Tuesday, March 24, 2009

°C-ute's 8th major single "Bye Bye Bye!"

The PV for "Bye Bye Bye!" has been released on Dohhh UP! This single will be released on April 15 and the single V will be released on April 22.

Link to video on Dohhh UP!

After "LA LA LA Shiawase no Uta" I didn't think °C-ute's releases could get any worse. Good gracious was I wrong. "Bye Bye Bye!" looks and sounds like it is missing some essence. Let's break it down, shall we?

The clothes
Those shiny tracksuits that they are also wearing on the cover remind of "DANCE suru no da!" in a really awful way. The color and the shininess and the style are a little too turn of the century for me. It's also upsetting that they couldn't do a little more differentiation between the outfits. Everyone looks so similar in the PV. And why the hell does Maimi have a popped collar?

As much as I dislike the main costumes, the casual wear is even worse. First off, you can't actually tell what the girls are wearing because they only show them from the shoulders up. I'd like to imagine that they couldn't afford pants for them so the girls are all just wearing the sweats they showed to the set in. The parts we can see are all mismatched: Maimi is wearing a t-shirt, Airi and Chisato are wearing peasant tops, Saki and Mai look like middle-aged women at the office, and Erika is wearing a scarf and presumably a shirt.

The set
Set? What set? Oh, you mean that bizarre industrial room with a light display in the background that might have been cool before LCD screen came about. Or do you mean that worst-Hello!-Project-CG-background-yet "set" during the closeups?

But really, the screen that says the name of the song and flashes pretty animated colors is no substitute for a real set. And some stupid pastel interpretation of abstract art is even worse.

The dance
I think the dance itself is alright, but it seems to have been shot very poorly. During the dance break everyone looks like they are in the wrong place even when they are not moving across the floor. Perhaps it was originally choreographed for seven and the translation to six didn't work well.

The girls also look really bored and unenergetic, which is a cardinal sin in the world of idols. Even Risako manages to pull out some semblance of energy for PVs (I wish she would for concerts as well), but the °C-ute members (even the normally dance-tastic Maimi!) look like they aren't aware that they are performing.

The song
First off, it sounds like it should have been released about twenty years ago. Those backing vocals are ridiculous! They just don't fit with these girls' thin teenage voices. I do kind of like the "take control" bit though. It's very empowering.

The thing that really bothers me, and I mean really bothers me especially after they did it on the opening track of Platinum 9 DISC as well, is the vocal distortion. I wish I could say that I'm fine with them doing the distortion on Saki as I can't stand her voice, but the distortion sounds so harsh and jagged. Distortion like that is what they used on pop singers who couldn't sing before Auto Tune was invented. I also really hate those hiccups at 3:40. They sound like they aren't supposed to be there!

Now, I don't absolutely hate this song. I really appreciate that Mai started it out. With the hiatus of Kanna Mai has moved up my third-place °C-ute member. It was nice to see her featured so much in the song!

Maimi's belting at 3:50 was a seriously delicious climax. In fact, I really loved the last 20 seconds of the track. It seems like the girls gained some energy in the dance and the backing vocals changed to something more appropriate.

Overall, this is my least favorite °C-ute single so far. I was really hoping they'd get another great release like "Edo no Temari Uta II" or "Tokaikko Junjou," but this falls back into the ranks of the other major singles. I'm really hoping we get Kanna back before their next release!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Morning Musume's 9th album "Platinum 9 DISC"

Morning Musume's ninth studio album Platinum 9 DISC isn't released until tomorrow, but it's leaked early as usual. It was hard, but I waited until I'd listened to the whole thing through twice before I started this review.

My overall first impression of the album was that the tracks seemed out of order. What business did "Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou" have being the third track instead of the last? Why didn't anyone think to put one of those nice solo tracks in between "Take off is now!" and "Naichou Kamo?" Why did "Kanashimi Twilight" end this album, or for that matter why was it even on here?

Taking each track individually it was a fairly solid bunch. I'll just have to get over the funky ordering.

1. SONGS (****-)
This track has a great intro! Nothing like a little piano transitioning into a hardcore beat. I was really feeling this track until they pulled the distortion on Ai-chan. Excu~se me? Ai-chan doesn't need that kind of treatment on her vocals! It loses a star for being insulting to Morning Musume's best vocalist. Otherwise, a solid opening track! It really sets the stage for the album to come.

2. Resonant Blue (****-)
This track is pure blue heat. I can ignore the ridiculous line distribution for a song this cool and sexy. It definitely loses a star for the lack of real instruments during the dance break. That would have made it perfect.

3. Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou (****-)
This would no doubt have been a five-star song if they had used the original arrangement that leaked during the New Star Auditions. This new version is still good, but it doesn't quite hit the spot. First of all, this way it makes the Junjun/Linlin solos more of a novelty as they're the only solos we get, but they muddled them up with unnecessary backing vocals. Secondly, I really enjoyed the duet lines in the bridge of the original mix. Thirdly, while I love the really powerful instrumentation in the last part of this arrangement, I don't like what they did with the tempo around the 2:15 mark.

4. Take off is now! / Takahashi Ai, Niigaki Risa, and Tanaka Reina (*****)
Oh. yes. I don't know if I can use words to review this song because I kept help getting up off my chair and DANCING. Why can't I be Rosie Perez? Just watch the girls performing it live if you haven't already, and then maybe you can understand. And that outro... just too perfect.

5. Naichou Kamo (*****)
I realize I was really skeptical of this song at first, but P-chu Piano Labs convinced me to give this track another chance. Girl, am I glad I did! It's all but impossible to not sing this one out loud as I cross campus.

6. Watashi no Miryoku ni Kizukanai Donkan na Hito / Mitsui Aika(***--)
I think I might have actually preferred this one live. Aika really sounds lovely, but the instrumentation is so damn generic. Also, I was really expecting something to happen during those four beats leading up to the chorus. Something sort of did before the last chorus, but it wasn't exciting.

7. Guru Guru JUMP / Kusumi Koharu, Junjun, and Linlin (****-)
I'm sure this one will eventually grate on my nerves a bit, but right now, at this moment, I LOVE IT. It's sort of a mix of Super Mario Brothers, "Lemon Iro to Milk Tea," and Koha's Kirarin☆Revolution work (at which she really excels). Junjun and Linlin sound really adorable, and their accents aren't too overpowering in this track either. A few favorite parts: Linlin's "Nee nee"s; the "say!"s during the verse; all the "Jan jan ja ja jan ja ja ja JUMP"s before the chorus.

8. Mikan (****-)
While I don't care for "Mikan" as a single, I think it makes a nice album track, and it's even better live. Such an energetic and hopeful song of youth!

9. Jounetsu no Kiss o Hitotsu / Takahashi Ai, Niigaki Risa, and Tanaka Reina (****-)
Wait, didn't this subset just get a go five tracks ago? I have to admit that I was skeptical about this song after the pure sexiness of "Take off is now!" but it has merit. The ladies all sound nice, Ai-chan is especially highlighted and sounds outstanding. The instrumentals aren't the best, but it fits well with the rest of the album.

10. It's You / Michishige Sayumi (**---)
Did this seriously make it on the album? I don't care that the style sounds ridiculously dated (I was really waiting for a "Stop! Give me a beat!" in the intro, only to be served some irritating giggles), in fact I kind of like that. Here's the problem: Sayumi can't sing. Not even this kind of thing. She sounds awful. I can't believe I managed to sit through this trash twice.

11. Onna ni Sachi Are (*****)
I love this song. It's so angry and passionate and mature. "All the best to women" indeed!

12. Kataomoi no Owari ni / Kamei Eri (***--)
I really wish Eri's track was better. She's has such a sweet voice and look, but this song is completely forgettable. I really hope she gets a music side project soon. I'm not satisfied with mediocre album tracks! Her new anime makes me hopeful though.

13. Kanashimi Twilight (*****)
I don't think this track belongs on this album. It's the only one that isn't from Morning Musume's current lineup, and it was released almost two years ago! On the other hand, I love this song for both its musical quality and the nostalgia in induces. When Yossie and Miki left I felt like the group lost a lot of personality. There's no one sassy left in Morning Musume anymore! When ninth generation finally rolls around I hope we get someone who's a bit older and has a well-defined personality.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New collaboration PV for Matsuura Aya

Graduated Hello! Project member Matsuura Aya has collaborated with Inagaki Junichi on a track from his new album Ballade Best, which was released on Wednesday. A PV for their collaboration track "Anata ni Aitakute ~Missing You~" has been released on YouTube.

Link to video on YouTube

Aya sounds beautiful is this release, and she actually gets to do the harmony part to Inagaki during the latter half of the song.

It's got some really interesting visuals, especially considering that it was released through some sort of "Age Free Music" label. The first part of the song features Aya, a young woman, in a bright and sunny room looking at a vibrant red fish. The latter half of the song features Inagaki, an older man, in the same room, but at night and with a black fish.

These visuals don't follow the male:light/female:dark archetype, so I would conclude that they are emphasizing the age difference. Aya is in the sunny day time of youth whereas Inagaki is in the evening of adulthood. I'm sure some Aya fans are going to love the idea of her being interested in older men.

Aya is a fabulous vocalist and a beautiful young woman. I'm sure that at the very least she will continue to get projects like this now that she has graduated.

One a related note, does anyone else think of Whistler's mother when they see the profile shots of Aya in the chair?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Check out my new blog: Suki yo, Captain!

I've started a secondary blog, Suki yo, Captain! It's just a little space for me to worship our fly girl captain of Berryz Koubou, Shimizu Saki.

The title is from a 1975 single by the Lilies, which was subsequently covered by the Hello! Project duo W on their first album Duo U&U.

I will be posting photo sets, videos, and Saki-related news regularly, all meant to make you say, "Suki yo, captain!"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Captain in Korea, Maimi in Morning Calm Land*

This morning I managed to sleep through both of my morning classes, so I wasn't too happy when I rolled out of bed to read the news. Once I got around to the Hello! Online picboard my feelings soared, though.

Imagine my wonder when I discovered 150 photos of Shimizu Saki and Yajima Maimi looking gorgeous as sin!

The Maimi, leader of °C-ute, and Saki, the captain of Berryz Koubou, went to Korea along with Tsunku to promote the Hello! Project Korea Auditions, which will theoretically be the Korean analog to the Taiwanese Hello! Project New Star Auditions that brought us Ice Creamusume.

There was some sort of autograph even that Saki and Maimi wore street clothes to. Good gracious do they look adorable!

For the press conference the girls wore outfits from recent concerts. Maimi looked a little silly (I never cared for those enormous bows on her), but Saki looked like a million bucks in that purple structured bodice and crazy sea foam skirt. She also appears to have flown rather than walked down those stairs...

I'm excited about the Korean auditions. They are supposed to air next month, so it's time to start getting excited!

If you want to see all of the photos from the event, I've removed all duplicate photos and put them into a Picassa album. Enjoy!

*The Land of the Morning Calm and Korea are the same place. I just like alliteration.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kago's "love basket" overfloweth into scandal

The news just broke over at Hello! Online that Kago Ai, former member of Morning Musume, Minimoni, Tanpopo, and W, has allegedly caused the divorce between 33-year-old Mizumoto Hidejiro, fellow actor in Benten-dori no Hitobito and son of Kago's psychic of choice Shimo Yoshiko, and his 23-year-old wife, who is also the mother of the couple's three children.

Mizumoto's wife Asato is seeking monetary reparations to the tune of 10 million yen (approximately 100,000 USD) from Kago and 50 million (approximately 500,000 USD) yen from her ex-husband for the alleged affair. She claims that the affair began, and that Kago had moved into her husband's apartment, before the couple's divorce on January 8.

My thoughts

I love Kago. She is my favorite young woman to have ever been in Hello! Project. We are very close in age (she's a few weeks older than me). Before she was fired her voice had really begun to mature into something beautiful. She was the most beautiful young woman in Hello! Project before she went under house arrest and lost all of that weight. I love that in her blog and her recent interviews she's so open and (as far as I know) truthful. It's sometimes painful to hear what she has to say because it destroys my mental image of her as the ever-happy youthful spirit that she presented as while active in Hello! Project, but the intimacy of it makes me feel like I actually know her.

I'm really interested to hear what she's going to have to say about this current scandal. I think it's very possible that the affair didn't start until the couple had already gone their separate ways. This ex-wife is asking for quite a bit of money (that Kago probably doesn't have), and is presenting a self-proclaimed sarcastic note and some overnight clothing as proof. I'm sure I've left clothing and make-up at my close friends' apartments, but it doesn't mean I'm living with them.

I think an important thing to keep in mind is that divorces don't happen spontaneously the moment that a couple decides they want to call it quits. If the affair did begin before January 8, did it start before or after the couple had split? I'm going to err on the side of caution before accusing Kago of being a home wrecker.

A very good friend of mine got married when he was quite young, and after a few years of abuse he got out of it. Before they were legally divorced he got involved with another woman (who he is now very happily married to). How ever, there were no children in the first marriage. Having kids absolutely changes everything. You're no longer just affecting yourself and another adult.

This man has three children with his ex-wife. Because of this I sincerely hope that Kago didn't begin the relationship until the couple had decided they were going to divorce, and that she didn't pressure Mizumoto to get divorced.

She's still very young and has had a bizarre life, but I don't think even that could justify inciting divorce when children are involved, especially considering her hangups about her own parents' divorce. I want Kago to be happy and successful because she has brought me so much happiness, but I don't want her happiness to infringe on others'.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Girl, you KNOW it!

Some high-res images of Berryz Koubou promoting their upcoming (and bad ass) single "Dakishimete Dakishimete" made their way to the Hello! Online picboard today. Of course Saki's head shot caught my eye because she's one fly bitch. Observe:

Now I haven't ever been a fan of that leopard-print fedora, but I noticed for the first time today that she's got a brooch pinned to it. Shall we have a close up?

Saki darling, you are a sex pot, and I'm glad you're not afraid to tell the world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Happy Anniversary, Berryz Koubou!

Can you believe how much these girls have grown in five years?

Just think back to year zero: on March 3, 2004 Berryz Koubou debuted with the single "Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai." There were eight girls then, ages 9 to 12, and the single was a cool, mature hip-hop-style track with a light-hearted and driving B-side. They went on to produce four more singles and an album that year.

On March 30, 2005, just a few weeks after their first anniversary, the girls released a quintessential single. "Special Generation" was a huge success and remained their highest-selling single by far for over two years. That year was the last for one member, Ishimura Maiha. She graduated on October 2, two months after "21ji Made no Cinderella" was released, and the group's line-up came to be what it is still today. In 2005 the girls released their second album, their first mini album, and four singles.

March 2006 saw the release of "Jiriri Kiteru," a mature summer-time track sang over Chopin's Revolutionary Etude, and each of the three singles released in this year sold more than the one before. The summer-themed mini album ③ Natsu Natsu Mini Berryz was also released this year, and it gave us our first ever tracks of Berryz subsets.

Four days after their third anniversary Berryz Koubou released their first ballad single, "VERY BEAUTY." It didn't sell as well as their previous single "Munasawagi Scarlet," but the next release would make up for it. "Kokuhaku no Funsui Hiroba," another ballad, outsold all of their previous singles. They finished up the year with their third full-length album, 4th Ai no Nanchara Shisuu and another single, "Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi," which in turn outsold its predecessors.

On March 12, 2008, Berryz Koubou released "Dschinghis Khan," a cover of the German group of the same name's 1979 debut. "Dschinghis Khan" is currently Berryz Koubou's best-selling, and possibly all around best, single to date. It was so popular that they went on to release a mix of the cover with the original as a special single. Their next single, "Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance," failed to outsell the cover and "MADAYADE" sold even less. Their fourth studio album 5(FIVE) was also released in 2008, and it is their best-selling album to date.

And now it's 2009. The girls have already had one musical release this year, their first best of album Berryz Koubou Special Best Vol.1, and their first single of the year drops next Wednesday! Aside from single-handedly buying 30,000 copies all I can do is hope that "Dakishimete Dakishimete" will be the single that breaks the girls out of their sales slump.

Long live Berryz Koubou, and keep up the good work, ladies!

(Also, loving the maid costumes in your anniversary photos!)