Welcome back! We finally hit the new millenium and so many things happened after the shocking popularity that came from both Momusu’s “LOVE Machine” and Petitmoni’s “Chokotto LOVE”. Though a lot of things happened last year, it surely didn’t beat 2000 and its many changes (in sound and looks) so let’s dive right in!
After the explosion of popularity from LOVE Machine, many were curious to what Morning Musume were going towards for the new millenium as it meant a new start (on top of Aya Ishiguro‘s graduation at the beginning of January).
After Ayappe’s graduation they released a single in Koi no Dance Site before they were mixed and matched with various other H!P members for the first time in the annual shuffle units. Then they released their 3rd album, 3rd -LOVE Paradise-
Before April, the group were holding auditions for a new generation and the outcome was four winners in Rika Ishikawa, Ai Kago, Nozomi Tsuji, and Hitomi Yoshizawa as the 4th Generation and promptly debuted with the group’s next single, Happy Summer Wedding. Though quite shortly after (4 days) the single’s release, Sayaka Ichii announced that she was leaving the group to be a singer/songwriter. On top of the group (and other H!P members) being involved in a movie called, Pinch Runner.
Rest of the year ran a bit more smoothly with two singles in I WISH & Renai Revolution 21. Though they released two more albums; a best album only sold through their Hawaii fanclub store and the other…a bizarre wake-up call release (no music >.>).
- Koi no Dance Site – So how do you follow-up something like “LOVE Machine”? Well, it seems the answer to that is Koi no Dance Site which became the group’s highest selling single in a week through ORICON. It’s awesome to see why because while the aforementioned song changed the dynamic of the group to something more idol-like, Koi no Dance Site went a little more international by having a little more of an Indian flair to it. Add in all the exciting shouting and whistles (which were done by the girls themselves) and you have this exciting track and left us with a SEXY BEAAAAAAAAAM!~
- Aisha Loan de – I’m not sure what theming there was to the album, but after “LOVE Machine” the first new track has a bit of a nod to The Knacks’, “My Sharona”. I do love that the song is poppy, but has guitars and drums. There’s just something about this song in particular that really popped out at me from this album and maybe it’s that heavy 90’s pop feel?
- DANCE Suru no da! – If there was a song to stick to Momusu’s idol feel, I think DANCE Suru no da! would be a great representative as it’s funky, a little bit disco-y, and just such a fun, upbeat track. I do wish there was more solos, but what we got is passable and I just found myself dancing along. Also, along with “Aisha Loan de”, there were PVs for both, but they appeared after 4th Gen joined and Sayaka left.
- Omoide – It feels like it’s been quite a while since Momusu went for something R&B and Omoide fills in the space after the rush of idol pop came in. The song itself is just covered in solos and I’m loving Sayaka for some reason the most here. It’s just a really smooth and good track!
- I WISH – At least the 2nd single to include 4th Gen actually felt like an introductory piece for them! I really do like the innocent, yet upbeat sound of it and really showed off some nice melodies within the members. Then again, there was a whole LOT of Gocchin to be had. Still, it is a pretty great song and fan favorite for a perfectly good reason!
- Renai Revolution 21 – Ending the year, Renai Revolution 21 showed a nicer group performance! I’m loving the funk/disco arrangement and the whole ~chou chou chou ii kanji~ line is humorously amazing. This is another huge song for the group and I can’t blame them since it’s so catchy and the space theme has been working for them!
- WHY – Taking after when Taiyou to Ciscomoon did “Chinmoku”, WHY is another song that while sounds simple is actually quite difficult. This song and the aforementioned track share this syllable gimmick where each member sings a syllable throughout the entire track so the intricacies are there. The song is a bit slower (as expected), but I do like the dreamscape-y feel I get.
- Happy Summer Wedding – For such an A-side to be both a debut for a generation and a graduation single, Happy Summer Wedding is kind of a track that’s actually surprisingly one of the weaker A-sides they’ve had (IMO). I mean yay, Aibon, Yossie, Rika, and Tsuji debuted here, but they had little appearance (like with 2nd Gen when they debuted). Even Sayaka had very little fanfare as the lead here was actually Yuko (who ironically is the only member in that age range at that time to be talking about weddings >.>). Oh yeah 2nd A-side in a row to have an Indian twist? C’mon…
- Inspiration! – Maybe it’s the Indian thing that’s getting me all bored, but at least this strays away after the intro to something more discotheque. As the B-side from “Renai Revolution 21”, Inspiration! is more funky especially in the verses whereas its chorus is a bit more poppy. Either way, I really do like hearing the new members coming into their own. Pretty decent song I’d say!
- Koi wa Rock n’ Roll – So the B-side of their best selling single to me just comes off strange and kind of out of nowhere for the group. Compared to the exciting and wild A-side, Koi wa Rock n’ Roll is a bit more chilled out, but for some reason strange due to the lighter vocals and random tempo changes (when the prechorus is faster than the chorus, it’s a bit jarring).
- Koi no Dance Site (Groove That Soul Remix) – So Koi no Dance Site, like “LOVE Machine was released with a vinyl that included 3 remixes! The first sadly didn’t resonate with me primarily because of its 8 minute length. Though the arrangement sounds more fitting for a group like Taiyou to Ciscomoon to be quite honest.
- Koi no Dance Site (M.I.D. KH-R CLUB MIX) – The second of those remixes took more of a sort of Eurobeat style this time and I felt like this one was a little too busy in arrangement and the song (and melody) feels almost drowned out. Just was forgettable.
- ~Ohayou~ – The opening to their 3rd album kicks out with a bit of a poem to some flowery, nature-loving music. The arrangement is pretty and the reading of lines is nice, but I suppose not being totally tied-in to the language, it seems weird that a poem opens up an album?
- Kuchizuke no Sono Ato – After having a couple songs from “Second Morning” to listen to prior to this album, it was the FIRST thing I thought of when I took a listen to Kuchizuke no Sono Ato. Something about that relaxing pop track with focus on acoustic guitar just bores me and since we’ve ran into this a couple times already, I’m ready to press next! Though the bridge stuck out to me the most, ironically enough.
- Lunchtime ~Rebanira Itame~ – Probably one of the weirdest (and still is to this day) interlude for an album, we have Lunchtime. While the story behind is cute and it’s quirky and absurd, having it as an interlude is a little bit strange (especially after “Koi no Dance Site”). Strange, but has its moments.
- Harajuku 6:00 Shuugou – I wasn’t sure what was going on with the opening dialogue of this album song. It sounded like a discussion between guys and girls amongst warfare noises? I’m not sure, but after that the song kind of turns into this peppy samba-esque track? I don’t know what’s up with the tune, but I’m not really into it!
- “,,,Suki da yo!” – I hate to say it, but this song could’ve had the potential to be an amazing track, but just whoever did the mastering screwed up! What I could grasp is that it would’ve been a great party track with horns and all the glitter, however the music is sooo diluted and sounds quite unfinished (no bass really).
- ~Oyasumi~ – So like the opening, we have a spoken epilogue that closes things out in a similar fashion with a guy telling the ladies to sleep and they say goodnight. Nothing too much to note, even the music in the background is not even that important.
- Tsuugaku Ressha – I’m not sure why I confuse this with “Koi no Shihatsu Ressha” but here’s the B-side to “Happy Summer Wedding” and I was not surprised that 4th Gen was omitted here (not sure the reasoning why, but hey). The tune is definitely playing up some 90’s R&B (almost like Janet Jackson for a second with the beat and bubble popping). I do like that all 7 members get solo, but it is missing something great and feels a bit generic.
- Akogare My Boy – As the B-side of “I WISH”, I was hoping for more 4th Gen appearance and it happened which I’m grateful for, but this song wasn’t a good one for me. Mostly due to the mechanical performance and one again like “Koi wa Rock ‘n Roll”, the tempo gets thrown off in various places which makes things difficult. Mostly it’s the robotic singing that took me out.
- Koi no Dance Site (PANDART SASANOOOHA Remix) – The last of the remixes from their “Koi no Dance Site” single, I’ve actually come across this name before when they did remixes for Ayumi Hamasaki. Just by going by the name, this remix has a much more heavier Indian sound that the original arrangement alone! It does take a while for the song to kick in and by then the timpanis get annoying and the extra sounds just ruin the rest of the track…Just not good…
OVERALL: I would say that Momusu had a pretty busy year and the new members are sounding nice currently. I wasn’t too phased about Sayaka leaving the group as she wasn’t exactly a front member like Nacchi, Gocchin, or even Marippe. Still releases this year were pretty good, albeit I will never understand the “Wake Up Call” album and what use it has being in their discography.
So unlike last year where Michiyo ended up releasing only two singles and just kind of overall was quiet, it feels like she had more of a presence this year! She actually was a part of the shuffle units at the beginning of the year before releasing her next two singles; One Room Natsu no Koi Monogatari & Ai no Chikara.
Then she released her first best album, For ourself -Single History- and so ended her 2000!
- One Room Natsu no Koi Monogatari – As the first A-side of the year, I have to say that I was surprised that she was changing sounds moving away from her pop/rock beginnings and taking up more of what Tsunku was throwing out there. I enjoy the sound of it, giving it a more brassy disco vibe to it. While I still don’t think Michiyo vocally stood out, the song is having her catch up to other H!P acts!
- Ai no Chikara – It just seems Michiyo is going through a weird transitioning period with dealing with her music and direction. I do think R&B suits Michiyo as seen with this song and I enjoyed that she sounded more into it than she did with her single before this. I could deal with less CASIO synths, but this is a decent track!
- myself – Originally a song meant to be on “scene” but ended up being the lone new track on her best album myself is actually a decent track and enjoying the pop/rock vibes here before she ended up taking in R&B/Pop songs. My only qualm though is that the arranging is a bit too loud and I have problems hearing what Michiyo is singing. Otherwise, I liked it a lot!
- Suteki na Koi Suteki na Yoru – As the B-side from “One Room”, Suteki na Koi feels like a tiring song to get to. I mean, its mid-tempo sound isn’t what totally brought me down but it was more of the lack of conviction I had listening to Michiyo in the track. It sounds familiar though (well the melody does at least). Not really a memorable track.
- Tokai no Yoru – Why does this sound like something I would hear later from H!P? It sounds like an arrangement that Miki Fujimoto, Aya Matsuura, or even Maki Goto would’ve used somewhere in their discography. Sadly, just like the above track, it’s a bit slow for my tastes and the feeling is just as not there as well. Pretty meh…
- Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM~Michiyo Heike Version – The other track that was exclusive to the best album was a self-cover of Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM in which she was a part of that shuffle group. Though besides the song now sung entirely by Michiyo, they added some unnecessary things like some kind of Tsunku-isms and MCs. It does sound like she is struggling a little with this one…yeah, it’s really not meant to be sung solo IMO…
OVERALL: Even though she did release more than she did last year, I think she kind of dropped the ball by changing her direction of music (partly due to Tsunku taking over from Hatake). Add on that best album and I’m wondering why a release only after one album? Weird year to say the least for Michiyo.
Just like last year, Yuko didn’t seem to really pay much attention to her solo side of her career only releasing one single (again) in July with Shanghai no Kaze.
- Ame yo – Surprisingly enough that the better song was its B-side! At first listen, it did rather remind me of Tanpopo’s “Last Kiss” with that whispy mysterious feel to it. I still do end up thinking it feels more like a song from the 90s and I appreciate that and Yuko sounds really dreamy!
- Shanghai no Kaze – Listening to Shanghai no Kaze, it really did give off a bit of a Chinese vibe but still retaining that slight Enka vibe, but you can also notice that Yuko isn’t quite as obvious with having so much vibrato so it kind of feels like a proper ballad, just with some erhu. It might not be the standout release in H!P, but it’s a pleasant tune overall!
OVERALL: Like I said last year, it feels like Yuko was more focused on Momusu and it seems she had taken that approach once again a year later. Though I will say her lone single was a lot better than “Junjou Koushinkyoku” was.
So with Ayappe graduating, the future for the group was put on hold for quite a while (and while they finished promoting “Seinaru Kane ga Hibiki Yoru” too). Though surprisingly enough they were revitalized in July when new Momusu members; Ai Kago & Rika Ishikawa were chosen to join the group making them a 4-nin and with that released a new single with the new lineup, Otome Pasta ni Kandou and that was really it for the year!
- Otome Pasta ni Kandou – I guess Tanpopo was also another act that ended up moving in a different diretion. Instead of keeping a more mature and serious sound that the original trio had, the 4-nin’s first single was actually quite a bit cute. Something about the song reminded of motown music and at the same time keeping up with such an adorable feel. A really pleasant track and I liked that Aibon and Rika was able to get some push outside of Momusu!
- Watashi no Kao – Then we have the B-side which did bring back more of the mature side which was quite nice and it was another ballad for the group. I was surprised that there was as much Kago as there was and she sounded surprisingly good (future endeavors seem to lower it a little bit). Definitely feels like a good ballad for the group and was a worthy B-side!
OVERALL: With Ayappe leaving H!P, I felt like her voice was going to be missed primarily from the fans that were into Tanpopo. It was surprising to see them being invigorated by adding Rika and Aibon, but did the music have to change too?
Taiyou to Ciscomoon / T&C Bomber
When we left off the group, they had just lost Miwa and we got a rather sad finish for the year. Though in a twist of fate for some reason, in January it was announced that Miwa was actually returning to the group, but the group’s name was also changed to T&C Bomber but there really wasn’t a true reason as to why it happened though. Of course things started out with the shuffle units (the first thing Miwa did after returning) before releasing their first single under the new name, DON’T STOP Renaichuu in April and another; HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou in July.
Sadly in August on ASAYAN, the group announced that they would be disbanding at the end of the year to focus on solo activities and would release their final album, 2nd STAGE and then promptly disband after a final tour at the end of the year. (well, Miwa and RuRu would go on to having solo careers outside of H!P and Atsuko would open an audition to make a new group within the company. Miho though just dropped out of the spotlight, but has been doing choreo for groups these days.
(Marui Taiyou (4-nin) will be found in the other releases as it was first released on the Petit Best)
- DON’T STOP Renaichuu – Was this a rejected Coconuts song? Because honestly, DON’T STOP Renaichuu has that tropical sound down pat for this one, luckily it is with better vocalists this time around. It just suits the quartet so nicely and I really liked RuRu in this one as she sung in a lighter environment. Though the other 3 managed to soothe my ears as well (Miwa maybe a little less, but she sounded like she got better at singing in her brief hiatus). Overall a pretty catchy and lighthearted song for an A-side that really sounded nice!
- HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou – As the group’s final A-side, HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou took the group to a different level of sound by being more ethnic and danceable by taking the kind of Indian touch (like “Koi no Dance Site” and “Happy Summer Wedding” did for Momusu. This track though was full of sass and power and I really loved that T&C were able to leave us with this one more badass track before disbandment.
- Be My LOVE – As we get into their songs from their last album, Be My LOVE is actually a pretty cool song even though it wasn’t the album’s intro song, but it took over well after “HEY! Mahiru no Shinkirou”. I like the poppy vibes it has and while the Tsunku rap was a bit out of place, it’s a song that I normally come back to.
- Kawaii Hito – There’s just something about this kind of Mediterranean sounding arrangement that pulls you into a lull. At least the arrangement is just pleasant, though I think the whispy vocals from all the members was a bit intrusive. I’m not sure if Miwa and Miho are suited very well for that kind of situation, but I will say it was better than the other B-side of the year.
- Ai no Kaisuu – 4 of the tracks of “2nd STAGE” were actually solos for the members. Ai no Kaisuu was Atsuko’s track and it’s no surprise the track is more R&B tinted and suited for Atsuko’s vocals. Overall it’s a decent track, if not a little safe…it does remind me slightly of “Everyday Everywhere” though…
- Aisuru Hito e – Next up is RuRu’s solo track and while it’s a step up from Atsuko’s track, it still doesn’t quite reach to greatness as the arrangement is still kind of plain. At least I approve of RuRu’s vocals being rather stellar and the chorus stuck out a lot to me.
- Office Love – Last, but not least, we have Miho’s solo which is funny enough the slowest of the four. I could use less MC (actually a lot of T&C songs could’ve used less to be quite honest haha. It’s a pretty standard mid-tempo R&B track and while Miho isn’t my favorite voice either, the song worked well with her.
- YES! Shiawase – Like I said above, Tsunku could be used less in this song. As the final track off their album, YES! Shiawase is a bit brighter than previous songs they’ve had, almost harking back to their first album, closest to something like “Magic of Love”. Take out the rap sections and the song is a LOT better. Interesting way to end the album and sadly their career as a group.
- Go Go Tokyo – Initially, I actually liked the opening with the staccato lines and the whole surfer pop sound it was going for, but once the actual song kicked in, I was a bit shocked at how idol-ly it sounded for the group. There was a lot of Miwa (probably celebrating her return and all), but this wasn’t the song for her…vocally was a bit unpleasant at points and the music was uninteresting after a while.
- Mata Yacchatta ~Shibuya de ALL no Hi~ – Probably my least favorite of the 4 solo tracks, Miwa’s song is a bit weird to me. I can tell it’s trying to be playful and cute and I will say Miwa has definitely improved vocally. The song itself though sounds a bit like last minute made and on top of that, the arrangement has some weird things going on, though the muted trumpet is cute. Overall, it just didn’t work for me.
OVERALL: I’m still pretty sad that T&C Bomber would disband at the end of 2000 because they were patching up what was missing (Miwa primarily) and were getting some pretty awesome A-sides. While I’m not entirely sure why the break-up happened, it still was sad to see the best vocalists H!P had to offer bid adieu…
After a rather nice debut and second single, it was a little bit not of a surprise that Coconuts begun the year with some surprising news that Chelsea Ching and April Barbaran had announced they’d be leaving the group (ultimately what most fans would call having homesickness and having a hard time fitting in the Japanese culture (plus they barely spoke the language).
Though in the same month they held auditions once again in Hawaii and came up with one winner in Lehua Sandbo and she debuted in the shuffle groups before debuting within her group in May titled, Tokonatsu Musume. Then came a special single released for the fanclub in Hawaii simply titled The Single (which was 3 songs they’ve released already). The group then released their next single in July, Watashi mo “I LOVE YOU” before the group once again lost another member in Danielle Delauney in October due to a mix of why April & Chelsea left and an injury she sustained beforehand and the group just continued on for the rest of the year.
- Watashi mo “I LOVE YOU” – The second A-side the group released was still more of the cutesy side of Coconuts, but at least it felt like it was handled a lot better than what “Tokonatsu Musume” did. I’m not quite sure what genre this would fit, but definitely gives me a quickstep kind of vibe. I do think Lehua stood out the most from the song strangely enough, but I still love Ayaka, Mika, and Danielle moreso. It’s a perky and silly song and I enjoyed that a lot from this song!
- Tokonatsu Musume – After the first two singles being a little more catered to the more mature crowd, I was surprised they hammed it up on their 3rd A-side! Being the debut single for Lehua and first without April & Chelsea, I wasn’t sure what to think about it really because it was upbeat and cute for the group. I do think Lehua’s voice was a bit more unfitting to the genre than I thought (Danielle too), it was a pretty cute song I guess.
- Watashi mo “I LOVE YOU” (Samba de CoCo Remix) – Funny enough, the remix for the 2nd single wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it’d be. It’s definitely stylized as a Samba song with the rhythm and background whistles and fun vibe. Not sure if I totally agree with dialing down the girls and slapping some echo filter on them, but the remix is pretty decent!
- Tokonatsu Musume (Reggae Version) – You would thing that because the group has a tropical feel to them that a Reggae version of the leading track would be great, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Something about this remix is just lacking every place and the Jamaican rapper is more than annoying. It’s just missing a beat too, it feels lacking to say the least…
OVERALL: Maybe it was just from the shtick that was formed, but I wasn’t surprised that April, Chelsea (and later on Danielle) would leave due to them missing home and it was pretty quick how they came and left too. Though I was happy they tried to bring the group back by adding Lehua so I’ll be following them and see what happens next!
After the rather tragic beginnings of the group, Country Musume decided to walk forward and see where things would go with just Rinne at the helm. She begun the year in April with the 3rd indies single, Hokkaido Shalala.
Before the release though was an audition, but that came up empty. They tried it again after the release and a new member, Asami Kimura had joined (she was a worker at the farm where the original trio had their training at) and released their 4th indies single, Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu (which was also the theme for their movie!).
However, the group held 2 more auditions which both failed and at the end of the year a surprise was that the group would be going major!
- Aa Koishikute – I have to say, the B-side from “Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu” really popped out for me for some strange reason. It’s not much different sounding from the A-side, but the minimalistic arrangement and strong melodies between the duo was dreamy and pleasant and not a mess! Really pretty ballad from the duo.
- Hokkaido Shalala – Being the 2nd single with just Rinne by herself, Hokkaido Shalala is a little more upbeat than I expected, but I really like this idea that Rinne is playing the acoustic guitar. It definitely reminds me of something from Momusu’s first album due to the 90s pop feel it has. It definitely was a better representation of Rinne’s growth as a singer!
- Hokkaido Shalala (Coupling Version) – Not exactly sure what was the reasoning for including another take of the song, but the coupling version has a different intro and the song itself is a little faster than the single cut. I actually might prefer this over it just because it’s a smidge faster and you can hear Rinne’s vocals a little better.
- Koi ga Suteki na Kisetsu – As the debut for Asami happened, I was interested to see how she’d fit next to Rinne and she was already pushing better as a vocalist, Kimura sounded green and a bit unexperienced. The song itself is more or less what we’ve been getting since Rinne took solo. It’s an alright song, but nothing quite stand-out.
OVERALL: After 1999, I felt bad for Rinne having to continue on, but she was able to put out pretty good songs even after the addition of Asami. With the annoucement of the duo going major and given to Tsunku, I wonder what magic he has in store for them!
Chinatsu had a pretty short year releasing what would be her final single, Anata no Shirts to Love song in May and then announced she’d be leaving the company in September due to monetary issues within the company. Though she like a couple other artists had also taken part in the Garage series (she appears in the 4th volume).
- JOY! JOY! JOY! – At least the single wasn’t entirely a ballad-central. The B-sides was poppy and upbeat and once again the 90’s vibe is even more apparant in the song. At least Chinatsu sounds more lively and decent, it’s just sad that she didn’t get to perform this before she left H!P. One of the more great early H!P songs IMHO and is seriously underrated!
- Anata no Shirts to Love song – As Chinatsu’s final single, Anata no Shirts to Love song wasn’t quite as upbeat as previous singles and I kind of liked that a lot. Due to this being produed by Kaoru Sanada though, it felt like she was being held back as the sound and arrangement was starting to sound HEAVILY dated. I do enjoy the song though and while it tends to drag after a while, it’s a fuzzy good kind of dragging.
OVERALL: It’s pretty sad to see Chinatsu leaving the company (without an album, mind you) so her discography is pretty small in comparison to many other groups. While she was the only artist produced by Sanada, I’m also kind of glad we didn’t get anymore of this CASIO-heavy 90’s pop.
Despite the fact that “Chokotto LOVE” was HUGE and the sales were off the charts, Petitmoni was quite in the dark for the first half of the year, mostly due to Sayaka also leaving H!P during the first quarter of the year.
Though when Tanpopo was revitalized after Ayappe left, Petitmoni was also brought back with a new member from the new 4th Gen of Momusu, Hitomi Yoshizawa, and released their first single together, Seishun Jidai 1.2.3! / Bicycle Daiseikou!.
- Seishun Jidai 1.2.3! – I feel like Petitmoni didn’t quite have a set genre or style to their music, even after Sayaka left the group (as they only had 2 songs in their repetoire) so when I first heard the kind of underground jazzy riff mixed in with some rapping courtesy from Gocchin, I was a bit perplexed and confused by it. There wasn’t a whole lot of Kei-chan or Yossie (enough to get by, but Maki was definitely still a good portion). I do love the string bass and urban sound, but for some reason, this song doesn’t stick with me very long.
- Bicycle Daiseikou! – Not sure why this was considered an A-side (with no PV, mind you), but this was a weird song for so many reasons, primarily due to the fact that it sounds way too childish for Petitmoni (even though it does widen their spectrum). Not a lot of solos to be had and the trio are rather meh and then random spots of jazz-like sections as well. It’s a VERY weird song and one that I ended up disliking after a while.
OVERALL: Even though they took a while before the trio released a new single, Petitmoni’s change in its lineup was surprising to say the least and while I have high hopes, I feel like their lone single dropped the ball as neither song really popped out at me. Here’s hoping they come back strong next year.
So to go back to the previous year, auditions were held to have proteges for Momusu and Michiyo and winners were found around August and included Ayumi Shibata, Masae Ohtani, Hitomi Saito and leader Megumi Murata. The group would go silent until the unit’s name, Melon Kinenbi was announced in December.
So the group began their 2000 with their debut single Amai Anata no Aji in February and a second, Kokuhaku Kinenbi in June and then kind of disappeared for the rest of the year.
- Amai Anata no Aji – I was pretty surprised the Melon’s would actually debut with more of a mature track in comparison to most of H!P at the time. As a song, this has a whole lot of Masae here and while you can tell all four members sounded somewhat green. Still, the song itself is pretty interesting with its arrangement/direction and and even though the chorus is pretty repetitive, I actually dug it, but definitely not one of their bests.
- Fuwafuwafuu – I wasn’t expecting Melon Kinenbi to pull off a more mature and sexy kind of song in Fuwafuwafuu, but I’m really loving this bossa nova vibe in the arrangement and with the song almost split in half like Ayumi/Masae & Megumi/Hitomi. It’s a chill song and a total surprise for me!
- Kokuhaku Kinenbi – As the group’s 2nd A-side, Kokuhaku Kinenbi took the group into a bit more of a happier route and I loved the intro and then turns into more of cute song like what “Skip!” was trying to be but failed. I also like that it sounded like some of the disco songs during this time period. Decent follow-up I’d say.
- Skip! – As the quartet’s first B-side, I wasn’t sure what was coming from a title, but I was definitely less impressed with this in comparison to “Amai Anata no Aji”. The entire song is sung in unison (and sadly messy unison at that) and the only solo line is from Masae. The arrangement is upbeat but nothing that totally stands out to me…eh…
OVERALL: As the newest group, Melon Kinenbi to me sounds like they had a rocky start and wasn’t sure what to do with them, just from hearing all 4 of these songs. While my thoughts aren’t totally on the positive side, they have a LOT of potential!
So in April just out of the blue on an episode of ASAYAN, Momusu member Iida announced that there was a new soloist joining and her debut single was like a week and a half a way. So we got our introduction to Yuki Maeda as the new enka artist (good timing since Yuko was starting to move further away from the genre). She released Naki Usagi and that was pretty much it beside replacing Danielle in Akagumi 4 when she left H!P.
- Honki de Shikatte – The B-side of the single actually worked a bit better as it showed off even more of Yuki’s vocals and she has a lot more control and beauty behind it! I actually also loved the arrangement a bit more than “Naki Usagi’s” to be quite honest! It’s one of the more surprising songs to come from H!P in 2000.
- Naki Usagi – For being the newest soloist for H!P, I wasn’t expecting her vocals to be on point as it was in her debut, Naki Usagi. There’s something about Yukidon’s voice that really stuck out (maybe even more than Yuko’s did). While I feel like this song is more kayoukyoku than enka itself, it’s pretty catchy and bright.
OVERALL: As someone that just kind of came out of nowhere to be added to H!P, Yuki managed to impress with her debut single with a lovely voice and strong control and a great addition to the company! I was a bit bummed that it was her only release and just performed the remainder of the year…
So during May, they held their 4th Michiyo Heike & Momusu protege auditions and it actually had 3 winners in Ami Kitagami, Aya Matsuura, and Ibuki Oki. Though the decision was made that Ami & Ibuki would be made into a duo unit while Aya would work on becoming a soloist. The duo was named Sheki-dol and in preparation, they started to perform at H!P concerts until November when they released their first indies single, Kokoro no Pheromone and so ended their 2000.
- Datte Datte – The B-side wasn’t much better than the leading song, but I do think vocally they put a little more effort in working on their melodies together. Yeah, once again no solos. Still the arrangement was done better and the performance was a bit more together.
- Kokoro no Pheromone – Being the duo’s debut song, I was surprised that I wasn’t totally into it though I wasn’t expecting the sound to be more like rock n’ roll like some of Michiyo’s early releases! Sadly, there wasn’t solo lines so I couldn’t tell the different between Ami or Ibuki…
OVERALL: I’m really not sure what to think of Sheki-dol at the moment because despite them being winners of the same audition that Melon Kinenbi just won earlier in the year, they don’t seem to quite stand out like they did. Their lone single really didn’t do much to give them a way to stand out, but I’m hoping they come into their own next year.
So towards the end of the year, Mari Yaguchi had asked Tsunku to make a group of members that were shorter than 4 ft. 11 in. So that ended with a group initially made of herself, and 4th Gen members Nozomi Tsuji & Ai Kago. They started to perform, but at the end of the year found their 4th member in Mika Todd from Coconuts Musume. Even though they haven’t debuted yet, it was sure they will in the new year!
Other H!P Releases
Starting back last year, The Garage series had continued on this year with 2 more editions, but the series had ended and while 3 & 4 added Chinatsu to the list of H!P ladies involved. (Once again, it isn’t a full H!P release so I won’t be covering).
So in a grand surprise and shock to fans, Tsunku announced shuffle units to kind of have a bit of a competition to see who can sell the most of their singles. Of course not every H!P member was involved (Melon Kinenbi were still too new and Country Musume & Chinatsu Miyoshi were produced by someone other than Tsunku so they were left out too).
- Akagumi 4 – (Yuko Nakazawa, Miho Shinoda, Danielle Delauney, Maki Goto) – The first was the red quartet of Yuko, Miho, Danielle, and Maki and they were actually given the upbeat ballad, Akai Nikkichou.
- Kiiro 5 – (Natsumi Abe, Michiyo Heike, Kei Yasuda, RuRu Honda, Ayaka Kimura) – Then we have the yellow group that sung they upbeat funk song, Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM
- Aoiro 7 – (Kaori Iida, Sayaka Ichii, Mari Yaguchi, Atsuko Inaba, Miwa Kominato, Mika Todd, Lehua Sandbo) – The last and final blue group was given the pop/rock track, Aoi Sports Car to Otoko. (NOTE: This was also the debut for Lehua and the return of Miwa).
This was followed up a month later by Petit Best ~Ki Ao Aka~ which was the beginning of a yearly compilation of some of the more memorable songs (though this was the only in the series that was released early in the year so it has a lot of stuff from 1999 up to the shuffle units that had just happened (and rarities).
Last, but not least, there was an OST for the H!P movie, Pinch Runner (NOTE: which for this post I will only put down the two remixes because the remainder of the OST is instrumentals, a Sharam Q song, and a Stardust Revue song).
- Akai Nikkichou – It’s no surprise that due to Gocchin’s sheer popularity, Akai Nikkichou won with the most sold. I really do love that Danielle had the opening dialogue in the track (and she was rather the best performer in the track even if Maki had about like 80% of the song to herself (which was my only qualm as she was pretty weak, but to be fair she was struggling with the emotion. Still, it’s a pretty amazing song and later on in the future, this would be an amazing track to return to!
- Kiiroi Osora de BOOM BOOM BOOM – As Kiiro 5’s song, I actually quite liked this one too even though I feel like the 5 chosen could’ve powered this song a bit more because it has some of H!P’s best vocalists involved and it didn’t seem like things were 100%. Still, the song is pretty exciting and I really like the disco arrangement and the beat was infectious!
- Aoi Sports Car no Otoko – Yeah! I really liked all of the shuffle songs!! Aoiro 7 surprised because it was more of Sayaka’s big lead and honestly she totally owned this song, but that’s not to say that the other 6 girls were bad. I do like how loud and wild it gets and there’s some interesting parts like Lehua’s first line and Miwa’s werid minyo-laced line. It’s a crowd pumper and I love that a LOT!
- Toumorokoshi to Sora to Kaze – I was pretty surprised that Nacchi got a full solo track on the Petit Best and it was due to this track being a CM song. As a song though, it definitely is reminding me of something in the 70s with the guitar flickering and overall poppy sound. I do chuckle at the low voice saying ~toumorokoshi~…it’s odd. I like that Nacchi did a track by herself and she sounds great!
- Marui Taiyou (4-nin Ver.) – So hearing Marui Taiyou wasn’t going to change much because the arrangement had remained the same, but the sheer difference is that Miwa is actually back as she was gone from the group when this A-side came out originally. Still with Miwa is back, the song is still sung in unison so it really didn’t matter in the end…just an ok track.
- Omoide (BEAT WAVE SPIRAL MIX) – It feels like Pinch Runner’s remixes were very off the wall and really wanted to change the songs around. With Omoide, the song is now sounding pretty eurobeat, but it does work in a weird way. I like the build-up from the verses, but the volume of the girls could’ve been raised as I felt the music was covering them a little bit.
- “Yamucharou CM Song” – Snuck away as a hidden track after the end of “Hello! no Theme (16-nin version), we have this really short track that was used in a CM. As it’s Momusu, the track is lively and ubpeat and a tad silly with banjo involved too! Sadly, due to its reason of being and the short time length, it’s pretty repetitive and tries to be catchy but it doesn’t work.
- Hello! no Theme (Akagumi 4 version, Kiiro 5 version, Aoiro 7 version, 16-nin version) – This isn’t the fault of the girls, but I just loathe this song so much! I know this song was the theme song for their show, Hello! Morning and all, but this song is just WAY TOO repetitive and them saying the word hello is just ridiculous! Doesn’t help that there’s 4 versions of the song (one on each of the shuffle unit singles and a version from Petit Best that included everyone). It’s just not a song for me, but I suppose it has longevity and importance.
- DANCE Suru no da! (MASTERS OF FUNK Flavor Remix) – So Pinch Runner’s OST included two exclusive remixes of songs from their 3rd album and first is DANCE Suru no da! was straight up ruined by the remix. It felt like an entirely different track because most of it just rapping and totally erases a lot of the original song. Once Momusu starts to sing, the vocal melody doesn’t suit the urban sound very much…this was a BAD remix IMHO.
Gains and Losses
- Masae Ohtani
- Ayumi Shibata
- Megumi Murata
- Hitomi Saito
- Miwa Kominato (returned)
- Lehua Sandbo
- Yuki Maeda
- Rika Ishikawa
- Hitomi Yoshizawa
- Ai Kago
- Nozomi Tsuji
- Asami Kimura
- Ami Kitagami
- Ibuki Oki
- Aya Matsuura
- Aya Ishiguro
- Chelsea Ching
- April Barbaran
- Sayaka Ichii
- Chinatsu Miyoshi
- Danielle Delauney
- Miho Shinoda
- RuRu Honda
- Miwa Kominato
My H!P Ranking for ’00
- 34. April Barbaran (-13)
- 33. Chelsea Ching (-17)
- 32. Aya Ishiguro (-30)
- 31. Aya Matsuura (NEW)
Most of the ladies that are in the back are due to the fact they left H!P in the first month of the year. I put April and Chelsea in the back because for better or worse they really left no legacy behind. In the case of Ayappe she had left with both Momusu and Tanpopo under her resume so she left with more stuff that she’s remembered for. Aya hasn’t debuted yet, but congrats on winning the audition!
- 30. Nozomi Tsuji (NEW)
- 29. Rika Ishikawa (NEW)
- 28. Ayumi Shibata (-3)
- 27. Asami Kimura (NEW)
- 26. Miwa Kominato (-6)
We also had our first reactions to the new 4th Generation of Momusu and currently Tsuji hasn’t really stood out amongst the new members yet. Maybe with the recent announcement of Minimoni will actually help her out. Same could be said about Rika even though she’s had some time with Tanpopo…but I feel like a lot of focus went onto Ai. Of the 4 Melon members, I feel like Ayumi is the weakest member as her voice is a bit higher than the remainder of the group. Though she does look like she has the potential as well to stand out. Asami seemed to have joined Country Musume by rather random circumstances and despite my elation that Rinne isn’t alone anymore, her voice needs work so there’s time! I was pretty happy to see Miwa returning, but then I was reminded that she was still the weakest voice from T&C Bomber. Despite the group having its end, she was the missing piece of the puzzle when she left last year.
- 25. Ami Kitagami (NEW)
- 24. Ibuki Oki (NEW)
- 23. Lehua Sandbo (NEW)
- 22. Kaori Iida (-5)
- 21. Hitomi Yoshizawa (NEW)
With the newest group created (not counting Minimoni), Sheki-dol members Ami & Ibuki rank together mostly due to the fact, their single didn’t help seperate differences between the two. Though they do sound decent and they suit the genre of music they’re covering as well. As the newest addition to Coconuts Musume, Lehua was a unique addition and she could sing in Japanese quite well (though her tone was nasally for a bit). Kaori to me this year, felt way back in the background and I’m not sure why…it’s not like Tanpopo was shutting her back either. Though I do give her credit for introducing fans to Yuki so I suppose there’s that as well! Hitomi rounds this 5 out due to her being the lone new member introduced to Petitmoni and she has a solid voice at the moment. She also found herself standing out in Momusu early enough, but most of it came from Petitmoni.
- 20. Chinatsu Miyoshi (-8)
- 19. Kei Yasuda (-13)
- 18. Ayaka Kimura (-9)
- 17. Ai Kago (NEW)
- 16. Megumi Murata (+9)
Despite that she left in the year, Chinatsu felt like she was getting used to her voice and was more confident especially in the lone single she released. Still, she did end up leaving and I couldn’t put her more at the top. Kei-chan, like Kaori was also kind of pushed to the back of the line, but she did do a fine job within the year sticking out in Kiiro 5 and Petitmoni. She’s getting better too as a vocalist…it’s just sooo good. Ayaka though was in the same boat as Keichan, but luckily she stood out more from the Coconuts releases! She’s still the member with the best Japanese in Coconuts so that’s real good for the other 3 members to have relied on. Aibon though was probably the 4th Gen member that was promoted a lot having a lot of visual appearance in “I WISH” and her inclusion to Tanpopo and now Minimoni. Vocally she’s got the highest pitch (but she’s also quite young as well). Megumi is pretty mid-tier in Melons so I feel like she has room to grow, but she’s quite appealing for me.
- 15. Hitomi Saito (+11)
- 14. Sayaka Ichii (-4)
- 13. Mika Todd (+5)
- 12. Michiyo Heike (+2)
- 11. Atsuko Inaba (-7)
Hitomi got a position higher than Megumi because she had a smidge better of a voice and she could handle doing sexy (even though they are still rather young). I’m actually interested to see how she does in the later years! Icchan was another member that didn’t last very long, but she was able to lead Aoiro 7 and having more of a secondary lead in some of Momusu’s songs. She had a lot of personality to her, so losing her was a blow, but there’s been bigger hits. Mika was also able to put herself out there and she’s gotten better a singing so that’s a very good sign of things! With the announcement of her joining Minimoni, I am quite curious to what she’ll bring to the group. Michiyo did a little more focusing on her solo releases and was able to join Kiiro 5, but I feel like this best album is an omen for some reason (way too early for me). I did like her appearances and the change for Tsunku to do her songs…but still feels strange to me. As the only member to remain in H!P after disbandment, Atsuko did an OK job for the year, I do feel like other T&C members stood out better, but she was able to be leveled and average in a good way.
- 10. Masae Ohtani (+17)
- 9. Natsumi Abe (-1)
- 8. Rinne Toda (+5)
- 7. Miho Shinoda (-5)
- 6. Mari Yaguchi (+1)
Right from the start, Masae was chosen to be the leading voice is both A-sides and I’m not arguing with that as she can handle a song quite well. Great vocals for being someone green to the company. I can’t wait to see what she brings in later years as well! While Natsumi is slowly receding as lead voice (to Maki), she did have a good year and having a solo track showed that she was a pretty good singer outside of Momusu too! After last year, Rinne somehow became a much better singer and made the Country Musume singles quite nice to listen to. It is a bummer she didn’t get to join in with the shuffle units, she still was a pretty nice voice to hear! Miho, like last year was quite the same level as she was last year (just some members did much better). Still an amazing singer and her addition to Akagumi 4 really helped out with that. Sad to see her leave H!P though, but she left such a cool legacy behind. It seems like Marippe has had a lot of push this year IMO as she had both Momusu & Tanpopo to handle and at the end spurned the idea for the concept for Minimoni so it seems like big things are going to happen for her!
- 5. Maki Goto (0)
- 4. Yuko Nakazawa (+15)
- 3. Danielle Delauney (+8)
- 2. Yuki Maeda (NEW)
- 1. RuRu Honda (0)
The push for Gocchin is even more apparant this year due to her having so much face time and had a lot of lines given to her in each act she was involved in. I know she was the de-facto ace of Morning Musume, but couldn’t we have had push for other members??? Yuko might not have done too much more than she did the year previous, but her solo release was decent and her switch away from Enka (and promptly handing it to someone who’s more capable of handling the genre) was a good move. With Danielle she definitely impressed me this year. With having the opening dialogue to “Akai Nikkichou” and her Coconuts releases were pretty good for her voice, it’s just saddening that she ended up leaving in the Fall. She will definitely be missed! Even though its only been one single, Yuki already managed to surprise me with a lovely voice and control in Enka/Kayoukyoku typed songs. She might be the de-facto wild card in H!P, she’s an amazing vocalist, but RuRu once again topped the list, but it’ll be her last time due to T&C disbanding. I felt like she didn’t strike me as good as she did last year, but she’s still by far the best H!P vocalist they’ve had!
NEXT TIME: 2001 (although it might be 2016’s coming up next!)