My thoughts on the final single from Morning Musume ’16.
Release Date: November 23rd 2016
1. Sexy Cat no Enzetsu
2. Mukidashi de Mukiatte
3. Sou ja nai
4. Sexy Cat no Enzetsu (Instrumental)
5. Mukidashi de Mukiatte (Instrumental)
6. Sou ja nai (Instrumental)
If you go back and check out all of the other Hello! Project reviews that I’ve written on this site this past year, it’ll come as no surprise that I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by the bulk of the musical output from the company. Sure, there’s been a few exceptions here and there (mostly from Juice=Juice) but on the whole it has been one of the weaker years in recent memory. I don’t really care to shout about this kind of thing on social media, but I think it’s only fair that you guys know where I’m coming from before I get into this review here. I know there’s plenty of you out there who will very passionately disagree with me, but opinions are great like that aren’t they?
So this triple a-side (man, remember when we only got one a-side?) is Morning Musume ’16’s 62nd single. If you ask me, I think it’s a bit silly that we’re still calling the group Morning Musume at this point but branding and all that. Anyway, 62 singles is pretty impressive regardless of how you get there and I guess it shows that Morning Musume as a brand has some pretty good sustainability. The group has definitely been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance these past few years after finally being able to uncouple itself from an almost never ending cast of veteran members. There’s a lot to be said about how fresh the image of an Idol group is, and in relative terms Hello! Project has gone a long way to give Morning Musume a real facelift these past few years.
Given my opening paragraph, you guys should kinda have an idea of what I’m expecting from this single. Basically, I’m expecting all of the songs to be decent, but none of them are going to really blow me away. Hello! Project has definitely found its comfort zone with their current house style of song writing and composition, I think that’s pretty fair to say. Of course, there are exceptions where a song will come along and impress me, but all I really expect from Hello! Project these days is solid EDM tinged Pop songs that while good never quite have enough to take them to the next level. I am hopeful as always that there’s going to be a song on this single that blows me away, so I guess we should get into the review and find out.
Let’s start with “Sexy Cat no Enzetsu”. Man, I can remember a time not so long ago where the very thought of something like this would have made many a Hello! Project fan balk. You can check out Mike’s thoughts on the PV by reading his PV Roundup, but I just have to say that this is not you daddy’s Morning Musume, that’s for sure. Although I guess this kind of shift has been happening over the last few years, what with the rise in gravure DVDs, bikini photobooks and other such things. I don’t personally have a problem with it, because it’s 2016 and that’s just kind of how idol groups work now. I guess the only thing that I would kind of question is giving younger girls like Makino Maria such a prominent position in this new initiative.
As for the song itself, there’s a little bit of Jazz going on in there which is something I can get down with. It’s a shame that much of it has some weird digitized sounding filter slapped on top of it but oh well. The song as a whole isn’t the most upbeat thing I’ve ever heard, it sort of sounds more like a theatrical piece for the most part. The vocals are a bit of a struggle for me if I’m being totally honest with you. It’s really just the same kind of vocal delivery that you can probably go pick out on a dozen other Hello! Project songs from the past couple of years. It’s not that it’s…bad or anything, it’s just kind of boring to the ears I guess. Like much of recent Hello! Project offerings, this song is decent but doesn’t really go much farther than that.
Our second a-side is titled “Mukidashi de Mukiatte”, which apparently translates as “Confront With Bare Nakedness”. I’m sure that has some profound meaning in Japanese, but reading it in English just conjures all manner of questionable mental images. Yeah, reading the “official” lyric translation for the song does seem to indicate that they’re talking about confronting a situation with their thoughts and emotions being exposed for the entire world to see. That’s cool I guess, but given the fact that the last song had them singing about (and dressing as) sexy cats, nothing would really surprise me at this point. Like a lot of Pop songs, it has a nice message but very rarely do these things play out in a similar way in real life.
I’m kind of struggling to find much to say about the song as a whole to be honest with you. It’s pretty standard EDM infused Morning Musume at this point. There’s a bunch of synthesizers, a decent drum beat and the usual vocal delivery and modification that we’ve all come to expect from this kind of song. Again, it’s decent enough but it’s not really going to set the world on fire or anything like that. It’s good that Morning Musume did eventually find a more modern genre of music to work with, and they were fairly early adopters of this style in Japan. That being said, we’re how many years and singles removed from when that all began now? I’m not saying there’s nothing else that can be done with this kind of music, it just seems like there isn’t much desire in the Hello! Project camp to do so.
The last song to feature on this single is “Sou ja nai”. You can check out Mike’s thoughts on the PV in his PV Roundup. Pretty much the entire reason for this song’s existence is so that Makino Maria could have a song to center. That’s what I read on some website or other anyway, so there’s at least a 50/50 shot that it’s true. I can kinda get behind giving Maria this kind of position even though she’s still fairly new to the group. You have to plan for future at some point because Fukumura, Ikuta, Iikubo and the others aren’t going to be around forever. You definitely don’t want to end up like AKB48, where all of your main components leave and then the group is left looking like a shell of its former self. Hopefully some of the other newer Morning Musume members will also start getting more prominent roles going forward.
Much like “Mukidashi de Mukiatte”, it’s kinda hard to find that much to say about this song that hasn’t been said about a lot of recent Hello! Project output. It has a pretty good beat which is always a good thing, although the instrumentals are perhaps a bit too familiar sounding to the ears. At least they are to mine anyway, if you’re really into this stuff then you probably don’t care. The vocal patterns are also fairly standard stuff, with the dramatic pauses between most words and what have you. There’s probably some interesting factoid about line distribution, but that’s not something I’ve ever paid attention to. For her part, Makino Maria does a good job as the center for this song, although it’s not like they were going to go out of their way to make her look bad or anything like that. Yeah, another decent if not amazing Hello! Project song.
If you can’t tell from the rest of this article, I think this another pretty average Hello! Project release. It’s not that there’s anything that’s particularly bad about it, it’s just that these kinds of songs are starting to get rather stale. It also doesn’t help that they seem to be repeated over multiple groups that are all under the same umbrella. I’m not saying that all of the groups sound exactly the same or anything like that, it’s just there’s a lot of similarities and re-used composition techniques going on. This is all obviously rather easy for me to sit here and say, I don’t have to compose music for half a dozen different groups pretty much constantly. Still, I thought Hello! Project had a team of writers now that Tsunku had stepped down for the most part.
Right now, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get me properly excited about a new Hello! Project release. I don’t really want change just for the sake of change, but just give me something a bit different at least and maybe my interest will start to pick up again. I’m not expecting that to happen any time soon though. Everyone seems to have found their comfort zone with a formula that works, so I guess from a business standpoint it would be pretty stupid to deviate from something that’s working until you absolutely have no other choice but to do so. Oh well, the music is still pretty decent even if it’s not really going to be anything more than that apart from on a rare occasion. Guess we’ll see how next year’s releases shake out when the time comes.
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