℃-ute: Over 10 years in One Post

In early 2015 with Berryz Koubou disbanded (or, sorry, went on indefinite hiatus), I wrote a post that made a quick review of every Berryz Koubou single song (so, all the songs promoted as singles, no B-Sides or album-only tracks). It took a long time and ended up as an incredibly long post. I thought that would be the only time I would make something like that, but then C-ute decided to disband, and it would hardly be fair to make such an effort for only one half of Berikyuu.

C-ute has never been my favorite H!P group, but has been pretty consistently middle of the road for me, and I certainly preferred them to Berryz Koubou. Similarly to Berryz, they have a very interesting career almost by virtue that the membership was pretty stable over 10 years – three members left, but C-ute hasn’t added members since Arihara Kanna was added before their debut. Yajima Maimi has been one of my favorite Hello!Project members for years at this point, and I’m also fond of Nakajima Saki. C-ute has gone from being the most junior group in Hello!Project with very young members to being the most senior. They’ve gone from H!P in mid 2006, with the Elder Club still kicking, to the current resurgence of Hello!Project.

Similarly to the Berryz review, what I’m going to do with this post is focus solely on the major single songs, so all the songs that were promoted as singles. I’m going to look at their early indies and all of their major debut singles. I won’t look at album tracks, collaboration singles (so no Berikyuu or Mobekimasu) and I won’t look at their later indies (their Rakuten Eagles single and their musical-only single). No B-Sides, either. Just the main, promoted tracks. This time, I’ll also be taking a quick look at the PVs, though, fair warning, since this post is going to be long each song and each PV won’t get an in-depth treatment.

Indies 1. Massara Blue Jeans

Honeslty, as far as debuts go Massara Blue Jeans is the way to do it. While Berryz Koubou’s Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai is a solid song, it’s also kind of an awkward song and doesn’t really feel like it fits the members all that well. A lot of Berryz’s early tracks aren’t exactly songs that would normally be performed by the adult members of the group except for the nostalgia. All of this is to say that Massara Blue Jeans holds up – it’s a song that fits with C-ute when it was formed and it fits with C-ute now.

Massara Blue Jeans has a great melody, a great energy to it, and it features its members really well – I especially like that the background vocals are relatively quiet, allowing the members of C-ute to sound great. Airi and Megumi in particular shine vocally here.

While I still have an issue with some of the choreography in the video, musically Massara Blue Jeans is a great start for C-ute as a group. It’s a ton of fun and it’s still a song I listen to very regularly. 8/10

Indies 2. Soku Dakishimete

When it comes to C-ute’s indies singles, Soku Dakishimete is probably the least discussed and honestly it probably deserves that. Soku Dakishimete is just fine – the melody is pretty catchy but doesn’t have the same energy and power that Massara Blue Jeans has. It has a very workman arrangement that’s FINE but not standout. It’s for the most part a solid song, but isn’t as catchy as Massara Blue Jeans or the other two C-ute indies singles. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s never the C-ute song I have stuck in the head nor the song I turn to when I want to listen to C-ute.

The biggest thing of note with this is how great Murakami Megumi sounds as the lead singer. It’s such a shame she left as early as she did – she had a lot of potential as a singer, and is the clear vocal standout in Soku Dakishimete, to the point where the song would have thrived more as a Megumi solo.

Soku Dakishimete is good, but no where as good as C-ute’s other early singles. 6/10

Indies 3. Ooki na Ai de Motenashite

If you asked someone what the cutest song in Hello!Project was, there’s a decent bet that Ooki na Ai de Motenashite would fit the bill. It doesn’t hide the fact it’s just nothing but cuteness, pure saccharine bubbly idol music. It’s one of those songs where, if I shared it with people who don’t like idols, they would almost certainly just not get it. Yet, this is the type of song I would absolutely freak out being able to see in concert. It is catchy, infectious, and will worm its way into your head. I can totally see this as being a song you either love or despise, and I do love it.

There’s no finesse in Ooki na Ai de Motenashite. It’s pure upbeat pop music. It’s not particularly interesting in any way, but it doesn’t have to be. Ooki na Ai de Motenashite is just fluff and fun fluff at that. Hopefully a new H!P group can start performing this regularly, as it’s too fun to go away when C-ute disbands. 8/10

Indies 4. Wakkyanai (Z) 

The only of these early C-ute singles to not get a PV. Even though it was the 4th single this was actually C-ute’s first original song. It’s a weird situation, especially given the fact that Wakkyanai Z is just utterly charming.

Again, it’s not a particularly interesting or inventive song, but it has a really great melody and, I’d argue, the best arrangement of these early indies singles. I also like the back and forth of the lines within the chorus. Every element works really well in this melody and the arrangement. This is also a song where Murakami Megumi sounds really great, so I’m still bummed out that she didn’t spend more time in Hello!Project.

Wakkyanai Z is a bright gem of a song. Its slightly jazzy instrumentation and its standout melody make it one of my favorite C-ute songs. 9/10

1. Sakura Chirari

This is the start of C-ute’s major debut era and they debuted a song that’s just fine? I mean, Sakura Chirari isn’t bad at all, but it’s not extraordinary – I think there’s a reason there was a period of almost five years it wasn’t performed. It’s a cute song, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not a song I’d seek out at all if I wanted to listen to C-ute songs, no matter the era.

Again, it’s not a bad song. The melody is perfectly fine, the members sound great on this. At points the arrangement is a bit empty/quiet, but it’s not terrible. I think its biggest issue is that after the four indie songs, Sakura Chirari feels a bit restrained. It’s cute but it doesn’t have anywhere near the energy of something like Ooki na Ai de Motenashite or Wakkyanai Z. Idol songs that survive on being cute should have a good energy and pace to be fun, and Sakura Chirari for th most part doesn’t get there.

The instrumentation at points is good, however – there are some interesting sounds and the melody is good. But I think the most emblematic part of the song is Hagiwara Mai’s spoken “Sakura Chirari” near the end. It’s not shouted, nor is it whispered. It’s just spoken, and it’s just there. There’s an energetic “hey! one more time!” at the end but it’s totally at odds with the song. I understand that it’s a spring / cherry blossom themed song, and it might not be the most energetic, but there are other places they could have gone with it. 5/10

2. Meguru Koi no Kisetsu

Meguru Koi no Kisetsu is one of those songs where it’s hard to be objective about it because it’s genuinely one of my favorite C-ute singles. And I stand by that. I think the thing about it is that it has the energy missing from Sakura Chirari. It’s a brisk 3 minutes of fun, upbeat guitar-driven pop. Meguru Koi no Kisetsu is the platonic ideal of what a Hello!Project Kids song should have been in the early days – it’s a fun song, one that utilizes the energy of the group, but is also a song that wouldn’t sound out of place years later.

Meguru Koi no Kisetsu is the gold standard of early C-ute songs. 10/10

3. Tokaikko Junjou

Man, Tokaikko Junjou is just good. It’s the first really cool song for C-ute, and I think the biggest indicator of where the group would go. The melody is great and I like the rhyming lyrics in the chorus. A lot of the arrangement is very dated to the point where it feels very much like mid 2000s H!P but it is nostalgic in that regard. I also really like the audio mixing – the layering of vocals when they sing “don’t stop” is just great. It’s polished.

While this song features Suzuki Airi and Hagiwara Mai, it’s Yajima Maimi’s spoken monologue at the start that sells the song. The way that the monologue moves into the rest of the song is one of the best parts of everything.

Tokaikko Junjou holds up as being one of C-ute’s greats. 9/10

4. Lalala Shiawase no Uta

While the PV costumes win the award for ugliest C-ute costumes, the song is just OK. Back in 2008 – 2009  I was a part of doing online karaoke covers of mostly H!P songs, and this was one of my least favorite songs to do because of the “lalalala” at the end.

This song half works for me and half doesn’t. The chorus is so catchy that even people who don’t like this song can hum along after listening to it once. The melody works well, and I love the cute feel of it. That said, the instrumentation is often pretty substandard and empty. The repetition of the chorus and the “lalalala” repeats at the end move past being cute and catchy to being annoying. And while I’m normally OK with some of the background vocals Tsunku provided, here having a male voice in the background occasionally shouting things like “let’s show time!” isn’t fun, it’s just distracting.

Lalala Shiawase no Uta has a fun song at its core, but the overuse of repetition, a substandard instrumental and some weird background vocals make Lalala Shiawase no Uta go from charming and sweet to kind of unpleasant. It’s a song where at the start of it I went “oh yeah, I actually like this!” and at the end just wanted it to stop. 5/10

5. Namida no Iro

I feel like Namida no Iro is one of the most forgotten of C-ute’s earlier singles, which is a real shame because Namida no Iro is generally quite fantastic.This is a song where I’d say that the instrumentation is one of the big draws – the mix of acoustic, Spanish guitar, piano, background vocals works really well with the melody and vocals. This is a well produced song.

I also love the feel of this song – it’s not overly sad sounding, but has a melancholy feel – it’s about sadness but it’s not a total dirge to listen to. I don’t know if I’d consider this to be one of C-ute’s best, but it’s a really well produced, well written song that doesn’t get listened to enough. 8/10

6. Edo no Temari Uta II

I absolutely love idol songs that balance a traditional sound with idol music and Edo no Temari Uta II does a great job of this, with lots of references to Edo. The song was actually written for an enka artist who also allowed C-ute to do it (hence why it’s Edo no Temari Uta II). The enka influence can be heard in the vocals for this, where you can clearly hear that parts of this song were meant for an Enka singer.

That said, it’s kind of remarkable how well this song works as a pop song. In addition to having that traditional enka feel it also mixes in hip hop and jazz sounds to make a really unique, interesting song, mixing shamisen with jazz piano and electronic sounds. I love songs that blend and mix genres and Edo no Temari Uta II does a great job of it.

This song isn’t one I listen to all that often, but revisiting this I’m not sure why – it’s a great song that has a lot of interesting ideas and does a lot of interesting things. 9/10

7. Forever Love

Now we’re getting to the singles that were new when I first got into Hello!Project, which is kind of fun. Forever Love is a really fantastic song that, while not quite as inventive as Edo no Temari Uta II, works really well. While the song is primarily focused on Airi and Maimi, all the members of the group get something to do in the verses, and the chorus of back and forth lines between Airi / Maimi solo lines and group lines works REALLY well. This is a pretty stellar chorus.

This song has a serious energy to it, with a steady percussion beat throughout the whole song. The song doesn’t let up at all, which is great. The guitar line is also super great. The entire instrumentation works really well.

Forever Love is just a nonstop fun song. I love the back and forth of the chorus, the energy of it, and it just works so well. 9/10

8. Bye Bye Bye

Bye Bye Bye came out as I started my first part time job after I graduated from high school and I listened to it nonstop on the way to work then. So it’s a very nostalgic song for me. But beyond that it’s just GOOD. It has a lot of similar energy to Forever Love in that it’s just nonstop energy, but it also has a great funk sound to it as well, which is definitely something I’m into.

I love all the performances of the members of the group – there’s plenty of harmonies, Nakajima Saki’s repeated “Odorimashou” line is GREAT, and I love all the back and forth of this. With all of this the arrangement is great, too – it has a very electronic feel and sound in its arrangement but it fits the song so well. The song isn’t just arranged this way to cut corners, it’s very justified.

Bye Bye Bye is easily one of C-ute’s best, most fun singles, and one I revisit very frequently. 10/10

9. Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu

Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu is a cover of a song by the 70s group Candies, and it shows – there wasn’t much done to modernize the song and it’s pretty a clearly Showa era idol song. That said, that’s totally fine because it’s a great song, and I love the classic feel. While it still has that classic, Showa era feel to it, the arrangement is great, with a great piano sound and some great guitar sound as well. It’s modern in that it has a great production, one of the better C-ute production qualities, but it’s not overly modernized.

This is a good song choice for C-ute and it was done incredibly well. This is a classic song that has become classic C-ute. 9/10

10. Everyday Zekkouchou

C-ute’s last song with more than 5 members, Everyday Zekkouchou is an incredibly underrated one. I started writing this review after getting some bad news, and the lyrics were very moving. These are the lyrics I love in idol songs, the idea of being positive through difficult times, and it’s one of the things I love most about this genre of music. Everyday Zekkouchou also backs these lyrics with a genuinely sweet, upbeat song that has a very refreshing, fresh feel to it. It’s not hurried or rushed but it’s instead just the right tempo. There aren’t a lot of songs that feel like this in idol music, and the song perfectly encapsulates what I like about the lyrics. Everyday Zekkouchou is an underlistened C-ute classic that you should check out if you haven’t. 9/10

11. SHOCK!

A lot of people have issues with SHOCK for pretty obvious reasons – this song is essentially a Suzuki Airi solo with very occasional vocals from the rest of C-ute. Personally, while I was a bit nervous about the precedence this set when SHOCK first came out, I don’t mind it in hindsight, and that’s not going to affect any ranking.

That said, while I like SHOCK’s melody a lot and the general feel of the song, especially during the sections without singing, the song ends up sounding empty when Airi is singing – at points the instrumental sounds like a karaoke track. It’s never terrible, but it makes me wonder on the execution of SHOCK. The melody is catchy, and Airi does well at the solo (considering she’s one of the better singers in Hello!Project that’s no surprise), but the arrangement and execution falls flat. It’s not a bad song, but it’s a shame the execution couldn’t do it justice. 6/10

12. Campus Life ~Umarete kite Yokatta~

Campus Life is another C-ute song that is forgotten all too often, and I think part of that is because it is forgettable. It’s not bad – it’s a pretty cute song with a cute melody, but it’s not the most catchy of melodies and the instrumentation is, like SHOCK’s, a missed opportunity. More than anything Campus Life feels like it should have been an album song rather than an actual single – it doesn’t feel substantial enough to be an actual main single. That said, listening to it is pleasant and it’s not a bad song – it’s just a song I didn’t expect to see as an actual single because it’s just not strong enough to stand on its own like this. It’s a feel good song, so if you’re in that kind of mood then Campus Life could be good, but it’s not the strongest of C-ute’s discography. 6/10

13. Dance de Bakoon!

One of the things I think is interesting is looking at how many times songs are performed. Dance de Bakoon has had steady performances since its release, unlike, say, Campus Life, which I think in part shows just how fun Dance de Bakoon is. It’s a fun, upbeat song with a funk feel and, of course, a dance feel to it. It has a lot of the same problems as other H!P songs of this era – the arrangement isn’t quite as good as it should be, for one. But ultimately Dance de Bakoon is just one of C-ute’s most fun songs, with a great tone to it, great performances by C-ute, and the energy can’t be beat. 9/10

14. Aitai Lonely Christmas

While I personally tend to listen to happier fare around Christmastime, Aitai Lonely Christmas is a song that gets in my head right around that time of year, without fail. It could be the catchiness – it’s usually the chorus of “Aitai no ni etc” that gets stuck in there. But I think it’s a genuinely pretty good Christmas song with a great melancholy feel and one of the more decent arrangements of this era in Hello!Project – the guitar in this is great and there’s some solid piano work too. Aitai Lonely Christmas is a bit melodramatic, but I think that’s part of the fun – it’s the song that makes you want to belt out about being lonely. It’s not a song I listen to a lot, but I listen to this at least once every Christmas season. 8/10

15. Kiss Me Aishiteru

Kiss Me Aishiteru is pretty clearly the “we’re not the kid group anymore” song – it’s the first time they’ve had a single that genuinely wants to portray the group as adults. Coincidentally (or not?) it’s also C-ute’s most viewed video on YouTube by far. For being C-ute’s most viewed video, it’s alright? It’s not terrible, but it desperately feels like “look, we’re grown ups!” when they really weren’t old enough for it.

The song itself is solid – it’s catchy, and the repeated sections in the chorus are mostly good. The arrangement isn’t extraordinary but it’s solid and the background vocals work well. I generally like the feel of the song and the melody is just fine. It just doesn’t seem to suit C-ute at that moment in time very much. 7/10

16. Momoiro Sparkling

Momoiro Sparkling on the other hand does suit C-ute VERY well. It’s got a cute feel, a classic feel, and while it’s one of C-ute’s most outwardly cute songs I love just the tone of the whole thing. Sometimes Momoiro Sparkling feels a little too cute, a little too light after something like Kiss Me Aishiteru, but that’s secondary to just how good Momoiro Sparkling is. The production of this song has a great retro, classic feel to it with a very catchy melody. This is one of the better produced songs of C-ute’s during this era, something I very much appreciate. Momoiro Sparkling feels like a love it or hate it song – if you don’t have a high tolerance for cutesy idol pop I doubt it’s something you’d like, but if you do it’s something you’ll likely love, and I love it. 8/10

17. Sekai ichi HAPPY na Onna no Ko

I reviewed this song back when it first came out, over five years ago (which is a bit of a trip to think about!) and credited it as the first H!P song I full blown LOVED in a while. While revisiting some of the songs of the era has made me appreciate certain songs differently, Sekai Ichi HAPPY na Onna no Ko remains a highlight of C-ute’s discography. In fact, if you asked me to name my favorite C-ute song ever it might very well be Sekai Ichi HAPPY na Onna no Ko.

It has just about a perfect tone for an idol song – it’s upbeat and happy while simultaneously feeling a little more mature than something like Momoiro Sparkling. The pacing of the song is just about perfect, and I love the phrasing of the verses – the melody is just about perfection all the way through. The production is just about flawless as well. Sekai Ichi HAPPY na Onna no Ko is a gem of a song that shows off the best of C-ute and Hello!Project. 10/10

18. Kimi wa Jitensha Watashi wa Densha de Kitaku

After hitting the highs of their last single, C-ute decided to lose me almost completely. To be fair, a lot of that is my own personal preferences – if you know me you know that, for the most part, ballads are not and have never been my thing. I personally think ballads only REALLY work if you’ve got a vocalist that can back it up – Matsuura Aya’s ballads, for instance, work for me because she does well with emoting with her vocals. C-ute has some solid vocalists but I don’t know if anyone was at the level of making me feel this was justified.

That said, as a ballad it’s not bad – the melody is fine, for instance. The verses don’t stick with me, but the title drop in the chorus will forever be stuck in my head. The arrangement works pretty well with acoustic guitar and electric guitar both being used to good effect. Occasionally the instrumentation feels a little too busy – I don’t know if ballads like this really need several instruments going on at the same time, when a more simple arrangement would work just as well.

However, my biggest gripe is the weird production going on with the vocals. I’ve listened to a couple of the solo versions that were released with this and they don’t seem to have a problem, but the main version has a weird reverb on the solo vocalists that is kind of off-putting. Instead of improving the vocals it makes certain sections sound strange and just unpleasant.

At its core Kimi wa Jitensha is a solid ballad – not my type of song but solid. That said, the overproduced instrumental and the bizarre production on the vocals makes the song one I do not revisit. 4/10

19. Aitai Aitai Aitai na

To be perfectly honest this might be the first time I’ve listened to Aitai Aitai Aitai na. I’m not entirely sure why, but the next few singles are almost unknown to me, given how much I’ve listened to them. In general, I wasn’t paying that much attention to C-ute around this time so it’s kind of fresh.

Aitai Aitai Aitai na is an interesting beast because exactly one section of this song is great and interesting, and that’s the bridge about 2/3’s of the way through the song. The organ mixed with choir-styled background vocals melding into a guitar solo is just inherently cool. It’s genuinely so interesting that I just wish the rest of the song lived up to how great that was.

The majority of this song is pretty dull. The melody is OK but not at all memorable – I’ve listened to this song several times just now and couldn’t sing you a line. That said, it might be more memorable if the rest of the arrangement was any better. There are some hints at choral vocals in the background (faint but there) but it’s almost baffling how a song with such a killer bridge could just have nothing else. There are some hints at a great melody, at a great arrangement, at a great song, but for the most part Aitai Aitai Aitai na doesn’t do much for me. 5/10

20. Kono Machi

This is a cover of a song by Moritaka Chisato, which I generally prefer a lot to the C-ute version. This is in part because I love Moritaka Chisato as a performer and she does great at this song, and because I think the song works a lot better as the upbeat original than C-ute’s ballad. Moritaka Chisato’s version feels positive, thinking about her hometown, whereas C-ute’s version is more melancholy. C-ute’s version changes the feel of the song so dramatically that it feels like a different song, which I always appreciate in the cover, and so I think that preferring one or another is all up to personal preference.

For C-ute’s credit the arrangement is really solid, if a bit cheesy at time (the cymbal rolls are a bit played), and in general it’s a solid ballad with a great melody and the performances are solid. I also like the spoken monologues at the end – they work really well. It’s just that if I’m going to listen to Kono Machi that this isn’t the version I’m going to listen to, and as such I don’t listen much. 6/10

21. Crazy Kanzen na Otona

C-ute’s next foray into “look we’re adults” after Kiss Me Aishiteru, this time all the members are all a bit older. Does Crazy Kanzen na Otona work better for me? I mean, a little – it still feels a bit like they’re playing at being more mature than they are, but the members are a bit older and a bit more confident.

Crazy Kanzen na Otona is the clear follow up to Kiss Me Aishiteru, down to the repeated words in the chorus. I feel like Kiss Me Aishiteru has a bit of a better, more memorable, melody but Crazy Kanzen na Otona’s beat and production is a bit better – I love the electronic sound of this and how much it leans into being a dance song. Despite being awkward, though, Kiss Me Aishiteru is the more memorable song and the one I turn to more often. 6/10

22. Kanashiki Amefuri

Here we are at the first of C-ute’s double A-Side singles with Kanashiki Amefuri. Kanashiki Amefuri feels a lot like a continuation of trying to make C-ute the cool group and it generally works better than Kiss Me Aishiteru or Crazy Kanzen na Otona at that point because it doesn’t feel so much like they’re trying to be adults but it feels fitting to their ages at that time in their lives.It’s mature sounding without being cartoonish about it.

As for the song it’s just fine? It took me a few listens to get into the melody which I’m still not sure works with the chorus – the melody is much slower than the arrangement wants it to be. It’s the type of song where it could very well be a ballad if slowed down and arranged differently. I kind of like this disconnect after a few listens, but it’s a bit jarring at first. The arrangement is fine, though. This is a pretty solid song, but not one that makes particular impact – I’ll probably not think much about it after this. 6/10

22. Adam to Eve no Dilemma 

This isn’t a song I’ve listened to all that much and it’s a perfectly fine song. It’s keeping with C-ute’s upbeat, more mature feel but this might be my favorite one yet, even if it’s not my favorite C-ute song ever. It has an electronic arrangement that works really well. The verses aren’t something I pay much attention to, but the chorus is pretty great – I LOVE the phrasing and the repetitive “Adam to Eve” “Otoko Onna” and “Kimi to Watashi” lines. It’s well written, and it works really well.

This isn’t an extraordinary C-ute song, and it’s not one I revisit a lot. However, I do love those lines in the chorus and the arrangement is pretty solid. 8/10

23. Tokai no Hitorigurashi

This is one of C-ute’s best modern singles, one of C-ute’s best singles and in general one of my favorite Hello!Project songs. I love the feel of this single and one of the later single songs, and wish C-ute would have more songs like this – songs that are mature and feel like the singers are actual adults but not necessarily equating that with being provocative. Tokai no HItroigurashi feels familiar to me as an adult woman living alone in the city and trying to figure things out – it’s a song that feels familiar to people living in their 20s, which is not something you see a lot with a youth-obsessed idol industry. I want more groups within Hello!Project that have that sort of adult mentality.

Beyond the lyrics, the melody is fantastic and I love the light funk feel to it. The song is easy to listen to, pleasant and well written. It’s just plain charming. The only thing I really wish is that Hello!Project would have sprung for real horns and better instrumentation – I don’t expect it from them, but I think a song like this would benefit from some real instruments instead of the electronic instruments used. Still, that’s a small complaint as Tokai no Hitorigurashi is fantastic. 9/10

23. Ai tte Motto Zanshin

Ai tte Motto Zanshin does a weird thing where the entire song is pretty cool and then the chorus just goes off the rails. For the majority of the song Ai tte Motto Zanshin succeeds in giving C-ute a cool image and having a great, darker sound. The verses are great, and I love the sections with the repeated “tabun” lines – it works really great. The arrangement is great too, and the verses build up a lot of great tension and sound like they’re building to a phenomenal chorus and then it just fizzles. The chorus on its own isn’t terrible, but it feels like it’s from an entirely different song and loses all of what the song builds up throughout the rest of it. Which is a shame, because for the most part this is a great song, but it’s kind of amazing just how much it loses at the chorus. 7/10

24. Kokoro no Sakebi wo Uta ni Shite Mita

This song is just not all that memorable. Kokoro no Sakebi is a song I’ve heard multiple times before, but, when I pulled it up again for this review, I couldn’t remember anything about this song. Which is a shame, because this is a song I’d love to love – the arrangement is charming (the pizzicato strings are very nice), and I love that this is a cuter song by this older C-ute. It’s the type of song that feels like more of a B-Side or album song than a major single – it’s cute and pleasant to listen to, but I’m not sure there’s enough there to really make it a major single. The melody is fine, though not at all memorable. I think it just need a bit more energy – it can still be a bit laidback but do something interesting with the melody. A lot of this song sounds like it could be an excellent 80s throwback song, for example, but it never goes there. This isn’t a bad song, nor do I regret listening to it, but it’s just so ephemeral and unmemorable. 6/10

24. Love Take it All

Love Take it All is more of C-ute’s aim at being mature and this is where I think it works. It helps that the song is just great – I love the funk feel of the arrangement. It’s this arrangement that makes Love Take it All work so much better for me than a lot of C-ute’s other songs. It’s not something I’ve listened to very much but I might now. The melody is solid and good, pretty reminiscent of some of C-ute’s earlier mature songs, but the arrangement is great and I love how much energy Love Take It All has. 8/10

25. The Power

I kind of adore The Power. I’ve always found it to be the more energetic sibling to Momoiro Clover Z’s GOUNN – both have that kind of appropriative Indian feel to it. That said, while GOUNN is more emotional, The Power is more, well, powerful. It has a lot of energy and I love the melding of this more traditional sound with EDM / dubstep instrumentation – this blend works really very well. At points the instrumental is a bit quieter and doesn’t have the polish I wish it had, but that is a small quibble – The Power is one of the more fun songs of C-ute’s discography. 9/10

25. Kanashiki Heaven (single version)

Previously a B-Side, this ended up being one of C-ute’s singles. I have a confession – Okai Chisato’s voice mostly does nothing for me. That said, she sounds fantastic in Kanashiki Heaven, which is mostly a duet between Chisato and Airi. One of the things I wish idol groups would do more is utilize the fact they have multiple singers through use of harmonies like this.

That said, the harmonizing isn’t the only thing great about Kanashiki Heaven – the melody is memorable and well written and the arrangement is one of C-ute’s best in a while at this point. The strings, acoustic/spanish guitar, all of it works well. At points I’d like a little more bass sound to balance everything out, especially in the chorus, but that’s a small issue – Kanashiki Heaven is unlike much C-ute had done to this point, and works really well. 9/10

26. I Miss You

I don’t know if I’ve heard this song before this review (at least, I don’t remember listening to it) which is a shame because this has very quickly become one of my favorite C-ute songs.The big draw of I Miss You is that it fully utilizes all the members of C-ute, going back and forth with the vocals in a great way. I MIss You is one of the songs which justifies the existence of a pop group, using members vocals back and forth and has harmonies and background vocals. Every member feels utilized even if Airi and Maimi have the only solos. The melody is gorgeous too, and I love the instrumentation. I Miss You feels like the type of song that C-ute was meant to perform, and it’s just beautiful. 10/10

26. The Future

The Future is a song that feels like it has a lot of potential as a song but in general doesn’t quite hit the mark. There are individual elements I like – the song as has a bit of a swing feel to its melody, there’s some decent electronic instrumentation, there’s a guitar solo near the start and end that I can’t quite tell is a real guitar but it’s a cool solo. The Future should be a great song but I feel like all of these elements are mostly half-baked. The melody sounds a little awkward and the only memorable bit is the “The Future!” at the end of the chorus. The guitar solo never quite gets as good as some other memorable idol song guitar solos, and the instrumentation is just OK. The Future should be great – the more I listen the more I hear elements I like. That said, it needs a lot more polish and perhaps more resources put in it. 6/10

27. The Middle Management ~Josei Chuukan Kanrishoku~

This single is the first C-ute single without as much Tsunku writing on it – he wrote the lyrics for The Middle Management but the composition and other songs were by other people. The Middle Management interestingly has five songwriters listed as composing the song, and while I was worried this might be a busy song with that kind of a songwriting team working on this, The Middle Management is VERY solid and very unified. It’s a pretty great electronic/dance focused song and feels polished in the way that The Future didn’t feel polished. While I do like songs that do weird, interesting things, having a song like The Middle Management is great. It doesn’t quite inspire me in the way that something like I Miss You does, but it’s a really catchy, solid song. 8/10

27. Tsugi no Kado wo Magare

Written by Nakajima Takui and performed on his album, Tsugi no Kado wo Magare has a great feel to it. It feels truly mature, like C-ute has grown up. The melody is fantastic (I especially like the repetition of the title throughout the song) and the arrangement sounds beautiful with the strings. This song feels very polished and it truly feels like C-ute has matured. This song isn’t one I return to all that much, but it’s one that I really like, and one that I think shows C-ute’s potential as a group. 8/10

27. Gamusha Life

With this and Berryz’s 10 year anniversary song, I’m pretty convinced that as soon as a group sings a song about how long they’ve been idols that tehy’re going to disband soon. Which is a shame, because I think the last two years of C-ute really show how impressive the group ended up, and I wish we’d had a bit more time with C-ute as legitimate adults.

This song is a bit cuter than the other two on the single but I do like it a lot. It has a sweet sound to it and has a just perfectly nostalgic feel, looking positively at the past and the future. Just like the other songs on this single it’s polished well, has a great melody, and I particularly like this song’s lyrics. This is a really sweet look at a long-lived group. 9/10

28. Arigatou – Mugen no Yell

With this and the latter Mugen Climax, I feel like C-ute really latched on the concept of endless, neverending. Which is kind of a bittersweet sentiment, considering their disbanding, but I like the feeling nonetheless.

This song isn’t my type of song – I’m not terribly fond of ballads, as I’ve mentioned earlier. That said, this is a particularly good one – the message is nice, the arrangement is good (the electric guitar solo in the bridge is great!) and the melody is just fine (though it’s not terribly memorable). If you’re a fan of ballads, this is a good one and C-ute sounds great here. It’s probably one of the better idol ballads I’ve listened to, given the high production value and C-ute’s superlative performances. But it’s just not my thing, so even though it’s pleasant to listen to it’s not one I turn to a lot. 7/10

28. Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight!

After making a ballad for their other A-Side, Arashi wo Okosunda Exciting Fight is another type of song that I don’t typically gel with in idol music, which is the idol rock song. I listen to a lot of bands when I’m not listening to idol music, but I don’t know if this typically works well. However, this song works completely well with C-ute, so even if it’s not my type of idol song it works really well here.

The entire song has a great energy to it and the members perform this well – rock suits C-ute so well that it’s a bit odd that they haven’t done many songs like this before. The arrangement is pretty standard idol rock but it works well – there’s a pretty solid bass line at times, though, and I wish it was louder. This song isn’t one I revisit a lot, but for the most part it’s great and fits C-ute very well. 8/10

29. Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou?

Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou is a song with a big jazz/gospel feel that I generally really like – there are some good horns here and the background vocals work well, though I do wish that C-ute would do more of their own background vocals. The entire feel of the song is a little trite, a little cheesy, but well-meaning – I like the message, but having a song be “why do people fight?” is just kind of cheesy, especially in this day and age.

That said, this continues C-ute’s trend of having some excellently written and produced music. While the whole thing feels a little cheesy, I can’t help but admire how much the entire production value for C-ute improved within a couple of years. This song isn’t one I revisit all that much but it’s definitely a solid song. 7/10

29. Jinsei wa Step

Every so often I see one song off a triple A-Side have much more buzz than the others, and that’s Jinsei wa Step with nearly double the views than the other two songs on this single. And honestly, that’s really justified – Jinsei wa Step is a standout track at every turn. The song has a great, jazzy feel to it which is reinforced by some solid horns in the instrumentation. The melody is a total standout throughout, and I love how it often jumps all over the place. I also weirdly like the percussive tap dancing solo. This is also one of the best songs for vocal performance by C-ute as everyone sounds their absolute best here. I do wish there would be a bit more sound in the background instrumental during the chorus, but that’s a very small thing – Jinsei wa Step is fantastic. 10/10

29. Summer Wind

Summer Wind is an interesting song in that it’s the only song that doesn’t have a retro, jazzy feel to it. Instead it’s a mid-tempo pop song with some EDM/electronic influence to the arrangement. Summer Wind is mid-tempo but it has a melody that feels like it could or maybe should be a ballad – it’s a fairly slow, melancholy song that rarely picks up. The melody is good – I like the chorus a lot, but at times I don’t feel like the arrangement really suits it all that much. The arrangement feels like it’s trying to make a melancholy, slow song more interesting and exciting. That said I do like parts of the instrumentation – there are some occasional moments that are punctuated with a piano that work really well. Summer Wind is a song I feel like it’s good but it’s two different things at once. I like the melancholy feel, and I like the EDM/electronic stuff, but I kind of wish it would stick more to the melancholy feel and let everything serve that. It kind of works for me but at the same time it’s not really my thing. 7/10

30. Mugen Climax

This song samples and remixes part of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata which reminds me a bit of Berryz Koubou’s Jiriri Kiteru, which sampled Chopin. I generally really like this utilization of classical music in modern pop music and Mugen Climax does it very well. Written by singer-songwriter Oomori Seiko, Mugen Climax is a great mix of dance/EDM pop with classical music including a great piano solo throughout and some strings. The entire thing has a cool, intense feel to it that I think only C-ute could really pull off in the current Hello!Project. While I feel like the instrumentation kind of drops out at the chorus, Mugen Climax is an intense interesting song that reminds me of why I love idol pop. 9/10

30. Ai wa Maru de Seidenki 

I love this song. I love this song so much. If I could have a Hello!Project group that did stuff like this all the time I would be a huge fan. Ai wa Maru de Seidenki has a great retro idol pop feel to it while simultaneously being cute and mature at the same time. It feels like a group of adults performing a cute, retro pop song. Every element of Ai wa Maru de Seidenki works so well for me. It sounds great, the melody is incredibly catchy, it’s produced well. It’s probably my favorite C-ute song in years, and considering how great Mugen Climax, Jinsei wa Step and other recent C-ute songs are that’s a big thing. 10/10

30. Singing ~Ano Koro no You ni~

The lyrics to this make me cry. This song was released after C-ute announced they were planning on disbanding, and was written as Tsunku. While it’s not on their last single, I can’t help but believe this is in response to their announcement. More than anything on their final single, this feels like closure to me, covering the years C-ute has been around.

Musically, Singing is my least favorite song on the single. It’s not bad at all – the strings throughout work well, and while I don’t really like the laughter sprinkled throughout I do like almost every other element (I think that shows just how fantastic this single is). It has a great beat and the melody is solid, though at points it’s a bit awkward and kind of stumbles to try to fit in specific lyrics that don’t really fit. But the real star here are the lyrics about making decisions, about looking back to the past and future. No one can really know how the five members of C-ute felt when deciding to disband, but this song feels accurate, it feels like what it must have felt. For that, Singing is a really solid song that feels like C-ute’s big finale, despite the existence of another single. 9/10

31. Final Squall

The entire final single feels themed for their disbandment, to the point where, along with Singing, there are four songs that really encapsulate the end of C-ute. I’m not sure if that is excessive or not, but it is a lot to say goodbye. Final Squall is really excellent, though – an upbeat rock-inspired song with a killer melody and some gorgeous strings. There’s a lot of energy, and it’s generally one of the most upbeat of these ending songs. That said, this is possibly the one that’s affected me the most emotionally – while all of these songs carry a ton of emotion from the members and songwriters, the lyrics of Final Squall about always being with you hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though this is upbeat and a genuinely good listen it’s such an emotional song, which is a really interesting contrast. 9/10

31. The Curtain Rises

The Curtain Rises is a much more dance music, electronic take on the C-ute grad and it’s just OK, which is kind of a bummer because it would be great for this entire single to be excellent. The melody is OK but not particularly interesting, and while the instrumental is good at times (there’s a really solid, pounding beat throughout) it’s inconsistent. The rap break is just OK but not particularly great – none of the members of C-ute seem to be particularly great at rapping nor is it something they explored all that much before so it just feels unnecessary. When The Curtain Rises works it totally works but it’s not as polished as something like The Middle Management or Mugen Climax. I don’t dislike The Curtain Rises and I always enjoy some of it but it’s not a particular favorite of mine. 6/10

31. To Tomorrow

To Tomorrow is probably the most traditional idol song on this single and is appropriately written by Tsunku. For the final song it’s fine. It’s not particularly a memorable melody, and if this was any other single I wouldn’t really be interested. The production is good, the vocals are good, but the melody is just OK. But I do like the lyrics, and this has a definite feeling of it being an end. I really like all the lyrics in this and in Singing, though, that focus on the fact that they might be nervous, or that there is uncertainty. It would be easy to pretend that this decision (whatever it may be) was an easy one, but there’s no way it could be. This song reminds me a bit of Everday Zekkouchou, but I do prefer Everyday Zekkouchou a fair bit.

To Tomorrow isn’t a particular favorite of mine and I don’t know how often I’ll revisit it, even when I’m at my most melancholy or most nostalgic. But it’s a solid end to a solid group, and even though they’re not my favorite C-ute songs I’m glad Tsunku wrote this and The Curtain Rises. It feels fitting. 7/10

Overall: C-ute has had a varied, interesting career spanning over ten years and with several great singles. Considering I don’t think any of these songs are horrible they had an excellent track record. Despite some growing pains as they got older, C-ute made the transition from the youngest group to the oldest group admirably. I wish we had more time with mature, grown up C-ute – I think their last few singles prove just how much potential C-ute has as a group and I wish we had gotten more of that. But as someone who became a fan of C-ute and Hello!Project almost ten years ago myself, it’s been a great time to watch C-ute grow and mature as a group. I wish all the members the very best as they go on to their new ventures, and I sincerely hope Hello!Project keeps performing these songs, to keep the spirit of C-ute alive. Thank you Team C-ute!

Favorites of Mine:

Massara Blue Jeans
Wakkyanai (Z)
Meguru Koi no Kisetsu
Bye Bye Bye
Dance de Bakoon!
Sekaiichi Happy na Onna no Ko
Tokai no Hitorigurashi
I Miss You
Jinsei wa Step
Ai wa Maru de Seidenki

Review Monday: C-ute’s Tokai no Hitorigurashi + Ai tte Motto Zanshin

C-ute is a group I’ve followed occasionally, and I’ve even bought some Maimi goods, but I don’t know if I would consider myself a big fan of theirs. Nothing wrong with C-ute, mind you, but I really don’t pay attention to them as much as other groups. However, their career has had a really interesting trajectory. Starting off as the ‘leftover group’ from the H!P Kids, C-ute has grown to surpass the original H!P Kids group Berryz Koubou, and has lately gotten even more recognition. They’ve gone from a group that did Ooki na Ai de Motenashite to a group that does more adult things like Crazy Kanzen na Otona. So how does their new single hold up?

Tokai no Hitorigurashi

Song: This song had to grow on me. I definitely liked it at first, but it’s not immediately catchy. The best word I can use to describe this song is pleasant. There isn’t anything immediately interesting about the song or anything mind-blowing about it, but I do like the song. The chorus is a lot more interesting than the verses (especially the repeated “Why Not” sections), but the verses grew on me too.

My biggest complaint is the arrangement. It’s a nice sounding instrumental track, but the electronic backing doesn’t fit as well. If they had used real instruments (I’m thinking this would be brass heavy, but would have some piano and strings in there), the song would sound a lot nicer. This isn’t an electronic song like some of Morning Musume’s latest fare; those songs make sense to have mostly electronic stuff going on. This is not the same type of song, and the instrumental is just disappointing. I like the melody and song enough that that would make this transcend from being just good to really great.

The lyrics are nice; Tsunku isn’t a master lyricist or anything but they aren’t bad. The only thing that made me pause was the line about being chubby. Um, no one in C-ute is even remotely chubby.

Nice and pleasant are the ultimate words I will use in reference to this song. I like it a lot better than some of the recent stuff C-ute has done, but it’s not going to be on my top song list of the year or anything.

PV: PVs are not H!P’s forte. It’s gotten to the point where, if H!P has a PV that’s even remotely good or interesting, I’ll be excited and happy for them. I have to think this is where this PV stands. If you are comparing it to all idol groups, it’s not the most interesting of PVs. However, compared to H!P, this is wonderful.

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The biggest thing I admire about this PV is its unified aesthetic choice. It’s doing this style which feels unique and fresh, but also appealing. This goes a long way for turning a PV from boring and average to being interesting.

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The best part are the member introductions at the beginning. They’re designed well, all the girls look nice, and it has a really dynamic feel to it. I think a good part of that is because the girls move into the still shots of them, instead of just featuring the still shots. There’s a lot of motion in this PV, which I always like.

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One of the things that’s hard to show in the screencaps is that there is a fairly long, single take shot on what looks to be a handheld camera (or at least not a steadycam shot). It’s very fluid, moving between the girls in a way that I don’t always see from H!P PVs. It adds a lot to the PV and is something I appreciate.

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Another thing I like is the set. I’m not sure where it is or if H!P built it, but the white serves a nice contrast to the girls, and all the stairs, mirrors and windows make for a much more interesting set than we’re used to.

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The effects add a nice burst of color to the plain white surroundings, and make it look interesting. Yet the effects never look tacky or just plain awful. They add a lot to making the PV look great.

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The dance shot is the worst part of the PV, by far. While C-ute does well with dancing, like always, I just don’t get some of the choices made. Could they have chosen a more boring place for their dance shot? Even if they rented this place out, surely they could have picked a better pace than a boring white wall. It just doesn’t fit with the reset of the great set.

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Compare this Airi…

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To this Airi. Notice anything? The answer is the lighting changed! Most of the PV has nice lighting. H!P PVs often have iffy lighting at best, so I was really excited to see how good the lighting looked until I saw the dance shot. Everything looks so drab, dark and flat in the dance shot that not even the visual effects can brighten it up. I would have probably not cared that much with this lighting had the rest of the PV not been lit well. Worse than being bad, it’s inconsistent.

Overall, Tokai no Hitorigurashi is a solid song/PV from C-ute. It has its share of issues, but is more than passable and even steps things up from an average Hello!Project release.

Ai tte Motto Zanshin

Song: This has the opposite issue to me than Tokai no Hitorigurashi; the chorus here isn’t what works. Up until the chorus I really enjoy this song a lot. It’s a cool song with a bit of a darker tone and utilizes some deeper vocals than I’m used to with C-ute. The instrumental sounds fitting and I don’t wish for a different arrangement like I do with Tokai no Hitorigurashi. However, everything I like about the song disappears with the chorus. It’s not a bad chorus, per say, but it has a very different feeling. The verses have a lot of oomph to them, for lack of a better term. The chorus sounds a lot happier and lighter, which feels wrong with the rest of the song.

The arrangement also falls flat in the chorus in that it feels empty. There’s a lot going on in the rest of the song, but it feels like most of that drops out for the substandard chorus.

I really like the heavy, dark feel of the song, and if the chorus could harness more of that I would be totally on board. However, the chorus alone keeps me from really feeling like this is an outstanding song. Which is a shame.

PV: Speaking of lighting…

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I love it. Seriously, H!P, keep this lighting designer please. This isn’t inconsistent, but just good. It plays a lot with light and shadow, all the while making sure that all the girls look good.

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Occasionally the girls are slightly overlit (one of my H!P PV pet peeves) BUT this is almost always a temporary thing and done for effect. But seriously, H!P, this is how you light a PV. This PV always looks gorgeous and visually interesting, even though it’s mostly just close-ups and dance shots. Despite the simplicity, the basic elements are done well, which means that I’ll want to watch this over most H!P PVs.

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Location wise… Dirty, falling apart warehouse? It’s not my first choice for a great PV location, but it this type of situation facilitated the lighting then I’m all for it. Plus it really goes well with the feel of most of the song.

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This PV also has a really nice sense of movement to it. The camera is rarely stationary, moving well with the C-ute members and aiding in the transitions. This makes for another fluid PV that doesn’t feel choppy. The best part is again at the beginning and whenever the girls do solo dances. The camera work and the editing work well together.

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The worst part of the PV are the cheap filters that are put on things. It doesn’t happen often enough that it feels like a proper part to the PV, like the effects in Tokai no Hitorigurashi. It just looks cheap and unnecessary.

The other negative is that it is a fairly simple PV. It’s comprised of the group dance shots, solo dance shots, solo closeups and some brief group closeups. I know that I said it’s done well enough that it makes it better, which is true. I love the lighting in this enough to make this one of my favorite C-ute PVs. However, just a bit more would make this PV really special.

Overall: Much like Tokai no Hitorigurashi, a few shortcomings make Ai tte Motto Zanshin fall a bit short of its potential. A lot of good things are there in the song and PV, but the issues keep it from being as good it can be.

This is a solid C-ute single and a solid H!P single. There are a lot of things I like, but enough frustrating things that make me wish that it had been done just a bit better.

Clearly Tsunku Doesn’t Read Happy Disco

Hey guys who read Happy Disco; sorry for the LOOONG time where I didn’t write. I currently have one blog post that’s taking me forever and a day to write (my contest winner post, which is a really great topic but just a bit time consuming), but I’ve neglected Happy Disco. I am sorry. I’m currently balancing being a full time Film/Media Studies student while working two part time jobs (30 hours of work total). By the end of my day I kind of just want to play tetris and not write a blog about what I write in class. But I still love idols/Happy Disco.

Anyways, a while ago I wrote a blog entry for Intl Wota for the Summer Refreshment Program, writing about idols and summer. In case you haven’t seen it, HERE it is. One of the things I talked about was how AKB48 tends to go on a yearly schedule, with spring/graduation songs in the spring, happy summer songs in the summer, and other stuff year round. It’s a schedule that I think has worked for them, because they deliver something that’s expected while simultaneously giving new songs. It’s a good system.

Fall’s here and soon it will be winter. While there’s definitely a feel for winter in terms of tone and style, I never really think of any specific fall style. This tends to be when AKB in particular releases stuff that doesn’t really fit in the season, such as Beginner, RIVER, and the soon to be released Kaze wa Fuiteiru. For a long time, when considering seasons and idols, I always thought that fall was like the free space on a Bingo sheet, that it didn’t matter what you released as long as you released something.

Then I saw Amazuppai Haru ni Sakura Saku.

For those who aren’t aware, this is the upcoming collaboration single that Berryz Koubou and C-ute are doing together. This is a great idea for many fans.

But the concept of the song/PV are not great ideas.

Hear me out. I’m not talking about the song/PV. I think the song’s pretty boring, myself, and while the PV could be better I think that it’s pretty good considering that these are H!P PVs we’re talking about. No, I’m just going to talk about the concept.

The song/PV is focusing on a spring/graduation theme. In November. Now, admittedly, I don’t know the full translation to the song; my Japanese isn’t good enough to pick it up on just a couple of listens. For all I know there could be a line in there about how it’s about their boyfriend and how their blooming love is like the blooming sakura blossoms in Spring. Even if that was the case, the song is still about blooming cherry blossoms and the bittersweet spring. That’s what the title says, and even if the lyrics subvert it then the first listen or two will be thinking about spring. In fall.

Even if the song absolutely had nothing to do with spring, then the PV is all about graduations. They get a diploma. It’s a graduation PV, which happens in the spring.

Now throughout all of this I just have to wonder why. Why did UFA choose to do this? Was the song/PV too good of an idea to wait? It’s just a pretty standard thing. The song/PV aren’t special, and even if they realized “guys, I want to do a graduation song” why couldn’t they have done it in the spring, when those songs/PVs are actually marketable? In my other post I wrote:

” if AKB48 were to go “Christmas in July, we’re going to dance around dressed as Santa!” it would probably end up selling a good deal of copies to hardcore fans. However, that’s probably not going to grab the casual listener, unless the casual listener likes that kind of silliness. ”

I stand by that AKB could probably pull it off because it’s AKB. However, Berryz Koubou and C-ute aren’t AKB48, and their sales are in general dropping. The last thing they want to do is lose fans, and what they desperately want is to gain fans, but I don’t see how this song/PV could attract casual listeners to become Berryz or C-ute fans.

Like I said, my big question is why. If they wanted to capitalize on the seasons, why couldn’t they wait a bit longer, or do a holiday-themed song/PV in vein of Aitai Lonely Christmas. I’m honestly baffled at the decision making skills here, and like I said, clearly Tsunku (and UFA) doesn’t read Happy Disco. I just really can’t see why this was considered to be a good idea on a sales standpoint.

You might be going “ah, Serenyty, stop with the sales already, they don’t care about sales.” If that’s true, then why do a graduation song now? What artistic goal are they trying to achieve by this? I’m really wondering, what would make this happen?

So therefore, I just have no idea why Berryz and C-ute are doing this, and I know others are confused too. Confusing and potentially alienating an audience is the thing they have to think about, and they might just be close to doing that.

On a separate note I saw the Mobekimasu song/PV and it’s alright. The main things I got from it are that I absolutely love the dresses they’re wearing, and that Maimi is really really adorable.

In Memoriam: Idols In Tough Times

First of all, an apology and an explanation. I moved to this new blog on Intlwota and I’ve lately been neglecting it, at least more than I did on my blogspot blog. It didn’t go unmissed, but it wasn’t really something I felt up to this past weekend. The reason being, and I don’t want Happy Disco to get into a sob fest or to get too unhappy, is because this morning my Grandpa passed away. This wasn’t a surprise, because he’s been struggling with Lewy Body Dementia for a while now, and this was inevitable given his disease.

To be honest, I didn’t think I would be blogging about this. I thought I’d take some time off, get happier and be able to move on. Initially, when thinking about this in the nursing home while sitting with my Grandpa, idols weren’t really on my mind. I actually thought about the character of Kate Beckett from the show Castle, who had to deal with the death of her Mother. I told myself to “be strong like Kate” and that did help me through.

However, one song and PV in particular jumped into my head at various intervals. I didn’t try to think of it, and it was tough to think of (I initially started to cry again when I thought of it) but it really fit my situation.

AKB48’s Sakura no Ki ni Narou. Now the lyrics seem to be a bit more ambiguous, but the PV’s definitely not. The PV features Jurina as the friend of the front girls who has died, but is still there with them. Some people might be all “Jurina’s a ghost!” (even though I haven’t seen that reaction) but I tend to think it’s more symbolic, to show how the people you love are always there with you, even if you’ve lost them. In the wide group shot, the presence of an empty chair is in my opinion one of the most poignant things I’ve seen in an idol PV. It really shows that when it comes to people you love, when they leave that absence really cannot be filled in your life.

It’s a beautiful PV that came to mind, and while I can’t say it made me feel better, necessarily, it made me feel a bit of comfort in that how I feel now has been felt before.

Last night, when I came back from the nursing home after sitting with my Grandpa, that’s when idols came to my aid and comfort. I was depressed, knowing that things weren’t going well with my Grandpa, but there was nothing I can do. The one thing that made me feel better was idol music, listening to things like Sekai Ichi Happy na Onna no Ko and Wagamama Collection and watching Oota Aika’s confession scene from AKB48 1/48 Idol to Koishitara.

I’ve seen people get not necessarily upset but criticize idol music and idols in general for being escapist, for idol fans to use idols as a way of escaping their drab lives. I’ve seen this most as people criticizing idols for being “fake girlfriends” or something like that. I’ve even seen this said by AKB48 fans, wishing that AKB would go back to edgier songs like Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou and Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru. And yes, I’d say that idols can be escapism. But you know what, I say “So what?” If giving me a few moments reprieve from grief, then I accept the escapism with open arms.

Idols are chiefly about happiness, at least that’s what I would say. That’s part of why I love idols and why I named this blog Happy Disco. Like Aoi Usa said in her post I covered for IW, idols can be friends when you need them. And when I needed some happiness yesterday, I was able to turn to idols.

So thank you, AKB48, C-ute, Momoiro Clover, Morning Musume, and all the other idols I hold dear. I appreciate it.

 

Sekai Ichi HAPPY na Onna no Ko song/PV review

Here’s just something straight away before I get to this. I a fond spot for C-ute; Maimi and Nakky are two of my favorite H!P members period, and two of the reasons I still follow C-ute news whenever I can. I like the other members too, though. This doesn’t mean that I like everything that C-ute has ever released (can I just forget The Party now? *shudder*), it just means that I can tolerate something average more than I can tolerate with some other groups.

So alright, the reason that I’m reviewing this, my first H!P song/PV review in a while, is that I’m absolutely completely charmed by the song and PV, and to be honest, part of me doesn’t know why. I think the components are well done, but the way I’m reacting is not the way that I’ve reacted to H!P in a while; the last song I reacted this way to was Reconquista.

The song: I really think that the way that someone looks at this song will honestly depend on what they’re looking for in an idol song. To some, it may seem really generic, and I respect that. This is a pretty typical type of idol song that reminds me vaguely of S/Mileage’s Suki-chan in terms of tone and style. If you’re looking for something out there, completely unique, edgy or anything similar to that, Sekaiichi HAPPY na Onna no Ko is not the song for you. Some people will probably find this song boring. However, I LOVE cute idol music, and upbeat/happy songs are why I choose to listen to idol music (hence Happy Disco). Upbeat happy idol songs are the type of thing I listen to while walking to work or school that just make me feel happier, and this song fits the bill.

The first time I listened to it, I didn’t really like the song except for the chorus; however, for me at least, it’s one of those songs that has really grown on me. I think those are the songs that tend to be earworms for me; songs that start out uneventful but that I really start to like.

The song isn’t perfect to me, though; the rushed line Maimi sings before the chorus feels kind of out of place and almost like Maimi herself can’t get those words out. Also, is it just me, or does Chisato sound really weirdly high-pitched in the first verse?

I might be biased because of the songs I tend to like and the fact that the word “Happy” is so prominently placed: this song is now the theme song of Happy Disco (if someone mixes this song with Perfume’s One Room Disco, I think I’ll have to start a Happy Disco podcast to use it). Still, it’s a fun, cute song that is exactly what I’m interested in. C-ute’s moving in a… well, cuter direction (judging by this and Momoiro Sparkling) and I can’t say I complain!

PV: The one thing that I like that kind of puzzles me is how much I really love the PV. It doesn’t have a story, it’s on one set in the standard white backdrop of H!P PVs. And yet…

I have to think of the PV as being a subversion of the other PVs H!P does. So many H!P PVs are really bland and colorless these days, set in the same set. However, the abundance of color in this PV seemingly coming from the idols in their idol rooms makes it seem like C-ute is adding color to this bland world. And cuteness!

The PV is gloriously colorful and I appreciate it for that. I also think that the little domino stunt they did with the books to make the word “happy” was really obvious but also really adorable, so I can forgive it. The idea of the girls all having their own different rooms is for some reason appealing to me; maybe it’s because I love the PV for Perfume’s One Room Disco so much (which is admittedly a far superior PV to this), but they could have easily made the PV with one backdrop, some closeups with different backgrounds based off their image color. This feels like some effort was made, which I have to appreciate.

The other part that’s great is that the girls are really at their top game here. The one really notable thing about H!P groups nowadays (especially Berryz and C-ute) is that they’ve been around together for years, so they work off each other well, especially in the dancing and the group shot here.

The PV isn’t the best that’s ever existed ever, but it’s fun and colorful, which makes it one of the better PVs H!P has released recently.

So overall, in my opinion, H!P managed to do a really great job here and I appreciate it!

30 Day Idol Challenge Day 29


Day 29: In your opinion, who is/was the best leader of an I
dol group?


This is honestly fairly easy for me. Granted, I could be biased as hell. Ishikawa Rika was v-u-den’s leader, and I really think she did an excellent job; Erika and Yui were brand new when added to v-u-den, and yet the group really gelled like they’d been there for a while. No one felt weird or out of place, at least to me. I also love Yajima Maimi, and she impresses me as a leader, too. She really does take care of her group. One thing I saw was an interview with both Berryz and C-ute around the time of their concert together. The whole group was talking about their H!P Kids days, but Kanna wasn’t a part of that (since she was added later). Maimi made an effort to ask Kanna what she thought. 


This also brings up the question of what makes a good leader. Leadership is really not THAT significant, because the idol who’s the leader doesn’t make any of the business decisions, doesn’t write the songs, doesn’t make any of the big decisions. Often times, I don’t really think that leaders of idol groups do all that much at all.


However, a good leader of an idol group is one that I think brings all the girls in the group together behind that one person, loves and works hard for the group that she’s in, and works hard for the others. And the person I think does that best is…

AKB48’s Takahashi Minami.

I just can’t help but admire the ways she really loves AKB and puts so much effort into making it a great idol group. I always have had the impression that even if Takamina wasn’t in the most popular idol group around, she’d still love the group dearly. She’s a member that the others can get behind, and I really appreciate that!

30 Day Idol Challenge Day 28

Day 28: An Idol who reminds you of someone special or that was special.

C-ute’s Nakajima Saki.
I love C-ute and I love Nakky, but whenever I see Nakky I have to think of my friend Dani. Nakky’s Dani’s favorite idol ever. Dani is the one lasting friend I’ve made from the idol fan community; we’ve been friends for about two years or so, I think. There are amazing people in the wota fan community, and I enjoy the time I spend on various forums and chats (hi people of Wotachat!) but Dani is the closest friend I’ve made from this fandom, and so I’m really grateful to the fandom for that. 


おめでとう、Happy Disco!!

People who read my blog (I love you!!) I have some news.

This is my 100th post on Happy Disco. Yaay!!

This is the first image you get if you search Happy Disco on Google Images. 



My infatuation with idol music isn’t going away anytime soon! Usually when I start up projects/blogs like this I get bored quickly and stoop doing it, but I really do enjoy what I do here on Happy Disco.

First up: If you guys read this and have read my blog before, what types of posts do you like? Would you prefer more straight up reviews, more lists, more rambles about the nature of idol pop? I’m just curious to see what people would want to read from me.

Secondly: I’m still continuing my 30 Day Idol Challenge and Tokyo Idol Festival series’, but I’m thinking that since the 30 Day Idol Challenge will end soon that I will start a new regular segment. What do you guys think I should do? Reader feedback yay.

And since I want to make this a fun 100th post, in honor of my long posts here on Happy Disco I’m going to do a list of my top 10 idol PVs. (in no particular order).

Note: This list is largely personal, and I’m also betting that in a day or two I’ll find a PV that will make me wish I included it in this list. Also it’s only idols, nothing else.

SKE48- 1! 2! 3! 4! Yoroshiku! 





I feel like, if anything, this PV is proof that you don’t necessarily need to have a story to make an interesting PV. This is in my opinion a perfect idol PV. It’s shot well, edited interestingly, and even when they’re focusing on things like the dance shot, it’s not shot at some unmoving flat angle, but moves around and really makes it interesting. This is the first of SKE48’s “Let’s hire the entirety of Aichi prefecture to be in our PVs”, and while I really like Banzai Venus, I think that the extras had a better role here. They really do a lot to add to the excitement and really keep the energy up high.

Finally, the PV really plays to the strengths of the girls which is always something that a good idol PV should do. This one plays to the fact that SKE48 has really strong dancers by having the dance-off scene as well as focusing a lot on the dance shot, since they have an interesting dance.

This PV is just a joy to watch, and I absolutely love it.

v-u-den: Kurenai no Kisetsu

In my opinion, this is the forgotten v-u-den PV; the one that no one really knows or thinks about. However, it’s one of my favorite PVs of all time.

Again, there’s no story except Rika, Erika and Yui all have to look sad. However, the scenery and set pieces in the PV are absolutely gorgeous. I’m not very knowledgeable about cameras, lightings and settings for those things, but I’m curious about what they did with the color with some of this. I think they might have changed something? But the colors do seem warmer some places and cooler in the dance shot, and whatever it is it looks cool.

The part that just wows me and that I love about this PV is all the playing around with mirrors. In addition to being great set pieces (the cracked mirrors near Erika are particularly stunning), the way that shots play around with them is amazing. I’m particularly fond of whenever they look into the mirror so that it looks directly at the camera. Also, from what I know of filming, I know that mirrors have their own set of issues, since they tend to reflect things which often can include the people filming the thing. When the PV director inevitably went “alright, this PV will center around MIRRORS” they were obviously taking a bit of a chance, but it totally paid off.

Beginner (original ver)- AKB48

I’m so happy that AKB48 released this PV on DVD so I didn’t have to use the low quality PV obviously filmed by a phone that I first saw this PV from.

This PV is very well known among current idol fans as the one that got banned, that AKB wasn’t allowed to air on TV so they had scramble and come up with their PV that got on the DVDs and could be aired places, a mix of the dance shot and the making of.

However, the original PV is now in high quality thanks to new DVDs and it totally deserves the praise it’s given. It has a really interesting Matrix-like story of the girls being plugged into games and banding together to stand up and stop fighting each other but fight the system, the machine they’re in. The moment when Acchan finishes screaming, tears away from her old arm and evolves to be able to fight the system just sends shivers up my spine, as well as the moment when Yuko hugs Takamina so Jurina can pull the plug.

This is a PV where I desperately want more, so I can know a back story. And that’s why it’s up there among my top ten PVs.

Top Secret- Hangry & Angry





This is definitely a bit of a personal choice for me, but a year and 9 months or so later (wow, it does NOT feel like that long ago) I STILL love this PV and watch it on a regular basis. This is another one with amazing sets, good design, and it’s really edited interestingly.

However, in my opinion the biggest strength is the performance of Yossy and Rika. Like I said in my Reconquista review, one of the biggest strengths with Hangry & Angry is that Yossy and Rika have been active idols for over 10 years now, even though they were probably the most famous back at the start of their careers. They both have a LOT of experience and as such always give really fantastic performances live and in PVs, and this really reflects that. The way that the two of them act in the PV, interact with each other and the camera, it really speaks wonders of their experience.

So while the PV is made very well, Rika and Yossy are really the stars of the PV, as they should be.

Enkyori Poster- AKB48’s Team PB


However, despite the experience of Rika and Yossy lending well to their performances, the girls of Team PB do really well. So well that, after I saw this vid, for a while I decided that I was a “Team PB oshi” and that I would support all the Team PB girls forever. That’s not so true right now (though I do love all the girls in Team PB), as I’d probably, if anything, would classify myself as a Watarirouka Hashiritai wota.

HOWEVER, the point still stands that all the girls are outstanding in the PV. It solidified my bias towards Oota Aika and it definitely moved Maeda Ami and Miyazaki Miho up further in my ranks. Myao in particular.  She basically nailed this PV.

The one thing that eluded me for a long time, though, is WHY I thought Enkyori Poster was so brilliant. It’s fun to watch because the girls all look like they’re having a blast and they all do very well with their energy. But why is this PV considered one of my top 10, with such simple backgrounds and props?

Well, after thinking this it really hit me how brilliant this PV is. The song itself is pretty simple; it’s about the feelings of a fan who loves and supports their idol. The lyrics have in the past made me tear up with things like

    “though it seems that i can’t quite meet you you are there by my side more than anyone else
    at times I make mistakes and about to give up I will just gaze and dream of you meeting me face to face” (taken from Stage 48’s Studio 48.)
Those words are really particularly meaningful to me and a lot of idol fans; who hasn’t gone through a rough patch at school or work, and come home and just watch things with idols to self-medicate? I know that when I’m feeling down and when I feel like I can’t do anything, what I really do is watch something with Rika, Lovetan, Wasamin or one of my other favorites and just imagine them.

This PV takes those lyrics and takes that thought, and moves it to one guy’s room. Now, he’s fantasizing about the girl(s) (he’s totally Yukirin oshi) in his poster, but then we move to the posters. As we would expect from this being a PV, the girls sing and dance like usual. However, we sometimes see through to the other side of the room from in the poster, to see that it is really a poster, to remind us of what we’re watching. Furthermore, whenever the girls sing and dance around the room, the posters are blank, so we know that this is about the girls of the posters.

There’s more to it, though; one of the things that I liked a lot about the PV originally were the different angles that we see the girls at in the dance shot. However, the camera rarely moves during the dance shot; it moves once or twice panning the girls. But the thing I realized is that the angles that we see the girls in the dance shot, the unmoving shots, are really the angles that might be in a poster, further cementing this.

The other parts of the PV are close up shots and the girls dancing in the guy’s room. However, during the close up shots, nearly everything that the girls do is straight up posing in ways that would be seen on a poster. They only move freely in the guy’s room when the fantasy is at its peak. When the fantasy is confined to the posters, every move is a cute pose, reminding us that these girls are just on the poster and not in reality.

Finally, we see a shot of the man staring at Yukirin, cementing the fact that the PV was his fantasies of his 
idols, not reality.

Mirai Bowl- Momoiro Clover

First off, if you haven’t seen the extended version, do so now. You’ll be glad you did.

This is gold. It’s set up like a cheesy old-fashioned sitcom, with the introduction at the beginning and a laugh track and cheesy music. The story is an obvious Grease parallel… only that there’s a relationship between a girl named Sandy (Kanako) and Danny (Akari). Two newsies are there to get them together (Shiori and Momoka), I guess? Also, Danny is a super amazing bowler, so that’s important for the music part of the PV. However, Leader (Ayaka) wants Sandy too, with Reni as her assistant. In the drama part of the PV, I have to say that I love Ayaka and Reni’s part the best. Ayaka’s deep gangster voice and Reni figuring stuff out by going “give me chappa chappa etc.” is just amazing and hilarious. They kidnap Kanako by going “It’s a UFO” and pointing.

I love all MomoClo PVs dearly, but I had to pick this one because it has the most hilarious plot of all of them. The girls know how to ham it up in these roles and it’s just funny because it doesn’t begin to treat itself seriously. These girls are also really great dancers and performers and that in itself makes it really fun. The comics-style effects are also really fun, and the break where they actually have the bowling game over Kanako’s heart is just super fun to watch.

Not putting Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo, D’ no Junjou and Pinky Jones on this list was super hard,  but just by PVs Mirai Bowl never stops being really fun. It’s one of those PVs that seems like it must have had a fairly small budget, but made the most of whatever budget it had and then some. No matter how high or low MomoClo’s budget is, they totally make up for it and then some.

Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou – AKB48





Yes, I picked the suicide PV.

Keibetsu never fails to make me emotional and cry. You just feel the hopelessness of the girls throughout the PV, and the images of Yuko going to commit suicide are just heartbreaking.

This PV, even though it was in AKB’s early years, has a lot of depth and maturity to it. The way they act, when you see Sae leave the school because of bullying, leaving Yuko alone, you feel like there’s more to it than just what you see in the PV.

The color scheme is also dark, fitting in with the rest of the PV, and the looks of the girls at the end, almost going “You know what you did” just never fail to be haunting. I know people who miss AKB48 from when they were less popular because of stuff like this, and I honestly don’t blame them. I love the current happy idol music that AKB and co do, but songs and PVs like Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou are certainly missed in the current lineup.

Meguru Koi no Kisetsu- C-ute

This is definitely a big change of pace from Keibetsu. XD

I love this PV so much, you guys have no idea. On the one hand I really really like C-ute from a visual standpoint (if that makes any sense) because I love how they dance and perform with such energy. This is super apparent here in the dance shots, close up and other shots, where C-ute is in high form, doing very well.

The reason that Meguru Koi no Kisetsu is on my list and not any of the other C-ute PVs, however, is that this is a perfect example of how a budget isn’t anything. This PV doesn’t look like it cost  much of anything; a few backdrops, a few props, nothing radical that would cost a lot of money. However, the seamless way they move between all the backdrops and use them creatively is really something. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the budget in H!P videos, when this PV would seriously counter that. PVs are a lot more interesting when they take whatever budget they have and use it creatively, like they did here.

This PV is fun, really enjoyable, and overall really well done.

Watarirouka Hashiritai- Gyu


Guys. I love Watarirouka Hashiritai. So much.

This is probably my most subjective pick on the list, but I don’t even care because I love it. The whole PV is like a drama; I can imagine that this is some romcom drama about five girls with their own problems and relationships and it’ll be one of those things where they all bond over their relationship troubles and stuff. This is something I want.

But anyways, they all have their relationship things:

Harugon (Nakagawa Haruka) doesn’t have any relationship issue. She and her “boyfriend” (which is one of the MSN messenger “people”; was this sponsored by MSN?) are all happy and in love. Good for her, I guess.
Lovetan (Oota Aika) has an unattentive boyfriend who flirts with other girls and not her, even though she’s the girlfriend. This is where you have to suspend disbelief in the PV, because who would choose other girls when there’s Lovetan. Though her slap is kind of my favorite moment ever in any PV. When this came out I watched that slap about 10 times in a row.
Nacchan (Hirajima Natsumi) is basically playing me, because she has a thing for her teacher. In the PV she hugs her teacher in what could potentially become harassment? Teaching the English word for hug, yeah right. And the whole classroom claps, which makes me think that the classroom is writing Nacchan/teacher fanfiction.
Ayarin (Kikuchi Ayaka) gets confessed to by a guy but then turns him down. Which makes me believe that this is the final test after her scandal; if she decided to get with the guy then she’s gone for good. But yay, Ayarin stays.
Mayuyu (Watanabe Mayu)… runs? Mayu, running isn’t acting, oh wait, for you it is, OK. I’ve heard theories that she’s romantically involved with another girl because they take Purikura together with some other girl (which is usually just with girls) and I like this theory a lot.

This is a fun PV with a fun story and it’s about hugging. I love hugs. So, it’s a favorite.

Zutto Suki de Ii Desu Ka- Matsuura Aya







The rest of the list is in no particular order, but this is my #1 favorite PV ever. I think it’s ridiculously well-crafted, creative and beautiful. The way that they use a continuous shot through all the beautiful sets is really well done. If you watch the PV making of it isn’t editing trickery or whatever; they really did do most of the filming in one fell swoop, with Aya running around the backs of sets to get where she needs to be. It reminds me a bit of one of the scenes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that involved the main actors running around the backs of sets to get places. If I think “Oh, maybe Michel Gondry directed this PV?” then you KNOW it’s a great PV.

It’s not only doing the continuous effect, but it also has really gorgeous sets; I particularly like the one with the clocks. It has a twinge of a surreal feel, too, since you see the way it gets to all the different sets that are clearly fabricated.

Still it’s gorgeous and I love it.

A very subjective list (that took forever to write), but there you have it! Happy 100 posts, Happy Disco!!!

30 Day Idol Challenge Day 24

Day 24: An Idol that is not one of your favorites but you admit that they’re good.

What does this even mean?

For my idol fandom, I have a tendency to pick favorites. And by favorites, I mean the #1 favorite idol that will rule all the other idols in my idol rankings, but I tend to do that by group. For example, Ishikawa Rika is miles above any other Morning Musume member ever. It’s been changing a bit lately (in AKB48 fandom I love Oota Aika most, but Natori Wakana and Iwasa Misaki are pretty close, too), but I still do that. Furthermore, after the favorites then everyone tends to be pretty similarly ranked. For AKB48, I can do my top 10 members, but I can’t rank all of them simply because I like all of them and don’t want to put any one on the bottom.

So here, I have a lot of idols that aren’t my favorites, but I like all of them. So how do I pick among the myriad of idols?

I have one cop-out answer and one real answer to this question, so I’ll share both.

Cop-out:


SKE48 as a whole is my cop-out answer. The reason is that I love AKB48, and I follow them more than SKE48 or any of the xxx48 groups. However, I really like whatever I see of the members in SKE48. They all have nice personalities and in my opinion they’re a much stronger group than AKB48 at least in terms of dancing. 1!2!3!4! Yoroshiku is one of my favorite PVs, and I love every bit of music I hear from them.

Yet, for whatever reason, I follow AKB48 more. Maybe it’s part of the popularity thing, but if that was the case I couldn’t have Momoiro Clover as my chosen favorite idol group. So while I don’t know most of the girls in SKE48 (my favorites are Yagami Kumi and Matsui Jurina, two front girls), I really should follow them more, because SKE is quite a strong group in their own right.

However, since choosing a group for a singular idol might be considered cheating, I chose one.

Airi, if your jersey is referring to Rose Tyler from Doctor Who, we need to seriously be besties.

Even though my Hello!Project fandom is really being superseded by groups like Momoiro Clover and AKB48, I still follow all the groups somewhat, and I try to follow C-ute a lot. I’m mainly a fan of Yajima Maimi and Nakajima Saki when I follow C-ute and Hello!Project. 
HOWEVER, for the life of me I don’t know why I don’t follow Airi more. I mean, she’s great; she seems like she has a sweet personality, she’s cute, she’s a good performer and singer. Honestly, even though I want Maimi and Nakky to get the most screentime because they’re my favorites and my biases, I’m really fine with Airi being the C-ute front girl and have no problems with that at all. Recently on Hello!Online I said that the new Buono song needs more Airi, even though she has more lines than either Momoko or Miyabi, and I meant it. I quire like Airi, and approve of her hoarding lines.

30 Day Idol Challenge- Day 4

Day 04: If this Idol were a boy, who would be your boyfriend?


Why this question; anyone who knows my idol tastes knows that I go for the girliest of girly idols. I like my idols covered in frills and pink, dammit.

However, I could definitely date…

Yajima Maimi.

She’s not exactly SUPER manly, but she’s not the girliest of my favorite idols. She’s really nice, a great leader, and just a really fun person, I think. If she was a man, I’d totally go for Maimi.