Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Your Smile Is Bright Like this Green Screen

Nope. Still not calling them Morning Musume '14. You can't make me.

What's this? Nia's reviewing a Morning Musume PV? After all her complaining about the excessive double A-sides and how they're such a pain to review? Well, yes. I am. The best solution to a problem is usually the easiest one. And I'll be honest, reviewing these double/triple A-sides is hard. Luckily, I've finally come up with a solution to my little dilemma about the excess A-side's Tsunku's been cranking out lately. Really, I should have done this awhile ago, but I was distracted by other more interesting idol PVs. What I'm going to do is review the song and PV that I can talk about the most. Not necessarily the best one, just the one that has the most material for me to write on. I may mention the other A-side once or twice, but unless I have the spare time (which I probably won't), I'm just reviewing the one A-side song and PV. Which of the Morning Musume PVs from their latest A-side interested me the most then?Was it the electropop song? Or the other electropop song? Or the other electropop song? It's... the electropop song!!! To be more specific, it's Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa. But in case you're wondering where the other two A-sides stand in my eyes, here are nutshell reviews of the two:
  • For an Olympics song, Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai sure doesn't have much to do with Japan. Neither does the PV. But I think that's more laziness on UFP's part.
  • What is Love? remains a good song. There is literally nothing I have to say about the PV.
We good? Good! Now let's talk about Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa! This is the main A-side of Morning Musume's first single of 2014. Yes... the triple A-side single of 2014. Ugh. Anyways, Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa/Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai/What is Love? follows in the vein of Momusu's recent singles with all three A-sides being electropop. As you might have suspected, this has not gone over well with the fans. Okay, nothing goes over well with all the fans but still. As I predicted, the ever-fickle fanbase of Hello! Project has started growing tired of Morning Musume's electropop songs churned out one after another, complaining that the songs all sound like rehashes of one another, the genre's overdone, etc. etc. What I find ironic about a lot of these complaints is that a lot of people have started waxing poetic about the Platinum Era, an era I thought mostly everyone was sick of in the Momusu fanbase. Oh well, a pair of rose-tinted shades does wonders for looking back on the past.

To be fair, I do think there are some legitimate criticisms somewhere in the wave of complaints. Tsunku has been relying on electropop for Momusu's recent singles, and yes, there are a few songs that sound suspiciously similar when you play them back to back. Seriously, do that with Wakuteka Take a chance and Brainstorming. I think what Morning Musume needed was a song that relied a little less on the Autotune and bleeps and bloops dominating their recent A-sides. I'm not saying a re-reinvention of their image and musical style, just a breath of fresh air maybe. Like a happier song would be nice! The songs of this era haven't been depressing, but they've mostly been intense-sounding dance tracks. I'm talking about a more happier song along the lines of something old S/mileage would release. And perhaps a song that simply featured more natural vocals and less vocal editing. It would be really nice to hear the girls sounding less robotic. And while we're at it, how about a song with less solos? Yes, I think that's the kind of song that could truly show off Morning Musume as a whole.

The good news: that song is Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa! The bad news: that song is Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa.

Hoo boy. There's a reason I've taken so long to review this song and not just because the subtitles-less music video was leaked so recently. I'm serious, this song has been out for over a month, and I still have no idea what to make of it. Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is a song that is both refreshing and annoying, sometimes at different times. However, I will say that it is different for the current Morning Musume. Noticed how I just said current Morning Musume though. Because Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa isn't some groundbreaking genre-busting song... well, it does kind of branch across two genres. In a way. When I first played Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, the opening bit with the pounding We Will Rock You drumbeat over the usual dance-electropop instrumentals made me think this was going to be another energetic dance song with a little bit of a twist to it. And then... the rest of the song happened.

Do you guys remember Tokyo Girls' Style's Rock you? Well, probably not, since I'm one of five people who cares about TGS, but my point is, Rock you! did the same thing that Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa does. Both songs open with a loud, thumping beat that make an awkward, abrupt transition into a lighter, happier sound. I was not a fan of the transition in Rock you! and I'm very fond of the one in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa either. It feels like mood whiplash. In fact, I think that's the term I can use to describe this song overall. I don't know what Tsunku was on when writing this song, but Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa feels like it wants to be two different things. During the instrumental breaks, the song defaults to Morning Musume's current electropop sound, but then the vocal arrangement sounds like a bubblegum pop song devoid of any electropop. This could work if you combine the two styles together (in fact, there are plenty of great songs like this!), but with Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, they feel like separate parts crudely sewed together with the skill of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And yet I don't want to completely bash Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, because it is a little different from all the electropop songs Morning Musume's been releasing lately. However, different does not always mean good. Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa reminds me of Seishun Collection not only in sound but in the time it was released. Both Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa and Seishun Collection are happy songs, but happy in a laid-back kind of way. You wouldn't jump up and down to either song. Despite the fact that the PV for Seishun Collection featured the girls jumping on trampolines. But anyways, Seishun Collection was also released during Morning Musume's Platinum Era, a time when they were releasing so many moody, emotionally dark songs that even Robert Smith would probably say, "Lighten up!" So when Seishun Collection came along as this happy-go-lucky, if slightly generic song, it was simultaneously a breath of fresh air and mood whiplash.

While Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa doesn't fall quite as hard to this as Seishun Collection did, there's something that's still so... off about it. In theory, I should like this song. It's happy, trying something a little different from Momusu's current song formula, and there's a lot of even vocal distribution to boot! But the execution of Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa I found to be lackluster. Dare I say even bland? Yep, I think I have to bring about the dreaded B-word for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, because honestly, it's kind of a boring song. The verses drag out way too long, and every time I think the chorus is going to come in, there's just another verse. Maybe if half of each verse section had been cut, the song would have had a better pace. And maybe if the instrumental and vocals matched in tone better. See, things like that make me think that somewhere in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is a good song. In its current state though, I don't think this is a very interesting song, and definitely my least favorite A-side off the single. But hey, I guess every Morning Musume era has to have their own Seishun Collection.

Besides, just because Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is a lackluster song doesn't mean the PV has to be the same way! Or does it? With UFP, it could probably go either way. So I ask you all to lower your standards and brace yourselves because we're screencapping a Morning Musume PV! Let me guess: it features a really basic set and some green screens?

The PV starts with all of them in cat pose! Does the rest of the PV have them doing yoga poses?

The outfits are decent, although very, very white.

They're like sparklier versions of the ones from Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!

And then we're transported to Green Screen Land where nothing is real and everything is green!

Admittedly, these effects are actually kind of cool.

The way they interact with the choreography just looks really nice.

Which is good because when you take those effects away, this dance shot is about as generic as it gets.

The close-ups fortunately look decent, and everyone looks very nice.

Here they are rising up to feed some of their life force to Sayu so that she may maintain her youthfulness!

They all look like they're about to yank each other's heads in this dance move.

I think these shots are cute. And it's nice seeing the girls in clothes that aren't so costume-y.

The Ai no Gundan kicks make a comeback!

So is there any reason Eripon and Haruna are the only ones wearing pants?


You know, I'd actually be down with Ayumin being center more constantly.

If you watch this PV and pause it each second, you actually do see some pretty neat effects.

No, it's not Rhizomatics technology, but for a Momusu PV, this is about as close to effort as their PVs get.

By the power of GREEN SCREEN!

You know what's refreshing? Everyone looks really nice and cheerful in this PV!

Normally they all look so serious and never get a real chance to interact with each other in a more friendly and natural manner.

Even if the song is weird, seeing everyone so happy is nice!

It's a good thing Riho knows how to work the camera, because her voice is still... eh.

Everyone actually looks really pretty in this PV. No awkward hairstyles or costumes, it's quite a relief!

Again, these close-ups aren't exactly groundbreaking, but they're still visually appealing!

Aw, look at them getting all chummy with each other!

But enough of that! Time for an edgy dance break!

Again, Ayumin center! Look at that. Doesn't that seem like a good idea?

Formations, formations, so many formations.

The shining sun from Kono Chikyuu yo Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun da yo! makes a return to show the new dawn of Morning Musume!

And now it's time for the Idol Smackdown nobody asked for! Messiah!Riho...

...versus Messiah!Paruru!!! Which Messiah will reign supreme? It's up to YOU to decide!

As for now, I've got a PV to review!

Is this... effort I see? Honest-to-god effort!? Stop the presses, alert the neighborhood, effort has been put into a Morning Musume PV!!! Well... kind of. It always amazes me how good Hello! Project PVs look when I lower my standards. I should start doing that with regular PVs... I actually do like the PV for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, and I feel like of the three PVs on the single, it's the only one that has any real effort put into it. Now keep in mind this is not some artistic work of art with an elaborate plotline and a variety of shots and locations. This is still your standard Hello! Project PV with a dance shot, close-ups, and one other miscellaneous shot to keep the PV from being completely formulaic. But it's the styling that makes Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa such a nice PV to look at. Unlike last year, this PV kicks off 2014 with some decent outfits and a set that isn't overblown by a tacky looking green screen. Of course, there is still a green screen, but what they did with it is pretty cool. Remember the green screen techniques in C-ute's PV for Tokai no Hitorigurashi? That's pretty much the same thing utilized in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, except the visuals aren't as bright and cute and are a little more sleek and polished.

I noticed there are a lot of images of the earth/forest incorporated into the patterns in the green screen. I'm not sure why, just something I noticed. Maybe something in the lyrics indicates toward that. The visual effects may not relate at all to the lyrics of Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, but that doesn't mean they aren't cool! I think what helps with the green screen is that everything else about the PV is so white, making the background essentially a blank slate. I think the vastness of the dance area also helps, so there are a lot of shots from farther away alongside closer ones. While the green screen technology in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa isn't that mind-blowing, it is still very engaging. Having the girls "interact" with the green screen effects just keeps my attention. Sure, the the technique's been done better and to a larger scope, but for what they are, the effects in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa entertained me at least and looked sleek and smooth while doing that!

If you are looking for a Morning Musume PV that defies the formula H!P's stuck to like glue, then Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is not that. Sure, it may look like it on the surface, but when you take away all those slick special effects, this is still a standard H!P PV. But it's a standard H!P PV with a little bit more taste. If you know what you're in for when watching Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, then you might be pleasantly surprised. I was at least! Sure, this will by no means be my favorite PV ever, but I don't really mind that it's so minimalistic. Because it still looks very clean and polished. And the girls all look great! The costumes in the dance shot aren't that original, but hey, Momusu's gotten a lot worse. In fact, I feel like ever since Reina left, she took all the tackiness with her, and Morning Musume's recent costumes have been pretty tasteful. And the styling's gotten better! Everyone in this PV, even fashion victims Eripon, Haruka and Zukki, get really nice hairstyles and lighting and makeup! They all look very natural, and I think having a PV where they can be happy and cheerful is nice.

That's another reason why even though Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa isn't that great of a song, I'm glad it exists so we can see the girls actually smile and act happy in PV instead of trying to be tough and badass dance queens. Okay, that's not a terrible thing either, but it's nice having both, you know? That's why I love the group shots of everyone together! It's the first Colorful Era PV where we get to see some real interaction between the girls beyond just dancing. And honestly, that's really refreshing. I love powerful dances as much as any idol fan, but I also love seeing the more natural side of idols. I think that shows in the PV for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa. And it helps with the song, or at least it makes the song sound just a teensy bit better. Still not a great song, but better than listening to the song alone. So yes, maybe there isn't much that's different about this PV when you stack it up against all of Morning Musume's other recent PVs, but there are just enough quirks and trimmings to make this PV stand out.

Collectively, I'll give Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa three apples. It's not the strongest song to kick off 2014 for Morning Musume, but it's tolerable. The song is a little too cheerfully hollow for my tastes, and the arrangement could be tightened up. The PV for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is entertaining, and compared to some of Momusu's recent PVs, it's actually quite good. Just know what you're in for when watching any H!P PV, and I think you can find some enjoyment in it!


  1. This is what the Help Me!! PV could have been had it had proper visual direction.

    1. Yep, but instead we got a tacky onslaught of cheesy green screen effects and bad costumes. Oh well.

  2. Kimi no Kawari's connection to the Olympics is basically the set that looks like the Japanese flag except with colors inversed, random "Nippon!" inserted in the lyrics, and the girls randomly forming Olympic rings with their arms in the dance. So yeah, superficial stuff. Couldn't UFP have gone to the Japanese Olympics committee and make this song and PV more of a collaborative effort? Like maybe get random shots of famous athletes like Mao Asada into the PV, so people following the athletes would care to check out this PV? Wouldn't that have helped raise MM's profile a lot more, get them exposed to a much wider audience?

    I mean, maybe they tried and got denied, but it just seems like an opportunity wasted.

    1. I know, that's why I said Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai doesn't have "much" to do with Japan, apart from the colors in the PV and that part in the dnace and repetition of "Nippon" in the lyrics. Sorry if that was a little vague, I did notice those things. They just weren't enough to really establish a strong connection to the Olympics. Something along the lines of those Rakuten Eagles PVs would have been better.