[Review] Morning Musume ’14 – Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa / Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai / What is LOVE?

Egaonokimi

Join Garry as he reviews Morning Musume ’14’s new triple a-side single “Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa / Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai / What is LOVE?”.
 

Remember that thing I mentioned in my last review about promising myself to write more about music I think you guys should check out? Well this is me making an effort to keep that streak going. I didn’t exactly expect to be writing another review so quickly but I couldn’t not talk about this single.

As you’ve probably noticed from the title of this post and the CD cover above, this time I’m going to be talking about the newly re-named Morning Musume ’14’s (I’ll be referring to them simply as Morning Musume for the sake of my sanity) new single “Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa / Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai / What is LOVE?”. If one of these reviews could not be a multiple a-side that would be fantastic.

You guys aren’t here to hear me whine about that stuff though. You’re here to read a review right? Basically I’m just going to go down the line and start off with “Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa”. That seems like the most obvious and logical way to do things. So I’m going to embed the PV below, you guys can give it a watch and then I’ll throw out an opinion or five. Sounds good? Great!

We’ll come to the song in a bit but first I want to talk a little about the PV. I think it does quite a few things rather well and they deserve to be highlighted.

Let’s begin with the camera work because that should be the first thing you notice in the PV. The opening few seconds really pull you in, quite literally in fact. I’m not a film major (although I am hoping to go back to school in the fall to study Planetary Science) but I think it’s a really nice shot, possibly the best shot I’ve seen in a Morning Musume PV in a long time.

That’s not all though, there’s actually a huge variety of camera angles used in the PV and for the most part they work out. Morning Musume are using formation dance as their selling point right now so it’s good to see they’ve got a lot of cameras to get in and around those performance shots and really show off everyone.

I guess the most blatantly obvious feature of this PV is the use of green screen. I usually assume the worst whenever I hear those two words used to describe an idol PV. The amount of shoddy green screen work out there is pretty depressing and for whatever reason idol groups never seem to find people who can use it correctly.

Thankfully that’s not the case here and we actually have a PV where the green screen is done well. There’s no questionable perspectives or visuals that seem super of place (apart from the obvious fact that stuff is exploding onto a white background) which are probably the two easiest things to screw up. Hats off to Hello!Project for getting people in who know what they’re doing.

The PV isn’t without fault though. There’s a few little things here and there that I think probably could have been handled better. The main one for me being the solo close-up shots of the members. Why they went with such a strong blur effect perplexes me, you don’t see it anywhere else in the PV. I guess it breaks the flow of harsh whiteness (more on that in a bit) but it just doesn’t look very good.

Speaking of harsh whiteness, there’s a few times in this PV where the set the girls are dancing on is on the verge of washing everything out. I’m not against the design of the set in general but you have to be careful when using high contrast whites on film. It doesn’t ruin the PV but I noticed it and it wouldn’t be a very good review if I didn’t point it out.

Since I haven’t even talked about the song yet, let’s do that now. “Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa” clearly still uses the EDM framework that has been present in Morning Musume’s music for the past year or so. However, there’s a noticeable shift in tone on this song. It’s more bright and upbeat and less cool and serious.

For me this is a good thing because it shows that there is still plenty of space to explore in this genre. A lot of people have said the past few Morning Musume singles have sounded fairly similar and they’re not entirely wrong there. In my opinion that was a pretty intentional move to show that this is the musical direction going forward. You do have to keep things interesting though so hopefully this single is a sign that we’ll be seeing a bit more variety this year.

That was quite the analysis. Next up I’m going to talk about “Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai” so go take a bathroom break if you need to then come back, watch the PV and read some more words. We’re going to be here a while it seems.

Okay, for those of you not in the loop “Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai” is the official cheer song of the Japanese Winter Olympic team. This probably goes some way to explaining how this single ended up as a triple a-side. That’s not really that important though so let’s just get straight to talking about the video.

The set design is fairly basic, we have a white floor surrounded by red drapes. These are obviously the colors of the Japanese flag so that ties into the whole Olympic thing. I guess they decided to invert the colors because it would look better on film, I’m not really sure. It makes more sense the other way around in my head anyway.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk some more about the set. Like I said, it’s nothing to really write home about. It’s not exactly helped by the decision to have the camera constantly track the ceiling but I guess they had to show it was a circle somehow. The drapes are fine for the most part but there are shots where the back of the set comes through some gaps. Not sure if that’s intentional but it doesn’t look that great.

I guess we can get the criticism out of the way and also talk about the costumes. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re actually okay but they really don’t go with the set at all. Sure it’s a contrast but green-blue outfits with black mesh on a red and white background is a bit too extreme for my tastes. Like I said, cool costumes but just not for this particular PV.

Now let’s talk about the positives. Starting with the choreography because that’s the main focus of the PV. You might disagree with me but I personally found it to be really good.

A feature I enjoyed quite a bit were Oda Sakura’s solo parts. She’d break from the formation to sing her solo and strut around a bit in front of the group. If you don’t like Oda then this bit probably wasn’t your favorite part but I appreciate the way it showcased her. The whole thing was shot really well and it had a nice impact.

I also have to give some credit to the choreographer here for managing to incorporate the Olympic rings into the routine. It wasn’t super in your face but it was still obvious enough to notice. I know it’s kinda cheesy or whatever but this is a song for the Winter Olympics so you have to lighten up a little bit over stuff like this.

Lastly, all of the girls look really good in the PV. Even if you disagree with everything else I liked we can hopefully at least agree on that point. It’s something I’ve noticed over the past few Morning Musume PVs and it does make some sense. Given how they’re trying to get all of these “new” members out there and into the minds of the general public. Good make-up and nice close-ups in the PVs will certainly help them get there.

Apparently I’m really stupid and forgot to actually mention the song, thank you alert readers for pointing that out. While “Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai” is being touted as a “cheer song” it really doesn’t sound anything like what you’d expect when you hear that term.

However it is energetic in its own way while not having to be confined to the usual cheer song trappings. It also has enough vocal hooks for it to be memorable and that’s really the most important thing right? Sure it’s a lot more serious sounding but who ever said a cheer song had to be light and breezy anyway?

Overall I think it’s a nice twist on the concept and hopefully it might inspire the Japanese team and help them bring home some medals.

That’s me all talked out on “Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai”. We’ve got one song left to review and that song is “What is LOVE?”. You won’t notice but I’m going to go take a nap right now because we’re almost 1500 words in and I have work in a few hours. Here’s the PV for you to check while I’m gone and I’ll see you all back here in a bit.

See, you didn’t even notice I left right? If you’ve managed to get this far I salute your efforts and hope that you’ll stick with me as I wrap up this review.

Let’s talk about the PV for “What is LOVE?” shall we? To point out the fairly obvious, it’s a good old fashioned live performance PV. A lot of people complain about this type of PV because they believe (and in a lot of cases it’s probably true) that it shows a lack of budget or perhaps even creative vision. Everyone wants more, more, more.

If we want to get technical, this isn’t entirely a live performance PV. There are a few parts where they’ve obviously filmed on the same stage but during rehearsals or something. I think it’s a good call because it lets you get a lot of camera angles that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to during an actual concert.

There isn’t really anything I find particularly bad about this PV (except for the costume colors maybe) in all honesty. I actually think shooting it during a concert was a pretty decent idea overall. It serves as a good advertisement of what to expect at a Morning Musume show, something that new or casual fans are going to be interested in. Sure it doesn’t do as much for us grizzled veterans but we’re not the sole focus anymore.

Another thing I liked was the choreography. There is some pretty corny moves thrown in there but it was dynamic and gave the eye plenty to look at. The close to seamless transition between the live version and the not so live version was also pretty impressive. It’s easy to make that kind of thing really jarring but the execution was on point here.

At the end of the day it is a fairly basic concept for a PV and my rating kinda has to reflect that sadly. Please don’t take that as a knock against the PV though because it is handled well like I’ve talked about. However there is only so much you can do with the concept and it would be hard for me to be any more generous with my score.

We’ll round out this review with some thoughts on the song itself. If you want the tl;dr version of events, I really like it. Simply put, this is my kind of song. If you know me you’ll know exactly why that is.

The lyrics are punchy and most importantly the song overall is a catchy number. I also like the fact that pretty much everyone gets to show off their vocals, auto-tuned or otherwise. Good use of auto-tune in this song by the way. It breaks things up nicely and isn’t overdone like in a lot of idol songs.

The instrumentals are of course drawing inspiration from EDM. Again though, like in “Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa” we’re getting a slightly different tone that lets the song stand out from the others on the single. I said it before but there’s still plenty of space to explore in this particular genre of music and I think we’re seeing it happen here.

 
Overall what we have here is a single with three distinctive a-side songs. For me “Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa” is the stronger offering of the three but “Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai” and “What is LOVE?” are no slouches either.

I would definitely recommend this single and Morning Musume’s previous single “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Ai no Gundan” to new or lapsed fans looking to get into the current group. I think 2014 is going to be a big year for Morning Musume and I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out.

About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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