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

Warp back to 2001…Year Recap!

Ahhh we’re back jumping to the past and taking a look at the year that was 2001 which was pretty fruitful going forward with all the groups and such.  Even going as to making more soloists and further making a name for H!P…so shall we start it up?

Morning Musume

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So Morning Musume is up first and things got quite interesting just from the beginning of the year.  At the end of January, we saw the release of the group’s first best album, Best! Morning Musume 1 then a couple weeks later a release for their fanclub, Morning Musume Fc Special CD which included a message from each member at the time and a solo track respectively too!

Though, during this time, it was announced that Yuko Nakazawa would be graduating from the group in April, but not the company because she wanted to do more outside the group as she was getting a bit too old to handle more of these complex dances that the group were incorporating.

After releasing their next single, the ever-loved The☆Pea~ce! and during that time period though, an audition was being held and it bore 4 winners from it (well, 3 primarily, but 1 was more of a pity addition).  In the end, we got Ai Takahashi, Risa Niigaki, Makoto Ogawa, and Asami Konno.  After that they released their next single (and debut for the new girls), Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ and that brought us to the end of the year!

GREAT SONGS

  • Say Yeah! ~Motto Miracle Night~ – Personally, it was one of the first songs I ever heard from Momusu, so this has got a LOT of bias behind it.  As the lone new track from the best album (and the last to feature Yuko in Momusu entirely), I was kind of surprised at how superhero-esque the song sounded.  It sounds cool, but keeps the youthful sound that the group had recently tried to take over.  Add some Aibon/Nono monologue in the bridge and lines for everyone and you just get an amazing song…a good reason to get the best album.
  • Yoshite, Yoshite… – Getting Yossie’s solo next must’ve been a blessing disguise because I feel like her voice would suit a mid-tempo pop/rock kind of track.  Yossie’s vocals are still quite in a higher register as she hasn’t hit the lower push, but there’s hints of it throughout.  Of the 4 new members, I feel like she got the best track of them but it’s pretty close with another.
  • Renaitte Naani? – Aibon finishes off the album with her solo and I loved the pan flutes in the introduction for sure and the song keeps this laidback sound for the entire way and while Ai has a LOT of room to improve, her first solo song isn’t that bad her young voice wasn’t as overboard like Tsuji’s were.
  • The☆Pea~ce! – As the first single without Yuko, The☆Pea~ce! was a shock to many who were used to getting some normal song with the group finding themselves more comfortable being idols, but this song made the group into a bunch of spazzes with tons of youthful energy.  Of course, the song’s lyrics were also kind of nonsensical too, but it just made the song more fun and ridiculous on top of being madly catchy!  Plus, there’s a nice interlude with Rika-chan so that was her push for the single, but everyone seemed to really stand out in some way from the song to it’s hilarious PV!  One of the group’s best songs!
  • Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ – When I saw that for this song, the leads were going to be between Yossie, Gocchin, and Nacchi…I was floored.  Mostly because this became the song that Yossie is known for because she took on a male persona for the PV and she owned it immensely!  Now, I’m slightly bummed that the newly added 5th Generation didn’t do much for the song (just a solo intro line from Risa Niigaki).  Still, the whole big band vibe and the personality and drive from the leads just push this song to the front of the line!

OK SONGS

  • Manatsu no Tanjoubi – Nacchi’s solo of the FC album kind of runs from being OK to just being Meh primarily because it hits some nice points and the clapping rhythm adds a nice touch but on the flipside, the chorus is a bit too kiddy and the song itself sounds quite dated even in this time and day.  Nacchi though sounds pleasant though and while there’s not a lot of vocal versatility found here, it’s enough to make the song OK in the long run.
  • Anata no Kami no Kaori – If I took “Manatsu no Tanjoubi” and stripped everything except the acoustic guitar, this is what we would’ve got.  Being as this is Kaorin’s solo track, Anata no Kami no Kaori is light and easy to listen to, on top of throwing some harmonica in the arrangement.
  • Marine Sports! – As we get into Marippe’s solo track, I’m starting to feel that most of the tracks involved sound more appropriate for a group like…OH I DUNNO…Country Musume perhaps?  Mari’s is the biggest offender to this because of all of the banjo and country-like arrangement.  Mari though does sound into it and she sounds pretty good.  The song itself works too even if it’s a bit hammy.
  • Gochamaze LOVE – I’m happy that Gocchin’s song breaks from the overdone Country songs for something a bit more playful and somewhat feels like a March.  It’s kind of kiddy like Nacchi’s solo and the dialogue in the bridge is a bit out of place, but the tune is inoffensive.
  • Rikaishite! > Onna no Ko – I guess the same could be said about Rika’s solo and I’m happy that 4th Generation had something to REALLY shine on this time.  It’s nice to know that while Rika-chan isn’t the best at singing, the song she got is a bit more cuter and focuses on her cute act.  It’s still not a song I’ll probably be coming back to but like “Gochamaze LOVE”, it’s here nor there.
  • Popcorn Love! – As the B-side for “Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~, I feel like Popcorn Love! while not the better song overall, did a good job showcasing the new members (and for that matter, the members that weren’t the leads in the A-side).  My overall thoughts on the new members is pretty decent, even Konkon managed to sound decent and not as bad as Tsunku was making it out to be.  Even better is that Goto, Yoshizawa, and Abe were the last members to get solo lines so it was funny to me.

MEH SONGS

  • Y.u.u.wa.ku – Being the eldest member and soon to be graduating, I felt like the Fanclub album was nice for Yuko to kick things off, but I wasn’t expecting the album to begin with a ballad.  Though while it’s nice for Yuko to get a ballad, it’s a bit barren and kind of oversimplified.  I do like the piano melody and the beating drums help, but I get this feeling of cheapness throughout.  It’s a little forgettable compared to Yuko’s other ballads.
  • LOVE -Keisan Chigai- – Right from the beginning, I already felt like I’ve heard the arrangement between Kaori & Mari’s solos.  Though I will say it’s nice to see Kei-chan get some spotlight here, but it feels like her vocals gel a lot like Maki’s funny enough.  I’m just kind of over the country songs for now.
  • NON STOP – Couldn’t totally get away from the country arrangement and it hits one of the new members, Nono.  Considering each track off the album is a play on their names, Nono’s track is just a bit abrasive in comparison to the rest of the tracks.  I also didn’t feel like Tsuji sounded all that great and was trying to cute her way through the song.  It’s just kind of bleh xD
  • Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru – Knowing this song is used quite a bit as the ending song for tours, Dekkai Uchuu ni Ai ga Aru is a song that really doesn’t resonate with me very much.  It’s a positive/hopeful track for the group and the recording makes it sound live even though it isn’t.  There’s also no solos to be found (just mini-groupings).  It’s just a bit corny for my tastes to be honest lol.

OVERALL: It felt like a pretty light year in comparison to the last two years from Morning Musume.  I mean the best album happened, but that only had one new track on it and then we had two singles (one to bear a new generation at that).  The fanclub album was kind of its own random thing (like the “Wake Up Call” album) but I mean solo tracks is always a way to showcase your members, albeit quickly shot down once Yuko left and the four new members joined…weird overall, but it was a OK year.

Michiyo Heike

Seems like 2001 was a little less busy for Michiyo once again.  She kicked off the year in February with her 9th single, Kekkyoku Bye Bye Bye before kind of disappearing until July where she was involved in the shuffle units for the year.  She would finish the year by releasing Propose in November.

GREAT SONGS

  • Kekkyoku Bye Bye Bye – I wasn’t expecting Michiyo to follow-up her last single with another upbeat track but I wasn’t going to argue with it because it’s one catchy song tackling R&B/Dance once again.  I loved hearing Michiyo starting to sing with more power and control and while the song still sounded fresh from the 90s, it’s a tune that I think many of her fans think about (other than “GET”).  What caught me off guard was the gothic-like bridge, but it was pretty badass at the time.  Awesome song for her to get!
  • Propose (Hard Crunch Version) – Interesting that they included a different take on the A-side here, but here we are with Propose again, but this is different in the arrangement.  Instead of the poppy side of things, Propose now has more of a pop/rock vibe with guitars/synth and heavy drums integrated.  Overall, it has more punch than the original and that was all I needed for this song to be memorable!

OK SONGS

  • Ame Ame Yoru – It seems like Michiyo was trying to strike lightning twice with this B-side from “Kekkyoku Bye Bye Bye” and she somehow it missed.  It’s also kind of sounding a bit like what Maki released as her debut so this is feeling almost a clone.  I will say that Michiyo has a lot more oomph to it, but the song is just a smidge messy.
  • Propose – As the other A-side released, she backed off from the R&B and took for more of a calming pop track this time around.  I initially was confusing it for another similar title, “Prepare”.  Luckily it’s not that and it’s just its own thing.  For being a mid-tempo number, Propose is bright and Michiyo is singing in a more higher register this time too and it’s not bad despite not the best place for her.  It’s not bad, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the single she released earlier in the year.
  • Papa to Mama – The B-side to “Propose”, Papa to Mama sends me back to her earlier releases where she had the lighter pop/rock sound (from her first album).  Though it’s standard fare at this point and the only keeping me interested is her vocals as they’re so much better than what it used to be and the cool guitar solo in the bridge.  Nice track, could’ve been better, but this’ll do.

OVERALL: Like I said, Michiyo hasn’t had a busy year with just the two singles, but they were pretty decent singles at best so it’s not like she’s losing too much steam in that respect.  Still, I would’ve enjoyed seeing a little more of her this year considering the additions of more soloists (Maki & Aya).  It just would’ve been nice I guess to see her show why she’s the first soloist in H!P.

Yuko Nakazawa

Moving to our 2nd soloist, Yuko kicked off her 2001 with her 5th single, Kuyashi Namida Porori before jumping back to Morning Musume to finish her tenure in the group in April before releasing her next single, her first as a full-time soloist, Futarigurashi in August and so finishes her 2001.

GREAT SONGS

  • Kuyashi Namida Porori – Hearing Yuko’s next A-side, I definitely started to dig this cool side of her and noticed that she fully ditched her enka roots for something a bit more poppy and up-to-date.  For once it’s not a ballad which for her fans might be a breath of fresh air.  It slightly reminds me of “Shanghai no Kaze” by keeping a smidge of its Oriental sound, but the rest of the song is just a smooth R&B style.  I really found myself liking this song a lot!

MEH SONGS

  • Koi no Kioku – As for “Kuyashi Namida Porori’s” B-side, Koi no Kioku is a much lighter affair as it’s a ballad.  Unlike previous efforts, this ballad isn’t Enka related so we’ve got our straight pop ballad.  There’s some parts that I do enjoy like the non-vocal sections that sound fluid and flowing, but once Yuko sings and the chorus happens, it’s very standard to me and just loses me in almost every way.  She’s got better ballads out there though.
  • Futarigurashi – Even though she did manage to slow things down again for her 6th A-side, Futarigurashi like “Koi no Kioku”, falls a bit behind with its sound.  I do love how confident Yuko sounds and her voice has some power behind it, but the song itself is a bit lacking, feeling like an album song more than an A-side.
  • Kouen Doori no Kissaten – I don’t know why Yuko’s songs have felt lacking, but this was almost OK, but I was bored with this song after the introduction with the acoustic guitar line.  Beyond that and some other places in the song, the rest is just a bit too draggy for me and I was kind of over it.

OVERALL: While it was understandable why Yuko didn’t release much (“FOLK SONGS” and her graduation in Morning Musume), I felt her solo releases were meh at best with the exception of Kuyashi Namida Porori.  I think the shift in style after Yukidon joined really forced her hand and for some reason Yuko got blah releases for it.  I hope her future releases will be better

Tanpopo

Ahh, Tanpopo had a pretty straightforward year after redebuting the year previous.  Of course they released two singles in the year with February’s Koi wo Shichaimashita! & November’s Oujisama to Yuki no Yoru.  That was their year with nothing to big out of the ordinary!

GREAT SONGS

  • BABY CRY – Unlike it’s cuter A-side, “Koi wo Shichaimashita!”, BABY CRY takes more of a chance by having more of a heavier pop/rock vibe in its arrangement.  It also helps that Rika, Aibon, Nono, and Kaori sounds a bit more sassy than normal as well which adds character to the song.  It does go by quick, but it’s an impressive B-side that’s for sure.

OK SONGS

  • Koi wo Shichaimashita! – As the quartet’s 2nd single with the 4-nin, Koi wo Shichaimashita! continues to show off Tanpopo more as a cuter group than the original plan of having a mature group.  It does feel like a retread after “Otome Pasta ni Kandou”, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt anyone.  It’s an OK song and for me it does get catchy once in a while.
  • Oujisama to Yuki no Yoru – Tanpopo doing another wintry song after “Seinaru Kane ga Hibiku Yoru”?  Seems a little weird to me doing it again, but it’s with a different set of girls this time around.  Oujisama to Yuki no Yoru like “Koi wo Shichaimashita!” kind of ended up the same way I felt for that.  The aforementioned Winter song that came before it was a lot better so it made Oujisama kind of blah for me, but its arrangement is a bit more interesting.

MEH SONGS

  • Nenmatsu Nenshi no Daikeikaku – The only song that really didn’t catch on from Tanpopo in the year, this B-side from “Oujisama to Yuki no Yoru” is a bit of a snoozefest featuring an acoustic arrangement and unison vocals through 90% of the song.  I do like when the chorus hits, but that’s really the only area that catches my attention versus the rest of the song

OVERALL: Tanpopo’s year was pretty straightforward with just the two singles (one more than last year xD).  Though I can’t say they left much of an impression in 2001 however since the only track that really popped out was a mere B-side.  So here’s hoping the next year is better!

Coconuts Musume

Ahhh Coconuts Musume, after the shake-up all over last year with losing Chelsea, April, and Danielle and gaining Lehua, it seems the group would finally sustain some sense of stability and they kicked it off with releasing their single, Jounetsu Yuki Miraisen in August after being involved in the Shuffle units that year

(Future message: This would be the last time the group would release anything together after the single as the 3 remaining members went off to do other things in H!P (and Lehua graduated too, but that’s next year).

GREAT SONGS

  • Jounetsu Yuki Miraisen – After going into a weird funk with their last couple of singles, I was happily blown away by Jounetsu Yuki Miraisen by incorporating of the current sound that Tsunku was opting towards on top of keeping the tropical vibes that the group was known for.  While I was still bummed that Danielle had left the group, I think Ayaka, Mika, and Lehua gave their best performance in this song and it’s just a fun and hopping track.

OK SONGS

  • Koibito Boogie Woogie! – I wasn’t expecting the group to have an actual B-side, so this was a bit of a treat to come to.  Even moreso that it’s a boogie-woogie styled song (something that Coconuts Musume wasn’t known for).  Though unlike the goldmine they hit with their A-side, I feel like the trio sound off and a bit too quiet against the arrangement.  It’s an alright song, but Jounetsu was a LOT better.

OVERALL: Short year for the group and would’ve liked more if their sound was going to continue to be like Jounetsu Yuki Miraisen.  At least the 3 were busy with other things to keep things going for a while (Even sadder that it’s what killed the group unfortunately).

Country Musume ni Ishikawa

Country Musume went through a lot this year well in comparison to last year, but after the movie, I felt like they were on the right path.  However, early in the year, their producer Yoshitake Tanaka after going through failed auditions left and right, handed the group to Tsunku.

In April, Tsunku announced that Country Musume would be “borrowing” a Morning Musume member in Rika Ishikawa and changed the group’s name to “Country Musume ni Ishikawa” and released two singles together, Hajimete no Happy Birthday! & Koibito wo Kokoro no Ouendan.

Then they finished their year off with their first album, Country Musume Daizenshuu ①, which included songs from all four iterations thus far.

GREAT SONGS

  • Hajimete no Happy Birthday! – Just like Tanpopo, it seems Tsunku was wanting to change Country Musume to a more cuter group, but I feel like it works for the trio since it’s just cute and catchy all-around!  Even though Rika was already a well-known member, she added quite a bit here and while it feels like she’s pushed as the lead (though Rinne gets just as much while Asami is pushed to the back).  Still, the song is good and it’s no surprise it’s one of the more memorable songs in H!P’s history.
  • Hajimete no Happy Birthday! (country version) – I didn’t think they’d ham it up further with this Country sound, but they managed to do it with this alternate take of the A-side.  I mean instead of the cute-esque Tsunku arrangement, this one sounds like what it should’ve for the group and I really liked its farmland sounding arrangement and the group sounds better???  Even though I really enjoyed the main version, this version is better!
  • Koibito wo Kokoro no Ouendan (Hyper Dance Version) – So instead of a country version, we get an electro version of Koibito wo Kokoro no Ouendan?  Hey, I’m not going to argue with it because it actually worked and it sounds like current H!P but with older voices.  I love the beats more and the melody is nice and smooth as well…a surprise indeed!

OK SONGS

  • Koibito wo Kokoro no Ouendan – Getting into the other A-side of the year, Koibito wo Kokoro no Ouendan did feel like it was trying to buy off the popularity off of “Hajimete no Happy Birthday!”.  I do like how the song is a bit more thicker sounding and not as sugary cute.  I do like the line distribution here too as all three members share an equal amount of solos.  Still something is slightly off about it.
  • Onna no Ko Toshirabe Time – As the main new track off their first album, Onna no Ko Toshirabe Time is mainly Rinne & Asami singing together with Rika as a special guest (weird considering the group was already “ni Ishikawa” anyways.  The song itself is upbeat and reminds me of the earlier singles, but I’m not quite certain if I’m enjoying the vocals as they’re much squeakier than normal.  Rika has one part really, so it does feel like the actual Country Musume members got to shine here.
  • Docchi ga Kirei Desu ka – The other two songs on Daizenshuu 1 were saved as solos for Rinne & Asami and this one was saved for Rinne.  I have to say that Rinne surprises me more whenever I hear her because she can be so nasally in the cuter songs, but when it gets serious, she sounds really good.  The acoustic mid-tempo track is catchy and really was the best of the 3 new tracks the album had to offer.

MEH SONGS

  • Kataomoi wa Hot Milk – Kataomoi wa Hot Milk is the Asami solo and it’s a bit of a sleeper song for me.  Taken as a mid-tempo ballad, I feel like this song would’ve been better off as a B-side in one of the earlier singles.  Asami’s vocals aren’t all that great either so it’s just kind of a forgetful song.

OVERALL: I was initially worried when Tsunku decided to add Rika to the group (initially it was going to be a rotation of Momusu members).  Though I guess from the sheer popularity the group got after Hajimete no Happy Birthday!, she was chosen to stay.  It was a nice year for the group and the songs were mostly pretty decent.

Petitmoni

Seems like with other groups, Petitmoni had a straightforward year, with only two singles released in year in BABY! Koi ni KNOCK OUT! & Pittari Shitai X’mas!.  That was pretty much it for them for the year!…well besides an exercising video…but that’s beyond the point XD

GREAT SONGS

  • BABY! Koi ni KNOCK OUT! – What’s there to say about this gem?  It may be my favorite song of the entire year.  I wasn’t expecting the trio to release something so spazzy, but also so epic and powerful.  There’s just something that works between Kei-chan, Gocchin, and Yossie here and it was just right timing.  I love how upbeat it is and the energy that’s kept throught the song is just wild and always a ride to listen to…like I said it’s one of those historic H!P songs that everyone has to listen to!!
  • Waltz! Ahiru ga 3ba – What a bizarre track the B-side of “BABY! Koi ni KNOCK OUT!” is.  After the energetic and powerful A-side, Waltz! Ahiru ga 3ba is a bit of an acid trip to listen to.  Like the title hints, the tracks is a waltz which is something H!P doesn’t do normally.  I will say the arrangement is quirky and something I’d dig more into.  On top of the fact that the trio sounds almost hypnotic (might be due to the echoing/layering that’s going on as well).  Lyrically, it heavily feels like a Children’s song, but I kind of dug it all…maybe not as much as I did with the A-side, but this was a pretty good offering for a B-side.

OK SONGS

  • Pittari Shitai X’mas! – Wasn’t expecting Petitmoni to release a Christmas song as their 4th A-side, but here we are.  Instead of the offerings we got from Tanpopo, Pittari Shitai X’mas! is upbeat and idol-like and full of Tsunku-isms (which are starting to leak into all of H!P’s music funny enough).  Unlike the previous single, the song felt almost too expected, like there wasn’t much surprise to it…it’s OK, but nothing totally special.

MEH SONGS

  • Yume no “Tsu・zu・ki” – Moving to the B-side of the Xmas single, I feel like this track drags a whole lot due to the sluggish rhythm and beats.  I would say the good part is that the trio gets to sing a lot more, but the song is kind of droopy and forgetful for me.

OVERALL: After the shaky single that brought in Yossie, they definitely struck gold this year and released two pretty decent singles.  Not much else happened, besides the VHSs but it was a calm year for the group.

Melon Kinenbi

Really not making much of a strong impact in the news-worthy way, Melon Kinenbi has a pretty short year with only two releases (though they had other appearances in other releases like many of the other H!P girls!).  They released Denwa Matteimasu in March and This is Unmei in October.

GREAT SONGS

  • This is Unmei – I think at this point, no one could predict what would come out next from the quartet and they hit gold with their 4th A-side.  It’s a bizarre song having a kind of orchestral deal, but with some surprises like singing in syllables and then building to this epic pop/rock song that flips the song 180 degrees.  Song is mostly Ayumi & Masae, but Megumi & Hitomi get some parts of their own (especially the dialogue in the bridge).  Awesome song and still one of their signature and best songs!

OK SONGS

  • Denwa Matteimasu – As the group’s 3rd A-side, I wasn’t sure what Melon Kinenbi were going to be releasing since A-sides previous have been of different sounds and styles.  Listening in, this song kind of gives me a similar vibe like “Amai Anata no Aji” but less dramatic and more straightforward.  I do like the verses, but I wasn’t ready to figure in that Shibata would get HEAVY amounts of lines here.  It’s Ok, but not too much of a memorable one for the group.
  • Mou Mattemase~n! – The B-side to “Denwa Matteimasu” is a smidge better than its A-side giving more of a unification for the group with equal line distribution.  The thing that keeps it in the OK section is that the arrangement isn’t that memorable, but it does have a bit more oomph.  Ok song overall!
  • Wa! KacchoE na! – After the wild “This is Unmei”, I was curious to hear what could possibly suit as the B-side and yeah it’s a bit of a downer when compared to its leading song, but by its own merits, the song is one of those tracks that I can imagine being nice for live performances as it has a cheery vibe to it.  All the members get lines and it feels as equal as “Mou Mattemas~n!”.

OVERALL: Despite that the group had just as light of a year as last year, the group was a bit more active in H!P so I would say they did better.  As for their group releases, a bit better than last years as well and this awesome gem of a song in “This is Unmei” solidified my interest in them!

Yuki Maeda

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Seems like Yukidon’s shtick is to just release one single a year and she didn’t miss that mark with her lone release in the first day on 2001, Tokyo You Turn.

GREAT SONGS

  • Tasogare miss you – I think of Yukidon’s songs, I feel like this B-side is VERY underrated!  As a B-side, I wasn’t expecting a much more exciting effort from her and with her vocal talent as strong as it is, it worked out nicely for her and one of the surprised that H!P had throughout the year.

OK SONGS

  • Tokyo You Turn – I think it seems that Yukidon’s 2nd single was trying to stray away from Enka and experiment with a similar style that Chinatsu Miyoshi was going towards and its made certain with this single.  That being said, the song definitely had a 90s sound to it but of course the difference was that Yuki had a MUCH better voice.  Considering I’m not much of a ballad fan, this didn’t do too much, but this was actually a decent song for Yuki who was still early in her H!P career.

OVERALL: I feel like she’s majorly underutilized in H!P with only just one single release (especially since it was released on New Year’s Day).  What the hell was she doing the whole year otherwise?

Sheki-dol

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After their debut last year, Sheki-dol pushed forward in their careers with a surprising announcement of a new member in Mami Suenaga in March and so the trio would release their 2nd and 3rd indies singes, Tetteiteki Unmei & Zentaiteki ni Daisuki Desu. before a twist was announced that not only that Ibuki Oki would leave the group and Saki Arai would take her place and the trio would major debut with the single, Ai wa Muteki ~Hatachi no Yoru no Chikai~.

GREAT SONGS

  • Tetteiteki Unmei – I wasn’t expecting the trio’s 2nd indies to be such a winner for me.  It continues to bring the pop/rock sound that the duo debuted with, but it threw in some sitars and some cool chanting moments that really stuck to me.  I’m a bit surprised that despite being the new member, Suenaga had the most lines.  Either way, this song was pretty interesting and had a pretty cool PV (for something in the early 00’s).

OK SONGS

  • Zentaiteki ni Daisuki Desu. – Probably their most well-known song (due to it being a tie-in to Crayon Shin-chan).  Unlike the charged up previous A-side, Zentaiteki ni Daisuki Desu. tries to keep their pop/rock sound but make it more cute and playful.  I do appreciate the better line distribution here, but something about the song feels lacking to me.
  • Ai wa Muteki ~Hatachi no Yoru no Chikai~ – As the group’s major debut, I was kind of hoping to see something that leveled up to “Tetteiteki Unmei” or even better, but this song is kind of just in the middle.  For its time though, this song sounded unique in Hello! Project an I could compare this to something Buono! has done in recent times.  The only drawback though is its sung in unison so there’s literally no way we could’ve tell newcomer’s Saki Arai vocals here (and there was no PV either).
  • Ganbacchaumonnee! – Oh hey, another loud song that sounds like it would be fun to hear performed live!  It’s a pretty bumpy song with a solid drive and despite the trio not having strong vocals, they use it in a way that could be saved for chants and performances.  I will say the marching bridge with the dialogue was a bit out there, but the guitar solo was awesome!  Overall, not bad…but really the trio’s major debut did nothing to show off the group’s vocals singularly.

MEH SONGS

  • Tetteiteki Unmei -Destiny Version- – So we get an alternate version of Tetteiteki Unmei that changes a lot of the arrangement around that it seems rather foreign compared to the original cut.  I think the more acoustic sounding arrangement isn’t all that bad, but trying to work in the vocal melody (and how loud the girls are supposed to be) feels juxtaposed and really doesn’t mesh well in the long run…Nice try I guess?
  • Koi wa Moshou! – As the B-side to “Zentaiteki ni Daisuki Desu.”, I kind of figured, it wasn’t going to be as interesting to me and I was right.  It’s a slower song for the group, but with more of that sound that they had in their debut which wasn’t helping much here.  Add on that the tune is sung in unison and I’m kind of just bored of it.

OVERALL: I liked that the group got a bit more effort put in this year after their debut, but was surprise by the additions of both Suenaga & Arai and loss of Oki.  Great that they managed to get a major debut and I hope to see more of this trio in the next year (Oh how wrong this turns out…).

Minimoni

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So going back to last year, Mari Yaguchi had asked to make a group of girls that were short and Tsunku allowed it initially giving her Nozomi Tsuji Ai Kago but later was given Coconuts Musume’s Mika Todd as the final piece of the puzzle and so Minimoni was formed.

2001 came through and the group started their official activities as a group beginning with their debut single, Minimoni. Jankenpyon / Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu Daisukki! and followed it up with their follow-up single, Minimoni. Telephone! Rin Rin Rin / Minimoni. Bus Guide.

In December, a sort-of? spin-off group was formed to promote mostly for the anime series, Hamtaro with a group named Minihams (which is just Minimoni still) and released their first single, Minihamazu no Ai no Uta.

GREAT SONGS

  • Minimoni. Jankenpyon – For the first group to debut in H!P in 2001, I was curious because it had an interesting set of girls working together.  What I wasn’t expecting was cutesy children’s music for them especially since Marippe & Mikapon have sung more mature songs in the past so it was a BIG shift for me.  Though once I shook off the genki scare, this song ended up being surprisingly catchy and ridiculous for the right reasons.
  • Minimoni. Bus Guide – I guess off their 2nd single, I kind of preferred this song over the telephone song because Bus Guide was cute, but it had some depth to it and had a bit more effort and a unique sound to it.  I do like that the group is also singing here whereas in the aforementioned, was just doing more chanting.

OK SONGS

  • Minimoni. Telephone! Rin Rin Rin – How do you follow-up such a funny debut?  I guess by doing it again, but they definitely kiddied it up for this one which is based around a ringing telephone.  This is kind of where I drew the line for silly, fun songs and just WAY too kiddy for my tastes and this is the crossing line because while it has moments that were catchy and cute, it was definitely hammed up to maximum.  So I can only say its just OK, but nothing that’s going to be permanently placed on my iPod.
  • Minihamazu. no Ai no Uta – I wasn’t sure what the direct difference from regular Minimoni songs to the Minihams songs, but honestly that’s why I put them together.  Minihamazu. no Ai no Uta is definitely peppy and cute as usual, but I feel like vocally, it’s a smidge underwhelming, but I do like some of the song like the prechorus and the chorus is cute AF.
  • Minihamazuntakatatta! – Funny enough, when I first heard this B-side, it reminded me A LOT of “Summer Reggae! Rainbow” with the tropical vibes and chords occasionally.  It’s a bizarre song and the quartet are goofing off more than they usually do.  Not bad and I might consider this more than the A-side actually.

MEH SONGS

  • Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu Daisukki! – As for the other A-side from their debut, I think I wasn’t into this one as much due to that it was a bit more safe but at the same time kind of goofy since it was strangely enough about seasons.  Something about Christmas and then something about tempura.  I don’t know, it just didn’t stand out to me in comparison to “Minimoni. Jankenpyon”.

OVERALL: As the first year for Minimoni, I will say I wasn’t expecting a Children’s group to be created and yet get SUPER popular after their debut!  So far musically, it’s just been really cute and very sugary in comparison to most of H!P so they stick out, but it seems like a VERY niche style as well…

Maki Goto

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So it seems from the sheer popularity Gocchin had during 2001, it seemed that Tsunku decided to give her a solo career and in March, debuted with Ai no Bakayarou and followed it up with Afurechau…BE IN LOVE in September!

OK SONGS

  • Ai no Bakayarou ~trance trip version~ – I was surprised we’d get a remix of Maki’s debut instead of a proper B-side and I actually easily prefer it to the original mix because the slower tempo and cooler vibes is much more fitting and has a lot more interesting moments as well.  The high notes aren’t as annoying or out of place either so all in all…awesome remix here!
  • Afurechau…BE IN LOVE – Boy does this sound throw me back to the days where Western artists had this kind of R&B/Pop mix.  It’s not a split like “Ai no Bakayarou” was, but this song really shows off Maki’s vocals (if not slightly weak with the squeaking).  Definitely a 90s pop track through and through.
  • LIKE A GAME – As Maki’s first official B-side, LIKE A GAME is following up “Afurechau…BE IN LOVE” with another song that feels like a throwback to 90s music (granted this is 2001, so the shift wasn’t too nostalgic I bet in that time).  I do like the sounds and arrangement and Gocchin delivers vocally a bit more strongly than she did with the A-sides.

MEH SONGS

  • Ai no Bakayarou – For being Gocchin’s solo debut, Ai no Bakayarou is interesting because it seems that Tsunku is paing her as the R&B/Pop artist but mixed in some ethnic bells and whistles to a dance beat and we have this for a debut song.  It’s not a bad song persay, but my only qualm is Maki can’t do this super high notes that are prevalent in the choruses of the track and they kind of ruin the song for me, personally.  I get that this is a big song for hers, but ugh…

OVERALL: Being the debut for her after her rising popularity was reaching fever pitch, I guess it was going to happen that Maki would get a debut on her own.  For the most part it went smoothly and nothing out of the ordinary.  Two OK singles overall.

Aya Matsuura

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From last year, we had auditions and ended up with three winners, two of them went on and formed Sheki-dol while the last was Aya Matsuura and was held back from debuting a little while to get herself just right for her solo debut in April with Dokki Doki! LOVE Mail and followed it up with 3 more singles in the year; Tropica~l Koishite~ru, LOVE Namida Iro, and 100kai no KISS.

GREAT SONGS

  • Tropica~l Koishite~ru – Just on her 2nd single and somehow she struck gold with this song that upped the energy and happiness and really made Aya stand out amongst the other soloists with a summery and bright song.  It’s a great song and a good follow-up after her debut!
  • Yuugure – Even the B-side from her 2nd single was able to stand out a lot to me with its lighter affair and interesting use of layering in her vocals so it sounds a bit retro and like something from the 70s.  There’s just something ethereal and soothing about this track that just worked and made a nice contrast to “Tropica~l Koishite~ru”.
  • LOVE Namida Iro – Taking things a little bit differently than the previous two A-sides, LOVE Namida Iro while still upbeat feels more like a smidge serious of a song, but still carries itself lighter with its poppy vibes and funky instrumentation.  It’s another one of her big songs and I can see why…it’s just that decent!

OK SONGS

  • Dokki Doki! LOVE Mail – I was curious to see what Ayaya would find herself in the list of soloists that already exist and it seems she gets the upbeat pop songs.  For a debut song, it’s not bad at all, but it doesn’t quite ring out to me like many other debut songs have in the past/future.  Aya’s vocals are cutesy, but not genki and sugary as they can get.  It’s a decent beginning!
  • Machiawase – As the B-side to her debut single, Machiawase made me think she was taking a page from Gocchin’s sound with 90s R&B sound, but there’s something light and pure about this one.  Ayaya also sounds really pleasant and like an innocent idol who just debuted!
  • OO Joshi Kousei no Shuuchou – As the B-side to “LOVE Namida Iro”, I wasn’t expecting Ayaya to drop a pop/rock track, something she hasn’t done yet into the fold.  Though, I have to say it’s not one that really stuck to me despite it already feels like Aya is more confident in her vocal skills which is awesome to see.  It’s alright, but definitely B-side material.
  • 100kai no KISS – As the 4th A-side she released just in 2001, I wasn’t surprised it was touted as the wintry mid-tempo ballad!  The song itself feels a bit light for my tastes and the small R&B boops and sounds like in “Machiawase” make a reappearance and it kind of feels a little odd.

MEH SONGS

  • MERRY X’MAS FOR YOU – Ok, so maybe the B-side to “100kai no KISS” was more of a Christmas tune, but good lord was this a song that didn’t really need to happen.  The arrangement is a bit too droll and while I like Ayaya once again singing under light filters like in “Yuugure”, the song just puts me to sleep and she does way too much of the ~la la la~-ing in this song so it really became a bother.

OVERALL: It seems a lot of Tsunku’s interest this year went straight to Ayaya with 4 singles on her own this year!  It worked out because her leading songs have been really nice through the year.  I wonder how well she’ll do during her 2nd year!

Rika Ishii

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Well, it’s a bit odd to hear, but kind of in a quiet way H!P had added another girl to the family in Octover, one Rika Ishii who initially started out acting under Up-Front before being chosen to become the Douyou Onna, meaning that she was going to be involved with the first Douyou Pops album.

Other H!P Releases

Together! -Tanpopo・Petit・Mini・Yuko-chunatsupaartysummerreggaedancingmatsuriLOVE Century -Yume wa Minakerya Hajimaranai- 8folksongsThe Douyou Pops 1 Christmas to Fuyu no Uta Shuupetitbest2Cover Morning Musume ~Various Artist Covers _MORNING MUSUME

Going into the other Hello! Project releases that were released in 2001, there was quite plenty to have dealt with.  Kicking things off is a surprising quadruple/split compilation release between Tanpopo, Petitmoni, Minimoni, and soloist Yuko Nakazawa with Together! -Tanpopo・Petit・Mini・Yuko-.  Taking their best known songs and some surprises within it!

Next up was the return of the shuffle units with theming of Matsuri split between all of them!

  • 3nin Matsuri – (Rika Ishikawa, Ai Kago, Aya Matsuura) – The first one is with the smallest amount of members which included new H!P member Ayaya.  They were given the upbeat summer song, Chu! Natsu Pa~rty.
  • 7nin Matsuri – (Michiyo Heike, Mari Yaguchi, Ayaka Kimura, Asami Kimura, Ayumi Shibata, Lehua Sandbo, Maki Goto) – The middle group, this reggae-inspired group of course took up the mantle of this Caribbean genre of music with their song, Summer Reggae! Rainbow.
  • 10nin Matsuri – (Kaori Iida, Natsumi Abe, Kei Yasuda, Rinne Toda, Mika Todd, Megumi Murata, Masae Ohtani, Hitomi Saito, Hitomi Yoshizawa, Nozomi Tsuji) – Finally, this big grouping came together to celebrate Japanese matsuris with their song, Dancing! Natsu Matsuri.

Of course, Momusu had started to do stageplays and of course they had some help from various other members of Hello! Project on their play, LOVE CENTURY -Yume wo Minakerya Hajimaranai-.  (will not review the songs here)

Next thing up was actually a surprise considering that Sayaka Ichii had graduated from H!P/Morning Musume, so when FOLK SONGS an album released as a duet release between Yuko Nakazawa and herself, it definitely took interest, despite the album is a cover album.

I guess you can say the same about the next release, The Douyou Pops 1 Christmas to Fuyu no Uta Shuu which is also a cover album, but the difference here is is that it’s current H!P members covering Children’s songs that pertain to the holiday season.

Of course, getting closer to the end of the year, it seems that the Petit Best made a return with Petit Best 2 ~3, 7, 10~

Though it wouldn’t close out the year without some SUPER bizarre release, but at the year’s end we have this tribute album sung by Americans called Cover Morning Musume ~Various Artist Covers “MORNING MUSUME”!~.  Of course I’m not going to review this because this is non H!P members singing H!P songs xD.

GREAT SONGS

  • Chokotto LOVE (2001 Version) – Starting with songs from the singular quad release compilation.  It seems we get updated cuts of a couple songs and this one from Petitmoni really doesn’t do too much besides swap out Sayaka with Yossie’s vocals.  Otherwise, the song is still remotely the same and still upbeat and cute to listen to!
  • Dancing! Natsu Matsuri – Who knew the group with the most members would be the ones to strike gold this year.  Something about this group tackling the actual Japanese matsuri sounds and ideals is pretty awesome and while 10 members seemed pretty big, they sounded together and exciting.  Mix that with a punchy arrangement and hilarious moments and we get this awesome song!
  • Kono Hiroi Nohara Ippai – As the first track off the FOLK SONGS album, I really wasn’t expecting an ethereal, space-like arrangement to kick things off especially since it’s a cover album and what not and the knowledge of hearing Sayaka’s voice again was really nice!  It does open to more of a pop/rock kind of session and it’s a pretty decent track.  Yuko does come in, but her voice isn’t the one the song is focused on.  It’s a nice track to open the album and get reacquainted with Sayaka.
  • Ano Hi ni Kaeritai – Seems we finally hit our first solo from FOLK SONGS with a café-friendly track from Sayaka.  What I mean is this song is taking from Mediterranean music with the light and brisky arrangement and fluttery flutes that pop in and out in occasion.  Icchan’s vocals are just relaxing and very pretty to hear.  It’s one of the standouts! 
  • Furusato – To those that felt Momusu’s original Furusato was too much Nacchi and not enough members, we do somewhat get a reprieve with a self-cover of it on FOLK SONGS which is sung by Sayaka and Yuko (both of whom were in the original recording, mind you).  The arrangement was toned down a bit with synth flute and acoustic guitar/piano/light percussion and sounds a bit more natural.  I will say the two sound beautiful in the verses, but they kind of sound rough doing the chorus together for some reason.  It’s a decent self-cover overall!
  • Aru Hi Totsuzen – At least there’s an upbeat track on the album like the opening tune and unironically it’s once again a Sayaka solo with Bamba Hirofuni (the male vocalist here). It’s catchy and the duet actually feels like a decent duet as well…the only qualm is that it doesn’t even make 3 minutes so it’s a quick track for the album.
  • Shuushifu – I don’t know why I like this baroque, but R&B-like track, but as the only song to include both ladies with a 3rd artist (Takao Horiuchi), this was probably the biggest surprise on the album (besides the self-cover of “Furusato”).  The beat is cool and the mood is sensual and somewhat mysterious and Yuko and Sayaka are just great here!  It’s probably my favorite song off this album!
  • MERRY X’MAS FOR YOU (holly night version) – I was surprised to see that an Ayaya B-side was going to be on a Petit Best, more or less getting a new version.  I’m not too big of a fan of the original since it’s just boring and plain to me, but this “holly night” cut snips off the instrumentation and replaces it with jingle bells and some ~oooohs~.  It’s very soothing to the ears and Ayaya sounds pretty as well…this is definitely the preferred version!  Also, it’s shorter too!

OK SONGS

  • Tanpopo (2001 Version) – Unfortunately, I can’t say that the updated cut of Tanpopo (which is now sung with Aibon and Rika and no Ayappe) isn’t quite as smooth sounding.  Tanpopo as a song felt mature and suited more mature vocals so it really didn’t feel right hearing Ai or Rika as their vocals were both higher registers than the original remaining members.  I mean it’s not terrible, but the original kind of sounds more fitting to the original trio than the updated quartet.
  • Akai Nikkichou (by Nakazawa Version) – I was pretty surprised to see a solo cut of Akai Nikkichou being present on the compilation here and like the Petitmoni/Tanpopo tracks, I was just expecting just Yuko singing over the original’s arrangement, but it has a different set of sounds going on and Yuko does a Japanese take of the intro dialogue (the original of course had Danielle do it in English).  What I can say is that, it’s pretty decent of a self-cover, but I don’t think the arrangement needed any updating.
  • Chu! Natsu Pa~rty – With the shuffle units, I was pretty curious with the theme of Matsuris and with the smallest shuffle unit including Aibon, Rikachan, and new member Ayaya, it was definitely a summer song to witness.  It’s definitely cute and the higher, squeakier vocals suited the bubblegummy sound I got.
  • Koibito mo Inai no ni – Unlike the opening track to the album, Koibito mo Inai no ni is probably the first thing I thought of when the title FOLK SONGS was announced because I was thinking lowkey songs that would fit in some campfire, like “Hello! Mata Aou ne”.  I hear a lot of Ichii over Nakazawa still…though this song was as memorable to me.
  • Aki Demo nai no ni – At least 3rd song from the album and we finally get some spotlight with Yuko.  I’m liking the lighter atmosphere with focus on acoustic guitar and piano with some light percussion to fill in the spaces.  I really do like how Yuko and Sayaka mesh with their soft vocals especially with Yuko being pushed more forward.  I also liked the bridge but I couldn’t place what the instrument was?  Either way, pretty song.
  • Matsu wa – I knew this song was familiar to me (in the future, W would cover this as well).  Anyways, Yuko and Sayaka’s cut of Matsu wa is slow and relaxing to the ears and gives me faint R&B vibes but also this light pop vibes.  After a while the song does start to feel like it’s dragging its feet, but considering I already like this song (thanks to W), but vocally this is pleasant!
  • Hana to Ojiisan – We get another Sayaka solo and this one gives me a playful vibe with a bit of a circus vibe for some reason, but there’s something new here to deal with and it’s the fact that Ichii is not alone but with a male singer, Jiro Sugita.  He doesn’t really do too much other than to harmonize with Sayaka in certain lines.  It’s an interesting song, but nothing that stays in my mind.
  • Toki ni wa Haha no nai Ko no You ni – There’s something mysterious about this Yuko solo, but at least it woke me up after getting through “Nagoriyuki” with it’s crooning strings and interesting rhythm & beats.  It’s also a smidge draggy with no chorus to really speak of and the arrangement doesn’t go anywhere either, but Yuko’s vocals were dreamy and the song wasn’t too long (ends at 3 minutes).
  • Salvia no Hana – As the last solo from FOLK SONGS, Sayaka once again gets a bit more of an interesting track that has more than just the basic instruments by having some synths involved.  Though the bridge is what caught my attention by including electric guitar.
  • Tsubasa wo Kudasai – As the final track from FOLK SONGS, I wasn’t expecting the duo to cover an anime track, but it’s a different take because it’s more of a ballad than various other covers of this song.  It’s the closest to sounding somewhat like an idol track and the rolling drums in the verses are unique here.  Not bad, not bad.
  • Jingle Bell – Opening the Douyou Pops album, we start off with a Christmas song that everyone knows somehow, someway, Jingle Bells (or Jingle Bell for some reason here).  Featuring Marippe, Coconuts Ayaka, Ayappe and new H!P member, Rika Ishii the song is what you’d think it’d be.  Nice that all 4 members have equal lines and I’m impressed by Ishii for her first stint in H!P.
  • Akahana no Tonakai – Aibon, Makochan, and Coconuts Ayaka sing together for their cut of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and I have to put a warning that all the arrangements from “FOLK SONGS” and moving to this album, it’s heavily cheesy and CASIOs are just running rampant through the songs here.  This tune sounds cheap, but luckily the trio sound nice.
  • Santa ga Machi ni Yattekuru – Hearing saxophones in a song like this is always nice to hear and this is a rather nice rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town (though once again, they changed the lyrics out from the original, for some odd reason). Plus it helped that they chose some good singers to tackle this from from Kei-chan, Coconuts Ayaka, Rinne, and Ayaya, so this may be my favorite from the album!
  • White Christmas – It’s something when you get some of the better H!P vocalists for a song, but they kind of knocked out of the park with this rendition of White Christmas.  Yeah, the song has always been a slow crawl of a song but Nacchi, Ai-chan, and Mika did a pretty nice job of it.  Even better that Mika’s part is entirely in English and she sounded amazing!
  • Kiyoshi Kono Yoru – The Douyou Pops album ends with everyone getting together to sing Silent Night and it’s non-offensive in such a good way!  It is interesting to note that the remaining Country & Coconuts Musume members get to sing the English passage of the track, but otherwise it’s a nice chorale and good closer to this odd album.

MEH SONGS

  • Summer Reggae! Rainbow – 7-nin Matsuri’s song was a total surprise (well not really because of looking at the title), but H!P tackling Reggae music just seemed so out of left field.  On top of taking Gocchin, Marippe, Michiyo, both Kimuras, Ayumin, and Lehua here, it felt like an odd coupling of girls.  Despite the song being incredibly corny and the music feeling a little cheap, that chorus is rather catchy.  Though I think that bridge is terrible XD…no more Tsunku!
  • Hello! Mata Aou ne (3-nin, 7-nin, 10-nin, 20-nin Matsuri ver.) – Found as the B-side to all 3 shuffle unit singles (and the 20 on “Petit Best 2”), Hello! Mata Aou ne, is for all intents and purposes a campfire song and it shows right from the intro.  It’s somewhat cute with the whole sing-a-long vibes I get, but I can see why H!P has mostly forgotten about this track.
  • Kamome wa Kamome – One of the more forgettable tracks is this Yuko solo from FOLK SONGS as it’s kind of the bare minimal arrangement that most of the album had already contained.  Yuko does sound pretty, I’ll give it that.  It’s just that the song otherwise is one that would put me to sleep easily.
  • Nagoriyuki – I figured there would be another song to kind of put me asleep and it’s another Sayaka solo but this one suffers from minimal arrangement with just light strings & acoustic guitar.  I just couldn’t remember the melody after I had listened to it, but the song just flew over my head.
  • Aa~ Yokatta – Yup, another case of a song that just is a bit too simplified and just doesn’t stick to me like other songs had.  Piano/acoustic guitar is just a bit overdone here and the tone of the song itself just doesn’t lend itself to particularly stick out amongst the other songs from the cover album so it too also flew over my head.
  • Shiroi Iro wo Koibito no Iro – Didn’t W also cover this song too?  Either way, after the boring “Aa~ Yokatta”, this song decides to walk right in and throw banjos into the mix.  H!P and banjos don’t really mix well together and it still stands despite that Sayaka and Yuko sound good (especially since Yuko leads the harmonizations).  Still…this is still a bit cheesy.
  • Santa Claus ga Yattekuru – Here Comes Santa Claus is funny enough a lot shorter than I remembered as a child, but here we are and this (and most of the songs are SUPER short when it comes to Douyou Pops albums).  Sung by Yossie, Aibon, Asami, and Ishii, this is a smidge embarrassing, mostly coming from Yossie’s quips in the track…like…your “Mr. Moonlight” stuff doesn’t belong here lol!
  • Yuki ga Odoru – Considering this is based of a Czech song, this song feels odd on the album.  Sung by Marippe, Gaki, Charmy, and Asami….it’s such a simple, but kind of annoying song and the vocals (especially between Charmy & Asami) were rough to say the least.
  • Kaze mo Yuki mo Tomodachi da – Yeah, this is Frosty the Snowman here sung by Nacchi, Gaki, and Ishii.  Granted, lyrically it’s not Frosty, but something a bit more generic?  I don’t know, but it’s nice that Nacchi and Ishii gets some decent lines and they both sound decent and Gaki as young as she was then didn’t sound too strong, but could hold her own?  Still the tempo felt slow and kind of frumpy sounding too…meh…
  • Mama ga Santa ni Kiss Shita – What a scandalous song I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is and once again shifting lyrics around, but this felt cheap like the “Frosty the Snowman” cover was lol!  I do like the 4 ladies (Kei-chan, Tsuji, Rinne, and Mika) get equal line distribution…I was so tuned out from it all.
  • Omedetou Christmas – I have to say, I love the music box sound of the opening and ending of this cut of We Wish You a Merry Christmas and all and even better when Mika and Coconuts Ayaka sing the first passage in English, but once Konkon, Kaori and Asami join in they sound really rough together…I think if they left those 3 out, this would’ve been much higher up.
  • Morobito Kozorite – I kind of was surprised to hear pipe organ open up this take on Joy to the World as it sounded dark and foreboding, but then the goofy H!P cheap horns kick in and the song kind of just throws the song on the floor.  I mean oddly enough Kaori is the only one of the 5 involved to have solo lines.  I will say it’s nice to see Mikapon & Coconuts Ayaka have an English set (though the yelling was bizarre too).  Just left Asami and Ishii to kind of sit back.  Kind of a cringey cover if you ask me.
  • Yuki – As the other song given a PV (“Akahana no Tonakai” being the other), Yuki featured Rinne, Tsuji, and Konkon for this one and learning this is a Japanese song that was to kids in education, it’s nice they included that here.  Though, the vocals were just absurdly high-pitched, even Rinne who was the eldest in the song sounded just as squeaky and annoying as Tsuji who was on full effect annoyance (hell, to say that Konkon didn’t bother me is saying something!).
  • Oshougatsu – Moving onto songs that deal with New Year’s, Oshougatsu is a REALLY short song that features Yossie, Rinne, Coconuts Ayaka, and Ishii and it’s a surprise that the latter two have more solos than the more popular members.  It’s boring and plain and just didn’t resonate with me.
  • Ichigatsu Tsuitachi – I thought “Oshougatsu” was short, but this song feels even shorter.  The thing I do like is that it has a nice Matsuri-esque sound about it and Gocchin, Makochan, Charmy, and Ai-chan have equal lines, but it’s pretty basic and how quick it goes by doesn’t leave much of an impression.
  • Tako no Uta – Like I’ve mentioned earlier, banjos and H!P do not mix well and despite Tako no Uta, like “Yuki”, is a Japanese school-taught song, just doesn’t work even if you use two of your popular members, Gocchin & Ayaya.  They sound decent, but the hokey arrangement just kind of throws any interest out for me.
  • Renai Revolution 21 (Cho Cho Cho cool remix) – Onto Petit Best songs, we get another remix for a Momusu song, this time for Renai Revolution 21.  For what it is, it’s more of a chilled out remix of the song and I thought it sounded cool and funky, but then once the verses kick in, it feels way too slow than it needed to be (the singing sounds slow too).  If it was sped up a little, it would’ve done better.

ICKY SONGS

  • Minimoni. Dancing – Considering that Minimoni was the only group that hadn’t had any changes, they were given two new tracks for their participation in the compilation album.  This 40 second track just seemed like useless fluff and really didn’t do anything for the quartet.  It’s fitting as a cute little ditty, but it just doesn’t stick to me.
  • Minimoni. no Uta – The other track (which is a minute long) was just as unnecessary and oddball, but at least this song has a little more going for it because all for members spell out the group’s name and sing it with some extra bit.  Though, the organ is cute…but still kind of ick.
  • Pokipoki Pocky – Like the Minimoni songs, Pokipoki Pocky is a short 1 minute track from Momusu to promote Pocky of all things.  The song is found as a hidden track on Petit Best 2 and really isn’t worth the listen because it’s so frantic and there’s just so much Pocky snapping sounds and the girls repeating the title…yeah…I suppose it’s somewhat nice…but why?

Gains and Losses

Gains

  • Aya Matsuura
  • Mami Suenaga
  • Ai Takahashi
  • Risa Niigaki
  • Asami Konno
  • Makoto Ogawa
  • Rika Ishii
  • Saki Arai

Losses

  • Yuko Nakazawa (from Momusu)
  • Ibuki Oki

My H!P Ranking for ’01

  • 31. Saki Arai (NEW)
  • 30. Asami Konno (NEW)
  • 29. Nozomi Tsuji (+1)
  • 28. Makoto Ogawa (NEW)
  • 27. Ibuki Oki (-3)
  • 26. Rika Ishikawa (+3)
  • 25. Megumi Murata (-9)
  • 24. Asami Kimura(+3)
  • 23. Lehua Sandbo (0)
  • 22. Ai Takahashi (NEW)
  • 21. Risa Niigaki (NEW)
  • 20. Ami Kitagami (+5)
  • 19. Rinne Toda (-11)
  • 18. Kaori Iida (+4)
  • 17. Ayumi Shibata (+11)
  • 16. Ai Kago (+1)
  • 15. Rika Ishii (NEW)
  • 14. Hitomi Saito (+1)
  • 13. Mami Suenaga (NEW)
  • 12. Ayaka Kimura (+6)
  • 11. Yuki Maeda (-9)
  • 10. Kei Yasuda (+9)
  • 9. Natsumi Abe (0)
  • 8. Aya Matsuura (NEW)
  • 7. Masae Ohtani (+3)
  • 6. Yuko Nakazawa (-2)
  • 5. Michiyo Heike (+7)
  • 4. Mika Todd (+9)
  • 3. Maki Goto (+2)
  • 2. Hitomi Yoshizawa (+19)
  • 1. Mari Yaguchi (+5)

Sorry, this one took forever, I can’t promise that 2002 will be any quicker considering how many of those Douyou Pops albums comes out and it’ll be insane, but I’ll try to get it out sooner than this one took!

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Warp back to 2000…Year Recap!

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

Morning Musume

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

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

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

ICKY SONGS

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

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

Michiyo Heike

heike-jpg

oneroomnatsuainochikaraforourself

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

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

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

Yuko Nakazawa

nakazawa

shanghainokaze

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Tanpopo

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Taiyou to Ciscomoon / T&C Bomber

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dontstoprenaichuuheymahiru2nd-stage-1

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

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

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

Coconuts Musume

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

ICKY SONGS

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

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

Country Musume

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hokkaidoshalalakoigasuteki

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

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Chinatsu Miyoshi

miyoshi

anatanoshirts

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Petitmoni

petitmoni

seishunjidai

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

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

 MEH SONGS

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

ICKY SONGS

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

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

Melon Kinenbi

 melon

amaianatanoajikokuhakukinenbi

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

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

Yuki Maeda

maeda

nakiusagi

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Sheki-dol

shekidol

kokoronopheromone

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

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

Minimoni

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

Other H!P Releases

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

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

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

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

ICKY SONGS

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

Gains and Losses

Gains

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

Losses

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

My H!P Ranking for ’00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Warp back to 1999…Year Recap!

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

Morning Musume

morningmusumelove

memoryseishunnohikarimanatsunokousenfurusatolovemachine2ndmorning

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

ICKY SONGS

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

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

Michiyo Heike

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

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

Yuko Nakazawa

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Tanpopo

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

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

Taiyou to Ciscomoon

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

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

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

MEH SONGS

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

ICKY SONGS

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

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

Coconuts Musume

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

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Country Musume

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

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

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Chinatsu Miyoshi

miyoshi

unchainmyheartloveyesido

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

GREAT SONGS

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

OK SONGS

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

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

Petitmoni

petitmoni

chokottolove

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

GREAT SONGS

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

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

Melon Kinenbi

melon

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

Other H!P Releases

thegaragethegarage2

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

Gains & Losses

Gains

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

Losses

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

My H!P Member Ranking for ’99

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

NEXT TIME, THE NEW MILLENIUM!!!

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Warp back to 1997 & 1998…Year Recap!

So I’ve decided to start tackling the old H!P and slowing reaching up the year (a grand task at hand!).  What’s a better way than to start from the humble beginnings of H!P?…or at that time the 6 together were just called Hello!  Well, two years because 1997 had only two releases and that would’ve been too short of a blogpost.  Also some pictures are going to be from more recent stuff (because apparently promo shots back then were near to not existing at the time).

Also, as it is a Year Recap, it’ll be done like the ones I tend to usually do at the end of every year :D…so this won’t be any different (except currently, there’s no Eggs/Kenshuusei XD)…so shall we dive right in!

Morning Musume

morningmusumedaite

ainotanemorningcoffee8summernighttown8daiteholdonme8firsttime

At the late months of 1997, Sharam Q lead singer Tsunku was looking for a female vocalist to join the band and held an audition to find said singer!  Really of course, it seems that Tsunku had found his winner between 6 girls (Nakazawa, Iida, Abe, Fukuda, Ishiguro, and Heike) though in the final round, it turned out that Heike was the winner, but it didn’t end there!

The remaining 5 were given a task: Sell 50,000 copies of their demo (or indies single as they’re called today), Ai no Tane and they will be given a major label debut.  It took 5 days, but they managed to complete this mission and was able to debut properly the next year in January (which was only a little above two months after) with their single Morning Coffee.  With about as much excitement there was though, Tsunku decided to hold auditions soon after for a 2nd Generation which ended up with Sayaka Ichii, Mari Yaguchi, and Kei Yasuda passing and becoming the 2nd Generation of Momusu and led to their next single, Summer Night Town, and their debut album, First Time.  Before rounding out the year with Daite HOLD ON ME! which was the ending theme to the group’s first movie.

GREAT SONGS

  • Morning Coffee – I mean there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be up here to be honest.  It’s a song that kicked off a really, long and exciting set of years.  Hearing that initially Kaori was supposed to lead the song but switched last minute for Natsumi is quite risky (as the latter had some pitch issues, but Kaori had some problems herself…but this was their 2nd song so what can I say?).  I really like the harmonies that these 5 have and the double lines are just so pretty to listen to.  Plus I have to say that Asuka and Kaori really stick out the most and I quite love it!
  • Summer Night Town – Well, it’s enough to say that their 2nd major single was just as strong!  Though I wasn’t expecting a change of genres after “Ai no Tane” and “Morning Coffee’s” more lighthearted and breezy tones.  Though I could say it was cashing in on the current trends in music and such.  This was also the 2nd Generation’s debut, but they were more or less non-existent here being back-up vocals.  Though one gripe was the vocals weren’t as tight as they were previously, but I’m sure it’s to share the rough sound we had.  Still, it’s a great follow-up!
  • Yume no Naka – Going into album tracks with Yume no Naka, I love the kind of throwback sound it got especially with the horns and overall groove.  There’s just something dreamlike about this and Kaori, Yuko, and Mari really sound good together especially with the lighter atmosphere!  Still my favorite track from the album sans the A-sides.
  • Usotsuki Anta – The only other album track that stuck out to me is Usotsuki Anta and that’s because of its upbeat sound and we get a LOT of Yuko in this track and I’m definitely excited since its mostly been an Asuka/Kaori/Natsumi fest.  Even Aya gets a couple lines. Vocally it’s one of the best songs off the album that’s for sure!

OK SONGS

  • Ai no Tane – Yeah, their first song, their indies, is kind of just middle of the road for me, even though this was new and foreign to me when I first heard of it.  I think maybe its just that “Morning Coffee” did the upbeat, breezy sound better for me and the vocals here are a bit more shrill as well except for the verses ironically.  Still, for a debut, this song is actually not that bad and screams nostalgic to current H!P fans!  Even the keyboard solo was so weird xD
  • Good Morning – Moving into the intro for their album, Good Morning definitely has that sunrise kind of feeling and the group harmonizing is quite nice to listen to (especially with 8 members in tow).  Though it does struggle to leave an impression outside of its chorus.
  • Wagamama – All I feel for the album is that it has this certain Western kind of sound and not so much J-pop at time (minus “Summer Night Town”).  The pop/rock feel I get from this suits Kei, Aya, and Sayaka who are the leads of the song.  Still the whole song sounds like it was meant for something else and not-so-much for Momusu, but the trio held it quite fine!
  • Daite HOLD ON ME! – As the group’s 3rd single, I felt like they tried to tackle a lot more than they should here.  I mean on top of the fact that it does remind me of “Summer Night Town”, the girls sound a lot more rough and hitting notes were ending up squeaky and off-kilter.  Though the rapping section was something the group hasn’t done yet…and it was interesting to say the least.  I do love the verses as they came off so sexy and mature too.

MEH SONGS

  • A MEMORY OF SUMMER ’98 – Being the first B-side for the group that wouldn’t make the album’s cut (“Morning Coffee’s” was “Ai no Tane” and was on the album too), A MEMORY OF SUMMER ’98 is a little strange nowadays due to the year at the end (but at the time it was something special for them).  That said, despite this being 2nd Generation’s debut, they were actually absent for this song.  Beyond that, the song was quite uneventful for me, even though the arrangement is light and pleasant (and with strings).  It just kind of was there for me, nothing bad, but nothing remotely memorable.
  • Dou ni ka Shite Doyoubi – If there was anything I could pull from this song is that the song made me think of like 70’s disco but cheaply made?  At least the intro of the song was trying to build into something cool, but then it turned into a hokey mess.  It just wasn’t working out.
  • Samishii Hi – Then there was the ending to the album.  I don’t mind the gospel-like arrangement and I could even give props to the solo lines within this song, but once another girl joins up, the harmonies just get too wobbly and uncertain for a lot of the groupings so everything feels all over the place.  A little too loose vocally (maybe too raw?).
  • Tatoeba – Then we have the B-side from “Daite HOLD ON ME!” and I could only think of “Wagamama” because it shares that Western vibe, but this one actually includes slide guitar to make it more fitting.  Though what makes me forget this is once again the vocals that seem to clash moreso than gel.  Also it does tend to drag way too long for me to care for.

ICKY SONGS

  • Mirai no Tobira – There was seriously one song that made me want to cry as I listen to the songs from their first year.  This album track is the only urban track (that wasn’t an A-side) and it’s just bizarre and doesn’t fit anywhere.  I’m not a big fan of the speak-rapping going on here and then the sudden switch of BPM to fit in the slower verses to just speed it back up for the chorus, which was in itself weaker than normal.

Overall: As the group began, I felt like they were going to be run-of-the-mill goody-girls.  Though with “Summer Night Town” and the 3 new members, I feel like Tsunku was starting to take some risks and seeing what works and what doesn’t.  Though I won’t lie and say the stuff they get in these early albums are easy to get into sadly…

Michiyo Heike

heike.jpg

getsotsugyoutopdaikiraidakedoaishisugiteteenagedream

If you’ve read above, then you already know that Michiyo Heike won the ASAYAN auditions to become the new singer for Sharam Q right?  WELL…it seems Tsunku had other plans and instead gave her a solo career (where guitarist from Sharam Q, Hatake, would work with her for a couple of singles.  She debut a couple days after Momusu with the single GET (which was the audition song that let Michiyo win).  It did initially have great sales (around 70,000) but then her follow-up singles Sotsugyou ~TOP OF THE WORLD~, Daikirai, and Dakedo Aishisugite ended up flopping hard in comparison!  Though after her 2nd single, she released her first album, Teenage Dream as well.

GREAT SONGS

  • GET – Despite that everyone heard GET in the auditions (and to be fair there were better turnouts than Michiyo in the final round), she definitely made the song her own and I was kind of happy that GET ended up being her debut.  Unlike the poppy sound that Momusu got with “Ai no Tane”, GET had a full-on J-rock sound (thanks to Hatake) and Michiyo’s mature voice suited the aggressive nature of the track which is awesome!
  • Sasaete Kurenakucha – If there was one song that I thought deemed better than “GET” though, it’s this edgy B-side from “Sotsugyou”.  Hatake sounds a bit more aggressive here and Michiyo sounds a bit more fitting for the sound as well.  She was even getting some cool screams in there too so it gave the song a lot more personality throughout!  Awesome B-side!
  • Onna no Evolution – I never thought an album song would manage to stick out to me, but Onna no Evolution keeps things simple yet really catchy, add on that Michiyo was pretty upbeat and sounded strong (even more than she did on “Skip” and “Start!”.  It’s just a great song and one of the true standouts from “Teenage Dream”.
  • Akai Tsuki – At least there was one other album song that really caught my attention and that’s Akai Tsuki which felt like it had the most effort on it and it heavily sounded 90s especially with the synth beats and speed.  Actually it has a certain avex feel, sort of Euro, but at the same time not…it was unique and a total surprise on her album.
  • Daikirai – I feel like after her 2nd single, it seems like she wanted to go back to the more gritty rock sound she debuted with and Daikirai was definitely in the realm of that plus that title was also kind of given.  It might not be quite as rockin’ as “GET”, but there’s something edgy here and the lyrics were just as much.  I just ended up loving it!
  • Dakedo Aishisugite (Mix for Single) – Yes, there’s a reason why its a single version here.  Either way, Dakedo Aishisugite is probably my favorite A-side Michiyo released in 1998.  It just perfects her pop/rock style to suit her voice and the overall strong and aggressive nature of the song.  There’s some synths that play around, but it’s still mostly guitars and drums here.  Just a cool song and one of the best ones to represent Hello!’s cast of ladies especially being the first solo member.

OK SONGS

  • Sotsugyou ~TOP OF THE WORLD~ – I was surprised that Michiyo’s first release in 1998 was going to be a cover of an old Carpenters track.  Considering that it’s a popular song that’s covered in Japan, Michiyo’s is a bit better than I was expecting and her mix of pop/rock is interesting.  Not a bad cover and Makoto did pretty well here.
  • Start! – The opening of Michiyo’s album kicks things off quite strongly with this track.  Now most of the song is a lot like “GET” with a more aggressive sound, but I will at opening was a bit overkill for me.  Disregarding that, I do think she did a great song here!
  • Skip – After the opening track, we got Skip and it’s upbeat and cute to listen to which is a nice contrast!  While I feel like Michiyo did get some help vocally, I didn’t mind this as it’s breezy and funky at the same time!  Fun little track overall!
  • Hitorigurashi – Another album song, I felt like Hitorigurashi was more safe than anything.  I do love the harmonica and the whole Western light it had (which once again a couple of Momusu songs had as well).  Like there’s nothing wrong with it and it could make for a nice, easy listen, but that’s what it really comes down to for me.
  • Fall the rain – As the B-side from “Daikirai”, it was a nice contrast from the more edgy A-side.  Though I do feel like it’s a leftover from her album and the kind of rock-ballad wasn’t the most exciting thing, but it’s a little interesting as a B-side.

MEH SONGS

  • Prepare – As Michiyo’s first B-side, it felt like it joined alongside the cute and upbeat songs Momusu were releasing and funny enough they gelled together.  The big difference is that Michiyo didn’t have the harmonies (and multiple members to fill things out).  The tune ended up being a little bit one-note IMO.
  • Furimukinaide – One of the other few Tsunku-produced songs, Furimukinaide was a strange album song because of the kind of pseudo-reggae, slightly rock tinged groove that throws me off.  Add on Tsunku doing backup vocals and things are just a little more stranger than normal.  Oh add on the random organ lines and it’s just a black sheep on the album.
  • Hey! Hey! Girls Soul – Ending her album, Hey! Hey! Girls Soul tried to mix up some 50’s diner-esque songs with some stranger things.  I couldn’t get behind some of the arrangement choices and Michiyo is kind of yelling some of her lines which is not exactly something I was expecting for a style like this.  Maybe a little too random for me.
  • Shinkokyuu Shiyou!! – If “Dakedo Aishisugite” was going to be that catchy rock song, I wasn’t sure what the B-side was going to be and it’s a little too sway-back and forth for me and seemed to be a total opposite to its A-side.  I will say the acoustic sound is nice and the harmonica part was interesting enough (though “Futarigurashi” already tackled that…but this song doesn’t seem to suit the single.

ICKY SONGS

  • Teenage Dream – The only thing I could really say it’s so icky is that its an interlude that really has no place on the album.  All it really is is just a lone piano melody for a whole minute.  I will say that it does feel like it’s leading to a more darker song…though it actually doesn’t.

Overall: She started so strong, but for some reason her sales just dropped to the wayside whereas Momusu continued to sell (could be because Tsunku focused so much more of his time on the group sadly).

Yuko Nakazawa

nakazawa

karasunonyoubouodaibamoonlightserenadedaiissho

After Morning Musume released their first album, it was announced shortly after that Yuko would be given a solo career as an Enka artist (traditional Japanese folk music).  Though we would learn later that she wasn’t too big of a fan of this because it made her feel old on top of it being a little more of a niche genre.  She debuted a little under a month after “First Time” with the single, Karasu no Nyoubou and then released a second single (a duet with Enka artist, Gen Takayama), Odaiba Moonlight Serenade and then a week later, released her first album, Nakazawa Yuko Dai Issho.

GREAT SONGS

  • Karasu no Nyoubou – While I’m not the biggest fan of Enka (in the same reason, that Yuko wasn’t initially), I have to admit that this song is kind of cute and catchy.  I was also impressed that Yuko could handle Enka on her own merits despite being in an idol group simultaneously.  As a debut, it really came out of nowhere and the genre of choice while absurd, kind of made Yuko a totally different kind of soloist when compared to Michiyo.
  • Sutenaide yo – As the first album track, Sutenaide yo definitely hints a little of a cross between Yuko’s idol side and her new Enka side in a nice blend of both genres.  I definitely love Yuko’s voice here as it’s bright and full of l more relaxed and calm arrangement.  It’s a great tune to get to on the album that’s for sure!
  • Ame no Midousuji – So Yuko’s album actually is filled mostly with covers of old Enka songs, but strangely enough, I felt Ame no Midousuji didn’t fit the mold of the atypical Enka song.  I mean the horns, recorder, and strings do scream it, but Yuko’s straightforward singing made me it more like an idol song a bit (it could also be from the vocal layering as well).  Either way, it’s a pretty good song overall!

OK SONGS

  • Otonashibashi – I think if it wasn’t the recorder that wasn’t used, it would’ve been a simple ballad to listen to, but with the solos going on, the song really felt classic and soft for Yuko.  Unlike it’s A-side, “Karasu no Nyoubou”, Otonashibashi is more relaxed and focused more on Yuko’s light vocals which really were pleasant and almost heavenly to listen to.  Nice B-side overall!
  • Odaiba Moonlight Serenade – For Yuko’s 2nd offering, she teamed up with fellow UF singer, Gen Takayama for two songs!  The leading track, Odaiba Moonlight Serenade is not as quiet as her first single which is great and the arrangement is pleasant and upbeat, but sometimes I felt like Gen and Yuko didn’t match vocally, but it could just be the man/woman difference here.  It’s cute though and Yuko sounded really nice!
  • Tsugunai – If there was a safe Enka song in Yuko’s album, I feel like Tsugunai might just be that song because it does have the easy things that would be normally seen in Enka songs and while that can be bad, I do like Yuko’s performance enough that it just breezes by nicely.
  • Cosmos Biyori – Our next track makes this spot because of its sheer simplicity.  Like “Tsugunai”, the song has one defining feature and that’s the accordion in certain parts of the song…otherwise the same things I said about the above song can be brought to this track.
  • Etto Tsubame – I have to say, the intro to this song was something that woke up after a few of the other ballads that came before it, but outside of the arrangement, the song was a little plain, but Yuko once again had a really sweet voice so it didn’t bother me too much.  Not bad, but there’s clearly better.

MEH SONGS

  • Koibitotachi no Ballad – The B-side of her 2nd single also included Gen and it felt more of the same that I got from the leading track, though I did enjoy the strings a little more, but still the vocals are a bit wobbly and I think there was more Gen here which is ehhh.
  • Osaka Rhapsody – There are a lot of covers on Yuko’s album and maybe she should’ve just stuck to doing original tracks because Osaka Rhapsody felt so boring and forgetful to me.  It’s just kind of blah for me and to know that Yuko’s stuff is better sounding and all just doesn’t give this song favors.
  • Koi – It feels like we’ve had this song already in “Otonashibashi” with the lowbrow quiet ballad here which is OK, since there isn’t too many on her album, but this song is a bit too sleepy for me.  The harmonica (I think) is a nice touch and all, but otherwise, just a bit too light for me.
  • Eki – Oh boy, this song just left no mark on me.  I mean the majority of the song just kind of goes on by with not a lot of changes and yet the most memorable song was at the end where Yuko starts ad-libbing the chorus melody.  I mean for a cover song it’s ok, but not really memorable.

Overall: Of all the members of Hello!, I feel like Yuko had the busiest year as she had her share of solo work and her role in Momusu so she definitely had her work cut out.  Of her solo stuff specifically, it’s a mixed bag because Enka is still not a genre I delve into very much so meh lol!

Tanpopo

tanpopo.jpg

lastkiss

In October of 1998, it was announced that a sub-group of Morning Musume was to be created to have a little maturity in their music vs. their normal place of being an idol (which was moving to a more R&B style).  Chosen members were Kaori Iida, Aya Ishiguro, and Mari Yaguchi.  Just a month later, known as Tanpopo would release their debut single, Last Kiss and that was their 1998!

GREAT SONGS

  • Last Kiss – Of all the debuts so far, I think Last Kiss was the best of them for sure!  There’s something chilling and dark about Last Kiss that really caught my attention and then hearing Kaori, Aya, and Mari sing in such a wispy way impressed me a whole lot more than they were doing in Momusu!  Add on that a lot of spotlight was placed on Aya and Mari (who while they were given some spotlight on the Momusu album) had a LOT more lines in this one song.  I just love this song!
  • Jikan yo Tomare – They weren’t lying when Tsunku said he wanted Tanpopo to go in a different direction and the B-side ended up being a bossa nova track!  I do love hearing a lot of Mari, but the other two are there as the lower vocals which is pleasant enough for me.  It felt like a song that suits a later generation for me

Overall: Even though they had debuted at the end of the year, I felt like getting these 3 into a unit was a smart idea and the whole mature sound they have is definitely impressive just by going with their 2 songs!  I hope it continues throughout next year!

Other Hello! Releases

morningcop

The only release that did fit anywhere else is actually a soundtrack for Momusu & Michiyo’s movie, Morning Cop ~Daite HOLD ON ME!~ the first time since the ASAYAN auditions that all 6 Hello! members were singing together on top of the new 2nd Generation of Momusu!

GREAT SONGS

  • Dakedo Aishisugite (Mix for Screen) – To be honest, I really couldn’t tell the difference between the OST version and the A-side cut besides the arrangement being more clear in the OST one?  Actually, I think another big difference is the guitar solo in the bridge…definitely different.  Still it’s Dakedo Aishisugite at the end of the day and still one of the more impressive Michiyo songs!
  • Daite HOLD ON ME! ~Sexy Long version~ – I was surprised Momusu’s 3rd A-side would be given a new take, but I actually really like this version a smidge more than the original!  I especially love the new opening that really gives this sultry and sexy vibe and it continues through the verses (even though they weren’t resung).  Actually most of the song is changed by arrangement but that’s actually so cool!

OK SONGS

  • Onegai Nail – As the only song on the OST to include all 9 Hello! members, Onegai Nail was pretty interesting and features more of the recent happenings with Momusu by being a little more urban overall and yet has a lighter vibe to it.  I do like the harmonizations here a lot and since just about everyone had a line in it so that’s always good.  It’s a pretty happy-go-lucky song though and it does stick out in this OST.
  • Yoroshiku! – Disregarding that opening with the lifeless excitement, the song comes off as a surfer pop track and it presents us with something different.  I do like the silliness and upbeat vibe from the tune and it would’ve made a good album song to go after “Good Morning”

MEH SONGS

  • Koi no ABC – The other Momusu song from the movie, Koi no ABC tried to take the same path that “Onegai Nail” did, but the urbanized sound is a lot more cheap sounding and the chorus is rather slower than majority of the song (and it’s short too).
  • Tsuyoku Naranakucha…ne –  The OST actually also came with a new Michiyo song as well, but sadly this was kind of more of the same I’ve came to expect from her releases so it just kind of falls under.  Though I do like Michiyo’s lighter vocals that aren’t too scratchy as they’ve been.  It just sounded like “Sotsugyou ~TOP OF THE WORLD~”.

Gains

  • Michiyo Heike
  • Yuko Nakazawa
  • Kaori Iida
  • Natsumi Abe
  • Aya Ishiguro
  • Asuka Fukuda
  • Sayaka Ichii
  • Kei Yasuda
  • Mari Yaguchi

My H!P Member Ranking for 97/98

  • 9. Kei Yasuda
  • 8. Kaori Iida
  • 7. Natsumi Abe
  • 6. Sayaka Ichii 

Since it is pretty early in the girls’ careers I still had to rank them for the time being and kicking things off is Kei-chan because she wasn’t a star player back then and she only had a seldom of times where she had lines to herself.  Not saying she’s the worst member, but she hadn’t had the time to shine quite yet.  Kaorin also finds herself here, but she had a couple noticeable places where she stood out (like Tanpopo).  Though she’s ranked low because her voice isn’t quite strong and she shows a lot of dead-face emotion in the PVs sadly.  Being the lead vocalist can be rough, especially in the case of Nacchi who led the singles in Momusu.  She’s got potential, though right now she sounds very pitchy to me…shame considering she’s not even the best singer in Morning Musume!  Same with Icchan as she’s slightly better, but she hasn’t had the push yet of being a front singer yet.

  • 5. Mari Yaguchi
  • 4. Aya Ishiguro
  • 3. Asuka Fukuda
  • 2. Michiyo Heike
  • 1. Yuko Nakazawa

At first, Marippe was going to sit in the latter half of the 9, but it wasn’t until her addition of her into Tanpopo where she finally rised up to the occasion and she has a pretty, yet higher pitched set of vocals.  She’s still kind of an enigma in Morning Musume, but she did manage to carve out a small bit of personality here which is also the same for Ayappe.  Though she’s had a little more time to get settled and like Mari, it wasn’t until Tanpopo happened where she finally had a chance to show her skills and she’s got a lovely set of deeper vocals.  In Morning Musume proper, I feel like my favorite vocalist is Asuka but she’s also the youngest as well which is just more impressive!  Michiyo for me is 2nd because she does have a lot of power in her voice and being the winner of the ASAYAN auditions is something (and she didn’t have to go through an indies period).  However I feel like Yuko gets the top spot for doing the most of the year and delving into a genre that’s not entirely familiar to fans of the idol world!  Plus her vocals are so pleasant when singing ballads and Enka songs yet she gets very little in Momusu…

 

NEXT TIME, 1999 and finally Hello! Project is created!!!

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