Review Monday: The Best ~Updated Morning Musume~

Happy Review Monday!

Full disclosure: I am primarily a classic Morning Musume fan. My favorite songs are some of the ones they updated in this album. Ishikawa Rika’s one of my top two favorite idols. That said, I am a fan of the current Morning Musume. I’m a big fan of Ishida Ayumi, and I really like the rest of the 10th gen in particular. I really admire the group for the past couple of singles.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised and happy about the current Morning Musume comeback. While I tend to focus on other idol groups, Hello!Project has a very special place in my heart. I’ve been especially pleased with seeing how much MM has emphasized being a new Morning Musume, instead of dancing in the shadows of Love Machine. This is why I was a little nervous when I heard about an album of remixes. On the one hand they’re making these classics their own; on the other hand, remixing old stuff is hardly letting it go. Some of the songs on this album are nearly perfect pop songs, in my opinion, and remixing them is pretty risky. So this album is really interesting, and I knew I just had to review it for this Review Monday.

1. Love Machine: This album goes in chronological order and starts with the big one – Love Machine. Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t even try some of the older stuff. Ai no Tane and Morning Coffee I think would have been particularly interesting, and would highlight more of Morning Musume’s history. Was H!P like “nah, they can’t handle Memory Seishun no Hikari, so let’s not even try.”? Well, that’s probably true, but still. Morning Musume didn’t start with Love Machine, by any means.

That said, Love Machine’s a hard act to top. It’s easily Morning Musume’s most recognizable song. And so, in this remix, they did the wise decision of not doing too much except updating the instrumental a little. It sounds like the Dance*Man original, except changing a couple of things around and adding some new effects on vocals here and there. It seems that even in this new album of remixes that Morning Musume was hesitant to change much about the song. Which, IMO, is a good thing; this new version won’t replace the original, by any means, but I find it pleasant to listen to.

However, while I like that MM decided to play it safe, I can’t help but compare this to the wonderful ‘DD Jump’ by Dancing Dolls. The song is a remix of sorts of Love Machine, but makes it into an original song in its own right. It keeps the feel of Love Machine, but makes it something all its own.

Dancing Dolls DD JUMP by HDnakkyun

I’m not sure that Morning Musume would be able to do this; it’s too different. However, IMO this shows the possibility of remixes to make something completely new, and I almost wish that Morning Musume would be able to take more risks.

So I guess my consensus is that while I wish MM could have taken more risks with its signature song, it’s still very listenable and pleasant. 7/10.

2. I Wish: I Wish is one of those songs that has a lot of emotional baggage that comes with it. It’s a big song for Morning Musume’s 4th generation, which I’m a particular fan of. It was a graduation song for years, and Ishikawa Rika graduated to it. So I have a lot of strong feelings that go along with I Wish. The song’s really lovely in how it’s both moving and happy at the same time; it carries both emotional strength and happiness, which makes it perfect for graduations.

Which is why I just don’t think this cuts it. For me, the defining moment of I Wish is when it breaks into the first chorus. The verse up to then is soft and fairly quiet, but the chorus is just big and joyous. I get shivers every time I listen to it. However, the chorus in this remix is just underwhelming. I’m not quite sure why they had all the girls sing so staccato, but it’s the type of odd choice I could get past if I Wish got the feeling of the original right. And it just didn’t. The other big moment of the song is Kago Ai’s “Demo egao wa taisetsu ni shitai” near the end, and, while I’m not the biggest fan of Oda Sakura, she did it nicely. So Kudos, Sakura, you made one part of the song good.

If I divorce I Wish from its original context, I feel like I might be able to enjoy this more. However, it’s just impossible to take I Wish away from the original, and this remix does the worst thing a remix can do, which is remove everything that made the original great. Not impressed. 3/10

3. Renai Revolution 21: RR21 is the other big song of Morning Musume, after Love Machine. If you see Morning Musume do a medley, you’d better bet that Love Machine and RR21 are the two songs that they put in there. It’s also tied with the next song in this album for being my favorite Morning Musume single, and one I never get sick of.

And ehhh. I can definitely see where they’re trying to go with this rearrangement, but none of the elements feel cohesive. Frankly, it feels like a jumbled mess of elements.

This is also something I have to compare to another rearrangement, which is the Renai Revolution 21 remix for Hangry & Angry’s first single, Reconquista. There they manage to make it a song that not only fits Hangry & Angry’s sound, but is cohesive and pleasant to listen to. It’s definitely heavier and electronic influenced, but this fits H&A.

Morning Musume’s updated rearrangement, on the other hand, just feels jumbled and like they threw in various dubstep and techno things over the original and decided to call it a day. I don’t necessarily hate the various pieces that make up this arrangement, and parts of it could make a good rearrangement if they stuck to it for the whole song. The whole thing feels like it’s just trying to gild the lily; the original still fits today, so it just feels like they’re throwing on jumbled elements to try and make the new version stand out.

That said, I don’t really hate every bit of the song, and I really like some of it. Ultimately, as a whole, it’s just not very good. 5/10

4. The Peace: Full disclosure: Ishikawa Rika’s one of my top two idols of all time. As such, I’ve listened to The Peace a lot.

This is another song where I like it in theory, but there are parts I just don’t like. The opening sounds lovely, like it will be a pretty good rearrangement. But then they suddenly throw in all these dubstep elements. It feels more cohesive than the Renai Revolution 21 arrangement, though, so while the parts I like don’t necessarily shine through as much it’s still not bad. The ending’s not very good, either, and I don’t particularly like that.

Personally, this doesn’t come anywhere close to The Peace. However, I see where they’re coming with it, and I don’t necessarily hate it. I really like the opening, and so the sudden dubstep was disappointing. However, there’s enough good with it so that I just can’t completely hate this remix. 5/10

5.Souda! We’re Alive!: Perhaps it’s lighter than these other rearrangements so far, but I really like this. All the girls sound really nice in this song. Perhaps it’s because the original song just fits the youthful energy of the current group, but this is possibly the first time I feel like this song really fits the group.

This, much like the Love Machine arrangement, does a good job of balancing the original song and the way it feels with the new arrangement. This feels like the utter energy and happiness of Souda! We’re Alive but with an updated instrumental and arrangement. This is the type of thing that seems to be what they should be doing with these. Again, I’m not sure if I’d choose this over he original, but I definitely enjoy it. 8/10

6. The Manpower: I really like The Manpower. However I can’t for the life of me figure out why they decided to do this song. Why not one of the earlier MM songs like I mentioned earlier? Why not Shabondama, which would make sense given the presence of Sayumi. Why not Roman ~My Dear Boy~? Why not Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari, with updated lyrics, instrumental and members. I just don’t get it.

That said, I like this update. Even though I like it, I’d hardly consider The Manpower one of the great Morning Musume songs. I really like how the girls all play off each other, and sing really shorter solo lines (almost like the great song Dokusenyoku. There are some really lovely harmonies put in here as well.

This is possibly the only update I might like more than the original. The original was a good song, but never really stood out to me. This feels like it’s improving a lot on the original, taking a song that was fine and making it a lot more interesting. This is definitely my favorite update so far, and one I can see myself listening to in the future. 9/10

7. Aruiteru: You know how a couple of paragraphs ago I was questioning why they chose The Manpower? Double that for Aruiteru. WHY Aruiteru? It’s just such a bad song. I have nothing good to say about Aruiteru; IMO it is one of the worst singles Morning Musume has ever done. I’m just baffled as to why they chose Aruiteru and not one of the earlier singles or one of the later singles. If they wanted a #1 oricon single, why not Shouganai Yume Oibito? Why not every other song that Morning Musume has ever done?

I prefer this to the original. But that’s because the original is just so boring that nothing can really make it worse. This is a Sayumi solo song, and she doesn’t sound too bad but she doesn’t sound that great. Her voice isn’t one I necessarily need to listen to for a long time. She actually does songs like It’s You pretty well, but her voice doesn’t really fit the original that well.

This is OK. It’s improving a song, but that doesn’t say much. Aruiteru is already a song I never listen to, and I’m going to listen to this even less. 3/10

8. Renai Hunter: And now we’re up to mostly current members. It feels just so weird that, for an album that’s about updating and remixing, the majority of the songs are new ones. I guess they didn’t want to put in much work? Or pay for more rearrangements? That’s probably it, honestly.

Renai Hunter’s only real difference is an additional dubstep intro/break, as well as the updated member roster. So it all really comes down to how much I like the original. Which I really did; it’s a really solid single that reaffirmed my faith in Morning Musume after the very weak Pyoko Pyoko Ultra. Normally dubstep isn’t my thing, but Morning Musume did a pretty good job of incorporating those sounds in with a nice pop song.

This also cleans up the instrumental a bit and updates the member vocals, and I think overall they do a nice job with this. Riho’s vocals in particular have improved a lot since the original recording, and everyone in general sounds better. Sometimes the dubstep breaks go on a little long for my tastes, but I like the direction they went with updating this. 7/10

9. One Two Three: While I didn’t initially like One Two Three, it grew on me as Ayumi impressed me with her dancing in the dance shot.

This seems to update even less than Renai Hunter, just updating the vocals. And I’m not sure if it’s just me, or do the vocals here just sound strange? Whatever effect they put on them this time just sounds strange. I thought I would be more inclined to listen to this one, mostly because I’m not the biggest fan of Reina’s voice, but something about the effect they put on the members’ vocals just make them sound not very good. Which is odd. There are also places where it sounds like they reused vocals, which is kind of not cool.

This seems like it would be a straightforward update for a solid song, but even then Morning Musume figured out a way to mess it up. Figures. 5/10

10. Wakuteka Take a Chance: Much like the past two, they didn’t update this much, just the vocals. Even then, they didn’t seem to update everything; there are definitely lines that are just taken from the old recordings, mixed in with new ones. It makes it kind of distracting, and a hodgepodge of an old recording and a new one.

I normally like this song, but I just can’t get past the way that vocals are being reused. It just makes it odd and distracting, which is not something you want from a song. 5/10

11. Help Me!! Same as the last; the instrumental is the same, they updated some of the vocals and reused some of the old ones. The result is a weird hodgepodge of old vocals and new vocals. Since it sounds like they just updated a little bit (the opening narration is the same and a lot of the lines that Riho and Sakura have stay the same), it is a lot less noticeable than some of the other songs. However, they update just enough that it’s distracting while listening to.

I don’t like this as much as I like Morning Musume’s subsequent releases (Brainstorming and Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke), and the PV for Help Me is absolutely horrendous. However, I enjoy a lot about the song. I just see zero reason to listen to this version over the original. The one reason I can think of is that Sakura sounds pretty good in here, for some of the lines she covers from Reina. I normally don’t care much for her voice, but she sounds nice here. 6/10

12. Brainstorming: Like the others, this is just updating vocals. Nothing sounds strange like One Two Three, and there are only a couple of lines that are redone, namely the ones that Reina did.

The lines that are redone stick out like a sore thumb, but other than that I still like Brainstorming a lot. However, the few Reina lines stick out so much that I don’t think I’ll listen to this all that much. 7/10

13. Kimi Sae Ireba Nani mo Iranai: In my initial review of this single I preferred the Brainstorming half of the single, while liking Kimi Sae. However, I think the redone solo lines in this are just a bit better than in Brainstorming. This is basically because most of the vocals are very heavily autotuned, but hey I’ll take whatever I can get with this album. This is still a really solid song that I really enjoy. Again I’m not quite sure how much I’ll listen to this, given the fact that it’s just the same as the old one, but hey. 7/10

14. Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke: Since this was just released, nothing has changed or been redone with Ai no Joke. I really enjoy this song a lot, perhaps even more than I initially liked Brainstorming. There’s a really good energy and pace to the song. It’s high energy, but doesn’t feel rushed. It features the shouted “Aisaretai” lines, which I really enjoy. The titular line “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” and its subsequent “Onna no ko ni dake wakaru talk” is, in my opinion, a really good case of lyrics writing. Not necessarily because of what it means, but because it gives the lyrics a really good rhythm.

The song’s just fun and emphasizes the type of group Morning Musume has become. If you don’t like the current Morning Musume’s style, I don’t expect you’d be a big fan of Ai no Joke. However, if you’re really into fun songs and the type of dubstep-influenced, high energy, electronic-sounding music that MM has gotten into lately, I’d expect you’d adore Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke. 9/10

15. Wolf Boy: Wolf Boy is the only completely new song on this album. Another Morning Musume song that was only on a best off album was Say Yeah! Motto Miracle Night, which happens to be one of the most fun Morning Musume songs ever, and is a song I’m convinced drove the sales for that Best Of Album.

Perhaps this is an unfair comparison, because how do you even begin to compare with Say Yeah Motto Miracle Night? But still, it is the first thing I thought of when I first saw they would have one new song, Wolf Boy.

As expected, it’s nowhere even close to Say Yeah. However, it’s still a really nice song; I like the instrumental, especially. It fits in with the cooler, electronic style that they’re going for. It doesn’t quite have the same energy of, say, Brainstorming and Kimi Sae Ireba, but this definitely sets it apart. The song itself isn’t catchy, and I’m not sure how much staying power it’ll have. But it’s certainly not bad. 7/10

Overall: This is an album of missed opportunities, baffling choices, and overall issues. There are a few tracks on here I enjoy, but for the most part these reimagining of Morning Musume classics (and new songs) do not do the originals justice.

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