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Hello Project 2010 Poll

I absolutely adore ptom’s annual Hello! Blog poll, but this year has been the most difficult to choose.  No more elders, no more interesting solo members, no more Koharu!  The hardest members I found to rank were C-ute and S/mileage – I just don’t know enough about many of them to rank them highly.  So let’s have a look at the method to my rankling madness!

  1. Reina Tanka – really we don’t need much explanation here.  I love Reina’s style, her voice, and the amount of glitter she applies on tour.
  2. Lin Lin – My favourite vocalist of MM – and funny to boot!
  3. Jun Jun – Another form of MM comic relief!  I love her personality and confused faces she seems to pull in all her photos.
  4. Captain – favourite Berryz member.  Cutest Berryz member.
  5. Sayumi – Sayu for next MM leader.  Great personality and really carries the group in interviews.
  6. Risako – Loving her “can’t be arsed” attitude.  Can’t believe she’s the youngest Berry
  7. Chinami – Most beautiful Berryz member
  8. Yurina – Another favourite Berry for me!  Don’t know why.
  9. Risa – Gaki, your voice is getting better – not sure on the new hair but you’re still great.
  10. Ai – *yawn* she needs a solo career
  11. Maimi – Excellent solo on C-ute’s latest album.  Love her new hair.
  12. Airi – Voice of C-ute, although I know more about her from Buono!  Nothing dislikable 🙂
  13. Maasa – She’s cute and sweet 🙂
  14. Manoeri – Slightly boring songs now and then, but I will agree that she is the Ranka Lee of Hello! Project
  15. Eri – *yawn* your head is too big for your body, and you seem to have 0 personality
  16. Mai Mai – Love her from her days with Koharu in Kira Pika
  17. Momo – Fake cuteness annoys me
  18. Miyabi – get rid of those extensions and you’ll rank higher next year.
  19. Teeth of C-ute
  20. Someone from C-ute
  21. The one from S/mileage who wasn’t in Shugo Chara Egg
  22. The one who played Ayu in the stage play of Shugo Chara
  23. You have a mini hat, which is far better than a beret
  24. Beret yori mini-hat
  25. Aika – I find your facial expressions annoying, and you’re not cool enough to pull off that hair style

But more important, and my favourite feature this year is the band ranking:

  1. Berryz Kobo – this group have grown so much over the last year, and been given some brilliant singles.  This aside, they’re the group emitting the most charisma and Hello! Project energy at the moment.  Although they have a lot to compete with, in respect to the vast history which Morning Musume has, they also don’t have the expectations placed on them.
  2. Buono! – Taking three of the strongest Hello! Project kids and puting them into one super group, you can’t go wrong.  I love my music with a twist of rock to, so Buono! are really hitting the spot right now.
  3. Morning Musume – Are only third for one reason – their history.  I can’t think of Morning Musume without thinking about Love Machine, Kago-chan, Yossie, Gomaki, Mari-pi etc.  However their current format is really beginning to irritate me.
  4. Erina Mano – She breaks you down until you can’t do anything but like her.  ManoEri has had some pretty crap singles, and my favourite one (Love + Peace = Paradise) didn’t chart to well.  Still, she’s cute and likable, and hopefully will go far.
  5. C-ute – Suffering from loosing 2 members recently, C-ute’s only redeeming feature recently, for me, has been their album.  I think they need new members or to let their three backing dancers have a few more lines.
  6. Guardians4 – A few weak singles, a few strong ones.  Party Time was epicly deathloopable!
  7. S/mileage – I’ve only recently heard their single which sounds similar to a song from Rythm Paradise (their first indies single).  They haven’t caught my attention much yet, hopefully once they make their major debut they’ll catch my eye a little more.

So there we go!  I’m pretty sure there’s no surprises here.  The biggest change since last year is my love of Berryz and my increased love of Sayu,  Hey, maybe next year we’ll find S/mileage high up in my lists!  Let’s hope this year is just as interesting for Hello! Project as the last!

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Oricon Top 10 – 2010/03/10

  1. Arashi – Troublemaker (542,334) NEW
  2. Sid – sleep (41,440) NEW
  3. Berryz Kobo – Otakebi Boy WAO! / Tomodachi ni Tomodachi nanda! (25,197) NEW
  4. Mai Kuraki – Eien Yori Nagaku / Drive me crazy (23,240) NEW
  5. Hey! Say! Jump – Hitomi no Screen (22,930) DOWN
  6. Hannya, Fruits Punch – Onara Hazukashikunai yo / Pirameki tasou (11,577) DOWN
  7. AKB48 – Sakura no Shiroi (10,545) DOWN
  8. Kana Nishino – Best Friend (10,502) DOWN
  9. Anzenchitai – Aoi Bara/Wine Red no Kokoro (2010 version) (9,995) NEW
  10. KAT-TUN – Love yourself ~ kimi ga kirai na kimi ga suki~ (9,452) DOWN

 I know, it’s late – I use this for my on reference hence why I post it 🙂  Berryz Kobo achieve their first #3 (their highest position in the Oricon), with a lot of other singles holding in there.  Arashi smash through the 500k mark with their new single – not even a double A side! Sid come in a deservid second – real high sales for a VK band!

Disgruntled Morning Musume fan, looking for new idol group!

Ever since I knew what Hello! Project was, I’ve always firmly set my alliance with Morning Musume.  I’ve defended them to the death over other units, and have always thought that their singles, album, members, management and promotion have been above par when compared to other idol groups.

But since Koharu’s graduation, that magic and momentum that’s kept Morning Musume going is becoming overshadowed by, not only other units within H!P, but also by sub-units such as Buono!.  My main shift however is being that from Morning Musume to Berryz Kobo – why? – because Berryz Kobo are now embracing, what seems to be, the much loved, hyped and talked about “Golden Era” which Morning Musume had, single-wise.

This conclusion of mine isn’t widespread or taken up by everyone – which I fully appreciate.  Berryz Kobo have never, and most likely, never will be, as big sellers, or as big stars as the OG Morning Musume.  And you have to look at the sheer opposition that all H!P artists face from other idol groups like AKB48 and Perfume – which isn’t exactly a bad thing (I’ll explain that in a little while, I need to calm down my crazier claims first).

I have a few issues with the golden era of Morning Musume, which fans dote on, and have been looking to reemerge for years.  What I would ask all these fans to think about, is if that music was released today, would it sell as well?  I’m not talking here about the music “aging” so much, but rather the other problems we’re facing at the moment – coming out of a massive recession, the rise of digital music, and the decline in single sales.  Then there’s the increase in competition – we’re seeing increasing numbers of “anisong” entering the charts and cutesy seiyuu who put some idols to shame.  Back 10 years ago, there was a sudden change in perspective in Japanese music, and things began to change quite rapidly.  Utada Hikaru began by bringing RnB more-or-less to Japan, which was followed by powerful diva’s such as Ayumi Hamasaki and Kumi Koda, and more recently, have allowed Namie Amuro to relaunch a pop career into the self-proclaimed “Queen of Hip-Pop”.  If we do use the “aging music” argument, it was a good time to be a woman, and to be around synths – 10 years later, that’s not so much the case anymore.

However, if you liked the old MM singles, then Berryz should be right up your street.  All their singles last year were of the kind of quality that you’d expect from Morning Musume – and their sales are generally on the up.  Where as MM now are tending to the more moody, pouty side of being an idol, Berryz are offering us that fun that once existed in singles like “I wish” and “Go Girl ~ Koi no Victory” -they’re a little more quirky.  In otherwords, they’ve been given the fun, energetic songs.  There’s also not the problem of “Ai-ism” with Berryz (again I’ll explain that one a little later) – okay, Risako does get a lot of focus, but the other girls still actively get lines and screen time.

However, there is one major thing putting me off of Berryz, and thats completly my own doing – as I can’t tell all the members apart yet.  Okay, Miyabi and Momo are easy to spot – and I have a soft spot for Captain, and if you didn’t know which one was Risako, I’d question if you’d ever heard a Berryz track or seen a PV.  Yurina I can also, at a strain, point out, but Maasa and Chinami (and yes, I did have to look up their names) seem to slide into non-existance.

Maybe I’m being to harsh here – trying to turn myself into a Berryz fan without enough knowledge.  Becoming an MM fan took a lot of patience – watching clips and concerts and interviews.  With Berryz, I haven’t yet invested that time – I’ve seen them in Hello! Project concerts, as well as their tour from last year (which I have to admit, did really impress me).  Finding individual’s characters takes time… am I willing to invest it though?  And how do I know to do so with Berryz?

Also, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot more competition these days.  Morning Musume wasn’t just a girl group, it held a large number of girls at varying ages – which was probably a factor in its success – the small ones could be sent off to make a kids subunit, while the rest could be shuffled into a “Sexy 8” or a “Happy 7” mixing and matching to create various combinations.  Hello! Projects only real competition seemed to be within itself, and that obviously became a bad thing.  Lack of idol groups, being number one, it makes you lazy if no ones nipping at your heals, and was enabled bands like AKB48 and Perfume to push in front of Morning Musume.  However, as it’s done with myself, it provides fans with choice

But there is something a little frightening here, as a “Hello! Project fan” – as I’ve used Berryz and other groups more or less as a shield while I attack Morning Musume.  I haven’t manicly deathlooped Berryz albums as I have done with Morning Musume, nor have I spent as long admiring them.  The problem here is simple: I’m unhappy with Morning Musume.  I think the main annoyance is stemming from this “Ai-ism”.  Ai is the star of Morning Musume – there’s no doubt about that.  Morning Musume has previously had stars which overshadowed the rest of the group – namely Natsumi Abe and Maki Goto – but the difference back then was that the rest of the group didn’t simply pale into the background.  Instead, there were ass-kicking harmonies going on, as well as the fact that lines were more evenly distributed.  Sub-units were created which showcased the other girls skills.  Morning Musume is now suffocating the group by not allowing anyone other than Ai to really take the spotlight.  Not only is she the leader, she’s the main singer – the person who’s most recognised from the group.  This is becoming more than slightly dangerous, as the eighth generation of Morning Musume are becoming more-or-less redundant.

So what does a fan do here?  I obviously don’t have the same reasons as all fans for loving Morning Musume – or idol groups in general – I’m in it for the personality, the music, the brilliant costumes, and not so much the photobooks with bikini-shots (I know everyone thinks I’m lying here!).  But do I settle up, and spend my time ruthless following another group – or hope to see more 8th generation, new auditions and a general change in the way Morning Musume is doing what they do… gosh!  There’s just too much sentimentality attached to this now!

Album Count-Down 2010!

I’m actually stunned at the number of albums coming out over the next few months.  Considering that albums sell worse than singles, and all 4 major Hello! Project acts had at least one album last year, it’s a bit of a shock.  Not only are C-ute, Buono! and the over-due Berryz Kobo releasing new, original albums, Morning Musume are also bringing us fresh material (well I won’t complain – we had to wait two years before!).

As well as H!P releases, there are two nice additions – Melon Kinenbi’s new album which features last year’s collaboration singles, and talento Ai Kago is also releasing an (overdue?) album.  What’s exactly happened to Kago-chan since last summer is slightly mysterious, so I’m quite interested in hearing what her music, as one single isn’t much to go by – so, in order of release, let’s start the great album countdown of 2010.

Buono! – We Are Buono!

I’d be lying if I said I was excited about this album, albiet that I’ve heard and really enjoyed some of their earlier album tracks before: Buono! seem to have lost a lot of that momentum they previously had.  Also the novelty of a sub-unit has rubbed off a bit, as they’ve been overshadowed by the revival of previous shuffles in 2009, as well as Guardians4 pushing for the lime-light.  With falling sales and a lack of mainstream excitement, it’s easy to over look that they are still a powerful group within Hello! Project – containing three of the most talented singers that came out of H!P kids.  Although they’re my, (do I dare to say it) favourite sub group ever to come out of Hello! Project – it would be nice to see them grow out of that Shugo Chara persona and evolve into a more mature group.  As the girls are now getting older, I could even see a V-U-DEN style working with them (there!  I said it!  I’m aghast with myself). 

However, with some cracking singles on this album (such as Bravo Bravo and My Boy), I’m sure many fans will have already pre-ordered this!  I’m hoping to find something a bit more fresh on this album.

Anticipation: Moderate
Expectation: High
Release Date: 3rd February

Melon Kinenbi – Melon’s Not Dead

Even the name of this album makes me smile!  It seems that this group, who were severely underused and underrated toward the end of the Elder Club era of Hello! Project have become pretty cool again.  Dropping out of Hello! Project and that idol image enabled them to release some awesome collaboration singles with rock bands in 2009.  Their new album features of all their collaboration singles which were released limited edition at Tower Records stores, plus new tracks, and a new collaboration with the BEAT CRUSADERS.  Although I doubt Melon’s will ever achieve the type of main stream success and recognition that some of their Elder Club colleagues had, it’s nice to see that they’re still active, and that they’re taking an approach they seem to want to.  This was a must for me from the release date!

Also, the album art… well it’s pretty crazy, and I’m not sure I exactly rate the stripy dresses the girls are wearing, but at the same time, I think it gets across the pop-rock persona of Melon’s pretty well!  It’s pretty interesting, and a lot better than the usual pouting idol shots we get on front covers.

Anticipation: High
Expectation: High
Release Date: 17th February

C-ute – Shocking 5

After what many fans called a terrible album last year, C-ute are back with their 5th original album, containing singles  BYE BYE BYE, EVERYDAY Zekkouchou!! and a remix of Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu as well as SHOCK.  C-ute haven’t been faring too well lately, and personally, I have always ranked them below Berryz for their lack of ability to push any singer forward other and Airi or Maimi – I also haven’t heard a really catchy track since “LALALA Shiawase no uta” – which is very disappointing, considering some of their indie tracks are more addictive than current singles.  Apparently there are two Airi solo’s on the album as well (I think fans are including SHOCK as one of them) – maybe C-ute fans are more forgiving as there are less of them – but if any Momusu member attempted that on an album these days, I think there’d be murders!

C-ute have reached a very criticle time as a group however – with 2 members leaving in a year and no replacements to be seen, this album and the success of various tracks could be what will pave the future of C-ute – whether it be continue to push Airi and Maimi in the mainstream singles, or to let the other three girls have a go.  At the same time, this album will mark the end of an era, containing the last singles with vocals from Kanna and Erika.

Anticipation: Low
Expectations: Moderate
Release Date: 24th February

Guardians4 feat. ShugoChara Egg & Buono! – Shugo Chara Album (Title Unknown)

Well this is a turn up for the books.  I’m not exactly sure what this album entails, but from the extract posted on H!O’s twitter feed, it looks like it has all the Guardian4 singles, the Shugo Chara Egg singles and b-sides and “Minna Daisuki” and “Kokoro no Tamago” by Buono! – no new material it seems?  Maybe I’m wrong, my Japanese reading is atrocious.  So would I buy it?  To be quite frank, out of all the new albums coming out, it wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but certainly something I’m considering taking up at a later date.  I’m interested in seeing the full track listing first though, as it looks more like a single collection of the less-rocky openings and endings for Shugo! Chara.

Anticipation: Low
Expectations: Moderate
Release Date: March 10th

Morning Musume – 10 My Me

It almost seems to quick for Morning Musume to be releasing another album, following relatively poor sales of the previous Platinum 9 Disc just last year.  I’m quite unsure what to expect from this album to be perfectly honest, and assuming it will be holding their three previous singles and Onna ga medatte naze ikenai which will be released in February.  Anticipating the album tracks is usually the most fun thing about these albums – there’s usually got to be a “kick ass” song on there which will be used as an opener, like SONGS, Genki+ or How do you like Japan?.  Following this, there’s usually a mish mash of ballads, fun pop and a bit of RnB.

But theres also the part of me that has seen Morning Musume pushing their die hard fans away for the mainstream.  All the reports I’ve heard of the relatively low sales at concert (although that could be more dependant on Hello! Project as a whole), may mean that this album could keep closer to the mainstream moody RnB and ballads.  A lack of fun concert songs like Guru Guru jump would really upset me, but the way things are going with Hello! Project, and the need to keep Morning Musume alive – it may be a necessity, if only just to keep the album in the top 20.

Then again, the name “10 My me” sounds a little more idolish than previous single titles, maybe it’s actually going to be an album which gives a bit more hope back to fans that Morning Musume haven’t reverted into a band more a-kin to their early singles.  To be quite honest however, as long as there’s not another Sayumi solo, I can’t see much I would dislike about this album in general.

Anticipation:  High
Expectations: Moderate
Release Date: 17th March

Ai Kago – Album Untitled

After remaining quiet for a while, Ai Kago has reemerged.  The first 6 months of last year seemed to be pretty busy for her, and I’ve made various comments left, right and centre about my feelings on that.  Her repeated scandal made me loose, near-enough, all intrest in her, until her single No Hesitation came out.  I began to gain a little respect for her, which was nice, as I’ve always, pre-2009, been fully supportive of Aibon, and felt that she had been let down buy UFA, her management and the people around her.  Based on her previous single, there’s little we can really place on expectations, but hopefully, her vocals may be slightly stronger than before.  Nothing more to do than wait and see here!

Expectations: None
Anticipation: Moderate
Release Date: March 24th

Berryz Kobu – 6th Otakebi

Really?  This is really Berryz 6th album – somehow the number 6th seems an epoch longer than the distance between 4th and 5th – but still – congratulations Berryz – you’re tying with Ayaya now with the most number of original albums released for a group in Hello! Project – and let’s be honest, you’re never going to surpass Morning Musume.  Enough of the waffle, this is the last in the 2 month album spree – and another one I’m looking forward too.  Obviously, the cards are still being held close about what will be on this album, other than an Inazuma 11 tie in song – but I’m hopping to see most songs from their double a-side bonanzer (I’m also hoping to see Dakishmete Dakishimete on there – one can always hope!).  All of their single of 2010 impressed me, not only in the bands ability to perform them, but it almost seemed as if tsunku had recreated a the golden era Morning Musume type songs in both style and arrangement.  It’s just a shame this music isn’t as popular as it used to be.

Berryz had a brilliant year in 2009, and to me, are still well in front of C-ute in many ways.  I feel they’re coming of age and really hope they can push forward more with 2010 – they’re singing the songs I want Morning Musume to sing, while their vocals are all becoming stronger!  They were my favourite H!P act of 2009, and sadly, I still don’t even own one of their albums!  This will change however, as it’s going right on my pre-order list.  I’m not too sure what to expect from the album tracks – I haven’t really paid attention to Berryz album tracks before… hopefully this will enlighten and surprise me.

Expectations: High
Anticipation: High
Release Date: 30th March

Guardians4 – Going On!

It feels like forever since I’ve done a single / pv review, although it was just back in December that I was briefly writing about Bravo Bravo, another Shugo Chara Party theme.  This time however, we have the “cute” side of  the Shugo Chara singles in “Going On! by Guardians4.

Following up from my obsession of PARTY TIME, Guardians4 is becoming a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine – if some of my friends found out that this group is making me warm to Mitsui, I may be kicked out of certain circles.  It’s also countering my pig-ignorance of knowing who no one is in either C-ute or Berryz unless they’re in Buono!  The group all sound pretty good together as well, unlike some ill-fated subunits.  Although I find it a little disheartening that they’re not really doing anything as daring as Buono!’s singles, it’s nice to have some light-hearted-ness added back into Hello! Project while some groups, Morning Musume especially, are heading down a more mature route with their singles.

Unfortunately, I can’t see myself doing the same death-loop tactic with this song as I did with the previous single.  It’s a little too childish and synthy for my liking, and shows how dividing lines up equally can make a pretty predictable song – I’m not saying it’s bad, I just find it slightly boring compared to some of their previous attempts!  Maybe it’s the slightly slower tempo, or simply the lack of punch.  Shugo Chara openings, also, sound more than slightly predictable since Buono! vacated their role – the chorus will have something to do with Shugo Chara (like an attack chant or in this case “Watashi no Heart Unlock”) and be pretty catchy, the verusus with dwindle a little and the whole thing will be pretty upbeat.

What doesn’t help this, more-or-less, unoriginal song is that the PV is the usual Hello! Project “let’s not bother to try and add any kind of direction or narrative – cute girls dancing around with some close ups” – although I have to say, my favourite part of the pv is the posing with the fruit and vegetables, although why Mitsui, Risako and Nakki get quite traditional vegetables and Kumina gets a pineapple, I don’t quite understand!  There’s also people dressed up as animals!  Yes, other people (kind of!) in a H!P PV?!?! The dance is also… well pretty crap in the instrumentals between the chorus and the verses.  I’m starting to think I’d like the song better if I hadn’t of seen the PV first.

Put the song back into perspective however, it’s a pretty decent anisong – and it’s also hard to follow up such a great song as Party Time, I just hope their next single packs a bit more punch to it!  It’s just a shame that Hello! Project sometimes lacks the consistancy of having more than 2 or 3 decent singles in a row at the moment.

Going on is released on the 20th January and c/w Arigato ~ Ookiku Kansha by Shugo Chara Egg. Check my twitter feed on the 20th to see if it’s on iTunes UK if you’re too lazy to check yourself!