Thursday, October 31, 2013

Growing Up and Growing Dull

Is it just me or has Passpo been really underwhelming this year?

It's like their music and image have just gone... flat. Like a can of Coke that's been in the fridge way too long. They're barely using the gimmick that they started with now, and the music they've released this year has been... well, let's just say I've heard better from Passpo. Like Sakura Komachi was a decent single, but their next three singles have been... not as great as the ones from last year. Step & Go/Candy Room was pretty good, especially the latter of the two A-sides. Truly however, was really dull, and Mousou no Hawaii didn't exactly blow me away as either a summer song or a regular song. So what the hell is going on? Has the light just died from Passpo at some point or another or is this just a fluke? I don't know, but maybe, just maybe, we can explore this theory further by reviewing their most current single, Growing Up! From the looks of it, Growing Up is going to be the last single Passpo release before their album in December. I may or may not review the album, depending on my schedule in December, but I would at least like to take a look at Passpo's final single of 2013. Will this single prove that Passpo's growing up as a group or simply validate my theory that they're slowly fizzling out? We'll see.


Well... I guess the covers and outfits of Growing Up don't have much an impact on the overall quality of the single. But I still like to look at them anyways! As per formula, Passpo has their First Class, Business Class, and Economy editions for Growing Up. Did I ever mention I always like the way each single was structured? It's a nice deviation from the usual Limited A/B/C and Regular naming formula. Each cover has Passpo posing in a different way. In the First Class cover, they're sitting on suitcases. In the Business Class cover, they're kneeling. And in the Economy cover, they're standing! I'm pretty sure that wasn't intentional but I still found it to be kind of amusing. The girls take up most of the cover in each edition, so you can't really see the area they're posing in. It looks like in the First Class edition, they're sitting outside in a garden area. I think this cover's the nicest looking of the three since the foliage looks good against the outfits they're wearing.

The other two settings just wash the girls out. The Business Class edition has them posing inside, in front of a staircase. It's all right, not much you can really say about that. Same goes for the Regular edition; now they're just standing on stairs and you can see their lovely legs up close. Passpo's never exactly gotten the most creative covers, so the covers for Growing Up are about what you'd expect from them. They look nice, but they're clearly not meant to be a spectacle. Now what's interesting about the outfits for this single are that Masui Mio, an adorable member of Passpo, designed them! She also designed the outfits for Step & Go but that was way back in way back in May! And I love Mio but I have to admit... I don't really like the outfits for Growing Up that much. The fabric used on the dresses doesn't look very flattering; in fact, it looks kind of cheap. And the way the stripes are designed make the girls look like walking candy canes. And they're really simplistic and could stand to have a little more stuff going on with them. I know design is a difficult process and I commend Mio for doing it, but these outfits just aren't my taste.

Growing Up

I read that Growing Up was supposed to be the continuation/after song to Pretty Lie, one of Passpo's indie singles. Now I hadn't listened to Pretty Lie save for once, and that was a very long time ago. Obviously, it didn't leave much of an impression on me since I listened to it only once. Of course, since Growing Up is connected to Pretty Lie, I gave the song a listen again. And... it still doesn't rock my socks. I guess it's not a terrible song, but it's kind of boring. It's really slow and definitely drags at parts. I guess Pretty Lie is kind of a pretty song. Still, knowing that Growing Up was going to be an "after song" to Pretty Lie didn't leave me with a lot of enthusiasm for how it would sound. Like I don't think we need another Pretty Lie. Still, maybe Growing Up would be good! And it turns out this song is... all right. Much like Pretty Lie, it doesn't generate much of any strong reaction from me. Like... last year, I went crazy for Next flight. Same reaction for Wing. They generated such a strong opinion from me that I felt compelled to write about them. But with Growing Up?

Honestly, I feel more obligated to review this song than write about it because I truly want to. And the thing is it's not even a bad song. It's kind of pretty and has a very relaxed, calming beat. Growing Up is a more serious-sounding song from Passpo, so I guess why. I can't help but wonder if Growing Up is literally what the song is about. Is it meant to be a representation of Passpo evolving and growing as a group? Their singles-trilogy this year did revolve around that concept. I wouldn't be surprised if Growing Up was meant to follow that main trend. But if this is the kind of music they're going to put out from now on... I don't now how much longer I'll keep reviewing this group. Growing Up is a pleasant-sounding song, and I can see where the heart is. I think the emotions were in the right place in terms of vocals for this song, because a very sweet vibe is projected. It's just not enough for me to really invest an opinion for Growing Up. Overall, like most of Passpo's musical output this year, Growing Up is an all right song, but by no means a great song.

Well, maybe the PV for Growing Up leaves a better impression! Honestly, the PV for Growing Up reminds me a lot of the PV for Perfume's Macaroni. I've noticed a lot of idol PVs have reminded me of Macaroni actually... I guess the concept of that PV can be applied to a lot of idol PVs? Macaroni and Growing Up are both PVs that feature heavy filtering that make them look "vintage" and both PVs also consist of the members of each group wandering around the city. Of course, Growing Up has a little more of a storyline. But then again, that's compared to Macaroni, a PV with absolutely no plotline. I think the basic plot of Growing Up is all the girls of Passpo are getting nostalgic and they all meet at the stage where they perform and... friendship happens? I'm gonna assume friendship. That always seems to be the go-to theme for idol PVs. Yeah, most of the PV is focused on individual shots of each member of Passpo wandering around the city being all nostalgic and reflective.

I will admit, the scenery is very nice to look at, but I always enjoy looking at PVs that are shot outdoors. The PV for Growing Up isn't as creative as the PVs for Step & Go, Candy Room, and Mousou no Hawaii were but it matches with the laid-back tone of the song. And the end of the PV was kind of heartwarming, though for apparent reason. I guess it just felt like the girls' emotions were very genuine and honest. Maybe a little glossed over but still genuine. Much like the song, I don't feel like there's a lot I can say about the PV for Growing Up. I think the sentiment put into the PV is nice, but this really isn't my favorite PV in the world. It's not as poor as the PV for Truly was, but I like it better when Passpo does quirkier PVs. Still, if you want to see all the members of Passpo get equal screen time, Growing Up does a pretty good job of doing that! I think this was the first time I was able to see each member of the group individually and clearly. If you're a longtime fan of Passpo, the PV for Growing up might strike more of a chord with you, but for me it was simply an average idol PV.

I'll give Growing Up three out of five apples. It's an okay song, but nothing that special. It doesn't exactly break the streak of underwhelming singles that Passpo's been on lately. I was just about ready to give up on the group... but luckily I listened to the B-side of Growing Up.

Cosmic You

I'm really glad I decided to listen to the entire Growing Up single, otherwise I probably never would have known that Cosmic You existed! Funny, the last song I listened to was called Cosmic Love by Mizuki Nana... Okay, that's off topic! Anything with the word "cosmic" in it always brings to my mind images of the cosmos and deep space travel. So naturally, the title of this B-side intrigued me. I was personally hoping for an ethereal, sci-fi song that explored concepts of space and time travel. Then I realized this was an idol song and lowered my expectations from space opera to nice-sounding song with a sci-fi edge. And it turns out Cosmic You is an electropop song! So that's kind of science fiction-y... if you squint. Well... technically this B-side is more of pop-rock song with electropop sprinkled around in various parts. Mainly the instrumental. And a few of the vocal bits are Autotuned.

On my first listen, the opening vocals were a little jarring, but after that Cosmic You became a much more fun song. In fact, I like this song better than the A-side! It's much more fun and quite the breath of life after listening to Growing Up. Cosmic You brings out the more energetic, fun side of Passpo that I think has kind of been lacking in a lot of their recent singles. What I really like about this song is the blending of the guitar and the electronic edits mixed into it. You'd think the results wouldn't be very listenable, but it works very well! And it just adds to the fun-ness of the song! Cosmic You is such a happy, cheerful song, and it has such energy. It's like Passpo was injected with a shot of adrenaline and all the sudden became a lively group again! Cosmic You gives me hope that Passpo hasn't entirely fizzled out yet. It's such a solid B-side, with a very distinct sound that still fits the style of Passpo's music. It's a fun, rocking song that I personally wouldn't have minded to see as the A-side. If there's more music at the same quality level of Cosmic You on Passpo's upcoming album, I won't be complaining one bit! In fact... that would be pretty awesome.

Cosmic You gets four-and-half out of five apples from me. It really is a good B-side that not only contrasts with Growing Up but also exceeds the A-side's quality. With electropop meeting rock and producing glorious results, Cosmic You gives me hope for Passpo!

The Verdict

So. Growing Up as an overall single was kind of a mixed bag. I will say that neither of the two songs on this single were bad. Compared to some of the stuff I've listened to this year, this is absolutely fine. But that's kind of how I've been feeling about most of Passpo's singles this year. The only A-side I've really liked was Candy Room, and I think that's partially because of the awesome PV. Everything else ranges from good to forgettable. Growing Up falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The A-side is definitely a more mature turn for Passpo, with a much more serious, almost nostalgic melody. I find it kind of amusing that Growing Up was actually composed three years ago, and the song was just reworked for a 2013 release. It makes me wonder if the producers just found the file lying in some obscure folder in their computer, thinking it had been lost a long a time ago! In the end, I don't care when Growing Up was composed; I care about whether or not it's a good song.

Like I said before, I think Growing Up does sound very heartfelt and meaningful. Other than that? Not much too it. In my opinion, Growing Up is an okay song, but that's it. It doesn't make me jump and down or make me want to tear down a building and start a riot. It's just a pleasant song to listen to. Cosmic You, the B-side brings a little more zest to the table. It's got an electronic sound to it that works very well and gives it a very distinct sound combining electric guitars with synthesizers and bleeps and bloops. Honestly, I would have preferred Cosmic You to be the A-side; it's much more interesting. But there are things that cannot be, and Growing Up cannot be a solid single. The A-side is sweet but forgettable, and the B-side is much more interesting but still a B-side. In the end, this single doesn't make me want to stop reviewing Passpo, but it doesn't make me that excited for their upcoming album. Still, I'll at least give Jet!Jet!Jet! a listen, even if I end up not reviewing the album. I think Jet!Jet!Jet! will be the true test of whether or not Passpo has lost its luster.

For now, I'll just rank Growing up with three and half apples out of five. This single reeks of average-ness with average covers, an average A-side, an average PV, and an above-average B-side that should have been the A-side.

I Sing the Heart Electric

Well, it's that time of year again! Right on schedule, AKB48 has released their fall single and I've started crying over the knowledge that their Janken single is inevitably going to suck! But at least I have the fall single to enjoy, because the fall single is always the best of their yearly A-sides, right? Right!?

Surprisingly, I really liked Koisuru Fortune Cookie. I know I didn't review the PV for it (well I did an Idol Smackdown featuring it so I guess I kind of did...?) but were I to review it, I'd have given the song three-and-half apples out of five. And I'd probably have given the PV three, but that's a subject for an entirely different blog post. What I'm trying to get at is for most of 2013, I've kept my hopes and expectations pretty low for AKB48. Their first two singles of the year sucked, but the release of KFC gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, they were finally starting to get not-sucky music again! That anticipation was only fueled by the prospective release of their fall single. Anyone who follows the group know that the fall single tends to be a little bit different, usually more serious sounding, but also deviating from the typical song styles and sounds that a lot of AKB48 A-sides fall into. Beginner, one of these fall singles, is one of my favorite AKB48 songs!

UZA on the other hand, is my least favorite of the fall songs. I don't think it's a bad song, but it was still pretty lifeless-sounding. So obviously a fall single doesn't guarantee 100% awesomeness. Still I crossed my fingers and hoped for a half-decent sounding song. And Aki-P answered me with Heart Electric. Or Heart Ereki. I prefer the English romanization. The first interesting tidbit about Heart Electric that I found was the center for the song was going to be Kojima Haruna. Since Aki-P has a tendency to write songs based on the centers for each one, I couldn't deny I was curious to hear how Heart Electric would sound, especially since Harunyan's other singles where she centered were Yuuhi wo Miteiru ka? and Romance, Irane. I got my first listen of Heart Electric during the Janken concert, but as always, I like to reserve my final judgement for a clear-quality version of the song. And now that I have that, I can finally give my verdict on where Heart Electric stands as a fall single! Does it suck as bad as UZA? Is it so amazing that it tops Beginner? Or is it somewhere in the middle along side Kaze wa Fuiteiru?

Honestly... there's not much I can say about this song.

I mean, Heart Electric is not a bad song. In fact, compared to some of AKB48's recent music, it's pretty good. I'd take it over So Long! or Eien Pressure. Heart Electric is more-or-less a pop-rock song. Not Scandal levels of pop-rock, more of a pop song that happens to include a lot of guitar. I said before the it sounds like a no3b song, and I still stand by that comparison. And that does make sense; Harunyan is after all a member of no3b. But is it a good no3b song that it sounds like? Eh... I guess so? I don't know, I'm getting any strong negative reactions from Heart Electric so that's a plus. But I'm also not getting any strong positive reactions. It's just one of those AKB48 songs that... exists. It's listenable and all, but I'm probably not going to remember it by next year, let alone listen to it that much. I don't know, I think the more I listen to Heart Electric, the more it grates on me. There's something about the vocal arrangement that sounds... I don't want to say whiny but something similar to that. The chorus in particular just sounds way too grating after the second or third time. It's almost like the girls are shouting instead of singing in the song.

I will say that Harunyan's voice sounds fine, which is good since she has a decent number of solos. Better than Paruru would have... Gee, I'm sorry guys, normally I try to give as much of a fleshed out opinion as possible of any of the songs I review, but I've got nothing for Heart Electric. I can't even really rant about this song, because it's not that bad or unoriginal. I guess I can say that it's the least serious of all the AKB48 fall singles they've released. Not as melancholic as Kaze wa Fuiteiru, edgy as Beginner, or hardcore dance-able as UZA. The song it actually reminds me the most of is Romance, Irane. Something about the tone of each strong strikes me as a very similar. So yeah. That's Heart Electric. A decent song by all means but not decent enough for me to generate a solid opinion of the actual song. I don't know, I guess at the end of the day it's a pretty all right song. Besides, at least Harunyan finally got to center a song!

The real reason I want to review Heart Electric is because anything I review by AKB48 always gets a boatload of views because I want to talk about the PV! Because if there's one thing I can expect from the fall single, it's a creative and interesting PV that often becomes one of my favorite PVs each year! Right? Right!?

Oh joy, the "band" is back. Because it worked so well in Give Me Five!

Yet they still haven't utilized the fact that Sayanee can play the effing guitar. their band really called the G. Fingers?

I'm sorry, the G. Fingers? It sounds like a double entendre from a 1960s porn movie!

Good to see the band looks just as awkward as the last time! At least the outfits are snazzy though!

And I can always count on Paruru's facial expressions to be unintentionally entertaining!

I was kind of hoping Sasshi would center this song...


Does the "G" in G. Fingers stand for Gratuitous pointing?

I will say Yukirin does all right on drums. She's nowhere near as good as say, Rina from Scandal, but she still at least looks into it.

Oh, look! Now they're doing The Airplane! NYOOM!

Man, think of how unintentionally hilarious it would be if they pointed with their middle fingers.

I guess the dance is supposed to emulate 60s go-go dancers? I don't know, it's kinda awkward.

You gotta love that Windows Movie Maker editing!

Sassy Miichan is sassy.

The whole set does give off a very retro 60s vibe...

...but this dance set looks really cheap, especially considering AKB48 isn't exactly strapped for cash.

And this is the part where Haruna... I mean Michelle introduces everyone else.

Yeah, I don't get the English names but I don't think the members of AKB48 do either!

I have to admit, Michelle... Haruna... she makes a very nice center!

Oh hey, clips from the Drama Version of the PV!

I'm sure it's utterly captivating and has the best storyline ever. All the AKS Dramas do.

Enough of that compelling drama! It's time for more finger pointing!

Jurina got bangs? Holy crap. I didn't even notice until now...

Okay, the dancing in this PV ranges from awkward but groovy to just awkward.

Something tells me the "G. Fingers" they're wearing are going to catch on.

Whatever, the PV's over!

Well, first Haruna's dramatically got to strike a final pose.

Annnnnd I gained absolutely nothing from watching this. Good to know!

So I feel the need to point out something about AKB48's PVs from last year. You guys remember 2012, right? Acchan graduated, the world ended, all that jazz! Yeah yeah yeah, what I'm getting at is even though I may have dislike a majority of the A-sides AKB48 released last year, I can't deny that at least the PVs accompanying said A-sides were interesting. The three highlights of that year were most definitely the PVs for Manatsu no Sounds good!, Gingham Check, and UZA. Manatsu was a little choppy with its tone and mood, but overall the PV had a very shocking and attention-grabbing story, combining guts and gore with beaches and sunshine. Gingham Check was a clever homage to several popular figures from Japanese film, with each girl of the Senbatsu playing her own quirky character in the PV. And UZA was a glorious display of Halloween themes, along with a powerful dance, together making up for the underwhelming quality of the actual song. And while Eien Pressure had cheesy special effects and a hokey storyline, even that was charming in its own weird, low-budget way. The only subpar PV from 2012 was Give Me Five! and that was mainly because the members of AKB48 were constrained to playing as a band, with many of the members being unfamiliar with their instruments.

So what's the lesson to be learned from Give Me Five! If you said don't force idols into doing things they don't know how to do... you're wrong! Oh no, clearly the formula was just off when they did Give Me Five! Instead, all we need to do is switch out some of the Senbatsu members, add some backup dancers, switch Acchan with Haruna, and change the band name from "Baby Blossom" to "The G. Fingers." Duh! Or at least that's the conclusion AKS must have come to when they got the brilliant idea to re-use the band gimmick fro another AKB48 single. Gosh, the sheer innovation of such a decisions makes my heart beat faster... or maybe that's just the sheer stupidity of  reusing a poorly executed gimmick from a single released over a year ago!

Yeah, I was not enthusiastic when I saw the the band gimmick was going to be used for Heart Electric's PV. I didn't like it the first time, and I don't like it now. I admit, it's slightly better in this PV because there's a little less emphasis on it but do I have to write in big glowing purple letters than making people play instruments they don't know how to play is AWKWARD. It's like watching a first-year piano student try to play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the piano! You can tell they're trying their darnedest but if they don't have the skill to play that wonderful and ethereal sonata, it's only going to end in disaster! The same can be applied to AKB48. They're idols. Dancing idols. Marketable idols. If I want to see idols play instruments, I will go watch Scandal or Silent Siren. AKB48 can stick to singing and dancing and still make a boatload of money. That is completely fine with me. And what the hell kind of band name is The G. Fingers!? Like I said it sounds like some dirty sex position... or maybe that's my desensitized, depraved mind latching onto a sexual mindset because of my own subconscious. Who cares? The name SUCKS!

 Okay... I need to calm down. I don't mean to be flipping my shit over a silly little PV but I just really have problems with this PV, and the band just happens to be one of the biggest. Don't get me wrong, there are other problems with this PV. Like how completely and utterly dull it is. For an AKB48 PV this looked... cheap. The set where the band played looked all right but the dance set? My god, I expect that from Morning Musume not the most financially successful idol group on the market right now. This is the kind of set I could understand if they were still unpopular but... come on. Is this really the best you can get? I mean, what's been up with all the AKB48 PVs this year? Other than Sayonara Crawl, all the other ones have just been... not that good. They're not creative, interesting, at least when all the A-sides from last year sucked, the PVs made for them were good enough that they at least distracted me from each song's suckiness!

What's my solution to this problem? We'll get Joseph Kahn to direct EVERYTHING!

I mean, the guy's not doing that much, right? Just directing things! We'll just somehow convince him that he should direct more AKB48 PVs and there! Problem solved! To say I am underwhelmed by the PV for Heart Electric is an understatement. Like I thought Koisuru Fortune Cookie was a pretty underwhelming but compared to this PV, it's a fucking fiesta. The only thing I think Heart Electric did well was making Haruna the center. I don't know why Aki-P just up and decided to make Harunyan center for a PV, but she basks in the limelight like a pro. And I guess the outfits for this song were all right, but they looked a little too much like marching band uniforms. Something else I don't get: why the English nicknames for everyone? What point did they have being used for only this song? Because I watched the drama version; still no valid reason to give all the girls English nicknames.

Speaking of which, the drama version adds absolutely nothing to this PV. It's just another cliched drama PV with little to no plot that even I can make out without the help of subtitles. In a nutshell: the girls need to do something together! But one girl doesn't want to do it! Then through the power of friendship, everyone convinces the girl to do the thing with them! Then they perform their song and finito. You can literally apply that plot to every "drama version" or at least all the ones I've watched. But yeah, the drama version bores me almost as much as the regular version. What the hell happened with this PV? Usually for every fall PV, I can always look forward to it having a distinct and interesting theme or storyline but this? It's a lame attempt at being retro that's too lacking in charm to have any sort of lasting appeal. And to think I was actually kind of excited for this release. The PV for Heart Electric is a huge disappointment; it's so uninspired. The sets are dull and cheap-looking, the revival of the band was a poor decision, and there's nothing that stands out in this entire PV. Man, you'd think I'd have learned by now to stop making any expectations for AKB48.

Two and half apples. That's my overall rating for Heart Electric. The song is all right, not the greatest song but listenable. The PV however is a huge disappointment, especially for AKB48. I found it to be completely boring, and should I be forced to watch it again, I'd still probably find it to be completely boring. Man, there goes my last expectation that AKB48 will get a really good single this year. The Janken PV's gonna suck.

C-ute is Flying and Berryz is Floundering

So... I'm really happy I'm not the only one who thinks that Berryz Koubou is on a downward spiral.

A few other blogs share my sentiment thus reassuring me that I haven't completely lost it yet! Okay, so maybe the term "downward spiral" is a little melodramatic to describe what Berryz Koubou is going through right now. Still, I think the context is the same: Berryz Koubou is at a period in which they are at a rather low point. I hadn't really taken that into consideration until I was going over my review plans for November and out of the blue thought "When was the last time I reviewed something from Berryz Koubou?" March. That was the last month I'd reviewed any Berryz Koubou material. March. And from there I realized something else: I didn't even care that much. I didn't feel like I'd missed reviewing anything substantially important from Berryz. I accepted this revelation surprisingly quickly and apathetically; I was probably distracted by Perfume. From there, I continued reviewing stuff I actually felt motivated to review. I didn't think too hard on Berryz again save for a few chats with Chiima about where Berryz was going as a group. She had very strong opinions about where Berryz stood as a group, opinions that were not exactly greeted with warm reception.

Despite some backlash, I couldn't help but agree with her sentiments that Berryz was very slowly turning into an awkward, stagnant group. But what compelled me to hope on the bandwagon and write about it too? C-ute, actually. Or... C-ute's latest single to be more exact. I was watching the PVs for Tokai no Hitorigurashi and Aitte Motto Zanshin and thinking to myself about how H!P has really outdone itself in making PVs that actually look really good. I think the PVs for both A-sides of C-ute's latest single look really good. That thought led to me once again reflecting on how much C-ute has grown and improved since they became a five-member group all the way back in early 2010. They've gone from being my least favorite group in Hello! Project to probably my favorite group, even above Morning Musume! They've just developed a really good group dynamic and Tsunku's handled their singles really well.

And like a pointlessly complicated cycle, all these thought process naturally led me to backpedal and reflect on Berryz Koubou and how they've changed since I got into them all the way back in 2011. Doing that has led me to beg the question: is C-ute getting better as Berryz is getting worse?

Well, here they all are as one big, happy unit!

DON'T SHOOT ME. At least let me explain my own reasons and opinions first. I think one thing that everyone can agree on is that the Hello! Project Kids have definitely changed a great deal from their early days in Hello! Project. They're the Hello! Project Women now (well not officially, but that's what we're all thinking!) and both H!P Kids groups have lost a few members along the way. If I were to travel back in time and tell H!P fans of 2004 that the Hello! Project Kid would grow up to dress up as Playboy bunnies or become the sexiest dancers in all of Hello! Project, I'd probably get more than a few odd looks (and maybe even some gleeful ones). All right, why do I think that Berryz has progressively gotten worse as C-ute as progressively gotten better? After all the word "better" is a highly subjective term that revolves around a person's own opinions. In someone else's mind the reverse could be happening and Berryz could be getting better than C-ute.

So yes, if I want to compare the quality of each group's singles, I'd have to be a little subjective. Hey, I run a blog; the only thing more subjective than that is the American government. But I don't want to corrupt my little Wonderland with politics so back to C-ute and Berryz! What I'm getting at is I have my own opinions that have probably pissed a few people off, but those opinions are going to be running pretty rampant because this post especially is seated in subjectivity. For the moment though, I'd like to put the more subjective points about my argument aside for later and focus on the more objective argument. Objectively speaking is C-ute doing better than Berryz? For objectivity, I have to look at the sales of each group. So guys, I hope you like math! We're about to do some arithmetic! Or I am at least. I calculated the average singles sales of C-ute and Berryz since 2011, the year that I started actively following both groups. Keep in mind, it's only single sales, and doesn't take into consideration albums, concerts, or other miscellaneous events. According to my calculations, the average sales of each group's singles since 2011 are:

Berryz Koubou: 27,561
C-ute: 37,885

That's about a 10K difference in sales. Something else to note is that both groups have experienced an increase in sales with each single. In 2011, C-ute's lowest-selling single was Sekaiichi Happy na Onna no ko with 19,830 physical copies sold. Now they sell around 40-60K. Another interesting observation is that both Berryz and C-ute's highest-selling singles are both their most recent singles. Of course, C-ute's next single, Tokai no Hitorigurashi/Aitte Motto Zanshin, has yet to be released so I don't know if C-ute's sales will continue the trend of increase. While each group may be selling more, Berryz is still behind on C-ute in terms of sales. So if I was to objectively go off only the numbers, technically C-ute is doing better than Berryz. However, according to these same numbers, Berryz isn't getting worse. Their sales are growing, just at a much slower rate than C-ute's are. But where's the fun in just going off a bunch of numbers to reach a conclusion? This is Japanese pop music, not economics! And my conclusion about Berryz and C-ute lies not solely in the numbers. Sure, they play a very, very small part in it, but this is mostly based on my own personal feelings towards Berryz and C-ute.

Personally, I think Berryz has slowly been getting worse and worse while C-ute has been getting better and better. I think C-ute's been getting better songs, better PVs, better marketing, better... everything. Berryz has slowly turned into that awkward, Melon Kinenbi-type group and I personally don't think Tsunku really knows what image to use with them anymore. So they've been getting this odd hodgepodge of different songs with no clear direction in sound or style. In terms of their music, Berryz Koubou has slowly turned into a hit-or-miss group, getting a lot more misses than hits in the past two years. All the singles they've released this year have been really underwhelming. So why? Is it just me going crazy? Or is Berryz really deteriorating when it comes to their music and overall style? I think the only way to find out is to go back in to both the history of Berryz and C-ute.

Left: C-ute (2006)
Right: C-ute (2013)

Sometimes I forget that C-ute started out as the rejects that didn't get picked for Berryz Koubou. Yeah, apparently Airi just didn't make the cut. So C-ute was filled with a mishmash of girls from the H!P Kids and one H!P Egg who probably had little to do with the H!P Kids until C-ute was formed. Before C-ute got their debut, they had a few indie singles. Looking back, you can definitely tell C-ute was just starting out. Everyone looks either really young or really awkward or a combination of both. With the ages ranging from fourteen to ten everyone in C-ute looked a dorky kind of adorable. And that's what their music sounded like too! C-ute's first several singles were... cute! They sounded appropriate to their age range, even if a few songs were just a little too sugary sweet. The songs after their major debut ranged from the annoyingly happy to surprisingly edgy for such a young group. While I may not have liked every early C-ute single, I do think they had some pretty decent songs.

The problem I've always had with early C-ute is the same problem that I will forever have with Morning Musume: the line distribution. C-ute had some really bad line distribution. Each song usually consisted of Maimi and Airi taking the lead with anyone else getting a teeny smidgen of a line lucky. The first A-side to feature solos from everyone in C-ute as their eleventh single. Then members of C-ute start dropping out like flies, finally leaving C-ute the five-member group we know and love today at the start of 2010. And we all know what single kicked off 2010 for C-ute: Shock! And everyone loves that single so much, especially for its amazing line distribution. I think the turning point for C-ute was early 2011, when they released Kiss Me Aishiteru. Before, that point, C-ute had always been my least favorite H!P group; to me, they were just so iffy. From 2011 though, C-ute slowly started to get a more cohesive sound and image. The songs got better, the line distribution got better, and C-ute really began to look like one of the most put-together groups in Hello! Project.

Left: Berryz Koubou (2004)
Right: Berryz Koubou (2013)

Now what was Berryz doing around the time C-ute was formed? Well, they'd already released several singles! Berryz Koubou debuted in 2004, without even going through the indies phase that every other regular H!P group seems to go through. I imagine there must have been quite the pressure for them to succeed, especially in the shadow of Morning Musume despite not really having a lot of performing experience as a group. And so Berryz Koubou's first single was Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai was released in March of 2004. I have to admit, I think it's a pretty decent song, and it's pretty entertaining seeing the tiny, adorable members of Berryz trying to act gangster in the PV. From there, Berryz had some really nice variety in their music. They always seemed to be the group that got the fun songs that were just a little bit quirkier than other H!P groups' music. But it worked for them.

In their younger days, Berryz always seemed like a very vivacious group, and their music reflected the energy and enthusiasm they had. But as they got older it's like their music just got... awkward-er. It's kind of like they were going through the musical equivalent of puberty. They still had some good songs, but around late 2010 and early 2011, something was just... off. The last song that I really liked by Berryz Koubou was Heroine ni Narou! ka, released in early 2011. Well... I liked Cha Cha Sing a lot too. But that's not what I'm trying to get at! After Berryz wrapped up their Inazuma tie-ins, their music was all-over-the-place. Sometimes, they'd try to be sexy, and achieve hilariously awkward results. Sometimes they'd try to go back to their more fun, playful style only to get mixed reception about how successful that was. The Berryz singles of 2011 and 2012 were quite the hodgepodge, and none of the songs save for Heroine ni Narou ka! and Cha Cha Sing really worked. And of all the singles Berryz has released this year, I honestly don't really care for any of them. Rock Erotic may be the only half-decent song, but that's not exactly amazing either.

So... what up with Berryz? C-ute in my opinion has been getting progressively better in both image and music and Berryz has been going the opposite direction. Does Tsunku just not know what to do with them? That could very well be the case; he is only one man spreading himself thin amongst five groups. Maybe Berryz is just one of those groups he has little to no creativity for anymore. Kind of like what happened with S/mileage after Yuuka left. Is it because Berryz has lost their chemistry? I don't think it has to do with the group's chemistry; they've been around for 10 years, if you're gonna last for 10 years, you've got to have at least some chemistry. What I think is happening is that chemistry isn't translating to the screen. Take the PV for Rock Erotic for example. The song was fine but the dance used in the song was awkward. The costumes and the cross-dressing concept were also poorly handled. This could have been a decent PV similar to Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ but instead we got just another awkward PV. Whereas C-ute's been getting diverse sets and interesting editing, Berryz has been getting the same lame sets and formulaic music videos. I don't know why, but I wish I did.

Whatever the explanation, I've grown bored with Berryz. Do I think that Berryz Koubou is beyond salvaging and that Tsunku should just pull the plug on them? I... honestly don't know. I mean, on one hand they are approaching their ten-year anniversary. In idol years, that's a lot of time. The girls are getting older too; they can't stay idols forever. But on the other hand, I don't want to completely shut down on them and give up all hope that they'll look like a cohesive group again. I just don't know what to make of Berryz anymore. All I know is that I have no desire to review any of their current material. I won't blacklist them, but unless they release something truly eye-catching, I don't know when I'm going to review them again. Right now, I'm much more interested in what C-ute is doing; maybe UFP will get a clue and start promoting Berryz with the same effort they put into C-ute.

Until then, I have nothing else to say on this subject. Berryz Koubou has floundered into an awkward group while C-ute has blossomed into the most skilled group in Hello! Project. The end. I think the only thing I can do now is turn this subject over to you guys. Do you guys think that Berryz is losing their spark? Or am I just part of a small minority of delusional people grasping at straws? What are your opinions on the current states of C-ute and Berryz Koubou?

Sweet Refrain is Lame

♪It's lame! It's lame! It's lame lame lame!♫

I will run through the streets singing that if that's what I need to do to properly convey just how lame I think Sweet Refrain is. And you know what's even lamer? The fact that it's a single! This lame song of lameness is going to be the first single after Level3! Isn't that hilarious? Ha. Ha ha. Maybe this isn't as hilarious as I originally thought.

Normally when I announce Perfume news, I think I'm pretty perky about it. After all, they're my favorite group to review! Any news of releases or concerts from them is always happy news, right? Well... not always. Like when a song you're not a huge fan of turns out to be the next A-side. Or when they announce a tie-in with a children's franchise. One or the other! I of course am referring to Sweet Refrain, the next... single for Perfume. The song has actually been known for awhile now, even before Level3 was released. That's because Sweet Refrain was announced as the ending song for a J-drama called Toshidensetsu no Onna. And naturally before I'd even heard what the song sounded like, the prospect of new Perfume music only added to the ecstatic buzz I had for the release of Level3. But then everything changed when... I heard the song. Or the short version at least.

 In that moment, I realized that Sweet Refrain was a very, very lame song. Like... holy crap, is it lame. I don't even think it's a bad song, it's just lame. It sounds like a reject from the JPN era mixed with some gratuitous dubstep and a beat that's all over the place. And upon realizing just how lame Sweet Refrain sounded, I grew a lot less excited about its release. So when I heard it was going to be an A-side? I laughed. And cried. But mostly laughed. I'm sorry, I just don't think this is a very strong song. Even after I've heard the full version on Perfume Locks! I still don't like Sweet Refrain very much. I don't want to say I hate it as much as I did Spending all my time and it's a whole lot better than Mirai no Museum but for an A-side? It's pretty weak. I think my biggest problem with the song is that structure wise, it's really messy. None of the verses match and the chorus sounds like the chorus from Kokoro no Sports. I swear to god, even the tempo is the same as the chorus in Kokoro no Sports. Now Kokoro no Sports is a fine and dandy song and all but I only need one Kokoro no Sports.


Sweet Refrain just feels like a poorly blended mix of the sound from JPN and the sound of Level3. Look, if Nakata wants to go all cutesy technopop for Perfume's next single, I'm cool with that. If we he wants to go EDM, I'm cool with that too. But this is like some kind of botched attempt at combining the two styles. And the end result is a messy pile of lameness. Even after seeing the covers and outfits for Sweet Refrain, I'm still not that hyped for it. It's weird because Perfume releasing something new so soon after Level3 is something to get excited about! I had to wait eight months between the release of ⊿ and Fushizen na Girl/Natural ni Koishite. Yet even that doesn't get me excited about Sweet Refrain. Even when the covers and outfits were revealed for the single, I'm still not getting the hype. That might be because I don't even really like the outfits that much for this single. I know everyone's been fawning over how mature the girls look in them, and I admit they do. But they look old and washed out. It's like they've aged 20 years. I think what would help is having the outfits be a little more colorful. The black and gray color scheme is depressing to look at.

I don't know, maybe the outfits look better when they dance in them? I guess it is a refreshing change from the monotonous styling they've been getting lately with all their outfits. And then there are the covers, which look okay I guess. Like the outfits, they're very mature looking with the black and white color scheme. I do kind of like the little splash of pink font. And having the clocks they hold display each member's birth date is pretty clever. But I'm not jumping up and down either. I'm even having a hard time trying to write about my impressions of Sweet Refrain so far, because how many times can I say it's lame before my readers start to get bored? Hell, I'm getting bored just talking about this song! I don't know, Spice was also used for a drama and that song grew on me a lot. Who knows? Maybe Sweet Refrain will do the same. But the PV better be pretty freaking awesome, along with the B-side.

So yeah. Sweet Refrain exists. And it's an A-side. And it's lame. Come to think of it, there are a lot of lame songs coming out like Heart Electric, Chiisana Kiseki, that Weather Girls song I can remember the name to... maybe November's just shaping up to be the month of absolute lameness!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


What's this? BiS cameo-ed in another idol group's music video!? How come nobody told me!? And they're releasing a collaboration mini-album with the same idol group whose video they appeared in!? Happy day! I mean, I surprisingly loved the collaboration BiS did with Dorothy Little Happy, so if they can work well with a group as bland as them, I'm sure BiS will do-

Oh. It's

Well. I guess I can't say I'm surprised BiS would collaborate with a group like It's less of a curve ball than the Dorothy Little Happy collaboration was anyways. It makes sense because like BiS, has a reputation for being one of those idol groups that marches to the beat of a different drummer. An off-key drummer that's probably snorted some coke but still, a different drummer. Now I'm a blogger that has stated in several posts that what I tend to look for in an idol group is an aspect that distinguishes the group from all the other groups vying for attention in the juggernaut that is the J-pop idol industry. fits this profile; so why haven't I reviewed anything by them? They're not on my Blacklist so I'm clearly not adamant toward reviewing any of their material. I can honestly say I like a lot of aspects of I think visually, they're one of the most interesting groups on the market right now. I mean, just look at the above picture! How colorful and expressive does that look?

All the PVs I've seen from this group have looked amazing, with very clear themes and ideas that transition well to the screen. And their concepts are so interesting, or the ones I've seen at least. It almost makes me wish I more actively reviewed their PVs because there's a lot talk about in each one. In terms of styling, they get some of the most distinctive and attractive costumes I've ever seen. Hell, want some of the clothes these girls get to wear. I also like that the girls of this group are wotas themselves, and I think that really allows them to connect with their fans. From the few clips and interviews I've seen of them, they show an enthusiasm for what they do, which is always a trait I can admire in idol groups that I don't even like that much. So why haven't I reviewed anything by Well, what's one aspect of an idol group that I hold above everything else? Don't think too hard about it. What do I always seem to have a criticisms about with anything I review? It starts with an "m" and ends in a "c." Figured it out yet?

I can't stand any of's music. And believe me, I've tried to like it. I've really tried. is about on par with Momoiro Clover Z with their production levels. In fact, the idol group that they most remind me of is Momoiro Clover Z. The only difference I've been able to see is slightly different marketing personas and visuals. But what both groups have with their music is an air of quirkiness. Like MomoClo,'s music is very zany and very original, but brimming with poor vocals. From what I've heard of their music, the girls of aren't exactly the strongest singers. In fact, some of their voices sound pretty awful. Like I didn't think any idol group could top MomoClo in shrill, ear-splitting vocals, but voila, has now stolen that title! Gosh, MomoClo, you're gonna have to work hard to reclaim your title as most off-key idol group! For me, I have to have a balance of good vocals and personality in any idol group I follow.

This is why I can tolerate a group like Momoiro Clover Z despite them having weak vocals. In terms of visuals and style, I think they're an idol group that tries to be original. This reasoning is also why I can't get into a group like Fairies. Despite its members being talented, there's nothing about the group that stands out personality-wise. And unfortunately for, what I've found with them is that their vocals are just too grating and high-pitched on my ears. That's another thing I noticed about their music actually: it's really high-pitched. For a Japanese idol group, it's exceptionally high-pitched. As a result, the songs I've heard from them sound kind of annoying. Look, I'm a singer, and I admit I can be a little nitpicky when it comes to vocals in idol groups but... good lord, I have legitimately wondered why's vocals are so poor. So much that I tried to find more about them on Wikipedia. While they had no page on Wikipedia, their name did redirect me to the Wikipedia page about Dempa song. So now I could figure out why's singing was so bad!!

Oh. So that's why.

Well, that explains so much. Regardless, I still feel like I should at least look at's latest single, W.W.D. II. Not W.W.D., although I probably should at least listen to that song too... Whatever, I'm only taking on one song at a time. So a good question to start with is what in the hell does W.W.D. stand for anyways? Through much grueling and time-consuming research, I found that it stands for World Wide Dempa! So I guess W.W.D. II is meant to be a sequel of sorts to World Wide Dempa? The PV for W.W.D. II is a sequel to W.W.D. so I just assumed both song were connected as well. Anyways, how does W.W.D. II sound? Are the vocals as bad as the few other songs I've listened to? Actually, they're not terrible. It's just when the girls chant and/or scream anything in the song that they start grating on me. I will say there's this one chick in the group and I don't know which one but she actually has a pretty decent voice. Everyone else though ranges from subpar to nigh-intolerable. Other than that, I think this song is all right. I can't deny it's energetic which is always a plus in my book.

What I noticed most about W.W.D. II is that the arrangement was very complex, for an idol group at least. It reminded me again of Momoiro Clover Z's musical production with a huge variety of verses and bits. Although it did get to be a little too much at times. W.W.D. II isn't a short song, and there are parts where I can definitely feel its longness. I think maybe with the right editing, this could be a song that I might even enjoy listening to. However, in its original form, W.W.D. II is an all right song. Not unbearable, but it probably won't make any of my Best-of lists this year. Still, since I went in expecting the worst from this song, I'm rather pleasantly surprised that W.W.D. II wasn't absolutely terrible. I makes me wonder if I'll ever review anything else from again. I'll probably review the collaboration single they did with BiS if I could ever get my hands on it, but who knows? Maybe will grow on me in the same way Momoiro Clover Z did. Only time will tell.

For now, I would very much like to look at the PV for W.W.D. II since that's the ones aspect of that I find highly appealing. Besides, what's more fun than than screencapping the glorious Brand-new Idol Society butting heads with another idol group?

Well, I'm getting nostalgia tones from this opening shot.

And these most be the lovely cheerleaders- I mean idols of!

Is that an M&M?

Wow, seven years have sure made the members... different!

Nah, it was all just a dream from poor Pinky, clearly longing for the glory days of!

It looks like Mirin joined one of the most painful careers of all... BUSINESS!

At least she's proactive! Mogantanpe just spends her days languishing in a dump!

I have absolutely no idea what this chick does. Ancient rituals? Theatre? Ancient rituals in theatre?

Well, Risachi does kids' shows now that she's out of!

Despite the kids clearly not taking much interest in her.

And Nemu opened a bar that's probably the least hopping bar in Japan. I guess you could really call it a... One Room Disco. Huehuehue.

I know Pinky's not very happy in her new group but if these guys can sing, I'm a happy camper!

Alas, all the members experience a fervent longing for the olden days.

Wow, even the camera guy notices something's up.

At least everyone can be re-united in the dance shot!

In the shadows of the concert, lurks trouble though... trouble in the form of... BiS.

Aw how sweet, Pinky kept the MacGuffin candy dispenser from the glory days!

But delicious candy won't stop the arrival BiS! And they're gonna fuck. Shit. UP!

Ah, nothing brings people together like kidnappings!

At least they were nice enough to leave a clue behind!

I have to admit, I'm surprised it took BiS this long to kidnap another idol...

Meanwhile, our heroines are reminded of their old, off-key days as a group.

Bottom line is they get back together to save Pinky and reunite!

And now it's time for the ultimate idol smackdown. vs. the batshit-crazy but awesome Brand-new Idol Society! YEAH!

They all look so cool. So intimidating. So wonderful.

It's a shame they don't get to used their spiked baseball bats for this smackdown though!

And charges forward, beginning the smackdown!!!

And BiS runs towards, bent for blood... well, maybe not but still! VIOLENCE!

So the final confrontation is set with idol group against another when... the PV ends.

Yeah, it ends on that note. Talk about anticlimactic, huh? Someone described the PV and hyped me up to believe that the entire PV revolved around this fight between BiS and when really the major storyline was completely different. So hey, let's go over the general storyline for W.W.D. II! As said before W.W.D. II is a sequel to W.W.D. This PV technically takes place in the year 2020, despite the fact that none of the members have aged at all. By this point the only original member left in is Pinky who longs for the days with her old members. Meanwhile, Mirin has taken up a job as a businesswoman, Mogantanpe is jobless, Nemu has opened a bar, Risachi has joined a kids' show, and Eitaso... well, I'm not sure what Eitaso's doing but it has nothing to do with! So yeah, the whole group is apart and everyone has gone their separate ways. And naturally, everyone is angsting about it.

Anyways, Pinky is performing at another concert with the replacement members of when trouble strikes. A mysterious group of "anti-idols" (which spoiler alert is BiS) emerge from the crowd, storm onto the stage, and kidnap Pinky! Luckily, all the other former members were conveniently watching the concert and saw the entire abduction. Naturally they all rush to the hall only to find Pinky long gone and a scratched and vandalized CD of W.W.D. in her place. With all the members back together, the girls realize that they all miss each other and the crowd encourages them to reunite and save Pinky. They do so because friendship is magic and whatnot and go confront BiS who are all sitting menacingly in a giant warehouse. The anti-idol group stares down before the latter charges and the former gets up and starts charging also. So both sides are running and they finally meet, ready to battle it out and see just which idol group comes out on top. And then... that's it. I have no idea if this was meant to be the cliffhanger for another PV, but knowing idol continuity, we're never going to see a glorious fight scene between these two groups.

I guess I shouldn't be so hung up on one little aspect of the PV, but I was expecting a fight between BiS and You can't just play with my expectations and not deliver on them! I think a fight scene would have been really cool, especially since there's such a contrast between BiS and It's kind of why I found Get You to be such an interesting collaboration between BiS and Dorothy Little Happy. All right, I've done enough bitching and moaning about an idol group that isn't even the main focus of this PV. Other than that, how does the PV for W.W.D. II hold up? Well, I think the PV has a very strong storyline to start with. You've got a lot of conflict, and the setup leading to said conflict was done really well. It showed the viewers through visuals just what each member of was feeling, even viewers who can't understand the language. I always have to at least give props for an idol group attempting a story in a PV, especially a cohesive one. W.W.D. II's storyline is very clear and actually somewhat compelling.

I admit, I only watched the PV because I wanted to see BiS in it, but I did get a little wrapped up in what was going to happen to Even then, the inclusion of another idol group in a PV was still a very interesting idea. I personally like it when idols "cross over" with other idol groups through collaborations and such. And when the idol group crossing over is BiS you can have them just standing around with pom poms and I'd still probably find that at least somewhat entertaining. Yeah, I think the confrontation between the two groups could have been utilized more, but I have to at least acknowledge that it was a creative idea. It does make me wonder what the collaboration between the two groups sound like. I wish that the DenDen Passion Idol single wasn't just sold at concert events but oh well, I guess at some point or another it'll make its way to the web. I'd wager that it's going to be awhile though. For now, BiS' cameo in W.W.D. II is for the most part satisfying, and who knows? Maybe will cameo in one of their PVs!

On the technical side, W.W.D. II was pretty good. There was a really great variety of sets, and they all contributed to the atmosphere of the PV. This PV was supposed to take place in the future, and the settings helped the viewer realize just what kind of future it was for What I noticed about all the scenes is that they're very dark. Not macabre and creepy kind of dark but literally dark. Dim, actually. It's like there's a big black cloud over every scene, save for the dream sequence Pinky has in the beginning of the PV. I don't know if that was intentional, but it set a very nice mood for the PV. Like the world has turned dark without! I almost want to say the settings felt gritty, but I think that's a little drastic of a term. What I also liked about this PV was that there were a lot of people in it, besides BiS. You've got the people at the concert, the new members of, the businessmen, and that's just to name a few! They added a sense of legitimacy to the world created in this PV, and I think with a storyline like this, you need a lot of people to properly convey it.

The PV for W.W.D. II wasn't as bright or colorful as the few other PVs I've watched, but I think a flashy type of PV would have just killed the mood and the storyline. So visually it might not be the most interesting PV I've watched, but the storyline still kept me interested. All I want is a conclusion to that confrontation between BiS and Did win? Did they rescue Pinky? We'll probably never know considering idol PVs have the same continuity as the Evil Dead movies... Overall though, I liked the PV for W.W.D. II! It had a very distinct and easy-to-understand storyline along with a lot of memorable side characters, particularly BiS. Visually it was dark but appropriately dark, and each scene blended well with all the other scenes. So... yeah. That was For my first look at anything by them, W.W.D. II was... pretty decent! I really liked the PV for it at least; the song was all right.

I will collectively give W.W.D. II four out of five apples. The song isn't as terrible as I was expecting it to be, but it's not the best thing I've ever heard ever. The PV was pretty good and it had a compelling storyline and nice visuals, even if it failed to deliver on a few aspects. I have to admit, I never thought I'd review something from I might keep and eye out for what they do in the future. Who knows? Something else they release might grab my attention!