that point plus some extras.

Though shortly after, it was announced that like Tanpopo, Petitmoni was going to change members around by leaving Yossie in the group and adding Momusu 5th Gen’s, Makoto Ogawa and the recently defunct Coconuts Musume member, Ayaka Kimura.  Though this trio wouldn’t do too much in the year except drop one song (which will be talked about later).

OK SONGS

  • Makenai Maketakunai – The only new song from the album, Makenai Maketakunai kind of just for me falls flat for some reason despite it’s something new from them I think?  Considering it’s still Gocchin, Kei-chan, and Yossie, the song actually feels like a couple of Country Girls tracks.  Though the pre-chorus is kind of cute (minus the Tsunku-isms).  It’s bouncy and cute, but still nothing compared to “BABY! Koi ni KNOCK OUT!”.

MEH SONGS

  • The★Petitmobics (Medley Version) – Not sure why they had to include The★Petitmobics because it was initially release as like an exercise DVD but the tracks have been turned into a medley.  I really couldn’t figure where to put the tracks because of the variation in both and there’s good and there’s bad throughout.  The first one is pretty busy and I notice there’s a pattern because they mention the days of the week.  Seriously there’s some good sounding arrangements, but some are just weak af.  Though the Friday bit was just…questionable…
  • The★Petitmobics 2 (Medley Version) – The 2nd version feels a bit more interesting because of the variation of lyrics and doesn’t give a weird amount of repetition and the days of the week in it.  Though the random changes are still here (because it’s a medley).  Just as odd as the first, if not moreso.

Overall: Kind of sucks that most of the year, Petitmoni was kind of non-existent up until it came to Gocchin’s graduation (and announcement of Kei-chan’s as well) but to throw a best album essentially was kind of forgetful (especially since the new tracks didn’t offer too much).  Add on that 3rd Generation didn’t do much (just an updated self-cover of “Chokotto LOVE”) and you have a blah year here…

Melon Kinenbi

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Like last year, Melon Kinenbi had more of a straightforward year by just releasing three singles in 2002, though they did do other things outside of main releases like the Douyou Pops and FOLK SONGS releases.  Here they released; Saa! Koibito ni Narou (In February), Natsu no Yoru wa Danger! (in June), and Kousui (in October) which the last was a huge hit for them!

GREAT SONGS

  • Renai Restaurant – I never knew why this B-side from “Kousui” wasn’t that popular to the wota!  I love the beginning with the acoustic guitar before it turned into something pop/rock that’s kind of nostalgic to early Michiyo Heike songs.  Even better than all the members have lines to show off and I quite loved it all!  Funny enough to make this the group’s best track of the year is something!

OK SONGS

  • Saa! Koibito ni Narou – I was wondering where Melon Kinenbi were going to go after “This is Unmei” and the track sounds pretty latin-esque but also a bit free-sounding to me which is a nice shift in tone.  Definitely dig the fact that all the members get to shine here and Saa! Koibito ni Narou is a great summer-like song (odd that it was released early in the year).
  • Natsu no Yoru wa Danger! – I guess I was surprised that H!P overthought and did an actual Summer track in this A-side.  I do like the light beats and horns that are all over the track, giving it a disco-like feel to it.  I did notice that there was strangely enough a LOT of Shibata in this song in comparison to the other 3 members.  It’s a nice summery song for the quartet that’s for sure!
  • Ai Meramera Koi Yurayura – As the B-side from “Natsu no Yoru wa Danger!”, I thought the sound of the track was pretty familiar to me, like a little bit of Maki Goto’s “Afurechau…BE IN LOVE” or even Gomattou’s “SHALL WE LOVE?”.  The kind of 90’s – early 2000s R&P/pop grooves just oozes in the song.  While the song isn’t terribly special, it’s got a little catchy riff about it and the fact all 4 members have a good enough line distribution was a nice treat too.
  • Kousui – I know this is one of their more well-known tracks and I really dug the R&B here more than I did in “Ai Meramera Koi Yurayura” with the addition of acoustic guitar in the arrangement, but I think what stopped me from fully enjoying it was the overabundance of Shibata here.  She was just solo line heavy (where the other 3 had small solos or are blending with Ayumi).  Regardless though, Kousui is still a great song for the group and a nice way to end the year off for them!

MEH SONGS

  • Girls Power, Aisuru Power – As the B-side to “Saa! Koibito ni Narou”, I wasn’t expecting the track to open up with fanfare and chanting (which is the worst part of the song sadly), but once that’s over with the song just has this rock sound mixed in with a little of a March.  It’s not a terrible song, but every time that chanting happens I’m just a little more turned off by it.

Overall: Not much to say really here about Melon Kinenbi other than they had another year of singles (where’s the album honestly?).  Though I’m not in particular enjoying the push for Shibata over other, stronger members though.  I mean she’s already in Tanpopo, isn’t that enough?

Yuki Maeda

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Another year, another single dropped by the H!P Enka queen, Yuki Maeda.  She released Tokyo, Yoimachigusa in February and she was back into the shadows *sigh*

GREAT SONGS

  • Furusato no Uta ga Kikoeru – Yet when it came to the B-side, Furusato no Uta ga Kikoeru felt nostalgic to me and not in my face like the A-side was.  I feel like Yukidon was trying to be somewhat classy and give us this throwback track.  While I still feel like she has better, I’m loving the mix of strings, guitars, and pan flutes.  Makes me think of Kill Bill or something similar, I dug it!

MEH SONGS

  • Tokyo, Yoimachigusa – I was wondering if Yukidon was trying for something kayoukyoku for this A-side with the addition of electric guitar and dramatic strings.  I don’t know, but the song feels incredibly dated to me (like something from the 60s or even 70s).  Despite Yuki’s great vocals, the song just doesn’t work for me or stuck out to me (especially with it being H!P and such).

Overall: I mean yeah Yukidon in Hello! Project really makes her stick out like a sore thumb because she’s doing only one doing Enka/Kayoukyoku styled songs and she really isn’t promoted as an idol like the rest are so I feel like she really dug her grave at this point (especially since she’s musically active once a year).  Her lone single was definitely interesting and once again its B-side owned the lead track, so I feel like I hope she could do better.

Sheki-Dol

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So unfortunately in the beginning of 2002 in January, it was announced that Sheki-dol was disbanded because of Suenaga being sick (which in reality was the fact she was pregnant so sadly they went their separate ways after just going major with “Ai wa Muteki”).

Minimoni

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I would say Minimoni had a pretty eventful year with this many releases!  Starting from the beginning, things were looking pretty normal with releases like the January single, Minimoni. Hinamatsuri! / Mini. Strawberry Pie and the April single, Ai~n Taisou / Ai~n! Dance no Uta (which was a duet with a popular comedian character, Bakatono-sama).  Then the quartet would drop their first studio album, Minimoni Song Daihyakka 1kan in June.

Though with their next single, Genki Jirushi no Oomori Song / Okashi Tsukutte Okkasui~!, things were shaken up quite strongly.  First of all we see our first taste of the Hello! Pro Kids which I’m not totally sure what was up with it, but 4 of them were there (a small grouping named 4KIDS) and surprisingly Momusu’s Ai Takahashi.  The single itself was to promote the movie, Minimoni ja Movie!: Okashi na Daibouken and interestingly enough was used to announce (in said movie’s storyline odd enough) that Mari Yaguchi would be leaving to take care of the newly added Kids (Future talk: oddly enough that none of the 4KIDS members didn’t end up in ZYX >.>) and Ai Takahashi would join the group while Mika became the group’s leader.

Of course there was still time so the original quartet released their final single with Mari (strangely enough again, a Minihams single, Minihamazu no Kekkon Song in December).

GREAT SONGS

  • Mini. Strawberry Pie – This A-side though is pretty much cutesy and giddy (and reminds me of Country Girls for some reason xD).  Still, Mini. Strawberry Pie has a certain poppy vibe that’s meant to be cute and ridiculous especially since it’s about pie.  I quite liked it a lot more than the primary A-side, it’s just a good time and despite the goofy lyrics, just was a fun time overall!
  • Ai~n! Dance no Uta – Well, I wasn’t expecting Minimoni to go full trance mode for the secondary A-side!  Though in comparison to “Ai~n Taisou”, this was amazing in so many ways!  Like it’s just as repetitive, but with the fast techno beats and exciting vocal work from the quartet and silly quips from Bakatono-sama and the tune is just epic and ridiculous all rolled up into one, A favorite during the year!
  • I Love Blues – As the first new track from their album, I was happily surprised to see Minimoni tackle a different genre such as blues (despite this was the 5th track on the album).  Just hearing Mika, Marippe, Aibon, and Nono sing in a different tone that wasn’t sickingly sweet was just a nice present to the fans!  The song while not perfect (they’re vocally kind of all over the map), the change of sound makes the group a little more mature here and I liked it!
  • Genki Jirushi no Oomori Song – Getting into the big single that changed Minimoni from here on, I actually LOVE this song despite it’s another LSD-laced song that’s really genki and just has too much cuteness going on.  Of course this song has 9 members singing so it was a surprise to follow (ok, 4 of them only have shouting lines).  Ai-chan though sounds good as usual and kind of mixes in well with the other 4 members nicely.  She’ll definitely fit in with the group.  I just love this track and really showcase what Minimoni was all about.
  • Okashi Tsukutte Okkasui~! – As the last Minimoni song Marippe took part in, I already liked the track above a lot, but the secondary A-side had a more funkier and sassy side to it (on top of being a song about food like “Mini. Strawberry Pie”.  Also lacking the members, leaving us with the original quartet and it’s just a cool song for the group even if it’s super sillys.

OK SONGS

  • Minimoni. Hinamatsuri! – I have to say the first A-side of their first single of the year feels more of what we’ve been getting since their debut and luckily it’s catchy like “Minimoni. Jankenpyon” was.  It’s got some sass behind the heavy amount of cuteness throughout.  Definitely a fun track here and fitting for their 3rd single.
  • Vitamin Fusoku Kaishou Koukyoukyoku – After hearing “I Love Blues”, I wasn’t expecting the group to dive into jazz & big band, but here we are with the Vitamin song.  Arrangement-wise, I really dug the mood and classy vibe I goe from it, but the whole ~A B C D E Ca Ca~ hook is kind of goofy, but it is Minimoni we’re talking about.
  • Okashi no Machi – Another decent track from the album, Okashi no Machi starts off interestingly like a Tango and the verses done by the members sound surprisingly good and really worked with the arrangement, but then the dance beats kick in and the track kind of turns into a dance track, but cutesy like what they’re capable of normally.  It’s a little bit of a jarring track, but there’s definitely stuff here to enjoy.
  • Minihamazu no Kekkon Song – As the Minihams’ A-side, Minihamazu no Kekkon Song is kind of catchy in way.  A wedding song actually, it feels more like a Russian jig more than anything, but I like the quartet’s energy and the melody and vocal lines are just sticking to me in a good way!

MEH SONGS

  • Ai~n Taisou – I was wondering what Minimoni were up to when they decided to collaborate with Bakatono-sama and I was left bewildered with both tracks we were given!  Ai~n Taisou was the primary A-side and I was left bored and disappointed because it felt like it dragged on forever and it was only 3 minutes.  I mean beyond the arrangement being a March and Bakatono-sama singing along, it just bothered me somes.  I don’t know why, but it just didn’t make sense to me I guess (I know the Ai~n! is his thing, but repetitive af).
  • Minimoni. no Dekkai Tabi – You’d think we’d leave marches behind but their album has another one in its tracklist!  Like the track above this, the song feels like it drags more than it should, but what it does have over “Ai~n Taisou” is that it’s not repetitive like crazy.  Still, the song just doesn’t do anything for me and the Tsunkuisms are just meh too!
  • Ohayousan ~Mata Ashita no Uta~ – Kind of wondered where and why the shift of Minimoni went into educational mode, but it seems this song is pretty much a Japanese to English lesson here.  Of course Marippe, Aibon, and Nono says a phrase in Japanese while Mika translates it to English.  Kind of odd on the album to be honest and it doesn’t really do much at the end of the day for me.
  • Minihamu Kisha – However, the B-side to the Minihams single unlike “Minihamazu no Kekkon Song” was trying to double the catchiness but somehow ended up making it feel like it was dragging the entire time!  I wasn’t too fan of the filtered vocals either, I guess since the track translated is Minihams’ Train, I shouldn’t have expected much out it.  It just didn’t stand out.

ICKY SONGS

  • Suki, Suki, Kirai, Kirai, Kirai, Suki. – Like I don’t know if this is considered an interlude for the album, but nonetheless this song madly annoying and just a headache to listen to.  It’s REALLY repetitive and just really doesn’t do much for the quartet.  At least it’s short at under 2 minutes?
  • Chiccha na Chiccha na Onna no Ko – If I didn’t already think this was sounding a LOT like “Shiawase Beam! Suki Suki Beam!” then that’s already a sign of bad things to come.  Add on that there’s way too much Tsunku in this track and it’s just an awkward, empty sounding island-ditty.  Still, no…

Overall: What a busy year it has been for Minimoni, but then again they became huge after their debut last year so it was no surprise Tsunku wanted to focus a LOT on them during the year.  It is sad that Marippe is leaving the group though to greener pastures with the Hello! Project Kids and whatnot and I’m sure Ai-chan will do the group justice, but I just loved what the original quartet brought to the table.

Maki Goto

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After her successful debut, Gocchin continued to release singles for the entirety of 2002, with the exception that she did indeed graduate from Morning Musume to focus on said solo works.  It started with Te wo Nigitte Arukitai (in May) then she graduated Momusu in July followed it up quickly with Yaruki! IT’S EASY in August and then closed the year out with Sans Toi Ma Mie / Kimi to Itsumademo in December.

GREAT SONGS

  • Yaruki! IT’S EASY – After the mess that “Te wo Nigitte Arukitai” brought, I was hoping for her to go back to her 90’s R&B sound, but she brings another cute song?  At least this one struck a chord with me and I ended up immediately loving it’s sort of festive mix with 80’s synths!  It’s hard to compare it to something, but it worked and Maki just sounds heavenly in this song like a strong idol singer!  Even funnier was seeing Melon Kinenbi as the backups for the PV, but seriously a great song from Gocchin!

OK SONGS

  • Kimagure – Getting into “Yaruki!’s” B-side, Kimagure also continued this 80s vibe, but the song kind of feels like it reaching back to a mix of glossy pop fused with disco & funk to get this track.  The song is pretty much OK because while it’s catchy at points, I do find myself wanting to go back to the A-side XD
  • Sans Toi Ma Mie – Since the single after “Yaruki! IT’S EASY was all cover tracks, I wasn’t sure what Gocchin would be capable of especially since this song is a French track originally so the changes were necessary.  I do like the use of accordion in the song and Maki sounds more confident here which is a surprise.  Though like “Kimagure” it doesn’t stick to me though.
  • Sans Toi Ma Mie (Musical version) – Might be wondering what the extra tag is about and it’s because this and “Kimi to Itsumademo” were used in Maki’s stageplay, “Ken & Mary no Merikenko On Stage!”.  The difference between the two tracks though are pretty huge and that’s a different arrangement!  This one feels a bit more grand with a showtime kind of buzz to it.  It has a bit more oomph to it, but I till don’t think it’s up there with the bests!

MEH SONGS

  • Tokutouseki – As the B-side from “Te wo Nigitte Arukitai”, I wasn’t surprised that the song kind of contained some of the kiddy-like atmosphere that the A-side contained, but for some reason this song was a smidge more tolerable from Gocchin softer sung vocals.  Though some of the song kind of reminds me of Coconuts Musume’s “Tokonatsu Musume”.  Especially those ~la la las~.  It’s still a blech song though at the end of the day and the whole single was just too much of a 180 for Gocchin.
  • Kimi to Itsumademo – Though as the ballad of the 3rd single she released, this cover of Kimi to Itsumademo does feel somewhat dragging the entire time and while Maki has grown as a singer, I don’t think she sounded her best here.  It seemed like she was pushing too much for some of the louder notes. Also, it felt short but maybe that’s because the spoken dialogue in the bridge took a lot of time out.

ICKY SONGS

  • Te wo Nigitte Arukitai – I will never understand how and why Gocchin changed her sound from her R&B style to something so sugary cute as this song which definitely was a turn off for me.  I know the H!P Kids are strewn throughout the PV, but I really don’t know why Tsunku thought Maki’s 3rd single should be this sugary and just corny.  It’s definitely my least favorite A-side of hers and I’ll never figure why I can’t enjoy it more.

Overall: I would say Maki had a pretty straightforward year from her solo releases, but it was also surrounding her graduation from Morning Musume and her various hops into other things within the company.  The three singles were odd after her change of genres but it was to be expected since she was showing off vocal variety.  Maybe she’ll get better next year!

Aya Matsuura

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Aya seemed to have an even busier year in 2002 right from the first day of the year she released her first album, First KISS and then followed it up with four more singles throughout the year in ♡Momoiro Kataomoi♡ (in February), Yeah! Meccha Holiday (in May), The Bigaku (in September), and Sougen no Hito (in December).  Pretty straightforward year I’d say! Not counting all the other things she was involved in H!P.

GREAT SONGS

  • S-kun – Then things take a twist when Aya takes a page from Gocchin’s early R&B singles with S-kun as there’s some pretty typical styles going on in the song with beats and just the general sound.  Aya’s voice is pretty relaxed throughout the song and the tune itself is intriguing to me and stands out from the album (makes me wonder why its never performed within H!P)
  • Yeah! Meccha Holiday – What an insane track this is when Ayaya released this because it’s just so of its time and the bogus changes are quite alarming and totally different from what we’ve heard from her previously!  The lyrics are off the wall, but so catchy and the chorus is insanely catchy!  I mean ~do-do-dot SLASSSHU~…what is this song?  It’s one of my favorites and for good reason, it’s a fun ass summer song!
  • Tsumannai yo – It might be a retread of “S-kun”, but there’s something about her lowbrow R&B songs that really find a way to stick to me.  Ayaya sounds pleasant once again even with a slight vocal filter helping out to make it sound a bit more wavy and underwater.  It’s a very good opposite to “Yeah! Meccha Holiday’s” more crazy arrangement.  This was a pretty good single overall, thinking about it.
  • The Bigaku – I think after the rambunctious “Yeah! Meccha Holiday”, The Bigaku had to follow-up such a wild song and what we got here is pretty upbeat and has a LOT more horns and spicy vibes that felt like a continuation of the aforementioned track.  I had a lot of fun listening to this one and Aya continues to wow me!

OK SONGS

  • Oshare! – As the first new track from her first album, Oshare!, while not the opening song, was more of a continuation of sounds that her singles had sort of sounded like when she debuted.  The tune is poppy and upbeat and just happy-go-lucky.  I mean for an album track, Oshare! is a pretty nice song albeit not quite making it to the higher level of enjoyment like other Ayaya songs she’s done.
  • Zettai Tokeru Mondai X = ♥ – Another of the new tracks, Zettai Tokeru Mondai X = ♥ is a change of pace because this unlike many of her other songs, takes more of a pop/rock style for it and it’s pretty energetic and keeps up Aya’s cuter toned voice which definitely worked nicely here.  I also notice that nowadays, it’s a popular song still within H!P performances!  Just a fun song to listen to!
  • Egao ni Namida ~THANK YOU! DEAR MY FRIENDS~ – Strange as my first listen to this was when Risa Niigaki covered it right before she graduated from Morning Musume, hopping back to hear the original, Aya’s cut doesn’t quite have the vocal chops that Gaki brought in her version, but this is the original so it should be held more.  It’s still a cute pop track and fits with what Aya has been releasing sine debut like “Oshare!”.
  • Sou Ieba – Slowing down things on the album, Sou Ieba sounds a lot like some of the B-sides she released in the era by being acoustic-centric and the track itself gives me slight Country vibes, but like Southern-like riffs.  Aya’s vocals sound a LOT softer than previous tracks too.  It might be on the lower end in the category, but I can respect her for releasing something a bit more down-to-earth here.
  • Hajimete Kuchibiru wo Kasaneta Yoru – As the ending to the album, Hajimete Kuchibiru…feels so grand and bigger than it should be with those strings/sitar and powerful percussion underlying an R&B styled track.  It just feels broad and I think it did itself pretty well, even if it does sound slightly dated because of it.  Still, it’s a pretty good song overall!
  • ♡Momoiro Kataomoi♡ – Now I know this song was a pretty big hit for Ayaya so of course I’ve had to listen to it numerous times, but it doesn’t quite beat out plenty of other stronger songs in her repertoire here.  I do like she kept up the cuteness here and it like a couple of other songs has something bubbly and catchy about it so I will give it that!
  • Enkyori Renai – As the B-side from the “Momoiro Kataomoi” single, Enkyori Renai of course was going to take things into a lighter route by being a mid-tempo R&B ballad.  I have to say, compared to some of the softer songs from “First KISS”, this feels a bit more nicer to listen to and the bridge was a lot less abrasive and suited the calmer atmosphere.  It’s one of her better B-sides that’s for sure!
  • I know – Did we get another “Oshare!” with this B-side from “The Bigaku”?  It feels like a mix of those two track with a bit of funky and the blaring horns but with the obvious poppy sound here.  I do think the chanting bits do add some flavor but a lot of the song feels a smidge repetitive to me, but that’s my only qualm with the track.  The rest of the song sounds good and the tilt to funky/disco sounds is cool (and maybe it’s me but it sounds like an Erina Mano song to me xD)
  • Sougen no Hito – I think this was the first A-side she released as a ballad, and it was a sudden stop at the wall after the other A-sides she released in 2002.  Considering this was released because Sougen no Hito was the theme to a stageplay she did and after hearing this, it feels like a softer one for it.  Ayaya sounds good and the song is a peaceful listen, but maybe not one I find myself coming back to too much.
  • YOKOHAMA SING A SONG – As the B-side to “Sougen no Hito”, I wasn’t expecting the other vocal track used in the stageplay to be a jazzy/bossa nova kind of track and that added more spice than what the A-side provided and I immediately found myself jamming to it.  Quite a bit stronger of a song for Ayaya.

MEH SONGS

  • Watashi no Sugoi Houhou – This song comes up on the later half of the album and it does feel like “Oshare!” but maybe lighter in composition and maybe a lil more suited for an idol singer.  Though with that being said, there’s not much I clung to in this song despite it feeling it takes small grasps at the aforementioned track, “S-kun”, and even “Sou Ieba”.  Just wasn’t a memorable track for me.

Overall: Aya has had a pretty busy this year!  With her first album released, four singles released after it, a stageplay, and her other appearances within H!P, it was Matsuura fever in 2002 and I can’t blame it, she had a pretty solid year of releases!  Can’t wait to see what 2003 has in store!

Rika Ishii

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Well despite not having a solo release this year, Rika did quite a bit otherwise it feels like being a part of the Douyou Pops releases and Folk Songs 2 as well as the shuffle unit and Hawaiian release.  So she’s been quite a busy bee, although sadly she would end up graduating from H!P in December!

Miki Fujimoto

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In 2002, we were introduced to another new soloist!  This time a young member by the name of Miki Fujimoto who was an auditionee who failed in the 4th Gen auditions, but she had gotten training for a year before she was able to debut as a soloist with her first single in March, Aenai Nagai Nichiyoubi.  She then followed up the rest of the year with 3 more singles: Sotto Kuchizukete Gyutto Dakishimete (in June), Romantic Ukare Mode (in September), and Boyfriend (in November).  Add on that she was involved in FOLK SONGS, Douyou Pops, the Hawaiian release, and even Gomattou and you could say she was busy in 2002!

GREAT SONGS

  • Aenai Nagai Nichiyoubi – As Mikitty’s debut, Aenai Nagai Nichiyoubi was our first taste of Miki’s vocals and I wasn’t expecting such mature sounding vocals from a idol pop-like song like this.  I really like the chorus for some reason as it’s just fun and Miki sound the best here!  I will say her vocals are pretty unique, but she already sounded great.  Definitely a great song to debut with!
  • Sotto Kuchizukete Gyutto Dakishimete – Miki’s 2nd A-side comes next here and I love the dramatic intro to the song and Miki’s airy vocals are heard to introduce us to another cute pop track.  I already could tell Miki’s confidence was getting stronger and this song was a nice showcase of these light vocals and her strong vocals elsewhere in the tune.
  • Romantic Ukare Mode – Three-in-a-row of really awesome songs from Miki?  Wow, that’s quite a nice feat for me as I consider these three (and “Boogie Train ’03”) as essentials lol.  Romantic Ukare Mode isn’t quite like the previous two A-sides, taking more of a peppy idol track and having Miki sounds a bit more cutesy, like in “Let’s Do Daihakken!”.  I quite found myself loving it and Miki sounded perfect here!

OK SONGS

  • Let’s Do Daihakken! – As the B-side from her debut single, Let’s Do Daihakken! might not reach the levels of awesome that the main track got to, but the song feels like something that belonged in 2002 and Miki sounds decent if not a little under also in comparison as well!  I suppose it’s another fun song and all, but not quite as memorable to me.
  • Cake Yamemashita – I didn’t think Mikitty would go down the whole pop/rock groove that it seemed that Sheki-dol had gotten comfortable with.  Cake Yamemashita is such an odd track in Miki’s discography because it’s a little more gritty and yet suits Miki’s thicker voice.  I kind of enjoy the change of pace from this song and I’d consider it a hidden gem.
  • Boyfriend – The only A-side within this 1st album era that really didn’t do too much for me was Boyfriend and unlike the other A-sides, this one feels like something Gocchin would’ve sung somewhere instead of “Te wo Nigitte Arukitai”.  Once again though, Mikitty’s vocals seem to gel within the R&B arrangement.  Though like I said, it doesn’t quite stand out besides Miki’s voice.

MEH SONGS

  • Koi yo! Utsukushiku – There’s something familiar about this B-side from “Sotto Kuchizukete Gyutto Dakishimete” and it may be the general melodies heard throughout the song, but this mid-tempo ballad is kind of forgetful to me for it.  It just feels very one note to me all-around, almost putting me to sleep lol!
  • Osananajimi – I really wasn’t sure what to think of this B-side because it felt like it was going to be like “Boyfriend” as an R&B track, but the verses are simply piano and Tsunku’s ~uh-uh and yeah oh my baby~.  What an odd addition to me.  The simplistic nature of the song is nice to showcase Miki’s soft vocals for this ballad, but like it zones me out and while the chorus livens things up, it’s such an oddly placed one to me.  Just not that great!

Overall: As H!P’s newest soloist, Mikitty barreled out of the gates with solids songs it feels like!  She’s got such a unique and rich tone to her voice you don’t see very much in H!P (at least not since Taiyou to Ciscomoon) right at debut!  It’ll be interesting to see her going forward!

Hello! Project Kids

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Another surprise (and what I called a switch in eras), we were introduced to the Hello! Project Kids who in 2001 were essentially trainees, VERY young trainees for the company to grow into future artists.  There were 15 members here: Miyabi Natsuyaki, Maimi Yajima, Yurina Kumai, Mai Hagiwara, Airi Suzuki, Chinami Tokunaga, Saki Nakajima, Momoko Tsugunaga, Saki Shimizu, Maiha Ishimura, Megumi Murakami, Erika Umeda, Chisato Okai, Risako Sugaya, and Maasa Sudo.

The only other noteworthy things was a short-lived group, 4KIDS (Suzuki, Hagiwara, Sugaya, and Sudo) who were only active for the Minimoni movie and the song, “Genki Jirushi no Oomori Song”.

Douyou Pops

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So it seemed the Douyou Pops went into full swing this year by releasing 3 more album after “Winter no Uta Shuu”; Haru no Uta ShuuNatsu no Uta Shuu, and Aki no Uta Shuu which covered the rest of the seasons, however these songs were moreso Children’s songs in Japan versus the Christmas classics for last year’s Winter one.  Though it seems they weren’t done because they did another album for Shinsaku Douyou Pops 1

(Won’t be reviewing any of these because they are Children songs so it really doesn’t quite need the review)

FOLK SONGS

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They also seemed to continue with the FOLK SONGS series with Folk Songs 2 & FS3: Folk Songs 3; the former seemed to include Yuko Nakagawa, Aya Matsuura, Rika Ishii, and Melon Kinenbi while Folk Songs 3 included only Yuko, Maki Goto, and Miki Fujimoto

GREAT SONGS

  • Fuyu ga Kuru Mae ni – I already knew right from the start with the Latin Guitars that I was going to love this track which is sung between Ayaya & Yuko.  There’s just something about it that really makes it stick out and Aya and Yuko sound great together and not trying too hard vocally.  Plus, the chorus is explosive and so expressive!  Yeah, I love this!
  • Hatsukoi – At first I was worried that it was going to be another ballad, but I was happily surprised that it was taken to more of a disco-like sound and with Yuko being the lone singer, the song felt relaxing and yet has this glossy sheen about it that felt right.  Yeah this was a definite surprise for FS3
  • Seishun Jidai – All 3 girls (Maki, Miki, and Yuko) come together for this track and after the immense amount of slow songs, it was nice to have another upbeat track to listen to.  I really liked hearing all three ladies sing (Miki, though sounded unusual until the chorus hits).  It’s pretty funky and surprisingly catchy all things considered!
  • Sanae-chan – Something about Sanae-chan really caught me off guard with it’s pop/rock sounds that kind of nostalgic to me.  While I’m not sure how the filtering worked out with Miki in the track, but it feels like I hear Gocchin acting as the other voice despite not getting solos.  Add on the cool guitar solo in the bridge and I had a lot of fun with one!

OK SONGS

  • Hanayome – Opening the 2nd Folk Songs up, Melon Kinenbi kicks things off with Hanayome and the song is pretty nice to listen to as it’s pretty simple and upbeat with some nice vocals from the group!  I do cringe at the CASIO keyboards during the song, but the rest is pretty catchy and soothing to listen to and then it kind of just fades away…odd to hear in a track nowadays…but it’s nice!
  • Kandagawa – Like with “Koibito yo”, it felt like more of the same that was found there but this time Ayaya was singing instead.  Though unlike the aforementioned track, Kandagawa has a lot more going for it and Aya’s light vocals suited the arrangement and it’s smooth yet kind of baroque?  It’s odd, but I actually like the tune.
  • Momen no Handkerchief  – Another Yuko solo pops up and I’ve heard this song being covered many times before, but it was nice to see how H!P handled things and I liked it was upbeat and Yuko’s vocals were able to shine better than it did in “Koibito yo”.  This definitely does feel like something Yuko could’ve released in her own discography at least.
  • Tentoumushi no Samba – Tentoumushi no Samba definitely felt so relaxing and chill to listen to and it helped that Ayaya and Rika were chosen though I do feel like Aya had a lot of focus here.  It’s just light and airy and reminds me of the Springtime whenever I listen to this.  The flutes were cute too.  Easy listening music basically.
  • Natsuyatsumi – I don’t know why, but there’s something about Natsuyatsumi’s laidback sound that kind of lulled me into a relaxing state and Melon Kinenbi sound nice and the bridge while odd to me at first, but it added color to an already nicely rounded song.
  • Kekkon Suru tte Hontou Desu ka? – Sung by both Maki & Yuko, Kekkon Suru tte Hontou Desu ka? pushes things a bit more forward with a punchy arrangement but focused on acoustics here.  It’s also nice to hear the two ladies and they handled the song better and the chorus is nice as it builds up the feelings as well.  Nice song overall!
  • Arashi – A Yuko and Miki duet comes up next with Arashi and while I don’t think it’s as many others on the album, this one sails the middle line for me. It’s just a pretty standard acoustic pop track with OK vocals from the two.  Like I said, it’s just a middle-of-the-road song.
  • Kekkon Shiyou yo – This song definitely feels like Country music to me and it sounds a bit strange to hear Mikitty tackle a song like this.  It’s kind of cute, but at the same time feels quite one-note the entire way for me.
  • Omoide Makura – I was pretty surprised coming to this song because it felt like a lot more effort was put here versus other ballads and I kind of enjoyed the darker atmosphere and the rock elements found throughout the song.  Add on that Yuko sounds right for a song like this and you get a surprising track towards the end of the album.
  • Ano Subarashii Ai wo Mou Ichido – As the final track off of FS3, Ano Subarashii Ai wo Mou Ichido contains all three members and we’re given a mid-tempo tune that doesn’t quite feel as boring as others.  A lot of the song has the girls singing in unison, but there are some solos throughout.  It just gives me similar feelings to “Arashi”.

MEH SONGS

  • Koibito yo – We get a solo track from Yuko with the 2nd track from the album, Koibito yo and it does feel like it touches upon her Enka in the lightest way possible and for that, this song kind of just rolls on by without much of an impression of me at the end of the day.  Just was gliding across it.
  • Ichigo Hakusho wo Mou Ichido – I’m not sure why, but this song, sung by Melon Kinenbi doesn’t quite seem to resonate with me very much and it might because of the simple arrangement.  Of course I heard a guy’s voice and that’s Bamba Hirofuni (the singer of the original cut of this song).  It’s just kind of there on the album for me.
  • Hikoukigumo – I feel like there’s not much to say about this Ayaya solo song unfortunately because it’s pretty basic to me and the melody just doesn’t entice me in anyway.  Aya while sounds decent, doesn’t quite reach the heights versus other songs on this album.
  • Anata no Kokoro ni – A song sung between Melon Kinenbi & Rika Ishii, Anata no Kokoro ni also seem to fall into this slot with an uninteresting melody and despite the fact I get to her a LOT of Rika in the song, still it’s kind of snoozy.
  • Wakatte Kudasai – Like “Hikoukigumo”, the arrangement for this song just doesn’t quite do it for me, but I am slightly impressed with Yuko’s performance of the song which definitely reminds me of her early works to say the least.  After a while, Akira Inaba joins in (the song’s original singer) and it gets a bit better too and hearing their vocals together is pleasant.  Still that first half is a bit of a slog to me.
  • Yume de Aetara – Another song that featured Melon Kinenbi and Rika Ishii, Yume de Aetara kind of slides in with many other mid-tempo songs here on the album and unfortunatly, this song kind of just flies by too with nothing to note (maybe the chorus is catchy?) either way, the song is white to me.
  • Olivia wo Kikinagara – You can easily tell I get bored with the mid-tempo tracks right?  This Yuko/Melon track is a slower song, but I really couldn’t remember the melody once again and I was surprised to only hear Yuko through the track while Melon Kinenbi act like backups.  Otherwise, yeah not remembering this one much either.
  • Hidamari no Uta – Yeah, another piano mid-tempo track for Hidamari no Uta and boy does it drag itself along the entire time, it’s really difficult to focus on these tracks when they’re all so sleep inducing.  I suppose Melon Kinenbi sound nice, but that’s all about the things I remember here.
  • Nagai Aida – I feel like all the songs in this category so far can be said about one another in one paragraph!  Nagai Aida is another Ayaya solo and this slow ballad-like feel just drags this song, but Aya sounds nice I guess.  Still zzzz..
  • Satoukibi Hatake – As the song to feature all 7 members that sung in Folk Songs 2, Satoukibi Hatake does try to change things up by having a certain Enya-esque kind of arrangement, then to come to find out that it’s slightly repetitive and it’s nearly 10 minutes long is already a big no no and it’s still a slow track which makes it feel like it goes on for WAY TOO LONG as the final track to the album.  Lord was this not helping my already sleepy state.
  • Sotsugyou Shashin – As the opening song from Folk Songs 3, we get a rather familiar song (to me) with a Gocchin solo with Sotsugyou Shashin and we’re already kicking this album with a forgetful song as the music is sleepy and while Maki sounds good, it’s just not her strongest vocal performance here.  Pass!
  • My Pure Lady – Mikitty gets a solo track and it’s definitely another one of those easy listening songs, but with light synths to kind of elevate a smidge.  I think this is the lightest I’ve heard Miki sing since debut which may be interesting to somes, but this song is a bit forgetful.
  • Okuru Kotoba – So another ballad pops up next with mostly acoustic gutar as the lone instrument but others are there too.  Miki sings this one and while she isn’t as light as she was in “My Pure Lady”, the song is still pretty much white noise to me regardless.
  • Anata – Maki get’s another solo here and Anata does sound like something that would be a B-side to a Maki single, the song is still odd to me from the weird circus-like synths and then the random electric guitar riff that is part of the chorus coming from verses that sound like R&B.  It’s very jarring to me and just took me out of the song quickly.
  • Kaerenai Futari – Yuko gets another solo and lord is this album so hard to keep focus again!  Kaerenai Futari is another track that kind of zips on by with much of an impression sadly.  The song’s arrangement puts me to sleep and while Yuko sounds nice…it really doesn’t help anything!
  • Dare mo Inai Umi – Wow, we have our first duet between a H!P member and a non-member, Gen Takayama (who I’ve seen the name in H!P works before).  The duet is interesting due to Gocchin and Gen’s vocals, although they don’t quite sound strong together and the arrangement is once again kind of putting me to sleep.
  • Ame ga Sora Kara Fureba – Another song that to me would be good if it was found on a Maki single, though VERY forgetful on this album, Ame ga Sora Kara Fureba kind of fuses a piano ballad with some R&B elements and sadly it just doesn’t quite work together, but I do commend Gocchin’s vocal performance…really strong here.

Other H!P Releases

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Right from the get go, it seems like H!P was really hyping up the Hawaiian fanclub and decided to bring it in Japan by releasing a single, joining together with ukulele player/singer, Boo Takagi, titled Morning Musume Single Medley ~Hawaiian~ which would be followed up pretty quickly by an album release with Hawaiian de Kiku Morning Musume Collection.

Though in between the releases, we also got our shuffle units of the year based on Shiawase (happiness)

  • Happy(Kago, Takahashi, Niigaki, Ogawa, Saito, Todd, and Kimura Asami) they kind of represented the cute song, Shiawase Beam! Suki Suki Beam!
  • Sexy 8 (Yaguchi, Goto, Yoshizawa, Ishikawa, Ohtani, Heike, Kimura Ayaka., and Satoda) they got the sexy song, Shiawase Desu ka?
  • Odoru11 (Abe, Iida, Yasuda, Tsuji, Konno, Murata, Shibata, Toda, Matsuura, Ishii, Fujimoto) and they ended up with the random Shiawase Kyouryuu Ondo

After that came the company’s first remix album, CLUB Hello! TRANCE REMIX changing up quite a few H!P songs to a wild dance party!

After that, we get a single from a special unit (who only did release a singular single) of popular soloists Goto, Matsuura, and Fujimoto named Gomattou and their lone single, SHALL WE LOVE?

Then kind of an odd Christmas single between various members of H!P, Hiroshi Itsuki, and Takao Horiuchi in a combined single titled, Ai no Merry Christmas.

Also in Hawaii, H!P released two best albums for the fanclub, 2003 Nendo Hawaii Genteiban Hello! Project Best 1 & 2.

Then we have our yearly annual, Petit Best 3

Closing out the year though in a very humorous and random release, English-speaking singers were chosen to sing English versions of H!P songs in a compilation album, Cover Morning Musume Hello! Project! (Though unfortunately, since it doesn’t contain H!P members, I will be passing over this, but know that it was hilarious to listen to).

GREAT SONGS

  • Morning Musume Single Medley ~Hawaiian~ – So we start with the earliest of these other H!P releases with a Hawaiian medley of Momusu songs that included Momusu of course, Coconuts Musume (Ayaka and Mika), Mikitty, and Rika Ishii with Ukulele player, Boo Takagi.  I’m kind of surprised with Fujimoto & Ishii since neither really had any connections to theme of the song.  The song’s included in this medley were, “The☆Pea~ce~”, “Renai Revolution 21”, “I WISH”, a small snippet of “Summer Night Town”, “LOVE Machine, Souda! We’re ALIVE”, and “Happy Summer Wedding” before rounding out with “The☆Pea~ce!” again.  The song is just so relaxing and hearing the transitions between songs is so interesting.  While the girls sound nice and less shouty, I think Boo Takagi kind of ruins the mood with his kind of lazy-sounding singing so it kind of feels awkward when he tries to sing these classics.  Still, this was a pretty nice track and the PV helped a lot!
  • Furusato (Hawaiian Version) & (Album version) – So the medley single actually had a B-side and it’s a for a song that wasn’t a part of the medley too!  Now I’m not quite sure what the difference between the two versions are exactly maybe a different ending?  Anyways, Furusato doesn’t sound quite as depressing as the original cut, but the Hawaiian tones are so relaxing.  This was handled pretty nicely and one of the better songs from the album.
  • Shiawase Desu ka? – I think of the 3 shuffle units, I think Sexy 8 surprisingly got the best song of the 3 by being a straight up R&B track and I quite enjoyed this song especially with the ladies involved here.  I mean the line distribution is quite nice (Gocchin got the opening monologue).  If there was any complaints, it might be that both Ishikawa and Yoshizawa don’t quite fit the song…but that’s just me.
  • Manatsu no Kousen – Honestly, the first song I thought of getting a Hawaiian treatment was Manatsu no Kousen because it is in fact a summery song, though I was more surprised no Morning Musume members sang this (not even the remaning members who sung in the original) instead it was only Kimura, Todd, Fujimoto, and Ishii (members in this album not from Momusu, well Mikitty is a misnomer at the moment).  Definitely a surprise and all 4 sound really nice and pleasant and there’s not a lot of Boo if any at all so it works!
  • I WISH – Honestly, if there was one song that truly benefitted from the Hawaiian touch-up, it would have to be I WISH and even better that it sounds a lot like what it was in the medley!  Though it is a bummer that only Gocchin & Aibon got solos (makes sense though) and the only other members singing were Kei-chan, Yossie, and Charmy…so it didn’t feel like a chorale it felt like lol.
  • DANCE Suru no da! (TRANCE REMIX) – A little more slick and smooth of a trance remix, another song I was pretty surprised to be remixed, DANCE Suru no da! is a fun disco song and it turned into this rather catchy remix especially with the repetitive parts getting the spotlight here.  Even when the chorus hits, it’s just done so well and it really gives this song a nice punch to it.
  • Pittari Shitai X’mas! (TRANCE REMIX) – Who knew you can turn a Christmas song into such an impressive remix because this is really cool and I’m liking the verses and its build-up across the board alongside with the deep bass synth pushing the song forward.  Even the Tsunku-isms are adding a lot more power.  The chorus adds a semblance of a melody but it’s not jarring or weird (plus hearing Kei-chan, Gocchin, and Yossie is always nice).
  • Megami ~Mousse na Yasashisa~ – The other Pocky unit (consisting of Iida, Yaguchi, Goto, and Yoshizawa), Venus Mousse got the song, Megami is quite the change of pace (also this was after Gocchin graduated from Momusu which is pretty awesome to see her return again).  The tune is soft and poppy and reminds me of early Tanpopo music.  Plus the four members sound so nice together so it was a nice tune overall!

OK SONGS

  • Shiawase Beam! Suki Suki Beam! – With the first of the shuffle units, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into besides the song being super cute and Shiawase Beam! Suki Suki Beam! was definitely that, but a little tropical in certain ways as well!  Of course, the four Morning Musume members were going to get the main lines and whatnot, but it’s nice hearing Mika, Hitomi, and Asami contributing too!  The song itself can be catchy (mostly the verses) but overall it was a decent cute song!
  • Yoku Aru Oyako no Serenade (Happy7, Sexy 8, and Odoru11 Version) – So as the B-side to all three shuffle unit singles, I was kind of hoping for something a little more interesting, but Yoku Aru Oyako no Serenade doesn’t quite hit that mark but is more of a R&B ballad.  After having to listen to it 3 times, I do kind of like the song even if it’s pretty simple as things go.  Sexy 8 though did to the best with the more mature vocalists singing it, but Odoru11 weren’t too far behind the mark.  The song though was nice and harmless I’d say.
  • Shiawase Kyouryuu Ondo – Similar to “Dancing! Natsu Matsuri”, the biggest of the shuffle units got a SUPER RANDOM song as their track and made even harder to enjoy visually due to the ladies being put in wigs.  If anything, the two songs have a LOT in common!  It’s such a bizarre song vocally that it’s kind of difficult to tell who is who singing and with the odd arrangement as well, it comes off messy at points (even moreso than the aforementioned song).  At least the PV was entertaining right?
  • Happy Summer Wedding – Opening the Hawaiian album, Happy Summer Wedding seems such an odd place to kick the album off, but it’s upbeat and positive.  Of course it also means line distribution is quite different with a lot of members getting moved around (Kaori has the dialogue now since Yuko left).  Overall, it’s a nice edit of the song and very relaxing yet boppy!
  • Renai Revolution 21 – For a song that’s very energetic, cutting the tempo down and what not was not quite what I had expected of the song.  I also found myself being slightly turned off by Takagi’s vocals here…it just sounded rather flat and deadpan (and slightly mumbly at points).  I think otherwise this Hawaiian/bossa nova tone is interesting, but I wouldn’t have made RR21 that style.
  • LOVE Machine – I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t quite like Boo singing at all in the songs despite him an important component of the album itself (as the ukulele player).  I also noticed that the chorus doesn’t quite roll quite as smoothly as it did in the medley adding this MIDI-ized beat to kind of bump up the energy.  It just sounded cheap and didn’t need to be there.  Still, it’s LOVE Machine and the ladies still sound awesome.
  • The☆Pea~ce! – I think the songs that were used in the medley were resung again so it does sound a bit different than what I had heard earlier.  It does start out similarly but once the verses kick in, it sounds slightly different.  It’s OK, but I rather have the short bits from the medley than the full song.
  • Summer Night Town – Despite having the shortest time on the medley (only had the ~smile, smile, smile~), I was curious to what the rest of the song would be like.  Not surprised though it was relegated to just Kaorin, Nacchi, Kei-chan, and Marippe as those 4 did perform in the original version.  The song though is somewhat nice, but the verses are a ROUGH time to get through because of the smushed up lyrics.  Boo doesn’t do quite as much, but eh.  It’s nice, but I’ll keep the original around.
  • Morning Coffee – Only Kaori & Natsumi this time?  Yeah, it seems it’s a trio song between those two and Boo and it’s pretty straightforward here really.  Maybe it’s just me but the song give me Country vibes, but it could be due to how much ukulele there is here.  Boo does take up most of the secondary behind the main lyrics so it’s nice that his deep voice can be there.  Still, not bad, but nothing too outstanding either.
  • Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ – As the last of the newish track (it was followed by “Furusato” and the Medley).  I was happy that they kept Yossie, Nacchi, and Gocchin as the main singers for this song and the tune still sounds fun a boppy (maybe a little less, you can only do so much with a ukulele).  Nothing bad here!
  • The☆Pea~ce! (TRANCE REMIX) – As the opening to the remix album, it was no surprise it was going to open with this song.  I will say I do love the synthwork and it reminds me of Trance songs of the 90s!  It does take maybe a bit to long to get to some lyrical content and we’re given a bit of filters and some auto-tune to the ladies oddly enough.  Though the beat works with the chorus (despite the filters kind of being overdone).  Not a bad way to start the album.
  • Last Kiss (TRANCE REMIX) – I’m starting to dislike the filters on the girls to fit this warbled effect with the hypnotic beats, because I’m sure they’d sound great without it to be honest.  I was surprised this Tanpopo track got the remix since it is pretty classic at this point.  I will say after “Minimoni. Jankenpyon”, this was a nice remix if not once again dependent on the music more than the song itself.
  • Chokotto LOVE (TRANCE REMIX) – At least there’s some life in this remix to kind of wake me up a bit (even if they did tone down Chokotto LOVE a bit to do so).  The synths are quick and catchy and hearing the lines from the trio be sung clearly versus heavy amounts of filters is a plus to.  I would definitely listen to this over and over.
  • Furusato (TRANCE REMIX) – I wasn’t sure how a trance remix would work with a ballad such as Furusato and for the first half, I was actually surprised they kept it lowbrow and quiet for Nacchi’s first verse and chorus, I mean her voice does sound a bit too distant and echoey…but it fits the mood.  Though immediately, the synths start kicking in and the song is mainly dropped for this for a while.  When Nacchi does return the melody and beat feel a bit lazy and kind of meh to me.  Not quite as good as other remixes go, but I did totally enjoy the first half.
  • LOVE Machine (TRANCE REMIX) – I mean, the trance here sounds something more akin to something I’d here today that’s for sure.  The beat is pretty cool, but I feel like the remix here is a little weird to me with the odd singing melody.  I will say the chorus though was pretty awesome at least.  Overall, it’s an odd, but decent remix here!
  • SHALL WE LOVE? – So we finally get to Gomattou (Goto, Matsuura, and Fujimoto) and the song that really brought these 3 forward as popular members of Hello! Project!  Really though, SHALL WE LOVE? has this urban sound that all 3 members have done in their solo works so its really nothing new to them besides coming together.  I never understood the hype because the song while enjoyable isn’t one I would come back to very much.  Though, I do love the vocals here!
  • Ai no Merry Christmas – You know what?  I was kind of surprised to see that H!P released a single like this as a collaboration with two Up-Front artists, Itsuki Hiroshi and Takao Horiuchi and while I was expecting an upbeat and idol-like song, but Ai no Merry Christmas sounds a bit more sullen.  While I’m not sure who got the solos, of the girls…it was nice to listen to.  It does get better towards the end though when the ladies get a bit more prominance.  Nice tune overall!
  • Atarashii Koi no Hatsu Date – So it seems that Country Musume did have an extra song they had done before Rinne graduated from the group with Atarashii Koi no Hatsu Date.  I will say immediately Mai Satoda seemed slightly out of place since the other 3 (Rinne, Asami, and Rika had cutesy, high vocals).  The song sounds like it would’ve suited their first album (or everything they did once Rika joined the group).  It’s OK, but interesting that it was just thrown on Petit Best 3
  • Chokotto LOVE (2003 Version) Essentially, it’s the same song, but since this is the 3rd re-recording of this damn song, it’s for the 3rd Generation of Petitmoni (Yoshizawa, Ogawa, and Coconuts Kimura.  Really though it doesn’t sound different but since all three vocals are rather unique, it was easy to follow them.  Chokotto LOVE though still sounds great so really nothing wrong otherwise.
  • Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ (Hawaiian Version) – At first, I wasn’t quite sure why I had to talk about this track on Petit Best 3 because I assumed it was the original with Yossie, Gocchin, and Nacchi with Boo Takagi…but despite the track has the same arrangement overall, this time it was just the remaining Coconuts Musume members, Mika and Ayaka.  The duo does a nice job and they suit the song so nicely~!

MEH SONGS

  • Koi no Dance Site – Another song not used in the medley originally, Koi no Dance Site it seems to only feature 5th Gen (Gaki, Ai-chan. Makochan, and Konkon) and the Coconuts girls and already the song lost A LOT of energy due to the arrangement.  It just doesn’t have that oomph so Koi no Dance Site feels a bit lukewarm to me.  Boo also sounds pretty dead here as well not adding to the slump already here.  Just wasn’t a great track to be honest.
  • Minimoni. Jankenpyon (TRANCE REMIX) – At first, this remix of Minimoni. Jankenpyon started going somewhere by using that Indian melody as the basis of the melody which actually pulled me in.  Though the verses screwed that up which didn’t work, though whenever they do do the Indian-like pre-chorus, it sounds so good, but the chorus comes in and it just gets bad.  I REALLY like some of the song, but the rest just is bad!
  • Ikimasshoi! (TRANCE REMIX) – Wow, they took this album song and gave it a remix and I was kind of expecting this to be a banger and it doesn’t quite make it as punchy as it could’ve been, but I do appreciate the strings mixing with the beats.  However, as time furthers on, I feel like the remix goes nowhere and it gets repetitive VERY quickly so it kind of ruined it for me.
  • Koi wo Shichaimashita! (TRANCE REMIX) – Kind of the same feelings here as I felt with “Ikimasshoi!” minus the repetition but replaced with the annoying vocal filters that felt incredibly obvious over Gocchin & Aibon’s vocals here.  It just bothered me and the arrangement was too repetitive and forgettable for me.
  • Renai Revolution 21 (TRANCE REMIX) – I think at this point of the album, I was starting to tire of the same beats being used and the song feeling less and less unique with each passing remix.  Renai Revolution 21 is definitely one of those tracks that didn’t do anything for me and I ended up forgetting it.
  • Daite HOLD ON ME! (TRANCE REMIX) – I’m going to be honest, I would’ve loved to hear this without the vocals involved because it has a nice amount of sound and oomph about it and maybe the section with the rap was pretty cool, but the rest just doesn’t quite fit the remix bill very well.
  • Do it! Now (TRANCE REMIX) – Not quite sure what was up with the bubbles and watery effects in the beginning, but the song started to start and it was OK for a while, but it felt like the remix’s melody was repetitive and didn’t quite move around too much up until the chorus hit.  Kind of wished it was a bit more faster, but overall it’s just eh?  And the rap was terribly handled…
  • Minimoni. Hinamatsuri! (TRANCE REMIX) – As the final track from the remix album, Minimoni. Hinamatsuri! was an odd choice too, but it was an A-side so I suppose it was a safe choice.  Though I’m not quite sure I remember this one very much because the arrangement is repetitive once again and the song itself wasn’t the strongest already IMO.
  • SHALL WE LOVE? (Cool groove mix) – I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t quite into the remixes frm the single.  The first one seems to speed up the song a little bit, but keep its urban R&B vibes.  It does sound like a Taiyou to Ciscomoon song now, but for some reason it just doesn’t quite work here.
  • SHALL WE LOVE? (Airly healing mix) – As for the other remix, the Airly one kind of turns the song into this smooth, maybe jazzier, remix with some synths and acoustic guitar and makes the song feel a bit more danceable?  Whatever it is, this remix is a bit better than the Cool groove remix, but only barely.
  • Tabidatsu Kimi ni – So the B-side from the Hello! Project Seikatai only includes the two guys and Yuko & Mikitty so the tune isn’t quite driven to add the ladies but the two ladies sound nice despite them taking the backseat for this song.  It does sound enka-ish as it is a ballad, but unfortunately it’s not a song that I’ll remember going forward since it doesn’t feature Yuko & Miki enough honestly.  Could have this been on a FOLK SONGS?
  • Do it! Now (CRAZY SODA REMIX) – Into the Petit Best exclusives, I’m not surprised that Do it! Now got remixed since it’s been annual that Momusu’s choice was going to be a remix.  Though they turned the song into something more akin to something from Gocchin’s singles or even “SHALL WE LOVE?”.  The song is more R&B and urbanized for the listener.  Personally, it felt more typical sounding and not as unique as the original’s arrangement.
  • Ai~n! Dance no Uta (MORE TRANCE REMIX) – I mean the original was already as frantic and heavy, so hearing they were going to add more Trance to the arrangement was beyond me.  Though I don’t feel quite as entranced by this remix since it just stays the same all over.  Also, why wasn’t this one the remix album?
  • YES! POCKY GIRLS – At the end of the Petit Best 3 album, we got two more tracks both were used to promote the snack, Pocky.  Momusu was split between two units, the first Pocky Girls was made of: Abe, Yasuda, Ishikawa, Kago, Tsuji, Takahashi, Konno, Niigaki, and Ogawa.  This song is upbeat and whatnot but there’s no solos to be found so it kind of just flies by.

ICKY SONGS

  • Te wo Nigitte Arukitai (TRANCE REMIX) – I mean I already knew that there was no hope on making this track any better and the remix just kind of makes things unbearable to listen to.  The arrangement is so repetitive, the chorus is still as ridiculously cute for no reason this time and Gocchin just sounds terrible with the vocal filters.  Yeah, this was a bad idea!

Gains and Losses

Gains

  • Miki Fujimoto
  • Mai Satoda
  • Ayumi Shibata (to Tanpopo)
  • Risa Niigaki (to Tanpopo)
  • Asami Konno (to Tanpopo)
  • Ayaka Kimura (to Petitmoni)
  • Makoto Ogawa (to Petitmoni)
  • Risako Sugaya
  • Maasa Sudo
  • Miyabi Natsuyaki
  • Maiha Ishimura
  • Airi Suzuki
  • Momoko Tsugunaga
  • Chinami Tokunaga
  • Mai Hagiwara
  • Megumi Murakami
  • Maimi Yajima
  • Saki Nakajima
  • Saki Shimizu
  • Chisato Okai
  • Yurina Kumai
  • Erika Umeda
  • Ai Takahashi (to Minimoni)

Losses

  • Ami Kitagami
  • Mami Suenaga
  • Saki Arai
  • Lehua Sandbo
  • Rinne Toda
  • Maki Goto (from Morning Musume)
  • Kaori Iida (from Tanpopo)
  • Mari Yaguchi (from Tanpopo)
  • Ai Kago (from Tanpopo)
  • Kei Yasuda (from Petitmoni)
  • Maki Goto (from Petitmoni)
  • Mari Yaguchi (from Minimoni)
  • Michiyo Heike
  • Rika Ishii

My H!P Ranking for ’02

  • 47. Ami Kitagami (-27)
  • 46. Mami Suenaga (-33)
  • 45. Saki Arai (-14)
  • 44. Lehua Sandbo (-11)
  • 43. Miyabi Natsuyaki (NEW)
  • 42. Maiha Ishimura (NEW)
  • 41. Momoko Tsugunaga (NEW)
  • 40. Chinami Tokunaga (NEW)
  • 39. Megumi Murakami (NEW)
  • 38. Maimi Yajima (NEW)
  • 37. Saki Nakajima (NEW)
  • 36. Saki Shimizu (NEW)
  • 35. Chisato Okai (NEW)
  • 34. Yurina Kumai (NEW)
  • 33. Erika Umeda (NEW)
  • 32. Airi Suzuki (NEW)
  • 31. Mai Hagiwara (NEW)
  • 30. Risako Sugaya (NEW)
  • 29. Maasa Sudo (NEW)
  • 28. Asami Konno (+2)
  • 27. Risa Niigaki (-6)
  • 26. Asami Kimura (-2)
  • 25. Nozomi Tsuji (+4)
  • 24. Rinne Toda (-5)
  • 23. Megumi Murata (+2)
  • 22. Rika Ishii (-7)
  • 21. Yuko Nakazawa (-15)
  • 20. Hitomi Yoshizawa (-18)
  • 19. Rika Ishikawa (+7)
  • 18. Yuki Maeda (-7)
  • 17. Makoto Ogawa (+11)
  • 16. Mai Satoda (NEW)
  • 15. Ai Takahashi (+7)
  • 14. Michiyo Heike (-9)
  • 13. Kei Yasuda (-3)
  • 12. Hitomi Saito (+2)
  • 11. Ai Kago (+5)
  • 10. Ayaka Kimura (+2)
  • 9. Ayumi Shibata (+8)
  • 8. Natsumi Abe (+1)
  • 7. Masae Ohtani (0)
  • 6. Mika Todd (-2)
  • 5. Kaori Iida (+13)
  • 4. Mari Yaguchi (-3)
  • 3. Maki Goto (0)
  • 2. Aya Matsuura (+6)
  • 1. Miki Fujimoto (NEW)

Finally, 2002 is done!  This was a pretty long year for releases so here ya go, my thoughts of the year that was!

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Yuka Miyazaki to graduate from Juice=Juice & H!P in March

Juice=Juice_Miyazaki_Yuka_-_Una_Mas!_promo

While this news was not surprising in the least because Yuka is the oldest in the group, I was kind of surprised she announced her graduation to be at the same time Yanamin will also graduate too which is at the end of the Spring Tour.

When she first joined, I was happy Up-Front chose someone that didn’t audition for the group but someone from a different situation (like Kanatomo) and us fans already had a little time with her when she debuted as a member in GREEN FIELDS.  Her time in Juice=Juice might have been a back girl, but as the leader of the group she did a good job and she was always bubbly and happy.  I’m wondering if this was already considered seeing that Juice=Juice will be going down to 6 members.

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Hello! 2018! Let’s see what you have brought for us fans this year?

Welcome back and another year has gone and passed us by with a lot of Hello! Project stuff that happened.  Actually a lot more than last year, but with less music?  Yeah, it seems pretty strange, doesn’t it?  So let’s dive into the year that was!

Morning Musume ’18

Morning_Musume_'18_-_Furari_Ginza_promo

hanagasakuareyouhappyfurariginzahatachinomorningmusumepharaohnohebi

Kicking things off with the mainstay group, Morning Musume kicked off the year in an interesting way with a digital single, Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite, which was used as a preview for the group’s 20th anniversary mini-album, Hatachi no Morning Musume which included past Momusu members and current members.  Shortly after though it was announced that Haruna Ogata would graduate from the group in June and wouldn’t be present for their stageplay, Pharaoh no Haka~Hebi Ou Sneferu, which was a retelling of their stageplay of last year (which had a preview single and an OST released as well during the year).

Haruna’s last single with the group, Are you Happy? / A gonna came and went with little fanfare to her graduation

Cut to August when unsurprisingly Haruna Iikubo announced she too would be graduating but in December at the end of the Momusu tour and that came with her final single for the group, Furari Ginza / Jiyuu na Kuni Dakara (which at least had SOMETHING for Harunan).

Though slightly off topic, but slightly related, at the beginning of November, Aika Mitsui who was kind of still a H!P member, announced her retirement out of the company as well as Riho Sayashi in December.

  • NOTE: Will not be reviewing, “Koishite Mitakute” as there hasn’t been a physical/digital release
  • NOTE 2: Like with last year, I will not be reviewing the OST songs
  • NOTE 3: With “Hatachi no Morning Musume” I will only be talking about the MM’18 songs, the remaining tracks with the elder members will be in the Other H!P Releases section

GREAT SONGS

  • Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite – It’s kind of goofy that the first PV we got this year from the group was used for this track which was released a couple of weeks digitally before it had an actual release on “Hatachi no Morning Musume”.  Even stranger that it was the only track on the release that was relatively related to EDM.  It does slightly reminded me of “Jama Shinaide Here We Go!” but there’s something about this song that kind of worked here.  It’s got a solid beat and the girls sound great (surprising that Haachin got a robo-solo) but it’s a cool song!
  • A gonna – Though the other A-side of their first single of the year, A gonna had a bit more of interesting sound a bit more swagger coming from the ladies.  Unlike the rambunctious sound of “Are you Happy?”, A gonna is a little trap-like, but as the groove of the song goes on it’s just a cool track and even though the dance break before the 2nd verse is an odd placement, the rest of the song is pretty awesome!
  • Jiyuu na Kuni Dakara – After “Furari Ginza”, I wasn’t expecting another EDM song to be quite as in your face like “Mukidashi de Mukiatte” until this A-side came up and boy was I happy to hear a song like this return (despite the oversaturation of the style in recent years).  Plus all the love given to Sakura, Mizuki, Miki, and Masaki is just found all over this track.  It’s definitely my favorite A-side released in the year from Momusu!

OK SONGS

  • Are you Happy? – As the leading A-side of the first single they released, Are you Happy? was such an odd song for the group.  I do like the heavy beat at the beginning, but like many previous Momusu songs, it does feel like a couple separate ideas pasted together.  What it does feel like, it’s trying to be epic especially including that dramatic repetition that songs like Berryz’ “1-oku 3-zenman Sou Diet Oukoku” had in the past.  It’s OK, but I think they’ve done better.
  • Furari Ginza – Not sure what to think about this leading A-side from the 2nd single they released.  Furari Ginza seems to be a more electro “Ranrarun ~Anata ni Muchuu~” from the cutesy vibe and just a lighter track from Morning Musume.  Which from saying that reminds me also of “Sexy Cat no Enzetsu”.  There is something good about, like the harmonizing, but there’s also something missing as well.  It’s an OK track I guess!
  • Y Jiro no Tochuu – As the only B-side released this year, this track was more specifically for Harunan who got a sort-of send off track.  Unlike the other songs they released, Y Jiro no Tochuu was more of a lighter pop track which had a little more oomph than a similar song this year, “YEAH YEAH YEAH” did.  I thought this was a nice track to have a sendoff and was happily surprised to see that Harunan got a lengthy solo line after the bridge.

MEH SONGS

  • Otenki no Hi no Matsuri – The only other MM’18 track on “Hatachi no Morning Musume”, Otenki no Hi no Matsuri sounds like a forgotten B-side that didn’t quite make the cut.  Besides the fact that I love the line distribution to feature all the members getting a solo, the song doesn’t sound quite all that entrancing.  It just reminds me of “Itsumo to Onnaji Seifuku de” which was back in 2013!  I mean it has been a while since we’ve had a kind of natural sounding song, but it’s just kind of forgettable.

Predictions from 2017!

Considering this is going to be big for Hello! Project next year, there’s really no amount of surprises that could happen (and that’s something to say considering Momusu gained 3 members and lost Duu). I think someone will graduate next year…either Harunan or Eripon…but it’s hard to say otherwise…maybe a best album? (15 A-sides with no album kind of just says eventual best album).

Actuality: So a little bit of what I guessed did happen with Harunan graduating, but I didn’t think that Haachin would…both Harunas gone!  Still no best album in the works though as we continue to progress…

Predictions for 2019: Kind of unsure where the group is going next year, hopefully a little more active musically since there really wasn’t a lot this year IMO.  I’m sure someone is going to graduate, but I’m not sure if there’ll be auditions since I feel like the group is full.  Who knows with them!

ANGERME

angerme2018

nakanaizenatsushoguntadekuumushiyumemirutelevision

ANGERME mostly had a pretty straightforward year, at least one of the few that did I’d say!  After the announcement of Maho Aikawa leaving the group on New Year’s Eve, it was pretty much set for the course with a fuller OST of their stageplay, Yumemiru Television besides the announcement in April about the last of the original S/mileage girls & H!P leader, Ayaka Wada announcing her graduation for 2019.

The rest of the year was just normal with Nakenai ze…Kyoukan Sagi / Uraha=Lover / Kimi Dake ja nai sa…friends (2018 Acoustic Ver.), a random digital single in the summer, Natsu Shogun, and then Tade Kuu Mushi mo Like it! / 46-okunen LOVE in October.

Though in a rather surprising twist like when Kasahara joined, two new members were announced near the end of November, Haruka Oota Reira Ise.

  • NOTE: Still not reviewing “I Musou Strong!” for some odd reason, it won’t release!!

GREAT SONGS

  • Nakenai ze…Kyoukan Sagi – As the first “official” single to include their newest members, Musubu & Ayano, I was curious to see what we were going to get with Nakenai ze…Kyoukan Sagi and I was not disappointed in the least.  The song itself definitely reminds me of “Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku” in the way that it’s a harder EDM song that really gets you bopping to the beat!  All of the members get some kind of line which is also a plus.  Very futuristic and one the best songs released this year!
  • 46-okunen LOVE – The other song that kind of made me super happy this year from ANGERME, 46-okunen LOVE is definitely the strong disco/funk ladened track and they had so much energy and the song was even cooler pulling from older songs.  I don’t know why, but these kind of songs always seem to get me pumped up.  I also liked the amount of Rinapuu here and the song was just what I needed to end the year off on a good note at least!

OK SONGS

  • Uraha=Lover – The middle A-side off their first single of the year, Uraha=Lover was kind of a hot n’ cold kind of situation when I first listened to it because while it’s a bit more poppier than “Nakenai ze…Kyoukan Sagi”, it didn’t quite sound right to me and it was mostly from that 3-note ascension from the guitar being used so much.  Besides that, I think the song is decent, kind of pop/rock with some slight synthwork involved.  Not quite as impacting as the first A-side of the single, but this is an OK track.
  • Tade Kuu Mushi mo Like it! – As the leading track of the 2nd single, Tade Kuu Mushi mo Like it! is interestingly a funkier song for the group and while I dug it for the most part, it seemed to lack the energy behind it (even if Funaki definitely sounded the best throughout).  If it wasn’t for “46-okunen LOVE”, I think I would have loved it more, but in comparison this was the weaker song for me.  It was like “Gashinshoutan” almost.

MEH SONGS

  • Kimi Dake ja nai sa…friends (2018 Acoustic Ver.) – Not even a single later and we’re getting another version of this song as the 3rd A-side for the single.  I’ve never really been a fan of the original because while I do like the light casted mostly on Kamiko, Murotan, and new member Kawamuu…the latter isn’t too great of a singer.  I guess they brought it back for some strange reason with less instrumentation and a shorter length (about 20 seconds shorter).  What I will give is that the song sounds a bit more appropriate and giving all the members solo lines is MUCH BETTER.  Still, the song isn’t all the memorable otherwise.
  • Natsu Shogun – While I’m still a bit salty that “I Musou Strong!” still has not been released and this Summer tour song got the green light for a digital release, I already felt it was just something to tide it over til their next single.  I do love the Samurai-esque opening of the track, but then the song kind of switches gears to something that is a bit like ANGERME’s take on Kobushi Factory’s “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro”.  Like I said, a random release for a rather random song and I definitely couldn’t remember the melody to save my life.  Oh yeah, that dubstep bridge…awkward…

Predictions from 2017

ANGERME should get no more members, there’s quite a bit of them now (their biggest iteration since 2nd Gen became sub-members). So, maybe a less wild year…maybe one graduation?

Actuality: I mean, I was guessing no new members, but there were two at the end of the year and at least one member, Ayacho, is graduating but that was an easy guess.

Predictions for 2019: Besides the fact that Ayaka is graduating, I am curious to see the group’s dynamics going into the new year…Possibly another graduation, but this one for Kanana (she’s getting up there in years) or possibly Takechan (who has been in H!P for quite a while).  Though I’m definitely curious to see how Haruka and Reira will fit.

Juice=Juice

Juice=Juice_-_Una_Mas!_promo

sexysexyunamas

Juice=Juice has had an interesting year to say the least huh?  They did kick of the year with their single, SEXY SEXY / Naite Ii yo / Vivid Midnight which was technically their first physical release with their new members, Ruru Dambara & Nanami Yanagawa.

Cut to July when the group finally announces their sophomore album, Juice=Juice#2 -¡Una más!- but a week later came with an extra announcement that former Country Girls member, Manaka Inaba was going to join the group and sing in 3 of the new tracks on the album.

After the album’s release in September, we cut to November and an announcement that Nanami Yanagawa will graduate from H!P next year in March and then in December the similar happened with Yuka Miyazaki announcing her graduation in the same time period.

  • NOTE: Won’t review “Borderline” as it hasn’t released yet. Nor Karin’s new solo songs she performed at her birthday event.

GREAT SONGS

  • SEXY SEXY – Kicking off Juice=Juice’s year, we did get SEXY SEXY first as the primary A-side released this year.  What I definitely wasn’t expecting that Nanami would be the lead vocalist for the track (considering I would think she’d be the least “sexiest” to take charge versus other members like Kanatomo, Sayubee, Aarii, or even Ruru!)  Regardless, the song is just a great track and showcases a more mature side to the group!
  • TOKYO Glider – One of the older new tracks from their album, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got to listen to this one because it seriously reminded me of TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE with that heavy funk/disco style that molded their discography.  For Juice=Juice, it definitely gave them a bit more freedom to showcase their vocal chops and it did wonders for them (mostly Ruru, Karin, and Sayuki).  Definitely a stand out track!
  • Sunao ni Amaete – Another song that included Manakan, Sunao ni Amaete definitely gives me sultry spy vibes about it and I dig it quite a bit!  Something about the sensual undertones mixed in with a nice line distribution just works in so many ways.  Plus Yanamin’s ~oboete cherry~ line just always sends a shiver…just that good!
  • Gin’iro no Telepathy – What I’ve noticed is that the 3 older new tracks from their sophomore album was originally performed with the idea that Juice=Juice was still going to be 5-nin so hearing the studio album cuts of those songs definitely told me that Ruru & Nanami were kind of added last minute to those songs (this one, “Abaretekka?!” & “Kono Sekai wa Suteta Mon ja nai”.  Gin’iro no Telepathy is very outer space and adventure-like and there’s a LOT of Karin in the song.  I also get a little bit of 80s here, but it’s a nice and peppy track!
  • Kindan Shoujo – As the song that was used for promoting the album (would’ve been great if it had gotten a PV), Kindan Shoujo is my favorite of the new tracks to include Manaka!  Definitely the most 80s sounding track, it’s surprisingly catchy and has a lot of good lines (well, the super high notes from Dambara and later on Yanagawa are a bit too much), but a great song minus that small hiccup.

OK SONGS

  • Vivid Midnight – Another A-side from the lone single they released this year, Vivid Midnight definitely showed up as that song that kind of has a rather interesting K-pop kind of feel to it.  At least it made the song was peppy and upbeat like something from KARA or like SNSD.  Still, not quite the fan of the arpeggio squeaking during the choruses, but that’s the only qualm I truly have because the rest of the track is cute and fun!
  • Never Never Surrender – Moving to album tracks, the first one off that 2nd disc, I already somehow loved it for its intro with the filtered bagpipes that kind of open up further into this chanting-like song.  I mean it does kind of sound middle-of-the-road once the song goes into its verses, but I think it’s a harmless song.
  • Jouro (Album Version) – It’s funny how much better an album version sounds better in quality once 2 members get added doesn’t it?  Last year, I really didn’t think much of it because Juice=Juice and cute songs didn’t really work with me.  Granted, nothing changed musically and the only changes was in line distribution to include Nanami & Ruru.  I guess, the cuteness has started working into me and it’s doing better with each listen.
  • Synchro. – So on their album, 3 of the new tracks included their newest member, Manaka Inaba, they gained shortly after the announcement of the album’s release.  Of the 3, I think I liked this the least because it was another slow track from the group, though unlike “Naite Ii yo”, the arrangement is a bit more interesting and unique.  Plus it was nice to hear everyone with a decent amount of solos.
  • Goal ~Ashita wa Acchi da yo~ (Album Version) – Unlike “Jouro”, Goal didn’t change my opinion of it after the addition of Yanagawa & Dambara to the group because they were only given one solo line each.  Other than that, it’s the same track that was released as a 5-nin last year just with a little elevation with the addition of two members.

MEH SONGS

  • Naite Ii yo – I’m not sure why H!P doesn’t quite get ballads, or at least some decent sounding ones that really suit their groups.  Naite Ii yo sadly falls into the bin of forgettable ballads for me because it just sounds generic and bland despite having nice vocals from Tomoko, Akari, and Yuka.  For an A-side this was just a snoozefest of a song.
  • Abaretekka?! Have a Good Time – The group has dabbled in rock arrangements before, but this feels like their take on punk rock.  I find this song more humorous because of Tomoko’s opening line in the song.  Though this one doesn’t quite speak out to me even though I do like the bass hooks, but it could have a stronger punch to it and the chorus especially…
  • Kono Sekai wa Suteta Mon ja nai – When I first listened to this track live, I never felt like it really connected to me and even re-listening to it now, there’s just something missing about.  It actually felt like the album had a filler track and this was the unlucky one of the bunch.  Like I said above about “Gin’iro no Telepathy”, this song added Nanami & Ruru kind of last minute it feels like.  Even with them added, the song doesn’t stick to me at all trying to be cutesy, but disco-y as well?
  • Wonderful World (2018 English Ver.) – Can we just bury this someplace?  This is the 3rd time this song has come up and it has done NOTHING to raise its placement.  Wonderful World this time kept the English version (from last year’s digital release) and somehow added the 2 new members (but didn’t give them solos).  Kind of begs the question of why update it for the 3rd time?

Predictions from 2017

Kind of hard to tell, I’m sure Ruru & Nanami will find a stronger foot as more releases come by (especially with 5 unreleased songs). As for the rest of them, it’s hard to say once again what Juice=Juice will do after their World Tour is done…maybe Yuka graduating?

Actuality: Well it’s kind of difficult to really tell if the 2 new members really found their footing after debut, but I feel like they are fitting in and having Nanami lead SEXY SEXY and Ruru being a total vocal powerhouse is pretty much evidence they’ll be OK, even better now with Manaka in the ranks as well!  Though I’m a little sad that Nanami & Yuka are leaving in 2019.  2nd album was pretty decent though, just hope it doesn’t take as long for their 3rd.

Predictions for 2019: Besides Yanamin & Yukanyan graduating, I’m actually unsure what’s going to happen. Maybe we’ll have 3 singles?

Country Girls

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Country Girls’ 2018 was pretty odd considering they were pretty much in hiatus for most of the year!  The first half was pretty non-existant outside of a couple performances while Morito, Funaki, and Yanagawa were fitting into their new groups!  It wasn’t until the Summer concerts where the group finally released a new digital single in Matenai After Five / Kasa wo Sasu Senpai.

Then the news of former member, Manaka Inaba had joined Juice=Juice, Risa Yamaki joining a new group outside of H!P, College Cosmos and Nanami Yanagawa announcing her graduation for next year…it’s starting to feel like Country Girls might close shop.

GREAT SONGS

  • Matenai After Five – With the hiatus and everything going on, I was really happy to see them manage at least one release this year!  Matenai After Five’s bossa nova/big band sound is quite unique and a great change of pace for the group and hearing Mai & Risa is a treat.  Something about the song just felt right and the cute nature is still there.  A total surprise from Country Girls
  • Kasa wo Sasu Senpai – Though I think a hidden gen from Hello! Project this year was the other A-side to the single, Kasa wo Sasu Senpai.  While it does take some notes from one of their older songs, “Koi wa Magnet”, it definitely added more to it beyond that!  I didn’t even recognize Mai’s voice that opened the track, but once it gets going it’s just good being a bit more serious than “Matenai After Five”.  I think it did well showcasing the 5 members

Predictions from 2017

It’s really hard to guess where Country Girls is going to be in 2018. What with Morito, Funaki, and Yanagawa now permanently in Momusu, ANGERME, and Juice=Juice respectively. Though I assume that perhaps Yamaki & Ozeki will be shuffled into units as their schooling will probably be somewhat finished. Though could we get Inaba to perform with the 5 Country Girls for one time???

Actuality: Well, I mean it’s still hard to guess after this year right?  I mean the shuffled girls are doing pretty well for themselves in their new groups and while Yamaki got shuffled into a unit, it wasn’t a H!P unit to say the least, making Ozeki kind of the vacant member currently.  Still nothing about Inaba joining back for a performance or two (which is kind of weird, it would’ve been interesting had she been readded for the single lol.

Predictions for 2019: For next year, the only thing set in stone for the group is Yanagawa’s graduation leaving Country Girls as a quartet.  Beyond that, its really up to the company to what they wanna do since it feels like Morito & Funaki are comfortable in their groups while Yamaki does College Cosmos.  I guess I’m expecting Ozeki to be placed in a group though.  As for releases, maybe 2 songs?

Kobushi Factory

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After the insanity of last year with losing 3 members, it was no surprise to me that Kobushi Factory would slow it down this year with just having two singles being released; Kore Kara da! / Ashita Tenki ni Naare in March and Kitto Watashi wa / Naseba Naru in August.

  • NOTE: Won’t review “Keseyashinai Kimochi” and “Kame ni Naare!” as they haven’t been released physically/digitally

GREAT SONGS

  • Kitto Watashi wa – Though I feel like the uncharacteristic song ended up being my favorite of their year from Kobushi.  I mean in regards to sound it’s pretty poppy and cute which is something Kobushi hasn’t done since “Samba! Kobushi Janeiro” (which I personally feel still is the black sheep of their discography), but Kobushi also has a chant-heavy chorus which brings back that pop/rock sound.  It’s kind of a refreshing sound though and it’s goofy, but cute at the same time.  I quite enjoyed it a lot!

OK SONGS

  • Kore Kara da! – Something about this track definitely screams Anison to me, but I’m pretty much OK with the song’s arrangement that said.  As the main A-side of the first single (and first time hearing Kobushi as a 5-nin, I kind of expected the vocals to be mostly the same (since Ogawa, Fujii, and Taguchi were never main vocalists) though I do like that Sakurako got pushed to become another lead and since all 5 members have lower vocals (Nomura & Hamaura maybe on the higher range) they still sound good together.  I still kind of dug it though and its pushing through hard time outlook is very fitting (especially all they went through last year).
  • Ashita Tenki ni Naare – The other A-side off their first single of the year, Ashita Tenki ni Naare sounds a lot like what Kobushi has been giving us and I’m happy they haven’t totally abandoned this sound.  Vocally, it also sounds like what we’re used to versus the more deeper sound off of “Kore Kara da!”.  Though my biggest issue is the bridge with the goofy ass spoken dialogue…like WTF H!P…leave that in the PV don’t make that part of the studio recording…especially if its going to sound as embarrassing as that lol.  Otherwise, decent song and very much them!

MEH SONGS

  • Naseba Naru – I guess they had to even their 2nd single out because while I loved “Kitto Watashi wa”, I was bored senseless with Naseba Naru.  It mostly stems from the fact that it sounds WAY too much like their other ballad track, “Kobushi no Hana”.  Granted 3 members less should’ve caused the vocals to sound slightly different but it really doesn’t.  Granted the remaining 5 members still sound great together and melodically sound good together.  Still, the song is pretty much treading too much familiar ground here.

Predictions from 2017

I just want them to return to music for once! Maybe add some new members to kind of soften the triple loss they’ve endured. Musically, not quite sure…more rockin’ songs!

Actuality: I mean, I guess my predictions came true, but I kind of thought they’d release at least one more single and not left us with nothing for months now.

Predictions for 2019: Just to be more active again, while I don’t know if there close to a sophomore album, or even gaining new members (considering the ONLY YOU audition), it’s a little bit of a mystery to what’s next for Kobushi Factory.

Tsubaki Factory

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Tsubaki Factory this year also seemed to have a rather straightforward year, but at least the group finally managed to release their first full-length album.  The year began with the group releasing their first single in the year in February with Teion Yakedo / Shunrenka / I Need You ~Yozora no Kanransha~ then another single in July with Date no Hi wa Nido Kurai Shower Shite Dekaketai / Junjou cm / Kon’ya Dake Ukaretakatta

And finally getting to their first album aptly titled, first bloom in November.

  • NOTE: I won’t be reviewing “Teion Yakedo” as I actually reviewed it last year when it was released digitally.
  • NOTE 2: Won’t be reviewing “Mou Saikou!” and “Hair up Sora e!” as they haven’t been released physically/digitally (though I question if they’ll ever be released?)

GREAT SONGS

  • Kon’ya Dake Ukaretakatta – I think the best thing to come off the 2nd single, Kon’ya Dake Ukaretakatta is upbeat, quick-paced and just a fun listen versus the two other serious songs.  Plus hearing all the members sound really strong counts a lot for me.  It’s just ridiculously catchy and just gets me pumped up everytime I listen to it!  Plus that chorus!!!…ooph, so damn good!
  • Hyoumen Chouroyku ~Surface Tension~ – As the first of the new tracks from the album, I was pretty excited to hear Surface Tension as it was promoted quite a bit for the group.  The song is pretty funky and upbeat and has a bit of a similar sound to some of Juice=Juice songs out there.  Still, it’s surprisingly catchy and while my only complaint is the high note squeak that a lot of members try to pull off, the rest of the song is just upbeat and fun!
  • Kaerou Let’s Go! – The last of the album’s new tracks to be revealed prior to release, Kaerou Let’s Go! definitely to me serves as that encore track that really gets the crowd going with the group.  It’s a bit more cuter than a lot of their other songs and I enjoyed the peppy cute side of the group here.
  • Yuki no Planetarium – I think the song I was heavily looking forward to from the album, Yuki no Planetarium is another track that does scream anison, but considering it’s one of the oldest unreleased tracks prior to the album, I was pleasantly surprised as how well it turned out.  It’s really a neat song and the latin guitar was also a great touch to the track.  Definitely my favorite from the album!
  • LET’S LIVE – Moving to the 2nd disc of new covers, it’s to be said that none of the covers Tsubaki did changed the arrangements from the originals here.  This was a rather surprising choice to cover a v-u-den B-side, but I will say it was a good choice since I enjoyed the original.  Already the difference between 3 & 9 members is large.  While not vocally on the same level as the original Miyoshi, Okada, and Ishikawa recording, it was a pretty good cover overall!
  • ENDLESS YOUTH – I thought it was pretty appropriate that the last of the covers they chose was from Melon Kinenbi and it’s a mid-tempo closing song which is nice and softer than “Furisake Mireba…” was.  The group sounds relaxed and nice together which is a plus.  Not bad, not bad!

OK SONGS

  • Date no Hi wa Nido Kurai Shower Shite Dekaketai – As for the 2nd single, I feel like I forgotten about most of it because of how little it stood out to me.  Returning to this long-titled track, Date no Hi wa… has a more serious sound to it (like “Junjou cm”) but this one is pretty standard.  I do love the verses and the build-up to the chorus, but it just didn’t pay off when it actually hits since the chorus is less powerful and slower than the pre-chorus. It’s OK, but nothing that stands out versus other A-sides.
  • Junjou cm – I didn’t think they’d stick two serious songs next to each other on a single because while I feel “Date no Hi wa…” has good verses and pre-chorus, Junjou cm has a good chorus but forgetful verses.  The sound also gives me Platinum era Momusu feels which while nostalgic, really only works with older members.  It’s another OK track, but maybe something I won’t remember how it goes.
  • Kanousei no Concerto – It’s funny that I thought many if not all of the new tracks from the album definitely screamed anison theme to me, but I think this song really pushed the idea the most with the pop/rock with strings vibes.  It’s definitely unique for Tsubaki Factory and it struck a nice chord with me, though I’m surprised there was barely any solos here.
  • Happy Cracker – Ok, it’s one thing I felt like “Kaerou Let’s Go!” would be best used as an encore song, but Happy Cracker also feels like it fits that bill just as much if not moreso.  It’s very quick-paced and loud and it just sounds like a crowd amplifier.  It can be catchy and times and other times a bit much for me.
  • Furisake Mireba… – As the final track of the first disc, I wasn’t surprised to see that the track would turn out to be a ballad.  I mean unlike the other boring ballads of the year, this one has a little more bounce to it.  Though I did they kind of switched it up once the 2nd verse hits by adding random noses and a happier tone.  Interesting song overall and a good way to close things out.
  • Jiriri Kiteru – I was pretty excited to see what Tsubaki could do with Berryz & C-ute songs in their repertoire and with Jiriri Kiteru, it isn’t quite as punchy or dramatic as the original Berryz version sounded, but Tsubaki definitely held their own here and it sounds decent for the most part.
  • Tokai no Hitorigurashi – I was a little more worried with the group covering this C-ute song because at this point in time, C-ute had very mature vocals (except maybe Maimai & Nakky) and this was one of their more vocally strong ones.  Though Tsubaki sure did try their best and props to Yumeno & Mizuho, they sounded the best here.  Still, the C-ute version is much better still IMO.
  • Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi – Another Berryz’ cover as I pretty much feel similar to what I thought about “Jiriri Kiteru”, but maybe not as strong?  Like the group sounds cuter here and funny enough they fit the arrangement better too!  Though the song itself was never one I really cared for from Berryz Kobo.  I would say this was a solid cover!

MEH SONGS

  • Shunrenka – I’m actually not quite sure why I don’t like it, but there’s just not much that I remember about it.  Like I know it’s the group’s Spring song (which is funny that it comes after “Teion Yakedo”, the Winter song).  Like I said, there’s nothing totally wrong with it, it’s just a song that doesn’t really cater to me and I feel like as an A-side it’s kind of forgotten, but there’s others from Tsubaki that does the same.
  • I Need You ~Yozora no Kanransha~ – I pretty much feel conflicted when it came to this song because I feel like it wants to be a happy ballad, but all of the mood switching is rather odd to me. I really like the verses don’t get me wrong and while the chorus is poppier and kind of plain, it’s this dubstep break that ruins the entire experience for me.  Just does not work here and I feel like without it, it could’ve been higher on the list.

Predictions from 2017

Maybe an album or something like that? I feel like they have enough to have one now luckily! I just hope nothing else happens beyond that ^^

Actuality: Wow, getting Tsubaki 100% correct here because there were no big lineup changes (was pretty happy to see Kiki heal fine) and we did get our first full-length album!

Predictions for 2019: I really don’t know actually.  After their first album, it’s really open for anything from additions to graduations, but I’m hoping for 2 singles at least (and maybe get those Trolls songs released).

BEYOOOOONDS (CHICA#TETSU, Ame no Mori Kawa Umi, etc.)

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WE FINALLY got some kind of movement from UFP concerning last year’s big reveal of Ichioka, Takase, and Kiyono debuting in H!P.

In April, we got the announcement that two units would be created, one for Ichioka and the other for Takase & Kiyono.

Cut to June with the surprise announcement of Kenshuusei joining both groups

  • Ichioka gained Saya Eguchi, Rika Shimakura, and Shiori Nishida
  • Takase & Kiyono gained Kokoro Maeda, Minami Okamura, and Yuhane Yamazaki

They would perform together for the first time during the Summer tours.

Skip to October and we finally gain names for the two groups: CHICA#TETSU and Ame no Mori Kawa Umi, but that’s not all.  It was announced alongside that these two groups (and the winners of the ONLY YOU auditions that were going on would combine into a super unit called BEYOOOOONDS

In December, those winners were announced: Miyo Hirai, Honoka Kobayashi, and Utano Satoyoshi.

NOTE: Won’t be reviewing “Megane no Otoko no Ko” or “Bunkasai Jikkou Iinchou no Koi” as they haven’t been released yet.

Predictions for 2019: I wouldn’t be surprised if the first couple of releases will be under BEYOOOOONDS before they debut as their own group, I’m curious about what name Miyo, Honoka, and Utano’s group will inherit (and yay a new trio group!).

Hello Pro Kenshuusei / Kenshuusei Hokkaido

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What a pretty busy year for the Kenshuusei it seems!  Beginning things off, Sayaka Goto had left the company (surprising as she had just joined a couple weeks prior as an auditionee finalist).

It was shortly followed by the Hokkaido sector releasing their 2nd single, Hankouki! / Ice day Party (initially released only at events, would release fully in July) and this was also the only single Manaka Inaba took part in since she was the “leader” of them for a little while.

Then in April it was announced that both Momoko Hashimoto and Hokkaido member, Ryo Kitagawa had also finished their training, a week before the collective’s sophomore album, Rainbow×2 was released.

In May, the H!P Kenshuusei leader, Hikaru Inoue finished her training.

June came and many of the Kenshuusei graduated to join BEYOOOOONDS; Saya Eguchi, Rika Shimakura, Shiori Nishida, Minami Okamura, Kokoro Maeda, and Yuhane Yamazaki

Moving to August, it was announced that both Mizuki Kanatsu and Kizuki Horie finished their training. Cut to November and 3 more members finished their training; Rena Doi, Marina Hibi, and Kurumi Noguchi and three members joined, Karin Onoda, Mei Kusunoki, and Madoka Saito.

Also in November, Hokkaido member, Haruka Oota graduated to join ANGERME.

GREAT SONGS

  • Ice day Party – As for the other A-side from the single, Ice day Party is definitely more EDM/Dance based than “Hankouki!” and has a bit more of a stronger vibe from the Hokkaido girls here.  It screams a happier winter song and the synth lines really help things out.  Plus the bridge with the jingle bells in the bridge was a nice touch.  Not as many solos to be found, but this was a pretty cool song here!
  • Rainbow – As the KSS’ opening to their sophomore album, Rainbow reminds me of “Ice day Party” but mixed with some of the current H!P sounds that’s going around.  A little surprised that all of the songs are split between members of the Kenshuusei (many of them their last appearance, ironically).  I will say that the five chosen for this song in particular (Horie, Maeda, Kanatsu, Nishida, and Shimakura) really did well as they all sung together pretty nicely melodically and no one really felt out of place.  It’s a hopeful and bright dance track and did a great job opening the album.
  • 43do – Odd title aside, 43do cuts things back down to 6 members involved (Inoue, Yonemura, Yamazaki, Doi, Okamura, Matsunaga).  Though that guitar intro was pretty nifty (kind of gave MIYAVI vibes).  Already it feels like the vocals are a bit on the lower department compared to the members involved in “Rainbow”.  It’s a bit more edgier as well with the guitars having a bit more of a focus.  Though, I think I like “Rainbow” a bit more as I feel the vocals are more shouty here.
  • Medatte Do Dance – Finally it came out!  Was weird it wasn’t released last year (especially since the other 3 tracks got released digitally and whatnot).  Sung by 7 members this time (Noguchi, Kodama, Yonemura, Hashisako, Hibi, Eguchi, Okamura), Medatte Do Dance was a pretty fun song for the group to have because it had a heavy synth beat and had a lot of punch behind it.  While I think of the smaller groupings from the album, the vocals are a bit rough, but it’s still a bop!

OK SONGS

  • Hankouki! – The primary A-side for the Hokkaido single, Hankouki! is definitely more of what I was expecting after their first original track, but this one doesn’t sound like a throwaway Country Girls song.  There’s just something rather nice about the song with the peppiness and mix of synths & guitars.  Yeah, Manakan is present in the song but I rarely heard her and left the other members with hefty and nice solos.
  • Yacchae! GO! GO! – If I wasn’t smart enough to know that Buono! is gone, I would’ve coined this as an earlier song from them.  Though, this song features more of the newer Kenshuusei though some of the elder members do take the solos.  Anyway, the song is pretty all over the map being a bit pop/rock, but there’s some extra sounds and craziness to be found.  What a wild song this is!  Even the waltz-like bridge was random!
  • Tadashii Seishun tte Nan Daoru – I feel like this song’s beginning is SUPER familiar to me like maybe “Miss Henkan!!”?  I dunno, but the song feels like another Country Girls throwaway song.  Though it’s one of the cuter songs from the Kenshuusei like “Hello! Massara no Jibun”.  It’s OK, nothing too terrible about it, but it’s nothing that I’ll remember much outside of this.

MEH SONGS

  • Mirai e Tsunagu Yakusoku – I think the only song from the KSS album that I kind of couldn’t care less was the final track which was unsurprisingly a ballad.  Simply pretty basic and you’d think all of the KSS would be involved, but nope lol.  Just was kind of too vanilla for me as a piano/strings ballad.

Other H!P Releases

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Not a lot to be said with other H!P releases this year, but there was still some.  An early digital single released, it was a new version of Momusu’s major debut, Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary Ver.) which preceded the release of the anniversary Momusu album, Hatachi no Morning Musume. (Like I said above, the tracks that feature the old members will be talked here instead of at the top).

Then in the middle of the summer in July, we get a surprise digital release of Hyokkori Hyoutanjima from the combined efforts from Kobushi & Tsubaki Factory.  It was used as a competition song so it made sense they finally released it.

September comes by and we get a 20th Anniversary single from all units (which included BEYOOOOONDS, minus Oota, Ise, Hirai, Kobayashi, and Satoyoshi) in a group named Hello Pro All Stars titled YEAH YEAH YEAH / Akogare no Stress-free / Hana, Takenawa no Toki.

Of course rounding out the year with the annual compilation album, Petit Best 19.

GREAT SONGS

  • WE ARE LEADERS! ~Leaders tte no mo Tsurai Mono~ – I was floored when I read that were getting a song that featured all the members that became leaders of Morning Musume (no matter their tenure) for this song that takes some pages from “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari”.  Having Yuko, Kaorin, Marippe, Yossie, Mikitty, Ai-chan, Gaki, Sayu, and Fukuchan singing together seems like a crazy dream (ironic now that it is since Yossie basically quit the industry).  The song is poppy and there’s a LOT of easter eggs to be found even within the lyrics which was great and funny.  So happy this song happened!
  • Tane wo Tsubasa (Wings of the Seed) – Oh hey, we’re going to bring the original people that worked on “Ai no Tane” 20 years ago?  Even better, just featuring the original 5 members as well?  What a shock when I took a listen to this song because it really hits a nostalgic bone in me.  You can definitely hear the 90’s sound throughout and I’m surprised all 5 members still can sound beautiful here!  This and “WE ARE LEADERS!” were complete surprises but both turned out awesomely!
  • Akogare no Stress-free – Probably my favorite of the HPAS single, Akogare no Stress-free has a slick surfers rock kind of groove and it’s the only upbeat A-side from that single.  I also REALLY like they included CHICA#TETSU & Ame no Mori Kawa Umi here even if it’s small lines for them.  I also really liked seeing them paired off by their groups.  It’s a cool song and I wish this had been the leading track instead of “YEAH YEAH YEAH”.
  • Hello! History – Now I’m just bothered that this wasn’t an A-side and had “Hana, Takenawa no Toki” take precedence.  Not quite like a “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari” session, it does have all the groups get lines to talk about themselves (with an easter egg or two).  I like the funky arrangement here and it’s pretty fun to listen to.  Just baffled to why it was a B-side…

OK SONGS

  • Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary Ver.) – I’ve said this in the album review I did on my other blog, but it felt odd that we were getting another Morning Coffee so quickly after “Morning Misoshiru” last year.  Though the biggest difference is that the original 5-nin Morning Musume is singing along with the current members as well with an updated arrangement.  To be honest, I kind of like the slightly faster tempo, but could’ve lived without the garage band aesthetics to be honest.  I was just happy to see Asuka, Yuko, Nacchi, Kaorin, and Ayappe together again!  Little better as a celebration for Momusu!
  • Hyokkori Hyoutanjima – I wasn’t expecting this song to be covered once again in H!P, but here we are with Kobushi and Tsubaki together singing here.  Honestly, the arrangement is as tropical sounding like the Momusu cover and the additional rap in the bridge was out of left field.  I like the familiar step-in the song has, but it wasn’t a song I was totally into when Morning Musume covered it, so it doesn’t really make it better or worse.

MEH SONGS

  • ENDLESS HOME – There was a small thought that ran in my head that this song would’ve been connected to “ENDLESS SKY” but that doesn’t seem to be the case for this Nacchi solo (yeah, Fukuchan & Odasaku are here, but they’re like backup singers).  Like it doesn’t quite fit on the mini-album and just seems weird to give Nacchi a spotlight song when others should’ve got one too.  The song itself is also kind of bland and just feels like a B-side from one of her many singles.
  • YEAH YEAH YEAH (and it’s group centric versions) – When I think of H!P doing the “everyone is here” single, I would’ve expected it to bring everyone together for a fun time.  Sadly, YEAH YEAH YEAH is probably the MOST generic song they released this year!  I mean it sounds like a couple of Morning Musume songs all combined into one.  There’s just nothing for me to stick to and no solos kind of hurt it a bit too.  The only reason the group centric ones slightly topple the main version is entirely based off the fact solos exist in each of them.  Still altogether, it was a boring song for me.  I also was hoping BEYOOOOONDS would get a version (or even the KSS) but eh…
  • Hana, Takenawa no Toki – I wonder who at UFP thought that this needed to be an A-side?  It makes “YEAH YEAH YEAH” look like “LOVE Machine”.  It’s just a simple piano chorale which features all the main members (can’t tell if the KSS are involved).  This literally feels out of place on the single and the basicness of the track is just awkward to me…it’s not even a stageplay song…so wtf…I guess the girls sound nice harmonizing, but….ugh.

Gains / Losses

GAINS

  • Shiori Nishida (to CHICA#TETSU)
  • Rika Shimakura (to CHICA#TETSU)
  • Saya Eguchi (to CHICA#TETSU)
  • Kokoro Maeda (to Ame no Mori Kawa Umi)
  • Minami Okamura (to Ame no Mori Kawa Umi)
  • Yuhane Yamazaki (to Ame no Mori Kawa Umi)
  • Manaka Inaba (to Juice=Juice)
  • Madoka Saito
  • Mei Kusunoki
  • Karin Onoda
  • Haruka Oota (to ANGERME)
  • Reira Ise
  • Miyo Hirai
  • Honoka Kobayashi
  • Utano Satoyoshi

LOSSES

  • Sayaka Goto
  • Ryo Kitagawa
  • Momoko Hashimoto
  • Hikaru Inoue
  • Haruna Ogata
  • Kizuki Horie
  • Mizuki Kanatsu
  • Kurumi Noguchi
  • Marina Hibi
  • Rena Doi
  • Aika Mitsui
  • Riho Sayashi
  • Haruna Iikubo

My H!P Member Ranking for 2018

  • 63. Aika Mitsui (0)
  • 62. Riho Sayashi (0)
  • 61. Miyo Hirai (NEW)

 

  • 60. Honoka Kobayashi (NEW)
  • 59. Utano Satoyoshi (NEW)
  • 58. Reira Ise (NEW)
  • 57. Haruna Ogata (+2)
  • 56. Ayano Kawamura (-5)

 

  • 55. Haruka Oota (NEW)
  • 54. Saya Eguchi (NEW)
  • 53. Riko Yamagishi (-4)
  • 52. Ami Tanimoto (+1)
  • 51. Reina Yokoyama (-8)

 

  • 50. Shiori Nishida (NEW)
  • 49. Momona Kasahara (-5)
  • 48. Akane Haga (+4)
  • 47. Haruna Iikubo (-17)
  • 46. Minami Okamura (NEW)

 

  • 45. Ayumi Ishida (0)
  • 44. Risa Yamaki (-13)
  • 43. Maria Makino (-8)
  • 42. Rika Shimakura (NEW)
  • 41. Mai Ozeki (+9)

 

  • 40. Yuka Miyazaki (-3)
  • 39. Kokoro Maeda (NEW)
  • 38. Yuhane Yamazaki (NEW)
  • 37. Reina Ichioka (+4)
  • 36. Kana Nakanishi (-19)

 

  • 35. Erina Ikuta (-15)
  • 34. Ayaka Wada (+2)
  • 33. Chisaki Morito (+5)
  • 32. Saori Onoda (-3)
  • 31. Miki Nonaka (+3)

 

  • 30. Kurumi Takase (+14)
  • 29. Momohime Kiyono (+10)
  • 28. Kisora Niinuma (+20)
  • 27. Manaka Inaba (+15)
  • 26. Sakurako Wada (+1)

 

  • 25. Ayano Hamaura (+15)
  • 24. Karin Miyamoto (-1)
  • 23. Nanami Yanagawa (+21)
  • 22. Mao Akiyama (-1)
  • 21. Minami Nomura (+9)

 

  • 20. Akari Uemura (+2)
  • 19. Rina Katsuta (+6)
  • 18. Rikako Sasaki (+14)
  • 17. Kiki Asakura (+7)
  • 16. Masaki Sato (+12)

 

  • 15. Rei Inoue (-4)
  • 14. Risa Ogata (+4)
  • 13. Ayaka Hirose (+13)
  • 12. Sayuki Takagi (+3)
  • 11. Kaede Kaga (+3)

 

  • 10. Mizuki Fukumura (+3)
  • 9. Mizuho Ono (+3)
  • 8. Moe Kamikokuryo (+1)
  • 7. Ruru Dambara (+12)
  • 6. Musubu Funaki (-4)

 

  • 5. Yumeno Kishimoto (+3)
  • 4. Mizuki Murota (+6)
  • 3. Akari Takeuchi (+4)
  • 2. Tomoko Kanazawa (+3)
  • 1. Sakura Oda (+2)

Kenshuusei

  • Madoka Saito
  • Mei Kusunoki
  • Karin Onoda
  • Yuriya Matsubara
  • Kotomi Ono
  • Rin Hachisako
  • Ichigo Yamada
  • Nanami Kubota
  • Anna Shuttou
  • Natsume Nakayama
  • Shion Tamenaga
  • Sakiko Kodama
  • Mei Yamazaki
  • Ruru Kanemitsu
  • Hikari Sato
  • Yume Kudo
  • Kirara Yonemura
  • Minori Kawano
  • Kanami Ishiguri
  • Riai Matsunaga

Phew, and that was 2018 in a nutshell for Hello! Project…Lots of big things to happen in the next year, little sad that as the 20th Anniversary year, not a whole lot of great happened IMO…but with new groups ready to debut, I can’t wait for what the next year brings!

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Riho Sayashi ends her contract, officially leaving H!P

SayashiTsumetai_1

After 3 years of silence from Riho, it was announced this morning that she has indeed ended her contract with the company.  I guess she just kind of let the contract continue without being too involved considering that she went AFK after her graduation.  I mean I’m pretty curious to why she didn’t do anything with the remaining time she had left or at least ended things earlier, but it is what it is.  It is interesting is coming shortly after Aika announced her leaving as well as they both were the only “soloists” left and now they’re gone.  Just odd IMO.

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Seems the trifecta has completed, the winners of the ONLY YOU Audition/new BEYOOOOONDS members!

I’m a little bit late here, but hey during the first BEYOOOOONDS FC performance, an announcement was made that the winners of the audition were finally announced and the missing triangle piece for BEYOOOOONDS, so shall we meet these new members?

Miyo Hirai

Hirai

Honoka Kobayashi

Kobayashi

Utano Satoyoshi

Satoyoshi

Now, there isn’t much of an opinion from myself as they’re brand spankin new members, but what we do know is that they’re Ichioka’s age range which is a nice move.  While it wasn’t 100% announced these 3 will be a unit, they (and the members of CHICA#TETSU & Ame no Mori Kawa Umi) got their member colors.  I’m now certain this collective will announce a debut single during the Winter Tour, it’s nice to finally our 3 units together.

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