Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Defining A Decade: First Time Idol Lover - The 10-Year Nostalgia Bomb That Is 'Nanchatte Ren'ai' by Morning Musume (Single Review)

*Any and all mistakes within this Review are indeed the error of a human, and therefore I hope to be forgiven. If mistakes are made, if mistakes are seen, please let me know as soon as they are spotted, for then I can erase and correct them. Though I can not erase the errors of my past, please allow me to erase the errors within my post. Thank you.

August 12th, 2009 marked the 40th single release for Morning Musume, and with that release came the birth of a fan. 10 years later a lot has changed, with new faces joining the group and older ones leaving. With all these changes and my own love for the group null and void, has the moving melody of Nanchatte Ren'ai been replaced by the bitter tones of dismay, or will the single hold up and bring me back to a better time?

Taking a leap back in time, let's take a look at the song that birthed my fandom and allowed the Platinum Era of Morning Musume to be recognised for the iconic girls that they are today. With style and maturity, will Nanchatte Ren'ai stand the test of time, or will it be left in the dust of the dilapidated building the group danced in so long ago? 

Let's wipe off the cobwebs, press play and find out.


Morning Musume need no introduction here, mostly because this group provided a lot of my main content back when I started out blogging. In general though, a lot of people know of Morning Musume, and a lot of people are aware of how great the Platinum Era was. In fact, it's the Platinum Era that created a whole host of new fans, people who loved the group for its maturity, their vocals and the interesting sound that Morning Musume had in plenty of their A-sides. They were cool, they didn't have a kiddish or youthful aura, and their music matched that style and tone. It was an interesting time for the group, and though their fans were far and few between at that point in Morning Musume's career, the Platinum Era has to be one of the most recognised lineups of all time.

2009 was the time I became a fan of Morning Musume, and though my love for the group began when it was closer to the tail-end of the Platinum Era, I can't help but recognise 2009 as a key year for me when it comes to the group itself. This was my starting point with idols I guess, even if it was Koharu who brought me to the attention of Morning Musume. But without this group I probably wouldn't have stayed around for too long. At that point in time, I was still heavily invested in anime and manga and only cared for anisong opening and ending tunes.

The Morning Musume of 2009 looked and felt cool, the vocals were mesmerising and the music spoke to me, I suppose. I didn't understand it, but the way it sounded was something that hooked me. I was only 16 at this point in time, so I was very much a moody teenager transitioning from secondary school to college, and seeing this group in their dark but elegant clothing, the way they sang and the prettiness of their choreography spoke to me. I liked it, and I loved how it contrasted with the typical cutesy, annoyingly generic idol songs that I absolutely adored way back when. 

Morning Musume stood out to me. At that time I hadn't experienced such a powerful, moving song like Nanchatte Ren'ai when it came to Japanese music. So it spoke to me, and after that I became hooked.

And with that memory in place I knew that I had to talk about this single. Nanchatte Ren'ai was essentially my gateway into the idol community, and with its 10 year Anniversary comes my own decade-long experience as an idol fan. Even though it feels like the song was released three years ago at most, Nanchatte Ren'ai is already 10 years old and creating its own landmark. It's unbelievable but true, and now I can't help but feel both nostalgic and overwhelmed. How has it been this long since the singles release?

Now it's time to take a look back at Nanchatte Ren'ai, a song that was released a decade ago. For myself and many others this single was a defining moment in our fandoms, and for plenty of us it was the start of something beautiful. So without further ado, let's pull out that dusty CD player and crack open that ancient CD case containing Nanchatte Ren'ai. It's time to see what defined our fandom one decade ago.

Are you ready to fall into a pit of nostalgia?


Nanchatte Ren'ai (なんちゃって恋愛)

Release Date: August 12th, 2009
Price: Types Limited A & B - ¥1,680 (approx. £13.05 / $15.84) / Regular & Commemorative Editions - ¥1,050 (approx. £8.16 / $9.90)

Editions: 4, Types Limited A and B, Regular Edition and 40th Single Commemorative Edition

Track List:

Limited A, B & Regular Edition

1. Nanchatte Ren'ai (なんちゃって恋愛)
2. Aki Urara (秋麗)
3. Nanchatte Ren'ai (Instrumental ver.)

40th Single Commemorative Edition

1. Nanchatte Ren'ai (なんちゃって恋愛)
2. Subete wa Ai no Chikara (すべては愛の力)
3. Nanchatte Ren'ai (Instrumental ver.)

Nanchatte Ren'ai
- Single Review -

1. Nanchatte Ren'ai

Where do I even begin with a song like Nanchatte Ren'ai? How do I even begin to explain this songs importance to me, the bias I hold for it and the nostalgia it creates the second that twinkling instrumental opens the track? What can I say that expresses how deeply i love this song, whilst still trying to fairly review it?

How can I even begin to divulge the fact that this song, in all its melancholy glory, hits me like a pretty, elegant nostalgia-fuelled brick to the face and throws me back to 2009, allowing me to relive the year that I became a fan of idols?

I honestly don't know is my answer, but I'm going to try my best. And before i really get into this review, I want to say that whilst it certainly doesn't feel like it has been a decade since the release of Nanchatte Ren'ai, the numbers don't lie; 10 years ago today this single was released, and with its release was the birth of an idol fan who adored this song immensely, allowing her to fall into a world she has somehow managed to further delve into since then.

Years later I am finally looking back, listening to the beats and vocals of Nanchatte Ren'ai for what will be the first time in a long while. Perhaps it's the timing, maybe it's the fact that I haven't delved into this track for a fair few years, but upon first hearing Nanchatte Ren'ai again I'm overwhelmed by nostalgic bliss, as well as my own feelings of melancholy. There is so much happiness contained within my own memories of this song, but with them comes a sad realisation that I no longer care for the group that once gave me so much joy and delight.

Still, there is more happiness contained within this song than sadness, and I am ecstatic to realise that I remember the lyrics, as well as parts of the choreography. I would spend days learning this song and its movements, and despite 10 years passing by already, this song feels as fresh and exciting as it did back when it was released. I'm already obsessed with it, and I feel like I want to dance along with the members and sing certain lines over others.

Everything about this song is pretty, from its opening bars to its vocals and the feeling behind the instrumental itself. In fact, I would even go as far as saying that it feels magical. There is something about Nanchatte Ren'ai that feels other-worldly to a degree, as if it were made for a fairy tale rather than a progressive, modern-day pop Idol unit.

Maybe it's my nostalgia that makes the song feel mystical, or maybe it's embedded within the instrumental thanks to those twinkling sounds - either way, it sounds pretty, and I love that romantic, bittersweet feel that Nanchatte Ren'ai has deep in its very core. It truly is a beautiful melody, and I am so happy that I haven't forgotten the joy that this song brings me, 10 years on.


Watching the video again is a bit of a throwback, too, especially when I see the very members who made me love Morning Musume so much, Koharu especially. Say what you will about her - I know there's plenty of unsavoury opinions out there on the net - but I adored that girl as an idol, and despite only being in MoMusu for a mere few months before graduating in late 2009, I loved her with all of my might during the beginnings of my fandom. Without Koharu, I probably wouldn't have been a fan of Morning Musume or other idols, period.

Anyways, back to the video in question. Sitting back and re-living Nanchatte Ren'ai is freaking weird, because I remember the video so vividly and how I felt when I first watched it. It was dark, Gothic, elegant and mood-driven. I loved the grunge effect the dilapidated building they danced held, and I found their outfits absolutely gorgeous and wanting something similar for myself (in fact, I had a dress similar to theirs at one point). There was so much about this music video that intrigued me, and as I furthered my education in film and media throughout the years, Nanchatte Ren'ai eventually became a video that I recognised and adored for it's use of the chiaroscuro effect.

Sure, this is a very simple, paint-by-the-numbers type video when it comes to it's choice of scenes, but when it comes to the effects it uses and the overall feeling of the music video, I can't deny that Nanchatte Ren'ai reminds me ever so slightly of the Film Noir style; and yes, I am more than likely wrong here, but let me have my say here: this is what it reminds me of. From its use of light and shadow manipulation, the apparent moodiness, mature expressions and even the building they dance in, Nanchatte Ren'ai makes me feel like I am watching a film of some form. At the time I first viewed this, I had never seen a music video manipulate light and shadow in such a way, but the more I learnt about film as a young adult, the more I realised how far-ahead Nanchatte Ren'ai was when it came to style and effect. It might just be me of course, but as this was the first proper Japanese Idol MV I ever watched, it was revolutionary to me, and after learning a little bit about Film Noir, I can't help but feel that Nanchatte Ren'ai itself was inspired just slightly by one of the most iconic film genres of all time.

That's what I hope, at least. Plus they could totally rock that Femme Fatale image if they wanted to.

Well, some of them at least.

The video is, in general, really well edited and well thought out. I like the juxtaposition of the decayed building vs those beautiful outfits, and I like the pace of the editing as well as the movement of the camera, and even that jarring alternative shot background works well with the theme. The video fits the song really well, bringing us this idea of 'elegant sadness' that MoMusu performed well back in the day. It's a pretty looking music video, and though it was my first proper introduction to the group, it served well as cannon fodder for the future of my fandom. I was obsessed with this video, and I can see why. It is bloody gorgeous, and it is still an absolute treat to watch today.

Music wise, let's be real: I still love this song. The joy it brings me is incomprehensible, and though I can certainly hear a few differences in the sound now - Gaki and Reina being auto-tuned ever so slightly in some parts, little Ah's in the opening of the instrumental - it still feels like the song I would always listen to before I threw myself into this fandom. It feels fresh, welcoming, passionate and fun, and once again I am sold on the power-track that is Nanchatte Ren'ai.

The sheer thrill this song delivers is undeniable, and yes, I love this track a great deal, even if I haven't listened to it in recent years. Still, it's nice to hear (and see) how well it holds up, and damn, just listen to those vocals; this is definitely one of Morning Musume's strongest vocal lineups, and both Takahashi Ai and Kamei Eri are simply iconic here. Tanaka Reina - though vocally unappealing at this point in her career - also does well in this song and makes it what it is, but I can't deny that this song was made for Takahashi above everyone else. She was their saving grace, after all, and Nanchatte Ren'ai compliments her vocals well, but let's be real; Kamei should have had more lines here, and if she had, this song would be freakin' killer. Just replace everyone else's lines (minus Ai and Gaki) and damn, this single would have been fire.

... And we would also have been butthurt that the others didn't get lines, so erm, never mind. It's damn solid as is, anyways.

In a Nutshell: I love it, even the squeaky lines. But yeah, Kamei over Reina any day. BYEEEE.

2. Aki Urara

Urrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

Okay, misgivings aside - and I have plenty of them - I do want to say that, damn, I never remembered this song sounding that rock n' roll in the opening, but after a brief moment of thought I remembered: This is Tsunku, for crying out loud. Of course it was going to sound somewhat rock n' roll, because that's how he rolled. So, yeah, I give major props to the composition on the opening of this track.

The rest of it, however? Well, in the bin with it.

Let's be real: I never liked this song back when I was heavily into Morning Musume, and I certainly seem to care less for it 10 years on, which is a bit weird to consider, because a fair few of the songs I strongly rejected in my early days as a fan are fairly well received, now. Yet here we are with Aki Urara, the song that I will probably never be able to stand.

I blame the annoying siren-like sounds in the background of the instrumental. They are fuckin' grating, just like the instrumental itself, which is a shame; it has a fun urban sound somewhere in there, but Jesus, it's just so dulled down in its tone and nope.

Okay, so before I end this on a bitchy note, I do want to say that I don't think this is a bad song per say - it has its fun moments, and it has a giant merit in that it focuses on Ai, Gaki, Kamei and Reina vocally as opposed to the other members. This is also a song of its era, one that has Tsunku written all over it. It's unique, it includes cars and whatever else in the background sometimes, and - dude - is that the dulled down beats of Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru's instrumental break I hear in there? Holy shit, it is. These two tracks share a similar tone in instrumental breaks. What the frick?

No wonder I don't like Aki Urara. No wonder I don't like Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru. Jesus Cripes, I've had a break through. These two tracks are basically related (or not. They're more like step-cousins who don't know they're step-cousins).

Anyway, back to the 'song of its era' deal. With this being a product of Father Tsunku, of course Aki Urara contrasts Nanchatte Ren'ai in all aspects. Where the title track is an elegant mood-setter, Aki Urara is cool and urban, a little more experimental and something that would have probably sold a lot less if it were the title track, only because it would be considered far too 'out there' by society, I guess.

Still, this song would - and will - have its fans. Shockingly enough everyone, I'm not one of them. Who woulda thunk it?

In my overly-opinionated opinion, I do believe that this is the weaker track of the three on this single. The vocals feel a little off - but I do like the effects used on them here. Whatever Tsunku did, it worked well - and the instrumental is a little duller when compared to the likes of Nanchatte Ren'ai and Subete wa Ai no Chikara. However it is undeniable how much more mature and sexy this song is as a whole, and the contrast between this song and the title track only helps to balance the single and deliver a well-rounded sound to the final product. Aki Urara also serves as a pretty good showcase of Morning Musume's vocal range and the styles they can do well.

And hey, regardless of how much I may dislike this song throughout most of its duration, I will be the first to admit that it suits the group so freakin' well. Aki Urara really did do the members' vocals justice. Every. Single. One of them. That's more than I can say for Nanchatte Ren'ai, at least.

In a Nutshell: I don't like it all that much, but hey! This song suits everyone who sings it. I'm not surprised that I don't see it much on concert set lists, however (cause it kinda sucks).

3. Subete wa Ai no Chikara

Now here's a nostalgia bomb, and of all three tracks on this entire release, this is quite possibly the one that I have listened to the most. I absolutely adore Subete wa Ai no Chikara, and yes, it is most certainly because it's energetic, cute and a complete hyperactive mess on stage when it's performed. Everything about this song, the way it begins, the way it ends, how it sounds and the happiness it delivers, is all reminiscent of my early fan days.

This was the type of sound that I loved, and it was this style of music I continued to enjoy for a good chunk of my fandom. A few years down the line, however, I grew a few extra taste buds and journeyed further with my music tastes, but this is 2009, damnit! I only want(ed) frilly, cute music that makes me feel happy, with a dash of melancholy for the extra feels!

Subete wa Ai no Chikara was always a lot of fun for me to sing along to, and I loved watch one live video of it in particular. It made me feel ecstatic, especially because this song allowed for all of the girls to sing at least one line each. I loved that, because like many fans, I like it when all members of a group has lines, not just the popular ones or the best singers. Though I understand more why certain girls are given more lines than others, it irked me a lot as a youngster. So, listening to something like Subete wa Ai no Chikara was great because I could hear my favourites sing as well, and not just Ai or Reina.

10 years forward, there's something else I like about this track: it's contrast. Much like Aki Urara was a giant contrast to the elegant prettiness of Nanchatte Ren'ai, this track serves as yet another huge leap in tone and style from the previous tracks. Forget being cool, moody, elegant or great for everyones vocals - just forget it, okay? - because Subete wa Ai no Chikara is that hardcore idol song, the one we know wouldn't have sold because it was too 'mainstream', yet it would also be the one that is great to sing at live shows and concerts.

Which makes it more of a shame that this one is sung about as much as Aki Urara, because holy shit, this is great live and calls for multiple wota chants! C'mon, H!P, get on this song and perform it again, for crying out loud!

This song is, in all honesty, a bop. It's an absolute blast to listen to, I love singing along to it, and I am fairly sure that way back in the day I made up my own shitty choreography to the beat, because why not? I loved this song back in 2009, and I love the song just as much in 2019 because it's a banger of a tune, and it defines a part of my fandom that I never want to let go of. Subete wa Ai no Chikara was my innocence, a symbol of unyielding passion for Morning Musume and Hello! Project and a song of my time.

If there was ever a song to define who I was before I became the fan I am today, it is this. My beginnings of an idol fan started here in this single, and it is Subete wa Ai no Chikara that I recognise as my song. Of them all, it defined my beginnings as a first time Idol fan all those years ago.

In a Nutshell: If I could characterise myself as one song for the first few years of my idol fandom, it would be Subete wa Ai no Cikara. I lived and breathed this song, and I loved it just as much then as I do now. It is a great track, and I am so happy to relive it once more, but this time in review. It is so wonderful.

Conclusion

I didn't know what to expect when I decided to look back at Nanchatte Ren'ai for the first time in years, though I was aware that I would experience some nostalgia of sorts. Honestly speaking, I expected to find the single passable at most, only because I hadn't heard any of the songs in a far while. I never expected to fall back into the title track this hard, however.

With that said, I do want to quickly admit that going into this review allowed me to finally listen to all of these songs together. You know, as opposed to listening to them as separate entities like I used to do, way back when, because prior to this I hadn't heard these specific tracks back-to-back. In fact, I typically forget that Subete wa Ai no Chikara is a single song sometimes, only because it sounds more like an album bop. Who knew that such a gem came from a single?

So yeah, this is the first time listening to the single in its entirety, one song following the other, and though I don't care for one track against the others, *cough*Aki Urara *cough* I do think that finally listening to the single from start to finish allows me to appreciate the hard work and thought that went into it. Plus it allows me to enjoy that contrast between the themes, tone and style of each song present on this single.

But hoo, boy, what about that giant nostalgia brick that happens to be Nanchatte Ren'ai? That hit me hard!

As a listening experience, this entire single is filled with nostalgia and memories, but 

This entire single has been a nostalgic experience of course, but the lead track sends a certain thrill down my spine that the others don't. I have so many good memories when it comes to Nanchatte Ren'ai on its own, and hearing it again after so many years leaves me feeling excited and happy, as if I need to dance along to it, sing the lyrics and more. The rush it brings is indescribable, I really can't express just how happy hearing it all over again makes me. It is such a brilliant song.

So brilliant that, after hearing it again for this review, I almost cried. That is how nostalgic and personal this song is to me.

When it comes to Aki Urara, I can't say much else about it other than 'it's cool'. It's mature, a little rock n' roll, and very Tsunku, but I really have no nostalgia for this song because I never listened to it, and I don't care to return to it after finishing this review. It's alright, I suppose, and it will certainly have it's fans, but it's not for me. This song has never been my style, even 10 years later, but I can appreciate the contrast it brings to the rest of the single, as well as how well it suits the members vocally.

But eh, it's a crap track. I don't like it.

Subete wa Ai no Chikara, on the other hand, is a damn good song, and though my nostalgia of it is a lot lower than Nanchatte Ren'ai, I put that down to the fact that I actively listen to this song a lot. It's cute, it's upbeat and fun, and it was the style of song I adored the most way back when. It's completely idol as well, something I love, and it gave me a chance to hear members like Linlin, Junjun and Aika a lot more clearly, too. It's a good song, one that I love singing along to over and over again. Sure, it's not as strong in its sound as Nanchatte ren'ai is, and it certainly isn't as unique or out there as Aki Urara, but it is a sweet, fun track, one that creates joy and reminds me of simpler days. I really do love this song, to a point where I may consider this my favourite track on this entire release.

Yes, even against the likes of the moving Nanchatte Ren'ai, I chose the generic idol song as my favoured piece. Trash truly is someone else's treasure.

To conclude, I do think that this single is pretty damn good as a whole. It's well-rounded in its sound and style, the songs manage to bounce off one another quite well, and though I may prefer some over others, each track has its merits and stands out in its own, unique way.

Listening back, I can definitely hear and see why Tsunku created such conflicting sounds, and I love the unique quality that each song encompasses that only Tsunku could produce. He was definitely a creative man, one who had a flare for making music that was memorable and different, something that suited the group whilst standing out against other idol music of the time. This is also a great representation of Platinum Era Morning Musume, with Nanchatte Ren'ai and Aki Urara especially showcasing the groups strong vocals, as well as their maturity in both age and time spent as an idol. That said, there is still fun and cuteness thrown in there to remind us of their idol roots, and it feels right that Tsunku would create a track like Subete wa Ai no Chikara to remind us of that.

It's a good single, one that includes strong, memorable sounds that differ greatly, and themes that only Tsunku would come up with. It's worth checking out if you haven't heard it in full already.

Favourite Song: Subete wa Ai no Chikara

SINGLE RATING:


Now I want to go cry into a half-eating hamburger as I energetically dance in a pile of autumn leaves. I wonder why...?

Morning Musume has a pretty long history anyway, so finding any of these songs is going to be fairly easy, even if you simply click onto YouTube and look there. Really though, I do suggest that you check the songs out back-to-back as opposed to listening to them randomly or after long intervals of time,. I say this because I feel that this is a great way to appreciate the tracks as a whole, as well as to hear how the single flows. There will be distinct favourites - always - and there will be tracks you dislike more than others, but after hearing them altogether you can truly appreciate Tsunku's brilliance, and you come to understand why he put them in this order.

Definitely give Nanchatte Ren'ai a look, and check out how it holds up 10 years later. It's a pretty good collection of songs, if you ask me.

For the many who have listened to this single in full, please let me know your thoughts and tell me which track is your favourite. And for any new-listeners who, like me, hadn't listened to the single properly since its release, please let me know what you thought about the order of the songs, and which track was stronger.

And with that, the review is over! Thank you for reading and bearing with my terribly worded review, darling Readers, and of course thank you for putting up with my spiel and chatter. Also, thanks for even considering to read this - I know it can get boring. Hopefully there was something interesting embedded in this post, and if not, I do hope that I entertained you, at the very least.

Until the next post however, I must bid you all adieu and give you my tatty-bye bye's. Please take of yourselves, enjoy your idols and music, and have a wonderful week or weekend. Take care, all.

Adios and much love, people.
Chiima~

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