The year is nearly over so I thought I’d run down my favourite ten H!P singles of the year. The only ones still to be released are already available to listen to and watch on DohhhUp. I’ll also give my thoughts on the pv’s where the mood takes me just because…well H!P can be so wonderfully visual.
10. C-ute – Forever Love.
C-ute had never really appeared on my radar until this release. Sure I’ve noticed some members through other work such as Yajima Maimi singing with Nacchi on 16sai no Koi Nante which is a perfectly decent song. And of course there’s the aptly cute Airi Suzuki in Buono! Then of course there’s Maimi again in the excellent High-King. Okay so I knew two of them but that’s two more than I knew this time last year. Then intrigued by the suits on the cover of their latest single (yes I am that easily intrigued) I decided to check out Forever Love. Well I’m a sucker for a good pop tune and if it’s even vaguely guitar-based then even more so. This song has the tune and some guitars and then gets a further tick for those ever so cute “I love you” bits. Listen to it just twice and you’ll find yourself humming it. A third time is then inevitable and so on it goes. Oh and I like the suits…if not the other clothes on display in their pv.
9. Abe Natsumi – Screen.
Probably the baby-faced one’s last H!P single. I’d have liked maybe a change of style as the one criticism I do have of Nacchi’s solo career is that it tends towards the same type of music a lot. Even so this is a good enough finale for her Hello!Project days. A more mature type of song than the rest of the songs on this list. A sign of Nacchi’s stature really. I think her voice sounds great in this. I like the bits where her voice reaches up and finds a new level. Screen would fit on her best of album very well if only it had been included. This song takes a few listens for it’s charms to become apparent but it’s worth taking the time to let that happen. As for the pv well I’ve already posted some thoughts here. I think the one criticism of the pv would be it’s a bit too static. But Nacchi looks great and does all that’s asked of her. I wouldn’t have minded more than just the one room in the pv though. It’s been done before with her. Hopefully the move to UFA will give her career a new impetus. Is it too much to hope for an injection of fresh blood behind the scenes and some new ideas on the direction she should go in?
8. Ongaku Gatas – Come Together.
What we’d call a grower but none the worse for it. Sometimes the songs that only unravel their hooks after a few listens are the ones that last the longest. This isn’t a blindingly brilliant song but it is good. It’s solid. I always like a good guitar based pop song and we get one here. We also get hand claps. Never a bad thing. I am still happily listening to this song a few months on. It may not be top of my list but it’s still a song that deserves a place on it. I think it’s my favourite of OG’s three singles so far. It comes from a different kind of place to the other singles on this list. It’s upbeat but in a slightly more mature way than a lot of the others. It doesn’t catch you up and speed you along like some songs but then it doesn’t attempt to. It’s a feel-good song that creeps up on you instead and has you humming it before you even realise it had entered your head. As for the pv well women in boots, skirts and leather jackets is never a bad choice. Add that mock kiss and some fun backstage scenes and again, while it doesn’t hit you full in the face, it does get into your system. Also Konno = enjoyment always.
7. Morning Musume – Resonant Blue.
I’ve often thought that Morning Musume tended to be a bit lightweight when it came to albums. They have had so many good singles but on the whole their albums have tended to disappoint me. Based on their previous singles Mikan and Onna ni Sachi Are I was expecting the next album, when it came, to be much like their 4th, 5th and 6th albums. A few okay songs and some poor kiddie appeal stuff that even most kids wouldn’t find appealing. Then along came Resonant Blue and I was thinking that actually maybe what we’ll get is something a bit cooler. Something like albums 7 and 7.5 (only hopefully without the words Shige-Pink and Koharu-Pink appearing anywhere). Of course in the end what we got was a cover versions album so all this is irrelevant for the time being. But I do hope that if we get another Morning Musume album at some stage in the future that it leans towards the Resonant Blue style of music. Something with a more modern sounding vibe. Although I didn’t dislike their previous two singles this is much more my kind of thing. Like with High-King this is all about Lovely and Reina. They are the two stars of MM at the moment. They combine with Koharu to give us some strong vocals to lead the music and the backing ooh‘s and help me‘s. When this song got to number 3 I was so pleased. MM dead? Hah. Not quite yet. Not quite. Oh and the pv(s) were great. We got something a bit more than the usual close up and then dance formula. Everyone got their own little moments. More pv’s like that would be good.
6. Mano Erina – Lucky Aura.
To be honest I don’t even remember the cute polite one being in Ongaku Gatas. I remember when her graduation was announced I was mainly thinking “who’s she?” But I am very glad she did leave. Her solo career has started off in promising style. Her first single had enough about it to suggest better things and her second single delivered on that promise very quickly. The start and finish of this single sound unlike any other H!P song from any artist or artists under 20 I’ve yet heard. A smooth, strangely harmonious voice and a piano prick your ears up before the music kicks in proper and you get this…addictive oddity. A dance style song that kind of musically sounds like it belongs in the eurodisco 90′s but with a piano that gives it more quality. A cute voice that does seem a bit unwavering in tone but that itself seems appealing. I’ve heard people say she needs singing lessons to emote more and I can kind of see where that is coming from but at the same time that kind of jarring lack of range actually adds to the song. It just sounds great but slightly strange to me. A kind of unusuaI not quite 100% polished song. I like that. Imperfection can catch the ear more sometimes. I have no doubt her voice will improve but even if she never betters this song for overall pleasure, as long as she at least equals it I’ll be buying her music. She is a bright new light in the H!P world.
5. Buono! – Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!
The best sounds-like-it-should-be-the-theme-tune-to-an-American-comedy-series-about-a-group-of-young-friends song H!P have ever released. Pure joy. It’s even got a harmonica. How can you not be won over? A perfect pick me up. It makes me feel about ten years younger. Oh who am I kidding…fifteen years younger. It’s pure unadulterated energy and joy. The pv is great too. In it Momoko is funny, Airi cute and Miyabi becoming quite beautiful in a cool way. Buono! seem to lead the way when it comes to interesting pv’s. Excepting Rottara Rottara we tend to get more going on than just singing and dancing. There’s more humour and character to them. This one has the mock playing of instruments, the funny use of Momoko’s height, the playing up of Momoko’s weird personality (the reading part), Airi reminding me of Konno with her little looks and gestures and we get cute uniforms too. A pv that does the song justice. That’s the Buono! way.
4. Berryz Koubou – Dschinghis Khan.
Possibly the most wonderfully catchy song that you shouldn’t like that you will ever hear. How can a German Eurovision song contest entry from the 70′s – about Genghis Khan of all people – be taken by a bunch of Japanese teenage girls and made into something so brilliant? It’s a funny old world. You just have to let all the uh‘s and ah‘s take over you. Resistance is futile. It’s the kind of song that cheers you up when you are having a bad day as you just can’t help but be won over by it’s insanity. It’s 3 minutes of perfect pop. The Mongolian Dance pv is my favourite. Mainly because I’m a narky old git and don’t want to watch a bunch of kids jumping around…well except the ones who are Berryz members obviously.
3. Buono! Renai Rider.
It’s a Miyabi and Momoko treble. Three in a row. This is a great song. Lively, sunny and with a great pronunciation of “double peace” from Airi Suzuki. I can listen to the song countless times without it starting to get boring and the pv is the same. I never tire of watching it. As usual with Buono! the pv is as entertaining as the song. A rarity with H!P sometimes. Somehow with Buono they manage to inject some extra ingredient that’s normally missing from other groups. In the pv Airi Suzuki is kawaii, Miyabi Natsuyaki is cool and Momoko Tsugunaga is funny…again. All three have a great style in it. This is my kind of H!P look. Kind of timeless. At once both modern and a throwback to the past. How attractive is Miyabi becoming? She looks great here. In quality the pv matches the song perfectly. The song has a sense of fun, of energy, of youth. It’s catchy as hell. The pv takes that and smashes it straight into your brain. Great song, great pv, great release.
2. High-King – C\C (Cinderella\Complex).
Another rare occasion where H!P manage to bring us a great song with a great pv. Where with Buono! you get a pv full of fun cuteness that perfectly matches Renai Rider and Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! here you get cool and sexy dancing, great style and Takahashi doing that thing with her hand that could be annoying but really isn’t. Reina is as sexy as ever (in fact probably even more so than ever before), Takahashi looks more beautiful than she has in Morning Musume in the past year at least, Maimi starts her own move towards some kind of wider recognition by not looking at all out of place next to the two bigger stars, Maeda is a cute little thing and Saki is…well…Saki. The song is more towards the urban style of pop that I’ve just made up. Urban pop. Yeah that’ll do. It’s urban pop. Definitely pop music but with an urban, modern sound. The song flies along and, crucially, can be listened to about a thousand times without losing it’s impact. It’s another great example of a song that just drags you along with it. No matter what mood you were in this song is going to have you moving to it’s rhythm. And really, considering it’s Takahashi & Reina, why would you want to refuse?
1. V-U-den – Nanni mo Iwazu ni I Love You.
Biyuden (or however you want to spell them) are in my opinion one of the most underrated groups H!P had. They were disbanded far too soon. However in this their swansong they at least went out in style. Even though it’s a cover version it feels 100% theirs. By the time the song builds to it’s wonderful crescendo it has gone straight into your heart. Do you feel that? That’s love. This song was love at first hearing. A classy song that is deserving of three beautiful women to sing it. It’s a very rare occassion when a song with a ballad aura doesn’t make you want to violently projectile vomit across the room and onto your midi system/iPod deck or whatever but this song manages it. Somehow the song feels joyous and not mawkish. It feels like a celebration of love for the group itself. Just check out the la la la’s at the end and try not to feel swept up in it. Please treasure me says the lyrics (only in Japanese obviously). For a final song it’s a good sentiment. V-U-den will be treasured. All three members will be. Yes even the far too often overlooked (including by me) Erika. Best H!P song of the year. No doubt in my mind. It sweeps it soars and it takes you with it heart and soul. If you can avoid being swept up in it’s finale you have no heart. Simply beautiful.
The pv serves the song well and deserves a paragraph of it’s own. The grainy cinecam style picture on the outdoor scenes gives the pv a warm nostalgic feel while the indoor scenes are all elegance and beauty. Somehow the pv matches the mood of the song perfectly. It gives a feel of remembering and appreciating the past while loving the present and looking to the future. V-U-den always had far more interesting pv’s than anyone else. This one brings the curtain down perfectly.