Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Juicy Debut for Juice=Juice

S/mileage, get lost. You've been replaced by Juice=Juice.

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit. After all, I wouldn't just drop a group I try to regularly review from my review list completely just because another similar group stole their thunder! Of course not! It's not like I neglected to review Tabidachi no Haru ga Kita because of how boring it was! Or that I've generally been giving less and less of a shit about S/mileage especially in the wake of a new Hello! Project group finally being introduced into the mix! Seriously, how long has it been since a new group was formed? Four years? Feels like longer, especially since I became an idol blogger... Seriously, I think we can all agree that Hello! Project has been due for a new group, especially after S/mileage's... de-evolution to put it nicely. But I'm not writing a whole post to bitch about S/mileage. Let's talk about the juicy new group known as Juice=Juice!

Ah, Juice=Juice... okay, I'm not gonna lie, that has got to be one of the silliest idol group names I've heard in my brief time as an idol blogger. It's not as silly as say Sexy All Sisters or Baby Gamba but it's definitely one of the less appealing idol group names out there. Not to mention the loads and loads of perverted jokes you can make about a group with the word "juice" in its name... But I'm above such bawdy humor! Get thee to 4chan if you wish to seek out crude humor of that nature! Anyways, Juice=Juice has been a rather juicy topic among the Hello! Project fandom mainly because for the first time in four years, a new group is being introduced into the H!P lineup. That's kind of a huge deal; hopefully JuJu won't suffer the same fate as S/mileage though and get screwed over by a series of unnecessary and unfortunate lineup changes. Again, that's an idea long in the future and hopefully we'll never have to experience that with this new group. Anyways, a lot of people, myself included, have been crossing their fingers and hoping that H!P would come out with a new group because it would bring a nice and refreshing change. A new group means a new style, a new look, new members, new songs, all of which can be distinguished from the current H!P groups. And to make things even better, Juice=Juice is a new group that consists mainly of Kenshuusei that have been lingering to debut in H!P for a variety of time. With fan favorites like Miyamoto Karin and Otsuka Aina along with newcomers like Kanazawa Tomoko and Uemura Akari, the member lineup looked promising too. I think everyone was on the edge of their seats to see and hear just how this new group would turn out. Would Juice=Juice be able to live up to all the hype and high expectations placed upon it? After all, potential didn't always mean that the payoff would be worthwhile. What if Juice=Juice burst with failure much like an overripe orange bursts upon splatting onto the ground?

Luckily, I don't think Juice=Juice is going to have that problem.

Believe me, I was a tad bit skeptical when Tsunku described Juice=Juice as a group that would be true to themselves and try to adopt a "cool and sexy attitude." Cool and sexy, huh? So Miyamoto Karin and Takagi Sayuki are supposed to look cool and sexy? Good luck trying to pull that off! I didn't want to say I was completely against the idea of a more mature and cool group but with the lineup and the fruity theme of the group, I wasn't sure how it would be executed, especially when it came to the group's music. After hearing a  concert rip of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne (aka the song with the really long title), I still wasn't completely sold. But when I got my hands on a clearer and better quality rip, Juice=Juice's first song started to grow on me. I think part of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne's appeal is that it sounds different from the songs the other H!P groups are releasing right now. With Momusu riding on the electropop wave, S/mileage fading away from my view, and Berryz being Berryz, it's kind of refreshing to hear this type of sound. I almost want to say Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne could be a C-ute song since it does have a fairly sensual vibe to it. But I feel like this song is more playful than C-ute's sexy direction, more... fun. And I think that's what I like about the tone of this song; it's a nice combination of fun and mature. The song isn't PyokoPyoko Ultra levels of cuteness yet it also isn't Kimagure Princess levels of maturity either; it balances itself perfectly. When the song wants to sound mature, it does! Particularly in the chorus. I think the instrumental though is where the playful aspect of the song really emerges, mainly in that flipping awesome saxophone. I said in another post that I love saxophones and their versatility, they make a song sound badass, cheesy, mature, retro, fun a whole variety of sounds and styles. Sure, you can do that with other instruments but the saxophone just adds a certain level of flair to a song!

Those opening saxophone notes for Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne were what grabbed me and that's good. A great song should have the ability to get the listener interested within the opening notes and/or verse and that saxophone just bursting in sets a level of energy for the song. From then on, the song is upbeat and really energetic but it also maintains an air of coolness. The song actually reminds me a lot of Morning Musume's Sexy Boy ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~ only with the para-para instrumental replaced by a saxophone and the annoying background vocals cut. Honestly, there's only one aspect of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne that I'm kind of iffy about and unfortunately it's kind of a big aspect: the vocals. For such a maturely and borderline-sensual song, some of the girls of Juice=Juice sound, well, adorable! And in another song that would work great but in this song, it does kind of feel out of place. Even Karin, whose voice I adore, sounds a little bit strange in some of her solos like her voice was taken from another lighter cuter song and thrown into this one. Same goes for Aina, especially Aina. I don't know what happened; she sounded great live but in this song she's sounds even more nasally than Fukuda Kanon! And Tagaki Sayuki's high-pitched voice doesn't work well in this song either. Let me emphasize that I'm not saying anyone sounds bad in Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne (well... maybe Aina). In fact, all the girls have nice voices but some of those voices sound out of place in this song! I think to really carry a song like Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne, you need stronger voices; I could see a group like C-ute pulling off this song or maybe even Platinum-era Morning Musume. I will say Kanazawa Tomoko's voice works great in this song and so does Uemura Akari's but I don't hear her voice enough.

Honestly though, the flaws in Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne don't take much away from my enjoyment of the song. The song may be a little too mature-sounding considering the age average of Juice=Juice, but I don't think that's a huge problem. The more I listen to Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne, the more it grows on me; I could easily see it becoming one of my favorite songs by the end of the year! Overall, I think this song is a promising start for this new Hello! Project group; it stands out and has a lot of punch to it. That's not something I can say about that other H!P group that was composed of Eggs- oh sorry, am I beginning to sound bitter again? My apologies! Now I'm interested to see what future songs Juice=Juice is going to get; I know Tsunku said he wanted to present them as a cool and sexy group but still. That's only an intention and who knows? Maybe the group's image will evolve over time, much like Morning Musume's did along with S/mileage's... um... de-evolution? I actually am kind of curious to see how Juice=Juice will continue handling the "cool and sexy" image but I'd also like it if they experimented with other styles, maybe something happier and lighter! Right now I feel like there are so many possibilities for this new group and Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne is just the start. And hopefully this is the start of a group that I'll really enjoy in Hello! Project. I love the lineup, I love the style and I love the potential. I know they're releasing another indies single, Samidare Bijo ga Samideru, but that's only going to be released at some H!P Kenshuusei event. It may leak but I doubt it's going to get too much limelight shined on it anyways. Still, if it does leak to the general public, I won't be complaining!

When it comes to the PV for Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne, I actually didn't think there would be one. I hadn't heard much about it. But much to my pleasant surprise, this song did get a PV? But is it a good PV? Or does it blow like S/mileage's current group chemistry? Let's find out!

Wow. Six seconds in this video already reminds me of another H!P PV.

Nice to see you again, set from Mano Erina's Onegai Dakara!

But who cares? Because Juice=Juice is in the house and they brought JAZZ HANDS! YEAH!

And now they're doing half of the walk like an Egyptian pose too!

I guess UFP was in a particularly cheap mood when shelling out the budget for this PV...

Seriously, look at that individual shot. That's about as barren a close-up you can get!

Look at Yuka's puppy dog eyes. She's adorable!

Oh, Karin. You poor dear. J-pop's formidable nemesis, the Evil Engrish, strikes again!

Snazzy dance move is snazzy! Just like the equally snazzy saxophone!

Borrowing dance moves from Perfume's Glitter?

I like your style, Juice=Juice!

I'll just say right now I'm starting to like Tomoko; not only can she sing, her expressions in this PV actually fit the song!

Pity you can't hug any real boy thanks to the dating restriction, huh girls?

I love Karin and all but man, she looks so awkward in this PV.

You know, even though this set is really barren from the obvious lack of budget, I do kind of like its simplicity.

It's a shame I didn't see/hear much of Akari in this PV. She looks really good on camera!

I think it's weird how in the dance shot, the girls look and move really confidently...

...but in the close-ups they look awkward as fuck.

Who's got spirit? JUICE=JUICE DOES! Who's got no spirit! S/MILEAGE!

Oooh, a move from DIY's Fore Fore ~Forest for Rest~ A nice choice!

Even if the DIY girls have better legs than you do.

It wouldn't be an H!P PV without a random and gratuitous body shot, would it?

Thank you, Akari, for not looking terrified and/or confused in this PV.

You should take some facial tips from her, Sayuki!

Yeah, can all the close-ups just be of Akari and Tomoko?

Karin's face here is similar to mine when I saw the GIF of Tsunku's flower-covered junk!

And the PV ends with absolutely no fruit references. I gotta say I'm a little bummed about that...

First of all, I think we should all take a moment to appreciate the fact that this is not a cheap and tacky PV with a bunch of editing effects that look like they were swiped from Photoshop. Seriously, I've been worried for ages that the dreadful mess of special effects from some of Morning Musume's recent PVs are going to leak over into other group's PVs. So while Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne certainly doesn't have a tacky PV, it definitely has a cheap PV. Then again, what do you expect from the Mr. Krabs of J-pop companies? I think I did pretty strongly consider that Juice=Juice's first PV would probably be cheap (if they even got one at all) but as always, I was also hoping that by some miracle more than $20 would be used to make the group's first PV. I've really got to stop doing that pesky thing called hoping, don't I? For the most part, I've learned to keep my expectations low when it comes to Hello! Project PVs but I mean, come on. Don't you wanna splurge just a little bit on your new group's first PV? You don't have to recreate Thriller or anything but just a little something to give it some... some juice! Yeah, when I say this is a bare bones PV, I really mean it is a bare bones PV. There are two shots a la typical H!P PV format and that's it. You get some varying cinematography and different levels of close-ups in the individual shots but that's it. It is truly one of the simplest, most barren PVs I have seen from Hello! Project. There is next to nothing in either one of these shots too; the dance set is a white stage and the close-ups are a black backdrop. Outside of the accessories the girls are wearing, there's little color in this PV. There's honestly not much of anything in this PV; no props, no special lighting effects, no tacky edits. Honestly, the lack of anything in this PV is kind of jarring, especially for a group like H!P. Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne is simple to the point it's minimalistic.

Right now I'm not sure if I find the minimal style of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya sleek or just boring. I remember watching the PV for the first time and waiting and waiting for something interesting to pop up but nothing ever did. There's just not much to talk about with this PV. There's a dance and there are some close-ups. That is literally all this PV has to offer. So while yes, this is a PV that doesn't have much going for it in terms of eye-catching imagery, at least it isn't tacky as hell. Remember, Hello! Project isn't notorious for just making cheap PVs; they're notorious because they make tacky PVs. The kind of PVs with cheap costumes that look like rejects from the Halloween stores that pop up at malls around October and sets that look like something taken out of a theme park from the eighties. What I'm trying to say is Hello! Project PVs have a tendency to look cheap in the most gaudy and flashy way possible, much like the jewelry your typical douchebag wears. So for Juice=Juice to have a PV that's cheap but in a more simple and barren way is strangely kind of refreshing. Because while there's nothing good I can really say about the PV, there's nothing about the PV that actively makes me want to bang my head against my keyboard. The shots are done well and while the set is bland, there's nothing bad about it. It's just a white-colored backdrop and white ceiling. I will say the one thing the PV does have going for it is a strong dance; I think the dance for Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne was choreographed well and with such a minimalistic set, a lot of my focus drifts towards the dance. I'm not one to notice dances outside of Perfume's, but I think the girls did a good job expressing the tone of the song through the dance.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about the close-up shots. The thing with the Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya PV is that because the visuals are so simple, it's up to the girls to make the PV interesting. And during the dance, they succeed in that. Like I said, I like the dance and how sharp it was. But when the close-ups start appearing, that's when the PV starts getting awkward. The fact that none of the girls in Juice=Juice have ever been in a PV before is never more painstakingly obvious in the close-up shots. Two-thirds of the girls in the PV look either awkward or uncomfortable or both. The only girls that actually look good in these close-up shots are Akari and Tomoko, especially Akari. For the other four girls, it varies on levels of awkward with each girl. Sayuki and Karin are vying for the title of Most Awkward Close-ups though; seriously, why did both these girls look so freaked out? It was like they didn't know what emotions to make and were internally freaking out over said fact that they didn't know what to do. Any movement they try to do only feels forced and awkward, like they don't know what they're supposed to do. The close-ups were probably my least favorite part of the PV just because of how awkward girls like Yuka and Karin looked. Their facial expressions didn't match the cool and mature vibe of the song at all. For that reason, part of me hopes that for whatever PV is next for Juice=Juice, the girls will have a better idea of how to act on camera and that they'll be more comfortable. Beyond the close-ups, the rest of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya is fine with me. Although the PV is simplistic and can get boring after awhile, the dance is nice and it's just nice to see some of the Kenshuusei girls actually getting to do something with their talents beyond lingering in the background forever. I'm still looking forward to seeing what lies in store for the future of Juice=Juice and how their next single will turn out!

And now it's time for the mini-idol smackdown that no one asked for! Which group had a better independent debut? Juice=Juice or S/mileage?

I know it's a little unfair to compare two different groups from two different eras in Hello! Project but I also feel like a comparison would be interesting. I think S/mileage and Juice=Juice parallel each other a lot; both were formed from the Kenshuusei/Eggs of H!P, both started out with indies singles and both got a lot of hype around the time they were formed. Of course, S/mileage's former position as the shiny new toy of H!P has now been replaced by Juice=Juice. But I'm certain that back around their debut, S/mileage was the bomb. Hell, even I like their indies songs and I wasn't even around when they came out! I'd really been getting in to S/mileage around 2011 so when the graduations and auditions were announced, it was like I had missed out on this really awesome party and had to attend the really lame after-party that no one cared about. But I will say of the four indies singles S/mileage released, aMa no Jaku was always my least favorite; it's by no means a bad song but it's just a little too slow for my tastes. Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne is just a much more entertaining song to listen to and has a lot going for from the tone to that bitchin' saxophone. But while I do think Juice=Juice got a better first song, I definitely think S/mileage got a better first PV. The aMa no Jaku PV had great outfits, nice sets, a variety of different shots, and some nice locations; in terms of H!P, it's was very nice, almost high-budget PV. By H!P standards, that is... Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne is so simple that it borders on dull even though the dance is pretty cool. aMa no Jaku just had a better budget and a better concept; then again, 2009 seemed to be a year when H!P PVs looked a little more high-budget than they do now. So the winner of this idol smackdown is... Juice=Juice based on the music and S/mileage based on the visuals. I think that's a nice draw!

So overall, I'm gonna give Juice=Juice's debut song and PV four out of five apples! Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne is a standout song with a catchy saxophone and beat. I like the mature sound it has and I think it's a strong song to debut with! The PV is nothing special (and I mean literally, it's a barren dance shot and equally barren close-up) but the PV isn't tacky or anything. My advice is just to skip the PV and listen to the song! That's what I've been doing!


  1. They sound kind of squeaky in the chorus. Otherwise it's a good song.

    Now it's time to take bets on when Tsunku will take this group in a different direction like he did with S/mileage.

    1. Yeah, Juice=Juice is definitely one of the squeakier groups. But at least the vocals aren't completely terrible!

      I say Juice=Juice gets a style change either after their major debut or a few singles after it! But I'd prefer that not to happen at all... along with member graduations/auditions...

  2. OMG your first sentence, how harsh XD

    The song actually took a while to grow on me but I do really like it quicker than I liked S/mileage. I'm awaiting what their second indie will be like before I decide if I like this group a lot. Really like your opinion though, Nia!

    1. I know, I've been so mean to S/mileage lately XD

      Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne took a bit to grow on me too but after a few listens, I like it a lot! And from what I've heard of it, their 2nd indie single sounds pretty promising too!