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

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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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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