Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Knock-Off Compilation - A Look at 'Hatachi no Morning Musume' by Morning Musume 20th (Mini-Album Review)

You would think that, after seeing how much effort H!P put into making this cover, I would be well aware of the effort they put into compiling and creating this album? Well, clearly I was blind with faith, because I honestly did not see this shit coming.

Way to throw yourself in the deep end after a 3 month absence, Chii. URGH.


After being away for this long, it's weird to come back to reviews. I really don't know where to begin, how to write, or how to word, even. I just feel lost, and because of that feeling, it took me a fair while to actually complete this piece. That, and I didn't want to sit through the songs all over again because...

Well, I don't like this mini-album. I doubt I'll ever keep that a secret, either.

I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty until the review itself, but honestly, I wanted to come back to this blog in such a positive way, only to decide 'Yeah! Let's review the mini-album I hold contempt for!' because, why not? It seems I thrive on being negative, yet in actuality, it's because I really did want to review something a little negatively after being so positive with reviews on Selective Hearing recently. So the desire to review this came to me and here we are. Reviewing this.

I put myself through so much pain -sobs-

Actually, I admit that I had high hopes for this album. I really wanted it to be good, and when it was released I was so excited, which is probably why my disappointment and disgust for it is so high now. If I hadn't set my standards to the sky, I feel like I would have been a lot more lenient with it, but... no. I just had to want it and crave it, to a point where I was practically gnawing my arm off in anticipation for the damn thing. So, when it did drop, I dropped, too.

It's a long fall from the sky, y'know.

Kay, I need to stop talking now, because I'm boring you, and I'm boring myself.  Hopefully I don't piss too many people off with this review, because I know that a lot of people adore this mini-album, with me being one of the few exceptions to that rule. So in advance: This is only my opinion, so don't take it to heart. I only wish to express it as best I can, without neglecting the good points as well. But, don't expect me to change my mind, either - I can hear the songs loud and clear, and for me, they just never worked out. At least a majority of them didn't. Some definitely shined here, but the ones I don't like, it will be pretty clear. You have been warned.

Right, it's time to kick-start this review. I'm ready to get through this and end my time with the mini-album, but the question is this: Are you ready?

Let's march on and read. Any bets for the songs I'll love? Place them now, or forever hold onto your cash. (Actually, that's the better choice. Don't bet, kids)

Hatachi no Morning Musume

Release Date: February 7th, 2018
Editions Available: 2 (1x Limited, 1x Regular)

Track List:
  1. Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary ver.) 
  2. WE ARE LEADERS! ~Leader tte no mo Tsurai Mono~ - Morning Musume Leaders
  3. Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite - Morning Musume '18
  4. ENDLESS HOME - Abe Natsume feat. Fukumura Mizuki, Oda Sakura
  5. Otenki no Hi no Omatsuri - Morning Musume '18
  6. Tane wa Tsubasa - Nakazawa Yuko, Ishiguro Aya, Iida Kaori, Abe Natsumi, Fukuda Asuka
  7. Gosenfu no Tasuki - Morning Musume '17
  8. Ai no Tane (20th Anniversary ver.)
Hatachi no Morning Musume
- Album Review -

1. Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary ver.)

After being released for the first time 20 years ago, Morning Coffee marks its return with a freshly brewed sound, and a small dose of caffeine to perk it up.

And yes, I am making the most of these shitty puns, let me have my way!

It honestly feels right to start the album this way. With a perky, cute opening, Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary ver.) gives us listeners a dose of happiness in this revitalised track, with a hint of sentimentality to give it that some extra zest. It's super fun and upbeat, and with the addition of the OG MoMusu members, Morning Coffee feels extra special as a song in its updated form.

I honestly love this version of the track, with the upbeat, cute sound a charming twist from the original. In 1998, Morning Coffee was so much more romantic in its tone and held some beautiful moments, but here, it's youthful and strong, favouring an energetic approach as opposed to a serene and sweet one. It's nice that there is a clear difference n both tracks, yet both hold a similar charm, and both still contain that warmth and desire the original held so two decades ago.



The video is, of course, a lot more different to the original than the song is. Featuring a less natural, more contrived setting, Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary ver.) is set in a studio that, despite lacking in location or variety, is a lot warmer and more vibrant than the original PV. Sadly, it also features only one outfit from the original - those opening sweaters and mini-skirts - or, in the case of the OG's, those maxi skirts. What are H!P trying to hide, the age that is showing on their legs? Or is it a symbol of 'time' and the OG's decisions to become adults after graduating?

... Oh shit, I might have figured out the meaning of the skirts!

Well, at least their clothes are pleasing to look at, and aren't the blocks of white cloth we've all despised seeing as of late.

Still, I find the PV itself a lot of fun - at least from what I can see. No one is stood in one place for too long, and the members at least make use of the set, something that H!P doesn't really do that often. It's nice to see people standing, sitting and making use of their limited space to create a little bit of variety. I swear, it's been a while since MoMusu actively implemented their set design into their MV's, with Go Girl! ~Koi no Victory~ being one of the few where they did move about freely and play with the set.

And yeah, in a way, Morning Coffee (20th Anniversary ver.) does remind me of Go Girl in its MV format, albeit a little less quirky, and a little more rigid. Still, this is a cute MV, and the short version does a nice job of showing off that energy and cuteness this current generation is great at bringing.

Overall, this song is a nice little throwback, and a great opener for the mini-album. It's undeniably catchy, upbeat and a whole lot of fun that is fitting for both the current and OG members of Morning Musume, and a piece of sweet nostalgia for fans both old and new.

It's a bop, more so than the original, and it's the song that started it all... kinda. Still, it started something, and that something lasted for 20 years. That's pretty awesome.

2. WE ARE LEADERS ~Leader tte no mo Tsurai Mono~

URRRRRRRRRRRGH.

a lot of people seem to really like this song, and I'm about to step on some toes because - urgh - I really don't like it. Like, I don't hate it like I did when I heard it before, but my dislike for it is still there. I mean, it's absolute and utter shit - pardon my term, but there's no other way to say it - and it's one of, if not the weakest song on this track list. And that's saying a lot, because it doesn't get much better after this.

That said, the song itself is pretty catchy in sound (albeit forgettable), and the lyrics seem to be genuinely entertaining, Miki's line especially. It was the one line I actually laughed at. Thing is, this isn't the leader song i imagined - I expected something powerful and cool, something that would be memorable and easy to pin-point in this mini-album. This was honestly the album song that I wanted to adore, and it just... it's this, and it's horrible.

Also, am I the only one annoyed that Sayumi was the only auto-tuned wreck in that track? I mean, it screams 'Platinum' and 'Colorful era' styles, don't get me wrong, but it's horrible that this was the 'defining' voice of Sayumi's leadership. She was so much more than that.

It's basically that Dollar store version of Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari you never wanted to buy but were curious to hear. It's not as memorable, a lot less effort has been thrown into it, and it's just an awkward piece of shit that I hope we don't hear in the near-future.

BUT! BUT!!! The Bridge is a lot of fun. I will give it that.

I am honestly annoyed about this botched version of what could have been a good song, but what pisses me off more is that this was the Hyadain track. HYADAIN!!! I mean, I can hear his style throughout, but it's not as charming or good as what he can do, and I honestly did a double take when I realised that this song was his doing, because he is a genius and this... Urgh. This is trash.

Okay. I'm done. Onto the next whirlwind of nope.

3. Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite 

Well, this one is definitely a ~current~ track, albeit a track that you would more than likely hear from the Riho-centric era of MoMusu. Electronic, boring, a tiny bit shit. It truly is the epitome of this era's 'MoMusu' if you will, and it sounds so, so tired.

And yet this is the one that a lot of people like... What?

I can't get over how bland this song is, yet the title is so pretty? Even the chorus sounds like it has given up halfway through the songs duration. Really, there is nothing here to captivate me as a listener, though I must admit: this song has a hook in the verse, and it's somewhat memorable. The rest of the song is not, however.

Seriously, though. This song is a knock-off of every other MoMusu song we heard from the 2012-2015 era, and it really should be laid to rest.



THE VIDEO, HOWEVER, I DO LIKE.

... Whoops, caps. Sorry about that >o>

Honestly though, from what I have actually seen of this MV, I really do like it. It's pretty, it's paced beautifully, and there are some gorgeous shots thrown in there that fit this idea of spring and re-awakenings and the like. The shots are pretty incredible to, with the opening tracking shot capturing your interest right away.

There's even some simple yet cool editing that we might remember from Mukidashite to give it more of a kick. it honestly looks lovely, and I would love to secure a copy of the high quality full version... but that's kind of out of my reach at this point.

It's a great PV, but the song itself is shit. That won't stop it from growing on me, mind, but I'll always think it's a tired old piece of nope, and I do wish we had been given something prettier. Oh, well. -Le sigh-

4. ENDLESS HOME

There's really not a lot I can say about this track other than: It's nice.

Okay, so it's fairly obvious from both the title and the sound that this track is more or less a Furusato knock-off, and yeah, that's one reason why it doesn't immediately endear itself to me. The second thing I can say about is that, thankfully, it's not horrible. Actually, Endless Home is a rather pretty ballad, and if it had a little more power and emotion behind it, this song would actually sound awesome.

Sadly, it lacks something deeper, making it a tad boring. It's also quite forgettable, which is a shame, cause it could have been something.

With an Abe Natsumi lead - Mizuki and Sakura tag along for the harmony ride, it seems - I'm not even mad that the three biggest line-hogs in MoMusu history are the only singers in this track; it makes a lot of sense, and yeah, they all sound wonderful together. Both Mizuki and Sakura compliment Natsumi's voice nicely, and as a song, it suits all of them vocally. Actually, they all make it worth a listen, if only for their pretty voices.

It's a pleasant track, one of the nicer songs present on the album, but it isn't amazing or even worth more than one listen. It lacks personality, emotion and depth, and is quite forgettable once you stop listening to it. It's sad but true.

5. Otenki no Hi no Omatsuri

Okay, it's not all doom and gloom, I promise! Here's a song that I actively like, and have enjoyed since I first heard it. Thankfully I haven't found another song for this to be a knock-off of, either, so there's even more joy to be had!

Honestly, this is just a downright adorable song, something we barely hear from the current lineup as they try and tote a cool and collected look. Thing is, it really suits them, matching their youthful and sweet looks whilst also showing off their personalities throughout the song in small ad-libs. It's got a quirky charm about it, and whilst it might not be the most upbeat song on the mini-album, it's the one that stands out the most for its laid-back sound and the way the members sound. There's texture, and there is an undeniable amount of individuality going on here thanks to their respective solo lines.

Out of all the newer songs present, I feel like this one has more of an original sound than the others, delivering a style that we haven't seen or heard from the group in a long time. I doubt it's that original, but to me, it's unique amongst the rest of the tracks present. It's lovely to hear, and it honestly surprised me that something this refreshing and cute could come out what was turning out to be an otherwise terrible mini-album.

This is my saviour song here, the gem amongst a pile of rocks.

I'm actually saddened by the fact that this one doesn't have a corresponding PV, but I do look forward to eventually watching a live performance of Otenki no Hi no Omatsuri. It sounds like it would be a great track to sing during Hello! Project's yearly Hina Festivals, not just for Morning Musume, but for everyone.

A sweet, cute song that has a laid-back quality with a quirky twist to the lyrics. It's downright adorable, and I really like it. Thank goodness for pretty songs, and thank goodness for Tsunku making something as precious as this.

6. Tane wa Tsubasa

... Okay, who the heck let someone make an Ai no Tane rip-off? And not even a good one, because damn, this is really bland. Even the chorus can't last that long without faltering away and returning to the verse. Urgh.

Can you feel my excitement yet? No? Good, cause it doesn't exist any more. All hope ceased after seeing this title, and hearing this track.

Honestly, it's not even like the opening of this is bad - it's actually quite a pretty opening - but once the singing kicks in, the song just loses all prettiness. The instrumental dulls, the members don't sound at all excited, and whilst I appreciate that gorgeous Nakazawa Yuko tone, there is nothing about this song that excites me or makes me want to remember it. Which I won't, thankfully, because this song is just as bland and forgettable as WE ARE LEADERS and Hana ga Saku Taiyou Abite.

Oh. And ENDLESS HOME. That was on here too, right?

Okay, I've talked about it. Can I skip to the other good song on here, now?

7. Gosenfu no Tasuki

Despite that generally weak tone, I love Gosenfu no Tasuki. It's a pretty song, but like most of the good original songs on here (ie: all two of them), this one doesn't really have that strong of an instrumental, nor is the opening overly catchy to keep you interested. Yet as the music builds and you get into the song more and more, you come to recognise its charm and sweetness, and you realise that it is a genuinely decent track.

I think that, aside from Otenki no Hi no Omatsuri, this is one of the strongest tracks on here. Not because of its sound, but because of how much it keeps me invested in the song itself. Not only do I find Gosenfu no Tasuki pretty, but there is something else that captures my interest and keeps me invested here. I want to know where the song goes, to live out the journey until the very end. Maybe it's the prettiness of its sound, the way the members sing their lyrics or the choir that I can hear in the background. Who knows? Whatever it is, it's keeping me interested in the song itself, and it allows me to fall in love with it the more I hear it.

I won't say this is a complex track - it isn't - but it holds a charm that other songs lack on here. It's also extremely refreshing, encompassing a sound that MoMusu hardly touch nowadays. It feels heartfelt and content, and the members sound beautiful and happy. This is such a contrast to the cool and mature MoMusu we are typically shown, and though this sound might seem simple to others, I find it to be a breath of fresh air against the stagnant sound this group has been toting since 2012-2013.



In regards to the video itself, it matches the song beautifully. A simple, angelic and beautifully paced video that makes use of bright colours and graphics to bring out the true tones and themes of the song itself. Plus, it has that added symbolism in the 'five notes' of a musical score to represent the original members of Morning Musume. I love that it is represented in such a way, with the members passing through these sashes of colour with pride and gratitude.

This is a great track, one of the few songs here that has impressed me in this release out of the original songs given. It's gorgeous, displaying the emotion and power of the current lineup that we haven't heard so much throughout this mini-album. It's delightful, and it's one of my favourites. Thank goodness it is closer to the end, meaning that we can at least leave this release on a pretty, penultimate-end note.

8. Ai no Tane (20th Anniversary ver.)

Oh, I love this song. I love Ai no Tane remade and the original with all my heart, because it's one of the songs from the older generation that really made me adore the group. I have so much sentimentality for this song, so of course I am happy to have the re-booted track on this list.

And thank goodness, it's at the end! We can finally leave this crappy album on a positive note. Hurrah!

I'm not sure what I can say about this song that you already might know yourselves, but let's be real: this is a fun little re-do. It's cute, upbeat and bright, and whilst it doesn't stray too far from the original, Ai no Tane (20th Anniversary ver.) adds a new charm to it that differs slightly from the original, whilst still holding true to the song that made Morning Musume happen.

It has an added boost, if anything, but the original is still in there - somewhere. Thankfully, this was the update that wasn't messed around with too much, because whilst it does have a speedier sound and faster singing, it also doesn't sound like it drank about five cups of coffee in one sitting. I love both Morning Coffee and Ai no Tane reboots, but yeah... I'm thankful that this was the song they tried to keep somewhat true to the original.



The video, on the other hand, is definitely a ways apart from the original. Despite being surrounded by flowers like they were in the original, the members are stuck inside, a floral wall behind the current generation as the OG's sing into microphones. Though this is certainly a pretty video - with all the members wearing white, again, like they are in the other PV's (sans Morning Coffee) - it feels very restricted. I suppose that restriction only enhances when you realise that the younger generation never interact with the OG members here, either, delivering a sense of segregation between the older and younger members.

Well, I might be reading into it too much there, but it's something I noticed, so I'm going to talk about it. It would have been nice to see them come together, but... naaaah! Why would H!P want to influence their younger girls with some oldies?

It's a nice little video, but it lacks the charm and prettiness the original held. Though it's a step up from some of H!P's studio based PV's, this is certainly a 'current' video, one that delivers a quick fix to finding an outside location that would have worked better than shoving the girls into a room where they barely move around, or where they can barely even interact. It's pretty, yeah, but it lacks so much, and I can't get over that.

Overall, I do love the updated Ai no Tane track. It's pretty, it's nice, and it's not too far off from the original that I would mistake it for something else. It's certainly one of the better 'Updates' H!P has given Morning Musume (why yes, I am glaring at The Best! ~Updated Morning Musume.~ right now >o>), but I will also say it isn't the best, either. Still, it's a great track, and a pleasant way to end this album.

Conclusion

... And now I have to conclude this thing. Will I ever get away from this pile of trash?

When an album only gets good towards the end, I feel like there's a problem. For Hatachi no Morning Musume, the problem lies less in the songs it re-made, and more in the ones it tried to make original, or those that they wanted to create as a way of homage to older, beloved tracks that are staples in the groups repertoire. Instead, it created knock-offs that were obvious and painful to sit through, introducing tired vocals and sounds that just didn't match with the energy or pace of either Morning Coffee or Ai no Tane.

That said, I will give Hatachi no Morning Musume props for introducing variety. Despite its lack of charm or originality in nearly all of their songs, the composers and arrangers at least created a diverse range of sounds that would appeal to a variety of listeners. Not one song is alike, and whilst I may dislike a wide range of this track list, I will give praise where it is due.

Still, I can't help but dislike this release. Yes, I like half of the songs present, but two of those songs are re-makes, so I immediately discount them from the track list because they are, obviously, not original songs. They existed long before this album came to be, and whenever I listen to a mini-album or full-length studio release, I look forward to the songs I have never heard before, the ones that can show a wider range of vocal abilities, sounds and arrangements that will further my interest in the group. Sadly, none of these songs really did that for me. Only two stuck out, and whilst I enjoy both Otenki no Hi Omatsuri and Gosenfu no Tasuki a great deal, they are also rather weak tracks, with only their prettiness and charm standing out amongst a handful of bland, mind-numbing songs that I hope to ignore the moment this review is over.

Hatachi no Morning Musume is a poor album, one that does include a diverse range of sounds, but one that lacks emotion and depth. I wanted to adore it - I wanted to adore every song - but it's penchant for knock-offs and weak tunes does not endear me to it in any way, and only leads me to thinking about this release with disdain and a grimace on my face.

You should determine for yourselves what you think about the album - there are a lot of people who adore it, friends of mine and acquaintances and those I don't know - so don't ever let my opinion cloud your judgement. I just happen to hate this pile of knock-off garbage, and can safely say I won't listen to it again, sans the two songs I do like, because it is honestly not worth my time or energy.

For an album that had so much promise, a lot of buildup and some decent promotion, it's sad that we received this. It truly is a pile of trash.

ALBUM RATING:


Ronald perfectly sums up my feels on the album right now, so I'll leave it at that.

What were your thoughts on the album? Did you enjoy it, and if you did, which songs stood out to you and which ones fell flat? Or are you on my side, and found it to be a dull piece of nope? It would be nice to find out where everyone stands on this, and to see how far I am from everyone else on this album.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and thank you for putting up with my BS. I hope to see you all soon in another post, and until that day comes, please take and love your Idols.

Au revoir~
Chiima

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