Greetings and (very much belated) happy new year, Citizens of the Universe!
I know it’s been a long past few weeks so let’s get right into it, shall we?
As you may or may not know, in September 2015, M3 2.0 unlocked an achievement: Over 4000 Visitors!
To celebrate, a poll was held to decide the topic of the post commemorating this occasion. This decision was between Melon Kinenbi (whose audition had around 4000 participants) and Up Up Girls (whose 8th single was their first to reach 4000 in sales).
In the end, old-school H!P won as Melon Kinenbi took the gold. In a poll that in hindsight opened on a very bad day and was poorly promoted, only two singles were chosen to be potential MK topics: This is Unmei and Nikutai wa Shoujiki na EROS.
In the end, it didn’t even matter (lol) because despite a tiebreaker poll, it ended in a tie. Therefore, they will both be discussed.
Sexy. Fairytale. Boyish. Natural.
Saito Hitomi. Murata Megumi. Otani Masae. Shibata Ayumi.
To some, those names are images from an era that’s long before their time. To some others, they are beloved images that have as much nostalgic value as cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s.
In the end, all that can be summed up in two words: Melon Kinenbi.
TIME FOR BACKSTORY!
Melon Kinenbi is a group from Hello! Project’s “Golden Era” or “Classic” days. (I’m using “Classic” in quotes because that can mean so many things. I may be an older fan, but I’m very accepting of the new girls. In fact, it’s one reason I don’t mind doing a post like this: while there is a sizable amount of “veteran” in my readership, there are some who are discovering Melon Kinenbi through the various covers the current members are doing of their songs.)
The group was formed in 1999 from the 2nd Morning Musume & Heike Michiyo Protegee Auditions, pooled from around 4,000 participants. After graduating alongside the Elder Club in 2009, the group disbanded in 2010. Since their disbandment, the members performed together from time to time, notably for a charity concert after the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake. (This disaster would be close to home for the group as member and first leader Murata Megumi is from Sendai, one of the hardest hit cities.)
This is Unmei
Released on October 11th, 2001, This is Unmei (This is 運命) is their 4th single and their 8th best-selling one, having 12,740 units sold.
This song is a noted fan favorite. However, many noticed it disappeared for a few years (though it seemed to be two-year intervals if the Wikia is anything to go by) with little to no explanation. I’d hate to say this, but I have a feeling I might know one possible reason: one of the songwriters, Atsushi Shindo. Allow the following (taken from his article on RemyWiki) to explain:
In 2004 Atsushi’s 5-year contact with Konami expired. At the same time, though, Atsushi was being accused of plagiarism in his lyrics, as this web page illustrates the accounts of. When this became public, Konami removed all of Atsushi’s songs from the pop’n music arcade series starting with pop’n music 12 いろは; he hasn’t been seen in any installment in pop’n music since. Despite the plagiarism controversy, Atsushi continued to write music with his long-time arrangement partner Katsuyuki Harada until 2006.
While I doubt (rather, I hope) that the Melons’ songs are swept in this situation (even though some of their songs are listed in the webpage in question), it is something to consider. This is especially since Atsushi worked close with Tsunku (the other songwriter, though this isn’t surprising), either as a member of THE Tsunku Beat or just a fellow colleague the music industry. (Plus, said website hasn’t updated in a while and didn’t even get to pointing out the problematic lyrics in this song….)
Musically, the H!P classic has an ostensibly Christmas-like feel, having light and airy strings and sparkly music box-like sounds in places. It starts quiet, the voices soft and tranquil. However, this goes into a brief crescendo of repeated “Dousuru?” before crashing into a loud rock chorus. It eats into your head, getting you into the song with their pleading questions about their relationship. (Yeah, the delightfully discordant song is about the aftermath of finding their beloved’s having an affair…. Let that sink in when you hear the Kobushi Factory version.) Driving the point home is how they hammer you with the last syllables of the chorus, making you stop and consider your feelings for them.
Bridging the chorus is a redux of the main theme of the song before returning to stern quietness for the second verse (which is absent in the MV), only less quiet as the drums keep up the anxiety.
The process repeats again before descending into a quiet bridge… and then throwing you back with anguished cries of “NO!” followed by chatter with rock in the background. A quiet reprise of the motif later, we get a reprise of the chorus that sets the tone for our ending, echoing the main question: “Do you love me?”
Featuring our ladies in a room (more like a set) with pink walls, a brown floor, and lots of red fliers on said floor. The fliers have various words on them (“BUY,” “POP,” “Unmei,” “Tengoku,” etc). Considering the theme of “fate,” one can look at it as an illustration of the ever famous concept of the Red String of Fate, it carrying a tragic sense of irony in this context.
In some scenes, we see the ladies behind a stand with microphones, “broadcasting” their confrontational pleas. During the more rock-oriented portions, we see our members with guitars (even a shot of a keyboard synthesizer).
In certain shots, we see text that are relevant to the lyrics. “Unmei.” “Tengoku.” “Jigoku.” “Dousuru.” “Aishitemasu ka?” “Shirimasen yo.” These tattoo the message into the viewer’s retinae, forcing us to come face to face what “we’ve” done. (I’m using this kind of language to reinforce the forceful tone of this song, similar to how Suzanne Vega had “Luka” be the title character speaking to the listener… with chilling results.)
In any case… when I first heard this, it immediately stuck to me. Catchy tune, memorable melody and vocals. It’s not hard to hear why not only is this among the Top 10 best-selling Melon Kinenbi singles, but that it’s been a mainstay of H!P’s concerts and covered by S/mileage and (more recently and notably in studio form) Kobushi Factory. (I think this was also the first Melon Kinenbi song I’ve heard….)
While my perspective of the song changed once I found out that the song isn’t as “cheery” as it sounds (which H!P is known for at times), it didn’t change the fact that I love this song and I can see why this one got picked in the first poll.
Needless to say, I’m happy it has and I’m happy to take a look at it (especially since it’s relevant again, thanks to the aforementioned Magnolia cover).
Nikutai wa Shoujiki na EROS
Released on February 9th, 2005, Nikutai wa Shoujiki na EROS (肉体は正直なEROS) is their 14th single and their 14th best-selling one, having 7,742 units sold. (Seriously, all these fours are coincidental!)
It starts by baiting you with a guitar riff, tricking you into thinking it’s another cool rockfest before switching to a cool R&B-flavored song. This overall “coolness” is befitting the more mature image the Melons (and H!P in general) was giving off. (Remember when just about everything was “sexy” in H!P? …If you do, don’t worry. I feel old too. XP)
Oh, expect to hear a lot of “natural” Shibata Ayumi and “boyish” Otani Masae, if the color-coded lyrics at ProjectHello (link below) are anything to go by (or you can just hear it). (To be fair, if I recall correctly, Shibata was the moneymaking favorite of the four.)
The lyrics also carry into this sense of sensuality (almost like the “Early Age” H!P that the Melons just barely came in on… or just their material period. They were pretty much the Juice=Juice of their time):
Don’t say anything, I’ll quietly hold you tight
My eyes are flooding with tears
Don’t touch anything, I’ll kiss you a little
The body is honest in love, yeah
Because you softly hold me without saying anything
my tears come spilling out heavily
A person who will kiss a little without touching anything
is the proper body for love Yeah
Don’t say anything, hold me tight forever
My body’s shaking like crazy
Don’t touch anything, I’ll sleep in your arms
That’s the ultimate eros, yeah
Hold me forever without saying anything, and
my body begins to tremble hard
I’ll sleep quietly on your chest without touching anything
That is the extreme EROS Yeah
Credit to KiwiMusume. Credit to the ProjectHello team.
By the way and this goes without saying, but if you’re reading this at work and reached this point, I highly suggest not looking at the MV itself and skipping to the text.
Befitting a sensual song like this, there’s a lot of emphasis on their honest, mature bodies. We have their come-hither facial close-ups, the copious track sorts of their bodies, and their suggestive dance shots. The shots of them of through a rainy glass, giving the illusion of nudity, also add to this.
Did I mention this was the first time I’ve heard the song and watched the MV? (Casual reminder that I didn’t start watching MVs until 2007 and despite my “daredemo daisuki” tendencies, I left this one alone for reasons… somewhat unknown to me.)
Anyway, it was nice to review something from the earlier eras. As someone who came into H!P in the transition from the Golden Age to the… well… the one after that, Melon Kinenbi were a regular institution of the audio itinerary. From the splitting of H!P into the under-20 Wonderful Hearts and the over-20 Elder Club, to the graduation of the aforementioned Elder Club and watching all of its members do their own thing, not to mention watching the juniors rise up into their own, it’s… nice to talk about something that is related to my earlier days as a fan.
While I could’ve (would’ve) done this anytime (and I do dislike how it takes moments for me to get to them), the only reason this was a possibility was because of all of your support. I wouldn’t have made it to 4,000 visitors if it wasn’t for all of you stopping by. Here’s to make it 8,000 sojourners to my little space of the blogosphere.
Who knows? We could have the following meme be double applicable!
Thank you and see you next time!