Sunday, June 30, 2013

Is This S/mileage or Tokyo Girls' Style?

What's that? You're wondering what in the hell a Hello! Project idol group and an Avex idol group could possibly have in common? Well, if you hear me out, you might be surprised...

I'll have you know reviewing S/mileage material was a lot easier when all their songs were cutesy and sugary and sounded similar. Now it's like they're the Hello! Project equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball. Since Suki yo, Junjou Hankouki, I never know just where the hell they're going both musically and stylistically. Will they do a ballad? A bland-ish song that sounds like a filler for a Super Girls album? A quirky and wacky ode to working hard? The possibilities are endless!

And today, the Wheel of S/mileage Music has spun to Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!

Much like Yattaruchan, the other A-side to the latest S/mileage single, I was expecting little to nothing from Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! Of course, that's probably because at the time I was cruising on the SS I Could Care Less when it came to S/mileage in general. But after the PV for Yattaruchan came out and to my surprise was actually a pretty fun and energetic S/mileage song, I began to take a little more interest in what the other accompanying A-side would sound like. I mean, not too much interest, but enough to keep an eye out for when the PV would come out. Could S/mileage possibly impress me twice in a row and prove that the chemistry that made Yattaruchan a success wasn't just a fluke? So time marched on and the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! came out, and my reaction towards the PV was... well... I'll elaborate on that in a few paragraphs. What immediate struck me about Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! was how different it was from Yattaruchan both musically and visually. Unlike Yattaruchan, which had all the quirkiness and charm you'd find in 4nin S/mileage, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! is much more serious-sounding and intense. For a group that's typically much perkier and upbeat, this change in tone might seem a little jolting... if not for the fact that S/mileage has dabbled in some more mature music in the past year. It started with Suki yo, Junjou Hankouki, which straddled the line between happy and serious, with... mixed results. Personally, I thought the song was a step-up from the atrocious Dot Bikini but the song wasn't spectacular, and I too had a mixed feeling about the more mature sound of the song. Following Suki yo, Junjou Hankouki was Samui ne, a straight up ballad completely different from any other S/mileage A-side of the past. Like its predecessor, reactions to this A-side were also divisive, with some applauding the change in style and others deeming it an experimental failure. I wasn't terribly fond of Samui ne but I didn't think it was a horrid song either. And then there's Tabidachi Haru no Kita but I don't want to bore you with my opinion of that snooze of a song.

Bottom line is, the few times that S/mileage has experimented with a more serious sound have usually produced rather mixed results. Sure, X from their first album worked decently but strictly speaking about A-sides, their happier and more childish songs have typically worked better than their darker and edgier songs. So Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! is no different from this pattern. Or it shouldn't be at least. After all, it is a very mature-sounding song for S/mileage, and that's not even taking into account the music video. This song has all the elements that have normally worked against S/mileage in the past. It's devoid of any of the stronger elements of S/mileage's music such as Uchouten Love, Suki-chan or even Please Miniskirt Postwoman. Yet despite all that... I think Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! works. Yeah, yeah, call me crazy, check me into the loony bin, but I still think that Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! pulls off that serious sound better than Suki yo, Junjou Hankouki and Samui ne. Is it the greatest idol song I've ever heard? Of course not. But I still think that Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! holds up fairly well on its own, better than I thought it would. It took me a few listens to really get into this song, but once I did, I started liking it. And then I started pondering what was it about Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! that made it work better than say, Samui ne? Or Suki yo, Junjou Hankouki? Both those songs were serious, but in the end, both those songs fell flat for me. It's rather hard for me to pinpoint the appeal of Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! but I think it has to do with the fact that it's a serious song and doesn't try to be anything else. It's not throwing in any randomly upbeat parts and vocally, the song is decently suited for S/mileage, unlike a ballad where strong vocals have to carry the song. Don't get me wrong, I could see this song working better for C-ute, but for S/mileage, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! still holds up as a decent A-side. Is it a different sound for S/mileage? Yes, but unlike some of their previous attempts, I think it's different in a good way.

And now we have the inevitable question: which A-side is better? The fun insanity of Yattaruchan? Or the serious intensity of Atarashii Watashi ni Nare? Well, as much as I love pitting A-sides against one another, I don't feel like I can really compare these two because they're so incredibly different from each other. You've basically got these two songs on two far ends of the idol music spectrum. Yattaruchan is fun. Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! is serious. For that reason, it's hard to pick which of these two very different-sounding songs is better per say. I think it all boils down to your own personal taste. If your a fan of fun and wacky S/mileage and fun and wacky S/mileage only, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! clearly isn't going to be your cup of tea. But personally, I like that Yattaruchan and Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! sound so different from each other. I love Yattaruchan, I think it's a great song, but I also don't think it needs a mediocre ripoff that only has half the fun and energy. One of the problems I had with Morning Musume's last double A-side single (Brainstorming/Kimi Sae Ireba Nani mo Iranai) was that Brainstorming was such a good song that Kimi Sae Ireba, which was very similar in style, paled considerably in comparison. Both A-sides were too similar to be on the same single, especially to both be promoted. This S/mileage single, thankfully doesn't have that problem. I think the fact that Yattaruchan and Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! both have distinctly different styles makes this S/mileage single, in my opinion, one of their strongest since Yuuka left. Look at this from a food perspective (because let's be honest, everyone loves food). Would you rather have gourmet vanilla ice cream and gourmet chocolate ice cream or gourmet chocolate ice cream and expired dollar store chocolate ice cream? If you picked the latter, then damn, you've got some weird taste buds but anyways. Riding on my food metaphor, it's the appeal of sweet and salty that makes Yattaruchan and Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! work together.

But wait, there's more! Well, not much more, considering most Hello! Project PVs don't add much to their respective songs. And the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! is no exception, however I still think it deserves a screencap. So away we go!

Well, there's not much to say about the title drop but hey, look at that lovely subtitles-less screenshot!

So is Dawa hypnotizing Rina into clinging to her leg like a koala or...?

Gee, 10 seconds in and already they're piling on the intimate girl-on-girl dance moves!

A wild Akari appears!

All these intimate shots of 14 and 15 year-old girls touching and embracing each other takes me back to the PV for Liar...

...then again, Liar was a tad more explicit. By idol standards, anyways.

I'm kinda iffy about the outfits for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! They're nice-looking but they also look like they belong in 2002.

Crap. Kanji. If only H!P had subbed the signs in this PV instead of the actual song.

I can't pinpoint exactly why but somehow this weird choreography feels out-of-place...

Actually, the choreography in general keeps whiplashing from sassy and kinda sensual to downright odd.

DRAMATIC CLOSEUP OF WORDS I CAN'T READ AGHHHHHHH Yeah, I should probably look up the translations...

1st Gen. S/mileage implores you to stop begging for Saki and Yuuka to return.

Maybe Kana's sign reads "Please give me more spotlight, UFP." And thus, Yattaruchan was born!

If you're S/mileage and you know it, clap your hands!

The power of Meimi's bite voice sends all the girls to the floor in fear awe.

I gotta admit, those shoes and socks are actually pretty freaking adorable...

Oh look, Rina's token moment of spotlight in this PV! You go Rina! Claim that spotlight!

But uh-oh, looks like Meimi's got her eyes on anyone trying to steal her spotlight... hee hee... puns...

I feel like if this dance were done by say, C-ute or Tokyo Girls' Style it might work better. But it's a S/mileage dance and the results are... varied.

You know, these close-ups kind of remind me of parts of Jiriri Kiteru.

Maybe because both these H!P groups have a hard time pulling off a mature image?

Oh hai, gratuitous leg shot!

Ha, it's funny because she's only fifteen years old!

Come to think of it, these shots are a tad bit awkward when you factor in the ages of the S/mileage girls.

Swish, swish... this might be a cute dance move if they had swishy skirts to swish around swishily!

Meimi on the prowl for potential victims to suck blood from- I mean, uh, posing for the camera!

Okay, is it just me or are these close-ups starting to give a stalker vibe...?

In fact, what if the whole concept of this video was the girls getting stalked!?

And what if the signs are really their distress pleas for help!?

Oh, who am I kidding? This PV recycled the set from Juice=Juice's first PV; I highly doubt there's any kind of "deeper meaning" to be found.

Well, S/mileage, you tried your damnedest to do a mature PV, didn't you?

Now you might be wondering, "What in the hell in this PV reminded Nia of Tokyo Girls' Style?" You also might not be, but for the sake of this post, I'm just assuming that you are. I know it seems like a weird comparison to make considering how different both groups are, but there are a few elements of the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! that struck me as familiar to the SweetS-reborn idol group that I'm such a huge fan of. Here are a few aspects of this PV that I made me think of TGS:
  • Simplistic but sleek looking sets
  • Flattering outfits that look a tad too mature but not "I'm calling the police" mature
  • Sensual dances performed by 14 and 15 year olds
  • Suggestive poses that depict the girls being intimate toward each other
Surely you see the connection I made, right? Right!? Okay, maybe the comparisons are a bit of a stretch... Still, I'd like to think that this is what would happen if Tokyo Girls' Style was transferred to Hello! Project. Can you imagine what would happen if S/mileage was transferred to Avex? Eugh, they'd probably just get a bunch of bland and generic crap like Super Girls does. Annnnyways, I might be the only one who sees any parallels between S/mileage and TGS, but the only reason I even did was because the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! looked so much more mature than what S/mileage usually gets. A typical S/mileage PV usually has bright and colorful imagery, cute outfits, and a variety of quirky props and gimmicks to keep the viewer entertained. But the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! instead goes for rather sexy outfits (as sexy as S/mileage can get anyways) along with a minimalistic PV that relies more on the dancing and the visual appeal of the girls to keep the viewer entertained. And if you're one of those kinds of fans (you know who I'm talking about), then I think you'll be very entertained by this PV. For me, I still get a few TGS vibes from this PV though, and I can't really pinpoint a specific reason as to why. Maybe it's because TGS is an idol group that often takes on rather mature and dark images despite the fact that the oldest member of the group is 17? Of course, TGS is also backed by an agency that actually likes to spend money on promotional videos. So I guess what I'm trying to say is Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! felt like the cheap equivalent of your average Tokyo Girls' Style PV. Minus Dawa and Kanon, the members of S/mileage are around the same ages as the girls of TGS, so maybe that's why my mind made the connection. And there's also the fact that the dance for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! did remind me of a dance that I could see TGS doing. Probably pulling it off a bit better too, but I'll elaborate on that in a moment. 

So comparisons to other idol groups aside, how does the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! hold up on its own? Eh... it's a bit of a mixed bag. What stands out the most with this PV is that it's for a S/mileage song. Not C-ute, not Morning Musume, but S/mileage, the group that dressed up like pigs. The sheer maturity Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! is trying to emit feels a little jolting from a group like S/mileage. I'm all for experimenting with image, but that doesn't mean it'll always work. I will say, this PV worked better in terms of maturity than the PVs Suki yo, Junjou Hankouki and Samui ne. However, there's still something off about the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! I don't want to say it's the ages of the girls (although parts of the PV are somewhat awkward because of that factor). I mean, groups like Tokyo Girls' Style pull mature imagery like that all the time. I think what prevented Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! from working is that it didn't feel like the girls were invested. I always say that if you invest yourself into something hard enough, whether it be walking around wearing a chicken suit or skinny dipping, it just might work. The girls didn't give off a vibe of being 100% comfortable with what they were doing in the PV, especially during a few of the spotlight close-ups. I also feel like some girls (Kanon, Rina) were trying to convey a cuter image while others (Dawa, Meimi) were trying to convey a more mature image. That imbalance is why I think this PV didn't completely work. To sum it up, this PV was S/mileage trying to go for a mature look but falling flat partly because of their image, partly because of the members themselves, and partly because of general awkwardness. And if you personally can't see S/mileage doing a more mature style, then you're probably not going to enjoy this PV very much. If you are one of those people, then I'd suggest you stick with Yattaruchan. In my opinion, I don't think Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! got a terrible PV, but I think another group like C-ute could have handled this image and concept better.

Beyond that, there's not too much to talk about with the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! It's pretty much your standard Hello! Project PV with a dance shot, some close-ups, and something random thrown in to try and attempt to make the PV interesting. If you've been following H!P for awhile now, you know the drill. I've never really followed H!P for their visually captivating PVs so yeah... I will say, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! isn't the cheapest H!P PVs I've come across. Actually, I thought it looked pretty good, but that might just be because I've been exposed to H!P PVs for such a long time my standards have lowered. The camera work is decent, and I think it's somewhat creative to have handwritten signs scattered about the PV. Sure, I don't know what's written on said signs but it's probably some generic stuff that relates back to the song. Nothing that is necessary for me to know to continue living my life. The styling on the girls was nice too; like I said, the outfits are really flattering. Really, this PV could have been a lot worse, but as far as cheap PVs go, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! is decent. Unlike the PV for Yattaruchan, which was pretty blatantly cheap but still tried to throw in a few entertaining bits, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!'s PV goes the artsy-simplistic route that is just as cheap but a little more tastefully so. I always say that the best thing to do when you're strapped for budget money is to go tastefully simplistic in lieu of ridiculously tacky. In that aspect, the PV holds up fairly well. Despite the fact that Yattaruchan got the tackier PV, I actually think I like it better than the PV for Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! But hey, that's probably because I think the image of that PV works for better for S/mileage, and that shows. Again, I'm not against S/mileage doing something different from their cutesy image, but if they're going to try something different, at least make sure it works. In the end, Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! and Yattaruchan are two very different songs and PVs. You may like one, you may like the other, or you may like both, but this S/mileage single definitely has something for everyone on it.

I'll give Atarashii Watashi ni Nare! four out of five apples. Not quite as good as Yattaruchan but still a pretty decent song and decent PV (by H!P standards at least). The PV doesn't do much for me, but luckily the song itself picks up any slack the PV has. I've got to admit, this S/mileage single as a whole was actually pretty good, probably the best one I've seen from them since Please Miniskirt Postwoman! anyways. Maybe S/mileage isn't completely beyond redemption for me!


  1. Maybe the signs are just the lyrics to the song.Considering that the Uchouten LOVE PV done the same, could be this kind of thing.

    1. Yeah, you're probably right... but wouldn't it be hilarious if they were completely different and irrelevant to the song?