Morning Musume

A Review of Morning Musume’s single, Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Ai no Gundan!

It has been a great year for Morning Musume, with some impressive sales figures for their newest double A-side, Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Ai no Gundan hitting nearly 100k on its first day.  Amazing.  I’m so in love with the way Morning Musume has been going this past year, and I’m happy to see sales reflecting that as well.  Although I don’t generally pay attention to the sales figures (I like to pick favorites based on what appeals to me, not the masses), I still can’t help but feel so proud for my girls upon seeing their success!

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I love the current Morning Musume line-up so much! Look at these girls. They’re fantastic.

But, moving away from numbers and onto the songs…  I’ll start with Wagamama since it’s the primary A-side.  You can check out the PV on Morning Musume’s Youtube channel here!

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Love is more Morning Musume.

I heard Ai no Gundan first and got pretty attached to it.  I had heard a concert preview or something for Wagamama shortly after that, and thought it was firmly in my head that Ai no Gundan was way better, and Wagamama wasn’t gonna be my cup of tea.

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Subtitle-captions! On first listen (albeit crappy live recording), I wasn’t impressed. How my opinion has changed.

I need to go back in time and smack myself in the face for that one (dance reference?  XD)

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*SMACK!*

When the PV for Wagamama was released and I watched it, I took it back.  Hearing the song in good quality, and with the accompanying video, completely changed my mind, and about 50 rewatchings later, it’s my favorite Morning Musume PV to come out in years, easily trumping all the other RoboMusume PVs.  It’s the best to come out since Kare to Issho ni.  It’s good, too, because if there has been one point of contention with recent Morning Musume for me, it’s that they don’t hold a candle to other idol groups as far as PVs go.  Maybe old-school Morning Musume did (The*Peace is still one of my favorites of all time, after all), but NewMusu, not really.  This one actually caught my attention.

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I love watching the girls’ faces as they dance in this one. I love Sayu’s here.

What made me like it so much?  A combination of a few things, I guess.  I like the setting of the empty theater, and I really like the camera work, or perhaps more accurately, how the girls work the camera.  They all seem to have so much fun, especially in the group scenes.  Masaki is a total ham, Haruka somehow makes herself visible throughout despite not having any lines, Mizuki is so damn gorgeous, and Riho has a delightful air of diva-ness to her throughout.   In each shot the members were doing things to make me smile, and make me pay attention to them.  Another nice surprise was the outfits – I like the addition of the black outfits, and the jailbait bird outfits look nicer in motion than they do in still photos.  But the clincher of the PV for me is the choreography in the chorus though.  Specifically, the slapping.

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Riho laying the smackdown.

The thing about this song that gets caught in my head, even more than “aisaretai, aisaretai”, is the slapping during the chorus.  I never expected Morning Musume to have the members mime smacking each other across the face throughout the dance, but it’s my favorite thing about the whole PV.  There are quite a few good smackdowns, but my favorite was the first batch, Riho vs Mizuki.  That smug, self assured face Riho makes at the camera as she pretends to slap Mizuki’s face thrice, and Mizuki’s dramatic way of throwing herself backwards after the slap, right with the timing of “uwabe” starting the next line… This is a weird thing to obsess over, right?  But I just love it.

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And Mizuki’s post-slap reaction. Also note Riho’s impishly smug smile. Love it.

Song-wise, I’ve definitely fallen for it.  It took longer to grow on me than Ai no Gundan, but its hold is strong.  There are a lot of different parts to the song that are catchy, and they tend to get stuck in my head hardcore.  Obviously Tsunku designed the song for the “aisaretai” chants to be a major catching point, and they are, very much so, but oddly enough, the parts that I can’t get enough of are the lines surrounding the “aisaretai”s.  “Ai wa kitto tsumibukai” and “Ai wa motto horonigai” pop up in my head all the time.  The vocal combinations on a lot of them sound awesome, Masaki together with Sakura, especially.

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You are very much loved by me, Masaki! <3 She’s so adorable I could just Masa-kiss her.

Speaking of that, who else is thrilled to see Mizuki, Sakura, and Maa-chan get major vocal parts here?  Ahhhh, I was soooo excited to hear them.  Although my hopes for Haruka to get a major singing role have not come to fruition yet, I am psyched to hear my other favorite girls get front-girl level lines, in both A-sides. Sakura is easily the best vocalist, she has such immense singing potential, and every line she has sounds fantastic.  I’ve also noticed that Masaki has improved dramatically recently, and it’s so nice to hear Mizuki’s clear, pretty voice being used now.  They all rocked their parts in this song.

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Sakura seemed a lot more comfortable with the camera and such this time around, and was much more photogenic. I feel like the image doesn’t come to her naturally like singing does, but she is growing into it just fine.

Riho and Sayumi continue to have a lot of lines as well, but for me Riho sounded a lot better in Brainstorming than in Wagamama.  I find that when the style and range suits her naturally, she sounds awesome, but outside of that, she gets strainy.  They’d showcase her better if they didn’t try to force her into lines that don’t work well with her voice.  I liked her visually much better than vocally this time around.

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Sorry Riho, I think you’re better for the short and sweet lines than you are for the big melodramatic lines. Especially live.

I’m still a little sad that there are quite a few members that get no solo lines at all (Kanon, Erina, Haruka, Haruna), but I’m very glad to see that the line distribution is no longer going to only 2 people in the group.  The vocals are distributed through Sayu, Riho, Mizuki, Masaki, Sakura, and a pinch of Ayumi, which is a huge improvement, when you consider that One, Two, Three basically only gave lines to Reina and Riho.

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Ayumi had a couple lines in there that actually sounded pretty nice, which is cool because I didn’t realize she had improved her voice.

Overall, I love Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke.  I’ll probably be playing it obsessively, slapping the crap out of the air/my steering wheel/whatever else happens to be near me when the chorus comes up.  And by probably, I mean definitely…

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Haruka’s so photogenic, even in the middle of bouncing around during the dance. One of these days we might get to hear her sing, too.

Onto the next track, Ai no Gundan!  The PV for Ai no Gundan is also available on the Momusu Youtube channel here!

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Sayumi has basically perfected the art of idol solo shot posing.

Actually, I talked pretty extensively about Ai no Gundan already when the dance shot came out.  I like the song quite a bit, although I find it’s not quite as strong as some of the other singles, it’s still got a lot of ear-worm parts.  Listen to it once, and I’ll find myself singing “Honto? Honto?” and “Ai no Gundan!!” for hours.  The use of the saxophone and such really sets it apart from the other recent singles as well, which means that even though both A-sides fit right in with the styles of the latest singles, they don’t have any kind of “recycled” sound to them.  I’m glad to see them sticking with this style,  but not getting lazy with it by churning out singles indistinguishable from each other.

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Even Morning Musume are like, “WTF with the random scenes?”

I suppose if there’s one thing that I don’t quite like about Ai no Gundan, it’s that the normal PV isn’t that great, and works better as a dance shot.  I thought the dance shot shows the strong points of the song (and its really neat, arm-based choreography) better.  Also, the white dress scenes?  Pretty, but why were they there?  What did they have to do with anything?   They just seemed to be thrown in there for the hell of it.  I felt like they just didn’t work with the PV.  Even the close-ups in the regular outfits just seemed to take away from the dance.  Dance shot all the way for this one.

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Erina, in a rare moment of screen time!

One of the biggest surprises of the single for me this time around is the B-sides.  Morning Musume is awesome and all, but man have they put out some shitty B-sides in the past.  Not so this time, each one of the 3 different ones is likeable, at least for me.  I’d actually call each and every one of them better than, say, Kimi Sae [blahblahblah], and that was an A-side.

Makeru Ki Shinai Kon’ya no Shoubu is the B-side on most versions, and the only one to use all the members, the other two split the group into 2, one for each track.  It’s neat song, with a nice electronic backing track with a touch of dance through it.  The whoa-oh-oh parts are really catchy, and the harmonizing throughout the verses sounds lovely!  The chorus isn’t really defined well, for me it blends right into the verses, but that doesn’t stop me from liking the song a lot.

Funwari Koibito Ichinensei, featuring Erina, Riho, Kanon, Ayumi, and Sakura, is completely different from any of the other songs on the single.  It has a strange old school hip hop sound to it, blended in with old Hello! Project.  It’s a bit silly, and in that way it reminds me of some of Hello! Project’s old stuff like Be Happy!  Koi no Yajirobee.  Or maybe it’s closer to Silver no Udedokei, what with the rapping.  Or a mix or the two.  I don’t know.  It’s really odd, but I actually find it’s ridiculousness charming in a way.  As silly as it is, I like it.

I saved my favorite B-side, Bouya, for last.  It’s sung by Mizuki, Masaki, Haruka, Sayumi, and Haruna.  Despite Sayu and Haruna not being vocally strong, I feel like it got the better group for vocals.  Bouya is actually really good, and seems too good to be a B-side.  For me, it’s miles better than some of Morning Musume’s singles from just a few years ago!  It fits in with the A-sides well, with a very dancable backing track, and a pinch of auto-tune, although thankfully its mostly confined to the bg vocals.  The verses and chorus are both very catchy, with the title line, Bouya, being particularly catchy!  This song seems like it would have a really cool dance routine, so I hope they perform it in concert sometime.

Overall, this is Morning Musume’s strongest overall single this year for me.  I love every track on it, with no exceptions!  Morning Musume is on a roll lately, and every new release has just confirmed how on point the group is right now.  Keep it up, girls. <3

–Jess

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One thought on “A Review of Morning Musume’s single, Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Ai no Gundan!

  1. Pingback: Recommended Jpop♀ Reading: August 2013, Part Two | Idolminded

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