When I first saw the promotional frills for “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss”, it should have been obvious. A stark black and red palette. Frills. Subtle polka dot patterns. I don’t know why I didn’t prepare for the Spanish sounds of the third single release. Let’s get a few things out of the way right here. The title, at least in English, is meant to titillate. No one will argue that the girls not hand-picked to attract an audience, and this title is a logical extension of that idea. It doesn’t bother me too much that this single plays with some highly charged words. And, before I start to hear the moral majority attempt to chastise me for condoning the use of words like “naked” and “breast” by children, might I remind the reader that Juice=Juice are probably not as young as he/she thinks. Trust me: 15 year-old Karin and Akari know all about their bodies by now (as did the reader, I assume).
The first sounds heard from “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss” are the Spanish guitar and the tell-tale claps of a flamenco. These Spanish-influenced sounds are constants throughout the song. One could argue that they’ve heard this song before, but think about it: for the Spanish influences, one might need to reach all the way back to Morning Musume’s “Iroppoi Jirettai” or maybe High King’s “Cinderella Complex“. For the obvious acoustic guitar, one might need to reach back to C-ute’s 2008 release, “Namida no Iro“. I don’t believe I have heard this kind of guitar work in a Hello! Project in a long time. We are talking about a span of 6 to 9 years since Tsunku worked the magical castanets and nylon string combination. Take a good listen to the bridge of “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss”: it’s a guitar solo. Coming out of the bridge we are treated to almost naked vocals over the guitar. Even with a soft synth pad, this is a rarity. As much as the insistent bass and drums try to push “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss” as a typical Hello! Project number, the instrumentation fo “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss” challenges the listener to think of this song as a departure from the standard operating procedure. I particularly enjoy the timbale accents heard throughout the song, because they say “pay attention, dummy”.
Now, you might not like this Spanish sound: that’s personal taste. But, if your main talking point is the homogeneity of idol songs in general (and Hello! Project songs in particular), then you are getting an ideal situation with “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss”. And, if the main criticism is “This is too similar to (the aforementioned) ‘Iroppoi Jirettai ‘”, please remember that you are talking about a song from 9 years ago and a group of girls who (except for Michishige Sayumi from a different group) have all graduated from Hello! Project. We are talking about Juice=Juice- a group with practically NO precedence. We are not talking about how you might have binged on Morning Musume’s “All Singles Complete” a few months ago and are now sick of Spanish-influenced J-Pop.
As this is Juice=Juice’s third single, a more interesting topic touches on the identity of the group. What shingle does Juice=Juice hang? Is it important for Juice=Juice to have THEY’RE thing? We can look back into the past with the Hello! Project Kids and see that Berryz Kobo were the energetic fun group while C-ute played the part of dead-serious entertainers. If we acknowledge the approach of the end days for Berryz and C-ute, does it seem logical that Juice=Juice become the future C-ute while S/mileage assumes the Berryz role? The similarities already exist. Like C-ute, Juice=Juice were the second group to be formed by Tsunku. Also like C-ute, most of the girls in Juice=Juice were “cast-off” in the sense that most of them failed one Hello! Project audition or another, while the girls from S/mileage all “won” their auditions (the older girls from Shugo Chara Egg! and the younger girls from … well the S/mileage audition). Most importantly, Juice=Juice are acknowledged for their talent, while S/mileage are (mostly) acknowledged for their manic energy.
While all of the above seem like the logical casting of Juice=Juice and S/mileage, I hope to see the groups surpass the level of their forebears. With Juice=Juice, this seems tantalizingly possible. The girls are young, attractive, and talented. Down to a single member, there is no single Juicer with glaring deficiencies. This is the most frustrating thing about “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss”. Even though the group appears ripe for their breakout, the song brings a flavor to their releases that will probably do little to catapult the group to the next level. I can’t believe that I’m making an argument for blandness, but Juice=Juice did not need a song that segments their audience. Mind you, I am not asking for generic idol song. I am questioning the wisdom of releasing a genre song at a critical moment in the group’s short history. As much as “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss” has grown on me in the last 1.5 hours of binge listening (and my appreciation for the song has also grown), I don’t think this was the right song to release at this time. Perhaps the song they needed for this release will be the second A-Side, which I have yet to hear.
OK, let’s talk about the PV!
Well, isn’t Karin a bendy little thing..
My favorite parts of the dance are these arm and hand formations
The baby of the group, Uemu Akari. I’m sure everyone sees her potential.
It’s a struggle for me NOT to screen cap all of H!P Jesus.
More of Akari’s potential. We can talk about that mole some other time (when she’s not so rail thin).
I don’t talk about her much, but Takagi Sayuki is an integral part of Juice=Juice. Her voice is probably the meat of the group’s sound.
Remember how much I loved this?
Here’s Kanazawa Tomoko, the “bully” of the group. At 17, she’s gaining a reputation among fans (especially after her performance with Sugaya Risako and Fukumura Mizuki)
This is a great moment in the PV. Sayuki might not be symmetric, but look at the angles H!P Jesus is giving us!
Some people might call it distracting, but I liked the way the camera moved during the dance shot. In fact, there were a variety of shots in the PV that came unexpected to me. Case in point: I didn’t expect to see this high angled shot in the PV.
I know. You did this to yourself, though. I ain’t writing this blog for anyone but me.
Another member who I don’t name too often. Even though she’s the oldest, Miyazaki Yuka came to the group with the most incomplete set of skills. As the only member of the group who didn’t spend time as an H!P Egg, this was expected. Yuka is often hidden in the back of the dance.
And, scene. This shot gives a good look at the set. I have no reason to believe that this not the same set used in practically every H!P PV in the last 3 years. But, look what the set decorators have done! Creative use of cheap materials and lighting add texture and depth to an otherwise uninteresting set.
You can buy Juice=Juice’s “Hadakano Hadakano Hadakano Kiss” at CDJapan.