Monday, March 23, 2015

Jpop Mix: Morning Musume '14, 14 Shou ~The Message~

I didn't think I would actually review this album because I bought it on iTunes way back in September. But then I realized that technically, I could still write a review because I promised that no releases would be more than a year old. Since that year is still a ways away, I decided to go ahead and review this album. 

Morning Musume is an all-female idol group formed in Japan in 1997. The group has a graduation system, where girls leave the group or "graduate" when they see fit to leave or when their producer decides a girl is ready to go. The average time a girl will spend in the group is about 4 years, although Morning Musume does boast a total of 4 girls that have stayed for over a decade. Each new addition is referred to as a "generation", the largest being the 1st generation - the 5 girls that founded the group. The smallest generations are the 3rd, the 7th, and the 11th, each consisting of only one girl. As of 2015, Morning Musume has had 12 generations and currently has 13 members. During the time of the release of the album 14 Shou ~The Message~, the group had 11 generations and 10 members. 

Since going through a "rebirth" of sorts, Morning Musume has decided to adopt a number at the end of their name which indicates which year of Morning Musume one is referring to. Morning Musume '14 clearly refers to the year 2014. The idea is that if you find a song you like from Morning Musume's extensive discography, by seeing the '14, you would know it was released in 2014 and this also makes it easier to track down which members were in the group during that time. Funnily enough, fans had already created their own system to help with finding songs or recognizing members, referred to as "era's". The era between when Morning Musume started to when they had their first big hit in the only unnamed era. From there, there is the Golden Era (the years in which Morning Musume reached the peak of their popularity), the Platinum Era (the years where the group saw a decline in sales and characterized by the release of melancholy pop tunes) and the Colorful Era (beginning when Sayumi Michishige became the 8th leader). It's during this Colorful Era that 14 Shou falls. 

Now, with all of these pieces of history out of the way, let's get to the actual album. The Colorful Era is known for sticking to songs in an EDM style and this album does not stray away from that at all. However, I find that it's a very solid album, delivering songs hat stick to the album concept, but that don't blur into one. The album starts with "TIKI BUN", a standard EDM style pop song with an addictive hook. It will always get to me that the members sing "chiki bun" instead of "tiki bun" (since the "ti" sound doesn't exist in Japanese) but, it's not a bad song. I consider it to be pretty average, a solid 3/5 stars. Following that, we have "Password is 0", which for some reason I find extremely catchy. I hummed it to myself all the time after the music video was released and I think the dance is pretty awesome. I quite like the rhythm of the song as well, so naturally, it's one of my personal favorites on the album - 4/5. 

Following these two singles, we have Asu wo tsukuru no wa kimi (You Create Tomorrow). This is a nice change of pace from the first two super charged singles. It starts out with a nice piano melody before the girls voices come in. I have always liked Morning Musume ballads and this is no exception - 5/5. Next is my favorite song on the album, "Kirari to Hikaru Hoshi" (Shining Stars). This song is a duet between 9th generation member Riho Sayashi and 11th generation member Sakura Oda. These are my two favorite vocalists in the group and they work really well together. I like the tasteful use of autotone and that despite the EDM style of the song, you can really hear the power behind their voices. This song is a definite 5/5. "Koibito ni wa Zettai ni Shiraretakuni Shinjitsu" follows. Sung by leader Sayumi Michishige and sub-leaders, Mizuki Fukumura (9th gen) and Haruna Iikubo (10th gen), this song is more of your standard idol fare but with an EDM edge. I really like the EDM sounds in the background and the melody of the song. I find it catchy and this is another song that I hum often. This is another 4.5/5. 

The 6th song on this album is "What is Love" another favorite of mine.  I really like the lyrics of this song, the dance is amazing and the energy is crazy! 5/5 for sure. "Watashi wa watashi nanda" (I am who I am) starts out slower than the other EDM songs so far on this album, but the melody then enters. Morning Musume has some EDM songs that focus intensely on the beat, while others focus more on the rhythm. This song follow the rhythm more and overall makes for a pleasant listen. I quite like this song - 4/5. "Warenai Hanashi" has a funky rhythm to it that somehow works quite well. I think it's a solid song, although the chorus falls a bit flat for me - 3/5.

 Following this song is my second favorite song on this album, "Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou Sa" (Your Bright Smile is Like Sunshine). On first listen, this song is a bit weird. The rhythm and lyrics seem off and it also sounds like they tried to pack too many words into a short span of time. But after listening to it for a few times, it became one of my favorites. It has a very positive message and the EDM here is not overwhelming; it takes a backseat in favor of hearing more of the member's voices without so many vocal effects. The music video is absolutely beautiful and if you have time, watch the dance shot - this is an extremely difficult dance in terms of coordination and group work! 5/5. Next up is "Kimi no kawari wa iyashinai" (No one can replace you). This is another high energy, EDM track. I don't know why, but I quite like the dance. This song also has an uplifting message. 4/5. 

"Otona ni Nareba Otona ni Nareru" has a nice rhythm, going from slower to faster, slower to faster until we reach the chorus. I like that I can easily tell who is singing in this song and I really like the electric guitar sprinkled throughout the song. It works really well! 4/5. This album ends with "Toki wo koe, sora wo koe (Beyond time and space)". This is a very beautiful song that mixes EDM and piano very nicely. The cascading piano is what really makes this song. Like I said, I've always liked Morning Musume ballads and this is another case where I really like the end result. The lyrics are beautiful and the music video is breathtaking - 5/5. 

Overall, Morning Musume's 14th album is solid; It has a good mix of slow and high energy songs. Each song works well with the others, making the album come together as a whole quite well. It's a definite 4.5/5 release for me - one of the best albums Morning Musume has released. This is a major improvement over that Updated Best album released in 2013. If Morning Musume '15 continues in this direction, of releasing well done albums, Morning Musume may gain more fans and continue to grow their popularity once again. 

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