C-ute “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” [PV]

C-ute start off the new year with a song that sounds like an early “song of the year” contender. “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” burns along with a sense of purpose rarely heard in idol songs. The song seems to be convinced of its own importance like it has a mind and personality of its own. I’m not sure I’ve ever heaped on as many glowing, colorful descriptors in praise of a song before (well, maybe for Mano Erina’s “My Days for You“) , but I feel very strongly that “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” just might be the best song Hello! Project releases in 2015.

Let the Suzuki Airi pic spam begin!

I might as well write a bit about pedigrees for the 27th major release from the most senior Hello! Project group. “Tsugi no Kado…” is not written by Tsunku. I don’t want anyone to think I wish ill upon the man, because I wish him a full and speedy recovery, and I really want him to return to his post at Hello! Project in full. But, things being what they are, I’m glad at least one other talented songwriter/composer is available to assist in the considerable writing duties of the Projects. Nakajima Takui proves again that he is man who knows his way around a song arrangement or two. Nakajima already gifted us with Angerme’s “Taiki Bansei” this year.

When taken together with this song, we see that Nakajima favors live instrumentals and an emotional arc filled with drama. This time, the instrumental mix relies heavily on a solid rhythm section and a string and piano arrangement. A sense of urgency permeates the song. Instead of a standard four-beat, drums kick in with accents for each third eighth note, setting the emotional suspense high. Throughout the song, the drums switch between this rhythm, a standard four beat, and a half-time groove. The real trick to these instrumentals is the usage of strings and piano instead of a predictable overdriven guitar. Somehow, the dramatic level of the song increases using these classic sounds. The arrangement sounds organic and human, which makes “Tsugi no Kado…” even more affecting. The lyrical flow of the violins and the piano add depth to a vocal arrangement that relies more on harmony than melody.

One of the strengths of C-ute is their ability to harmonize in a way that is vastly superior to their Hello! Project peers (see “Kanashiki Heaven“). With this release, their vocal harmonies have never sounded more confident or as well practiced. As always, Okai Chisato is C-ute’s secret weapon as her voice adds a distinctive earthy, growling quality. Nakajima Takui utilizes their talents to the fullest with the vocal arrangement of “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare”. In addition to rounding out and padding instrumentals, Takui uses background vocals to add suspense and build song structure. For instance, we see in the verses of “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” a repeated melodic line that gains harmonies with every repetition. Rather than appearing like lazy songwriting, the verses take on a churchlike quality of a cantor and a chorus.

This church motif is emphasized visually with the girls raising their arms up in the choreography. Church-like: intentional or coincidence?

Let’s get this out of the way early: C-ute look amazing in this PV. This might be the first time I’ve seen an idol group, to a girl, wear pants. On top of that, not one inch of midriff is exposed by Maimi, Saki, Chisato, Airi, or Mai. OK, Airi may have an inch of midriff showing, but it’s an inch of midriff teasingly veiled behind her gauzy top. H!P must still abide the “60% more midriff” clause in Airi’s contract. Jokes aside, C-ute seem to send the “we are not playing around” message with their look. Yes, they are beautiful, but they are not cute (ding!) playthings for your amusement. They are the ones in control of this situation.

Interestingly, most of the set design for “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” features not corners and turns, but long straight passages. In this series of shots, we see long a long corridor whose length is emphasized by horizontal wood paneling.

Most of the PV is shot in this performance hall. It looks to be an old dance floor with a stage for a band. I can imagine a swing band playing up there with a crowd of people doing the Lindy. Maybe it’s just me. Regardless, we see the familiar long strips of wood floorboard. This necessarily adds depth and perspective to the camera shots. Spots are high on the walls, angling up to emphasize the height of the hall. More depth, right?

This is a room with nor corners, only straight-line paths. Is this room meant to be a safe room? The girls don’t need to turn any corners here! They are free to do their dancing thing with H!P Kenshuusei Yamagishi Riko, Ichioka Reina, Kaga Kaede, and Horie Kizuki along for help (and experience!).

No need to raise the roof. That ceiling is already damn high.

Another interestingly textured set the solo shot set. The girls sing and dance inside an interesting metal screen perforated with round holes. Either the girls are singing inside a speaker cabinet or on the inside of a microphone. Spotlights angle down through the grating to add, yes, more depth. This is the set where we see the corners. The metal screen twists and angles in varying degrees lending a chaotic element to the regular and steady constellation of holes. Interesting that the solo shots are chaotic with corners everywhere while the group shots are ordered through choreography and long straight lines, right?

Corners indeed, MaiMai!

Finally, the girls walk into resolution as they meet in the great hall and lock-step together.

I feel like I’m singing my praises too loudly for the choir. Hello! Project and C-ute deliver again with “Tsugi no Kado wo Magare”. While I may not be the most vocal C-ute fan, I always take note on how the group slowly and silently evolved into a talented powerhouse. For me, the song is on the forefront of a group of excellent releases from the first quarter of 2015. C-ute throws down the gauntlet. Now it’s time for everyone else to keep up or find a new game.

And, scene.

You can buy C-ute’s “The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~ / Gamusha LIFE / Tsugi no Kado wo Magare” at CD Japan


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