Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nothing's Forever (including Passpo)

So how about that Okunaka Makoto graduation announcement?

I swear I came up with that title before I read the graduation announcement. I'm not very familiar with the members of Passpo beyond Negishi Ai, Mori Shiori, and Masui Mio, but Makoto's graduation announcement did come as a surprise. I know they lost one other member a few years back, but I thought for sure they'd be a more stable group. I wonder what this will mean for Passpo's future endeavors. Will they add new members? Continue on as an 8-member group? Or disband entirely? Obviously, that last one's a little grim, but it could happen. Hopefully not though. I admit, Passpo's been waning from my interests again. They're so wishy-washy. Are they a rock band? An airplane-themed idol group? It's a mystery! Their last single, Perfect Sky, was a bore and not a good follow-up to their fairly good Jejejejet!! album. Still, I've not completely given up on Passpo, and since Himawari may be the last single with them as a 9-member group, I think it's only fitting I give it a proper review. Who knows? Maybe Himawari will be awesome!


Since Himawari means "Sunflower" in Japanese it's only appropriate that the covers for Himawari features lots and lots of... roses! Roses everywhere! No, Himawari is a sunflower-themed single through and through. All four covers have sunflowers either as accessories or background dressing or both. I like it; the sunflowers make the covers look very vibrant and happy. The outfits are basically the same thing Passpo wears for all their singles now except with a different color palette. Seriously, can they not mix things up every once in awhile? Maybe do 1960s era stewardesses or something? I feel a little bad since I know Masui Mio designed these outfits but... can she not come up with a different design? I don't expect Project Runway levels of creativity, but a little innovation would be nice. Oh well, the outfits don't really effect the quality of the song.


Well, Himawari is about as bright as I expected a song titled "Himawari" to be. I like this song. I don't love it, but I like it better than Passpo's last A-side. Himawari offers the pop rock sound I've come to expect from Passpo. The song is upbeat, rife with guitar chords, and has a catchy chorus. How many Passpo songs can I apply that same description to? Himawari is disappointingly consistent and offers little to nothing new to Passpo's sound. But pop rock is a decent genre of music to be consistent. And Passpo's an idol group, not Fleetwood Mac; I don't expect them to constantly change their sound and image with each release. Listening to Himawari doesn't feel like a chore (although I admit reviewing this entire single does a little bit...). And Himawari at least leaves an impression. Passpo's last song faded from my memory the moment I finished watching the music video. I couldn't hum Perfect Sky if asked to, not without playing the music video ten times. Ironically, Himawari sounds more like a "band" song than Perfect Sky did. Okay, I'm gonna stop bitching about Perfect Sky and get back to Himawari.

While Himawari is more-or-less a run-of-the-mill Passpo song, it's a good run-of-the-mill Passpo song. The song starts out strong and the girls sound much more energetic and into it than they did for their last single. I actually like the chorus of Himawari a lot; it has all the energy I've been wanting to hear in a Passpo single. The verses sound like mixes of other Passpo songs. The vocals are consistent; Ai and Shiori get dramatic solos in the bridge. Everyone else may or may not get solos in other parts of the song. I really need to familiarize myself with the faces of Passpo... Overall, I guess my opinion of Himawari is generally positive? Himawari is a good song, but it's not exactly the song I was hoping for from Passpo. It's a good song, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't stand out. Like the songs in The Airline Trilogy? They stood out. Himawari is a safe middle-of-the-road song that's the kind of thing I'd expect from Passpo. And it's a little bit of a bummer that's all Himawari is. At the same time though, Himawari is an enjoyable song and fun enough to not be a total letdown.

Like with Perfect Sky, the music video for Himawari utilizes Passpo the Band! Should I call them Bandspo or something? In this PV, the girls appear to be practicing or getting ready for a concert. There's not shot that shows all of them playing their instruments, just random individual shots. I liked the band concept better in Himawari, maybe because we don't see the band quite as much as we did in Perfect Sky. Instead, we get a dance shot! In a set! A black set with bright back lights! Very innovative, I know. Passpo really pushed some boundaries with this video. The dance shot is my least favorite part of the PV for Himawari; the set isn't that creative and the choreography feels kind of half-assed. The only person who looks into it is Mio and one or two members in the background. I don't get why they didn't do a dance shot outside; there are a lot of outdoor shots in this PV. A completely outdoor set would match the sunflower concept better. How about having them dance in a field of sunflowers? What do you mean that costs money and transportation!?

Like I said, the more interesting parts of Himawari are when the girls are playing their instruments or doing something other than dancing. The girls are wearing normal clothes, and there's kind of this sepia filter on the shots. It doesn't really go with the bright blue/yellow/black colors in the dance shot, another reason why the dance shot could totally be cut from this PV. There's this nice little intro in the beginning before the song starts; it's just a brief conversation between Mio and another member of Passpo. Nothing much, but we do get a nice shot of the titular sunflower. Then we see it again at the end of the PV. Again, not much, but the book ends are a nice little touch. Other than that, there's not exactly a story in this PV, or a clear concept beyond sunflowers. Even then, sunflowers aren't utilized anywhere near as much as I thought they would be. Also, I think this may be a summer PV? It shows the girls with sparklers on the beach, which must be a requirement for idol summer PVs. If Himawari is a summer PV, it's a poorly done summer PV. Even as just a regular music video, I'm not impressed with the PV.

I don't love Himawari, but I like it enough to give it four apples. The song tries, and that's what matters. The chorus is pretty strong, even if the rest of the song is a little shaky. Passpo's plays it safe with Himawari, but the song is good enough that I don't mind as much.

Shiny Road

The lone B-side on Himawari, Shiny Road is definitely less pop rock than Himawari. It's more of shiny, happy pop music, although there is a nice guitar riff in the instrumental breaks. Shiny Road reminds me of a Sakura no Hanabiratachi-type song. You know, those songs that are suppose to rouse your emotions and make you feel all warm and inspired? I either love songs like that or find them to be cheesy and forgettable. Shiny Road is a little more towards the latter for me. My problem with Shiny Road is I straight-up can't remember this song. I have to put Shiny Road on repeat to even write about it. It's a pretty song, but there are lots of pretty songs. I like songs that stand out. Shiny Road is just a generic happy song; if you're in the mood for that sort of thing, great. I do like how soothing Shiny Road is. Again, like Sakura no Hanabiratachi. But I'm bored when I listen to this song, and I'm bored trying to write about it. So bored, that I think I'm gonna spend just a paragraph on this B-side instead of two. Cliffnotes version: Shiny Road is okay but dull and not worth writing two paragraphs about. If you liked Growing Up, you might like Shiny Road.

Shiny Road is a meh song that gets the meh number of apples. It's not a terrible B-side, but there's just not much to talk about it. It sounds nice? And melodically pleasing? But man, throw in some trumpets, a triangle, a bagpipe, just something. Shiny Road is such a predictable song even for Passpo. The one advantage is that Shiny Road makes Himawari sound better! Not the best thing for Shiny Road though...

The Verdict

Well, if Passpo was trying to grab my attention again, Himawari was not the single to do so. Himawari overall is an okay single. I don't like okay singles; I like awesome singles that are energetic and zany and fun and weird. Himawari is none of those things. Well, maybe a little bit of the first one. I was really hoping that after Jejejejet!! Passpo wouldn't fall into another rut, but with Perfect Sky and Himawari, I think they are. And topped with Makoto's graduation, I really don't know what is going to happen with Passpo. Like Himawari says, nothing's forever. Himawari is actually a pretty good song, but not near the quality of the songs that spurred me to follow Passpo in the first place. I mean, if I was looking for new idol groups to review and I saw Himawari, I'd brush Passpo over. Shiny Road doesn't help the case either. At least Himawari had a lot of energy and a good chorus; the B-side is such an unimpressive song. Thing is, Shiny Road isn't bad in the way that's interesting and fun to write about. If it were like Avril Lavigne's Hello Kitty, then I'd at least have a field day reviewing it. By the way, Hello Kitty is now my go-to example for outrageously shitty songs.

While singles with only one B-side on them are easier to review, I feel like Passpo could have included another B-side on Himawari. Himawari and Shiny Road are both happy pop rock songs, and neither one has any standout qualities. This single overall offers nothing new for Passpo. Even the band concept is old now; Himawari and Shiny Road are both average Passpo songs. It's disappointing; when I reviewed The Airline Trilogy, Passpo seemed to dynamic and promising. Himawari is so... normal. I almost thing that reviewing Passpo might not be worth my time anymore, especially with newer and better groups on the market right now. The thing is if I say now that I'm probably gonna stop reviewing Passpo soon, then they'll release something interesting. It's like a carousel of predictability. Maybe what will happen is they release a string of mediocre singles, but then their next album has a bunch of surprisingly good songs on it! I don't know if I'll be able to wait around for that though. At the moment, Passpo is on thin ice. And it's cracking.

I'll give Himawari three apples. The A-side is good, but the B-side is mediocre. Even then, both songs sound like Passpo Bran. I like pop rock, but Himawari and Shiny Road make the genre sound so boring. The most interesting thing that's even happened with Passpo lately is the graduation announcement, but even that's been overshadowed by Jessica leaving Girls' Generation. Speaking of which, I think I need to fulfill the wish of a reader and get to another review... if you catch my drift...

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