ANGERME – Hakkiri Shiyou ze / Oyogenai Mermaid / Aisare Route A or B?
Up-Front dropped PVs for all three tracks of Angerme’s forthcoming single today, nearly a full month ahead of its release date (June 23rd). I like that Hello! Project releases are not tied to predictable patterns of promotion — Kobushi Factory’s fun skits for “Oh No!” and Tsubaki Factory’s mini-MV digital keepsakes were unique — but shot-gunning all three videos a month early is pretty aggressive. As this is the debut of Angerme’s 9th-gen members — and first without Musubu Funaki — we get our first look at what is essentially Angerme v2.0 (stable). Singles that debut new generations always ping my radar with a bit more authority, so I’m going to give my initial thoughts on each track, but understand that these thoughts are very initial — after maybe ten or so listens over three-ish hours — and it’s not uncommon for my long-term opinion of a song to change wildly from my first impressions. So take the following with a full container of salt mined from my lingering resentment over Funaki leaving and Sayuki being fired.
Hakkiri Shiyou ze
Another cover song leading an H!P single. This makes three in a row following Beyooooonds and Juice=Juice, so there has to be something behind it from the suits, because once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a conscious decision. Whatever the reason, this Juiced=up version of STARDUST REVUE’s “Hakkiri Shiyou ze” works well as a stylish and funky idol banger, and the girls all sound great. Of the three songs, this feels most comfortable next to the rest of Angerme’s work, but it’s still a departure, and definitely a more mature sound. It’s also my least favorite of the three, and if YouTube views are any metric worth considering, it seems to be the consensus among fans.
If “Hakkiri Shiyou ze” feels the most like Angerme, “Oyogenai Mermaid” feels more like pre-Angerme, which is to say S/mileage. Again, this is more mature, but the tempo and feel is very much later-day S/mileage, which is kind of a nice tribute if it was intentional. (The Fox Mulder in me Wants To Believe, and so I shall.) Newbies Shion Tamenaga and Rin Kawana each get prominent solo lines, and both do well with them. Shion even gets the glory-note leading into the final chorus, and while it’s probably tuned, it’s strong and clear. This makes me happy, because after watching last year’s KSS Recital, I wrote “Shion doesn’t sing too good, but she looks like a idol.” The second part is still true. Shion is getting the first major push of the 9th gen, and she’s making the most of it. She’s almost certainly going to be one of the more popular H!P members moving forward.
Aisare Route A or B?
“Aisare Route A or B?” was the track I was most interested in after hearing the radio rips, and it’s definitely my favorite of the three. This is absolute cat nip for me: jazzy jump-swing in straight-3 time? Yes please! Shiina Ringo is the obvious touchstone for this arrangement, to the point where Shiina could’ve cut the vocal track herself over the same instrumental, released it as her own, and nobody would have offered a side-glance. The arrangement is pretty sophisticated for an idol group, both melodically and harmonically, but the 3/4 meter is really unique and adds so much bounce to the swing. If I have any criticism of this track, it’s that most of the girls’ voices aren’t really suited to push it to its full potential, although they’re good enough to not hurt it. I can’t help thinking, though, that a former member of Angerme has the chops to really push a song like this over the top: Meimi Tamura. Yeah, Meimi would slaughter this.
So Day 1, first few hours impressions are that I like this a whole lot. The newbs look to be fitting in seamlessly, and the new old guard looks motivated. Moe, in particular, has upped her game considerably. I remember, maybe six months ago, saying that I had expected Moe would’ve become a better singer by then, and now she is. Her voice has more power and soul than I’ve ever heard from her, and she looks more confident overall. Even her dancing is stronger. Rikako seems to have regained some of her mojo, too, because she looks and sounds better than she has in two years. Layla, Momona and Ayano also see a lot of action on this single, and they continue to solidify the front-line roles they seized in the wake of Angerme’s 2019-2020 membership retirement drive.
Maybe I’ll revisit this single after a while to see if my opinion has changed on any of these, and maybe I’ll post the ninth spot in my Top-10 Favorite H!P singers list, too. But maybe not. I’m unpredictable that way. It’s part of my charm.