I shall be starting off the new year with none other than Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) and the song of choice is "Hanabi" - looks like there's some word play going on in the title.
When I got to see those responsible for putting "Hanabi" together in the MV's description, rather than the familiar names of the songwriters who usually work on Mae-Kiyo's songs like Toyohisa Araki (荒木とよひさ), I read instead that the kayo crooner's own son, Hiroki (紘毅), had done both the writing and composing. At that point I could guess that "Hanabi" wasn't going to be anything close to Mood Kayo, let alone enka. Judging from Maekawa Jr.'s ikemen-like style on an episode of "Inaka ni Tomaro!" (田舎に泊まろう!) - a show where some celebrity gets dropped in some random countryside town and he/she has to find a local's home to stay in for the night - he didn't look like he'd be into what Maekawa Sr. specializes in.
To be frank, I was skeptical as to what Hiroki would come up with (Noelle from 4/1/2016: To be more specific, I was skeptical of Hiroki's songwriting ability. Should've been clearer on that.), especially with his pop's previous single being written by a venerable figure in enka, but it turned out alright when listening to the pleasant and laid-back pop melody upon taking a look at the MV. Together with the lyrics, "Hanabi" feels like a very hopeful song. I do enjoy it and it's nice to see the once disapproving father collaborating with his son - Mae-Kiyo was against Hiroki's decision to enter the music business. However, I don't think I'd consider it to be one of my favourite Mae-Kiyo songs. Also, from the number of times I've seen "Hanabi" being performed on the "Kayo Concert" and "Nippon no Uta" stage, I find that Maekawa Sr. tends to have a tougher time singing this tune.
Anyway, "Hanabi" was released on 17th September 2014 and it peaked at 100th place on the Oricon charts.