My thoughts on “MAMEJOR!”, the major label debut album from MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN.
Release Date: January 20th 2021
1. ONEGAi KiSS ME
3. MAME no UTA
7. KOi no KAKEZAN ABCDEFG
8. Kira wareta yūki
9. Boku dake no kaitō
11. I need you
12. TO THE FUTURE
As you all know, I like to really nerd out about the inner workings of this Idol stuff from time to time and I often find myself thinking how it’s interesting that some groups who are doing very well for themselves domestically, are on a major label, do a bunch of media and what have you don’t really catch on that strongly among us foreign lot. Of course there are any number of reasons for this but when it comes to a WACK property in particular I can’t help but wonder just what it is that MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN are missing in that regard.
It’s definitely not something that the group or their agency are worrying too much about that’s for sure, especially after having recently inked a major label deal with Avex which should firmly cement them as the second if not first place group in the WACK hierarchy. At a time when a lot of groups are struggling to remain viable, MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN really seem to be bucking the trend and going from strength to strength and building on the momentum that the group launched with coming out of the reality television series that birthed them not so long ago. Definitely one of the success stories of a year marred by all manner of COVID induced setbacks that’s for sure.
So here we have “MAMEJOR!”, the major label debut album from MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN. I kinda dig what they did with the title there I can’t lie, I love a good play on words like that. Anyway, a quick look at the tracklist and we can already see a few familiar songs making the cut but also plenty of what would appear to be new material to wrap our ears around. I wouldn’t say I’m expecting anything too crazy here, what with the group’s fairly mainstream branding and musical style. Still, that doesn’t mean anything has to be boring and I hope we get to hear some nice personality from these new songs and that the album is just fun on the whole. That would be a pretty good outcome I think so let’s see if I’m on the money or very wide of the mark. This is still a WACK group after all so anything could happen.
MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN’s major label debut album kicks things off by asking us to “ONEGAi KiSS ME”. A bit forward but hey, I kinda like that I think. The opening instrumental is a rather unexpected glitchy Pop sort of thing, with a light layer of fuzz to take a little bit of the brightness out of it. The vocals are also done in a slightly over the top, energetic style that wouldn’t be amiss in some kind of kid’s song I suppose is where my brain immediately went to upon an initial listen. It’s all very lighthearted and fun in tone but it doesn’t go all the way in on making it too childish, so I think most people could probably get away with listening to it around their friends. After the initial hype things do settle down a little bit and we get some pretty clean vocals in the sense that they haven’t been super pitch corrected or anything like that but at the same time there is a bit of a distortion filter on top of everything so they didn’t get by completely unscathed. The track’s main melody is a persistent feature here too, repeating over and over as each line rings out. Not sure if this overly exposed style of vocal is going to be to everyone’s tastes but it’s something a bit different at least. They ramp the over the top-ness back up for the choruses but I feel like it’s all almost being held back by how suppressed the instrumental is generally on the song, so while the energy is there and the sparkles and what have you do make an impact, one has to wonder how much different things might have sounded if they’d given everything a bit more headroom. Still, as a sort of hybrid WACK/kids song “ONEGAi KiSS ME” is pretty enjoyable and it’s not something you hear every day so that’s cool too.
Next up it’s the return of what should hopefully be a rather familiar track in “SAMABARi”. I mean, it was only the lead song on the group’s major label debut single “AAA” after all and oh by the way, you can read my initial thoughts on that particular release here if you’d like to. Like I said at the time, this song is a major blast from the past for anyone who has been into this Idol stuff for as long as I have. I’m talking about that mid-2000s, Middle Eastern influenced Pop instrumental that wouldn’t be amiss coming from a Hello! Project group of that time before then transitioning into the sort of uptempo Pop style that was also a big thing back then too. They eventually take the foot off of the gas for a bit to let the vocals do their thing and the mood really does drop rather dramatically, but it’s all just so that they can build everything back up one chorus at a time until the closing section of the track where everything bursts into life once more and we really find our flow again. My initial criticism of the vocals remains true here unfortunately however, as I just don’t think they really match the mood of the track all that great and while yeah, there’s nothing technically wrong with what they’ve done here I just don’t think the gloomy nature of them is a good fit is all. Catchy lyrics and playing up to my nostalgia can only really get you so far I’m afraid but despite that it’s still a song that’s well worth your time and especially so if you have an appreciation for the influences that it’s drawing from already.
We’re back on to the new material for the album’s third track “MAME no UTA”. Is this technically a self-titled track or am I reaching a bit because it isn’t literally called “MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN”? You know how I feel about songs named after the group’s singing them by now. So yeah, the heavy Gothic vibe sort of came out of nowhere but I’m loving the atmosphere it’s creating even if the lyrical content is super basic early on, repeating part of the song’s title over and over in a pleasing but very repetitive way. The beat, the piano and pretty much everything going into the instrumental is giving things a nice rhythm and while the repetitive nature does have me wishing f or a little more action I can’t deny that it isn’t catchy as hell. Vocally things are a bit monotone but I think that’s a stylistic choice and it does compliment the instrumental rather well so hard to argue with it really, though it does sort of unfairly lump it in with a lot of the more Ballad-y type stuff that’s out there. It isn’t one, don’t get me wrong and I actually think the songwriting is rather nuanced in how they tease out these subtle hooks along the way so there’s that. The choruses soar and really pour on the emotion which is a nice change of pace for sure, though they do end up sounding a bit too close to the typical WACK tone in that regard which is a bit of a shame given how unique everything else is but it’s all still perfectly serviceable so that’s more a personal thing on my part rather than an actual knock on the song. Another pretty unique track here from MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN and I really do like how most of their songs have had a very clear and distinct personality to them so far. Hopefully they can keep it up for the duration of this album.
Scratchy Electro Rock is the next genre that MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN try their hand at on this album’s fourth track “MOTiON”. Once again a very lively opening instrumental is what we’re greeted with, mixing a punchy Rock number with synthesizer distortion and other such electronic enhancements. The result is a pretty granular tone which you could argue is tending on the muddy side depending on what sort of setup you’re listening through but I think that’s what they were going for and it’s all still plenty catchy enough to be getting by on so your mileage might vary a little bit on this one. Vocally the lyrics are delivered in this rapid-fire Punkish style which once again pairs very well with the instrumental and each line feels like it’s leaving a strong impact even though they are kinda flying by at times. There are a few WACK-isms in there too of course but generally speaking it’s all good, catchy stuff and hard to argue with too much as far as the verses are concerned anyway. The choruses get a bit more Poppy as far the vocals go, which adds a more melodic dynamic to the track that I think it probably needed in all honesty. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard a similar chorus somewhere before though and that kinda bothered a bit here but I can’t place it. The instrumental sounds like it could be interesting too but they really bury some interesting synthesizer melodies under a bunch of fuzz and distortion so it’s kinda hard to really tell. The lead-in and transitions out of the choruses probably strike the best balance between all of this though so we do get an idea of what might have been if they’d kept things a little cleaner. Not typically the sort of thing I like out of WACK but I actually rather enjoyed this one honestly, one of the highlights from the album so far in fact.
We continue the same general sort of mood into following track “LUCKY!!” but this time everything is nicely smoothed out and a bit more proper like. This makes for a somewhat classy sounding instrumental so I guess it just goes to show what you can do with a few different production decisions along the way. “Smooth” is definitely the word that I keep coming back to here and a large component of that is deep bass of the drums paired with the fairly simple but very effective main guitar riff that repeats itself over and over again while the vocals are doing their stuff. Speaking of which, a bit of a deeper and probably more natural vocal tone on this one that much of what we’ve been hearing up to now which makes for a nice change of pace in my opinion and shows that MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN can pull off a more “serious” sounding style when the need arises. There’s still plenty of their usual personality bubbling away just below the surface too though, ready to make an appearance at just the right moment. Those moments would appear to be during the song’s choruses where the group is let off the chain and allowed to inject a bit more attitude and energy into the track. It works pretty well but I did kinda feel like the tone was a bit…whiny I guess, which while making for an interesting contrast against the rest of the track did kinda take me out of things just a bit there. Super catchy lyrics and great energy though so if you’re not as bothered or don’t notice it as much as someone like me who is probably paying too much attention in the first place then I think that this is another one that you’re probably going to have a pretty good time with.
Well, I suppose if there was any group out there that was going to call one of their songs “DADDY” in block capital letters then it was probably going to be a WACK group then wasn’t it? The summery, guitar driven instrumental wasn’t exactly how I thought we were going to start things off here and I also wasn’t expecting the back and forth chatter either and in fact the whole tone of this thing is way more wholesome than what it easily could have been. This one is a bit of a sentimental Ballad type of deal then I suppose, which at this point in the proceedings shouldn’t really be that unexpected but WACK playing such a thing as straight as they do here perhaps a bit more so. The instrumental is nice and warm and has the usual feelgood vibes that you’d expect from a song like this, subdued for sure but there is a nice tempo to things along with some ear pleasing guitar riffs and a catchy beat to help it along nicely. In the vocal department this is a very “pure” performance from the MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN members with lots of natural vocal tones and a few rough edges that weren’t overly corrected in post production thankfully as that sort of thing definitely gives songs like these a bit more depth and authenticity to them than some highly produced and very shiny treatment might otherwise have offered. Probably not much going on here that you haven’t heard from plenty of other songs in this style previously but it does provide a nice, positive moment in the middle of the album here and I think that that is something that a lot of us probably need right now so in that regard it’s certainly welcomed here for sure.
Its been a while since some of MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN’s older material has popped up on this release so kicking off the back half of the album is “KOi no KAKEZAN ABCDEFG” which also originally featured on the group’s major debut single. The gang’s almost all here, but you can still go back and read my initial thoughts on that release here in the meantime if you’d like to. The goal here was apparently to make a song that appeals to kids and I think they did a pretty good job of it with all of the sparkling effects, cheering and other such things that typically go into a kids song all present early on this one. It does eventually settle down into something a little more Piano Pop in nature but the energy we opened with is maintained for the most part and the vocals are brimming with both the personality and enthusiasm that is required to carry a song of this nature. Things naturally tick back up a bit for the choruses which mark the return of the sort of style and tone that kicked the track off, so they do actually do a pretty good job of tying this all together here honestly. All very playful and fun sounding throughout, which might not be the sort of thing that most people are looking for from a WACK group but I’ve been enjoying hearing all of these new influences that MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN have been incorporating into their sound so far. Granted I’m definitely not in the target age demographic for this one but I don’t think that should preclude me or anyone else from enjoying this track and much like most of this album it’s a nice change of pace from the typical WACK output so I suppose there’s also a bit of a novelty factor involved here too.
It’s back to the business of new material for the next track “Kira wareta yūki” though and a very throwback, 80s Pop instrumental is the first thing to wash into the ears upon pressing play. Really smooth, synthesizer driven stuff so we’re already checking a lot of the boxes as far as things that I personally like to hear are concerned at least. By the time we reach the first few verses they’ve even managed to build in a funky guitar riff to add even more dimension to the track, and another box for me to tick off. Vocally this one is a bit of a Ballad but that’s to be expected given the style of song we’re working with here and to be fair a lot of the lines do still have a bit of edge to the tone in which they’re being delivered so it’s by no means anywhere close to a monotone affair. That being said, when it comes to the choruses in my personal opinion it does sort of sound like they’re over-singing them a bit or maybe there’s just too much volume compared to the instrumental. Whatever it is, it introduces this rather harsh element to the song that really goes against the smooth flowing-ness of the instrumental so it was interesting decision to say the least. Not enough to ruin the track for me or hopefully anyone else either but yeah, not what I would have done. Outside of that it’s all pretty straightforward stuff but that’s fine if it works and it’s not like a lot of this stuff back in the day some intricately layered piece of work. A couple of strong melodies, a catch hook or two for good measure and you’ve got a pretty decent retro Pop song on your hands.
Just when you thought we couldn’t possibly be able to add any more genres into this melting pot of an album, along comes “Boku dake no kaitō” to add a bit of Indie Rock into the mix. Some mildly flangey, but very bright guitar riffs are making up much of the instrumental melody here as the track gets underway, accompanied by a fairly simple but also rather ear pleasing drumbeat which all comes together to leave a pretty positive impression on the listener. When the vocals eventually come in they’re cutting a much more lowkey tone and contrasting all of the brightness of the instrumental with some lower, more gloomy sounding notes. It all works decently enough together but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting here if I’m honest and I’m still not really sure how to feel about it either. They do bring the energy up a decent amount for the choruses I’ll give them that, but like on a previous track I feel like we stray off into over-singing territory a bit here once again and the synthesizer melody they lay over the top of the instrumental is washing things out to a not so enjoyable degree. The lyrical content on the whole here isn’t the strongest we’ve heard on the album either which probably isn’t really helping either but maybe I’m just being a bit too harsh given everything that came before. There’s a pretty decent song in here still, it’s just there’s a lot of little things that add up to take some of the shine off which is unfortunate but it happens sometimes. This is all of course just one person’s opinion though, and there are still a lot of positives to take away from this one and it’s definitely far from being the worst thing that’s come out of WACK in recent years that’s for sure.
We finally complete the trilogy of tracks from MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN’s major debut single “AAA” with the inclusion of “iMA” in this album’s #10 spot. Again, initial thoughts on all of the songs featured on that release can be found here if you aren’t already sick of me mentioning it. Another fairly Ballad-y type of deal going on here with some keyboards and emotionally charged guitar riffs building up the desired mood as the track starts to get going. Some drums join the party along the way and we’re setting a pretty nice tempo by the time the vocals show up to do their thing. Another pretty pleasant sounding performance from the MAMESHiBA girls, nothing too flashy to speak of just a nice mid-tempo style of delivery with an appropriate level of emotion being conveyed to tie everything back into the instrumental. The choruses offer the expected spike in emotional energy that you’d want from a song like this, and the lyrical hooks here are also pretty strong which isn’t something that you always get out of this style of music so that was nice to hear too. That’s kind of how things go for much of the track until we hit the bridge towards the end and a pretty awesome guitar solo leads us into the highly emotionally charged and impressively executed closing section of the song. A highlight here for sure along with the choruses. Your enjoyment of this one probably hinges on how much you like mid-tempo Ballad-y stuff but I can certainly appreciate the fact that WACK managed to resist the urge to serve up yet another Punk Ballad like the usually tend to at least. A bit more of a Symphonic Rock element to this one which gives us even more variety on what has already been a rather unique album track by track here.
The energy really gets brought down at the start of the album’s penultimate track “I need you”, with piano and a light amount of synthesizer ambiance creating a very pleasant but also incredibly low tension atmosphere. There is a bit of a build-up of sorts to the opening verses but it’s nothing too crazy and by the time the first few lines of lyrics ring out we haven’t really strayed too far from where we started in that regard. The vocals feature a somewhat unexpected Rap flow which does work pretty well with the instrumental to be fair and furthers the very chill vibe that we’ve been experiencing. The build up to, and the choruses themselves take us off in a more emotionally charged Ballad sort of direction once again though I have to say that the transition between the track’s two main styles here is a pretty seamless one and it’s hard not to be impressed by that. It does still sort of feel like they should be two separate songs if you really stop and think about it though but in the moment it really isn’t all that noticeable. I would say that I probably enjoyed the Rap stuff the most out of the two, mainly due to some of the higher notes being grasped at in the choruses and it’s also just a bit more enjoyable to me in general I suppose. There’s definitely a temptation to say that they probably could have done something a bit more interesting with this track than what we ended up with but it’s fine for what it is and if we’re going to be putting Ballads on Idol releases then I would much prefer them to be a bit different like this one is than the usual cookie cutter type of stuff that normally makes the cut. I guess it probably just depends what you’re into at the end of the day but there was more positives here than negatives for me at least.
Closing out the album is “TO THE FUTURE”, which has a pretty fitting title for an album’s final track at least. A nice upbeat synthesizer driven instrumental goes a long way to making sure that we’re ending things off on a nice positive note too and the little loops and effects that are layered into it add a welcomed element of fun to the whole thing as well. Vocally it’s a bit more straightforward than I was expecting initially but the MAMESHiBA girls keep their delivery in time with the main beat of the track and that helps to keep everything sounding nice and catchy to the ear even if the lyrics themselves aren’t the most complex thing that you’re ever likely to hear. When it comes to the choruses it’s a little hard not to feel let down by the lack of energy on the vocal side of things at least, as the instrumental is definitely giving a decent showing when it comes to that sort of thing. I don’t know, it just feels a bit flat I guess but it’s not exactly terrible either to be fair. That’s kind of the story of the track I guess, it’s pretty fun and decently catchy but I didn’t really feel like it went anywhere by the time I’d finished listening to it. There isn’t really a big highlight to point to and while there is a bit of progression it’s nothing crazy and granted there are several fairly nuanced elements going on here it just doesn’t feel like anything leaves that big of an impression on the listener. A perfectly fine closing track don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it was quite the high note we could have ended on or that I was personally hoping for.
“Mamejor!” is honestly one of the most diverse works that WACK have probably put out in a long time. Each track has a pretty distinctive personality to it which makes for a lot of variety in tone, style and what have you so you’re probably not going to be bored listening to this one. You’re also probably not going to like absolutely everything that you’re going to hear but that’s just the nature of trying to cast a wide net which is clearly the intent here. We’re trying to catch the ears of as many potential new fans as possible and I think that they’ll probably be pretty successful in that effort too.
At this point it’s very clear that MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN are being positioned to be the “mainstream friendly” WACK group if you will. Say what you want about BiSH but there are certain demographics that they’re just never going to appeal to and you can tell that MAMESHiBA no TAiGUN are going to attempt to fill those gaps based on the content of this album. They should do a pretty good job of it too I would imagine as they’ve got everything behind them that’s needed to succeed and considering the group is still so new they’re already in a really good position to really explode in popularity given the right conditions and the stars aligning just right.