Member of Base Ball Bear and idol critic Koide Yusuke, up-and-coming beat maker and idol fan tofubeats, and writer Namba Kazumi. We got these three to talk on the subject of “your five favorite Hello! Project singles of all time.” What do they think are the best singles…!?
Namba: So, since this book is about the singles of Hello! Project, we’ve been tasked with talking about our five favorite singles.
Koide: Every era has its gems. I have a feeling this is going to be a tough roundtable.
tofubeats: Do we really have to limit ourselves to just five…?
Namba: Yeah, I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot that can’t be said within these pages… Just check our blogs after this is published or something. (laughs)
Koide & tofubeats: (laughs)
tofubeats: So each of us is going to have to do the rest individually on our blogs, huh? (laughs)
Koide: It’s true though — there are just so many great songs. I like the stance Minewaki Ikuo (president of Tower Records) takes on the subject: “just take every ball that’s thrown at you as it is.” (laughs)
Namba: How admirable.
Koide: Scoring a strike on every ball…
Namba: What’s great about Minewaki is that, if there’s a song he doesn’t really get, he says that it’s because he just doesn’t yet have the proper knowledge necessary to enjoy it.
Koide: Like, he hasn’t yet put in the effort needed in order to like it? (laughs)
Namba: Yeah. He thinks it’s always the listener’s fault for not seeing what’s great about the song. (laughs)
tofubeats: Anyhow. This is going to be very difficult. Who goes first?
Namba: Okay, fine, I’ll do it. My favorite song is Morning Musume’s “Resonant Blue.”
Koide & tofubeats: Ooohh!
tofubeats: I want to name that as one of my favorites as well. There was this dip in one point during Morning Musume’s history — around 2005 or 2006, right? I felt like the songs chosen for singles around that time were really strange. But with “Resonant Blue,” we suddenly got this very orthodox straightball with Tsunku♂’s funkiness in full display, and it was like, “ah, they’re finally back.” I feel like the place the group is at today, they actually started their journey there with “Resonant Blue.”
Namba: It’s just seriously such cool song. It really stood out. Maybe that’s why you felt that way?
Koide: You know, I still remember how after “Resonant Blue,” the next single we got was “Pepper Keibu“…
tofubeats: Everyone was like, “wait, you’re doing a cover?!“
Koide: Yeah. Like, “wait, what?” (laughs) “Resonant Blue” was so sudden, and the single before that one was “Mikan,” and you were just going “oooohhhh!” And then suddenly they told us, “yeah, so guys, the next one is a cover.” I remember that vividly.
tofubeats: Yeah. In all fairness though, the sound of their version of “Pepper Keibu” is really cool.
Koide: The entire cover album (COVER YOU) was cool as well.
tofubeats: I also liked what the group was doing just before “Resonant Blue.” Songs like “Aruiteru” and such.
Koide: “Egao YES Nude” was another song from this era.
Namba: “Egao YES Nude” is what started their whole “cool and refined” style.
Koide: Yeah. It was “Egao YES Nude,” “Kanashimi Twilight,” “Onna ni Sachi Are,” “Mikan” and then “Resonant Blue.”
Namba: I really think that was an era the new fans should look into. Especially people who got into the group with “One Two Three.”
tofubeats: I myself got into the group right around “Resonant Blue.” That was a really fun time for the group.
Namba: Ah, that’s right. I just realized people in your age range would’ve probably gotten into them right around then.
tofubeats: Right. I got into them upon seeing the Hello Project 2006 Summer ~Wonderful Hearts Land~ DVD.
tofubeats: I had a DJ acquaintance who made this compilation CD called free soul classic of Morning Musume that he distributed to friends and stuff. Someone wrote a review of it and all, and after reading it, I first listened to all kinds of Philly soul and funk properly before then finally looking into Morning Musume further.
Koide: Of the songs released around this time, “Chokkan 2 ~Nogashita Sakana wa Ookii zo!~” was another pretty weird one.
Namba: Yeah. “Wait — this is the new single?!” And similarly, looking back, another song that was just totally incomprehensible was “THE Manpower!!!“
Koide: I’m still trying to decide whether or not to name that as one of my favorite five.
tofubeats: “THE Manpower!!!” is one of my favorite three singles even!
Namba: Oh, really?
Koide: I knew it! (laughs)
Namba: By the way, “THE Manpower!!!” is a song Tsunku♂ lists among some of his best work as well. I was totally taken aback by that song. It was just amazing — the music video included.
Koide: The video is great. I love the dancing.
tofubeats: The video was fantastic! The dancing was great, and it was just one wide angle shot with the members walking around in circles. (laughs) And the song, too, was completely insane! Like, once I’m 40 or something and I’ve learned all the ropes, I think I’ll be able to write disco-like songs myself. But I’ll never be able to write a song like “THE Manpower!!!” To be completely honest with you, I kind of feel like no one could write a song like that sober. (laughs) It’s just so trippy — the instrumental alone makes you feel like you’re losing your mind.
Koide: It does have a scent of something a little “illegal” about it, doesn’t it? (laughs)
tofubeats: I read an interview where Tsunku♂ was talking about how he’s really into the bass-heaviness of the song. I, too, really like how the balance is in favor of the lower register — it’s like the entire instrumental is all lower sounds. From a fellow artist’s point of view, I was so happy hearing Tsunku♂’s style manifest like that.
Namba: Still, though: when I first heard it, I was like: “umm, what?” The sound was so minimalistic and I just couldn’t make any sense of the song at all. But listening to it now…
Koide: It’s cool, right? I remember buying the Single V at the time, watching the video, trying to study the formation, but just not really getting it. (laughs) Like, “ah, so this girl comes out at this point in the song, but steps backwards here. This must represent human evolution!“
tofubeats: “Homo sapiens!” I like the “don don!” sound that comes right after that.
Namba: Looks like “THE Manpower!!!” is rated quite highly in hindsight.
Koide: It’s so awesome. It’s like a crossover of idol music and minimalistic techno.
tofubeats: I also feel that it goes well with the club music of today. Stuff with a tempo of around 140 is popular right now and there’s generally not a lot of different sounds in the instrumentals. I think if you played it between some of the average club music songs of these days, no one would bat an eye. Well, I’m only saying that because I’d like to one day play the song out of the blue at some big venue myself. (laughs) I’m not sure it would get people fired-up, but hey: at least I’d enjoy it.
Koide: My first choice is °C-ute’s “Tokaikko Junjou.” It’s crazy how powerful the interlude of this song is when they do it live — you know, the bit after the second chorus that later reappears in the outro. By the way, did you know that the members are sometimes screaming as they’re dancing this song live?
Namba & tofubeats: Huuuh!?
Koide: They said it themselves on an audio commentary or something. And sure enough, if you look closely at the footage, you can see them going “aaaahhh!” off-mic.
tofubeats: I need to rewatch some concert and look more closely.
Koide: Knowing that they do that; that they get so emotional when performing it, it makes the song even more exciting. Also: those spoken lines. The new version has Hagiwara Mai reciting them, but when I first saw the original music video with Yajima doing them, I had to stop the video for a while and just stare. “What’s with this… beauty?“
tofubeats: The video reminds me of gangsta rap. (laughs) More and more people keep popping up… it gets you all pumped-up. It’s like Wu-Tang Clan or something. Even the song itself is pretty Wu-Tang-ish.
Namba: Interesting. (laughs)
Koide: Oh and hey, even the ball thrown by Yajima disappears. (laughs) What was the meaning behind that anyway? (laughs)
Namba & tofubeats: (laughs)
Koide: In any case, “Tokaikko Junjou” always gets me fired-up. °C-ute has a lot of these up-tempo killer tunes, like “Massara Blue Jeans” and so on.
Koide: “Crazy Kanzen na Otona,” while fitting the latest trend of EDM in Hello! Project, has a really cool arrangement. It was arranged by the same person as “Tokaikko Junjou.” I think his arrangements are very fitting for the choreographies.
tofubeats: Hirata Shoichiro, yeah?
Namba: Most of the EDM-type stuff is either Hirata or Ookubo Kaoru.
Koide: The latest two Morning Musume songs arranged by Ookubo, “Wagamama Kinomama Ai no Joke” and “Ai no Gundan,” had really cool riffs.
Namba: Those were excellent songs. Dancing included. I was thinking, “so they’re still going to go on with this style, huh.“
tofubeats: Seeing the video to “Wagamama” though, I feel like they’ve now gotten pretty close to perfecting that style.
Namba: With each single I think this might be it for this style. I already thought they were going to take a different path after “Brainstorming.”
Koide: Yet they’re still on the same one.
tofubeats: In any case, I’ve never heard a chorus like that of “Wagamama” in any other J-pop song.
Namba: Even a lot of their intros nowadays are ones you can’t even properly hum to.
Koide: How much of the songs does Tsunku♂ write himself before passing them on to Ookubo?
tofubeats: I read a Barks interview with Tsunku♂ where he said that he composes the guitar part and melody, and then there’s a lot of back-and-forth with the arranger. He said that he gives quite a lot of input on the chord progression.
Namba: It apparently depends on the arranger. When the arrangers receive Tsunku♂’s demo with the basic tempo, guitar chords and hummed vocals, some arrangers will take the song to a complete different direction, whereas others try to build it up to be as faithful to the demo as possible. Ookubo was saying that the amazing thing about Tsunku♂ is that he can give you an idea that just makes you go “this is completely impossible to pull off!“, but then if you do pull it off, it’ll actually be really cool.
Koide: On a related note, I like what Konishi Yasuharu has said about arranging Matsuura Aya’s “Ne~e?” He says it was Tsunku♂’s idea to have that modulation in the final chorus and Konishi was surprised by how much better it actually made the song. Tsunku♂ just has some sort of instinct when it comes to this kind of thing. Like that chorus in “Wagamama” which is unlike any you’ve ever heard before — it’s all just his crazy instincts. It’s like all his past experiences of going “oh, this sounds cool” have taken this weird shape which now enables him to think like that.
Namba: Morning Musume does have a lot of material that you feel like you’ve never heard anywhere before.
Koide: It’s really quite original, this current style of theirs.
tofubeats: To the point where it’s like, “is this really even EDM what they’re doing?“
Namba: It’s difficult to even memorize the melodies for a lot of their songs.
Koide: Yeah. Sometimes you’re thinking, “um, are they really okay with releasing this?” (laughs)
Namba: (laughs) But it’s cool, isn’t it? That’s what’s so great about them. You can just hear the experience of Tsunku♂ and his arrangers.
Koide: The songs are cool even though it’s difficult to memorize the melodies. They’re cool even though you can’t even hum them to yourself. There’s just so much weirdness. (laughs)
Namba: Okay, let’s move on to the next song. My next choice is S/mileage’s debut song, “aMa no Jaku.”
tofubeats: “aMa no Jaku” is a song I wish to name as one of my five, too.
Namba: It just pulls at the heartstrings. I mean, right off the bat it starts off with “kimi no koto nado kyoumi nai” (“I don’t have the slightest bit of interest in you“). And it’s titled “aMa no Jaku” (“contrarian”). That alone is enough to make me cry.
Koide & tofubeats: (laughs)
Namba: The lyrics are full of contrary statements. Those four divine people! S/mileage is getting less and less of those kinds of gentle, slower tempo songs, so it feels all the more special listening to it now.
tofubeats: I love the corridor scenes in the music video. And I love that it’s not so in-your-face, you know? It’s very “contrarian.” It’s not the typical video with them all close to you, being cute. The fact that they’re a bit removed from the viewer is quite rare, I feel.
Namba: Yeah. And I don’t know if it’s because they weren’t very accustomed to it yet or what, but they’re all wearing their makeup rather thick. There’s an immatureness about it. I like it.
Koide: It sure was great. … Why did Maeda Yuuka have to graduate?
tofubeats: Aaaand there it is. (laughs)
Namba: Well, leaving that aside, they haven’t been doing this song live much as of late. But when they did do it again with six members, I cried. I guess the song just really packs a punch.
Koide: When it comes to S/mileage, I like “Suki-chan” as well.
Namba: That’s a good one.
tofubeats: It’s hard to say which I like better!
Namba: Looking at S/mileage’s singles, it’s all a bunch of great songs. I love “Please Miniskirt Postwoman!” as well.
Koide: Same here. But I think for me it all comes back to “aMa no Jaku” when talking about S/mileage.
tofubeats: Well, there is the theory that the debut songs often are really the best.
Koide: I mean, for °C-ute it was “Massara Blue Jeans.”
Namba: And Berryz Koubou’s debut was “Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai.“
Koide: I’m naming that as the second song of my five favorites. It’s just perfect! But I don’t have much else to say on it. (laughs)
tofubeats: I think a reason why groups like The Neptunes and such never got that big in Japan is because of that song. That song already did a flawless job of doing that sort of beat in Japanese — there was no reason to listen to anything else.
Namba: It’s great how well that song resonates.
Koide: I have to be honest though: when Berryz Koubou performs it live, it sticks out like a sore thumb because it’s such a unique song. I think it’s actually a bit of a shame how much it stands out from the rest of their setlist like that. Still, when you just listen to that degree of perfection, it’s clear how outstanding “Ananashi” is.
tofubeats: They really went all out with that track. I think that song clearly demonstrates what Tsunku♂ always says to the members: “treasure the 16-beat.”
Namba: I think Tsunku♂’s always liked the sort of “hollow” sound that song has.
Koide: Since he personally likes “THE Manpower!!!“, yeah, I’d think so, too. The sort of minimalistic sound with only a few different sounds…
tofubeats: Alright, my turn next. Taiyou to Ciscomoon’s “Magic of Love.”
Koide: Ah! You stole my pick! You know, that might just be my no. 1 favorite Hello! Project song of all time.
tofubeats: They had a lot of these disco-ish songs back then. A similar song would be something like Coconuts Musume’s “DANCE & CHANCE,” which I also really love. But “Magic of Love,” to me, is so close to how my ideal woman would be. Those lyrics are just perfect.
Koide: They are. I would never think to use a word like “tsuusan” (“in total”) in a song. Putting a word like that in the chorus of a song just shows the amazing literary sense Tsunku♂ has. Just having that one word be the beginning of the chorus… that alone makes the song great for me.
tofubeats: Also, I feel like they don’t have a lot of song titles that are as direct as this one.
Koide: You may be right. It’s on the level of “Minimoni Telephone! Rin Rin Rin.” (laughs)
Namba: Or “Pyoko Pyoko Ultra.” (laughs)
tofubeats: Everything about it is just so uncharacteristically direct, you know? I want OL’s everywhere to listen to this song. (laughs)
Koide: It seems like “Magic of Love” actually is really popular among women though. Apparently it’s very relatable to female listeners.
tofubeats: I love the womanliness of Tsunku♂. I think it really comes out in this song.
Koide: Yeah. Like, just how much ice cream does that man eat? (laughs)
Namba & tofubeats: (laughs)
Namba: Okay, this one might be too obvious, but my next song is Melon Kinenbi’s “This is Unmei.” It’s the same with this song: there’s just no other like it. The line distribution and stuff… Melon Kinenbi was a really strange group.
Koide: They were almost avant-garde. They were so “irregular” that I feel like they sort of ended with a lot of people never getting what they were about. It’s a shame. I feel like they would’ve done a lot better had they debuted today. And as for “This is Unmei“: it’s almost like a rock anthem. I feel like there’s a lot in this one that you can hear in no other Hello! Project song.
tofubeats: It’s one of those moshing songs.
Namba: People get quite fired-up even when other groups sing it, so I do think the song itself has a certain power. Is it just me or are our choices getting a little predictable?
tofubeats: It happens when you talk among fellow idol fans. It turns to everyone just praising everything. (laughs) Well, in that case, maybe my next one is a bit of an oddity. I choose Mobekimasu’s “Busu ni Naranai Tetsugaku.”
Namba: Wow, that is unexpected! I like it though.
tofubeats: I’ve always felt that it’s so underrated. I think this is the first song where Tsunku♂ so boldly made a statement. Well, there have been bits and pieces like that in earlier songs, but still. Also, it really hits home with me how it’s a song where all of them are singing about “the philosophy of how not to be ugly,” and it feels like it’s a message directed to all of them.
Koide: It’s a very meta song.
tofubeats: Right. Very meta. Also, since it’s not like “explosive” or anything… it’s not a really fast song, so it’s easy to listen to it every day. And the lyrics are just sensational. “Tsuke wo watashira ga shiharau nante zettai mitomenai, I don’t accept” (“We absolutely refuse to pay that bill. I don’t accept.“) That “refuse” followed by “I don’t accept!“
Namba: The video is great, too, how the members are all rotating places and stuff.
tofubeats: Yeah. You can sense the kindness of all the older members. Also, I like how Berryz Koubou in general seems kinda scary in that video. (laughs)
Namba: And it’s fun to watch the girls of S/mileage just having fun in the back.
tofubeats: Sayu telling the younger ones to run to the front more and stuff.
Namba: There’s so much human drama to be seen in that video. And not a lot of members got solo lines. It was basically just one or two girls from each group, right? Like, “oh, only Maeda Yuuka from S/mileage?“
Koide: Oh yeah. Maeda Yuuka was still there…
tofubeats: Just another reason that makes the song good.
Koide: If we could name album songs, I’d choose Berryz Koubou’s “Semi.”
Namba: Amazing song.
Koide: Berryz Koubou’s first and second albums, 1st Chou Berryz and Dai 2 Seichouki, are both fantastic. They’re almost like concept albums — almost like some Pink Floyd level stuff. (laughs) I mean, the second album tells the story of a girl’s day, from the moment she wakes up until she goes to sleep. It’s crazy. (laughs) And the songs on the first album are so varied, and the girls singing them are only 12 or 13 or something.
tofubeats: I feel like Berryz Koubou’s vocals were very different back then compared to how they are now. I like them a lot on the first and second albums.
Koide: They’re evergreens.
tofubeats: Masterpieces. Just monumental works.
Koide: And speaking of albums, I really appreciated how much Mano Erina had grown on the album version versus the earlier single version of “Manopiano,” so I’d like to name that one, too.
tofubeats: It was touching, hearing that album version of “Manopiano” for the first time.
Namba: Her singing was completely different on the single version.
tofubeats: Mano-chan has a lot of great album songs. I love “Dare ni mo Iwanaide.” Also, “Banzai! Jinsei wa Meccha Wonderful!~“
Koide: “Banzai!“, yeah. It felt like a return back to her roots. (laughs)
tofubeats: If album songs are okay, then I’m naming “Banzai!” as one of my five. I know it’s probably very unacceptable, but I took the audio of that song off of one of her live DVD’s, mastered it myself, and put it on my iPhone to listen to. (laughs)
Koide: Hey, I once took the audio of Tsugunaga Momoko’s “Koi wa Hipparidako” from their 2007 Sakura Mankai concert and gave it my own mastering job as well. (laughs) I love so Hello! Project so much it’s made me an idiot. (laughs)
tofubeats: There’s a song on one of my albums that is a complete ripoff of Goto Maki’s “Yaruki! IT’S EASY.” I love that song so much, I just wanted to write one exactly like it.
Koide: Yeah. Hello! Project has made us all idiots. (laughs) I just love them too much.
tofubeats: My song even has the little “yays!” and “fuffuus!” in there, in low volume.
Koide: Oh no. (laughs)
Namba: All of Morning Musume’s recent songs are great. Everything since “One Two Three.” “Wakuteka Take a chance” and “Help me!!” were great, too, but I think the biggest one for me was “Brainstorming.” That “mie wo kire” line Oda Sakura sings before the chorus is just cold. I think that’s why we got the “aisaretai, aisaretai” in “Wagamama Kinomama Ai no Joke,” to make up for that.
Koide: Tsunku♂ uses lots of lines like that.
Namba: It really caught me off-guard.
tofubeats: Especially with Odasaku singing it.
Namba: Yeah. Odasaku was great in “Brainstorming.”
Koide: That riff in “Ai no Gundan” might be the coolest riff I’ve heard in a while.
Namba: That might’ve been quite the challenge for Ookubo to pull off.
tofubeats: Trying to make it sound big while keeping it that kind of an arrangement… definitely. Also, sound-wise, I feel like “Only you” had a rhythm you don’t hear much in music.
Namba: People say this current style started with “Renai Hunter,” but the progressiveness was definitely already there with “Only you.“
tofubeats: “Only you” may sound like dubstep on first listen, but it’s actually not at all. Even the rhythm pattern isn’t dubstep.
Namba: That song is probably where it all started.
tofubeats: Yeah, but I think there were hints of it even earlier, like those dubstep-like elements. When you listen to some of those songs now, you’re going “wait, they were already doing this kind of thing way back when?” I think a lot of the time they were going for double-time with the rhythm though.
Namba: I see. I think there might be something like that in “Kimagure Princess” as well.
tofubeats: Yeah. “Kimagure” was Ookubo, too.
Namba: So with that, I’m naming “Brainstorming” as one of my five favorites.
Koide: In that case, I’m going to go for a Goto Maki song. “Glass no Pumps.”
Namba & tofubeats: Aaaah!
tofubeats: That’s a classic — one that deserves to be sung even today.
Koide: At the time, Goto was going the racy, sexy route. I think everyone was too busy marveling over that to take note of how good the song itself was — because it is a great song. Listening to it now, I think it works because of how 100% into it Goto was at the time. The next one, “SOME BOYS! TOUCH” was great as well. And I like “Genshoku GAL Hade ni Yukube!“, too. Oh, and I want to name one of ZYX’s songs as well…
tofubeats: I’m still trying to decide what to do about ZYX. Should I pick their cover of “Gatamekira,” or do I go for 7AIR…? Well, I know this is a cliché, but I’m instead going to go for Pucchimoni’s “Seishun Jidai 1.2.3!” The arrangement is just superb. Listening to Hello! Project songs from this era, it’s great how “expensive” the music sounds. I mean, to someone like me who’s been listening to programmed music since I was born, even “LOVE Machine” sounded so rich, and they took it even further in “Mr.Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~” which I also quite like. And this holds true for “Inspiration!” as well. I just like songs like that — songs that simply wouldn’t work if they didn’t use real horn instruments. But “Seishun Jidai 1.2.3!” is like a hybrid of those elements. Also, the rapping is exciting — as it is in 7AIR. The rapping on “Seishun Jidai 1.2.3!” has this very strange effect on it which I like.
Koide: You know, I still have a hard time trying to decide if I actually like the rapping Tsunku was including in his songs around this time period, or not…
tofubeats: (laughs) Also, Tsunku♂ is really good with the background chatter. Maybe I just think this way because I’m a disco fan, but I like how songs like “Happy Summer Wedding” have things constantly going on in the background. That’s something he got directly from disco music, and it’s amazing how naturally he can make use of it in his songs. “Seishun Jidai 1.2.3!” is like that, too, but it’s also really tight. The balance is just perfect in that song. I love that kind of thing. The three members are all given equal spotlight in the song which I also appreciate.
Namba: I’m trying to decide whether to name a song from Mikitty…
Koide: She has a lot of great album songs. I love “Mangetsu” and “Namida GIRL.” I’d also pick something from Buono! if album songs were acceptable…
tofubeats: What would you pick from Buono!’s album songs?
Koide: Maybe “Rock no Kamisama“… Buono! has no bad songs. They have a really strong track record. And the live shows were great. A song from their second album, “Goal,” was pure Coldplay. (laughs)
Namba: I just realized: no one’s named any Matsuura Aya songs.
Koide: Well, it’s so hard to choose. I mean, Matsuura Aya is like the idol. “Momoiro Kataomoi,” “Yeah! Meccha Holiday“…
Namba: That was just an amazing era. “Ne~e?“, too.
tofubeats: “LOVE Namidairo“…
Koide: You could pretty much pick any one of those songs, which makes it really difficult to choose.
tofubeats: It’s almost scary how many great singles she had in a row.
Namba: And yet, as a listener, it felt almost obvious that every single would be amazing — when that’s really not the case at all. I should have been more grateful.
Koide: In hindsight of more recent events, yeah…
Namba: When did it all start to change?
Koide: For Ayaya, it was probably around “GOOD BYE Natsuo,” no?
Namba: Morning Musume suddenly got an all-unison song in “Go Girl ~Koi no Victory~.” I had liked the detailed line distribution they’d had until then, but suddenly it was hard to recognize their individual characters. That’s when it gradually started to change for them.
Koide: That really was a turning point.
Namba: But listening to “Go Girl” now, though, it’s really, really good. Even though it didn’t sound very special at the time.
Koide: We’d gotten used to songs like “The☆Peace!” and “Renai Revolution 21“…
Namba: All those bass-heavy songs, yeah. “Go Girl” sounded very light in comparison.
Koide: “SEXY BOY ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~” as well. If you listen to it now, it has an amazingly powerful hook. But when I was listening to it back then in real time, I was just going like “oh dear…“
Namba: Right. Back then, I thought it was just this light parapara song. But listening to it now, it’s great.
Koide: Today, “SEXY BOY” doesn’t sound off-putting at all.
Namba: It’s like with “Pyoko Pyoko Ultra.” At first everyone was like “what the…?” but now it’s nothing if not a good song.
tofubeats: I actually quite liked that one from the beginning. (laughs) I like idol drama shows, so I’d be watching “Suugaku Joshi Gakuen,” listening to the song and going “hey, this is nice.” (laughs)
Koide: I want that version of just Tanaka and Michishige singing “Pyoko Pyoko Ultra.”
tofubeats: Same here. “Suugaku Joshi Gakuen” was a good drama.
Namba: The opening was the only thing that had anything to do with math.
tofubeats: That was a true test of will for people like Minewaki…
Koide: The “gotta catch ’em all” type fans. (laughs)
Namba: My fifth song is going to be Morning Musume’s “The Matenrou Show.” That Earth-like funk… it really was great.
Koide: They’re doing a bit more of that kind of thing again nowadays.
tofubeats: It feels like disco is making a comeback around the world, and H!P is definitely on-board with it.
Namba: I feel like the groups that are the most musically in-sync with the rest of the world might be Morning Musume and Juice=Juice.
Koide: And, perhaps surprisingly, I’d say Berryz Koubou, too. Arrangement-wise.
Namba: Yes. Songs like “Golden Chinatown” and “Asian Celebration.”
tofubeats: While it wasn’t Tsunku♂, I really liked “cha cha SING” as well.
Koide: “Loving you Too much” was just an amazing song, too.
tofubeats: That video with the long continuous takes!
Namba: Last year I was calling that the best song of the year, but I’d forgotten about it completely.
Koide: My turn next, right? I’m going to say MilkyWay’s “Anataboshi.” The first time I heard it, I just went “It’s finally here! Their batshit insane song!” The arrangement of it is just mad. Everyone was doing the four-on-the-floor thing around the time, and this song did, too, but it’s just the bass drum, and the notes are all weird, and the rhythm is all weird, and here you had those three girls singing it, holding their tambourines, and it was just, “what the hell is this?” It sounded like the result of someone having lost their mind. But Tsunku♂ had nothing to do with producing that song, and maybe that’s why they had free reign to do something so astounding. Tsukishima Kirari had a lot of strange songs.
tofubeats: I guess her fans were just drawn to that brand of strangeness.
Koide: Tsukishima Kirari attracted so many weird songs. “Balalaika,” Kira☆Pika’s “Hana wo Puun,” Hyadain’s “Happy☆Happy Sunday!“, “Koi no Mahou wa Habibi no Bi!“… I listened to a lot of music in preparation for this article, and when “Koi no Mahou wa Habibi no Bi!” came on during the middle of the night when I was super exhausted, it felt like having my head blown off. (laughs) What’s more is, I was listening to music on shuffle at the time, and so that was followed by Happy End’s “Haru yo Koi.” My head couldn’t process it. (laughs) “Koi no Mahou wa Habibi no Bi!” is just crazy.
Namba: Even the artist herself is pretty intense on that song.
tofubeats: And just when you thought all Kirarin songs were going to be like that, they sneakily put out “Tan Tan Taan!“
Koide: Exactly! Just out of nowhere. At the time they used to release songs in succession that were like polar opposites of each other. So with that in mind as well, I’m still going to name “Anataboshi.” Back when Kikkawa Yuu was still hiding her fangs…
Namba: Nowadays she’s like the definition of simple-mindedness. Some time ago she appeared at IDOL NATION where most of the audience were AKB fans so it was like she was performing in someone else’s turf. And yet, she was joking about how she’d gained weight lately and stuff. (laughs) It’s not like she won everyone over or anything, but she didn’t seem to mind it at all. She’s a funny person. And to think that Kusumi Koharu managed to overshadow even a girl like her…
Koide: Tsukishima Kirari really was a great character.
tofubeats: And “Kirarin☆Revolution” a great anime.
Koide: Well, we talked about all kinds of things here today, but I guess to sum up, it all comes down back to “THE Manpower!!!“
Namba: I don’t think anyone back then could’ve realized how much that one would be appreciated later on. (laughs)
tofubeats: The times have finally caught up to that song.
Koide: There was no other song back then that so skillfully combined idol music and minimalism.
tofubeats: And why would they take that sort of an approach to making a pop song?
Koide: See, I don’t think anyone thought of it as a “pop song” at the time. Everyone was just… startled by it. Wait, so does this mean we think “THE Manpower!!!” is the best Hello! Project single?
tofubeats: Weirdly enough, I guess it’s the one song of whose greatness we can all agree on. I really have this image of “THE Manpower!!!” being especially loved by people who make music. You pretty much always see it on best-of lists by musicians.
Koide: Perhaps not so much on fans’ best-of lists though.
Namba: Morning Musume is making a best-of album with new versions of their old songs and “THE Manpower!!!” is going to be on it. Maybe this means they’re going to sing it live again? That’s something to look forward to.
tofubeats: I wonder how the rearrangement is going to turn out. I hope they keep it sounding as hollow as possible, not putting even one sound too many in there. Maybe make the release on the drums even shorter than before…
Namba: “THE Manpower!!!” sung by the current members might be pretty crazy.
Koide: Considering how complex their dance formations are these days, I’d imagine they’d have no problem with that one.
tofubeats: I bet their “homo sapiens” would look great.
Koide: And natural!
Namba: Those two in the video, just switching places from left to right throughout the entire song… (laughs)
Koide: Yeah… At the end of the day, it’s got to be “THE Manpower!!!“
tofubeats: Who would’ve guessed we’d end up having this much fun talking about “THE Manpower!!!“? (laughs)
Photography: Takenouchi Hiroyuki
English translation: Henkka
Koide Yusuke on the web: Twitter, Base Ball Bear
tofubeats on the web: website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube
Namba Kazumi on the web: Twitter, blog