2017 marks an important anniversary – it is the 20th anniversary of the formation of Morning Musume. While the group has had many iterations, 13 generations of members, name changes and both waxing and waning popularity over the years, 20 years is a major achievement for a group. This is especially notable given Morning Musume’s recent resurgence in popularity – while Morning Musume has been around for almost 20 years, I can’t see it going away any time soon.
To commemorate this I’ve decided to review all of the main Morning Musume albums through 2017, First Time through 14 Shou ~The Message~ or any Morning Musume album that comes out this year. I won’t be covering the two best of albums nor the updated album. The main goal will be to see just how Morning Musume has evolved over these 20 years.
While 4th Ikimasshoi was historically my favorite Morning Musume album, I don’t really listen to No.5 all that much. I love the single songs on it a lot; Do It! Now and Koko ni Iruzee are both great. That said, the rest of the album songs aren’t anywhere near as well received as the ones on 4th Ikimasshoi nor are they performed all that much.The majority of these songs have been performed once or twice and have since fallen off the face of the earth. This doesn’t mean that much – there are plenty of early Hello!Project songs that haven’t been performed all that much that are fantastic. But of the post-Golden Era albums it feels like No.5 has had the least impact of any album. So is that deserved? I have to admit that I haven’t listened to most of these songs in a long while, so we’ll find out.
This is odd. This is a 9 second intro that’s basically a slightly different section from the chorus of Do It! Now. That’s it. I’m not sure why they didn’t just do an extended version of Do It! Now and start with that (though IMO another song on this album should be the first song). This doesn’t work at all, much less than the intro on 3rd Love Paradise, for example. The only thing I can think of with this is that they wanted to pad out the tracklist, because while there are new songs on this album it’s got a lot of existing stuff on it.
I just don’t think this should have been on this album at all. It serves no purpose.
2. Do It! Now
Do It! Now is great classic H!P song – it’s the type of song that just feels like the early 2000s era of Hello!Project in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s a mix of r&b and pop that has held up incredibly well. Do It! Now is notable in being Goto Maki’s last single, so she gets a fair amount of focus, but Do It! Now does well by all of the members – Goto Maki and Abe Natsumi get a lot of focus but so does then newbie Takahashi Ai, Konno Asami gets a suprising amount to do, and every member has a lot to do in the pseudo-rap break (I say pseudo in that most of the lines are actually sung, but it’s clearly supposed to be a rap break). It’s a song that works just as well for older members like Iida Kaori and Abe Natsumi as well as it works for the younger members like Konno Asami and Niigaki Risa, which is kind of incredible.
Do It! Now should be totally dated, in that it feels like it’s very much of its time, but it’s still a classic jam. Some things do feel dated, especially the Tsunku mandated sound effects (at least, I assume those are Tsunku-mandated). A couple of bits of this sound a little goofy. But at its core Do It! Now is a really solid classic pop song with R&B stylings, with a great melody. The chorus is the standout, but the verses work really well. The pacing of this song is great too.
Do It! Now isn’t a song I go back to as much as something like Souda! We’re Alive or Renai Revolution 21, but it’s still a very solid, very good offering from Morning Musume and a great song. 9/10
TOP! should have been the first song of the album and it’s almost baffling it isn’t. It feels like they made the intro for Do It! Now, realized it would be weird if the next song wasn’t Do It! Now, but already had TOP! done so they just put it afterwards. The intro of this song, with the voice going through the names of all the members is a really great place to open an album, and I still think it should have opened it, followed up with Do It! Now, and scrap the intro.
TOP! has a lot of fun energy, and I like how much the members put into it. I love the feel of the song, and the lyrics focusing on aiming to be number one are a really good part. However, while I think the energy, members and lyrics work, the arrangement at points is a bit bland. It works about half of the time (the opening, some of the verses), but the chorus is kind of flat. Which is really bizarre, as the person who arranged this also arranged Say Yeah! Motto Miracle Night off of Morning Musume’s first best-of album as well as Country Musume’s Uwaki na Honey Pie and non-Hello!Project songs like Charisma.com’s Hate (which he fully wrote/arranged). He’s a quality arranger. So why does this feel a bit slapdash?
TOP is a fun song, don’t get me wrong, and I love a lot about it. The back and forth where each member sings “waratte” works so well, and the opening is fantastic. It’s a good song for the most part. It just could be so much better than it is, sadly. 7/10
4. Tomodachi ga Ki ni Itteru Otoko Kara no Dengon
This reminds me a bit of Ii Koto Aru Kinen no Shunkan, from 4th Ikimasshoi – at least it has the same, cute feeling and tone at a similar point in the album. Like Ii Koto this song has a really cute feel, but this time with an emphasis on electric guitar. The arrangement in general is pretty great for a song they could easily have played off as being the cute song, and I like the guitar solo.
While this isn’t quite on the level of Ii Koto Aru Kinen no Shunkan this is still a very fun, cute song. The chorus is particularly good but this has a pleasant melody, a good arrangement, and is a nice song. It’s not one I particularly need to listen to more than I do and it’s not one I feel the need to write a lot about but it’s solid, classic Morning Musume. 7/10
5. Koko ni Iruzee!
Koko ni Iruzee is a total gem and one of MM’s underrated tracks – I think people like it but it’s not quite as well liked as it should be. It’s a fun ska-inspired track with a great melody and some great performances. Each member has their own solo line or two and most of them tend to ham up their performances in a really fun way. The instrumentation is really great too, with some great horns and a solid bass line throughout. This song came at peak “Tsunku’s voice as part of the background and some of his vocalizations are extraneous, but that’s kind of a love it or hate it part of Hello!Project.
Above all Koko ni Iruzee is just fun – it’s a song that always energizes me and the “minna lonely boys and girls” section near the end, which comes out of nowhere, works so well and often gives me chills. I think the fact this isn’t a classic H!P song in the same way that Renai Revolution or Souda We’re Alive are is a testament to just how great Hello!Project was at this time – Koko ni Iruzee doesn’t quite live up to those heights but it’s a great pop song. 9/10
6. Suggoi Nakama
The fact that Suggoi Nakama isn’t performed more by Morning Musume or other Hello!Project groups is a total shame – it’s a very fun, almost goofy song about friendship that I feel like could be done well with the current group of H!P members. It’s even more peak “Tsunku has a separate rap section for each song and adds his own vocals” which I can’t quite decide if I like here. The rest of the song is fun enough, though, that if that’s not something you’re interested in the weird fun parts work. The arrangement was done by Dance Man, which makes the song work even more.
The biggest issue I have with Suggoi Nakama is just how repetitive it can be – the chorus is a single line that gets repeated several times. It’s not a particularly bad line nor does it get painfully repetitive, but there isn’t a lot there beyond it being fun and cheerful. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily – the line is super catchy. But it’s not particularly interesting, especially with multiple listens. That said, Suggoi Nakama is a lot of fun fluff that makes for a fun listen. 7/10
7. Tsuyoki de Yukouze!
Tsuyoki de Yukouze has gotten a lot of play and has been brought back for recent concerts in 2010 and 2016, which makes a lot of sense – Tsuyoki de Yukouze is a fun, short song with a fast, aggressive sound. It’s the type of song that seems like it would be a lot of fun at concerts – it’s fast and has a great energy to it. It’s a short song (it’s about 3 minutes long but has several seconds of lead up at the start) so it feels a bit ephemeral at times, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts. The arrangement is a great rock sound, but the real star of the song is the energy and the melody. More than anything else this feels like a song that would be great at a concert – it’s not a song I listen to much on my own but I can imagine this being a great song to jump around to. Tsuyoki de Yukouze is a ton of fun and I’d love to see it at more concerts. 8/10
8. Megami ~Mousse na Yasashisa~
Here we go, the first of the pocky tie-in songs. This was a song used in commercials for mousse pocky and I feel like that makes sense from first listen. Shorter versions were already put on the Petit Best end of year compilation so I’m not 100% why they needed to put this on No.5 and to be honest I don’t think it adds much of anything.
Megami ~Mousse na Yasashisa~ is a pretty dated ballad that sounds like it could have been dated back when this came out in 2002. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not holding up to me. The melody is solid and the performances (by mostly older members) and while the instrumental is cheesy as hell it’s not terrible. I’m not sure this really needed a longer version, above all – this is repetitive and not interesting enough to justify the full 4:00 minute song.
This song isn’t all that bad. It’s a pretty pleasant listen, especially if you’re nostalgic for this style of late 90s ballad. It’s just more than anything unnecessary – it’s a tie-in song that feels like it was added to pad out the runtime for this album. 6/10
9. Yes! Pocky Girls
Here’s the other pocky tie-in song, with all the members who weren’t present for Megami ~Mousse na Yasashisa. It also had a shorter version on the Petit Best album, and also doesn’t really justify its extended runtime. Yes! Pocky Girls is fun and definitely less dated of a song, but it’s mostly unremarkable. It’s cute and pleasant but outstays its welcome, and at some points the melody feels like it drags in a way it shouldn’t for a song like this. It doesn’t have the energy, drive or life to it to make this tie-in song work. It’s cute and not unpleasant but doesn’t justify its presence on this album at all. It’s a song that would work for a commercial but not for a song on an album. 5/10
10. HEY! Mirai
This is the first of two songs for the movie Koinu Dan no Monogatari which starred Morning Musume and the H!P Kids.Which also makes sense, because HEY! Mirai is a pretty standard, cute song but sounds like something that would make sense as a movie tie-in.
There’s not much to say about Hey Mirai, to be honest. It’s cute, it’s pleasant to listen to, and not poorly done at all, but it’s not particularly interesting. It’s a pleasant song for a kids’ movie, but it’s not fun enough to be a regular listen for when I want to listen to classic Hello!Project, nor is it interesting to merit any serious listens. It’s pretty paint by numbers classic H!P pop. I’m not going to skip this song if it pops up when I’m listening to Morning Musume music, but I’m also not going to seek Hey Mirai out. 6/10
Ganbacchae is the other song from Koinu Dan no Monogatari, this time also featuring Goto Maki and the Hello!Project Kids. This is a lot more straight up cute but an also fairly straghtforward song about doing your best. That said, I like this a lot more than Hey Mirai, mostly because it has a great energy and a much more solid melody, which feels youthful and nostalgic in equal measure. It works well as a song that features both the older members of Morning Musume and the children in Hello!Project Kids.
The biggest issue in Ganbacchae is that the use of the kids can get a bit grating, especially when they are shouting seemingly random lines in the verses. It would have worked better if they’d done a few shouts throughout the song, sang the “ganbacchae” line with everyone and then sang near the end, if they’re not going to have them sing throughout the entire song.
Otherwise, Ganbacchae is a solid song and a fun one to listen to. 8/10
12. Sugoku Suki na no ni …. ne”
Tsuyoki de Yukouze was a song sung by the younger half of Morning Musume, whereas this is a song sung by the older half. At the start of the song I always think this is going to be more of an 80s/90s callback than it is – it starts out with some synth sounds and heavy drums, but it ends up more of a standard H!P song. It’s not a bad one – i like that the older members are featured in this way. It’s just not one that stands out for me. Even though I have my problems with them, Tsuyoki de Yukouze, TOP, and the single songs are very memorable. Sugoku Suki na no ni … ne is just not memorable.
There are some interesting ideas – I like some of the background vocals and at one point the arrangement sounds like it’s supposed to be like a harpsichord. The members perform it well and I’m intrigued by the synth sound and the idea of a classic Hello!Project 80s throwback song. It’s just not at all memorable of a melody and a song in general. It’s a pretty solid song but just doesn’t stick with you. 7/10
13. Sotsugyou Ryokou ~Morning Musume Tabidatsu Hito ni Okuru Uta~
I find it interesting that they have a song that is explicitly for graduations in Sotsugyou Ryokou and they’ve only performed it once – this just hasn’t stuck like Never Forget or I Wish. The person this song refers to is Yasuda Kei, who graduated soon after this album came out. While I do love Kei I also find it interesting that she had two graduation songs (this and the Never Forget rock version), which is why I think this was intended to be used more but wasn’t.
I actually really like this as a graduation song – it starts off slow as ballad but then the tempo kicks up and is a remarkably positive song. I like how the song feels – it feels like the members will miss Kei but it’s also congratulatory, happy for the person making the choice to graduate. It has a pretty killer arrangement (strings, horns, some acoustic guitar at the start) and it works really well as a graduation song. It’s not quite as iconic as I Wish or Never Forget, but I kind of wish Hello!Project would bring this back for more graduations. I also like the song ending the album – it’s a good send off to Kei and to the album.
This song should be more highly regarded than it is – it’s a pretty great graduation jam. 8/10
Overall: There are plenty of great songs on No.5 – Do It! Now and Koko ni Iruzee are two of Morning Musume’s all time great singles, and I’m partial to quite a few of the other tracks. That said, this feels completely aimless as an album, with an intro added to pad out the tracklist, a song that should be the first song on the album (TOP!), and stuffed with tie-in songs for pocky and for a movie. It feels like they thought Morning Musume should have an album so filled it with these songs. There are no really classic songs beyond the two singles (and possibly Ganbacchae!) and for good reason – this album is fairly weak. Which is a shame, considering it came out while Morning Musume was doing really well and should have had an amazing album. I don’t actually dislike any of the songs here, but this doesn’t work as an album as a whole.