If you’ve been reading TheNumber244 for a while, you probably noticed the high praise I heaped upon Shinozaki Ai’s “A-G-A-I-N” earlier this year. In case you hadn’t, I can paraphrase by saying that Aichan’s voice is one of the most enchanting things to come out of Japan in 2015. In support of her new album, the “interestingly” titled “EAT ‘EM AND SMILE”, the gravure idol extraordinaire turned singer released a PV for her track “Hikari”. Honestly, it’s been burning up my playlist. The melancholy mood evoked by the song, the plucked string bass accompaniment, and Ai’s expressive vocal delivery … all of it pulls the heartstrings. The chorus hits, and I literally say, “Damn, this is a gorgeous song!”
The final A-side of Morning Musume ’15’s 60th release takes on the form of “One and Only”. A first for the group, “One and Only” is the first song by the group that features all English lyrics. The song provides the opening theme for NHK World’s “J-MELO” music program, which coincidentally heavily features the girls of Morning Musume. If you look at the song in purely utilitarian mode, it makes sense that a show presented in English would have a title song in English. Of course, there are other forces at work here. As Morning Musume prepares itself for another concert in the English speaking world, sending out an upbeat and optimistic song like “One and Only” as its ambassador makes a great deal of sense.
If you read through lyrics enough you eventually start to realize that although the lyrics seem like love songs to a boy or a girl, they’re really written about something else. There’s a joke that all the love songs written in the 1980’s are really about cocaine, while the love songs of the 1990’s are all about heroin – think about that the next time you listen to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. So while “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi” seems like it’s written about a love interest boy or girl, Sayashi Riho and the members of Morning Musume ’15 could just as easily be singing a song of unrequited love to Morning Musume itself.
Morning Musume ’15 is set to release their triple A-side “Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only” on December 29- practically the eve of the graduation for one of their most talented centers. Sayashi Riho graduates on December 31 during the “Hello！Project COUNTDOWN PARTY 2015 ～ GOOD BYE & HELLO ! ～” concert. Much could probably be said about Riho’s graduation, and I hope over the next three articles I cover most of what needs to be said about the girl. As fitting with a graduation, a touch of sadness hangs at the fringe of every emotion. And, even as this song represents the optimism of such a drastic life change, the uncertainty looms just beyond the horizon.
This is a second reminder: you can see Cheeky Parade live in the LA Area this weekend October 16-18. Details here, tickets here. This is the (not so) hidden agenda for all of these Cheeky Parade articles in the past few weeks. Real talk: we’re not going to get many idol events outside of Japan, let alone the Los Angeles area. $15 for an idol event is worth a look if you know nothing about Cheeky Parade or are even lukewarm on Cheeky Parade. I hope I see you there.
If you listen to the HaroWota at all, you probably heard the screams over Kobushi Factory. Starting with their indie single, “Nen ni wa Nen / Survivor”, there’s been a collective gasp at the tightness and performance level of the group. For the many who follow the Kenshuusei (Hello! Project Trainees), Kobushi Factory makes good on the promise of quality girls coming up through the system. The debut single, “Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen niwa Nen (Neniri Ver.)” charted an Oricon Weekly no. 3 with 34,639 units sold. Using an antiquated metric of sales, the single performed better than five Morning Musume singles (in the Platinum Era).
I don’t know if just the Hello! Project fandom that does this, but the subject of cheaply made promotional videos seems fascinate. I’m personally from the camp where spendthrift videos are welcome and the biggest sin is a distracting PV or (worse) a boring PV. Simplicity is a virtue, and “Sukatto My Heart” remembers this in the best way.
The lead track from Morning Musume 59th single immediately hits with Zukki on the first scene. This is Suzuki Kanon after her weight loss campaign putting herself out there, and H!P staff seem happy to oblige. Now, I’m not a dieting blog, and I really never minded Zukki playing the chubby character. But, the pathos is real. Naturally, I support any positive health decisions the girls make, this one included. As for her talents, Suzuki Kanon’s voice hung in the corner of the closet for a long time as a well-known secret weapon. Without enough opportunity to receive showcase, her vocals just hung there wasted. I guess her new body convinced the upstairs gentlemen that Morning Musume ’15 won’t get tagged as a “chubby girl idol group”
with Kanon out in the front.
For the of their second single, Country Girls present “a special summer I wouldn’t forget brilliantly swaying and shining”. As should be apparent by now, the girls are on a mission to present the retro compositions delivered in the cutest way possible. While the music plays like a flashback request hour (there won’t be a bass drop anytime soon), references to selfie-sticks and emails clues the listener that the Country Girls live in the world of today.
The theme here is strictly pastoral. True to the roots of the group, Country Girls made the long trip to Hokkaido to film “Tamerai Summertime”. The girls seemingly float in pastures, fields bedecked with daisies, and delicate wooded forests. If that sounds like a dream, then pinch yourself: the Country Girls are real.