Review: Idoling!!! – Gold Experience

This weekend I asked on twitter if anyone wanted me to review anything. Steve from Selective Hearing suggested Idoling!!!’s latest album. Idoling!!! is a group I’ve always liked, but never got into too much. So I’m actually pretty happy that I have a chance to revisit this group. I’ve liked a lot of their music in the past (Me ni wa Aoba Yama Hototogisu Hatsukoi is one of my favorite idol songs) so let’s see what I think about this new album!

1. Shokugyou: Idol

Immediately the opening reminds me of the opening to AKB48’s Futari Nori no Jitensha. Which is a good thing; that’s from AKB’s best stage, and this is the type of song that fits really well as an opener.

This track is a bit unusual in that it’s an older single that was already featured on an Idoling!!! album; this is a single from 2008, and the rest of the singles on Gold Experience are very recent. While this has been revamped with vocals from the current generations of members, the fact that this song was chosen means that they’re thinking about this album as an album and not a collection of singles + non-single songs. At least, I hope that’s what they mean with this, because there are far too few idol albums that actually try to be successful as albums.

This is the type of song that I would play for someone if I wanted to tell them what idol music is like. This feels like an “idol” song, in the best sense. I like music that’s considered ‘idol-y,’ so this hits the spot. There’s a pretty good drum beat and a nice guitar section, adding some rock flavor to the song. The song itself is pretty catchy, though, and like I said I do enjoy idol music on its own.

Despite being an older single, this fits very well as an opening track. Of the recent albums I’ve reviewed, this and LinQ’s “Hajimemashite” fit the best as openers. This is a fun, well written song that fits very well as an opener to the album. 8/10

2. MAMORE!!!

This immediately feels more like the Idoling!!! I’ve become familiar with; this and Dont Think! Feel are the types of songs that I’ve come to associate with Idoling!!!; songs that pack a punch. MAMORE!!! is probably the single I’d think of most when I think of this type of Idoling!!! song.

For some reason I remember disliking MAMORE when it first came out, and for the life of me I can’t remember why. This is a well-paced, energetic song that packs a punch. I just think that these cooler, more powerful songs that tend to be favorites with some take longer for me to get into. I think another part of it is that the chorus is far more immediately appealing than the verses; they aren’t bad, per say, and have a lot of good to them, but the chorus is the real attraction to MAMORE!!!. However, at a closer listen, there are some good layered vocals in places that I don’t know if I appreciated at first.

This is also a song that shows off the deeper, strong vocals of the Idoling!!! members. Everything sounds really good and serious; a group with higher pitched vocals might not sound quite as good doing this type of song. The instrumentation is really great, too; I feel like it’s easy to give this type of song a fairly generic rock sound, but this feels like a complex, well-made track.

MAMORE!!! isn’t the type of song I naturally gravitate towards, but goodness I’ve gained an appreciation for it. 8/10

3. Ichigo Gyuunyuu

And Idoling!!! returns to a cuter style. This is a pleasant, mid-tempo song that feels even slower after following something like MAMORE!!!

Pleasant is honestly the best word I can think for something like Ichigo Gyuunyuu. It’s not a bad song, but there’s not much that really feels extraordinary. The best thing I appreciate is the arrangement; if I’ve learned one thing from these past few tracks I’ve learned that I like the instrumentation in Idoling!!! songs. The strings and piano sound lovely, and I appreciate the clear effort that went into that.

There’s also some really beautiful vocal work in the bridge. The vocals for this track are largely unremarkable (again, especially in following MAMORE) but there’s shining moments of realization that there are beautiful vocalists in Idoling!!!

It’s hard to say anything bad about Ichigo Gyuunyuu, but beyond a good arrangement there’s not much I’d call home about. It’s not bad, but it’s not a song I think I’ll be returning to anytime soon. It has the potential to grow on me, but for now it hasn’t. 6/10.

4. Akogare Adoration

Here’s a faster paced rock song! This is much more of the older school, lighter rock than something like MAMORE. Like always the vocals and instrumentation are very good; in particular there’s a section of harmonization later in the song that sounds really fantastic.

The instrumentation is well-done, like always, but there are a lot of sections that sound too busy. I like having multiple things going on at once in a song as a general rule, but here it felt like there was a bit too much going on at once. I also don’t know if I quite like the mixing of the song; sometimes it sounds like the vocalists are a bit too quiet. It’s nothing extreme, but these touches in comparison to the other Idoling!!! tracks just feel off.

I do like the clapping in the song and the harmonization is gorgeous. This is a fun song, and I like various elements. However, it’s not quite interesting enough and not all the elements come together as well as I wish they would. 6/10

5. Kaniko

When pitching me this album, Steve mentioned that this album felt like a bit of a tribute to idol styles through the year. While I listen to some oldschool idol music sometimes, I was nervous that I wouldn’t really get it. But yeah, this song is definitely getting some of that 70s idol vibe. The first song that comes into my head with this is that this reminds me of an updated Southpaw by Pink Lady; there are probably other songs that fit this better, but I got some Pink Lady mixed with Nakamori Akina (because this does sound darker) in there.

The thing is, even though this does feel oldschool in flavor (especially with the melody) it’s not necessarily obvious; the production and arrangement is modern and it’s produced very well. The members they chose to sing this song perform it well, as well, and it sounds nice all around. This isn’t necessarily my favorite type of oldschool sound, but I do like retro idols fit into modern music a lot so this does make me happy.

This is a fun, upbeat song with a bit of a darker sound to it. I love it. 9/10

6. Sentō Renai Shōjo Robo B Gata no Yūutsu

I had Pink Lady on the brain when listening to this because the siren at the beginning made me think of UFO from Pink Lady. The rest of the song has a lot more energy and doesn’t make me think of a specific song like Kaniko did, but the strings still remind me of retro music, which is great.

This is unfortunately not quite as memorable as Kaniko to me, but it still sounds good. This song does something that not a lot of songs do but that I appreciate whenever I hear it; it combines rock with strings and adds on some electronic effects. Not quite as effectively as the best songs that do this, mind you, but I appreciate songs that have the ambition to have this.

While all the members sound fine here, there are some shouting parts that don’t really appeal to me as much as they could. Ultimately this is a fine song that does a lot of interesting things, but doesn’t appeal to me quite as much as it should. 7/10

7. Bon Voyage!

To be honest I put off reviewing this song because I just don’t know how to approach it. The song feels like it should be a mid-tempo, slower ballad (like the opening), but then it suddenly goes faster and has an upbeat arrangement. The chorus in particular is a slower melody, and, just singing the melody back to me, it sounds like it would fit better as a slower song.

The song isn’t bad; it continues this string of good songs and good arrangement. I’ve just listened to it over and over and just can’t pinpoint what it is about this song. The ending where parts start to overlap is probably the most successful section, and I like the ending chord which sounds like it’s from an organ. That would have been cool, an organ-focused song.

I think I like this, and there are sections that I like more than anything, but for some reason this song is baffling to me. It hasn’t stuck in my head at all, and I doubt I’ll be thinking much about this in the future. 5/10

8. Sakura Thank You

This is a graduation song. From years of conditioning I’ve come to expect that songs about graduation are uninteresting and boring. Unfortunately, Sakura Thank You doesn’t stray too far from this precedent. The guitar solos sound good, and the arrangement is very solid, like always. It also goes without saying that the vocals are strong. However, this doesn’t really stand up to some of the more interesting songs on this album.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the worst graduation single I’ve ever heard. It’s far better than AKB’s awful So Long which also came out this year. The strong production makes up for it. Really, I’d rank this pretty highly among similar graduation themed singles. It’s just a disappointment that when Idoling!!! decided to go for a graduation single that they went for a more generic sound than they had done before this.

That said, I do like the production on this quite a bit, and there are really great moments in the arrangement. It’s just that this is arrangement is on something fairly uninteresting, which is a shame. 6/10

9. Natsu no Ojousan

When I first heard this song I was sure that this was a cover of a Candies song or something; this reminds me way too much of stuff like Haru Ichiban and Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu. While this isn’t a Candies song, this is in fact a cover of a song by Sakakibara Ikue, released in 1978.

Taking a quick listen to a performance of the original, it doesn’t sound like Idoling!!! changed too much with their arrangement. And here, I think that’s a good thing. The song is very fun on its own that I’m glad it seems like they left the original framework but just modernized it.

I wasn’t aware of this song before the cover, but now I’m glad that they covered this! It’s a fun song that Idoling!!! does a great job of covering. 9/10

10. Namida no Freesia

And wow this feels like 90s era idols, in a good way. This reminds me in a way of something like White Love by Speed, that kind of sensibility that you don’t really hear in a lot of idol music lately.

I like how piano heavy this sounds, even with the synth in there. It does a good job of adding some darkness to the track, and mixes well together. The one thing that kind of stumps me is the member choice for this single; I know this is a unit song, but it feels like they chose the highest-pitched/cutest voices of the group when it might sound better with a stronger voice. Some of the higher notes sounded like they were a bit of a struggle. I’d love to hear a Yokoyama Rurika cover of this song, for example, just to hear the difference.

This is a nice song that brings me back to a kind of idol music style that doesn’t really exist that much anymore in this post-Speed/SweetS era. It’s nice to hear. 7/10

11. Samui Yoru Dakara

Now here’s a song that’s legitimately from the 90s; this is a cover of a song from 1993 by the band TRF. This gives me serious vibes of songs like Get Wild, which I enjoy but aren’t necessarily my go to songs.

This is a song that I honestly don’t care for as much as I cared for Natsu no Ojousan. It’s fine, but there are sections which feel like they’re stretched out too long. And I feel like it’s hard to criticize this when I praised Idoling!!! for sticking with the original song when I talked about Natsu no Ojousan, but honestly I just don’t like this as much.

It’s a fine song, and it has a lot of the elements of this 90s era JPop that I enjoy, but it doesn’t hold up as a classic-sounding song like something like Get Wild does. Idoling!!! does a great job of modernizing the song and arranging it like I mentioned for Natsu no Ojousan, but unfortunately I just don’t love this as much as other songs from this relative time period and from this album. 7/10

12. Puri♥Kyun Survival

This is about the cutest idol song title I’ve ever heard. This is sung by Idoling!!! Neo, the newest members of the group who released their own single earlier.

This has a surprising amount of rock in it; this is pretty dominated by guitar and is generally a fun power pop song. If you like stuff like the first Babyraids single and some of the other rock-inspired units out there (but not the heavier stuff), this might be up your alley. It’s catchy and fun but has a bit more of an edge to it than your typical idol song, which is nice to hear.

I still haven’t even watched the Idoling!!! Neo members in action (that’s how far behind I am on Idoling, you guys) but the girls all have really solid voices that sound very assured and confident despite this being released in their first year.

This is really a fun track that utilizes the new members of Idoling!!! very well. I really enjoy this. 8/10

13. One Up!!!

This is back to Idoling!!!’s singles and it’s back to being the punchier type of song that i mentioned during my section on MAMORE. This is a funky, fun song, which is something I appreciate. I really like disco/funk back in my idol music, and One Up!!! definitely fits the bill.

One thing that is pretty distracting is just how busy the arrangement is. I think there’s a really fine line between what’s too busy complicated and too simple. Some songs have very empty/hollow sounding instrumentals, but others just have too much going on. Listening to One Up!!, there are a lot of good sections, but there are also sections where it feels like too much is going on in the background. While in general I think Idoling!!! does a good job with the people they get to do their arrangements, some of them err on the side of too busy, and this is the track so far where I feel like this is a big problem.

The thing is, I like this song a lot – in theory. The melody and overall songwriting really appeals to me. It’s just that a lot of this song should have been pared down to a less complicated track. This is so much fun that it’s a shame that there’s an issue like that keeping me from loving One Up!! like I want to. 7/10

14. Promise
Oh hey, a ballad! Every single song on this album so far has been pretty upbeat and fast. While I’m not a ballad person and I like my songs upbeat, listening to songs go at the same pace has been kind of exhausting. A ballad is a breath of fresh air at this point.

That said, I’m not a big ballad person, so while I want a track like this it’s not going to be my favorite track on the album. While the song itself doesn’t interest me all that much, the vocals do. The members sound gorgeous. I swear, I need to follow Yokoyama Rurika more, if only to hear more of her voice. The other members on the track sound nice, though a couple of voices aren’t as strong as the others. There’s some harmonies in there, which sound nice.

I do like the strings in the arrangement; I know that it’s at the point in idol music where we’ve heard a lot of strings lately, but I think I’ll be a sucker for a good string section. The song feels kind of cliched, in a way; it isn’t really an interesting ballad, beyond some strong vocals and some good instrumentation. The arrangement feels a bit busy here, as well.

Ultimately this is a very solid ballad which is made even better by strong vocals. 7/10

15. Don’t Think! Feel!

This is one of the feel Idoling!!! songs I’ve listened to over and over. While it’s not my favorite Idoling song in that it’s not Me ni wa Aoba, it comes pretty close. It is just a well-composed pop song; most of the Idoling!!! songs I’ve listened to on this album are well-paced, but Don’t Think! Feel is very well paced and never feels like it drags or moves too quickly. In general, though, I really like the melody and the overall tone of the song. It’s very pleasant, and at this point what I associate with Idoling!!!

The one thing that I don’t know if I like is the sound mixing;t he vocals sound kind of weird and echo-y. It’s not terrible, but I just wish that the vocals sounded a bit clearer and less strange. It’s distracting from an otherwise really nice song.

This is a solid song that I’ve listened to a lot on my own, despite not particularly paying much attention to Idoling!!!. I just wish the audio mixing was a bit different. 8/10

16. I no Standard 2014

If you hate repetitive songs, I no Standard is not your song. The words I no Standard are going to be burned into my brain after listening to this a few times for this review!

This is a very cute song with clapping and spoken/shouted parts. This is much cuter than a lot of Idoling!!!”s other stuff, but I do like it. It doesn’t quite fit my current image for the group, but the fact they have a song like that somehow works. I’m assuming (though kind of unsure?) that this is a song that allows for every member to sing; an intro song of sorts. If that’s the case the length makes sense. However, if that’s not the case then this song needlessly repetitive. It’s already a song that’s a lot longer than it needs to be.

This song is cute and fun, but drags on a bit too long. I appreciate a song that allows individual members to get spotlight, though. 7/10

17. Shine On

Ah, the ending track. This is a fun, funky track that feels like it’s ending the album on a high note. The melody is very reminiscent (intentionally?) of Don’t Think! Feel, but the whole song is a lot more upbeat and positive sounding than Don’t Think! Feel!

This is a compact, fun track that does a nice job of ending the album on a good note. Like the rest of the album it’s well made. I don’t know if it’s as immediately memorable as some of the other singles, but the chorus is definitely a bit of an earworm.

This does a good job of ending Gold Experience, a very good album, on a high note. 7/10

Overall: All the songs on this album are good. I like the individual tracks a lot. However, I’m still working out how this flows as an album. I have listened to all the tracks multiple times and in order, but I haven’t just sat and listened to it. 17 songs for an album is a bit much, though; I don’t know how they would cut any or which ones they could cut.

However, if you want to listen to well-produced, well-sung and overall just well-made idol music, you could do much worse than checking out Idoling!!!. This album had a lot of good stuff on it, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to give it a listen! I recommend this album!

2 thoughts on “Review: Idoling!!! – Gold Experience

  1. I’ll just say some general comments in response here, trying to go in order of what you wrote~

    Shokugyou is definitely a cool song to open an album, and a unique choice, given how old it is, and is still one of my favorite singles from them. While the instrumenal of the song seems a little more crisp than on the original recording, the new vocals sound a little weird. It’s not necessarily that all the re-recorded vocals sound bad on this album, per se, they’re just a little weird and I usually found them a little less impactful overall than the original recordings.

    I also had a similar experience with MAMORE at first, it really didn’t grab me, but as I listened more closely, the vocal layering especially is what drew me in, and I’m a big fan of it now.

    Ichigo Gyuunyuu is one of my favorites from them recently, the way the strings and guitar meld with the vocals just hits me pretty hard, and I like the percussion work on the song a lot.

    As far as the 70s/80s/90s reference stuff, they often do re-arrange the song to give it some more modern touches (especially with Kaniko and Natsu no Ojousan,) but others stay a little more “classic” or “unchanged” with the arrangements (B-gata, Namida no Freesia, Samui Yoru.) I tend like the ones that stay faithful to the original feel but don’t try to change too much (like Natsu and Kaniko.)

    I actually really liked Bon Voyage, I’m a big fan of songs that change tempo (as long as it’s done well, which I think it is) and this song has unconventional song structure all over it, even outside of the tempo change, and I like it quite a bit. It often gives a much more powerful or dramatic feel when the same kinds of melody and sound is kept throughout multiple time changes and drastic changes in arrangement (like the ending part you mentioned)

    Sakura Thank You is also easily one of my least favorite singles from the group, even though, as you mentioned, it’s quite good for a graduation type song. I think the arrangement really brings down the song, since if you hear the song played with different arrangements, it’s quite a gorgeous song. Even though I love the awesome guitar leads at the beginning and end of the arrangement, the rest kinda falls flat.

    I think the TRF cover is also really weak in general, though it’s not bad per se, TRF’s music is pretty hit or miss, and they kept this version pretty close to the original.

    Puri-Kyun Survival is really adorable and like you said, they just have a really fresh yet confident sound to their vocal work and I think they’re going to shine a lot more in the near future once they get their second single and beyond. You should check out their single and it’s b-sides as well, they’re quite good and some are in the same style as this song.

    I’ve never gotten a “too busy” feeling from One Up!!! though the song didn’t catch me at first, after 2 or 3 listens, I became a huge fan, mostly because of the percussion work (I guess I just pay a lot of attention to that, being a drummer.)

    Promise is one of the weakest Idoling!!! ballads to date, I’m really not impressed with it, especially compared to some of their monster ballads like Sandome no Kinenbi, U, and Omoi no Uta.

    Don’t Think Feel is actually another of my least favorite singles from them, though it seems to be pretty popular among non-fans from it’s exposure on TV and such. I’ve always felt the song kinda drags and never does much of anything remarkably, but of course, we all hear things differently!

    I no Standard is exactly as you said, it’s an intro song that gives each member a solo line, and this version on the album is extended quite a lot to accomodate all the new members they’ve gotten since the original recording that was on the Me Ni Wa Aoba single. They added a extra 1 and a half verses for these new members so it does drag a little, but the song was really just put here as a fanservice to the fans, it’s full of goofy inside jokes and stuff.

    Overall, I think your article captured a lot of what I like about Idoling!!! music in general; they don’t try to re-invent the wheel or have a completely unique sound with what they do, but they just make idol music that kinda gathers together some of the best elements from many different eras and styles of music from all over the world and turns them into idol music, in a sense. They also tend to focus most on the arrangements being high quality and lots of vocal layering and strength, and those two things are generally exactly what I look for from my idol music, are the arrangement and how creative the vocal patterns and recordings are.

    It’s also odd that you associate a certain type of music with the group, since, as someone who has listened to every song they’ve ever released multiple times, their music is too diverse on a regular basis to really relate any certain style with them, and that’s another big part of what I like about them. They did have that weird period where they got some kind of mainstream attention through their anime/show themes (S.O.W., MAMORE, Don’t Think Feel) and I think that’s where this kind of association would come from. Overall, though, they’ve never even really done 2 songs in a row that sounded similar, and their b-sides and album tracks are usually a world apart from the single songs they’ve had, and usually don’t repeat themselves very often, even when they get songs from the same composers/arrangers.

    You often claim you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge to talk about music, but I can tell you tried here, and did a pretty decent job getting across what you did or didn’t like about specific elements of the song.

    I’d probably actually rank this as their 3rd best album, if I really look at it from afar, but it’s still a really solid record overall with a few occasional lulls (but with 17 songs, this is pretty expected) and still better than a good majority of idol albums released nowadays, especially if you’re not familiar with the few singles on this album.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. I’m extremely pleased to discover this site. I wanted to thank you
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