[Album] Goto Maki – 3rd Station

3rd Station is the third album released by Goto Maki. It was her first album to chart outside the top ten and it only sold 32,000 copies. The three singles were relatively successful, with all charting within the top ten, but they weren’t able to replicate the successes of her past singles.

3rdstation

Released: February 23, 2005
1. Ekizo no DISCO (エキゾなDISCO; Exotic Disco)
2. Sayonara “Tomodachi ni wa Naritakunai no” (さよなら「友達にはなりたくないの」; Goodbye “Don’t Want To Be Friends”)
3. Yokohama Shinkirou (横浜蜃気楼; Yokohama Mirage)
4. Singapore Transit (シンガポールトランシット)
5. Rairai! “Shinfuu” (来来!「幸福」; Welcome! “Happiness”)
6. Watarasebashi (渡良瀬橋; Watarase Bridge)
7. Positive Genki! (ポジティブ元気!; Positive Energy!)
8. Sayonara no LOVE SONG (サヨナラの LOVE SONG; Goodbye Love Song)
9. Renai Sentai Shitsu Ranger (Goto Version) (恋愛戦隊シツレーンジャ (後藤Version); Love Squadron Ranger)
10. Station (ステーション)
11. 19sai no Hitorigoto (19歳のひとり言; The Monologue of a 19 Year Old)

I wasn’t really expecting what I got with Ekizo no DISCO. This is much different from her past songs because it is much more in the sexy zone. The music is a bit crazy with its pounding beat, flying synths and breathy vocals. I feel like it would have been better if Goto didn’t sing it in this way though because it sort detracts from the melody and leaves a weird contrast between it and the heavy arrangement. It’s a fun opener, but not quite my cup of tea.

sayonaratomodachiniwanaritakunaino

The transition into Sayonara “Tomodachi ni wa Naritakunai no” is a weird one as this one is one of her more mature and serious sounding songs. It’s definitely slower, but it isn’t quite in ballad territory and I love how nice her vocals sound here. The verses are particularly nice and there is a slow but strong build-up into the chorus, which definitely has more tension and emotion to it. It’s also quite catchy. Probably one of my favourite Goto songs and easily her best H!P single.

yokohamashinkirou

Yokohama Shinkirou is such a weird change with its pop/rock power. I’m not sure if I like this single that much, but I do like the energy that it has. There is a lot of strength in the arrangement with its mix of synths, guitar and percussion, but it is in the melody that things sort of lose its effect as it is quite repetitive and a bit out of control. It’s still a solid tune.

Singapore Transit is yet another change in sound as here we are given something a bit lighthearted and sweeter. This mid-tempo pop tune starts off a little boring for me as the verses aren’t particularly memorable. However, the chorus is so much better. There is a bit of unpredictability in the melody and it helps to create a more interesting sound. It’s not that bad of a song.

I was expecting Rairai! “Shinfuu” to be a crazy song and it is. Actually, I find it a bit odd that this song is included. It’s just really out there and sounds more like a song for a kids show and not something that would fit on here. Certainly Goto has done songs like this before, but not quite to this extent. It’s definitely a fun song and has a pretty catchy chorus, but the music just flashes by and there isn’t much to grasp on. Just a bit much for me.

Watarasebashi is a cover of a song by Moritaka Chisato and was already covered by label-mate, Matsuura Aya. This is a pretty gentle ballad and it’s quite beautiful. I think Goto’s vocals match this song wonderfully and while the song doesn’t have the most interesting arrangement, the melody is actually pretty nice to listen to. Not her strongest ballad, but definitely a solid cover.

Positive Genki! is probably my least favourite song on here. I’m fine with fun and upbeat pop/rock tunes, but the riffs here are just really tiring and they last throughout the entire song. It’s just overpowers the rest of the song. The chorus isn’t that catchy either and it can barely get through this song.

sayonaranolovesong

The album’s first single comes in the form of a classic love ballad. Sayonara no LOVE SONG used to be one of my favourite songs by Goto because I always felt it was quite beautiful. There are some really stunning parts to it, but I feel like it doesn’t quite hit the spot I want. There are some really charming parts to its arrangement like the light guitar and percussion. However, while the song is sweet, it just ends up a bit dull in general.

Renai Sentai Shitsu Ranger (Goto Version) is a solo version of a song by sub-unit, Nochiura Natsumi, which featured Goto in it. This is an upbeat pop tune with some rock elements to it, but I don’t quite like this version. I used to like this song a lot, but this one is just lacking a bit. The music is just very noisy and the melody isn’t that catchy either. It is better sung as a sub-unit.

The title track, Station, is a really cool pop tune that I was waiting for. After a few lackluster songs, here we are given something more mature and a bit more dance-focused. I love the beat and I feel like it swirls around with the synths. This also feels like a better match for Goto’s voice. The song isn’t as catchy as I want it to be as the melody is a bit repetitive, but it works nicely with the powerful music.

19sai no Hitorigoto ends things on a more dramatic and touching note. The song is a ballad, but it has a bit more power to it when compared to the other ballads on here. The arrangement is definitely pushed forward by the heavy percussion and I really like it. The melody gets a bit lost as Goto’s voice is a bit too soft for this kind of song, but it is still a nice tune.


Overall: This album is a little stronger than her second one, so at least there is some sort of improvement. My biggest complaint with the album would probably the lack of focus there is. There were so many changes in style and sound between each track that it felt like there was no cohesion at all and was just a jumble of songs. This could be good if the songs were stronger, but here, quite a few were just lackluster and lacking in clear focus within the songs themselves.

B-

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[Mini-Album] Abe Natsumi – 25 ~Vingt Cinq~

25 ~Vingt Cinq~ is the first mini-album released by Abe Natsumi. The title refers to the age she was when the mini was released. The mini failed to capture the success of her previous albums, with it peaking at #21 and selling around 13,000 copies. There were two singles released for the album, both peaking within the top ten of the charts and outselling the mini itself.

25abenatsumi

Released: March 14, 2007
1. Itoshiki Hito (愛しき人; Beloved Person)
2. Sweet Holic (スイートホリック)
3. Otona e no Elevator (大人へのエレベーター; Elevator to Adulthood)
4. 25 ~Vingt Cinq~ (25 〜ヴァンサンク〜)
5. Kuchibiru de Tomete (くちびるで止めて; Stop at My Lips)
6. Gesshoku no Hikari (月色の光; Moonlight)
7. Amasugita Kajitsu (甘すぎた果実; Fruit that is Too Sweet)

The album opens on a positive note with Itoshiki Hito, which is a bubbly and bright pop song. Considering it is from 2007, it still feels a bit outdated sounding and ends up reminding of something from ZARD in the 1990’s. It’s not a bad song though and actually has a really nice and full arrangement that really works well with Abe’s vocals. I do find her voice is get a bit overpowered at times and I wish the chorus was a little more memorable, but it’s a solid opening.

sweetholic

The album’s first single is Sweet Holic, which is another bright pop song. I wasn’t particularly interested in this song at first, but it actually has a really sweet and catchy chorus. The verses aren’t that great to me as they sort of just rumble along. I think some of the problem comes with the music that just sounds a bit awkward at times and a bit too programmed. Luckily, the chorus saves things.

Otona e no Elevator is another uptempo pop song, but this time with a bit of an acoustic swing. I wasn’t expecting too much from this song, but it actually surprised me quite a bit. The verses aren’t that memorable, but the chorus has a great quality to it that makes me think of the countryside. My only problem would be that Abe’s vocals do sound a little thin here.

25 ~Vingt Cinq~ is the album’s first slow song. It’s definitely not on the exciting side, but it isn’t bad. The chorus is sort of dragged out and I think the gentleness of the music really works wonderfully with Abe’s voice. She sings it quite beautifully. I just wish the music had a bit more power to it as it goes on because it keeps at the same level for its entirety and it feels like it will build to something bigger.

Kuchibiru de Tomete is a great surprise as it has some punch to it. It has a stronger latin vibe to it, which I was not expecting. I find the verses to be a lot of fun, but I did wish the chorus was a little better. It’s catchy, but it brings some synths in that sort of take the song into a stronger “pop” category and it loses its edge. Still a nice tune though.

Another ballad comes in with Gesshoku no Hikari, but this time we get something with a bit of traditional Japanese spice. This is easily one of Abe’s best songs in her whole discography. The music is absolutely gorgeous and works wonderfully to catapult the melody in the chorus. The verses are also surprisingly solid and help to bring a nice contrast to the fuller chorus. Stunning.

amasugitakajitsu

The album’s second single comes sliding in right at the end and it’s one of her best songs. Amasugita Kajitsu takes the latin sound of Kuchibiru de Tomete and amps it up by ten. It has a sensual quality to it that isn’t really seen in most of Abe’s music. The chorus sort of zooms by with its fast-paced melody and hooks, but it still leaves a strong impact. It’s exciting and catchy. I love it.


Overall: This was a huge surprise for me. Considering Abe’s first two albums were quite weak and featured decent singles but lackluster album tracks, I was really surprised by the quality of the album tracks here. The singles were still strong, especially the second one, but I ended up loving one of the songs and really enjoying many others. There are no weak songs on this mini.

A

[Album] Morning Musume – Second Morning

Second Morning is the second album released by Morning Musume and the last to feature first generation member, Fukuda Asuka. The album proved to be more successful than their first due to the rising popularity of the group’s singles. All four of the singles were top five hits, with one peaking at number one. The album sold over 425,000 copies and peaked at #3.

secondmorning
Released: July 28, 1999
1. NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY
2. Manatsu no Kounen (真夏の光線 (Vacation Mix); A Ray of Light in Midsummer)
3. Memory Seishun no Hikari (Memory青春の光; Memory The Light of Youth)
4. Suki x5 (好きで×5; I Love You ×5)
5. Furusato (ふるさと; Hometown)
6. Daite HOLD ON ME! (N.Y. Mix) (抱いてHOLD ON ME!; Hold Me, Hold On Me!)
7. Papa ni Niteiru Kare (パパに似ている彼; He Who Looks Like Papa)
8. Senkou Hanabi (せんこう花火; Sparklers)
9. Koi no Shihatsu Ressha (Album Version) (恋の始発列車; Love’s First Train)
10. Otome no Shinrigaku (乙女の心理学; A Girl’s Psychology)
11. Never Forget (Large Vocal Mix)
12. Da Di Du De Do Da Di! (ダディドゥデドダディ!)

I wasn’t expecting to be blast into the album right away, but NIGHT OF TOKYO CITY is an exciting start. It’s a funky upbeat pop tune that opens with a barrage of synths and rapping. Once the song starts getting into the verses do things really start picking up though. The song has a more mature vibe to it and while I wish the chorus was a bit catchier, it’s a solid tune and easily encapsulates their sound at this time.

manatsunokousen

I find the transition into Manatsu no Kounen (Vacation Mix) a little odd just because it is a summer-y pop tune that is very different from the last tune. I didn’t really like this song before, but it has grown on me a lot. I do find the melody to a bit dragged out and doesn’t equal the punch of the fuller instrumental. It’s still a surprisingly catchy song though and it isn’t a surprise that it was the album’s third single.

memoriseishunnohikari

I feel like Memory Seishun no Hikari should have been after the first song because it is darker. The album’s second single is a dark and seductive pop tune with some new jack swing and R&B influences. I love the underlying bass mixed with the piano and the girls’ harmonies easily make the song a gorgeous vocal display. The chorus is especially nice and the catchy melody ties nicely with these harmonies. This is also one of the last instances of Fukuda’s lead singing.

I do like that Suki x5 tries to change things up as the jazzier vibe of the song really brings a switch that isn’t really heard by the group. Unfortunately, I just don’t find the melody to sit nicely with the music and it just awkwardly floats on top of the overpowering percussion. This is one of the weaker songs for me.

furusato

Furusato is one of Morning Musume’s most well-known songs as it is the group’s first ballad single. It’s a really beautiful song that talks about living in a new city and the hardships of love and homesickness. My only problem with the song is that it is like an Abe Natsumi song. While I do like her and she has a nice voice, it would have been nice to get the other girls to sing as well to bring some contrast. I love the music though and the oldschool synth-line is a bit outdated sounding, but nostalgic.

daiteholdonme

Daite HOLD ON ME! (N.Y. Mix) is the remix of the album’s first single, which just adds a faster dance beat underneath. It really helps the song keep up the energy and I think I like it more than the original. This song is easily the best one of the album. The chorus is more repetitive, but the hooks are really catchy and the contrast between the two parts really brings an urgency to the song. There is even a fun rap that comes in. All of this is on top of a pulsating beat and with an array of disco synths.

I feel like this is where Manatsu no Kounen should have come in as Papa ni Niteiru Kare is an even brighter pop song. It has a funky guitar riff that carries throughout the song with a touch of brass here and there. I think the song isn’t bad, but the chorus is just a bit disappointing as the music is upbeat while the melody is darker. It’s an interesting difference, but it would have been better to really play up the music’s energy.

Senkou Hanabi is a really nice change music wise as it has a pop/rock vibe to it. The guitar riff is really beautiful. Unfortunately, I find the singing parts to be a bit lackluster. The song is another instance of only Abe Natsumi singing and her voice just sounds weak throughout it. It would have been better to hear the other stronger vocalists get some parts to even out the weaker parts.

Koi no Shihatsu Ressha (Album Version) was original released as the B-side from the album’s third single. It is a bit on the slower side of the things. The music sounds really outdated to me and it reminds me a lot of J-Pop from the 90’s. Unfortunately, the song itself is a bit forgettable as the melody isn’t that catchy.

Otome no Shinrigaku is the album’s weird song with its beach-like vibe. I do like this old-school vibe to it and it does it in a way that doesn’t feel totally stuck in an era. I just wish the music was a little stronger as the chorus feels a bit weaker with how the vocals are edited. It’s a decent take and Yaguchi and Ichii do a good job taking the lead here.

Never Forget (Large Vocal Mix) was originally released on the album’s second single as a graduation song for Fukuda Asuka. This song has a midtempo pop/rock sound going for it, which has been a bit of a theme with the last few tracks. I know the song is important, but I just don’t find the song that memorable. The chorus is nice, but it just needs a more powerful vocalist to get over the fullness of the music. Fukuda had great vocals, but they are a bit too sweet here.

Da Di Du De Do Da Di! ends the album with something a bit more upbeat. It reminds me of 90’s music from female singer-songwriters in America as it has a stronger pop/rock vibe. Abe takes the lead here and she does a decent job. The song is pretty catchy, but the melody is a bit unpredictable. I’m not sure if I like it as much as I want to as it just doesn’t get stuck in my head and the song is just too long.


Overall: This album has some stellar singles and there are some of Morning Musume’s best singles on this, but I felt quite a few of the album tracks were just not that interesting. A lot of them were midtempo tunes that just didn’t have interesting melodies nor that strong of production. I feel like there was more inconsistency here compared to the group’s debut.

B

[Album] Goto Maki – 2 Paint It Gold

2 Paint It Gold is the second album released by Goto Maki. While the album peaked at number four, the album only sold half the amount of her first with 52,000 copies sold. The album included four singles which were released before the album and were all top ten hits.

2paintitgold
Released: January 28, 2004
1. Uwasa no SEXY GUY (うわさのSEXY GUY; Rumored Sexy Guy)
2. Genshoku GAL Hade ni Yukube! (原色GAL 派手に行くべ!; Primary Color Gal, Be Flashy!)
3. LOVE. BELIEVE IT!
4. Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON (抱いてよ! PLEASE GO ON)
5. Shiawase Desu ka (Goto version) (幸せですか?; Are You Happy?)
6. Namida no Hoshi (涙の星; Star of Tears)
7. Kuchizuke no Sono Ato (Goto version) (くちづけのその後; After a Kiss)
8. Mirai no Tobira (未来の扉; Future Door)
9. Himitsu (秘密; Secret)
10. Paint It Gold (ペイント イット ゴールド)
11. Scramble (スクランブル)

uwasanosexyguy

Uwasa no SEXY GUY opens in an explosive way and it is great. I don’t really know what to think of the music though. It is really fun and exciting, but it is a pop song with some rock and latin elements to it. Goto Maki also sounds great here and she sounds much more confident in herself compared to her first album. The song does drag on for a bit, but it is a strong opener. It’s no surprise why it was the album’s first single.

genshokugalhadeniyukube

Right after comes the album’s fourth single. Genshoku GAL Hade ni Yukube replaces the funkier elements for something more streamlined pop. It’s a very happy and bright pop song. Unfortunately, it’s not my cup of tea. The melody is a bit bouncy and annoying and how it is sung just does not do Goto any favours. There are some clever bits like the second half of the chorus.

LOVE. BELIEVE IT! brings us a hard-hitting R&B/pop tune. I quite like how heavy the bass beat is even though the melody just glides over it. The chorus isn’t bad, although I don’t think it to be particularly catchy. Still, it’s better than the last song. I just wish Goto added a bit more emotion into her voice to really get the song to the next level.

daiteyopleasegoon

Daite yo! PLEASE GO ON is one of my favourite Goto Maki songs and it’s the best song on the album. It’s a fiery dance/pop tune and it fits perfectly with her piercing tone. The best thing about the song is that it keeps up the energy throughout and has a catchy melody to boot. There is also a funky rap that pops up around the end, which is a fun surprise. A great third single!

Shiawase Desu ka (Goto Version) is the solo version of a song by the H!P shuffle group, Sexy 8. It’s a sexy midtempo R&B/pop tune and is actually quite catchy. I prefer the original because the different voices helped to create some contrast in the melody, which doesn’t quite work as well when it’s solo. Goto sounds good, but just her tied with the awkward H!P background vocals just doesn’t quite tie together as well.

Namida no Hoshi is the first ballad and it’s a pretty sounding one that focuses on the piano. I want to like this song, but it’s a bit boring. The melody is nice, but I think it would be better if the music had a bit more energy to it. The second half of the song has some nice strings coming in, but I think some percussion would have been nice as well. This is definitely one of Goto’s strongest vocal performances on this album.

Kuchizuke no Sono Ato (Goto Version) is the solo version of a light pop/rock song from Morning Musume’s third album. It don’t think it’s a particularly interesting song, but it does add some variety to the album and we hear a gentler side to Goto’s vocals. I do prefer the original a little bit more, but it’s just not a stand out song for me.

Mirai no Tobira is the solo version of the crazy song from Morning Musume’s first album. This time, Goto did feature another H!P group, Melon Kinenbi. I’m pretty sure she sang all the important parts of the song though. It’s a decent tune and has a lot more energy in the music this time around, so it’s a bit more entertaining. I actually like this version much more than the original because the music is fuller and works nicely with Goto’s voice.

Himitsu is another slower tune and I think it’s better than the last ballad. It has an R&B beat which is layered over by the guitar. It’s a nice combination. Unfortunately, the chorus is underwhelming. It just does not have a lot of energy and the melody just sort of goes on in a daze. Goto sounds bored throughout it as well. A bit disappointing.

The title track, Paint It Gold, is the best album track on the album. We finally get another fast-paced dance tune and is really nicely crafted. I love the energy of the music with its disco elements and Goto sounds a lot more powerful here. The chorus isn’t the catchiest, but it’s still one of the more memorable melodies on the album. It’s a great tune.

scramble

The album ends with the second single, Scramble. It’s a bright pop tune, but I think this one is much better pulled off. I really enjoy the music as it is explosive and works nicely with the melody. I do wish the chorus was a bit more impacting, but it’s still relatively catchy. I think Goto also sounds great. It’s not the strongest ending, but it is a decent song.


Overall: This album was way better than her first one. Obviously, there were a few weaker tunes on here, but there were much stronger songs on here as well. While a lot of the songs still had that “Hello!Project” quality to them, it wasn’t as obvious and Goto sounded more confident and mature. I do wish the album had better ballads though as that was where things were weakest.

B-

[Album] Abe Natsumi – 2nd ~Shimiwataru Omoi~

2nd ~Shimiwataru Omoi~ is the second album released by Abe Natsumi. It features four singles that were released prior to the album, with all four charting in the top 10. The album wasn’t a big hit though and sold significantly less than her first album, peaking at #9 and selling 23,000 copies.

2ndshimiwataruomoi
Released: March 29, 2006
1. Gakusei Jidai (学生時代; Student Days)
2. Koi no Hana (恋の花; Flower of Love)
3. F.O.
4. Yuugure Sakusen Kaigi (夕暮れ作戦会議; Team Meeting at Midnight)
5. Yume Naraba (夢ならば; If There Are Dreams)
6. Nichiyoubi What’s Going On? (日曜日 What’s Going On?; Sunday What’s Going On?)
7. Tokyo Michikusa (東京みちくさ; Tokyo Wayside Grass)
8. Datte Ikitekanakucha (だって 生きてかなくちゃ; ‘Cause I’ve Gotta Keep on Living)
9. Elevator Futaripocchi (エレベーター二人ぽっち; The Two In The Elevator)
10. Koi no Telephone GOAL (恋のテレフォンGOAL; Love’s Telephone GOAL)
11. Chottozutsu ne. (ちょっとずつね。; A Little Bit)
12. Ending (エンディング)

Gakusei Jidai is a lighthearted midtempo pop tune. It starts off with some weird talking, but soon goes into the song. I do find that it feels a bit old and almost like an 80’s J-Pop sound. The chorus is the highlight of the song, but even then it is a bit flat. It isn’t particularly catchy and relies mostly on that 80’s guitar riff to really get the job done. Unfortunately, this is a lackluster opening and I’m surprised it is so long (almost five minutes).

koinohana

Luckily, Koi no Hana comes popping up. The album’s fourth and final single is a bright uptempo pop tune that reminds me a little of something by Shimatani Hitomi. I do find that the chorus just zooms by, but it is catchy and at least quite memorable. It has some traditional elements in it that make it stand out and works really nicely with Abe’s vocals. I also like the brightness of the music.

F.O. is a nice surprise. I was expecting something a bit lackluster, but the song is a stomping and explosive bright pop tune. I love the heavy beat tied with the flashy synths and blasting brass. The melody isn’t that memorable, but the music definitely has enough energy to keep the song rolling.

Yuugure Sakusen Kaigi brings some heavy guitars in at the start, but transforms into a dreamy pop song for the verses. It really reminds me of something by ZARD or another 90’s J-Pop artist. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite have the nostalgic charm of their best songs. The chorus is boring and the music doesn’t really elevate things either.

yumenaraba

Yume Naraba storms in as the album’s third single and is easily the album’s highlight. It’s a dreamy midtempo pop tune. While the verses aren’t the most exciting, the chorus definitely makes up for it. It’s a bit dragged out, but the melody fits perfectly with the heavy bass and vocal heavy backdrop. It definitely grows.

Nichiyoubi What’s Going On? is something I’m not a big fan of in H!P, which is a Tsunku heavily-featured tune. While he makes some good songs, the background vocals he usually adds make some songs come off super cheesy and ruins certain sections. While this song is a bright pop tune, the odd chanting vocals just doesn’t do it any favours. Just not my kind of tune.

Tokyo Michikusa is much better just because it doesn’t have those odd background vocals. With that said, it’s not the most exciting ballad either. It’s really calming and sort of just slowly moves along. I do like the more traditional elements that come up during the music and the song does get better as it progresses, but it does get a bit boring.

datteikitekanakucha

Datte Ikitekanakucha is a big change as it has some latin elements in it with its faster-paced music and touches of spanish guitar. However, the beat really overpower things here and the pop elements definitely stand out more. I wasn’t too keen on this song at first, but this time through I can definitely say it sounds much better. It’s catchy and I love how Abe sounds. It’s an exciting tune and is the album’s first single.

Elevator Futaripocchi is just a lighthearted pop tune and while I want to like it, it just does not stand out. The melody is nice and the music has some nice aspects like the guitar, but there is really nothing that makes me want to go back to this song. Just forgettable.

koinotelephonegoal

Koi no Telephone GOAL is the album’s second single and it is definitely the most Hello!Project of the singles to me. It has a funky vibe to it and has the signature Tsunku vocals. I do think the background vocals aren’t as bad here and don’t overpower things and help the catchiness of the melody to stand out. With that said, it’s my least favourite of the songs because I wish the music just sort of stays at a consistent pace throughout and doesn’t really excite me as much as I want to be.

Chottozutsu ne. is a nice surprise. While it is a ballad, it has a really nice jazzier melody to it that stands out and works great with Abe’s voice. I do find the verses to be a bit dull, but that chorus helps to bring some energy to the laid back pop ballad. It’s one of the stronger album tracks.

Ending is just an outro with a bunch of talking. It’s an interesting way to end things.


Overall: The thing with this album is that I found it less consistent than her debut album. While her debut didn’t have many stand out tunes, the fillers weren’t as weak. Here, the album jumps up and down constantly with some stellar songs and some boring tunes. With that said, I do like this album a tad more just because most of the songs don’t have those odd background vocals.

C+

[Album] Morning Musume – First Time

Before there was AKB48, Morning Musume was probably the biggest girl group to come out of Japan. Well-known for their ever-changing line-up that saw girls join and “graduate” every few years, the group swelled with popularity in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, Momusu has lost a lot of steam since then, but they have still retained a solid fanbase (and even saw a bit of a resurgence in the 2010’s). First Time is the group’s first album and was released after just two (+ one unofficial one) singles. It only features the members of the first (Abe Natsumi, Iida Kaori, Nakazawa Yuko, Ishiguro Aya, and Fukuda Asuka) and second generations (Ichii Sayaka, Yasuda Kei, and Yaguchi Mari).

firsttime
Released: July 8, 1998
1. Good Morning
2. Summer Night Town (サマーナイトタウン)
3. Dou ni ka Shite Doyoubi (どうにかして土曜日; Do Something about Saturday)
4. Morning Coffee (モーニングコーヒー)
5. Yume no Naka (夢の中; Inside a Dream)
6. Ai no Tane (愛の種; Seeds of Love)
7. Wagamama (ワガママ; Selfishness)
8. Mirai no Tobira (未来の扉; Door to the Future)
9. Usotsuki Anta (ウソつきあんた; You Liar)
10. Samishii Hi (さみしい日; Sad Day)

Good Morning is a fun way to start the song. It’s pretty happy pop song and does an interesting thing with the focus on the piano. I do feel like it is trying to take on the sound that their first (mainstream) single had with its more upbeat nature. Even the structure of the verses is very similar to that song. However, I do find this one isn’t as pieced together as nicely. The chorus is nice, but I feel like the music doesn’t totally work with the melody. The melody always feels like it is hovering just above and doesn’t totally blend in as well as I want. It’s a cute song though.

summernighttown

Oddly, Summer Night Town comes swinging in right after and it’s just a huge switch in sound. While there are the nice harmonies that the group carries from the first song, the music is on a much darker scale and features a bit of dance and jazz elements. The best part is that we actually get to hear some of Ishiguro Aya as her lower voice really helps bring some character to the song. I also love how everyone plays off of each other. There are some really cool aspects as the verses sound like a dialogue before switching to something a bit more streamlined, but strongly executed. One of my favourite Morning Musume songs and was rightfully released as the group’s second single.

Dou ni ka Shite Doyoubi is a really interesting switch again as we get something a bit lighter, however this one sounds like it takes a lot more elements from Japanese enka. It all comes off across a bit more older sounding and like something that could come out of 80’s J-Pop instead. With that said, I absolutely love it. It’s a really interesting twist from the group and the girls sound great. The subtle harmonies really help to fill out their vocals and the song is actually very catchy.

morningcoffee

Morning Coffee is considered the group’s debut single and what a great song it is. It has a much poppier sound to it and follows similarly to Good Morning, however I feel like there is much more nostalgia attached to the song. I do find some parts to be a bit rough around the corners, but the general delivery of the song is one that is quite sincere. All five of the girls sound great and each other them are able to express the songs lyrics in such a great way. The music itself is quite interesting with its steady beat and touches of guitar and synths. I do enjoy how even the music comes off a little unpolished because it just ties everything together so well. Quite touching.

Yume no Naka starts off in a bit of an odd way with its vocal intro. However, things start to pick up once the great brass instruments come in. I do feel the song matches well with its title as everything comes off a little dreamy and laid back. This is a good instance of where the melody blends nicely into the music. My only problem is that I wish the chorus was stronger. The transition into it is a bit difficult to tell and the melody isn’t particularly catchy. I also find that the pitch is a bit high in this part and the straining vocals comes off a bit odd considering the music. It’s a cool song, but could be worked on a bit.

ainotane

Ai no Tane is Morning Musume’s unofficial debut single. It was used for a challenge given to the girls, in which they had to succeed in selling 50,000 copies of the single to officially debut. The song itself has very similar qualities to that of Morning Coffee, although I would actually say this one is a bit more nicely pieced together as the production seems to have blended everything well together. With that said, I don’t think the song comes across as emotional. However, it’s still a great listen. I like the steady percussion tied with the touches of xylophone and guitar riffs. The girls also sound great and each one of them is able to carry their line nicely. Everything is pretty laidback and while the song does lack that impactful moment, it’s a solid tune.

Wagamama is one of the heavier songs and focuses on Ichii, Ishiguro and Yasuda. I do like the nice bass that carries throughout the song, but I’m not the biggest fan of the transitions that the song has. The verse to pre-chorus is a really odd one and while the prechorus to chorus is still a little off, it is more nicely played out. This is unfortunate as each section of the is quite nice to listen to. I do enjoy the heavier rock elements that the song has in comparison to their other material as this affects how the chorus comes off, which is a bit more emotional. I do feel like things could be smoothed out a bit better though.

Mirai no Tobira is a really weird song… probably the weirdest on the whole album. The music in the verses is really funky and has some strange electric elements to it that just comes off a bit weird with the unpredictable melody. However, the oddest part of the song is the transition into the chorus. The song goes from being awkward and edgy to something more streamlined pop and a touch of disco. The chorus is nice, but I don’t think its as catchy as it could be and it comes off a bit too fast and feels like it ends too quickly. There are some really fun elements to it though.

Usotsuki Anta comes across a bit more on the calmer side of things and focuses on the original five members. I think the most interesting addition to the music is the tambourine, which adds a nice touch to things. However, it’s that cool bass that hides under the rest of music that helps to give the song a nice edge. The melody is quite nice and I actually really like how the focus is on Ishiguro and Nakazawa as their voices have the most character. This a more midtempo song, but it still has a bit energy to it that keeps everything afloat. It’s a fun tune.

Samishii Hi is the first and only full-scale ballad on the album. The music primarily focuses on the piano as the whole song features the girls singing with just a piano. I think this is the weakest song because everything just comes of a little too dull. The piano is quite nice and there was a lot of potential in it, but the problem is the melody is not interesting at all and the girls just don’t have the vocals to really a song like this. It’s all a bit too slow and monotone.


Overall: I was actually rather impressed with this album. Even though it was released 19 years ago, the songs don’t sound as outdated as I thought they would. Actually, many of them capture a feeling of nostalgia as well as come off a little rough around the edges, which allows the album to have a certain charm to it. While there were definitely some highlights, the general material was solid. I do feel like the album would have been better if some areas of the B-sides were worked on. Also, I wish the ending ballad was just much stronger as it really brings down the energy of the album.

B

[Album] Goto Maki – Makking GOLD 1

When Goto Maki joined Morning Musume in 1999, she was the youngest member as well as seen as the “ace”. Her inclusion sparked a huge rise in popularity for the group and soon after they released their mega-hit, Love Machine. In 2001, Goto started a solo career and after her graduation in 2002, she released her debut album. Makking GOLD 1 is her debut album and includes her first four singles.

makkinggold1
Released: February 5, 2003
1. Ai no Bakarayou (愛のバカやろう; Love’s Fool) [MV]
2. Te wo Nigitte Arukitai (手を握って歩きたい; I Want to Hold Hands and Walk) [MV]
3. Ai tte Donna ×××? (愛ってどんな×××?; What Kind of ___ is Love?)
4. Afurechau…BE IN LOVE (A Passionate Mix) (溢れちゃう…BE IN LOVE; Gonna Overflow…Be in Love) [MV]
5. Date Chuuihou (デート注意報; Date Warning)
6. SHALL WE LOVE? (Goto Version)
7. Yaruki! IT’S EASY (やる気! IT’S EASY; Enthusiasm! It’s Easy) [MV]
8. Moriagaru Shikanai Desho! (盛り上がるしかないでしょ!; Nothing to Do But Get Pumped!)
9. Hareta Hi no Marine (晴れた日のマリーン; Sunny Day’s Marine)
10. Akai Nikkichou (Goto Version) (赤い日記帳; Red Diary)
11. Te wo Nigitte Arukitai (Album Version) (手を握って歩きたい)

ainobakayarou

Ai no Bakarayou was released as Goto’s debut single and it is a catchy number. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it’s a pulsating pop tune with some Middle Eastern elements to it. It’s a bit cheesy with its odd synths, but this is what is expected from Hello!Project songs. The melody is quite catchy and Goto sounds quite good singing, especially in the verses (well, she is much better than when she started). It’s fun.

tewonigittearukitai

Te wo Nigitte Arukitai was released as Goto’s third single and it takes a total swing as a more straightforward pop song. I do think this one is on the peppier side of things and comes across a bit like a children’s song, especially with the children singing the background vocals. I do like the exciting beat and the sparkly synths, but the melody is quite grating. Not really my style.

Ai tte Donna ×××? brings us to a more mature sound with its upbeat pop/R&B sound. I really like the beat to this one, but I feel like the production is quite cheesy sounding. Everything sounds so programmed and kiddish, but I guess that fits Goto’s age at the time (17). I do like the melody and the second half of the chorus is really catchy. I’m pleasantly surprised by this one.

afurechaubeinlove

Afurechau…BE IN LOVE (A Passionate Mix) was released as the album’s second single. This one continues the sound of the last song with its heavy R&B beats. The verses are quite nice, but my problem is during the chorus. The melody is sort of annoying and Goto’s vocals are quite high-pitched sounding and I don’t think it really work well with the melody. It’s a bit of a letdown, but I do like the music.

Date Chuuihou is a bit change with its stronger rock elements. I really like how the song starts off, but I am not liking the verses. I really feel the melody doesn’t quite work with the music and Goto sometimes over-exaggerates her vocals, which makes it a bit too much for this style song. I like the music, but the melody is a bit weak.

SHALL WE LOVE? was originally released as a Gomattou song (a subunit including Goto). I’ve always liked this song because the music is definitely more mature with its heavy R&B beats and funky synths. I do find this version to be a bit empty as it only features Goto and it loses the nice contrast of three different voices. It’s still a good song though.

yarukiitseasy

Yaruki! IT’S EASY is the last single on the album. I find this one, we leave the more mature sound and head back to something a bit more bubblegum pop with a touch of nostalgia. It’s quite cute and reminds of Japanese music in the 90’s. While I’m not the biggest fan of the melody (even if it is a bit catchy), the music is great.

Moriagaru Shikanai Desho! is definitely more pop/rock and I’m not sure if I’m feeling this song. It’s quite cool since it’s the most aggressive song with its fast-paced guitar riffs during the verses, but I don’t quite like the transition into the chorus, since it goes into a more pop route. I wish it was more aggressive throughout.

Hareta Hi no Marine brings us back to that sparkly pop sound. Goto’s vocals are definitely much sweeter here and really fits the song. The beat is quite nice since it is very fast-paced and a bit 80’s. However, I do not like chorus. The melody is really flat and quite forgettable. A bit boring.

Akai Nikkichou is one of my favourite J-Pop songs (it’s on my top 500 J-Pop list!) with its more dramatic pop sound. In the original, Goto was the weakest singer, but you can definitely tell how much she has improved since that time. She is able to carry the song by herself, although I’m a bit confused with the editing as sometimes she sounds really nasally (like herself) and then at other times, she doesn’t. Not as strong as the original (Danielle brings it), but it’s still great.

Te wo Nigitte Arukitai (Album Version) is different from the original. Instead of the childish pop music, we are given a jazzier rendition at the start before we get into the big brass sounds. I wish the entire song was done in the jazzier style, but the execution is definitely much cleaner.


Overall: The problem I had with this album is that while it had some good songs, there was no stellar pieces and there were quite a few duds that were either too crazy or just forgettable. I feel like quite a big part of this has to do with production as the music itself is just a bit too kiddish for me to take the songs as seriously as I want to. There are some nice songs on here though.

C