Hey, Senpai!

The song that convinced me to give C-ute another chance

Posted on: February 22, 2010

I have a bit of a confession to make: the first Hello! Project group I ever really listened to and enjoyed was indies era C-ute. I had just started going out with my wonderful boyfriend, who had become a huge fan of Hinoi Team due to his recent purchase of a Para Para Paradise machine. I was looking up their music videos on YouTube when a related link showed up that brought me to “Massara Blue Jeans”. The SHOCK value of the “LOVE ME LOVE ME LOVE ME” portion of the dance of course led me to laugh a lot and share it. Then I looked into them a bit more and found out about this Hello! Project thing, and learned the final kanji for this other random girl group CD with a Vivaldi cover sounding thing that my boyfriend had picked up at a con (I had as far as “Berryz Kou” but couldn’t read the “bou”). Then I decided to watch their concert, and check out this random Morning Musume single called “Ambitious!”, and C-utie Queen Vol. 1 came out… and the rest was history, really.

What really attracted me to C-ute during that era was their cute, bubbly songs. If I had heard “Soku Dakishimete” or “Ooki na Ai de Motenashite” first I probably would never have become an H!P fan – but “Massara” and “Wakkyanai (Z)” hooked me, and then there were the fantastic T&C cover tracks on the album as well as “Time Capsule”. Murakami left, and I was a bit puzzled, but still very excited for the group’s major debut…

…and then their sound completely changed. I was floored. Why the bait-and-switch? The entire first album had a very distinctive, infectious sound that they’d suddenly chosen to forego in favor of pink overload and some French accordion sounding… thing.

I was disappointed, to say the least, but at least I could get behind the B-side. It wasn’t the same sound I’d fallen in love with but it was rockish. And cute. And they kept the sound for a little while with “Meguru Koi no Kisetsu” and much of the 2 mini album, so I was cool with it. I enjoyed it. I watched Kanna in the first Shinjin Kouen concert along with the new Musume, Aika, and began to really like both of them. From Kanna I got this sense of precociousness that later came from Mai at points. It was awkward, but it got my attention.

Then came Tokaikko Junjou. I will admit that it is a catchy song but I felt completely betrayed by it. Only about a year had passed and the cute, bubbly, innocent sound and presence that had drawn me into this fandom were gone. C-ute was now C-ool.

Since then, I’ve still given most of C-ute’s new A-sides a listen but I’ve never really bothered with the concerts or the albums. “Edo no Temari Uta II” and “Everyday Zekkouchou!” succeeded in piquing my interest again, but in each case things happened. In the case of “Edo” “Forever Love” was a dramatic style change again, and then Kanna left.

After “Everyday” Erika left and then there was that concert commercial with the girls in maid outfits… and then came SHOCK. Much of the blogosphere erupted in righteous anger over Airi singing the whole darn song including most of the incidental “ooh”s and “ahh”s. I agree for a bit of an unorthodox reason: to me, the verses sound really cobbled together with just one girl singing. The melody isn’t meant for a solo singer. The lines don’t flow and the phrasing is awful when the song is sung by just one girl. It would take a more conversational tone when three or four girls chime in on a verse. I also dislike the single because in my opinion the girls look bad overall and it’s almost like someone tried to do it that way. LOLWUT.

And then the album track distribution for SHOCKING 5 came out and I was ready to be done. Honestly, I like Airi and all, but I also really like Maimai, Nakky, and Chisato. At least Maimi got to sing something, but I expected it to sound as awkward on her as “Natsu Doki Lipstick” did due to her vocal range that the powers that be like to ignore. As I see it, C-ute has SHOCKed me since their major debut with disappointment after disappointment. Girls have left or been pushed to the back, the music that drew me in is long gone, and even the musical performance of their new songs suffers because of how they assign parts. Honestly I’m more SHOCKed when C-ute does something I like anymore.

I wasn’t going to bother with the new album at all when I happened upon a PV preview for the album track “Shigatsu Sengen” today. For whatever reason, I decided to give it a shot, and it’s made me consider giving C-ute another listen. Take a look:

I’m still convinced they’re trying to make some of the girls look bad on purpose. Maimai’s collar is half popped and way too big for her small frame and thin shoulders, and I’ve never liked the hairstyle they chose for Chisato no matter who is wearing it. I also agree with those who have said the setting doesn’t match the outfits.

HOWEVER.

Listen to that opening guitar riff. I love a nice clean riff like that. And then the synth kicks in. Wow, this really sounds like the H!P Kids sound! Hisashiburi desu ne. The arrangement is clean and simple. It allows you to enjoy the girls’ vocals as they all sing and add something to the story. And the song’s kind of like a letter to someone, with lyrics full of nostalgia. It’s like “Semi” and “Time Capsule” – both of which are among my top 10 favorite H!P Kids songs – got together and had a baby song that grew up to have some of the best parts of both of them.

Maybe I’ll check out SHOCKING 5 (CDJapan). And maybe, if I like it, I’ll go back and listen to some of the songs and albums I’ve missed. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll stop feeling like C-ute has had its heart ripped out and start looking forward to their releases again, just like I did when I started this journey.

Maybe.

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