Hello Project! – Petit Best 9

l_p1012362180As Hello! Project seem to be sinking into a deep abyss, how does this years “Petit Best” selection sum up their year musically.  From Morning Musume to Melon Kinenbi to MilkyWay the best of H!P is pushed onto this CD.

1. Resonant Blue (Morning Musume)
2. Genghis Khan (Berryz Koubou)
3. Edo No Temari II (℃-ute)
4. 16 Sai no Koi Nante (Natsumi Abe and Mami Yajima(℃-ute))
5. Kizuna (Aya Matsuura)
6. Nannimo Iwazuni I LOVE YOU (V-U-DEN)
7. Charisma Kiirei (Melon Kinenbi)
8. Papancake (Tsukishima Karin starring Koharu Kusumi (Morning Musume))
9. Anataboshi (MilkyWay)
10. Seihun! Love Lunch (Atena & Robikerotsu)
11. Come Together (Ongaku Gatas)
12. C\C (Cinderela Complex) (High King)
13. Renai Rider (Buono!)
14. Koerou! Rakuten Eagles ( ℃-ute)
15. LALALA Shiawase no Uta (Wonderful Hearts)
16. Oki Tegami (Miki Fujimoto)
17. Hana Ichimonme (Aya Matsuura)

Petit Best albums are great if you’re a H!P fan and short on cash.  You usually get a round up of the year’s best songs, plus a few extras.   However, more recently, be it lack of shuffle units, some of the special magic which held H!P together has gone, and sadly no one seems able to find out what is was or replicate the golden era.

1. Resonant Blue (Morning Musume)
Resonant Blue is a mature step up for Morning Musume, and a very strong single.  Heavily RnB based with a catchy guitar opening, and Tsunku doing his usual backing, this singe features the two strongest vocalists of the group (Reina and Ai) you do start to wonder where the other 7 members of Morning Musume have gone.   This is a very catchy track, and great to dance to (I was enjoying dancing to it a bit too much at Amecon this year).  The song does seem a bit to repetitive to have on repeat for to long, but I like that the make up of it is unique compared to other MM songs.

2. Genghis Khan (Berryz Koubou)
When I first heard this track, it reminded me of Koi no Dance Site, and it’s another favourite of mine from H!P this year.   The vocals aren’t great, and its another peice of oversynthed pop, but guess what, it works, because it isn’t pretentious about what it is.   Genghis Khan is a cover of a 1970s Eurovision entry, and somehow works very well for Berryz.  Now if Berryz songs were given to MM – I wonder if we could recreate a Golden Era.  Back to Berryz – it’s pure cheese, but it works!

3. Edo No Temari II (℃-ute)
Of all the singles C-ute released this year, this was by far the weakest, but for various reasons, my favourite single by them couldn’t appear on this CD.  Enka style, slow paced, I have no real problems with this track except it’s boring.

4. 16 Sai no Koi Nante (Natsumi Abe and Mami Yajima(℃-ute))
I’m in two minds about this track.  Firstly, I think it’s too childish for Natsume Abe – but in contrast, I quite like it.  It’s a typical over synthed H!P track with upbeat vocals and it’s not too slow.  However it’s an odd song in some ways, and a novel idea which didn’t seem to work sales wise.  It’s a cute song between Natsume and Mami from C-ute about 16 year old love compared to 26 year old love.

5. Kizuna (Aya Matsuura)
Kizuna isn’t the most wonderful song ever written, but it’s not bad, and Aya certainly does more than her fair share of work with the vocals.  It’s a sweet ballad, a bit generic, nothing special.

6. Nannimo Iwazuni I LOVE YOU (V-U-DEN)
A lot of people were disappointed that v-u-den’s last single would be a cover – but at least it’s a cover of a decent song, and it’s done very well.  I wouldn’t say it’s better than the original, and it’s the kind of song which drags on for longer than the listener wanting it to.  That aside, the girls do a brilliant job with it, and it’s a great song for a farewell.  It’s been slightly rearranged so it’s not simply a karaoke for them of Morning Musume’s original, gentle piano and strings open the track – it sounds a lot more romantic than the original but unfortunately all the girls vocals are too similar to distinguish them.

7. Charisma Kiirei (Melon Kinenbi)
From the most stable group in the H!P comes a disappointing, over synthed, badly arranged track which is saved by the strong vocals of Melons.  tsunku seems to have lost interest in these girls, which is such a shame as they’re so much better, vocally, than the majority of Wonderful Hearts.  The lyrics and vocals aren’t bad at all, the music just sounds sloppy and outdated.

8. Papancake (Tsukishima Karin starring Koharu Kusumi (Morning Musume))
No, I’m sorry, I can’t review this fairly.  Not only do I think Koharu Kusumi can’t sing, but this song is terrible and seems to have been made to accentuate the fact that she can’t.  When I look back in my notes about what I’ve written about this song, all I read is “ARUGH” – no it might be good for little kids, but I think anyone over the age of 12 or not a Koharu fan, more to the point, wont like.

9. Anataboshi (MilkyWay)
This song scares me – firstly because I like it in a strange way, and secondly because it’s weird.  Weird Celtic bagpipes with a heavy base and very hit-or-miss vocals.  Once again, for kids, but a little more catchy and tolerable.

10.Seihun! Love Lunch (Atena & Robikerotsu)
Yet more children’s songs, this a little more reminiscent of Mini Moni in style, but not executed in the same way that they did it.  It does sound like a track rejected from Lazy Town and the “Hai hai hai” does grind it down a little.

11. Come Together (Ongaku Gatas)
Considering the amount of talent in Gatas, they always seem to get rather naff songs which should be a MM b-side.  This song would actually be better than that (maybe worthy of an album track) if it didn’t have the weird bit post-chorus.  Considering that this group has three very strong vocalists (well compared to the rest of H!P at least), it should bias toward one of them and let the other singers do back up a bit more instead of trying to spread the lines as thinly as butter.  Cut back on the synths too – that would make it a lot more listenable!

12.C\C (Cinderela Complex) (High King)
This was an unexpected track in some ways, modern, cutting arrangement – but there’s something missing from making it as good as a Koda Kumi song.  Maybe they need someone else from Tsunku doing rapping and dragging it back to a “GET UP RAPPER” type parody.  Maybe it’s Yuuka Maeda’s voice isn’t really fitting to it.  Nevertheless, voices are layered really well, and it’s a great track.

13. Renai Rider (Buono!)
Tsunku must be soiling his pants realising that the highest selling H!P unit / artist is one which hasn’t had any songs written by him – and despite their anime link, Buono!’s success is mainly in the song writing in my honest opinion.  Renai Rider is a great track and possibly my favourite from H!P this year.  Rocky guitar, cute vocals, and a sight Hawaiian twist – there’s nothing unlikable about this track.

14. Koerou! Rakuten Eagles ( ℃-ute)
One of the few tracks I hadn’t heard before getting this album.  It’s a weird cheer-leading type song and nothing extraordinary special.  It more or less sounds like parts of other songs on this album stapled together in a half-baked attempt to get a track out.

15. LALALA Shiawase no Uta (Wonderful Hearts)
I first heard this on the group’s Kohaku and fell in love with the song.  It’s probably my favourite song from H!P song and a was dancing like an idiot to it at Ayacon, much to the rest of the con-goers dislike.  This version of the song sees each group taking a turn at singing, with some members getting solo lines.  This song is fun and optimistic – there’s not much more to it than that, and that’s why I love it.

16. Oki Tegami (Miki Fujimoto)
Miki, Miki, Miki – I sigh at you, because you have, by far, one of the best vocals the H!P has ever had.  However, singing Enka ballads which only hit a small audience don’t help you, and don’t demonstrate that you’re a brilliant artist.  Soft piano and beautiful strings, unfortunately it just sounds too dated.  It really pains me that this has been Miki’s only release this year and it’s considerably bad if you don’t like enka.

17. Hana Ichimonme (Aya Matsuura)
The only ew track of the album, but a cracker from Aya.  Her voice is beautifully surrounded by Oriental music and the chorus saves the track from becoming too dated and prefects the warm ballad with superb vocals.

The Verdict

When you compare the Hello! Project of today to yesterday’s golden era, it is unfair, because things have changed, and so has the music industry has also changed.  When you compare H!P to the rest of today’s J-Pop music, it’s mediocre at best, and somewhere along the line H!P have fully devoted themselves to please their wota fans rather than the whole of Japan.

Not only is this selection of their best songs typically weak, it shows that they’re also struggling as this years Pucchi Best, like last years, contains no remixes as it can only sell the album on the premise of having popular singles in their original form.  This Petit Best really gives us a mixed bag and further pushes across that UFA and H!P don’t know what direction to move in nor how to handle some of their older talents.  Despite this, amongst the mediocre tracks there are a handful of stellar tracks that make this album worth while.

Resonant Blue, C\, Renai Rider, Genghis Khan and Lalala Shiawase no Uta are the songs keeping H!P alive – but for how long, and don’t this tracks all contradict each other in direction?  Fans have been trying to persuade each other that MM and H!P are reaching out to grasp a new image, an image that’s clearly defined by these songs, with music moving toward a more popular genre.  The problem is, H!P cannot fully commit to leaving their old image behind, in fear of loosing fans – hence the graduation of the Elder Club to separate them as part of the same idol group.

So what does this album show?  Fear, apprehension, but the edges of new things where ideas haven’t fully taken flight.  2009 has the potential to be a good year for H!P and UFA if they can break down this wall they’ve shrouded their idols in, and also if they experiment more.

As a H!P fan, with the exception of the silly children’s songs, I rather enjoyed this compilation.  There are a few weak tracks, but the main strands are there.  I’m also a little surprised that H!P haven’t slipped a Erina Mano track on there, but oh well, I’m not a massive fan.  3/5 H!P – and keep improving – hopefully next year without the elders we’ll clearly see your diretion.

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Posted on December 15, 2008, in Album / EP, Hello! Project, J-Drama, J-Pop and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Well, I like Oki Tegami. It is powerful, subtle and overwhelming. But then. you have to like at least some Enka to appreciate. Maybe she could have let loose more. Her performance, at least the video, was a bit understated, but then again, pure undiluted Japanese. For that you have to like old style, it’s true.

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