Iroppoi Twilight Game

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

Warp back to 2005…Year Recap!

Yup, it’s 2005 now and we have a quickly growing roster after the inclusion of the Hello! Pro Egg!  So let’s see how well 2005 was!

Morning Musume

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Huh, while it may look like Morning Musume had a more slower year, it is further from the actuality.

The year began in January with their single, THE Manpower!!!, which was also Kaori Iida‘s final single with the group and then she graduated at the end of the month.

Cut to their next single in April with Osaka Koi no Uta. This would be Rika Ishikawa‘s final single and she would graduate the next month to focus on v-u-den.  HOWEVER, a couple weeks prior to the single’s release, magazine FRIDAY put out some photos that showed Mari Yaguchi with a man and sadly because of the scandal, she had to graduate fully from Morning Musume (she was a leader for a little over two months, but with the scandal, leadership was moved to Hitomi Yoshizawa)

During all this chaos, the 2nd try of auditions found another winner, in Tsunku terms, he found the “miracle ace” in a young Koharu Kusumi and she would debut with the group in July’s Iroppoi Jirettai.

Then we get to their last single of the year and it was originally going to be “Koi wa Hassou Do the Hustle! and release in October, but due to the low interest from the fans, they had to scramble for a new A-side and redid a song they released last year, “Chokkan ~Toki no Shite Koi wa~” to Chokkan 2 ~Nogashita Sakana wo Ookiizo!~ and released it in November.

GREAT SONGS

  • THE Manpower!!! – I was so confused with the group’s first A-side of the year as it wasn’t typical of a song for the group instead going for more of a chanting feel with its chorus and this odd robotic feel with a slight march feel to it too.  Still, after hearing Ai-chan’s and Yossie’s fakes, I was completely into the song and dug the beats and sass all over.  The only two disappointments were that it was Kaori’s last single with the group and the fact that the PV was just a measly dance shot.  Otherwise, this was a great way to kick off 2005 for the group!
  • Iroppoi Jirettai – After the loss of three members in the last two singles, we finally leveled out a smidge with a new member in Koharu.  That said we do get a spoken intro from both Eri and Koharu before the tune dives into its Latin-esque arrangement.  I really love the arrangement and fire behind it all and despite we don’t really get to hear Koha (she has the opening line and one other solo).  It’s just a powerful song and I’m happy to hear Ai-chan, Mikitty, and Reina lead (although Miki’s line at the end of the 2nd chorus is a bit honky and odd) but this is still an awesome song!
  • Ai to Taiyou ni Tsutsumarete – I really wasn’t ready for “Iroppoi Jirettai’s” B-side but this track is definitely a nice change of pace for them.  With a rather slow tropical sound, I kind of fell into it’s laidback feel pretty quickly and we get solos from all the member which is pretty awesome too!  The only qualm I have is the filters they placed during the verses, but otherwise this was a nice B-side to have.  Also, no surprise Koharu doesn’t sound bad here which says a lot going forward (I hope…)

OK SONGS

  • Love & Peace! HERO ga Yattakita. – With the leading song (“THE Manpower!!!”) being a cheer song for the Rakuten Eagles, I was surprised that this song felt moreso if not more of one here.  It’s got a bit more oomph and the tune has a bit more of a rock arrangement here too.  I do like that Mikitty, Ai-chan, Yossie, and Reina have most of the main vocals, but it doesn’t highlight much of anyone else, more importantly, Kaori (though I think because she had a solo career she didn’t need/want that spotlight despite being the group’s leader since Yuko left.
  • Osaka Koi no Uta – As the single to last feature Rika and Mari, I was curious to hear how it all went down.  Not sure what style this track is, but it was a little more mature for the group, but still kept that dance feel.  I mean considering it was Rika’s final single she had quite a bit of spotlight alongside Ai-chan and Mikitty (Mari’s sudden departure was after the song’s completion hence no limelight, but she did have some recognizable lines).  It’s a frantic song I feel and it just doesn’t let up until the ending.  Not their best entry, but I kind of enjoyed it.
  • Chokkan 2 ~Nogashita Sakana wo Ookiizo!~ – Being a rushed song, Chokkan 2 slightly ended up being better than its original track its based off of.  Changing the lyrics and the fact that Kaori, Rika, and Mari were gone and Koharu filled in a spot made things a little more interesting.  The arrangement also was updated and feels more complete too.  Though I did dislike the half PV/half live performance route it took to promote it (while its B-side got a full PV).
  • Koi wa Hassou Do The Hustle! – So here is the original A-side (before “Chokkan 2” took over) and quite honestly, I would say it wasn’t quite up to par after the other 3 singles the preceded it.  It’s pretty poppy and has funky guitars mixed in with a fun chorus, but there’s just something slightly generic about it too that really doesn’t sit well.  Still I like that it did get a PV and here all the members stood out in it for me~

MEH SONGS

  • NATURE IS GOOD! – Is this somehow connected to Ecomoni?  I don’t know but this B-side from Rika/Mari’s last single is a bit too chintzy for my interests.  I mean Rika did get the first line which made sense.  Surprised that solos were only given to Rika, Mari, Makoto, Hitomi, Risa, Reina, and Eri which most were shorter lines.  Though what gets me is the kind of corny feel I get from the lyrics (most importantly that vapid chorus).  I do like the pop/rock, but I just couldn’t stand how preachy it was.

Overall: Morning Musume in 2005 was a bit of a rocky one that’s for sure.  It’s also probably the lightest year of content from them since their debut strangely enough and the graduations of Kaori & Rika (and sudden departure of Mari) was just fuel to the fire here and Koharu wasn’t quite what the group was needing.  Maybe 2006 will be better for them.

Melon Kinenbi

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Short year for the group for some reason, but they only managed one single this year in February’s Nikutai wa Shoujiki na EROS.

GREAT SONGS

  • Nikutai wa Shoujiki na EROS – I was not ready to hear Melon Kinenbi be super sensual and sexy for this A-side (which apparantly was the last song done by Tsunku).  There’s just something so right with Melon pulling this song because it just sounds so right for them.  Props to Hitomi and Masae for owning the sexyness throughout and Ayumi and Megumi for adding a bit more of a lighter side to it all too.  Really it’s one of their best songs in their discography for sure!!

OK SONGS

  • Hotondo ga Anata Desu. – As the single’s B-side, Hotondo ga Anata Desu. has a lot of the same vibes from its leading track with some new buzzy synths acting as the melody with some acoustic guitar thrown in for the mix too.  It’s a little quicker than EROS, but there’s just something that feels like it could’ve been leftover from “THE Nimaime”.  Not bad, but after the legendary Nikutai wa Shoujiki na EROS, this kind of pales in comparison.

Overall: I’m pretty curious as to why Melon Kinenbi only had the one single this year, it just felt empty without them.  Granted they did have the best A-side of the year so I mean that’s pretty interesting to say the least.

Maki Goto

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Maki had a pretty interesting year for 2005 beginning with her 3rd album, 3rd Station in February.  Time went by and she released a single in July with Suppin to Namida..

Time would go on further until December where she released two best albums, one officially, Goto Maki Premium Best  and one for Hawaiian stores with Goto Maki 2005 Nendo Genteiban Single Best and that was her year!

GREAT SONGS

  • Rairai! Shinfuu – I was wondering what this 3rd album could bring and as the 3rd of the new songs, Rairai! Shinfuu is definitely something new and unique for Gocchin with having a bit of a Chinese sound to it (considering in two parts Maki actually counts in Mandarin) so that’s pretty cool and the tune itself is upbeat and bouncy and actually brought some life to the album!  Probably my favorite from the album!

OK SONGS

  • Singapore Transit – Did Gocchin get a song that was meant for Yuko by accident or even Ayaya?  Yeah, I was feeling a little bit of dejavu when I first listened to this track because of the overall acoustic pop feel of it all which is a broad change coming after “Yokohama Shinkirou”.  It’s nothing too particularly special on the album, but it’s nice regardless and Maki sounds lovely so it works.
  • Positive Genki! – It seems that all H!P artists are going to need these exciting tracks to amp up the crowds at lives and Gocchin has obtained hers with Positive Genki! and I find it pretty cool that she’s singing in a different tone than before and her aggressive, but lively energy works well with the song.  It could’ve been a bit more heavier, but this is a good song!
  • Station – Huh, we really went back to her debut era with Station huh?  Yeah, it’s a LOT like “Ai no Bakayarou” and “SHALL WE LOVE?” with the dated 90’s glittery R&B sound.  At this point, it does seem quite out of place and weird with the times but there’s something neat about it at the same time.  It may be odd with Maki singing slower than the beat, but it added some variety to the album.
  • Moshimo Owari ga Aru no Nara – As the B-side from the lone single, Moshimo Owari ga Aru no Nara follows a similar path like “Station”, but it’s much less serious in tone and Maki vocals gives this uplifting feel to it.  It is a little confusing in the prechorus, but it cleans up with its nice chorus.  Definitely a unique song for Maki that’s for sure.
  • Ai no Bakayarou (Bakayarou Version) – As I get into the updated tracks from her best album, I really had a hard time pinpointing what was so different in this version, but I believe she resung it perhaps?  Those really high notes in the chorus don’t seem so painful to listen to here.  Really, though I couldn’t tell…
  • Suki Sugite Baka Mitai (Goto Version) – While I haven’t talked about this song originally done by DEF.DIVA in this post yet, I won’t say too much because the arrangement remains the same and we’re left with Maki singing the song without the other 3 members.  I don’t mind this actually and she could’ve released this as an A-side if she wanted to, but that wasn’t the case.  The dance-pop style just works here!
  • Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON (2005 Natsu Hello! Version) – Interesting she decided to include this song as a live cut and not the studio version here.  Of course this song is always a good time to listen to and Maki gave a pretty powerful performance though I’m slightly disappointed it’s a shortened version (no 2nd verse/chorus).  Still, it’s a pretty good performance here!
  • Olivia wo Kikinagara (2005 Version) – At first I had to think because I knew I haven’t came across this song in her discography, but this is actually a cover of a pretty old ANRI song of the same name.  While it’s another ballad this year that kind of had similar instrumentation, but I think this one stuck to me and Maki gave a decent cover here and the chords are just pretty!
  • Afurechau…BE IN LOVE (Premium Version) – I REALLY LOVE the introduction to this version of Maki’s 2nd single and I love that this new version of the song twists it to a more sensual and intimate song with heavy bass and a more sultrier tone.  I will say the chorus is a little weird, but the rest of the song just sounds amazing in my earphones!
  • PLEASE GO ON (Korean Ver.) – As I said with the Korean version of “Suppin to Namida.”. Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON also suffers to the same extent with the weird tone Maki sings throughout as if it’s less powerful and weak.  Though it still is the song I can’t hate it too much, but this definitely is a weaker version and I can definitely tell the weird accent going on (and the bridge….talk about a missed opportunity).

MEH SONGS

  • Watarasebashi (Goto Version) – It wasn’t that long and yet we get another H!P artist covering this Chisato Moritaka ballad?  Likewise with Aya’s last year it’s in no way a bad ballad, but I don’t think Maki needed to cover this so soon after Aya’s if you get me.  Even then, I think Gocchin has much better ballads out there.  Though I do like the acoustic solo in the bridge, but otherwise not that interesting to me.
  • Renai Sentai Shitsu Ranger (Goto Version) – Maybe it’s just me but I was curious to this version of last year’s Nochiura Natsumi single getting covered, but I spose it’s similar to when the Gomattou girls did their own version of “SHALL WE LOVE?”.  That said, this solo cut feels weaker than the original mostly in the arrangement (and the curiosity of why it’s longer?).  Maki sounded fine though, it just lacked the oomph the original had…
  • 19sai no Hitorigoto – Appropriate enough, the album closes out with a ballad in 19sai no Hitorigoto and it does sound more grander than other ballads on the album, but these are the ones that pretty much put me asleep.  I will say Gocchin gave a great performance and the strings/piano/drums are doing a good job, but this wasn’t my kind of song.
  • Suppin to Namida. – Which hurts moreso because Suppin to Namida. was the A-side to come out after her 3rd album and it carries a lot of the same instrumentation found in “19sai no Hitorigoto” which really killed the mood for me.  The only difference is the melody which is fair, but like two similar songs one after the other just didn’t help me.
  • Sayonara no LOVE SONG (Junjou Version) – So right from the beginning, I knew that they changed the arrangement a bit for this A-side.  Instead of strings and whatnot, it’s more like this odd harpsichord and it kind of adds this classy feel to it that seems to feel odd with the drums and bass that enters further in the song.  Still, doesn’t make me enjoy the song better or less.
  • “Hatachi no Premium” – As the other new track on the album, “Hatachi no Premium” ends off her best album in a more exciting and upbeat way.  It does feel weak of a song to me as it just reminds me of “Ganbacchae!” in the weirdest way but it lacks the arrangement’s exciting glow.  This just feels cheesy and doesn’t quite fit?
  • THANK YOU MEMORIES (Korean Ver.) – So when the best album released in Korea, it came with two more tracks which were Korean versions of two of her A-sides.  I wasn’t surprised with Suppin to Namida. getting the treatment as it was her most recent single.  Now I can’t fully say, but I’m not as impressed with her Korean, but I can’t totally say it doesn’t sound terrible either.  While vocally it does make Maki seem weaker singing this ballad, but that’s just me.  Not really all that great IMO still.

ICKY SONGS

  • Ekizo na DISCO – Not really sure what was being passed around the offices the they decided to make this song the opening track for Maki’s 3rd album, but it’s just annoying and really creepy all-around with the demon Tsunku lyrics and Gocchin’s odd try being sexy and whispery which was more distracting than anything (honestly the arrangement isn’t bad, but everything else is terrible!).

Overall: I’m not sure what to say about Gocchin’s 2005, it was kind of not as busy as last year that’s for certain but like her releases were all over the map.  I mean her 3rd album was kind of middle-of-the-road as well as her single but two best albums is bizarre and I really wasn’t sure if H!P knew what they wanted to included in Premium Best XD

Aya Matsuura

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Like Maki, Aya had a break year too, but even moreso!  She did begin the year in February with her single, Zutto Suki de Ii Desu ka before releasing two best albums (like Maki), Aya Matsuura Best 1 & 2005 Nendo Genteiban Single Best at the end of March.

The last thing she did was another single, Ki ga Tsukeba Anata in September.

GREAT SONGS

  • Yume – Ahhhh, I was hoping Ayaya would return with something more sassier and with Yume, she tackles a more Soulful side to her music and I really dug the groove and the jazzier setting.  Figures also that Aya really puts on a show with this song and to no surprise it ended up being more memorable than its A-side!

OK SONGS

  • Zutto Suki de Ii Desu ka – As the single preceding her best album, Zutto Suki de Ii Desu ka is such an interesting tune as I feel like it could be an anime theme in a strange ay especially with the chords and the additional sax melody but also with the deep bass throughout.  I also really fell in love with the guitar solo in the bridge too.  Yeah, this is a pretty nice song and makes up for the last couple.
  • Sougen no Hito (TSUNKU♂Mix) – So unlike Maki’s best where there was a lot of new versions of old songs, Aya only got two new versions.  Sougen no Hito was a pretty big hit for Aya and it’s no surprise it got a new edition, but this new Tsunku cut (he also worked on the original), but it does feel like a single recording as Ayaya’s vocals sound more live than in the original studio version.  I suppose it’s nice but nothing special?
  • Ki ga Tsukeba Anata – Her first A-side after her best albums and I’m finding myself happy with what we got which is a little more upbeat with some rock elements about it.  While it doesn’t show that Aya is going back to more silliness anytime soon, this might come close with its lightheartedness.  It’s pretty good overall!
  • Yuujou ~Jou Kalbi~ – I kind of was hoping for another jazzy track for its B-side but Yuujou kind of takes similar instrumentation from “Ki ga Tsukeba Anata” and took it a little slower and we got this track.  Not sure where I stand with it because while the arrangement is a bit sleepy, Ayaya sounds nice here too….

MEH SONGS

  • Kanousei no Michi (2005 Version) – I am pretty curious to why this song was chosen as I don’t recall seeing this being much of a popular song (since it’s not performed much currently).  This new take on this track from her 3rd album features more of Aya in the front and yet less instrumentation leaving with acoustic guitar and strings.  Unfortunately it doesn’t stand out and really bores me sadly.

Overall: It seems like Aya made this year the one to release the best album, but I think she got the short end of the stick with just 6 tracks to look at this year.  Though the mood of her music has seriously matured and I feel like she’s left the idol-pop side of her behind.  Not sure if I like it entirely though…

Kaori Iida

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So the only release Kaorin did for 2005 was her 4th album, Plein D’Amour ~Ai ga Ippai~ which she released in December.

GREAT SONGS

  • IRRESTIBLEMENT ~Anata no Toriko~ – Oh hey, it seems Kaori is doing something a bit more progressivly upbeat and more interestingly, she’s singing this entirely in French and I kind of like the change of pace on the album (which is about midway).  While I can’t exactly comment on Kaori’s pronunciation here, it seems like she did as best as she could and her light voice works with the more upbeat arrangement fronted by strings.  Yeah, this was pretty nice!
  • Eureka no Kaze – Hey, another upbeat track to listen to!  I really like the ethnic opening to the track before Kaori begins singing for sure but even when she does start singing the track really catches my attention.  Not sure what else to say, but it’s just a really good track here.

OK SONGS

  • Sakura no Hana ga Saku Koro – It seems this was the song that promoted the album (I’m only guessing because it was on Petit Best 6 of all things).  This tune seems to follow a lot of what her last album had which is more of a dramatic strings angle like “Aegekai ni Dakarete” did.  It’s not a bad tune and feels more of the same good things that were from her previous album.
  • Onaji Basho de – I feel like Kaori is bringing back that Mediterreanean feel back on this album with the return of the accordion alongside the rather soft arrangement with acoustic guitar and bongos.  Kaori though sounds really nice and tune’s overall melody is just hypnotic and pretty to listen to.  Another sweet song!
  • Souvenir – More of that shuffling, airy light feel continues on the album with Souvenir and while it lacks the accordion that “Onaji Basho de” has, the song instead has a fluttery flute instead and I just feel like I’m sipping coffee outside in Italy or Greece.  It’s just that chill and such a moodmaker.  Not bad!
  • Hirahira to – Next song up, Hirahira to is one of the more middle-of-the-road songs from the album as while it does give me gondola vibes while listening to it, it also doesn’t quite stand out like most of the other tracks found on the album.
  • Ai no Kotoba – I think what catches my interest about Ai no Kotoba is that it’s a LOT like “Souvenir” with the same relaxed and laidback arrangement (even including that lovely flute).  I guess it’s pretty much a clone of a song, but these kinds of songs really somehow works with me.

MEH SONGS

  • Bloom – As the opening to the album, Bloom was such an odd song to listen to that’s for sure.  It feels like Kaori jumped back a couple decades for this song.  It feels like some fluffy 60’s song with some oldie flute melody.  I mean Kaori does sound really pretty in the song, but otherwise the song just doesn’t work for me.
  • LA NOTTE DELL’ADDIO ~Wakare no Yoru~ – So after the French song, we jump into a song sung in Italian and honestly, this like “Bloom” feels like it’s a style that was lost a long time ago with this CASIO-heavy keyboarded ballad.  Yeah there’s just something rather cheaply made about this track and with the fact it’s a cover doesn’t quite make it better either.  At least Kaori sounds nice.
  • Mirai Yohou – Another slower song on the album, Mirai Yohou is kind of a completely sleepy song for me.  Initially, the harmonica was helping from the intro, but the rest of the song is very lowbrow and just kind of very boring (even when the chorus happens).  It’s just rather plain.
  • Mikka Okure no Christmas Card – I figured as much when I saw the title of the song, it was going to be more of a ballad and have some kind of Wintry feel to it.  Though I’m not sure if I’m into the keyboards being a main part of its arrangement and the jingle bells was making it more slower too.  Yeah, just a bit bland of a song.
  • Papillon – As the finale to the album, Papillon was kind of more of a bummer as a closing to the album as it’s another kind of straightforward mid-tempo track from Kaori.  I mean it’s fair enough being the closer. but there’s just nothing really sticking me to the song either.

Overall: Kaori really had a very quiet year for 2005 with just this album (which released towards the end of the year) and her only other appearance is in the Shuffle Unit for the year.  Still, nothing to interesting otherwise besides the album.

Natsumi Abe

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After the drama that happened the year previous, Nacchi recharged and returned in April with the single, Yume Naraba.  Then followed up with August’s Koi no Hana and a Hawaii-only best of mini-album, 2005 Nendo Genteiban Single Best.

Then she leaves us with Takaramono in November, which is curiously credited as “Sen” as that was the main character of the drama the song was tied to.

GREAT SONGS

  • Koi no Hana – After the sleepy A-side previous, Koi no Hana does a little better of a job at catching my attention, but it skates across that 90’s R&B feel that Maki is more known for.  It is pretty different and maybe would’ve been better as the A-side after “Datte Ikitekanakucha”.  It’s glossy and Nacchi sounds cute if not slightly thin, but it’s a decent A-side!
  • Aozora – I was surprised a lot that I ended up really liking the B-side to “Takaramono” a lot more than the main track and it’s mainly the feel that Aozora is more folksy and more easy listening than I thought it’d be.  Though I really love the verses, it ives a mystical vibe to the song and it really caught my attention.  Yeah, this was pretty great!

OK SONGS

  • Yume Naraba – As the first A-side released in the year, Yume Naraba was more of what I was expecting with the tune being a mid-tempo R&B track with some pretty sweet vocals from Nacchi.  Like many of the songs this year though, it’s pretty much in the middle for as it’s not one of her more standout A-side, but it isn’t a bad track overall.
  • Ai Hitohira – As the B-side from “Koi no Hana”, Ai Hitohira takes a more chilled out respones as it’s got some jazy guitar with a more mellow tone that kind of is soothing and really works with Nacchi’s light vocals too.  I do think the solo in the bridge is the olnly strange part, but otherwise I quite dug this one!
  • Takaramono – So this A-side really pulls things back for Nacchi as it’s a ballad for her. Initially, I wasn’t really into the strings/acoustic guitar approach for the song, but it does somehow grows as things move by and the arrangement grows to add some more instrumentation.  While it isn’t a song I would personally go back for, this is one of the better produced ballads in the year.
  • Takaramono (another side) – So the single came with an alternate version of the leading track where it’s even more laidback and quiet with light acoustic guitar and sounds of nature playing in the background.  Even Nacchi sounds more calmer here making the song feel a bit more sleepy.  It does grow like the original, but the instrumentation is different to fit this version.  It’s an interesting version to say the least and I might come to like it more than the

MEH SONGS

  • Sora LIFE GOES ON – What is up with the ballads this year?  It feels like they’re all rather throwaway and rather forgettable.  This B–side from “Yume Naraba” slows things down even further and kind of just feels like another ballad in H!P for me and with the only nice feature is the electric guitar that kicks up during the 2nd verse.  The kind of adds a little something, but not enough to make me remember more.

Overall: With kind of the same route that Aya took with her year, Natsumi’s 2005 was pretty light in releases, but at least the releases were solid and makes up for that space she had in the later half of last year.  Pretty good year!

Berryz Kobo

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A lot of interesting things happened for Berryz this year oddly enough.  So they released three singles to kick things off with Special Genera~tion (March) , Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteruu YOU KNOW? (June), and 21ji Made no Cinderella (August).

Though in September, it was shockingly announced that Maiha Ishimura was going to be graduating from the group to go back and focus on studies and left the group in October.

Though at the mid of November they did a trilogy of releases in a month’s time.  Starting with the group’s sophomore album, Dai ② Seichouki, a new single in Gag 100kaibun Aishite Kudasai, and a weird mini-album, Special! Mini Best ~2.5maime no Kare~ to round the year off.

GREAT SONGS

  • Special Genera~tion – Why am I not surprised that Special Genera~tion would go onto become one of Berryz’ most popular hits in amongst the A-sides they released.  I love the energy and how relentless the group sounds in the track (considering Miyabi, Risako, Yurina, and Momoko has the most standout solos throughout).  It’s just a song that really sticks to you and it’s just ridiculously awesome!
  • Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteruu YOU KNOW? – The follow-up single after their big hit was surprising because they went back to mature vibes for this one, but with a heavier electronic arrangement here.  It was an instant like out of me despite that the front 4 only having lines.  Regardless, the tune is upbeat and something I really needed from H!P in 2005.
  • Sabori – I think of the songs from the album, Sabori really stuck out to me with it’s really unique arrangement and slight 80’s feel to it.  Plus it’s just nice to hear everyone singing together and they sound as powerful as they did in “Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteruu YOU KNOW?” and I appreciates that.  The chorus could’ve had a bit more tempo added, but the song is really nice!
  • Gag 100kaibun Aishite Kudasai – When this trilogy of releases happened with Berryz, I was wondering what they could do with the knowledge that it’d be a song tied to the rather popular Precure series and the first A-side post-Maiha as well.  Though we did get a clear direction from their 2nd album.  Gag 100kaibun Aishite Kudasai was just out of left field being incredibly cutesy and goofy and it helped with Momoko leading the song (with the other girls playing roles behind).  Just a great song overall and Berryz doing goofy fun right!

OK SONGS

  • Yume de Do Up – This laidback B-side from “Nanchuu Koi wo Yatteruu YOU KNOW?” is a bit different for the group giving us a lighter affair of a song with it’s tropical feel and it’s pretty unique for them.  I do like that the group evened out the lines (to the point where Maasa, Chinami, Maiha, and Saki gets lines in the verses).  It’s a pretty good B-side though and makes me want more songs like this…actually it oddly reminds me of “Ai to Taiyou ni Tsutsumarete” from Momusu too!
  • 21ji Made no Cinderella – Something retro comes this way with 21ji Made no Cinderella, but it was more felt like a cutesy girly track which makes sense with the title.  Of course like the other A-sides the main 4 lead (but curiously Chinami got a solo in the 2nd verse).  That said, it doesn’t quite reach the levels like the previous two singles managed to do and once again doesn’t feel like Maiha left much of an impact as this was her final A-side.
  • Joshi Basketbu ~Asaren Atta Hi no Kamigata~ – As the first new track off their album, Joshi Basketbu is of course something a bit more youthful for the group and might remind me of “21ji Made no Cinderella” in a couple ways but this time the focus is on Saki, Chinami, Maasa, and Yurina here while the other three have more minor roles in the song.  Not bad and keeps the group going…good song!
  • Ohiru no Kyuukei Jikan. – Slowing things down for a rather mid-tempo and relaxing tune, Ohiru no Kyuukei Jikan. is kind of like the song that’s almost filler, but it’s like a happier “Bye Bye Mata ne” in the way it’s got that nice togetherness about it.  I do like conversation with the back girls and having the main 4 song is nice too.  It’s just a feel good song.
  • Nigiyaka na Fuyu – When it came to the B-side from the Precure single, I kind of thought it was just bland and kind of boring.  I did like that it was upbreat and whatnot but after listening to “Gag 100kaibun Aishite Kudasai”, this was tame in comparison.  Add on that there’s no solos and I was ready to write it off.  Though I did learn that Mari Yaguchi was in the song (her first time singing in a H!P song since her leaving Morning Musume back in April (this single was in November).  Still, the fact she didn’t get no solos either kind of bummed me out a bit.  It’s OK, but nothing spectacular.

MEH SONGS

  • Koishiteru Toki wa Itsumo… – With the B-side from “Special Genera~tion”, I wasn’t quite sure what they were going for here.  I mean I’m liking more of an equal line distribution well mostly (curiously why Risako got one solo and Maasa didn’t get any at all).  Add on that the song really didn’t leave much on me, but I do like the high notes Captain and Momoko try for together in the chorus.
  • Himitsu no U・ta・hi・me – I think I get the same feelings with this B-side as I did with “Koishiteru Toki wa Itsumo…” with being more of a middle track that’s supposed to be more cuter for the group.  I will say I do like hearing more of the back girls and Maiha got a lot of presence in the song too.  Though I’m not too fond of the way they sing the chorus so mechanically.  Just kind of a bland song here.
  • Aisuru Hito no Namae wo Nikki ni – One of the more forgettable songs from the album, Aisuru Hito no Namae wo Nikki ni would be best described as a country ballad (like early Country Musume style) with acoustic & slide guitars with light drums filling the rest.  Maybe it’s just me, but like younger ladies like Berryz stick out like sore thumbs trying to be (in love) and given such a slow-moving tune.  Yeah, it’s just meh…
  • Berryz Kobo Koushinkyoku – For being titled a March, this song does not quite fit that bill here!  The tune is pretty much the last track and fair enough it’s kind of celebratory with the girls chanting and being so lively.  Though likewise, I’m kind of annoyed by it and just doesn’t really leave much of an impression otherwise.
  • Arigatou! Otomodachi – As part of the last in the trilogy, the group released a weird best mini-album to kind of bring in the Holiday season, which only included one new song out of the 6 on the mini-album and Arigatou! Otomodachi kind of fits that Wintry feel.  Although I can’t help that it reminds me of “Nigiyaka na Fuyu” off the single prior to this release minus Marippe and actually having solos.  I know it’s one of the more popular songs Berryz had, but I just didn’t get it.

ICKY SONGS

  • Special OP – It’s basically the intro to their sophomore album, but it’s roughly 50 seconds long and honestly reminds me something Minimoni would’ve for an intro.  Lots of brass in a fanfare-like way and it does play a melody (not sure from what song though, it that’s the case…well probably “Berryz Kobo Koushinkyoku”).  I guess it makes sense, but doesn’t really work with “Special Genera~tion” right after.
  • Special END – I suppose, the way the album ending with a relaxing melodic lullaby using the melody from “Berryz Kobo Koushinkyoku” is cute and all but with the group having conversation over it is a bit distracting since it’s so jumbled and unclear what they’re talking about.  It’s an ending I suppose…

Overall: When it came to Berryz, they had a pretty interesting year with their releases especially that smushed schedule towards the end of the year.  Sad to see Maiha graduate (Future talk: luckily no one else left the group after this) but after thinking about it, she was a back member and really didn’t have a LOT of highlights, but still sad nonetheless.  Curious to see where Berryz go after such a strong year in releases!

W

W2005

koinofugueAi no Imi wo Oshiete! 40misslovetantei2nd W 3

W had a pretty straightforward year I’d say in 2005.  They kicked off the year with February’s single Koi no Fuga before releasing their sophomore album, 2nd W a month later.

The rest of the year only had two singles from them; May’s Ai no Imi wo Oshiete! and September’s Miss Love Tantei.

GREAT SONGS

  • Koi no Fuga – I mean I wasn’t surprised W would return to do another cover song for an A-side and it shows heavily with Koi no Fuga.  There’s just a lot of like 40’s/50’s big band sound and I’m just loving the swing of things and Aibon and Nono sound really nice especially together (helps that I really liked it after their first album).  It’s just slick and cool and great albeit surprisingly short too…so sad!
  • Dekoboko Seventeen – What I wasn’t expecting was after the intro, they turned the dance beats up even further and boy this song was just punchy and really aggressive for a song from W.  I really liked arrangement here and it’s just fits well after stuff like “Sentimental Boy” and “Samishii Nettaigyo” but the difference was that it was an original track so it was a nice surprise!  Plus, Ai and Nozomi are just killing it.  Yeah, loving it!
  • Ai no Imi wo Oshiete! Back to original A-sides again, I’m pretty happy with that.  I really don’t know why they chose to once again the technopop route for this A-side, but the video game-esque sounds and groove really caught my attention and boy they really cake it up for this one and I’m here for it.  Ai and Nozomi sound so adorable and suits the style of the song entirely.  It’s definitely one of my favorite A-sides from them.
  • Miss Love Tantei After the cuteness of the previous single, Miss Love Tantei is more dance-focused and the beats are pretty cool and the duo sounds sassy and cool (especially that rap section with mostly Tsuji at the front).  It’s just a cool track and really showed off some versatility between the two so it’s another winner here!
  • FRIENDSHIP – Kind of surprised that the B-side to “Miss Love Tantei” kind of had a similar genre going on, but unlike the sassiness of the leading track, FRIENDSHIP is happier and has some really nice vocals (mostly from Aibon here).  It’s just catchy and the energy is there too!  I was pretty surprised with this one!

OK SONGS

  • Furimukenaide – With the B-side from “Koi no Fuga”, Furimukenaide sounds also like a cover song as well since it’s got an oldie kind of groove to it and it’s a bit more playful with the duo using their higher range throughout.  It’s a nice ditty of a song but not quite as punchy like its A-side which really stood out to me.
  • Samidare Renka – Sandwiched between “Robokiss” and “Aa Ii na!”, we have Samidare Renka and it was a bit bizarre being as the album’s first ballad.  I actually was intrigued by its placement but was ready to listen to them tackle it and it feels more like Aibon led the song while Nono was kind of backup here.  Though I am happy that Ai is leading as her vocals work in such a lighter setting.
  • Dakishimenaide ~Nikkitsuki~ – Another lighter track from the album, Dakishimenaide is a little more interesting than “Samidare Renka” by being a bit more like a lighter R&B track.  It’s not bad, but it does remind me of something that could’ve been featured back on Minimoni’s last album.  It’s almost crossing into meh territory, but it’s still got something relaxing about it.
  • 18 ~My Happy Birthday Comes!~ – After that odd March, we get into 18 ~My Happy Birthday Comes!~ and I was instantly hooked with the kind of funky/disco-ish arrangement and bright atmosphere.  Once again, the duo’s vocals bring a lot of color to the song and together, 18 was just a really solid track!
  • Juushichi no Natsu – While quite not as heavy as “Dekoboko Seventeen”, Juushichi no Natsu is kind of a technopop track and it’s much more of a cuter approach as well.  I definitely get reminded of some of the other technopop tunes around this time and while Nono & Aibon sing pretty decently, it’s kind of in the middle for me.
  • 17sai yo Sayonara (ARRIVERDERCI) – I was wondering what was coming with this track which had a capitalized Italian word in its title, but it seems like this is another cover song (like “Juushichi no Natsu”) but unlike the mentioned song, this one is slowed way down to a more softer, jazzier song and I can appreciate this a lot as both members sound really nice and the mood is super relaxing!  One of the more surprisingly good songs from the album.
  • Jinx – What an interesting B-side that “Ai no Imi wo Oshiete!” had as it’s a total 180 from the leading track.  In some ways it reminds me of “Robokiss” with the whispy singing in the verses, but then the chorus is a bit more darker?  I think the song is unique and keeps my attention throughout.  Yeah not bad!

MEH SONGS

  • W no Theme – No surprise when I find out there album opens with a introduction track and it seems this may be a theme W could use for performances.  The first half isn’t quite all that interesting, but once the dance beats enter and W start to sing, I was slightly intrigued but at the same time annoyed at how repetitive things was.
  • Mada Mou Chotto Amaete Itai – As the album’s closer, Mada Mou Chotto Amaete Itai doesn’t seem like the song to close the album (honestly would’ve preferred “17sai yo Sayonara” to have closed the album out) and it’s kind of a weaker song from them because the style just feels Western and sort of forgettable in a way.  I don’t know, I just didn’t connect with this one.

ICKY SONGS

  • Daburuyuu Joshi Koutou Gakkou Kouka – Boy, I was NOT expecting the duo to really return back to those Minimoni days for this track and this really threw the album off track with how ridiculously kiddy it came off.  Plus, the background vocals don’t really help the situation, but at least unlike “Berryz Kobo Koushinkyoku”, this IS in fact a March.  Still, I really couldn’t understand why it was on the album if anything.
  • INTERLUDE – Seeing as it kind of a weird 25 second transition track, I was pretty thrown off by it because “Koi no Fuga” fades out for its ending it leads into INTERLUDE with the duo kind of being super excited and loud while “Juushichi no Natsu” kind of begins.  Pretty useless though otherwise and makes me question its inclusion to the album.

Overall: I would say W had a pretty good 2005 (which I can’t really say much to other acts of the year).  They had 3 rather strong singles and a fun sophomore album to throw too, it seems they really got their style going and I can’t wait to see what 2006 brings (*cough*).

v-u-den

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kacchoizeajisaiaiaihitorijimekurenainokisetsuSuite Room Number 1

So it seems v-u-den had a pretty straightforward year it seems and was happy to see them release more after “Koi no Nukegara”.  So their year had 4 singles; Kacchoii ze! JAPAN (in March), Ajisai Ai Ai Monogatari (in May), Hitorijime (in August), and Kurenai no Kisetsu (in October)

Then at the end of October, the trio would release their first album, Suite Room Number 1.

GREAT SONGS

  • Ajisai Ai Ai Monogatari – With their 3rd single, v-u-den seemed to take things a bit more seriously with Ajisai Ai Ai Monogatari and it’s pretty cool, but I could also see people thinking it’s a little strange.  It’s mostly due to the tick-tock/snap effect played in various places like the pre-chorus and choruses.  Also REALLY happy to see a lot of Erika in the track too!  There’s just something interesting about the song that really stood out (besides the herky-jerky moments) but this song flows so nicely otherwise.  Great song!
  • Aimai Me MIND – I definitely wasn’t expecting Aimai Me MIND to be more danceable than it’s A-side, but I was happily taken aback by the different feel of the song being more darker and sullen.  Plus all 3 members just get solos left and right which felt great to hear.  I’m starting to see that members are slightly unique in vocal tone and easily could tell them apart.  Another underrated gem to be quite honest.
  • Kurenai no Kisetsu – As the group’s 5th single, it’s been always something different with each release so I was so interested to hear this and this one is a little closer to “Kacchoii ze! JAPAN” with it’s tone and style, but it’s a little more romantic in a way.  It’s not a typical song and I’m liking vocals here a lot with the harmonies and back and forth stuff that happens in the prechorus.  Yeah, this was neat too and a song that’s quickly growing on me.

OK SONGS

  • Kacchoii ze! JAPAN – As the trio’s 2nd single together, Kacchoii ze! JAPAN is definitely not like their debut, instead being upbeat and danceable and less rockin’!  I will say, I adore the addition of some traditional Japanese elements, but there’s just something odd about the song maybe from Rika leading most of it to the weird English lyrics in the verses.  Even the PV was kind of a bit random as well.  Just an odd A-side for them!
  • Bi ~Hit Parade~ – So the B-side from “Kacchoii ze! JAPAN” is also kind of a weird one for me to listen to but it’s in no way a bad song.  I’m liking the better line distribution (both Rika & Yui have the most lines) and with Yui having a bit more edge in her voice than before, but the arrangement is a bit thin, especially with the verses.  There’s a lot of bass, but not much else involved and the chorus isn’t much improvement as well.  Maybe not as strong as its leading track, but I suppose it’s fine.
  • Hitorijime – After the really impressive “Ajisai Ai Ai Monogatari”, I was curious to see where v-u-den would go next and Hitorijime wasn’t quite the direction as this time they follow more to the 90s R&B sound for this track.  I can’t quite say it’s the most interesting A-side they have because it doesn’t quite bring much to the table and I guess seeing the line distribution be this even is great!  Still, kind of plain otherwise.
  • Ai ~Suite Room~ – In one of the few rare occasions, they gave a PV to an album song and in this case it was this song for v-u-den.  We return to more of that cutesy style for Ai, but this is more dance pop in a way and a little more refreshing for the group.  I could’ve lived without the English background singers, but I still find myself enjoying the tune!
  • Tea Break – Maybe I put a little too much hope for this one because the introduction was giving me some nice 80s vibes and the beat was heavier and cooler, but once the trio comes in, the song lightens up a fair bit.  That’s not to say its bad though because it’s another song that does a good job highlighting Rika, Erika, and Yui.  I think it could’ve been better but what we got was decent.
  • Kuchibiru Kara Ai wo Choudai – Of the album songs, I think Kuchibiru Kara Ai wo Choudai has the most intriguing arrangement going for more of an Arabian tone and with the vocal stylings from all 3 members.  It’s suppose to be a little more silly but it contrasts with its broad sounding chorus.  Yeah, I’m really enjoying this song too!

MEH SONGS

  • Owaranai Yoru to Yume  – With Owaranai Yoru to Yume, I think slowing down and making it kind of pop/rock but not really is an easy way to make things boring and plain and unfortunately, while “Hitorijime” was OK at the end of the day, its B-side is pretty forgettable.  I even think the trio sounded a bit dead too and didn’t work with the arrangement.
  • Naishin Kyaakyaa da wa! – Wow, I didn’t expect another B-side to essentially disappoint me, but I immediately knew that with how bubbly and upbeat the arrangement was, it wasn’t going to last long with me.  I think the keyboards of the song make it sound older than it should and has a certain old H!P feel to it.  The trio doesn’t sound bad, but there’s been better songs.
  • Kurakura Dinner Time – Another album song, Kurakura Dinner Time kind of suffers the same fate as “Naishin Kyaakyaa da wa!” with its kind of bland cutefulness here.  I mean the clapping rhythms are nice, but why do I get this odd feeling that it sounds like that damn Ecomoni song…?  I really couldn’t be bothered with this song and it’s just weak for me.
  • Magokoro no Michi – After the catastrophe that was “Pajama na Jikan”, Magokoro no Michi marks as the final track beore the outro and once again we’re dealing with a ballad, but it’s not as crap as the aforementioned track.  There’s the typical instrumentaion (strings & piano) and a softer presentation from the trio.  That said though, it’s not my kind of song so it’s just blah to me.

ICKY SONGS

  • Check-in –  The opening to their album is a 50 second track that only has the them arriving to a hotel (makes sense with the album’s theme), pretty much a conversation, little odd that it leads into “Kacchoii ze! JAPAN” but it’s whatever.
  • Pajama na Jikan – I think the only song that really disappointed me was the tune which is supposed to be a lullaby which is nice on paper, but how they did this song was just a bit terrible here.  The song itself is a bit too slow for me and it pretty much drags on, but I think what’s worse is that in the prechorus, Yui has these incredibly high notes she’s singing for like 8 measures and they are just too much for me to handle and ruins the song if not already from the arrangement.
  • Check-out – So v-u-den’s album ends with the outro kind of tying together with the intro by having an alarm waking up and the Front Desk telling them it’s time to go as the trio start panicking to get ready to leave.  I mean it makes sense, but just odd?

Overall: I really liked v-u-den’s 2005 as there was a LOT of variety with their music and they’ve been pretty decent, they hotel-themed album was pretty interesting even if some of the songs were lukewarm.  I feel like with more time they’ll be even better and just have energy and power and a great look to them for the future!

DEF.DIVA

defydiva2005

Suki Sugite Baka Mitai

Interestingly enough in September, it was announced that a new group would be created with 3 of the soloists, (Natsumi AbeMaki GotoAya Matsuuraand Rika Ishikawa to form DEF.DIVA!  They only did release their one single for the year, October’s Suki Sugite Baka Mitai.

GREAT SONGS

  • Suki Sugite Baka Mitai – As the group’s debut, Suki Sugite Baka Mitai was a really interesting song feeling a bit more of an 80’s pop song with some dance beats and interestingly smooth vocals.  There’s just something about this that really catches my attention and it doesn’t help that all these vocals are all over the song.  It’s cool and catchy and fun to listen to, one of the best songs to release this year.

MEH SONGS

  • Suki Sugite Baka Mitai (CRAZY J-G JAZZ Remix) – So the single came with 2 remixes of the song and the first one is a jazz remix and it’s a little too freeform for me to really make this song work together.  I feel like the two ideas clash really harshly and it’s hard to focus on both the melody of the lyrics and the melody of the jazz instruments.  Yeah, it’s just a tad bit messy here.
  • Suki Sugite Baka Mitai (Joou Remix) – Oh?  Are we trying to recreate “SHALL WE LOVE?” with this remix?  Yeah, it seems that this remix brings in that old and tiresome 90’s R&B for this remix and while it definitely mixed the two ideas better than the Jazz mix, it’s still rather weak and kind of makes the song more bland ironically.

Overall: I kind of wonder why they keep beating a dead horse by grouping these members together repeatedly.  Though the twist in this one is Rika is a part of the group.  I guess it’s fine because their one A-side this year was really good!  Though I think the remixes are just no.  Curious to see if they continue into the next year!

Hello! Pro Egg

800px-Hello!_Pro_Egg_July_2005

The trainees this year weren’t all that active really, just maybe some concerts and what not but a couple things happen.

Maho Ohyanagi (July) and Miyuki Kawashima (September) left the program.

Then in October, the first Egg unit was created with Tomoiki Ki wo Uetai that included Yuuka Maeda, Arisa Noto, Konatsu Furukawa, Kanna Arihara, and Kaede Oose and debuted at the Culture Festival for environmental purposes (like Ecomoni beforehand).  Though they didn’t release any music in the year.

Other H!P Releases

OnnaKanashiiOtonaPetit Best 6 12

Quite a short list at the end huh?  Yeah, for some reason there weren’t many releases that were outside of the groups so all we ended up with the shuffle unit single which was unique because this time majority of H!P was not involved in it!

  • Sexy Otonajan (Fujimoto, Murakami, Natsuyaki) – They were given a sultry, bossa nova track, Onna, Kanashii, Otona.
  • Elegies (Shibata, Takahashi, Satoda, Tanaka) – This quartet had the danceable cool song, Inshouha Renoir no You ni.
  • Puripuri Pink (Nakazawa, Iida, Inaba, Yasuda) – With these 4, they were given the Autumn ballad, Hitoshirezu Mune wo Kanaderu Yoru no Aki.

And as always, we have Petit Best 6 which would be found at the end of the year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Onna, Kanashii, Otona – When it came to the shuffle units of 2005, I was pretty surprised that it was cut down to just 11 of the H!P members being involved, but things were settled in with the first song from Sexy Otonajan.  I really wasn’t expecting the song to be super sultry and have a sly and sexy glow to it, but I think it was more made by the fact by the vocals.  While I had no doubt Mikitty would kill it, I was more blown away by Megumi who just kind of owned it here.  Miyabi though kind of was the oddball of the three.  Still, this was a pretty nice song and definitely made me want Megumi to debut BADLY!
  • Inshouha Renoir no You ni – Though Elegies were definitely not slacking either for this single.  As the dance track of the single, Inshouha Renoir no You ni was just a cool and pretty neat track here.  With Ai-chan, Ayumin, Mai, and Reina in the song, I was quite surprised to just see this powerhouse (almost as if it’s like DEF.DIVA 2 with the great vocalists).  It’s just an awesome track and I really love the hooks in the song the most!  Another great 2005 song!

OK SONGS

  • Chokkan ~Toki to Shite Koi wa~ (LIVE Ver.) – Kind of odd that Petit Best 6 included a live version of the first Chokkan and not the 2nd one because that was the one promoted.  I mean, I’m not entirely sre what to say other than it’s a good live cut, but really why was this included?

MEH SONGS

  • Hitoshirezu Mune wo Kanaderu Yoru no Aki – Seeing the four members involved (Yuko, Kaori, Atsuko, and Kei) I was kind of hoping it would’ve been on par with the Elegies song, but for some reason that was a MISSED opportunity here.  First of all, it’s a ballad which is already kind of a bad sign, but it’s moreso when you learn that the song is sung entirely in unison so it kills interest altogether.  I don’t know, but the fakes in the background (not sung from the members, mind you) is just really odd too!

ICKY SONGS

  • HELP!! ~Ecomoni no Acchi Chikyuu wo Samasunda. 2005~ – Like I said, there’s just no hope for this song to really make much more of an impression, but since this is the 3rd take of the song, the magic is still not there and the song is more funny than serious as it should be.  Not sure what’s all different from this and the last time (maybe the raps?)  I don’t know, but this song just still is rather bad to me.

Gains and Losses

Gains

  • Koharu Kusumi
  • Tomoiki Ki wo Uetai
  • DEF.DIVA

Losses

  • Kaori Iida (from Morning Musume)
  • Rika Ishikawa (from Morning Musume)
  • Mari Yaguchi (from Morning Musume)
  • Maho Ohyanagi
  • Miyuki Kawashima
  • Maiha Ishimura

My H!P Ranking for ’05

  • 47. Mai Hagiwara (-3)
  • 46. Saki Nakajima (0)
  • 45. Chisato Okai (+2)
  • 44. Maimi Yajima (+1)
  • 43. Erika Umeda (0)
  • 42. Airi Suzuki (-13)
  • 41. Ayaka Kimura (+1)
  • 40. Asami Kimura (-10)
  • 39. Miuna Saito (-18)
  • 38. Yuki Maeda (-26)

(38-47 did not appear in any releases in the year)

  • 37. Atsuko Inaba (-26)
  • 36. Kei Yasuda (-18)
  • 35. Yuko Nakazawa (-10)
  • 34. Sayumi Michishige (+6)
  • 33. Koharu Kusumi (NEW)
  • 32. Maiha Ishimura (+6)
  • 31. Chinami Tokunaga (+10)
  • 30. Megumi Murata (+7)
  • 29. Asami Konno (-7)
  • 28. Maasa Sudo (-4)
  • 27. Saki Shimizu (+9)
  • 26. Mari Yaguchi (-9)
  • 25. Risa Niigaki (-6)
  • 24. Risako Sugaya (+10)
  • 23. Eri Kamei (+5)
  • 22. Momoko Tsugunaga (+17)
  • 21. Natsumi Abe (-19)
  • 20. Mai Satoda (-6)
  • 19. Yui Okada (+12)
  • 18. Makoto Ogawa (+5)
  • 17. Yurina Kumai (+16)
  • 16. Hitomi Yoshizawa (+16)
  • 15. Miyabi Natsuyaki (+20)
  • 14. Ai Kago (-10)
  • 13. Maki Goto (-8)
  • 12. Aya Matsuura (-6)
  • 11. Ayumi Shibata (+5)
  • 10. Reina Tanaka (+10)
  • 9. Megumi Murakami (+17)
  • 8. Hitomi Saito (+1)
  • 7. Kaori Iida (-4)
  • 6. Nozomi Tsuji (+4)
  • 5. Ai Takahashi (+2)
  • 4. Masae Ohtani (-3)
  • 3. Rika Ishikawa (+11)
  • 2. Miki Fujimoto (+6)
  • 1. Erika Miyoshi (+14)

So there you have it, probably one of the weakest years in Hello! Project in releases it feels like.  Here’s hoping the next year will impress better!!

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Warp back to 2004…Year Recap!

Time to start 2004!  Personally it felt like a transitional period back in 2003 with groups getting new members and the start of pushing the Hello! Project Kids as well.  Maybe there’ll be awesome surprises in store for 2004!

Morning Musume (Sakuragumi & Otomegumi)

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aiarabasakuramankaiyuujouromanjoshikashimashinamidagatomaranaibestmorningmusume2mm2004genteibanAi no Dai 6kan 29earlysinglebox

What a crazy year it looks like doesn’t it?  2004 for Morning Musume begun with the looming graduation for Natsumi Abe who was graduating to focus on her solo career and with that in January released her final single with the group, Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT and shortly after graduated!

The next and final singles released by the split sub-groups Sakuragumi and Otomegumi were released the next month in February; Sakura Mankai and Yuujou ~Kokoro no Busu ni wa Naranee!~ respectively.

March comes around and the group releases their 2nd Japanese best album, Best! Morning Musume 2

Cut to somehing of a slight break before the group released their next single in May, Roman ~MY DEAR BOY~ and the announcement Kaori Iida‘s graduation set for 2005

Though during the summer, Ai Kago & Nozomi Tsuji formed a new unit (probably due to Minimoni disbanding), W and from its popularity I guess they also chose to decide to graduate from Morning Musume but not without their farewell single, Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari being released in July.

Then shortly after, Rika Ishikawa also had announced she’d be graduating to focus on v-u-den which was also announced at the same time!

Skip to October where Hawaii got its own MM best album, 2004 Nendo Hawaii Genteiban Single Best.

Though I’m guessing during the Summer, Tsunku also announced an audition for the 7th Generation would happen.

The last two months of the year were pretty busy though with their next single in November, Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago was released followed up by their 6th album in December, Ai no Dai 6kan and a week later a special album, Morning Musume EARLY SINGLE BOX dropped which was their first 8 singles (“Morning Coffee” to “Koi no Dance Site” being upgraded to 12cm CDs (plus a bonus track on each) and a bonus instrumental disc of various old songs of theirs (many not being A-sides).

GREAT SONGS

  • Sakura Mankai – Being the 2nd A-side from Sakuragumi, I wasn’t expecting them to keep being consistent and here we are with Sakura Mankai which isn’t quite so different to their first single, but it definitely offers a stronger Asian flavor in comparison.  With Nacchi gone, the group might have lost a member but they still all handle themselves pretty well here.
  • Roman ~MY DEAR BOY~ – As the first A-side post-Nacchi, Roman brought the group to more of a punk-rock kind of groove and I was definitely digging the cool side of the group here.  I definitely remember hearing a lot of Rika, Miki, and Ai-chan here and I kind of approved of the sassier tone.  Might not be as angsty as “Shabondama” was but I do appreciate this song after “Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT”.
  • Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago – I don’t think Momusu has done a ballad at least since “Furusato” as an A-side and I’m happy to see that Konkon is the lead here alongside Sayu, Mikitty, and Charmy!  Though on the flipside I do feel like Makochan, Yossie, Kame, and Gaki got like no lines in the song.  Still having the worst singers get the shine here was a nice move and the song while not the strongest in their collection ended up being kind of super cute and simple for me!
  • Haru no Uta – As the first shuffle song on the album, Haru no Uta only has Marippe, Kaorin, Yossie, and Charmy and it’s a slow R&B track almost in the vein of old Tanpopo which is always welcome here.  Considering this is the 4 eldest members of Momusu at the time, I was surprised at how the 4 tackled the track.  Of course there’s a LOT of Mari and she held her own, but the other 3 did pretty well (Rika and Hitomi are doing much better with ballads since “Shiawase Desu ka?” oddly enough.  This was a nice surprise from the album.
  • Dokusenyoku – Seems like another R&B track ended up really sticking out to me from the album and this included all members.  I definitely dug the intro with a couple members saying some lines one after another before the song kicks in.  Though I think the rapping was cool (though could’ve taken out Tsunku rapping alongside too).  Still a pretty chill song overall!
  • Memory Seishun no Hikari (99.4.18 Live Version) – For Memory Seishun no Hikari this performance was done on Asuka’s graduation so of course it had an extended opening to fit the mood.  Since Asuka and Natsumi were lead vocalists, they both pulled off the song with flying colors.  This was a good live cut!
  • Manatsu no Kousen (Early Version) – Yeah more early takes of singles is nice and Manatsu no Kousen doesn’t sound quite as busy as thought it would like the original with the arrangement and bit more quieter and the vocals less processed.  I kind of enjoyed this a LOT more than the original oddly enough.  The biggest surprise is that the bridge is different (honestly I wish they kept that instead of that odd breakdown in the actual A-side recording).

OK SONGS

  • Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT – As the group’s first A-side and last single for Natsumi in the group, Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT kind of returns us back to the more cutesy setting of a lot of their music last year.  There is something catchy about the song and the hopeful mood is quite nice, but it just sounds like a retread on “Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru” with a bit more bounce.  Also, if I didn’t already know it was Nacchi’s final single, this would have no inclination that it was as such as Nacchi got as many solos as I feel she normally does.
  • Say Yeah! -Motto Miracle Night- (Sakuragumi & Otomegumi Ver.) – So both -gumi singles had the same first B-side which is a self-cover of a song that was released solely from their first best album.  Not surprised they decided to change the composition a bit so sadly it doesn’t quite strike me as well as the original, but hearing from both groups with solo lines for everyone involved is nice.  I do think Sakuragumi does slightly edge out Otomegumi’s cut, but they are both nice retakes.
  • YAH! Aishitai – As the lone new track from their 2nd best album, YAH! Aishitai was a pretty interesting track because it brought back 3 Morning Musume alumni back in (recently graduated Natsumi Abe and Kei Yasuda and Maki Goto as well!).  The tune itself doesn’t seem to be a strong song to be the new one, but I do like the groove of it and hearing the graduated members was pretty cool too!  Not bad overall!
  • Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari – With how big the group is (14 strong), having a song that centers around each member should feel like a warning for repetition and with the group’s 3rd A-side of the year, it kind of lands itself there.  I will say though that I do like the upbeat energy and the saxophones are really nice too!  Plus the chorus is catchy, but like 5 choruses is a bit too much but it had to happen with 14 members to go through (in which we were previously knowledgeable about Kaorin’s and Rikachan’s upcoming graduation, but it actually was Aibon’s and Nono’s last single.  Ok song, but it can get boring and repetitive after a couple listens.
  • Nebou Desu. Date na no ni… – I guess I have to say that of the 4 main B-sides, this one stood out the most because of the members all getting lines and such but I still don’t quite feel like it stands out otherwise.  Another leftover of the R&B scene from last year, Nebou Desu.’s problems mostly are how clunky the song is sung especially the chorus which can feel rather mechanical & robotic at points.
  • Sukiyaki – As the first new track from their 6th album, Sukiyaki is such odd song to be placed so early on the album (2nd track after “Namida ga Tomaranai Houkago”) and immediately the first thing that it reminded me of was “Shiawase Kyouryuu Ondo” with the traditional instrumentation and the style of singing here.  All 12 members do get solos which is great too!  It’s just an odd song to be on an album, maybe it’s just me.
  • Lemon Iro to Milk Tea – So the 5th & 6th Gen members got a song to themselves with Lemon Iro to Milk Tea and it was a total opposite to the more moody and slow “Haru no Uta”.  It’s pretty sparkly and cutesy and having the 8 members singing here is nice too.  I do find it funny that Mikitty gets the final chorus (since her voice doesn’t quite fit the setting) but overall, definitely adorable of a track!
  • Koe – Wow does this song feel like it’s from an early album of theirs.  As the ballad of the album, Koe is pretty slow paced, but at the same time it’s got solos for everyone and the melody and chords some of the girls hit are pleasant to the ears.  It may be a smidge repetitive and robotic like “Nebou Desu. Date na no ni…”, but I think it’s not quite as annoying here!
  • Morning Coffee (Unreleased “B♭” Version) – With the EARLY SINGLE BOX, it was basically their first 8 singles (barring “Ai no Tane) made into 12cm discs and with that each single came with a bonus track and Morning Coffee was of course the first of them and the bonus track was an early version that had the song in a key higher than what it ended up as.  With just that change, the tune sounds brighter and happier.  Some other things were missing as this was an early recording but the song is still the same regardless.
  • Summer Night Town (First Live Version) – As a live recording, I was surprised to hear the group performing with a band acting as the musical support which is pretty impressive (since they rarely do it nowadays).  It’s actually a pretty impressive performance and the quintet sound awesome (well OK, 8 of them).
  • Daite HOLD ON ME! (Morning Cop Version) – At first I didn’t recognize the differences, but after a while it’s mostly the mixing that’s changed up in Daite HOLD ON ME! and it sounds a bit more cleaner not quite so frazzled which is a surprise but a nice one regardless.
  • Furusato (Early Vocal Version) – I mean the song stayed mostly the same here, but Nacchi sung the tune in a more happier light versus the actual A-side recording and the other members are featured even less (though this was before they were added).  I do feel like some things were changed too, but not much to say here.
  • LOVE Machine (Early Unison Version) – I feel like of the “early” versions on the box set, LOVE Machine had the biggest differences of them between early and final recording.  I mean there’s no solos, the opening is different and some of the other quirks were either changed or removed.  It’s so fascinating and probably the most interesting track of the bonuses.

MEH SONGS

  • Dekiru Onna – Not sure how to explain this song, but it does kind of feel like it’s old-timey and something different but it feels rather sluggish in how it turned out?  I don’t know what it is, but it feels like it wants to be dramatic and play out a story, but it just sounds almost dopey in a sense.  Doesn’t help that only Rika, Miki, Reina, and Ai-chan had solos in the song.  Just felt mediocre to me.
  • Daite! HOLD ON ME (Sakuragumi Ver.) – I should’ve been excited about this, but I was quite disappointed with this by a good margin. I mean it isn’t even the full song really (verse, chorus, rap bridge, final chorus) and the only solos belonged to Marippe, Aibon, and Ai-chan with little offerings from the other 4 members in Sakuragumi.  I really wonder why they went this route and didn’t bother giving Kame, Gaki, Konkon, or even Yossie something to do.  Oh the arrangement remains the same but it does sound cleaner.
  • Yuujou ~Kokoro no Busu ni wa Naranee!~ – Not quite sure why I ended up disliking Otomegumi’s A-side because it’s very frantic and wild and something that should be in my lane, but the song kind of just is a little too messy and the vocals aren’t really all that great (especially if you’re going to open it up with Sayu singing alone).  It’s just frantic all throughout with like one spot that’s a little lighter, but the song just gives me a headache.
  • Summer Night Town (Otomegumi Ver.) – I think I’m just as disappointed in this as I was with Sakuragumi’s “Daite! HOLD ON ME” primarily because it’s also a shortened cut and only Reina, Kaori, Makoto, and Rika have the lone solos while the other 3 are backups.  It’s not the song itself, it was the way it was handled that bothers me.
  • Fine Emotion! – From the “Roman ~MY DEAR BOY~” single, this B-side is also kind of mediocre to me for some reason.  The tune gives me vibes with its pop/rock acoustic sound that some of the group’s early songs were kind based off of.  There’s just something that’s rather simply out of the current time with this song.  Surprised that only Ai-chan, Mikitty, Rika, Sayu, Reina, and Kame had solos here and it really didn’t save the song either way around.
  • Ganbare Nippon Soccer Fight! – Kind of sad that the B-side from “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari” is even more repetitive and forgetful.  I do kind of remember this song as a sports chant that seems more appropriate for like Ongaku Gatas than for Morning Musume (but I wonder if this was a thing for the group).  Sadly, the song is kind of unison with maybe smaller groups, but I do tend to hear a LOT of Reina and Miki in the forefront for some reason.  It’s definitely a song to pump up a team, but I just couldn’t get into it.
  • Chokkan ~Toki to Shite Koi wa~ – I’m not sure why this song was created, but good lord is this one a bit of a mess.  I do feel like because it’s so chant-central and repetitive, it’s best heard in live performances but I don’t feel much for the song.  Also a little odd that Kaori, Sayumi, Asami, and Rika didn’t get a solo, but the solos here aren’t quite as profound as I thought.  It’s just a weak song (Plus it didn’t help it got touched up in the next year >.>)
  • SHIP! TO THE FUTURE – I was kind of surprised to see a song including Aibon & Nono (being that by the album release they were graduated) but for some reason this song feels super cheap like it’s from a stageplay rather than a literal song.  This is another one of those “Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru” and “Ai Araba IT’S ALL RIGHT” where it’s a mid-tempo kind of feelgood happy songs which I’ve never really been into, but this is just lacking all over for me.
  • Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari 2 – Again?  I really wasn’t sure what was going on, but it seems it’s JKM, but instead the girls get solos instead of the girls singing about the girl in question so that means solos for everyone!  Though not quite sure if I like the heavier bass and Tsunku-isms here and the song is just as repetitive (despite Kago and Tsuji not taking part here).  Same chorus though ironically enough.  I don’t know, having to hear two JKMs on the same album is quite pushing it to be honest.

ICKY SONGS

  • HELP!! – So because Morning Musume comes up first, I do have to explain that this is a cover of an Ecomoni song (Ecomoni was Ishikawa & Michishige) that was first performed back in June of this year).  Seems like Momusu did their version of it which is those two plus the 10 other members xD.  Sadly, HELP!! is such a bad song to meeee.  Plus hearing the group trying to pronounce Earth but end up with ass makes the song more wrongfully hilarious than it should.  The arrangement feels cheap like “Chokkan” and it seems Ai-chan, Sayu, and Reina got the push in the song (where was Rika?).  Yeah, no this song is blech to me…

Overall: What a crazy year 2004 was for Morning Musume from losing Nacchi, Aibon, and Nono and then the upcoming graduation for Kaori and Rika it seems to be quite turbulent as far as things go for the group.  Release-wise was decent most of the A-sides were good (maybe cept Yuujou), but those B-sides were bummers.  The album was OK, but there was a lot of eh songs there, but covering with 2 best albums and bringing back their first 8 major singles was a good gift towards the end of the year…2005 is definitely going to be an odd one.

Yuko Nakazawa

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Y’know what, Yuko actually had a busier year than normal surprisingly!  She released two singles this year, Genki no nai Hi no Komoriuta / Nagaragawa no Hare in February and DO MY BEST in May

Then she dropped her sophomore album, Dai Nishou ~Tsuyogari~ in July and later on took part in 2004’s shuffle unit!

GREAT SONGS

  • Shinki Itten ~CHANGING THE MIND~ – I wasn’t expecting something this upbeat and danceable from Yuko’s album but this song is pretty fancy and Yuko is really sounding good in the song and doing well with keeping up with the tempo of the tune and it really stuck out to me from many of the other songs on the album (especially some of the past releases).  Definitely was my favorite from the album.

OK SONGS

  • DO MY BEST – At least the single she released after the double A-side, DO MY BEST is a bit more upbeat and refreshing to listen to.  It still has that kind of acoustic pop sound to it, but I definitely enjoy Yuko’s happy performance and the song can be bright and catchy at points which is a win.  Yeah, not bad here!
  • Tsuyogari – As the title track from her sophomore album, Tsuyogari was kind of like “Genki no nai Hi no Komoriuta” with its softness in the verses and what not keeping a quieter arrangement around before bumping it up some in the chorus which was caught my attention.  Its what saved it from being forgettable in my opinion.
  • Furusato (Nakazawa Version) – I’m kind of surprised it took this long before Yuko released her own version of Furusato (which was originally a Nacchi-fronted song.  I wasn’t expecting the arrangement changing from what it was to more of a acoustic guitar/piano/slide guitar arrangement which gives it more of homely, Country feel like “Genki no nai Hi no Komoriuta” did.  I would argue and say I liked Yuko’s vocals better with carrying a song like this, but Nacchi’s is forever marked in people’s minds so at least this exists and I’m happy for that.

MEH SONGS

  • Genki no nai Hi no Komoriuta – I feel like at this point in her career I felt like her A-sides were starting to get sleepier and boring to me and I feel like this song was kind of at the forefront of that opinion for me.  The tune is slow-moving and the focus with the acoustics is an OK change and the tune gives me a slight Country vibe, but otherwise, the tune zoned me out completely even if Yuko was sounding pleasant.
  • Nagaragawa no Hare – Which followed into its sister A-side, Nagaragawa no Hare.  Instead of the sleepy acoustics, the tune has a little more electric guitar, but has more strings and an overall 90s sound to it.  It just wasn’t what I was looking for but it does give me feels of like Chinatsu Miyoshi’s music.  It’s not terrible, but I would so forget about it.
  • Kitto Dokoka ni Akai Ito – I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to “DO MY BEST’s” B-side, but Kitto Dokoka ni Akai Ito wasn’t a song that I fully was into.  I mean it was a stark difference to the A-side instead of being upbeat and happy it was more sullen and serious of a song.  Sadly, after hearing all those “FOLK SONGS” albums, this felt like something extra from there…just didn’t stick out to me at all.

Overall: Nakazawa seems to have a busier year than she has the last couple with 2 singles and an album.  While it feels like her music has finally settled into this rather mature and easy-listening kind of groove, it’s nice to know she’s still wanting to release music.  Not bad!

Country Musume ni Konno to Fujimoto

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Country Musume pretty much didn’t pop on my radar this year as their sole release in August, their 3rd single, Shining Itoshiki Anata came out…and that was pretty much it for 2004 (besides being involved in the shuffle unit in the year).

GREAT SONGS

  • Shining Itoshiki Anata – I definitely had no clue what Country Musume could release after two radically different songs, but their 3rd A-side together Shining Itoshiki Anata tackled Motown/Doowop for this single and it’s just a lovely song from them!  It really showcased the vocals pretty nicely (especially Mikitty who was just awesome in this song).  That said, the other 4 members handled it pretty well too, but honestly this was Miki’s time to shine here and it really made the song so memorable for me!

OK SONGS

  • DON’T STOP Renaichuu (2004 Version) – Covering a T&C Bomber A-side (although they did cover “Marui Taiyou” from their last single, I was surprised they were covering this considering this was originally a very beautiful and strongly sung tune from T&C.  Country Musume’s take isn’t so bad though despite not quite coming close to the original vocally here.  Add on the arrangement was worked upon too which is where most of my woes lie because they stripped the Island vibes for something a lil more synthy and 90’s and such.  Not bad of a cover though.

Overall: Really?  The quintet only managed to release one single and that was it for the year?  It seemed pretty odd and slightly disappointing we didn’t get anything from them the rest of the year because these string of singles have brought a different facet to the group I totally enjoyed.

Melon Kinenbi

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Melon Kinenbi in 2004 pretty much was straightforward with 2 singles; Namida no Taiyou in June and Champagne no Koi in October before releasing their sophomore album, THE Nimaime in December!

GREAT SONGS

  • Namida no Taiyou – As the 1st A-side released in the year, Namida no Taiyou really left a solid mark on me with its upbeat dance, surfer-esque style that got me dancing alongside it!  Though that went by very quickly because the song’s only flaw is that it’s only 2:45 in length but it’s mostly because it’s a cover of an old 1965 song, “Crying In a Storm” by Emy Jackson.  Surprised it was chosen to be covered and be an A-side, but it’s one of their better ones!
  • Champagne no Koi – It must’ve been a good year for them because both A-sides turned out pretty well!  Unlike the upbeat nature of “Namida no Taiyou”, Champagne no Koi is more of a mid-tempo R&B track and it’s quite unique for the group to have versus other R&B songs which felt more dated with that 90’s sound that the soloists were loving.  While Shibata is still leading, I’m liking that the other 3 are showing up and sounding better too!
  • Lemon Tart – For a song that’s titled Lemon Tart, I was surprised to see that the song is kind of a ballad for the album here, but it’s a feelgood ballad that’s rather laidback and gives me a feeling of a campfire or a nice walk in the woods.  Add on that the song is just sung nicely by all 4 members (with Hitomi having the most lines).  It’s just a really pleasant song from the album and a gem!

OK SONGS

  • Saa, Sassoku Moriagete Ikou ka~!! – Considering that this song is still pretty popular today, I was wondering how this B-side worked and I wasn’t shocked that the song in question is pretty high-energy and perfect for live performances!  Kind of like how “This is Unmei” is utilized in a similar fashion.  The group is energtic and the song is pretty rockin’ and fits the atmosphere.  I definitely found myself enjoying this one too, interesting this was the B-side to the cover song.
  • Koi no Shikumi. – As the silly B-side from “Champagne no Koi”, this song brought back the idea of equal line distribution and I appreciated this a lot!  The song is a bit more poppy and sillier than more Melon songs tend to normally be so this was a nice change of pace.  Though the song itself is not quite the strongest in their collection, it’s perfect as a B-side to split the mood from its A-side.
  • Setsunasa RANKING – As the first of the new tracks from their sophomore album (3rd track on the album after the 2 A-sides that released in 2004), Setsunasa RANKING like “Koi no Shikumi.” comes off more as a sillier and upbeat kind of track and they both kind of go hand in hand it feels like.  I do think I enjoyed this song better though (even if the chorus is repetitive).  Nice song overall!
  • Kirai, Suki Suki Suki Honto, Uso Uso Uso – This next album track to me overall hit the middle of the road for me because it kind of reminds me of a slightly more upbeat “Champagne no Koi”.  It’s a bit more glossy and sparkly of a song though and the repetition of the title (and variants) sticks into your mind pretty quickly.  Not bad of a song though!
  • Aishite wa Ikenai… – Kind of like what I said that some of Melon’s songs avoided the tropes of the 90’s R&B vibes that H!P was loving last year, if any song from THE Nimaime was close to it, it might’ve been this one here.  The beats are there, but the sparklyness from “Kirai, Suki Suki Suki Honto, Uso Uso Uso” also seemed to remain and we ended up with this track.  It’s not a bad song though and it’s nostalgic sound is nice too and not too cheesy here.

MEH SONGS

  • Last Scene – Ok, so if “Aishite wa Ikenai…” was R&B done right, Last Scene would be what if it was done wrong.  It tries to be more like a Janet Jackson kind of track but the minimalistic feel and the annoying wobbly synths in the verses kind of destroy the interest I had for the song mostly.  This felt like the throwaway song from the album to be honest.
  • Doryoku・Kei・Bijin – From the opening, it gave me some nice Taiyou to Ciscomoon vibes and the synth horns was really paving it in for me.  Which made the song feel slightly dated.  Though the tune after the intro is a bit more upbeat and happy-go-lucky but these quick twists into minor makes the song feel awkward in places (like the verses).  Although the line distribution is equal (cept when Ayumi gets the final chorus to herself).  Not bad, but the song could’ve been quicker IMO…it’s a little slow for me.
  • THE Nimaime ~ON THE WAY~ – As the album’s final track and title track as well, I had somewhat high hopes for the final track, but with THE Nimaime it kind of came off lukewarm it seems.  I was kind of expecting something like “Saa, Sassoku Moriagete Ikou ka~!!” where it would be powerful and loud, but instead it’s just poppy and upbeat like a lot of their songs this year it feels like.  Just slightly underwhelming for me.

Overall: I’m actually happy it didn’t take as long for Melon Kinenbi to release a 2nd album and I was surprisingly excited for how well it turned out too (with the last 3 songs kind of being bummers) not bad!  Makes me excited for what’s to come in 2005!

Yuki Maeda

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Wow, Yukidon actually managed to release two singles in 2004 (Sarasara no Kawa released on the first day of 2004 and Nishi Shinjuku de Atta Hito in September).  Otherwise really didn’t contribute to anything else in 2004 other than the shuffle unit of the year!

GREAT SONGS

  • Sarasara no Kawa – As the first A-side released in 2004, I was curious to see what Yukidon what release with Sarasara no Kawa and it’s a bit of a mid-tempo song with some light Enka vibes mixed with VERY light R&B blips here which surprised me a little bit!  Yuki of course sounds beautiful and the track flowed nicely throughout its entire length, nothing to complain about here!
  • Tsuki Ressha – I got wild Asian vibes listening to Tsuki Ressha because it just has this flow and feel to it that’s really sleepytime and yet velvety and I have to also praise Yukidon as her vocals were on point especially with the quickly shifting notes in its chorus.  Might be one of her strongest songs and sadly a hidden gem in her discography in all honesty.

OK SONGS

  • Nishi Shinjuku de Atta Hito – Y’know this is one of those rare times where I think the song actually sounds like what the cover art of the single is and Nishi Shinjuku de Atta Hito is giving me nightlife, kayoukyoku vibes.  That said, it does cause the song sound incredibly dated even for its genre!  It’s not bad and Yuki sounds good once again so there’s no complaints there…not bad for being her 2nd A-side of the year!

MEH SONGS

  • Sore wa Fushigi – As the B-side from “Sarasara no Kawa”, there was no shock when it turns out this song was more of a ballad here.  At first, Sore we Fushigi was an instant borefest, with just Yukidon and piano, but by the time the chorus hits things open a bit more with extra instrumentation, but it still feels rather green and plain all things considered.

Overall: I’m still getting over the fact that Yukidon managed to release two singles instead of the lone one every year she’s been active prior.  Though I’m surprised she got two songs that really wowed me here.  Not bad of a 2004, but I hope she’s more active in 2005!

Minimoni

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Minimoni in 2004..*sigh*

The year did begin with the group’s sophomore album, Minimoni Songs 2 in February before the sad announcement was made that Minimoni would be disbanding in May with Mika Todd graduating.

They did have their final single with Lucky Cha Cha Cha! in April, but the group disbanded and Mika graduated and that was that…

GREAT SONGS

  • Zukyun LOVE – With the group doing a little more mature songs since “CRAZY ABOUT YOU” happened, I feel like I ended up enjoying this move more than I should and with songs like Zukyun LOVE, it really popped at me that they didn’t have to forever be this kiddy-like group but could handle cute in a less sugar-inducing coma kind of way.  Plus, Tsuji had the most solos here and I was impressed by a song she could even handle with her vocals.  Kind of surprise for the album!
  • BE ALL RIGHT! (Minimoni Version) – I really can’t dock this one because I love BE ALL RIGHT! originally and Minimoni didn’t do too bad of a job here it’s just me missing 11WATER’s performance (mostly Fujimoto’s vocals) here.  Interesting to hear this since Tsuji was the only one from Minimoni to be in 11WATER as well.  The tune is still upbeat and the quartet is having fun with it so no problems here!

OK SONGS

  • WASSUP? Enryo ga Theme – As the first of the new songs from the album to come up, WASSUP? has a baseball theme as evident from the opening English dialogue which was an interesting way to kick it off.  The song kicks itself into gear and the track is a pretty rockin’ track for the quartet.  I do like the ladies singing in the song as they’re powerful and hitting their strides, but I could live without the backups and Tsunku-isms here.  I think that’s what prevented me mostly from loving it.
  • Kowarenai Ai ga Hoshii no (Minimoni Version) – So Minimoni decided to do their own cut of the shuffle unit songs from 2003 (cept “GET UP! Rapper”) for some odd reason on this album and I was welcoming it for sure.  Though I will admit 7AIR’s song wasn’t the most memorable song but Minimoni’s did have take out 5/7 members of the original (Mika and Ai-chan being the only two that was in 7AIR).  Sad to say Mika is still doing the rapping, hype voice alongside Nono (really Aibon & Ai-chan only got the main lines?).  Not bad, but, I think they could’ve gave everyone an equal line distribution here.
  • LOST LOVE – That intro to this song was just so creepy to me and I have no clear reason why lol.  I feel like this song was more of a continuation to “CRAZY ABOUT YOU” with the stronger 90’s R&B sound here and with some saxophones and weird random tempo change before each chorus, LOST LOVE was an interesting tune and I rather enjoyed the vocals here.
  • Lucky Cha Cha Cha! – As the group’s final A-side, I really wasn’t sure what they were catering to with Lucky Cha Cha Cha! because it left the mature music behind and gave us this silly and upbeat track.  Though it didn’t feel childish, it just was a fun song.  It really didn’t feel like it was a final song, but they definitely left us with a catchy and fun song and I heard a LOT of Mika here (makes sense).

MEH SONGS

  • Gyutto Dakishimete <FOREVER> – I’m guessing this is considered the quartet’s slow song of the album, but Gyutto Dakishimete kind of just doesn’t fit anywhere on this album despite it’s try at throwing in some R&B beats to make it a little more suitable.  I don’t know, I just never saw Minimoni as a group to sing slow songs, so this was a bit out of character for me.  Then again, it was placed before an interlude that switched the album into it’s cutesy, goofy side.  It’s an odd song though overall but by itself…vocally it was done well but the arrangement doesn’t pull at me.
  • -INTERLUDE- (Kuro Minimoni. Jankenpyon) – As the interlude, it was used to split from the more mature Minimoni into the kiddy-like aura and I felt like using “Minimoni. Jankenpypon” in a different way was unique and here it’s very hypnotic and interesting.  I could’ve taken 3 minutes of this, but as it stands it was only a minute long sadly.
  • -ENDING- (Shiro Minimoni. Jankenpyon) – Like the interlude, the ending of the album closes out with another minute long.  Though this feels a bit 8bit at the beginning and then it goes upbeat and the repetition of parts of the song.  I thought it was catchy and they do cover more of the song so it’s a smidge more lasting.
  • Egao no Date Saigo no Date – Oh, so I guess the B-side to their final single is more akin to the more mature stuff they were releasing because this feels like more of a Gomattou song than it should be lol.  It’s not the most interesting song in their discography no doubt, but it’s just pretty strange that this was their final B-side.  Nothing really pops out for me sadly.

ICKY SONGS

  • -OPENING- – Really not quite sure what was going on in the introduction to the album here.  First off, the beat was trudging along and felt sloppy and two, IMO throwing in random parts from various Minimoni songs into what felt like a collage of the group was a bit of a mess.  The only thing that really worked was the 15 second piano/light string ending that was used to lead into “CRAZY ABOUT YOU”.  Besides that, this was a no.

Overall: It’s pretty sad to see a group disband anytime in H!P and Minimoni was a pretty huge group to say the least with many of their songs being favorites in the fandom.  Though it is nice they had their 2nd album and final single to out with alongside saying goodbye to Mika.  Wasn’t so sad since Ai-chan was starting to becoming a vocal front for Momusu while Aibon & Nono went on to form W shortly after.  Still, it was a good run for them!

Maki Goto

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Gocchin had a pretty eventful year once again, finally able to fully focus on her solo career with the release of her 2nd album, ② Paint It Gold released in January.  The rest of the year consisted of 3 singles (Sayonara no LOVE SONG in March, Yokohama Shinkirou in July, and Sayonara “Tomodachi ni wa Naritakunai no” in November).

Hawaii stores also released a 2004 Nendo Hawaii Genteiban Single Best in October as well!

GREAT SONGS

  • Paint It Gold – After listening to a mostly mediocre album, I was wondering how she was going to close it out and with the penultimate track before “Scramble” (the album’s title track), it made me wonder why she couldn’t follow this 80’s New Wave/Pop groove because this song is epic!  Right from Gocchin’s opening high note, I knew this song was going to hit all the spots for me!  I just love the power behind it and it’s really one of her best songs!

OK SONGS

  • Shiawase Desu ka? (Goto Version) – Kind of surprised that she decided to cover songs on the album, but this one is the easiest to guess because she was the lead in this Sexy 8 cover.  Of course Gocchin has gotten better of a singer so hearing her tackling this by herself was a nice treat and she sounds really cool despite she took over 7 other ladies’ parts.  The extra Tsunku-isms is a little oddly added, but the song is still good overall!
  • Himitsu – The other ballad-like track is Himitsu which felt like a bit more effort was put into it with its relaxing R&B arrangement and slowly soulful and sultry tones that really popped out at me.  Maki just sounds super pleasant to the ears and the tune felt more invested all-around compared to “Namida no Hoshi”.
  • DANCE DANCE DANCE – As the first B-side from “Sayonara no LOVE SONG”, this is more of what I was expecting because its overall tone is VERY similar to “Yaruki! IT’S EASY” & “Paint It Gold” with the synth riffs and arrangement reminding me of them.  The song though besides the music is a bit chant-like and not quite deep of a song either.  I think it’s the weakest of the 3, but I can still get behind it.
  • Yokohama Shinkirou – It’s funny that I mostly remember this A-side because of its pinball-themed PV it got.  Unlike previous A-sides, Yokohama Shinkirou follows more of a rockin’ arrangement with loud drums and gritty guitarwork which is refreshing to hear in a Maki song.  Her voice also really suited this new style and she had a bit more edge in her voice.  Might not be her best A-side, but it was a nice change of pace!
  • BLUE ISLAND – As the B-side from “Yokohama Shinkirou”, I wasn’t expecting her to continue to utilize rock elements here.  Which it made me like the opening with the acoustics more.  Though funny enough, BLUE ISLAND reminds me of some of Michiyo Heike’s works back in the day.  Not a bad B-side here.
  • Sayonara “Tomodachi ni wa Naritakunai no” – As the last A-side she released for 2004, Sayonara doesn’t feel quite as heavy R&B as previous songs sounded like, but it wasn’t like it escaped it fully.  It’s a little unique since it doesn’t try to push itself out there.  I would argue to say this is a middle of the road kind of track because it’s neither here nor there for me.

MEH SONGS

  • LOVE. BELIEVE IT! – As the first new track off her 2nd album, LOVE. BELIEVE IT! brings things back to her first album with the heavy 90’s urban R&B.  That said, I really couldn’t get myself into this song.  It just felt forgettable especially since at this point there was so many songs that sound so similar to this one that it kind of just flew by me (plus Maki’s repeating of the title was starting to grate on me.  It just wasn’t a song that did it for me.
  • Namida no Hoshi – As the first ballad from the album, Namida no Hoshi is a pretty safe ballad for Maki only having piano & strings at its base and it really made this a simple and forgettable ballad for me because most of the song is with piano.  She does sound good, but the arrangement is just a bit sleepy for me.
  • Kuchizuke no Sono Ato (Goto Version) – I’m not quite sure why Gocchin decided to cover this Morning Musume album song from “3rd -LOVE Paradise-” because it was one of my least favorite tracks from that album and seeing it reappear with no huge changes on Maki’s album is just odd.  It may fit better as a solo song, but the acoustic pop arrangement is unusual, but this album so far has been quite odd to say the least.
  • Sayonara no LOVE SONG – Not quite sure why’d she release a ballad as the first single for her 3rd album, but I guess we’re here with Sayonara no LOVE SONG which carries itself like some light, fluffy, easy-listening kind of track that gives me 90’s vibes.  I do like the chorus adding percussion elements, but the song is so vanilla to me and the weird flute-like synth did not help this one at all.
  • Junior LOVE. – This tune had a LOT of potential but this was clearly not meant to be on the single considering it’s a little over a minute long in length.  Though it’s nature reminded me of “BABY! Koi ni KNOCK OUT” with the swing of the lyrics, but it’s a fun song…just way too short to be considered a fair enough B-side for Maki.
  • ALL MY LOVE ~22seiki~ – B-side to “Sayonara”, ALL MY LOVE is kind of the cheesier “Himitsu” here by leaning way heavily into the 90’s R&B sound and kind of sounding like old Mariah Carey or Brandy song.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea and the fact there’s plenty of these out there made this even more forgettable IMO.

ICKY SONGS

  • Mirai no Tobira (Goto with Melon Kinenbi) -If “Kuchizuke no Sono Ato” was an odd choice to cover, than Mirai no Tobira (an album song from Momusu’s first album) was even stranger.  I really wasn’t a big fan of it originally so hearing it being covered was worrying for sure.  Interesting to see Melon Kinenbi again be a part of a song (they were a part of “Yaruki! IT’S EASY”).  Still the song is a bit messy and just not my kind of song.

Overall: Ooph, I feel like Goto’s music quality dropped a LOT in 2004 as I felt not a lot of what she released was really amazing (cept for Paint It Gold).  Sadly the album was mediocre to me (including the songs from last year being on on it) and most of the singles didn’t quite stick out to me either.  I wonder what happened…

Aya Matsuura

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kisekinokaoridancehyacinthyoursongEPCE5333_TPTensai! LET'S GO Ayayamu×3 3

Ayaya also had a pretty busy year, enough that alongside Yukidon, she had the 1st release of the year with her 3rd album, ×3, on New Year’s Day!

The rest of the year was filled with singles which included; Kiseki no Kaori Dance. later on in January, Hyacinth in March, YOUR SONG ~Seishun Sensei~ in July, Watarasebashi in October and a special Hamtaro single and collaboration with Ecomoni, Tensai! LET’S GO Ayayamu in November.

  • NOTE: The B-side to the Hamtaro single, “Eco no Waltz” will be found in the Other H!P Releases as it doesn’t contain Aya in it

GREAT SONGS

  • Original Jinsei – I think I was not ready to hear Ayaya tackle a jazzy/big band kind of song in Original Jinsei here, but there was something surprisingly unique by giving Aya more of a sultry setting with a bit of pizzaz about it.  Even the funky guitar solo was pretty dirty and yet fits the setting…yeah I really thought this song was awesome!
  • Kiseki no Kaori Dance. – As the first single released after the album, Kiseki no Kaori Dance. is surprisingly upbeat and pop/rock in style and I quite love the energy from Aya’s performance even if this style is something she doesn’t release very often.  Pretty stellar performance of this song and one that really tends to stick out to me in Aya’s discography.
  • Uchuu de La Ta Ta (with Atsuko Inaba) – As the B-side for “Kiseki no Kaori Dance.”, this B-side is unsurprisingly a cover of the classic Taiyou to Ciscomoon song from years ago, but she is joined by Inaba who was still a H!P member so it made sense for her too join. Atsuko though is mostly second to Aya but she does get solos mostly in the tune’s verses.  Even better was the arrangement was left alone!  I will say Aya’s performance is a little pitchy at times especially pairing her with Atsuko.  Overall, a great cover here!
  • Aitakute – Oh hey “Hyacinth’s” B-side actually brings a little more to table here giving me softer vibes and a bit of a jazzy glow like “Original Jinsei” does.  Add in some nice backup singers and Aya’s pretty vocals and this song was clearly the star of that whole single.
  • Hatsukoi – Why did both of “Hyacinth’s” B-sides ended up better than the main track?  It doesn’t quite make much sense to me, but this song could be placed in a similar vein to its A-side but it’s a bit more poppy and synth-driven and somewhat cutesy which works here instead of in “Hyacinth”.

OK SONGS

  • GET UP! Rapper (Matsuura Version) – Oh I guess that’s why Minimoni didn’t cover this because Ayaya had picked it up covered it on her 3rd album.  It’s kind of weird hearing a solo version of this song since it all lies on Ayaya’s shoulders but she did make the song stand out by being odd and vocally unusual.  I do find myself missing the other 4 members in SALT5 since they all kind of brought a different sound.  It’s not a bad cover of this song, but hmmm…
  • Kanousei no Michi – As the first legit new song on Aya’s album, Kanousei no Michi is an odd song to me with the kind retro-esque intro to this kind of mid-tempo ditty of a track.  It does kind of end up in the middle for because it’s not a bad song, but at the same time, not much really stands out besides Aya’s vocals and the odd synth lines in the tune.
  • Koishite Gomen ne – After the jazzy “Original Jinsei”, Koishite Gomen ne follows and while it doesn’t hit the spicy mark like the aforementioned track, Koishite Gomen ne is fun and has horns in it which gives it that splash that helped the songs more idol-like flare here.  Decent song overall!
  • Namida no Wake – I kind of was hoping this album would be avoiding that 90’s urban pop style, but it seems Namida no Wake hits that quota real quickly!  It seriously sounds like WAY TOO MANY other H!P songs in the similar genre that it fails to really stand out.  Though the English intro was something now at least.  I do also like her vocals though so I suppose it worked too.  Not terrible but like “Kanousei no Michi”, not very memorable.
  • LOVE TRAIN – I guess as the album’s last track, I was surprised we were getting another R&B track (but this one feels more danceable here).  I was kind of surprised Ayaya’s vocals are hushed and almost has this whispy kind of tone which is different, but I’m curious to why it was the final track here.  It’s a bit more memorable than “Namida no Wake” at least?
  • Watarasebashi – As a Moritaka cover, Ayaya’s cut of Watarasebashi is pretty simple of a song opting for piano, strings, acoustic guitar, and some percussion to fill the airbuds.  It’s another song to me that isn’t too much to remember by, but it was another big hit for Ayaya so I can’t blast on it too hard just because it’s a ballad.
  • I LOVE YOU no Tsuzuki – At least this B-side didn’t crash in flames like “Shining Day” did because I was definitely reminded of how much personality and fun feel I can get out of a Ayaya song and this one is a pretty upbeat track (well not fierce, but it works).  Fun disco/funk track and a surprise it was decent!

MEH SONGS

  • Watashi to Watashi to Watashi – I think if you took “Kanousei no Michi” and toned it down a bit slower, I feel like you get this album track.  I don’t know why but while I do like the horns and synths abound in the song, the tune to me starts to drag in comparison because of its slower tempo.  I think it could’ve been a better song overall if it was kicked up a little but then I’d feel like it’s more like “Koishite Gomen ne”.
  • Yeah! Meccha Holiday (HIGH TUNED mix) – I wasn’t expecting this A-side to get a remix for this album, but it was a rather huge song for her.  I can’t help but I feel like it lost a lot of its original appeal of the original arrangement and replaced it with a simple technopop feel with a steady beat and synths all over the place.  It’s not the worst remix of an A-side though and occasionally can be nice to hear, but doesn’t beat the original.
  • Hyacinth – Not quite sure what happened for the rest of 2004 after “Kiseki no Kaori Dance.” but I couldn’t really understand why I wasn’t a fan of any of her A-sides.  Hyacinth tries to take more of a different vibe by being rather 90s sounding (almost a little bit like Yuko or even Chinatsu’s music).  Just felt too dated for me and I really didn’t connect with it.
  • YOUR SONG ~Seishun Sensei~ – 3rd A-side released and YOUR SONG kind of suffers a similar fate akin to “Hyacinth” but it doesn’t quite change too much, but I do like the appearance of strings and acoustic guitar to kind of make it sound a bit more grand.  Still, just isn’t quite my cup of tea of a song.
  • Tensai! LET’S GO Ayayamu – As the Hamtaro release now that Minimoni was disbanded and what not, Ayaya I guess stepped in for a single and while I don’t know if Ecomoni is in the song specifically, Aya is for sure.  I don’t know what it is but I feel like this song was a bit rushed and doesn’t quite have strong hooks to stick out.

ICKY SONGS

  • Shining Day – As “YOUR SONG’s” B-side, Shining Day did bring a more upbeat tune to her music, but something is incredibly cheesy about the song that kind of really didn’t suit Aya’s slowly maturing sound.  It kind of feels like “Ganbacchae!” met its match in its corniness and the acoustic guitar and the chorus made things worse IMO.  Yeah, not quite there and it definitely is Aya’s “Te wo Nigitte Arukitai” for sure!

Overall: Something changed in 2004 for Ayaya after her “Kiseki no Kaori Dance. single.  I mean the 3rd album was decent enough and the energy was still there with the single after but then the other 4 singles that came out after were all kind of lukewarm to mediocre for me and I’m not sure what changed in that period of time.  I hope it’s just a slump and nothing more x.x

Kaori Iida

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aegekainidoornomukouAvenir ~Mirai~ 43

Kaorin had a pretty neat year having two singles; Aegekai ni Dakarete in February and Door no Mukou de Bell ga Natteta in July with her 3rd album, Avenir ~Mirai~ in December.

Other than that she had the shuffle unit and the notification that she would graduate from Morning Musume in the next year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Aegekai ni Dakarete – As her first A-side in her career (and at least the first to have a PV), Aegekai ni Dakarete was a slight departure from her first two albums and luckily not a cover song which was great to hear.  The tune does include some accordion in places and some piccalo maybe?  I like Kaori’s soft vocals here and the tune itself is pretty nice and mystical in places (like that bridge).  Great song overall!
  • Miraizu – I’m not how to explain it but this bossa nova track that opens Kaori’s 3rd album is pretty relaxing and with how different this sound is versus other songs, I’m pretty much entranced by it.  Great way to open up Avenir!
  • Aruite Ikou…Mirai e – I kind of like the upbeat nature of Aruite Ikou…Mirai e though it brings us back to that accordion-fronted sound that we’ve grown to know in Kaori’s solo music.  Though the verses are kind of weak versus the chorus, it’s just a pleasant and upbeat track that I wanted to hear.

OK SONGS

  • Saigo no Seppun – As the B-side from “Aegekai ni Dakarete”, Saigo no Seppun has a stronger Mediterranean groove with a lot more accordion in the arrangement and the flow of the track.  It at first did remind me a bit of the A-side minus the grandiose arrangement behind it.  The song is simplistic otherwise and just sounds like a LOT of her two prior albums.
  • Door no Mukou de Bell ga Natteta – As the 2nd A-side, I felt like Door no Mukou de Bell ga Natteta really didn’t hold a candle to her debut.  If anything the song reminds me of something Yukidon would pull off.  There’s a smidge amount of the Mediterreanean feel but there’s this kayoukyoku groove to it as well.  Still I enjoyed Kaori’s performance here and thought it wasn’t too bad.
  • Shinjukai – After the slightly disappointing “Jounetsu no Tobira”, this was an ipbeat song that I needed from her and Shinjukai was filling that spot by also slightly Arabian in ways but also has this steady groove.  I dunno, but I loved the instrumentation and it was a song that stuck out nicely.
  • Senritsu – Antoher softly sung track from the album, Senritsu is another track like “Miraizu” where it’s more like a bossa nova kind of tune but this is more relaxing and doesn’t quite have the surprises the aforementioned song has.  Regardless, the tune’s soothing nature just sticks out for me and I quite enjoyed it.
  • Sekai de Ichiban Kirei na Hoshizora – I think of the songs off her album, Sekai de Ichiban Kirai na Hoshizora is the closest to having a certain H!P sound to it especially with the poppy chords and the chorus here.  I even seemed to enjoy the sax solo in the bridge.  Honestly, it may be the poppiest of the tracks on the album, but I kind of dug it!

MEH SONGS

  • Nakazu ni Irarenai Watashi Desu – When it came to the B-side from “Door no Mukou de Bell ga Natteta”, Nakazu ni Irarenai Watashi Desu may just kind of be the forgetful song from the singles.  The more acoustic-fronted B-side feels rather Hawaiian to, but otherwise the tune is kind of slowe and slightly boring to me.
  • Jounetsu no Tobira – I’m guessing we’re going for Latin vibes with Jounetsu no Tobira which gives me a little bit of Flamnco vibes too!  I think I do sort of enjoy the change of style, but it lacks a bit of oomph for me as most of the arrangement stays at the same level and really doesn’t build anywhere (maybe except the accordion inclusions).  I don’t know, but the song could’ve had a bit more pep and style to it because it otherwise I feel like it’s a bit flat of a song.
  • Watashi no Naka ni Ite – As the album’s longest song (over 6 minutes) I was wondering why this mid-tempo ballad was just dragging most of the time with this kind of odd arrangement with pipe organ and some other instrument here.  Throw in a random electric guitar solo in the bridge and I was tuned out from it.
  • Mafuyu no Rondo – While I know Rondos are like Waltzes in style so I kind of saw this coming, but mixing with the accordion and the rather slow tempo kind of made it cuter but for me, it was a bit boring too.  I mean I guess it’s nice if you like slow dances like the Waltz but it just goes on for too long too..
  • Sayonara Made ni Shitai 10 no Koto – I was wondering when there’d be another ballad after “Watashi no Naka ni Ite”, but Sayonara Made wasmore of a somber ballad maybe slightly darker than what I was expecting from Kaori.  Though after the mysterious and forboding intro, the song wittles down to a piano & strings ballad.  Besides that intro, there’s really not much for me here to stick to and me and ballads just don’t really get along.
  • Arifureta Kiseki – As the album’s final track, Arifureta Kiseki is another ballad, but instead of piano and strings it’s now an acoustic guitar and for that it’s made a bit much duller for me.  Nothing really calls out to me in this track and it really doesn’t go out of its way to make it feel like a closer, to be fair I think “Sayonara Made ni Shitai 10 no Koto” would’ve made a far better final track than this one.

Overall: I mean to finally release your first two singles is nice and have every song released this year be in Japanese is nice so I suppose Kaori had a pretty good solid year even if her music still isn’t my cup of tea personally.

Natsumi Abe

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Nacchi in 2004 had a pretty interesting year I’d say.  She begun the year in February with her first studio album, Hitoribocchi and followed it up with two more singles (Datte Ikitekanakucha in June and Koi no Telephone GOAL in August

However, the rest of the year was pretty silent due to Nacchi ending up in a mixture of plagiarism scandals from her book of poems to an unreleased track (Future talk: which would be released later down the road, mind you) but because of it, her 2004 came to an abrupt ending with no more releases until the next year.

GREAT SONGS

  • Anata Iro – I think of the songs on the album, Anata Iro impressed me the most simply because it was upbeat and tropical and gave me a nice dance vibe which was what I was hoping for with the new material the album was putting out.  Nacchi sounds great and she adds a lot of sexyness to the song which I hope she continues to do moving forward.
  • Datte Ikitekanakucha – I guess my wishes were heard after how nice “Anata Iro” turned out that her first single after was even more dancey and ethnic sounding which is pretty nice to hear.  Natsumi just sounds good here and she really gives a nice cool performance here.
  • Koi no Telephone GOAL – Surprise, surprise when she released the other single of the year that the song was just upbeat and peppy and super idol genki, but unlike other songs that fall in this category, this one is goofy but catchy in the best way.  For all we’ve known since she became a soloist, she was getting more mature, but this was like a nod to her past.  I just had fun with this song and its PV was so ridiculous xD
  • OL no Jijou – As for “Koi no Telephone GOAL’s” B-side the song in question might not be silly and all over the map, OL no Jijou is still pretty upbeat and fits as a good coupling with stronger vocals, but still has a certain idol-like atmosphere to it which helps it stand out!

OK SONGS

  • Memory Seishun no Hikari (Abe Version) – I’m kind of just wondering why she did so many covers of old songs for her first album here and Memory Seishun no Hikari is one of the few that I’m surprised she did because this Momusu A-side featured a lot of her already (and Asuka too).  Hearing this song without the rest of the members is a little strange, but Nacchi sung the tune well enough it’s just odd I guess.
  • Koishita Onna no Ko Dosue – I’m kind of digging this kind of rockabilly vibe I get from this track from Nacchi’s album.  It’s got a very quick-paced and wild drive to it that lets Nacchi have a bit more vocal freedom and I’m liking her voice in a lower register.  Decent track that’s for sure!
  • Hare Ame Nochi Suki♥ (Abe Version) – I think it was fair to give her a Sakuragumi song to give a solo version, but maybe I wished it was “Sakura Mankai” instead as she was the only member not involved in it as she had graduated between the two releases.  Like other solo covers of other H!P works, Nacchi’s Hare Ame Nochi Suki just feels weird without the other members here though the lines she had in the original had remained the same.  It’s OK, but yeah the original is much better!
  • Ude Kunde Kaeritai – It’s funny how this tune sounds like it would be an ending song (it wasn’t, it had two songs after it though both are kind of strange songs “Haha to Musume no Duet Song” and “Pi~hyara Kouta”).  Ude Kunde Kaeritai definitely reminded me of “Toumorokoshi to Sora to Kaze” with the kind of acoustic pop/rock feel here.  Nothing too amazing, but I liked how cheery Nacchi is so it’s OK.

MEH SONGS

  • …Hitoribocchi… – Not uite sure what Nacchi was going for with the title track from the album, but I was definitely clocking out after the verse.  It’s a lighter song that has a lenient feel to the acoustic guitar.  Though she started singing in this hushed kind of style which kind of zoned me out because it felt lie she was singing in one note the entire time, the arrangement gets more interesting as time goes on with added instrumentation but Nacchi stays in this light and quiet tone and it feels almost like white noise to me.
  • Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM (Abe Version) – 4 years later and we’re getting Nacchi’s solo cut (even though the only other member of Kiiro 5 that did a solo cut was Michiyo Heike).  I’m not sure why Tsunku added lines to the song that wasn’t in the original because it was distracting and kind of dumb to include.  Nacchi did an OK job, but like with the other songs, it’s odd without the other members.
  • Furusato (Abe Version) – Why does this song exist?  I mean the original was already an essentially Abe solo as it is and didn’t really need much.  Maybe I was hoping for a new arrangement like Yuko’s (though this version came out first).  I’m sure the biggest changes were that it was resung and a lot of the Morning Musume inclusion was taken out and…for some reason I don’t remember strings in the original so I guess that’s new?  Yeah, not enough changes for me to make it stand out…it really didn’t need this.
  • Koi ni Jealousy Moushiagemasu – I thought the B-side from “Datte Ikitekanakucha” was going to be interesting what with the intro with sitars, but then it kind of just disappears into this acoustic pop feel like “Ude Kunde Kaeritai”.  Beyond the sitars, the song is just plain jane to me and really feels like a B-side.

Overall: Nacchi’s solo career in 2004 was a pretty interesting one to say the least.  While I can say I was a bit disappointed in her first album having little new material (most were solo takes of old songs), her singles were pretty good.  Shame that she had to take a break in the later half of the year, but I’m hoping to see where she goes next!

Berryz Kobo

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anatanashidefightingposepiriritoyukouhappinesskoinojubaku1st Chou Berryz 2

So at the beginning of the year at H!P’s Winter concert, a new group was announced and it contained only members that were from the Hello! Project Kids group (and members that were involved in other shortlived units like 4KIDS, Aa!, and ZYX.  The 8 chosen were Momoko Tsugunaga, Risako Sugaya, Yurina Kumai, Miyabi Natsuyaki, Chinami Tokunaga, Maiha Ishimura, Maasa Sudo, and leader Saki Shimizu.

They would debut with their March single, Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai and followed quickly with two more singles Fighting Pose wa Date ja nai! Piriri to Yukou! in April and May respectively with their first album in July, 1st Chou Berryz.

They were back to work with more singles with August’s Happiness ~Koufuku Kangei!~ and November with Koi no Jubaku.

GREAT SONGS

  • Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai – I was not expecting Berryz to debut with a hip-hop kind of song with Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai, but I have to say it was a risky move considering a good portion of the group I’ve never heard up to this point (weird to say considering I’ve followed them since 2010 and of course I’ve listened to all of their A-sides).  But as I’m going through this year by year, it was a bit strange to hear voices that weren’t fully developed yet so the kiddy nature with the hip-hop was a big jarring when I first heard it.  Nowadays, I do think its a good debut, others surpass it, but this was pretty good to get a hand on the members that weren’t in Aa! or ZYX.  Also could’ve used a LOT less Tsunku here.
  • Piriri to Yukou! – As the group’s 3rd A-side, Piriri to Yukou! took the group into more of a genki mode for this song which is cute and crazy upbeat which I immediately locked into.  I’m loving the hooks and all the members getting to shine all over the song and the shimasen as the melody was a nice addition too!  This was just a great A-side for the group!
  • TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY – After the worst song off the album, “Kozukai UP Daisakusen”, I was pleasantly surprised with the next track TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY since it’s a bit more synthy and has a little touch of latin vibes with the clapping beats added in.  I also liked the vocal performance (I mean as much effort as they were able to put out at least).  Definitely the best from the album that’s for sure.
  • Koi no Jubaku – As the group’s first kind of serious A-side, Koi no Jubaku’s change of style was a bit sudden, but it definitely caught my attention!  This was also the first time where I’ve seen the vocal hierarchy come into play with Risako, Yurina, Miyabi, and Momoko have the solos where the rest kind of lay back which is a bit disappointing, but the song is just cool and interesting.

OK SONGS

  • BERRY FIELDS – I’m pretty torn about their B-side from their debut single, BERRY FIELDS because in a way it’s pretty upbeat and danceable and having solo lines from all 8 members is pretty great as usual.  Though I think the main hook is really annoying and adding Tsunku behind them is making things a bit more awkward here.  Still, the song is catchy and I kind of like the chorus a lot…but like I don’t know.
  • Fighting Pose wa Date ja nai! – Curious to see where Tsunku would take Berryz next and Fighting Pose wa Date ja nai! wasn’t quite the direction I was expecting but there’s something familiar with the arrangement (kind of reminds me of a poppier “Kiseki no Kaori Dance.”).  The surfer style is nice and the group sounds a smidge better here too, but I think I like their debut more because it was unique for a group of kids to debut with.  This felt more like what was a bit more typical and expected.
  • Natsu Wakame – Not as peppy as it’s sister A-side, “Fighting Pose”, but Natsu Wakame keeps the cutesy vibes going and the tune is really light and happy-go-lucky which is a plus.  So far I’m loving this line distribution especially since it does focus more on the not as well-known members in the first half and lets the other members pop up later on.
  • Koi wa Hipparidako – As the album continues on, we next end up on Koi wa Hipparidako is more of the light-hearted poppy song from the group and like “Nicchoku” features all the members with solos but the groupings are kind of curiously hinting towards main and back singers in Berryz.  The tune itself is pretty plain, but its fluffy cuteness kind of works here.
  • Anshinkan – After the rather disappointing “Semi”, Anshinkan picks up the pace a bit with being a little more upbeat and the vocals are a bit more stronger and they show a little more personality.  Like “Koi wa Hipparidako” though, the song is cute and happy-go-lucky.  Not a bad track I’d say!
  • Bye Bye Mata ne – It is interesting this wasn’t the final track, but it is the last of the brand new material (the last two tracks are a remix and a cover sooo).  Bye Bye Mata ne is that kind of sad goodbye song but has a bit more of an upbeat arrangement to it (not quite a ballad like “Semi”, but not upbeat like “Anshinkan”).  It’s a nice way to end the album minus the last two tracks and it would hold a better meaning in the coming years so there’s that too.
  • Happiness ~Koufuku Kangei!~ – As the A-side after the album, Happiness is upbeat and pretty genki of a song for Berryz but it seems to suit them well like “Piriri to Yukou!” did.  Though it can get slightly repetitive with its chorus almost being a bit too much, but at least the verses are fun and upbeat.  Fitting A-side for the group!
  • Yuujou Junjou oh Seishun – The B-side from “Happiness” definitely gave me some solid similarities with “Yuujou ~Kokoro no Busu ni wa Naranee!~” by being more of a free-spirited rockin’ song that’s wild and lets the group have more fun and space to shout and sing (especialy for a younger-aged group, this is fine).  Not bad and the tune is pretty upbeat.
  • Passion E-CHA E-CHA – This “Koi no Jubaku” B-side is one that I have never really paid much attention to, but I can see why since it’s kind of a poppy one that doesn’t quite stick out in the long run, but its sheer cuteness sticks out to me and the group doesn’t sound bad on top of all the members back to equal line distribution.

MEH SONGS

  • Nicchoku ~Geinoujin no Kaiwa~ – As the first of the new tracks from their first album, Nicchoku really has this gap that really splits up the effort between the A-sides and album songs by a margin.  I’m pretty happy to hear that all the members have lines to show off the group, but the song isn’t really all that interesting to me otherwise?  Not bad, but nothing that wowed me.
  • Semi – Another track from the album, Semi is more or less a ballad for the group and I wasn’t quite into it for some reason despite it being one of the more popular songs from this era.  I dunno why, but the the verses with the rather weak vocals plus a strange filter did not help the situation especially since it’s more laidback than other songs.
  • Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai (FUNKY remix) – So the album features a remix of their debut single and boy does it ruin it in a weird way.  Something about the melody of the remix just doesn’t quite work with the vocal melodies throughout and there’s just a LOT of random things going on.  Though the chorus is humorous for being less hefty.
  • Hello! no Theme (Berryz Kobo Version) – At least I can say this arrangement of Hello! no Theme is a bit more unique and interesting sounding versus the original, but it’s still a super annoying song for me, but yet fitting for the new young group in H!P so I’m kind of torn between liking it more or disliking it still.

ICKY SONGS

  • Kacchoee! – Alright, if there was one word to describe this B-side from “Piriri to Yukou!” it’s annoying!  The tune is pretty upbeat (maybe the most upbeat of the B-sides yet), but this song is repetitive to the max and it just drives me up the wall and I cannot take too much of this one.  Just no…
  • Kozukai UP Daisakusen – I’m really surprised that they would have done a Reggae-styled song, but this was not quite the way to do it and it’s no surprise that I haven’t seen this song performed in years.  It’s just a bit too slow for my taste and due to the slogging melody, the group is vocally not doing well either (especially those verses, most of the group sound terrible).  Probably the worst from the album.

Overall: I have to say that I was pretty impressed with how busy Berryz Kobo was in their first year as a group and kicked off their career in such a way!  Granted the vocals did take time to get used to because they were so young when they debuted and the music has been up and down with them like those vocals, it’ll be interesting seeing them going forward!

W

W2004

KoinovacanceaaiinarobokissDuo U&amp;U 2

With the ending of Minimoni in May, Nozomi Tsuji and Ai Kago had decided to join as a duo and call themselves W (technically as Double U) but it was how it was written out and debuted in May as well with their first single, Koi no Vacance.  June brought out their first album (which is credited as a cover album, Duo U&U).

After they both graduated from Morning Musume in July, they released two more singles for the year; Aa Ii na! (in August) and Robokiss (in October) and so that was their 2004.

GREAT SONGS

  • Koi no Vacance – As the duo’s debut, I thought opening up with a cover song is a risky move and such, but for some reason Aibon and Nono managed to make it work with a pretty upbeat and showy tune that really shows the girls melodic harmonies at work!  I love the nod to the past but giving it an idol twist so this was definitely a passable debut.
  • Matsu wa – If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve heard this song covered before on a “FOLK SONGS” album, Matsu wa was also given a PV to promote the album and I really was happy it did because while it’s one of the more laidback songs.  It is a bit simplistic in sound and arrangement, but I think the duo sold it well enough to stand out.
  • Samishii Nettaigyo – I’m such a sucker for that 80’s J-pop/New Wave feel so hearing this cover of the 80’s Wink song was something I was totally completely here for and honestly I think this version of Samishii Nettaigyo is better than the original with the arrangement given a harder punch and Aibon and Nono sounding really good!  It’s more than likely my favorite song and even better it was the last of the 4 to get a PV!
  • Sentimental Boy – Man, W needed more of this 80’s synthpop in their discography because both songs are just ridiculously catchy and kind of showcased the duo’s energy and singing skills especially since they were in the higher register here.  It’s just a cool song and I dug the quicker pace.  Yeah, this was awesome too!
  • Give Me Up – I definitely know the Michael Fortunati’s version of the song, but W’s is a bit more poppy (lyrically and musically) and slightly slowed down for their cover and I’m not sure why I found myself enjoying it as much as I do.  The song is just cute and has that 80s funk going along it and altogether just worked for me.  It does feel like it’s a final track but no there is one more after it.

OK SONGS

  • Kanashiki 16sai (HEARTACHES AT SWEET SIXTEEN) – The other B-side from their debut, Kanashiki 16sai seems to run in a more cuter side versus the other two track and for some reason the duo sound cute here too mixing up some light filters to a rather nostalgic 50’s sound here.  I am a little shocked that the song is only 2 minutes length though so it doesn’t wear out its welcome, but it could’ve been longer and I’d be ok.
  • Southpaw – Moving to new tracks from their cover album, Southpaw is an interesting song, especially since it was 1 of 4 songs that got a PV from the album too.  Southpaw is interesting mostly from its chaotic arrangement and the energetic performance from the duo who is singing in a lower register which may surprise fans of the group.  That said, I really like the tune and the duo sound good (despite no solos are found here).
  • Nagisa no “……” – Onto more tracks from the album there are some songs from the 80s here which is a nice move because I do like that era of music.  There’s synths and a LOT of bass present here and there’s this sense of cuteness though, but I’m kind of digging it as a whole too.  It’s a pretty catchy little tune and I’m enjoying it!
  • Shiroi Iro wa Koibito no Iro – Another song that ended up getting a PV, Shiroi Iro wa Koibito no Iro marks as the first ballad from from W and it’s a rather interesting choice to get a PV since it’s so lowbrow and relaxing of a tune featuring some light instrumentation behind an acoustic guitar.  Like with “Koi no Vacance”, the tune really does a nice job showcasing Aibon and Nono’s harmonies together and it’s just so right, more memorable than the “FOLK SONGS cover!
  • Osaka Rhapsody – Next up, Osaka Rhapsody is an interesting song to pop up since it’s pretty ethnic and such a unique song to the album with its arrangement and the vocal styles that both members try pulling off giving it more of a personality.  I’m loving the instruments and horns in the tune and altogether give a really cool vibe, I don’t think Yuko’s cover of it, helped.
  • Kakemeguru Seishun – After the amazing “Samishii Nettaigyo”, I wasn’t surprised that Kakemeguru Seishun was going to be something totally different because instead of the 80’s barrage of synths, it’s a garage-rockin’ song here.  It’s a pretty decent song though and the ladies manage to keep it together.  Not bad!
  • Koi no Indian Ningyou – It’s like they took “Kakemeguru Seishun’s” rockin’ arrangement and the harmonies out of “Koi no Vacance” and somehow made a song out of it and I’m kind of enjoying what I’m hearing here too.  Though I’m not quite sure on the weird synth/trumpet mix that’s found throughout, but the song is nice and once again Aibon and Nono sung it well.
  • Oatsuraemuki no Destiny – I’m not sure when this cover released, but there’s something fitting to be an idol track here and has an interesting ethnic quality about it that I can’t place my finger on.  Though at the same time there isn’t a lot of a build-up and the bridge is a bit odd to me, but the song is alright.
  • Jounetsu no Hana (PASSION FLOWER) – As the album’s final track, Jounetsu no Hana is surprisingly not a ballad and is just as upbeat as most of the album is almost reminding me a LOT of “Koi no Vacance” with its sound, but tied with a melody from a Beethoven song in its verses.  Little weird transitions aside, the song isn’t too bad.
  • Otome no Keitaidenwa no Himitsu – I think I pretty much preferred this B-side from “Aa Ii na!” over its A-side by a nice margin.  I mean to be fair it does sund like a leftover from their first album, but considering it is an original song for the duo, I liked the effort here and the tune is cute and vocally much better handled overall.
  • Robokiss – I think this might be the duo’s biggest song, since I’ve seen this song performed so much since its release and I can see why because it’s ‘s girly and silly and the tune has a lot of interesting moments like the twinkling intro and the synths usage with the light rockabilly and trumpets.  Yeah, this was a fun song to listen to that’s for sure!
  • SEXY SNOW – What an interesting title for this B-side from “Robokiss” and I wasn’t expecting a song that was danceable and kind of fitting in and amongst various other H!P songs as it’s a little disco-y and the duo feel like they voices when they were a part of Morning Musume.  One of the more underrated B-sides out there!

MEH SONGS

  • Getsuei no Napoli (TINTARELLA DI LUNA) – As the first B-side from their debut single, Getsuei no Napoli feels like a continuation of “Koi no Vacance” with the kind of swing-like feel but all of a sudden the vocals feel a bit more shrill.  Add that after a bit of time with the song, the tune shifts into a different setting that’s a bit more slow and smooth but then jumps back into the upbeat rockabilly style.  Not quite sure if I enjoy the split really here.
  • Nagisa no Sindbad – So far on the album, I’ve found myself liking all the songs, but I think I found my first misstep from Duo U&U.  I mean the girls sound decent, but the arrangement just pulses a bit too hard for me (especially with that tinny drum).  Just was song that mostly flew by me.
  • Suki yo Captain – I think because it’s from a similar era, Suki yo Captain like “Nagisa no Sindbad” just didn’t stick out to me.  The arrangement is a little dull and could’ve been on a “FOLK SONGS” album by the looks of it.  I mean the acoustic guitar is nice, but that’s about all I remember from it.
  • Aa Ii na! – Getting into the group’s first original song (that isn’t a cover), W’s 2nd A-side Aa Ii na! is a pretty weird single especially with that sudden intro before cooling the jets and turns into this kind of techno-like idol track. Though after “Koi no Vacance”, I wasn’t as interested in this one, but the chorus is nice and that oddly quick section from the intro returns too and it’s pretty jarring. Not really into this one.

Overall: I’m surprised that it took this long for this idea to happen, but I suppose it took Minimoni’s disbandment and them graduating from Morning Musume for W to really kick off and I can totally see why they were pretty popular at the time because Aibon and Nono really made for a great duo!  I can’t wait to see what they release moving forward!

Hello! Pro Egg

egg2004

So in early June, H!P announced a new program for trainees that want to join H!P called the ouncHello! Pro Eggs and it began with auditions and bore 32 members at the beginning; Maho Ohyanagi, Yui Okada, Miyuki Kawashima, Kanami Morozuka, Arisa Noto, Erina Aoki, Kaede Oose, Anri Tanaka, Minami Sengoku, Yuri Sawada, Mika Mutou, Aina Hashimoto, Mirei Hashida, Robin Shouko Okada, Kanna Arihara, Mia Sainen, Saki Mori, Ayumi Yutoku, Yurika Akiyama, Yuki Goto, Konatsu Furukawa, Sayaka Kitahara, Ayaka Wada, Kanon Fukuda, Saki Ogawa, Akari Saho, Yuuka Maeda, Asuna Okai, Azusa Sekine, Irori Maeda, Manami Arai, and leader Miki Korenaga

(Irori Maeda & Manami Arai wouldn’t begin activites until 2006 and 2007 respectively)

Though right out of the gate, Yui Okada would be the first to graduate from H!P Egg to become a member in v-u-den in August and that would be pretty much all that occurred here

(Future Talk: Normally, the Eggs/Kenshuusei would be last to talk about but considering 2004 was its conception, it is made to be here before v-u-den’s profile)

v-u-den

vupden04

koinonukegara

When Rika Ishikawa had announced in August that she was to graduate from Morning Musume, it was simultaneously announced that she would be fronting her own group!  Yui Okada from the newly created Hello! Pro Egg was added as well as Erika Miyoshi (who won an audition in 2003 to join H!P).

Together the 3 debuted in September with Koi no Nukegara.

GREAT SONGS

  • Koi no Nukegara – As the group’s debut, Koi no Nukegara is a pretty strong one to start things off with.  I mean I already knew what I was coming into with Rika, but I was more curious about the new members!  Erika to me has a unique deeper tone that really works against Rika’s higher tone and Yui…well she’s got time to get better, but she isn’t all that bad.  I really like the pop/rock vibes and the trio manages to pull it off well!  Cool debut!

OK SONGS

  • Ichou ~Aki no Sora to Watashi no Kokoro~ – With the group’s 1st B-side, Ichou is a bit more laidback and poppy in style that works more with Rika’s vocals and this light and breezy song suited the group in a nice way and enjoyed hearing all 3 members just having fun with the song.  Not bad overall!

Overall: Having a short year, v-u-den had a pretty nice beginning with their debut single and I can see this trio going far with such decent vocals throughout and nice to see that the Eggs being utilized right after their formation with Yui joining.  Can’t wait to see what they’ll bring next year!

Ecomoni

ecomoni04

Roughly around the same time Rika announced her graduation, another unit was created to feature her but this time for environmentalist reasons!  Pairing her with Momusu member, Sayumi Michishige.  Despite not releasing a single, they did perform their own song and was a part of the Hamtaro single with Aya Matsuura.

(Future TalkDespite Ecomoni never releasing a single or album to their name, I had to mention their formation since they do last til 2007.)

  • NOTE: The songs they did release will be found below in the “Other H!P Releases”.

Other H!P Releases

fs5Renai Sentai Shitsu RangerTensai! LET'S GO AyayamuALL FOR ONE &amp; ONE FOR ALL!Petit Best 5

So we have a couple releases that didn’t fit in anyone elses category this year and that’s a nice breakaway from the crazy amount the previous year.

In February we had our 5th installment of the “FOLK SONGS” series, FS5 Sotsugyou which included Yuko Nakazawa, Natsumi Abe, Kei Yasuda, Maki Goto, Aya Matsuura, Mai Satoda, Miuna Saito, and Asami Kimura.  Kind of surprising there’s so many featured, but I dig it!

Then we have another one-shot unit with Nochiura Natsumi (Natsumi Abe, Maki Goto, and Aya Matsuura) with their October single, Renai Sentai Shitsu Ranger.  Not quite suresure why the group was created, but hey it’s a thing.

Then we have the B-side from the Ayayamu single, which was sung only by Ecomoni that I said would be talked about here.

Following that was the shuffle unit for the year H.P. All Stars (which is basically all of the current member from Morning Musume to v-u-den (or the remainder H!P Kids that weren’t Berryz Kobo).  They had their single in December with ALL FOR ONE & ONE FOR ALL!.

Finally, we get our annual H!P release with Petit Best 5

GREAT SONGS

  • LOVE LIKE CRAZY – It’s kind of funny how I ended up Nochiura’s B-side much more than the A-side despite how tired I am of the late 90’s-early 00’s R&B sound, but there’s just something about this mixture of rapping and a tad bit of rock somehow pulled me in.  Even with the sung vocals, I really got hooked by its verses with the rapping and just the sass all around.  Awesome song.
  • ALL FOR ONE & ONE FOR ALL! – Getting into the shuffle unit song (oddly it’s just the one and not 3 for 2004), ALL FOR ONE & ONE FOR ALL! is kind of the big celebration I think most fans were waiting for and I can’t blame them because it does celebrate all of H!P (well except the Eggs).  I really do love how they begin with the eldest H!P members (Iida, Abe, and Nakazawa) and end with the newest members (Saito, Okada, and Miyoshi) with this kind of peppy and upbeat tune that’s incredibly catchy.  It’s just a legendary song and really stood out!
  • Sankaku Kankei – The shuffle unit did have two B-sides to kind of make up for not having 3 shuffle units this time around and the first B-side included Inaba, Ootani, Shibata, and Matsuura and made sense to give them a more mature song since it’s a bout a love triangle.  It’s nice to see Atsuko lead a song and her voice is just so silky smooth and works well next to Masae.  Ayumi & Aya may have the higher tones but they managed to make it work here.  Really nice R&B song here!
  • Robokiss (Jisedai Remix) – It’s pretty rare to see a remix actually making a song 100 times better, but this remix for Robokiss was dead-on and a shock to find out it was much more unique and yet kept the original’s ideals around. I love the whispy verses and how it kept it that way especially for the chorus~  Definitely made the original stand out more too.  Interesting but awesome remix!

OK SONGS

  • Seifuku – Seems like we get to our FS song sung by Country Musume (sans Mikitty & Konkon) and oddly enough I kind of only hear Asami through most of the song which is funny because it felt like they were relying on Mai a lot since she was added.  Though she and Miuna do show up during the second verse so that’s nice…overall it’s a nice and light pop track here.
  • Ii Hi Tabidachi – Gocchin steps up next for the next track on the album and Ii Hi Tabidachi is an interesting tune that’s a little like a ballad but a bit dramatic too.  I really liked how Maki carried herself in the tune and while I don’t care for the synths here, it kept the song interesting where it could’ve been a stale tune.
  • Momen no Handkerchief – Prior to the album, I would say I’ve heard this song and one other prior.  Momen no Handkerchief is a popular song to cover and this time we have Yuko tackling it and honestly the arrangement is familiar territory to old Morning Musume songs and with Yuko’s vocals it’s a pretty strong effort and she sounds lively here!
  • Best Friend – It has been a while since I’ve heard Kei-chan’s vocals and here we are with her solo track, Best Friend.  I have to say as typical the arrangement sounds, the poppier tones and Kei’s light vocals helped the song to be a bit more sentimental feeling and I approve of that.  The only thing I wasn’t into was the weird synth solo in the bridge but other than that, it was a nice, simple tune.
  • Scarborough Fair – Another Simon & Garfunkel cover?  Seems a bit strange there’s two of them on this album but unlike the travesty that befell “Mrs. Robinson”, Scarborough Fair is a bit more gloomy and whispy in its arrangement.  Ayaya did a bit better on her English here and the folksy mood is nice and yet haunting in a weird way.  Not bad, not bad.
  • Gakusei Jidai – Maybe the most upbeat track off FS5, Gakusei Jidai is another solo for Yuko and she sounds a bit more confident in the song and it’s a bit more interesting arrangement-wise after the last couple of songs so that’s a plus right?  Cute song and Yuko is just as much…worked out well!
  • Sotsugyou Shashin – I definitely remember this song as Ayumi Hamasaki had covered a couple years prior so the song is pretty fresh on the mind during that period.  I will give props to Gocchin for being able to tackle this ballad.  It does lack some emotive vibrato, but the song’s simplicity and memorable melody and nice guitar solo is something to remember so it kind of stood out to me.
  • Renai Sentai Shitsu Ranger – So getting into Nochiura Natsumi’s single, RSSR being a nod to the Kamen Rider series, I was kind of hoping for more of an oomph out of the song but it’s a rather poppy track.  I do appreciate hearing Nacchi, Gocchin, and Ayaya together and they seem to be having a great time with the song, but there’s just something about it that doesn’t quite stick out to me.
  • Suki ni Naccha Ikenai Hito – I think for many fans when they heard this was, is this supposed to be Aa!?  Honestly, I can see why because this was Reina and Airi but instead of Miyabi (probably because of Berryz) they recruited Megumi Murakami for this B-side from “ALL FOR ONE & ONE FOR ALL!”.  I mean to be fair the R&B fits in line to Aa!’s single so I kind of think it was cool otherwise.  I also do think Megumi made a better member than Miyabi to be honest and Airi is getting better as well.  Not bad here!
  • LOVE LIKE CRAZY (Smooth Jazzy Remix) – Really a remix for the B-side and not for “Renai Sentai Shitsu Ranger”?  Yeah, this more funkier take on LOVE LIKE CRAZY is a bit unusual and a shift in tone with the jazzy sound.  Now the rapping doesn’t quite mesh well, but the actual singing lines of the trio is rather awesome with this new setting so I’m a little split I suppose.  Not a bad remix though.

MEH SONGS

  • Omoide ga Ippai – Opening the 5th FOLK SONGS album, we start things off with this Nacchi solo and I’m already worried where this album would lie because it’s not a strong song for me and it’s mid-tempo feel just doesn’t quite entice me and neither does Nacchi’s vocals.  Just kind of a lukewarm opening to the album.
  • Nagoriyuki – Ayaya’s solo comes next and boy was I immediately bored of my mind with Nagoriyuki.  It really is your standard piano/strings ballad with some extra instrumentation that just dulls the song even further.  Yeah, really not much to say here besides Aya’s nice vocal performance, but otherwise bland.
  • Mrs. Robinson – Ok, another song I actually recognized because it’s a Western song, Mrs. Robinson is a duet between Nacchi & Yuko but Nacchi has the louder melody and boy does she stick out in a bad way here.  It’s not their best performance and adding the fact they sung this in English and kind of muddled up that entirely doesn’t help it much.  Only thing I can say is that at least it’s upbeat?
  • Kyou no Hi wa Sayonara – Kei’s other solo, Kyou no Hi wa Sayonara unfortunately feels a little more simpler than I was expecting with just piano and plucked strings which doesn’t quite help to make the song memorable.  It does feel like some Kingdom Hearts arrangement for some reason.  I’ll give Kei that her vocal performance is sweet-sounding, but the tune drowns out for me after a while.
  • Boku no Suki na Sensei – As the final track on the album, it’s also the only track to feature all 8 members involved in the same track and it’s a bit odd to listen to.  It does start out like an acoustic guitar only track but it does add more further down the line but the problem is the 8 members singing together, it just feels a bit rough to me.
  • Eco no Waltz – Since this was the B-side to the Hamtaro single Aya did, I wasn’t expecting Ecomoni to have a song to themselves.  It definitely fits the cutesy tone of the anime and the arrangement is for sure waltz too.  Hearing Rika and Sayumi singing in this slow song is a bit odd, but it’s not as terrible until the verses where the solos hit and you can easily tell that Rika can handle this while Sayu is still a mile behind.  I think Rika could’ve sung this along for a better turnout IMO.
  • Roman ~MY DEAR BOY~ (LET’S HAVE A DANCE Remix) – I don’t know why remixes for Morning Musume don’t quite work out well and now we’re here with a remix for Roman ~MY DEAR BOY~.  Kicking it off with Yossie repeating her important line before the tune kind of turns EDM-ish with some synths and beats (less melody involved versus the original).  It just feels empty and kind of forgettable here.
  • GOOD BYE HELLO – I’m actually not aware of how this song came to be, but this duet between Natsumi Abe & Rika Ishikawa exists.  Honestly, it does sound like a finale to a tour (or even a graduation song, but since Nacchi already left Morning Musume, it could’ve been Rika’s?  I don’t know, but the song itself is just kind of boring to me and the vocal talent is quite wide between the two ladies (I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy Rika’s performance here).  Yeah, kind of a forgettable ballad here.

ICKY SONGS

  • Piriri to Yukou! (MORE Piriri Remix) – Not quite sure what they were going for with this remix of Berryz’ 3rd A-side, but it sounds a bit messy and kind of all over the map.  Didn’t help they were using the original’s vocals and it just doesn’t fit with this chaotic arrangement.  I think the chorus sections are alright, but this remix is pretty bad…
  • HELP!! ~Ecomoni. no Acchi Chikyuu Samasunda.~ – After hearing the Morning Musume version, I wasn’t quite keen to hear it again by its originators, Ecomoni.  I have to say, without the group and adding male backups and some awkward rapping included to the song from Sayu & Rika is bothersome to me.  Yeah, the song is just not good and still with the ass crying *shrugs*.

Gains and Losses

Gains

  • Berryz Kobo
  • W
  • Hello! Pro Egg
  • Erika Miyoshi
  • v-u-den
  • Ecomoni

Losses

  • Natsumi Abe (from Morning Musume)
  • Mika Todd
  • Ai Kago (from Morning Musume)
  • Nozomi Tsuji (from Morning Musume)

My H!P Ranking for ’04

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

And there you have it, all of 2004 reviewed!  Next time, 2005 and my curiosity of what’s to come after the training program kicks off, I want to see where it takes H!P!

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Warp back to 2003…Year Recap!

Alright 2003, I feel like this year kicked off a new era of Hello! Project with the H!P Kids coming into their own slowly!  So let’s get this year rollin’ shall we?

Morning Musume (Sakuragumi & Otomegumi)

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Morning Musume had a pretty wild 2003 I would say!  It began with a new single in Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyoutanjima and the group being involved in a movie, Koinu Dan no Monogatari which had an OST (both of which released in February) on top of the group releasing their 5th album titled No.5 in March.

With 6th Generation auditions going on, we got AS FOR ONE DAY in April which was notable for being 2nd Generation member, Kei Yasuda‘s final single with the group before graduating in May!

Though in that time we also found out the winners of the 6th Gen auditions (Reina Tanaka, Sayumi Michishige, and Eri Kamei).  Though in a surprise twist, Miki Fujimoto was also added thus ending her solo career for the time being after her solo album released.  These four would debut with the group with the single, Shabondama and did a stageplay, Edokko. Chuushingura with an OST (both released in July).

However, due to how large the group had become (15 members), Tsunku decided to split the group up into two sub-units to be able to perform in more places in more time with MM Sakuragumi (Abe, Yaguchi, Kago, Yoshizawa, Takahashi, Niigaki, Konno, and Kamei) and MM Otomegumi (Iida, Tsuji, Ishikawa, Ogawa, Fujimoto, Michishige, Tanaka) where the former did sappier songs while the latter did more upbeat tracks. With that said the two sub-units released their 1st singles Hare Ame Nochi Suki♥ and Ai no Sono ~Touch My Heart!~ in September.

They then came back together towards the end of the year (November) to release Go Girl ~Koi no Victory~.  Though also with the knowledge that Natsumi Abe would be graduating early in the next year to focus on her solo career.

GREAT SONGS

  • Tomodachi ga Ki ni Itteru Otoko Kara no Dengon – What a long title for a song no?  Yeah this album track actually caught me by surprise because normally these girly cute songs would kind of kill me, but it’s light pop sound that sounds innocent with just as innocent lyrics, I found this surprisingly refreshing despite the youthfulness that Momusu has been portraying since Gocchin’s graduation.  I also somehow enjoyed hearing all the members getting a solo too!
  • Megami ~Mousse na Yasashisa~ (Original long ver.) – If you didn’t read the 2002 Year in Review, Megami was a song used to promote Pocky in Japan and was found on Petit Best 3 as short versions.  Well, it seems this and “YES! POCKY GIRLS” were placed on this album with longer versions.  I enjoyed this song a lot originally, so I was elated to see that a minute was added.  On the album, it’s such a nice change of pace from the poppy and cute side to Momusu with this softly-sung pop track.  Funny though we hear Gocchin here (she was still a part of the group when this song was made though so *shrugs*.  Regardless, classy song!
  • AS FOR ONE DAY – Ahhh, we finally get to Kei-chan’s graduating single with AS FOR ONE DAY!  Honestly, this song is very unique and personally I was happy that the group was crawling away from the sugary idol stuff the “No.5” era was producing.  The tune itself sounds a bit more serious and sullen in comparison, but given this nice ethnic vibe behind it as well.  There’s just something mystical about the track and it’s a lovely track with some interesting solos given throughout (I think everyone gets one except for Kei-chan ironically).  Great A-side!
  • Shabondama – Can we talk about how epic this song is?  I mean it’s up there in my top 5 H!P songs of all time so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be up here.  After the more downplayed and sad “AS FOR ONE DAY”, they instantly get pissed for Shabondama with an angsty arrangement filled with guitars and brass.  Hell, I was surprised the tune started off with Reina (also need to mention this was the debut of the 6th Generation) with Ai-chan following then Sayumi following up with a yell before Mikitty sings the first part of the chorus!  Yeah, this song was powerful right off the gate!  Add on a desperate plea in the bridge from Rika-chan and it’s just a wild ride.  Bummed we didn’t get to hear much of Sayu & Kame singing but oh well (15 members…).  Like I said, epic song for the group and really introduced us to the 6th Gen in a crazy way!
  • Hare Ame Nochi Suki♥ – Moving onto the split up sub-groups, we kick it off with Sakuragumi (Nacchi, Marippe, Yossie, Aibon, Konkon, Ai-chan, Gaki, and Kame).  Their song is pretty much a ballad, but boy does it strike me and it’s wonderful!  I’m liking the feel and the echoey presence I feel too.  Also hearing Eri with a nice solo was special as well!  Though, I was more impressed by Aibon’s high notes in the choruses and her final one at the end really stood out!  Yeah, this was another instant favorite and maybe one of the best ballads out there IMO.
  • Ai no Sono ~Touch My Heart!~ – Which is shocking that Otomegumi’s track is just as good here!  Unlike the softer and emotional feels of the track above, Ai no Sono is upbeat and fierce to listen to!  With Kaorin, Nono, Charmy, Makochan, Reina, Mikitty, and Sayu here it was a powerful song despite most of the members aren’t the strongest singers.  I definitely liked they chose Rika, Reina, Miki, and Makoto to lead with the other 3 being secondaries.  It’s just a fun track to sing with and it’s a good time even if the lyrics are a bit scandalous so to speak 😛

OK SONGS

  • Morning Musume no Hyokkori Hyoutanjima – Wow, Morning Musume actually doing a cover song for an A-side huh?  Yeah, the group decided to cover Hyokkori Hyoutanjima and boy was this a change of pace from Morning Musume prior.  It felt like something left over from the Shuffle Units from last year (especially since it reminds me a LOT of “Shiawase Beam! Suki Suki Beam!” with the tropical pop sounds here.  Though the song itself is much older than the aforementioned track here.  I mean I do like some of the things about it like the verses and solos throughout too.  Once it gets to the chorus, I definitely cringed a couple times from one of the members going flat and then slowly getting in tune, that bothered me a bit XD.  Still, the song was fun and cute and showed a more cutesy idol-like sound that the group would be under for a short time.
  • TOP! – While it wasn’t the first full track from the album, TOP! definitely raised the spirits coming right after “Do it! Now”.  Listening to this track, I feel like it was made for live performances due to how loose and loud it is, giving me similar feelings to “Ikimasshoi!”.  The song itself is a bit of a hodge-podge of sounds and not sticking to a full style.  After the introduction of the track and thinking of it, why didn’t it open this album?
  • Tsuyoki de Yukouze! – With only Nono, Aibon, Gaki, Ai-chan, Konkon, and Makochan, they got a song together with Tsuyoki de Yukouze! and it, like “TOP!” sounds like a track perfect for lives with it’s kind of aggressive pop/rock groove here and the girls are just shouting the song which is neat to say the least.  Definitely sticks out on the album, I won’t deny that!
  • HEY! Mirai – This and “Ganbacchae!” are usually paired together because both tracks were used as themes in the Koinu Dan no Monogatari film so it was no surprise that they’d make the cut on this album (albeit they were also on the OST too).  To me the song feels like a mix of “Suggoi Nakama” & YES! POCKY GIRLS” with its positive and upbeat pop sound with loud percussion.  A plus though is that the members get solos throughout and it sounds like they’re all having fun.  Plus the PV was SUPER cute with the puppies!
  • Ganbacchae! – Yeah the other song from the movie, Ganbacchae! to me was kind of the peak point of the youthfulness Morning Musume was trying to aim for with this album.  Didn’t help that the Hello! Project Kids were involved in the song as well as Gocchin (post-graduation, mind you).  It does give me a little “Te wo Nigitte Arukitai” but with that nice Momusu vocal flavor.  The young’ns are mostly shouting lyrics so it leaves the remainder of Momusu (and Maki) with the solos.  It’s OK and leaves a nice sentimental feel (especially recently when Momochi self-covered it before she graduated).
  • Never Forget (Rock Ver.) – I guess to make up for the lack of presence Kei-chan had in “AS FOR ONE DAY”, the B-side is entirely a solo song for her.  Now if you don’t recall, Never Forget was originally the farewell song sung by 1st Generation member, Asuka Fukuda when she graduated from Morning Musume.  Kei’s version is of course a bit more pop/rock with added guitars and drums to make it pop out more.  Kei sounds pretty good, not quite as good as when Asuka did this, but passable regardless.  I kind of wish she got a different song as her graduation but it is what it is and the fact that not being a front girl at any point in her time in Momusu, she definitely deserved a solo song!
  • Namida ni wa Shitakunai – It must be hard being a B-side to one of the best Momusu A-sides, but Namida ni wa Shitakunai tries to level things out with a slightly more genki appearance versus the angst power of the leading track.  I’m kind of surprised its a song full of solos and the verses are laid out by seniority of the members so that’s pretty cool.  Hearing Sayu and Eri better, they’re OK, but not terribly strong members yet versus Miki and Reina though.  It’s a good song, but maybe disappointing if you were hoping for something more unique like “Shabondama”.
  • Go Girl ~Koi no Victory~ – I kind of thought we left the cutesy, genki stuff behind but Momusu returned at the end of the year to drop this poppy tune on our laps.  To be honest, I do enjoy the song because it’s cute and the video is just super adorable to watch.  The song itself though does lack solos (but pairs girls off into 4 groups and goes from there).  It’s a fun song and nice way for the group to close out 2003.
  • KoiING – I’ve seen this song mentioned a lot in the fandom and wondered what the hype was really all about and honestly, I don’t see it, but it’s a good song but nothing that doesn’t quite compare to the songs in the Great section.  It’s another ballad of course and it does tone things down after the genkiness of “Go Girl” so that’s nice.  Little surprised though that only Ai-chan, Mikitty, and Kame got solos in the song while everyone else kind of joins in in the chorus.  It’s got a good melody that’s for sure, but I mean it’s no “Hare Ame Nochi Suki”.

MEH SONGS

  • Housekibako – Keeping the slight theme from the “Hyokkori Hyoutanjima” single, this B-side, Housekibako tries to be a bit grounded and mature in comparison but somehow keep the islandic vibes.  The intro was cute with the girls harmonizing, but the song kind of gets this reggae-ish, R&B-like fusion and it doesn’t help that there’s no solos.  It’s OK, but not a B-side I tend to remember much of.
  • “Suggoi Nakama” – If I thought “Tomodachi ga Ki ni Itteru Otoko Kara no Dengon” was cute done right and manages to stick out from the album, I would say “Suggoi Nakama” is the opposite.  The party-like atmosphere is a nice sound, but it’s kind of ruined to me by no solos and a HEAVY amount of Tsunku in the song that sounds awkward because his lines are bulky and frequent too.  It’s just a bit plain with the genki feels here.
  • YES! POCKY GIRLS (Original long ver.) – Unlike “Megami”, YES! POCKY GIRLS isn’t quite the memorable song and hearing an extended cut of it didn’t really change too much for me.  The arrangement is OK though and hearing the members involved get solos is also a plus too…but I guess it had to be here regardless.
  • “Sugoku Suki na no ni…ne” – As the remainder 6 girls that weren’t in “Tsuyoki de Yukouze!” hadn’t appeared yet in their own little grouping, it seemed we finally got to their song.  Sadly, I don’t think this song quite worked the same way that previously mentioned song did.  It feels a bit familiar sounding to me too, maybe “Housekibako” and “Ganbacchae!”?  I mean I also thought with 6 good singers, I’d think they’d do a better job than they did…well maybe Kaori did well…but the others didn’t feel right.
  • Sotsugyou Ryokou ~Morning Musume Tabidatsu Hito ni Okuru Uta~ – As the album’s final track, it immediately came to no surprise to me that this was for Kei-chan because she’s the only member missing here ironically (though strange since “AS FOR ONE DAY” was after this album).  At first the song was ballad-like,but it then turns upbeat and celebratory with horns and a bright atmopshere to it.  A brassier “Ganbacchae!” perhaps?  I don’t know, sadly it doesn’t really do much for me.
  • Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru (Sakuragumi Ver.) & (Otomegumi Ver.) – Honestly, I don’t know why they keep at this song because it’s not really all that great of a song.  So for both of the sub-units singles, the B-side is their own version of this B-side from “The☆Pea~ce!”.  The arrangement is new I’ll give it that but that’s the only interesting part about this song as it’s a bit more like something from “No.5” with less members singing.  No solos still so yeah, really not that much to say beyond the arrangement being changed up.  I guess its sing-a-long chorus can be catchy but otherwise, not into it.

ICKY SONGS

  • Intro – Opening their 5th album, strangely enough for the first time in a Momusu album, there’s a legitimate introduction and sadly it’s just a SHORT 9 second snippet of “Do it! Now’s” chorus…kind of obtuse and unnecessary since the main track happens immediately after.  Yeah, what?

Overall: After such a busy 2002, Morning Musume didn’t do quite as much in releases, but that’s probably good xD.  Loss of Kei-chan might not be as bad as everyone thought (she was kind of a back-girl), but adding 4 more members (one of them being a soloist already in H!P) was kind of surprising.  Though musically Tsunku was on it this year after their 5th album…it was like he had a brainstorming session and gave us some epic songs (which also carried to some other groups this year too!).  I was more curious to the splitting of the group into sub-units, but I think the idea of being able to cover more ground in tours made sense.  Really nice year for them!

Yuko Nakazawa

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Yuko once again pretty much had an empty year music-wise only able to release one single in GET ALONG WITH YOU in May.  The only other things worth mentioning H!P-wise was that she was in the Minimoni movie, Minimoni ja Movie: Okashi na Daibouken! and she had a song found on its OST, but I won’t be covering that and her involvement in FOLK SONGS 4.

OK SONGS

  • GET ALONG WITH YOU – As I’m starting to feel like Yuko’s music is starting to become more plain with me, GET ALONG WITH YOU at least tries to sound somewhat memorable opting for a slight pop/rock vibe (kind of reminding me of Michiyo Heike’s work) but a bit softer.  While Yuko sounds nice and the chorus is definitely the memorable part of the track too.  I do like how she belts out the title though…not bad!
  • Tokyohatsu Saishuu – I thought the opening of this song was giving me Enka vibes but then the beats and overall R&B sound kind of gave me a mix of Gocchin & Ayaya vibes, but not quite reaching the heights it could have.  I do like Yuko’s vocals though as they loud, but not quite appalling.  Decent B-side though overall and the change of style here for Yuko wasn’t too jarring, but definitely fits in with H!P overall.

Overall: It was an OK year I guess, feels like she didn’t do too much in H!P other than those 3 things so it was another short year I guess.  GET ALONG WITH YOU was a good single though so I suppose I can let it slide?

Country Musume ni Fujimoto to Konno

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Wow, Country Musume were going to have some interesting plans in 2003.  In April, it was suddenly announced that member, Rika Ishikawa would be returning to focus on Momusu (and other things) but at the same time 3 new members would be joining.  The only true member joining would be a 6th Gen Momusu auditionee, Miuna Saito and the group was being lent Momusu members again, Fujimoto and Konno for the time being making them a 5nin!

These 3 would debut in July with the group with their first single together, Uwaki na Honey Pie with a follow-up single, Senpai ~LOVE AGAIN~ in December.

GREAT SONGS

  • Uwaki na Honey Pie – Damn, Tsunku really knocked it out of the park it feels like when the Summer months came in because this song is another top 10 favorite H!P songs out there for myself.  Though they did stray very far off from their Country-esque music for this song which was pretty much a Eurobeat kind of track which was SO unique for Country Musume.  Even better is that all 5 members get some nice line distribution.  Of course I was mostly curious about Miuna because she was the only member that I haven’t heard since she was the newest member (ignoring Konkon & Mikitty) but the latter two were interesting additions as well.  It’s just a fun danceable track and such a legendary song within H!P.

OK SONGS

  • Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu (2003 Version) – Seems a bit weird to be self-covering this track, although maybe it’s because it was a rather important song to Country Musume (well technically more so to Asami Kimura who sung in the original cut).  I’m more surprised that it’s centered around mostly Kimura, Satoda, and Saito and has VERY little of Fujimoto and Konno.  It does mean we get a little more featured time with the 3 ladies (mostly Miuna) and I have to say despite the plain arrangement, the 3 of them do sound nice enough to handle this song.  Still, why?
  • Senpai ~LOVE AGAIN~ – It really seemed like Country Musume is straying further away from their roots A-sides-wise with the other single they released in the year.  Though unlike the powerhouse that is “Uwaki na Honey Pie” it was hard to get a follow-up and Senpai fell into the H!P rut with the song being all R&B (reminding me of various other songs that were released during and before this year.  Still loving the line distribution though and Miuna & Mai are really showing their vocal prowess (of course a lot of the light was spent on Miki mostly (spoken dialogue in the bridge mostly being the reason).  OK song, but the weakest of the three singles they released as a quintet.
  • Nani ga Ai ka Wakaranai Kedo… – I will say I wasn’t expecting “Senpai ~LOVE AGAIN~” to have 2 B-sides this time and this is an original track and not a self-cover/cover of something else.  Well it still lies on that samey H!P sound in the year, it kind of works to their advantage.  Miuna & Kimura have the longest solos but everyone else gets something at least here and I find that nice.  I kind of feel like this is one of those underrated songs in H!P.

MEH SONGS

  • Marui Taiyou (2003 Ver.) – Did they become the unit to cover other H!P songs?  I guess this is a little more unusual because it’s a cover of the old Taiyou to Ciscomoon track.  Though the arrangement was slightly updated to fit the times (though still somehow feels dated).  Like with their self-cover of “Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu”, Marui Taiyou centers around the actual Country Musume members (Kimura, Satoda, and Saito) with Miuna with the most solos!  She sounds really good and so does Mai.  Though I’m more surprised again that Miki and Konkon are just in the background.  Otherwise, it still is Marui Taiyou and never really been that much of a fan of the song so ehhh…

Overall: Kind of was curious when the announcement was made that Ishikawa was returning to Momusu full-time of what was going to happen with Country Musume but this 4th iteration (and 2nd borrowing of Momusu members) has turned out pretty well and Miuna & Mai are pulling their weight too.  Surprised of the departure of the Country-sounding songs, but this is pretty nice so far!

Petitmoni

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Unfortunately, Petitmoni’s year was a pretty quiet one sticking to live performances and ONLY one new song that’s found on Petit Best 4

(Future Talk: Really though that’s the last thing we got from the 3rd iteration of the group, after WOW WOW WOW, they just disappeared until the revival unit happened)

Melon Kinenbi

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Melon Kinenbi seemed to have finally make 2003 their year starting things off with their 8th single, Akai Freesia at the end of January with FINALLY their 1st album aptly titled, 1st Anniversary in March.

After that though was a new stretch of singles starting with Chance of LOVE (in May), MI DA RA Matenrou (in September), and Kawaii Kare (in December)

GREAT SONGS

  • Natsu – As “Chance of LOVE’s B-side I wasn’t fully expecting to change the mood 180 degrees with a song such as Natsu.  There’s just something about this song that works and its goofy nature is catchy and I love that Hitomi and Masae are leading again here too!  Total surprise, but a welcome addition!
  • Kawaii Kare – Though the last A-side they released for the year, Kawaii Kare was just a total surprise as an A-side, something so aggressive and powerful for the quartet to tackle too.  Unlike the previous singles, this one is a bit more dance-centric and just hearing the ladies just make this dramatic performance was awesome, another all-time favorite H!P song.

OK SONGS

  • Akai Freesia – I definitely remember hearing this song used as the auditioning song during the 6th Generation auditions (most notably around the finalists Eri, Sayumi, and Reina).  That being said, Akai Freesia was a lot like “Kousui” with it being heavy on Ayumi in the song.  Though this tune is a bit more upbeat and happier in its mood and I kind of enjoyed the feel of it.
  • Enryo wa Nashi yo! – As the B-side of “Akai Freesia” opens, I kind of thought it was going to be a slightly darker song, but the mood instantly shifts when the main melody kicks in and the tune becomes this energetic, genki song for the quartet!  The group though sounds like they’re having fun and the line distribution is a bit more evened out.  Fun song though
  • Nemuranai Yoru – Another new track from their album, Nemuranai Yoru was kind of surprise because of the minimalistic verses with the heavy bump but a lean on R&B as well.  Add on that Masae & Hitomi were leading the song was even better and made it a unique song here.  I definitely found myself enjoying this song though!
  • ENDLESS YOUTH – It seems the same case can be said about ENDLESS YOUTH that I said about “Nemuranai Yoru” with the pretty strong verses, but unlike the aforementioned song, ENDLESS YOUTH’s chorus is a bit forgettable and just gives me this positive vibe feel similar to Momosu’s “Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru”.  Kind of that feelgood encore song used for live performances basically.
  • Chance of LOVE – Ahhh! that saxophone intro is just oozing so much classyness for Melon’s next A-side after their album.  Maybe the Tsunku quip could’ve been left out, but damn Chance of LOVE is following more after “Kousui” with the smooth R&B, but a bit more grand?  Regardless, pretty bummed that 80% of the song is Ayumi solos too.  At least the tune is memorable and quite a strong A-side for them.
  • MI DA RA Matenrou – Tackling a latin style of their 3rd A-side of the year, MI DA RA Matenrou felt a bit more mature and the tune had a nice sexy flair.  They also seemed to fix the line distribution woes the last couple of singles had with the other members that aren’t Ayumi Shibata finally getting some extra lines.  It was a pretty good A-side as well!
  • Hatsuyuki – So the B-side from “Kawaii Kare” turns out to be a bit of a ballad this time around and I was surprised at its simplicity versus other B-sides they’ve released.  It’s definitely something I wasn’t expecting Melon Kinenbi to pull off especially with the lack of them during the year.  Decent song!

MEH SONGS

  • ANNIVERSARY – As one of 3 new songs that were on the album, ANNIVERSARY was one that just didn’t stand out for me considering all the other content of the album.  The songs has a happier feel like “Akai Freesia” did, but this feels like a Morning Musume song (like a Melon version take of “I WISH” or “Ganbacchae!”).  Plus the Tsunku-isms were in full force too.  Not a song that really sticks to me.
  • Melon Kinenbi no Theme (ED) – Well, we got a clearer sound of the music that opened the album, which is pretty much big band all the way.  It could’ve been a pretty good full song since it was loud and was something different genre-wise.  Though what we got was pretty short and it ends with the TV shutting off…ok.
  • Futari no Paradise – I do enjoy the opening of this B-side from “MI DA RA Matenrou”, but that’s really about it when it comes to Futari no Paradise.  It turns into a rather straightforward cute song from the group and it just doesn’t leave much of an impression (besides the times the piano plays around).  Oh wells.

ICKY SONGS

  • Melon Kinenbi no Theme (OP) – So the group’s first album opens with a short intro that sounds like someone turning on a TV and staying on a channel that’s playing music.  Though the sound quality is quite muffled and it doesn’t quite lead into “Akai Freesia” well either.  Seems pretty random to me!

Overall: I would say yay to finally having Melon Kinenbi release their 1st studio album that’s for sure!  Though they’ve had a pretty good year based on their releases musically.  All 4 singles, were pretty decent and really make me excited for their sophomore album. I’d say this was a pretty good 2003 for them.

Yuki Maeda

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Well, I mean really nothing much can be said about Yukidon’s 2003, well maybe.  Of course she did her annual 1 single in the year with July’s Tokyo Kirigirisu but I think the more interesting happening was her addition to SALT5 in the company’s yearly shuffle unit.

OK SONGS

  • Tokyo Kirigirisu – As the A-side, Tokyo Kirigirisu to me falls kind of in the middle when itcomes to her A-side discography.  Like it does kind of leave the Enka style for more of a modern flare in the Kayoukyoku genre.  There’s little splashes of like electric guitar and a rather sharp sounding string instrument and there’s an actual beat to it.  Of course Yukidon sounds great and she keeps the song afloat that’s for sure.  Not bad overall!
  • Kaeri Sobireta Furusato wa – The B-side of the single slows things down as it’s a pretty straightforward piano/acoutsic guitar/strings ballad.  Really not much to say about it besides its simplicity and whatnot, but it’s rather pretty too.  Yukidon’s vocals are even more on point with this one than “Tokyo Kirigirisu” so I’d say its evened out.

Overall: I mean what’s there to say, Yukidon’s year was just another one in the book.  Slightly bummed that they really aren’t pushing her in her solo work, but I do like how she was added to the shuffle unit (which will be found lower down the post).  Maybe one day she’ll push more in the company for more stuff to release.

Minimoni

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rocknrollMinimoniKazoeUta-rcrazyaboutyouMirakururunGrandPurin-rminimonithemovie

Minimoni’s 2003 wasn’t quite as huge and surprising like last year but we started with a new iteration of the group, but before that they released an OST for Minimoni ja Movie ~Okashi na Daibouken~

Though the group would finally release their first single as this new quartet (Yaguchi graduated from the group last year and Ai Takahashi joined the group) in April, a Chisato Moritaka cover, Rock n’ Roll Kenchoushozaichi ~Oboechaina Series!~ and followed that up with three more singles: Minimoni. Kazoe Uta ~Ofuru Ver~sion / Minimoni. Kazoe Uta ~Date Ver~sion~ in May, CRAZY ABOUT YOU in October and a Minihams single (shared as a joint single with Natsumi Abe as well) Mirakururin Grand Purin! in December.

  • NOTE: The Natsumi Abe part of the Minihams single will be found in her profile later on in the post

GREAT SONGS

  • Minimoni. Jankenpyon ~2003 ver.~ – I’m pretty surprised that this new iteration would do a self-cover of their debut song.  Though it does sound like the arrangement has been updated a bit.  Not really much to say otherwise about the song since it sounds like the original mostly.  There isn’t many solos though either and Ai-chan fit nicely (if not better than Yaguchi).  Nice update overall and is the only redeeming factor about the “Kazoe Uta” single.
  • CRAZY ABOUT YOU – Though I wasn’t expecting Minimoni to go mature after two really childish songs with CRAZY ABOUT YOU being more of an R&B song.  Honestly, I was surprised, but in a good way because Ai-chan and Mika got to show off their vocals here.  I will say hearing Aibon and Nono tackle the song is kind of humorous but overall, it’s the best A-side they released this year!

OK SONGS

  • Renai Isshuunen – Unlike the A-side, “CRAZY ABOUT YOU”, Renai Isshuunen is still R&B, but it definitely gives me some 90’s R&B feels which is pleasant enough and I’m hearing a lot of Nono and Aibon here with the other two girls supporting them.  It’s just a cute song for the quartet and minus the Tsunku-isms, it’s just a feelgood tune.
  • Mirakururin Grand Purin! – Of all the Minihams songs out there from Minimoni, I think this one was pretty good and has that crazy and wacky energy that the group was kind of missing in 2003.  With the addition to Ai-chan her swoopy high notes really popped out for me and just the crazy vocals from Aibon, Nono, and Mika.  Just a song that I needed from them!

MEH SONGS

  • Rock n’ Roll Kenchoushozaichi ~Oboechaina Series!~ – Not quite sure why but for some reason for the first two singles, Minimoni went educational, but this one was an odd case because this was a Chisato Moritaka cover so it was educational prior?  Regardless, as the first single with this second iteration of the group, was odd to say the least.  I mean it’s about learning prefecture capitals to a rather blu-swing like feel.  I don’t know, but this song didn’t do much for me, plus it’s only 2:30 so it really doesn’t stay either.  At least it’s quirky?
  • Oshaberi Suki ya Nen – B-side from “Rock n’ Roll Kenchoushozaichi”, I was hoping for something to save the single with, but Oshaberi Suki ya Nen, it feels a little weird to me?  Like I know it’s supposed to be youthful, but I feel like it’s a song that was more fitting for Country Musume (y’know when Rika & Rinne was still in the group).  It’s like an odd Country ditty and just isn’t supposed to take too seriously.
  • Minimoni. Kazoe Uta ~Ofuro & ~Date Ver~sion~ – Which makes these two songs even more disappointing as A-sides because it’s a song about counting!  Add that there’s two of them and the main differences is learning to count in Japanese (Ofuro) and English (Date).  I would consider this my least favorite A-sides from Minimoni that’s for sure.  Only redeeming fact is that the two songs are split (Ofuro has Nono/Mika and Date has Aibon/Ai-chan).  Yeah not my kind of song.

Overall: I’m not quite sure what happened this year with Minimoni honestly, it seems like after Yaguchi left and Takahashi joined the group’s first two singles with Ai-chan were pretty mediocre and just wasn’t what I was looking for from the group.  Though I also wasn’t expecting a change like they did when they released CRAZY ABOUT YOU and went the mature cool group approach.  Don’t know what they’ll pull next year!

Maki Goto

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uwasanosexyguyScrambledaiteyogenshokugalMakking GOLD 1 1kenmary

As the first full year as a solo artist, Gocchin in the beginning half of the year started off with 2 albums!  Her first studio album in February with Makking GOLD and then in March released an OST of her stageplay, Ken & Mary no Merikenko On Stage!

After that though, she then released a whole bunch of singles with Uwasa no SEXY GUY (in March), Scramble (in June), Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON (in August), and Genshoku GAL Hade ni Yukube! (in November).  Otherwise, a straightforward year for Gocchin!

GREAT SONGS

  • Akai Nikkichou (Goto Version) – After Yuko did her solo cut of this Akagumi 4 track back in 2001, I guess we have Maki also giving her solo version of the song in 2003!  As I’ve said about the original, the weakest link to Akai Nikkichou was Gocchin as she was still a newbie and she didn’t have such a strong voice.  Here, she really fixes those issues and despite not having an intro dialogue like Danielle (original) or Yuko (her solo), I think Gocchin did much better here.
  • Nagadenwa – This B-side from “Scramble” honestly gave me similar vibes to “Yaruki! IT’S EASY” due to the synths and the kind of 80’s glossy pop that they both share.  Of course this song doesn’t quite reach the same plateau as the aforementioned track, but the song is just as magical and cute in the right way.  One of the few B-sides I LOVE!
  • Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON – Though I have to give it up for Tsunku for putting this song out because it was pretty badass of a song for Gocchin to have!  It’s pretty poppy but with the guitars and powerful beat made it a memorable A-side especialy Maki’s cry of ~ai wo kudasaiiiii~. Though Tsunku’s bridge is kind of annoying lol.  Otherwise it’s the best A-side she released in 2003!

OK SONGS

  • Aitte Donna ×××? – As the first of the new tracks found on the album, I wasn’t surprised that Maki would pull another R&B song that’s in the same veins like “SHALL WE LOVE?” and “Afurechau…BE IN LOVE”.  Though there’s something catchy about this one that’s for sure and the minimalistic 90’s R&B-inspired sound suits Gocchin’s vocals as it always has, though the rap between her and Tsunku is strange lol.  Definitely a nice track, but curious why it was placed after “Te wo Nigitte Arukitai”
  • Afurechau…BE IN LOVE (A Passionate Mix) – About the A-side, it was remixed for the album and it took out a lot of the beeps and boops of the original but keeps it’s dated 90’s sound for the most part.  The song is still pretty nifty and I find myself enjoying it and the mix is pretty good and didn’t change too much arounds.
  • SHALL WE LOVE? (Goto Version) – I’m not surprised that all 3 artists that were in Gomattou did their own cut of the song, it was a pretty big hit.  What I didn’t expect was that each one was going to be different from one another.  I do feel like Goto’s cut is pretty close to the original’s arrangement though (with a bit more synth prominance).  I mean it wasn’t that long ago, so I feel it’s fine and Gocchin taking the lines suits her well especially connected to the two tracks above!
  • Moriagaru Shikanai Desho! – Wasn’t expecting Gocchin to tackle a fun rock song in this track and it definitely sounds like a song she probably used to amp up the crowd during lives.  Though while it is pretty relentless and just energetic I think it doesn’t quite hit the great mark as I feel like this song is for sure made for such a thing.  Though I do like the variety it brings to the album.
  • Te wo Nigitte Arukitai (Album Version) – I was super worried that there were two versions of this song on the album and was sure that it was going to blow, but this track which closes Gocchin’s first album is quite different from the intro.  We have a nice minute-long opening with Maki singing its chorus with a jazzy backdrop before the song fully kicks in and this time it kicked the kiddy background singers for a little more of a mature backup and it’s a world of great difference!  I actually can stomach the song this way.
  • Uwasa no SEXY GUY – I mean as her follow-up after her first album, Uwasa no SEXY GUY was a trip that’s for sure!  With the opening line having this kind of James Bond-esque groove that turns into this sexy bop from Gocchin, it was a great change of pace having Maki move away from the super cute stuff.  Still, this was a pretty good song (maybe the chorus is odd to me) but still overall decent.
  • Kare, Ryokouchuunari – Not quite where I stack this B-side as but it does feel slightly lounge-like but it has this kind of elevator music genre down, maybe a little French Pop too?  I think I was expecting more from this after “Uwasa no SEXY GUY”, but the laidback and relaxing arrangement was maybe what I needed.  Not bad!
  • Ofuzake KISS – Tampering with the latin vibes for this B-side from “Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON”, Ofuzake KISS continued to give off a more serious vibe in coordination with the A-side and I thought the two worked together.  Gocchin just seems to be getting much better with emoting and this sexy glow of a song just made it work

MEH SONGS

  • Date Chuuihou – Next track up and this one is a little different than what she’s released before by being more pop/rock than anything else and it’s a bit louder, but it does still have the poppy quirks about it.  I kind of like the guitars, but otherwise the song feels a bit messy and rough to my ears.  There’s just some questionable choices in its arrangement (especially that bridge…wtf was that odd disc scratching).
  • Hareta Hi no Marine – ~HAVE A GOOD DAYYYYY~ Alright Tsunku, this is pretty bad even for you lol.  Hareta Hi no Marine to me might fit close to “Yaruki IT’S EASY” because they’re both poppy synth tracks that kind of fit the cute side of things.  Sadly, I couldn’t seem to really connect with the song and the chorus to me feels somewhat messy.  Just not all that great of a song.
  • Scramble – It might be my least favorite of the A-sides, but it still isn’t a bad song persay. It’s pretty much a sparkly pop track from Gocchin and for some reason a popular song to perform in H!P concerts. I think the chorus is what keeps me around but otherwise I don’t recall much else.
  • Genshoku GAL Hade ni Yukube! – After the great “Daite yo!” single, I didn’t think she would drop back to a bit more of a youthful vibe as such as this track. I do like she kept the guitars in the song, but the song’s more playful nature is slightly odd to me, but it isn’t a jarring change so I kind of see where it fits but it doesn’t mean it isn’t strange to me.  After a while, it does feel like it’s lacking something about it, but I’m not quite sure what though…
  • Koibito Boshuuchuu – Not quite what I was listening to with this B-side from “Genshoku GAL”.  It seems like it wants to be a rockin’ mid-tempo track but there’s points where I get R&B feels as well which isn’t quite the best mix.  The verses themselves do sound powerful but maybe a little too in your face?  It’s like it’s trying to be many things and it just isn’t working out very well.  A little bit messy.

Overall: Well it was going to happen and we finally have our first album from Maki right?  I think for the most part she did well enough with a mix of good and not-so-good songs and her working with Momusu was a nice gesture.  Overall a good year!

Aya Matsuura

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Ayaya seems to also have a pretty strong year it seems!  Starting the year off in January, she released her 2nd studio album, not surprisingly titled: TWand followed that up with an OST of her stageplay, Sougen no Hito in March.

Like with Gocchin she pretty much played the rest of the year with single releases with; Ne~e! (in March), GOOD BYE Natsuo (in June), and THE LAST NIGHT (in September).  She was also in a couple other H!P projects during the year!

Last, but not least there was a best album released in Hawaiian stores, 2003 Nendo Single Best.

GREAT SONGS

  • From That Sky ~Kaedama wa Katamen de~ – I wasn’t expecting Ayaya to actuall pull off a rock song on the album, especially with this track that came right after the 2 heavily R&B-inspired track.  It kind of reminds me of Bon Jovi with those vocal filters lol.  Still, the song is pretty cool and Aya sounds really strong here…maybe my favorite of the album tracks!
  • Navi ga Kowareta Oujisama (LOVE CHANCE) – Another kind of rock-tinted song off the album, Navi ga Kowareta Oujisama does give me a little bit of an anison feel to it, but it’s also because unlike “From That Sky”, the song is more upbeat and happier sounding too!  I’m just liking the chords and Aya’s vocals give it that much more style to it!  Not my favorite, but maybe 2nd favorite XD.
  • GOOD BYE Natsuo – If it wasn’t clear, my favorite A-side from Ayaya is definitely this single GOOD BYE Natsuo!  Luckily I’m not the only one who thinks this because it’s another Matsuura song that’s still performed on a regular basis in H!P.  There’s just so much personality in this song and the aggressive performance from Aya and powerful sound really pushed the song to the front.  Very cool song!
  • THE LAST NIGHT – Wow, Aya actually released a ballad as an A-side this year!  Though I felt this was more emotionally charged than “Sougen no Hito” was the year previous.  For THE LAST NIGHT, Aya had a really pretty powerful arrangement with the strings and piano being most of the instrumentation with some harp and light percussion involved.  Its one of those rare times where I really ended up LOVING a H!P ballad!

OK SONGS

  • Anata no Kanojo – While it’s not the opening song to her sophomore album, Anata no Kanojo is the first that comes up.  Honestly it seems this song is kind of lighter in presentation like some of the songs from her last album.  The acoustic poppy vibes of this one is nice, but I also don’t feel it strikes me very much either so it’s OK for the most part.
  • SHINE MORE – Another album song, I was hoping for something more unique, but I feel like SHINE MORE harkens to more of Gocchin’s R^B works because it has that certain 2000’s beep & boop R&B that was more prevalent in that time period.  Though the song does get better the longer it goes and its chorus is pretty catchy as things goes.  Ayaya’s vocals are a bit shouty, but I can survive this!
  • SHALL WE LOVE? (Matsuura Version) – Of the 3 solo cuts of the song, Ayaya’s feels a bit more quicker paced, but the R&B beats are pretty heavy and just a LOT more there.  Though Aya’s sounds well to me and despite it coming right after “SHINE MORE” on the album, it has a certain oomph about it that works!
  • Date Biyori – So after “From That Sky”, we enter Date Biyori’s boogie-woogie style and it’s a pretty fun and danceable track that mixes Aya’s lively vocals with an equally as vivid song.  It is a surprisingly short track (3 minutes), so the feeling doesn’t quite as long as I’d hope, but this was a nice track!
  • Motokare – Ending the album, I was kind of surprised she ended with a rather somber break-up song in Motokare.  While a good portion of the album is upbeat and positive, this was actually a turn and having it be the final track is just different.  While the song itself doesn’t quite standout amongst the rest of the album, it’s mid-tempo flow was nice.
  • Ne~e? – As the first single after her second album, Ne~e? brought back the cutesy side to Ayaya’s music and I was missing that quite a bit and while it reminds me of some of the previous cute songs.  Aya always seems to pull these songs off and while its not the most memorable of her A-sides, it’s still pretty decent.
  • DO YOU LOVE ME? – I wasn’t expecting this as the B-side from “THE LAST NIGHT”, but DO YOU LOVE ME? tones things up to more of an upbeat and silly-sounding song that sounds like it could’ve been connected to “GOOD BYE Natsuo” with the futuristic poppy beats about it.  Definitely the best B-side she released in the year!

MEH SONGS

  • Diary – This album track though feels like a slightly slower take on “Anata no Kanojo” because of its mostly acoustic pop feels I get here as well.  It may be a little better sung, but there’s just something that kind of bored me with this song in particular.
  • Onna no Yuujou Mondai – Not quite sure why I dislike Country songs that aren’t sung by Country  Musume, but this B-side from “Ne~e?” just did not stick to me and it’s mostly from the arrangement and the weird mix of rock and banjo music just doesn’t work with me.  Plus I mean a single with two cute songs is a bit much for me.  Oh well….
  • Watakushi no Yotei – B-side from “GOOD BYE Natsuo” comes up and funny enough it reminds me of both “Anata no Kanojo” and “Diary” but moreso the former because it’s rather poppy and cute but it doesn’t stand out and the weird bow-wow synth is kind of ugly.  It’s just one of those light-hearted songs but it doesn’t really click with me.

Overall: I mean she definitely had about just as much things to do as she did last year with her second album release and another 3 singles dropped.  While in the long run, it feels like these songs weren’t the HUGE memorable songs they were compared to last year, Aya had some surprisingly great songs here.

Miki Fujimoto

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Mikitty had a rather interesting 2003 to say the least!  After a rather stronger performance at Kouhaku ’02, Miki would kick off the year in February with her 5th single, Boogie Train ’03 followed shortly in the same month, her first album, MIKI  

Though things shifted entirely in April when it was suddenly announced that Miki would join Morning Musume as part of the 6th Generation and Country Musume as a borrowed member which oddly also meant her solo career was over and the rest of the year was pretty much her in Morning Musume & Country Musume which I already talked about.

GREAT SONGS

  • Boogie Train ’03 – Another rather legendary song in H!P, Miki’s 5th single is such a fun bop of a track.  Hell, the intro with Miki’s vocals were just perfect here and really makes this song come alive!  What a crazy fun tune and despite Miki having more of a lower timbre to her voice, she somehow felt like she found how perfect her voice can really handle songs like this.  Plus her control and vibrato was so impressive and kept the tune being playful and silly…yeah awesome song!
  • SHALL WE LOVE? (Fujimoto Version) – Unlike Gocchin & Ayaya’s version of the song, Mikitty’s is pretty much a chilled out and overall toned down cut of the song, but I think of the three, this one did the best because Miki’s vocals really fit here and she emoted pretty damn well for being a solo cut.  I was actually pretty much blown away by Miki’s solo version!

OK SONGS

  • Eki Mae no Dai Happening – As the first new track to appear from Mikitty’s album, Eki Mae no Dai Happening is the 3rd cute song to follow up (after “Boogie Train ’03” and “Romantic Ukare Mode”) and this one is a bit more or less similar to them but its got a lot of interesting happenings (oic) here.  It’s peppy but has some synths that give it a similar 80’s tone too.  Might not reach the same levels as the mentioned songs, but I quite liked it.
  • Namida GiRL – I knew Miki’s vocals would be perfect for something rock sounding and Namida GiRL is a great place to hear that!  While the arrangement can be a little too busy, hearing Miki’s vocals kind of fixes it and she really sounds good here.  My only other qualm is that maybe she could’ve attacked the song better IMO, but that’s a small complaint from me.
  • Giniro no Eien – Back to the R&B groove for Giniro no Eien and it kind of gives me similar vibes to “SHALL WE LOVE?” and “Taisetsu” definitely a product of the time, but a little different enough to kind of stand out.  Though I guess I can say it’s a passable song, but not quite totally memorable, just OK.

MEH SONGS

  • Taisetsu – It seemed like all of the women involved in Gomattou got touched by the R&B bug and here we are with the B-side from “Boogie Train ’03” though this is a lot lighter than anything that Maki and Aya were putting out.  Sadly, Taisetsu just didn’t do anything for me with its laidback arrangement and sleepy tempo.  Miki sounds nice don’t get me wrong but I don’t think it saved it…and that odd ending with the busy telephone signal is odd.
  • Mangetsu – As the only song from the album that I kind of didn’t really care for, Mangetsu is an odd one from the album.  I do enjoy the funkier slightly discotheque vibes I get from the song, but it’s mostly Miki’s vocals that throw me off the most.  She’s rather shouty and while she does sometimes hits sweet sounding notes, lot of other times she sounds almost honky.  Bothered me a lot here!

Overall: Miki was just swept all over the map this year.  Many thinking she’d continue to release solo music after how big her career was getting and then watching it switch to her being in both Momusu and Country Musume was rather jarring if not questionable.  Still she owned it this year wherever she was regardless so I would say damn!

Kaori Iida

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Osavurio ~Ai wa Matte Kurenai~Paradinome ~Koi ni Mi wo Yudanete~

Hey, we’re finally onto new acts introduced in 2003!  Well the first was a pretty odd one I’d say with Morning Musume leader, Kaori Iida taking on a solo career!  Though whats odd about it is that Kaorin debuted solo with 2 cover albums, but the covers were sung in French, Italian, and Greek.  Like I said she released two of these in 2003; Osavurio ~Ai wa Matte Kurenai~ in April and Paradinome ~Koi ni Mi wo Yudanete~ in October.

NOTE: I will be honest and say I wouldn’t be able to tell if Kaori is doing a good job singing in these European languages, so don’t hold that against me if I don’t talk about pronunciation.  I was already conflicted enough to even talk about these songs in the first place LOL

GREAT SONGS

  • Osavurio ~Ai wa Matte Kurenai~ – As the opening track of her first album, Osavurio is a pretty interesting song that has this really haunting but pretty feel to it that’s like something I’d find in a Cirque du Soleil performance.  Really though Kaori’s vocals were light and airy and suited this track albeit a short one…a pretty good way to open things up!
  • Cherbourg no Amagasa – I like how this song opens with what I could describe as a music box intro!  Kaorin sounds really pretty in this one, but unlike “Osavurio”, this one is a bit more minimalistic.  It does gain more after the first chorus and the song really grows into more of a dramatic song.  Yeah this was pretty good too all things considered!
  • Ipanema no Musume – When I thought of Kaori’s solo works, the first thing I think of it’s Mediterranean and Ipanema no Musume kind of entitles that theme pretty damn well.  The tune is bright and smooth and the accordion & saxes are really adding flavor to the track.  I think it’s my favorite track off her first album honestly.
  • Paradinome ~Koi ni Mi wo Yudanete~ – As the opening for her sophomore album, Paradinome is bright, upbeat and has this kind of folkish groove to it that’s kind of nice to listen to (maybe it’s the unusual instrumentation).  There’s just something about it that really pulls me in…maybe it sounds like a Town Theme to some RPG XD
  • Aux Champs-Elysees – I mean the song is pretty familiar to me just by the melody (and the fact that Ciao Bella Cinquetti used the melody in 2016 made it somewhat memorable).  Kaori singing this tune in French is nice and it fits the rather upbeat tone.  Very cute and yet sweet.
  • Aa, Jinsei – Something folksy and mythical sounding pops up with Aa, Jinsei and I found myself entranced by the arrangement.  Though I think that’s mainly the reason besides the sax solo here that really caught my attention.  The verses are alright since it’s mostly Kaori and some light instrumentation.  Unique sounding and really pretty of a song!
  • Jasmine – As the final track from her 2nd album, Jasmine definitely sticks out from the album by having more of a somber tone to it, but the chord changes are pretty unique and Kaori’s vocals fits the mysterious vibe as well.  The song itself just is nice and once the violins join it adds spice to an already decent song!

OK SONGS

  • Eha Ya ~Sayonara~ – Maybe it’s just me but this arrangement makes me think of another J-pop artist, KOKIA with the kind of this flowing and sandy sounding arrangement which always tend to win me over.  I would say Kaori did well because her voice is so light and airy and she handled the song surprisingly well!
  • DownTown – So the only song that I technically recognized, DownTown is oddly in French (because I’m so used to the English cut), anyways Kaori sounds upbeat and while her saying the title is odd, she kept the feeling going.  The tune itself does sound cheap to me, but maybe it was meant to be that way xD.
  • Amore Scusami – Another upbeat track this time sung in Italian, it has this upbeat and lively sound to it that could make people dance around with one another here and she sounds better to me than she did in “DownTown”.  I was also taken away by Kaori’s tone…it’s higher than it normally is XD.
  • Otome no Namida – I thought the toy piano and accordion doing the opening melody was the easiest way to catch my attention.  Like the other Mediterreanean songs from the first album, it shows off Kaorin’s softer and dream-like vocals and it worked in a slower song liked this too!  Nice song overall!
  • Barairo no Jinsei – Ending off her first album, Barairo no Jinsei closes things off in a very sweet and quiet way with the piano ballad.  I have to say while Kaori’s vocals are a bit loose in the song, she does a nice job here and when the strings join, the song just gets beautiful to listen to.
  • Lila no Kisetsu – I can’t help but slightly be both intrigued and slightly bored by Lila no Kisetsu because it’s simple with the harp melody but it does have its waves with the extra strings.  Kaori also sounds pretty singing in French and just always soothing, but it’s the added dramatics that make it work.
  • Sora – Maybe it’s just the kind of doowop sound I was getting with Sora, but I thought it was warm and so cute to listen to, especially since Kaori was sounds so nice but she suddenly belts it in the later half and that caught me off guard.  Not bad of a song here!
  • Suna ni Kieta Namida – Don’t know why I get island vibes from Suna ni Kieta Namida, but we’re back to something chilled and relaxing.  I think this is a fine song if it doesn’t really leave much to be desired otherwise…I think it just squeezes in the middle IMO.
  • Wasuresareta Michi – Getting another heavily Mediterreanean track, Wasuresareta Michi is a more relaxing track off the second album and most of it is pretty much acoustic guitar backing up Kaori with light percussion.  It gives me a vibe of being on a boat ride at night and I quite enjoys the light feels of the song.

MEH SONGS

  •  Muzousa Shinshi – I think one of the more forgettable songs from Kaori’s first album is Muzousa Shinshi due to its rather sleepy arrangement and just too much of the lightness that makes the song put me to sleep more than keep my interest.  I do like the bridge but I did find the choice to make it fade out was bizarre.  Not really that memorable for me.
  • Suteki no Oujisama – Like “Muzousa Shinshi”, Suteki no Oujisama kind of suffers from being a tad bit unimpressive with its arrangement which reminds me of “DownTown”.  The horns are pretty fake and Kaori doesn’t sound quite as strong as she does in other tracks.  Just doesn’t do much for me.
  • Marine Blue no Hitomi – I’m not quite sure if I dug the wobbly synths that open this song up. That seemed rather distracting, but it goes away and leaves us with a slower ballad here. Not quite sure if I dig the electric guitar solo either in the bridge…seemed rather inappropriate to include IMHO.
  • Yumemiru Omoi – I’m not sure why, but I just felt this song rather bland to me after the rest of the tracks on the album, minus “Marine Blue no Hitomi”.  It’s a pretty basic mid-tempo track featuring acoustic guitar, keyboards and some percussion.  I don’t know why, but it just feels cheap too (blame the keyboards).

Overall:  I mean no lie, Kaori really impressed by doing this solo thing for sure.  Not only was she still taking care of Morning Musume, she was learning three different languages to sing two albums worth of covers here!  I will say this might’ve caught some of her fans off guard by doing something so unique in idol music, but this was surprisingly good music if you’re into the soft easy listening styles.

Natsumi Abe

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Yup! The other 1st Generation member also decided to take charge, Nacchi also went solo while she was still in Morning Musume.  Though the first single, a duet with Keiko Yasumi, Haha to Musume no Duet Song wasn’t really considered Nacchi’s debut single released in May.

She actually wouldn’t debut until August with the single, 22sai no Watashi and then ended up in a joint single with Minimoni with her half, Pi~hyara Kouta in November and that was that (well other than her announcement of graduation from Morning Musume to focus on her solo work for 2004).

OK SONGS

  • Haha to Musume no Duet Song – While not Nacchi’s official debut, I thought it was best to throw it here as it’s only Natsumi here from H!P.  Anyways this song being a duet with Keiko Yasumi was interesting because it’s kind of light pop/rock but has a bit mmph about it. It’s happy-go-lucky and just puts a smile on my face whenever I listen to it and it’s just a cute song to listen to!
  • 22sai no Watashi – Her actual debut A-side was unsurprisingly another tune dabbling in the R&B genre which is kind of disappointing since most of the other soloists were covering that spectrum.  Nacchi’s 22sai no Watashi is pretty tame and her voice does suit the feel well.  I kind of enjoyed the melody of the tune and the guitar solo in the bridge was unique.  Not bad for a debut.
  • Pi~hyara Kouta – As part of the other half from the Minihams single, Nacchi’s contribution was a ballad and honestly it does sound quite different than what I was expecting.  It has a nice Oriental touch and space-y feel in its arrangement and Natsumi held her own here.  Different kind of song overall and I ended up enjoying this one!

MEH SONGS

  • Koi – As the B-side from the duet single, Koi to me just comes off as a standard ballad to me at first.  I will admit that I do like the choice of the acoustic guitar as the lead instrument, but then it kind of grows into this odd mid-tempo Country track with some rockin’ guitar solos XD.  Not sure why the synths were thrown after it but it’s a bit of a hot mess.  At least Nacchi & Keiko sound decent together, better than in the main track.
  • Yuuyakezora – Not quite sure what was up with the song in the beginning to the pre-chorus with the filters and very slow tempo it was going on.  Though I feel the song is at ends with itself because the verses were so jerky and the chorus just doesn’t suit the song much either.  Plus I wasn’t a fan of Nacchi’s yelling through its chorus either.

Overall: While not as impressive of a first year as a soloist as Kaori was, Nacchi had a little bit of fun here with 2 1/2 singles released.  While it might not be the best works she’s put out, I think she’s started off on a good foot.  Let’s see what next year will bring for Nacchi!

ZYX

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Iku ZYX! Fly High 13shiroitokyo

So remember in the Minimoni movie when Mari Yaguchi had told the remainder of the group that she was leaving and walked away with 4KIDS?  Yeah, well it seemed that in turn created ZYX (which funny enough did not include any of the girls in 4KIDS) but instead included 5 other girls from the Hello! Project Kids; Erika Umeda, Momoko Tsugunaga, Saki Shimizu, Maimi Yajima, and Megumi Murakami

With that they released two singles in the year, Iku ZYX! FLY HIGH in August & Shiroi TOKYO In December.

(Future TalkThe group actually ended next year, but these were the only two releases they had because it was most likely they disbanded due to Berryz Kobo being created (which had Shimizu and Tsugunaga))

GREAT SONGS

  • Iku ZYX! FLY HIGH – What a debut to kick off with I’d say, it just blasts off right from the start and just has this cool beat and keeps things pretty stable for the remainder of the track.  I was also pretty happy that the shine shone equally on the girls and Marippe wasn’t leading everywhere, if anything Umechan & Captain were leading the lines.  There’s something 90’s about it, but it was just an awesome song to release…another in the time frame that other epic songs like “Uwaki na Honey Pie” and “Shabondama” dropped!

OK SONGS

  • Shiroi TOKYO – As their follow A-side, Shiroi TOKYO might not hit the strides that their debut managed to capture, but it’s still a rather cute, wintry song for them and the poppier sounds still work for them.  Though I am noticing Megumi a lot more than I did in their last A-side, but everyone still has a decent set amount of solos so I’m pretty content with the song!
  • Tokonatsu Musume (ZYX Ver.) – See do a song that actually is in range for this young group and not something that’s way oer their heads!  I will say it is shocking that ZYX is covering a Coconuts Musume song (especially since this was kind of a single I had partly forgot about xD).  Like I said, ZYX handled this so much better than “Gatamekira” by a longshot!  Nice line distribution as well!  Yeah not a bad cover here for sure!

ICKY SONGS

  • Gatamekira (ZYX Ver.) – You would have to have a good enough reason to cover a Taiyou to Ciscomoon song and this was the worst way to go with it.  I mean you still have 5 SUPER YOUNG ladies trying to tacle this rather mature-sounding song and it’s just kind of a trainwreck from the new, but strange arrangement to all of the girls sounding very odd trying to emulate sexiness.  I think Mari and Megumi were the closest to not fully blowing it, but everyone else was struggling here, to think it was a B-side to their debut >.<

Overall: For being a new group and the first to include H!P Kids, ZYX definitely has (had) some potential here.  Both A-sides were cool and cute and showed off the youthful energy that Hello! Project was needing at the time.  Even Marippe didn’t seem out of place (though I guess her tenure in Minimoni helped).  Still sucks the group disbanded though not even a year being active…

Other H!P Releases

hiphitsshinsakudouyou2genteiban32folksongs4pineappleparadisegetuprapperSEXY NIGHT ~Wasurerarenai Kare~FIRST KISSPetit Best 4

Seemed like 2003 was pretty packed for other releases!  First thing off, we have Hip Hits! Morning Musume Hello! Project INTERNATIONAL COLLECTION which is basically the two English tribute albums combined into one release with a new remix for one of the songs.  Of course I’m not reviewing it, but its worth noting.

So the 6th of the Douyou Pops, Shinsaku Douyou Pops 2 was released as well (The final one yay!)  Also won’t be reviewing this because it’s Children’s songs so yeah…

On top of the third Hawaiian exclusive best album, 2003 Nendo Hawaii Genteiban Hello! Project 3 was released as well!

Next up was the 4th in the FOLK SONGS series, FS4 FOLK SONGS 4 which had Nakazawa, Yasuda, Yaguchi, and Melon Kinenbi singing throughout.

Then comes Pineapple Paradise which was an odd release because it originally came from the “Natsu no Uta Shuu” Douyou Pops album last year, but due to promotions became a single in itself, sung by the two remaining Coconuts Musume members (Ayaka & Mika), Matsuura, and Satoda.

After all that, we finally get into our shuffle units (not quite sure what the actual theme was) but another great mix with

  • SALT5 (Kago, Ogawa, Abe, Matsuura, and Maeda) – With the hip-hop based GET UP! Rapper
  • 7AIR (Ishikawa, Takahashi, Niigaki, Ohtani, Satoda, Todd, Inaba) – With the R&B-centric tune, Kowarenai Ai ga Hoshii no
  • 11WATER (Iida, Yaguchi, Yoshizawa, Tsuji, Konno, Fujimoto, Murata, Saito, Shibata, Kimura (Country), Kimura (Coconuts) – With the speedy Ska song, BE ALL RIGHT!

The next two are one-single units:

First is ROMANS (Yaguchi, Saito, Ishikawa, Satoda, and Coconuts Ayaka) and were created from a TV show they had, Sexy Onna Jyuku and released their only single, SEXY NIGHT ~Wasurerarenai Kare~ before disbanding in September due to the show ending.

The other group is Aa! (Tanaka, Suzuki, Natsuyaki) and they released their only single, FIRST KISS and then just kind of went inactive in the next year (probably same reason that ZYX became inactive too).

Yup, the last thing was the annual Petit Best 4 no surprise there xD.

GREAT SONGS

  • Hitoribocchi no Heya – As the opening to the FOLK SONGS album, Hitoribocchi no Heya is a Yaguchi solo and it’s kind of a refreshing sounding song despite being light pop with focus on acoustics and piano.  It does also give me slight Winter vibese but it could mostly be from the bouncy piano lines.  Marippe sounds nice and suits the cute feel of the track!
  • Ihoujin – Though I wasn’t expecting the next track, Ihoujin to boost things up further!  This time, it’s a Kei-chan solo (well mostly) there’s two lines that has Yuko as a backup singer, but other than that it’s all Kei and she was given a pretty decent song with this one.  With FOLK SONGS, I tend to really enjoy the upbeat songs so this was a nice surprise!
  • Mayonaka no Door ~ Stay With Me – If I didn’t already know this was on a FOLK SONGS album, I feel like this would’ve been an A-side of Melon Kinenbi’s because it’s surprisingly decent here.  Something about the funky arrangement and peppy feel with decent solos from the quartet just seemed to really work.  Wow, this and the above two tracks really are a good trio of songs!
  • Chuuou Freeway – Getting towards the end of the album, Chuuou Freeway does a pretty good job at waking me up with something upbeat and fun all the way on top of Mari’s performance in the song.  Plus any song that’s adding some jazz elements is going to win me over like Chuuou Freeway did.  Maybe this could’ve been an album song from the first Tanpopo album XD
  • GET UP! Rapper – SALT5 is the first of the shuffle units up and honestly it was a total surprise that we get a bit of a hip-hop, crowd pumping song.  I think the biggest surprise was seeing Yukidon being involved (especially since it’s a total 180 from what she was releasing thus far).  The tune is pretty ridiculous lyric-wise (especially with banana chippu-chippu-chippu line) and just fits the sillyness from Ayaya and Aibon while Yukidon, Makochan, and Nacchi kind of added more depth and vocal prowess here.  Just a fun and silly song and I really dug it!
  • BE ALL RIGHT! – 11WATER finishes things out and I was happy we got a Ska-sounding song for BE ALL RIGHT! because it means it’s energetic and bouncy for all the rights reasons and I personally loved this song the most of the 3.  Something about the loud energy and line distribution really caught me and having these 11 members was awesome.  I did hear a lot of Yossie, Nono, and Mikitty but everyone got some limelight which is great.  Peppy song that’s for sure!
  • Natsu LOVE Romance – Funny how “OH! BE MY FRIEND” couldn’t do it but somehow Natsu LOVE Romance did?  Plus it had members that weren’t involved in the shuffles like Yuko, Miuna, and Reina, Sayumi, and Eri (since the latter weren’t in H!P when the shuffle single released).  I really love the opening that reminds me of the Hawaiian album last year to the poppy, Summery feels I get from listening to this.  Actually I think all the members got a solo somewhere which is impressive since it is 27 members involved here.  Great song and definitely memorable from 2003.

OK SONGS

  • Cosmos – No surprise that Yuko gets a solo track here with Cosmos.  Though it may be the first song I’m not too bothered by here.  It does feel like it wants to be a ballad but ended up being an R&B track instead.  I will say Yuko sounds nice, but I mean it doesn’t quite reach much higher than that.
  • 22sai no Wakare – Next is a duet between Marippe and Kei-chan and the song is this odd track that’s like folksy and somewhat reggae-ish?  I don’t know how to explain it but it’s a bit of a swaying kind of track.  Mari sings the first half while Kei tackles the 2nd which is pretty neat.  A little weird when the bridge hits as it changes the mood, but the last chorus where they sing one part is neat too!
  • Ame no Monogatari – Another Kei solo appears and I would say it’s perfectly in the middle for me.  Like it’s upbeat and fun to listen to on top of Kei-chan’s great vocals filling the song, but the arrangement isn’t quite up to par for me?  Just sounds like the put some effort here where they didn’t with “Tabi no Yado” and “Kokoro no Tabi”
  • Kemeko no Uta – As the last song on the FOLK SONGS album, it’s the only one to feature all 7 members for the song and Kemeko no Uta may have the brashest sound with it sounding a bit more pop/rock than others.  Though it closed the album on a good note, it doesn’t quite make it higher than other tracks!
  • Kowarenai Ai ga Hoshii no – When it came to 7AIR’s song I was pretty torn about it.  I mean you have some pretty decent members involved like Ai-chan, Mikapon, Masae, and Satoda (with a surprising return from Atsuko Inaba too!).  Sadly the song wasn’t quite what I was hoping for line-wise.  Rika, Ai-chan, Masae, and Mai have singing lines while Gaki, Mikapon, and Atsuko were just the rappers of the song and that bothered me plenty (especially it wasn’t really rapping, more like just hype girls).  The tune itself isn’t so bad with it’s kind of Gomattou-kind of groove.  I think it was the worst of the 3 shuffle songs, but the song is still catchy on occasion.
  • SEXY NIGHT ~Wasurerarenai Kare~ – Into the ROMANS single, SEXY NIGHT definitely reminds me a LOT of “Kowarenai Ai go Hoshii no” but less dancey and kind of more sensual of an R&B song which was to give the tune a little more of a mature feel.  Though just like the aforementioned song, it does suffer a lot of the same fate too.  3 of the 5 members are actually singing here (Mari, Mai, and Rika).  While Hitomi & Coconuts Ayaka are the hype girls here but they have a bit more lines and spice.  It’s OK for the most part though and felt mature in a nice way.
  • Roman – As the B-side from the “SEXY NIGHT” single, Roman is surprisingly the opposite to what the A-side was like.  It’s more upbeat and cute but still somehow keeps its maturity at a higher level which is nice.  What’s so good is that Ayaka & Hitomi are singing with the group and everyone has a nice chunky amount of solos to each other.  It’s a different kind of tune not gonna lie and wasn’t expecting that after the sexiness of the A-side.
  • FIRST KISS – Hearing of what Aa! was consisted of I was thinking we were going to et something cute and genki from FIRST KISS, but I was wrong XD.  Though I wasn’t too mad.  I mean another urban-like R&B track is here but this time we have to super young members in Airi & Miyabi and newly added Momusu member, Reina.  I will say the roughness was there and maybe too early for everyone to pull off, but I can’t deny the effort was there especially with Airi who pulled off those high notes nicely enough as well as Reina.  Interesting song and surprised that Aa! never went further than this single.
  • Masayume – As the B-side to “FIRST KISS”, Masayume tones things down to a ballad and it’s funny because this tune gives me Tanpopo vibes of “Last Kiss” with its dreamy arrangement and slow pace.  Still, the vocals are kind of what preventing this to be a great song, but I can’t blame them from the timing and what not.  Reina and Airi have tons of potential though and Miyabi has a weird little lisp going but regardless the song is pleasant and good for a B-side.

MEH SONGS

  • Tabi no Yado – Melon Kinenbi return again for another track and sadly it kind of just doesn’t do anything for me.  It feels like a more forgettable mix of both “Hitoribocchi no Heya” and “22sai no Wakare”.  That same mid-tempo acoustic-centric pop feel here.  It just wasn’t all that great and felt bland!
  • Kokoro no Tabi – Same thing is definitely applied here for Kokoro no Tabi which is mostly a Yuko solo (but I think the other 2 Momusu members were in the background of the track.  Sadly, like “Tabi no Yado” the arrangement is kind of overly plain and just phases into white noise after a while.
  • Wakamono-tachi – Yeah, simple ballads like Wakamono-tachi just kind of drive me up the walls and this acoustic guitar/bongos mix just doesn’t quite cut it for me.  I mean I do appreciate that its Yuko and the Melons here, but I feel like they don’t vocally mix well and the song is just blah enough to make it worse.  Yeah, I’m not here for it.
  • Pineapple Paradise – While this technically released last year on the “Shinsaku Douyou Pop 1” album, for some reason DOLE used this song to promote their pineapples and was released as a singular single for some odd reason.  Sung by the two Coconuts Musume members, Aya Matsuura, and Mai Satoda, this song is just a bit too kiddy and short for me to really make an impression either, though I do like the tropical sound it has..  Just a funky rarity release here.
  • OH! BE MY FRIEND – So the shuffle single of course had a B-side to it, but unlike past ones, this actually had all the members involved singing together.  OH! BE MY FRIEND really has this kind of peppy, upbeat kind of tone like songs of a similar nature like “Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru” and “LALALA Shiawase no Uta” with the super girly and positive notes.  No solos though keeping it groupings of 4 (or 3) for most of the song.  It’s kind of too sugary for me, so I always tend to forget this song existed, but I mean it’s not too bad of a song, just not memorable to me.
  • WOW WOW WOW – Like I said above when talking about Petitmoni, they only released one song and it ended up being a track on Petit Best 4.  Considering this is the first (and only) original track that this 3rd Generation of Petitmoni had I was curious to hear how Yossie, Makochan, and Coconuts Ayaka sounded together and this song wasn’t a good choice for them.  The tune isn’t like other past Petitmoni songs sadly going for this crazy rockin’ track but it’s kind of repetitive and a lot of the time the trio are yelling so it’s kind of too much here.

ICKY SONGS

  • Shabodama (asia mix) – I really wish I knew why they had to take the already perfect Shabondama and just destroy it with a remix.  Like I’ll agree that it does sound more Asian versus its original angsty rockin’ sound, but just hearing it with the ferocious tones of the song just doesn’t work well…makes me just wanna delete this entirely.

Gains and Losses

Gains

  • Kaori Iida (soloist)
  • Natsumi Abe (soloist)
  • Miuna Saito
  • Asami Konno (to Country Musume)
  • Miki Fujimoto (to Country Musume & Morning Musume)
  • Reina Tanaka
  • Sayumi Michishige
  • Eri Kamei

Losses

  • Rika Ishikawa (from Country Musume)
  • Kei Yasuda (from Morning Musume)
  • Miki Fujimoto (as soloist)

My H!P Ranking for ’03

  • 45. Risako Sugaya
  • 44. Maasa Sudo 
  • 43. Chisato Okai 
  • 42. Mai Hagiwara
  • 41. Saki Nakajima
  • 40. Maiha Ishimura
  • 39. Yurina Kumai
  • 38. Chinami Tokunaga

(Pretty much these 8 didn’t do anything so they’re kind of all #38 to #45 with no order to them)

  • 37. Sayumi Michishige (NEW)
  • 36. Maimi Yajima (+2)
  • 35. Momoko Tsugunaga (+6)
  • 34. Nozomi Tsuji (-9)
  • 33. Asami Konno (-5)
  • 32. Miyabi Natsuyaki (+11)
  • 31. Risa Niigaki (-4)
  • 30. Saki Shimizu (+6)
  • 29. Rika Ishikawa (-10)
  • 28. Asami Kimura (-2)
  • 27. Erika Umeda (+6)
  • 26. Eri Kamei (NEW)
  • 25. Megumi Murata (-2)
  • 24. Reina Tanaka (NEW)
  • 23. Airi Suzuki (+9)
  • 22. Yuko Nakazawa (-1)
  • 21. Atsuko Inaba (0* she wasn’t on last years)
  • 20. Makoto Ogawa (-3)
  • 19. Miuna Saito (NEW)
  • 18. Megumi Murakami (+21)
  • 17. Hitomi Yoshizawa (+3)
  • 16. Mika Todd (-10)
  • 15. Ai Kago (-4)
  • 14. Ayumi Shibata (-5)
  • 13. Kei Yasuda (0)
  • 12. Ayaka Kimura (-2)
  • 11. Hitomi Saito (+1)
  • 10. Natsumi Abe (-2)
  • 9. Mai Satoda (+7)
  • 8. Maki Goto (-5)
  • 7. Masae Ohtani (0)
  • 6. Mari Yaguchi (-2)
  • 5. Kaori Iida (0)
  • 4. Aya Matsuura (-2)
  • 3. Ai Takahashi (+12)
  • 2. Yuki Maeda (+16)
  • 1. Miki Fujimoto (0)

I think I finally got through the busiest years in H!P, time to see what’s next in 2004!

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H!P Profiles: BEYOOOOONDS / CHICA#TETSU / Ame no Mori Kawa Umi

800px-BEYOOOOONDS_-_Megane_no_Otoko_no_Ko_promo

Back Row L to R: Kokoro Maeda, Utano Satoyoshi, Honoka Kobayashi, Minami Okamura, Saya Eguchi, Reina Ichioka
Front Row L to R: Momohime Kiyono, Miyo Hirai, Shiori Nishida, Yuhane Yamazaki, Rika Shimakura, Kurumi Takase

CHICATETSU_2018

CHICA#TETSU L to R: Saya Eguchi, Shiori Nishida, Rika Shimakura, Reina Ichioka

RFRO_2018

Ame no Mori Kawa Umi L to R: Kokoro Maeda, Momohime Kiyono, Kurumi Takase, Yuhane Yamazaki, Minami Okamura

Back in 2017, an announcement was made originally that Reina Ichioka was going to debut with 2 other KSS members (and 2 Country Girls members were being moved to other groups) but of those 5 Ichioka chose to debut in a new group, but was also announced that Takase and Kiyono were to debut with a focus on stageplays, later on pulled back to being a full group as well

Dive into 2018 where things start to move forward and more members were added and later was explained that the two units to be called CHICA#TETSU & Ame no Mori Kawa Unit, but in the same announcement came the formation of BEYOOOOONDS which would be the combination of both groups and winners of the ONLY YOU audition that was running during the time

Towards the end of 2018, Kobayashi, Satoyoshi, and Hirai were added, but just to BEYOOOOONDS and not into the other units.

August of 2019 is when BEYOOOOONDS finally debuted in H!P (well, I guess the two smaller units too, but they were clearly not the focus).

Style of Music: Not much currently can be said about BEYOOOOONDS’ style of music because right now it’s their first year, but going by the single, it feels like a story with most of the music the music itself is pretty much EDM or Rock-centric

CHICA#TETSU concept is more dance-ish while Ame no Mori Kawa Umi has a more theatric vibe (though from their singular tracks), C#T is more cutesy while RFRO is more of the cooler rockin’ group.

DISCOGRAPHY

SINGLES

  • Megane no Otoko no Ko / Nippon no D・N・A! / Go Waist

ALBUMS

  • BEYOOOOOND1St

Ahhh their first ever song!  It’s a really cool song and Megane no Otoko no Ko shows more of the story-driven songs they have!

Overall: It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a new group in H!P not since 2016’s Tsubaki Factory.  Granted they sure took their sweet ass time getting the group going and dragging their feet to complete the group…it does make Hirai, Satoyoshi, and Kobayashi feel a bit odd as they don’t have a “sub-unit” to belong to.  Though I am very excited to see where this goes because a lot of the KSS involved are pretty strong and the 3 audition winners seem to have tons of potential too!  Let’s see where it goes!

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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!

Hashisako_Rin_2018

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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behappyalloftanpopo

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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