Tokyo Idol Festival 2017 – Part 4

I took a month to finish my C-ute tribute post but I’m back working on my TIF profiles again!

Icle Girls

Icle Girls is a local group based in Iwaki in Fukushima that has been active since 2013. While they initially started with more members they currently have six, and their theme is that they’ll carry their smiles and energy to the rest of the country, so even though they are a local group they have nationwide aim. In 2016 they actually won the U.M.U Award, a major award for local idols, which is a huge get for them. That said, they seem to be fairly active in the Iwaki/Fukushima area, appearing on local television and having their own radio program, so they’re definitely a group that’s easier to follow there.

They’ve released six singles so far, including their most recent one “Tokusanka ~welcome to Iwaki~ / JyakkanΣ” (a double A-Side), and one album so far.  Their most recent singles don’t seem to have any MVs or any specific videos, unfortunately, but their YouTube channel has several full-length concerts or nearly full-length, so it’s very easy to watch their live performances. Musically their music seems to be pretty standard cutesy idol pop music – nothing really stood out to me but it’s catchy enough. The members seem pretty fun, so if you are located near Iwaki OR want to watch some full length idol concerts I definitely suggest checking out Icle Girls. If not, while I personally prefer other local/ indie groups, if you’re looking for a cute group with some pretty standard idol pop music then maybe check out Icle Girls!

i☆Ris

I*Ris has consistently been a group I’ve thought should be a bigger deal with foreign idol fans than they are. This group is a joint voice acting unit and idol group, with all the members doing various voice acting activities while being an idol unit (they voice act and do songs for PriPara, to give you an idea). The group is produced by Avex, so they have a generally high quality of their music and production – I’d consider i*Ris to be one of the better produced idol groups vocally, so if that’s something you’re interesting then I*Ris is definitely for you. Last year they had their big 4th anniversary concert at the Nippon Budokan and, if the video posted on the Avex YouTube is any indication, it looks like it was well attended.

i*Ris is well produced, the members all seem great, so why don’t I follow them more? Honestly, their music doesn’t do that much for me. I mention it every year, but their song Gensoukyoku Wonderland is one of my favorite idol tracks, but a lot of their singles are fairly generic anime songs. Which is fine, I like upbeat generic anime songs just fine, but none of them are particularly catchy or interesting in a way that grabs me. Their music is all pleasant but for the most part kind of same-y, which is kind of a shame. This is very subjective so I think most people should check out i*Ris, but I just wish I liked their music more – they deserve great music. I recommend Gensoukyoku Wonderland and their single Ready Smile is my favorite recent i*Ris track.

@17

@17 is the idol group of @Home Cafe, a popular Akihabara Maid Cafe. Last year  @17 made their TIF debut – however, this year they reformed in May with 20 new members, so it’s mostly a new group at this point. Their website is totally barebones, no pictures, just reference to the one single they put out last year, so this is really not a group you can check out before going to TIF.

Looking at some old performances, it looks like in the past @17 focused on maid outfits and cutesy songs. So if that’s something that interests you then @17 might interest you, or it might interest you if you like maid cafes. Otherwise, there’s pretty much nothing from this group to check out yet.

Up Up Girls (2) 

As I mentioned in my Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari) write up, these are the five members added as Up Up Girls (2) (Also known as Up Up Girls Second or Up Up Girls (Kakko Nikki). It was initially announced that Up Up Girls (2) would be the second generation of Up Up Girls but they’re really more like their own thing, albeit also providing back up for Up Up Girls. For example they are back dancers in Up Up Girls’ latest single and appear at Up Up Girls shows in that capacity, but they also perform on their own as their own group. So while they have a closer tie to Up Up Girls than, say, Angerme has to Morning Musume, they’re also somewhat their own thiing.

I feel like if you’re an Up Up Girls fan you should like Up Up Girls (2) and if you’re not I’m not sure why you’d bother. The members seem really great, from what I’ve seen – I watched the first appearance of the members and their introductions and they seem like a fun bunch of oddballs. They also have a nice, energetic appeal to them in the way that newbie idols do – they seem genuinely very excited to be singing Up Up Girls standards like Up Up Typhoon. But at this point it doesn’t seem like they have any original songs of their own, so if you disliked Up Up Girls’ music you’re not going to care for Up Up Girls (2). That said, if you like Up Up Girls but have been putting off checking out Up Up Girls (2) for whatever reason, these new members seem like good eggs, and after watching some of their videos I want to follow them more.

ANNA☆S

I’ve been aware of ANNA☆S for years but this is their first TIF, so first profile. ANNA☆S  is a group formed of Anna, Yuna and Suzuka, two sisters (Anna and Yuna) and one childhood friend (Suzuka). They’ve been performing together since 2010 and, as far as I can tell, haven’t had any lineup changes which is pretty impressive. When they perform with Wakita Yoshino, a support member, they perform idol rap songs as the unit Udon Kyoudai. Recently they’ve released some best off albums and started putting out solo music in addition to their music as a group.

I really like that the group has been around for so long without any change in lineup – I think this is leads to a great rapport between members, especially considering the members have known each other for years before forming the group. Anna’s voice in particular is very solid, too. Ultimately, for me, there isn’t quite enough there after them being around for 7 years. They have released music, sure, but the music is all just OK – the best song I’ve found is Set Me Free but for the most part their music isn’t great, just pretty straightforward idol pop. I think if anything I’ve mentioned appeals to you you should take a look at ANNA*S, but, while I like the personal ties of the group, they don’t seem to appeal to me.

℃-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