I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Morning Musume -- The Peace (ザ☆ピ~ス!)

Yes, you will believe a urinal can disco!

The first few years of the 21st century were my high time with the gaggle of girls known as Morning Musume(モーニング娘。). Starting with their most successful single, "Love Machine" in 1999, the Hello Project group broke into that rarefied atmosphere known as media superstardom. For those few years anyways, they had at least 3 or 4 weekly TV shows scattered across the schedule and most likely some radio shows as well. I have to admit that I was a regular watcher of their flagship show, "Hello! Morning" on Sunday mornings on TV Tokyo.

And of course, they continued to sing and dance and change their lineup. Only two of the original group were still in Morning Musume (Kaori Iida, Natsumi Abe), there were two from the second generation (Mari Yaguchi, Kei Yasuda), the Next Big Thing with Maki Goto (who got in at the right time with her debut song being the aforementioned "Love Machine") and the new bunch from the 4th generation (Rika Ishikawa, Hitomi Yoshizawa, Ai Kago and Nozomi Tsuji).

Those years of 1999-2001 were the ones for me and MM since it seemed that the songs were channeling the music of my formative years: American disco and YMO technopop. "Love Machine" was definitely one of my favourites of the group, and although a number of the songs turning the century such as "Ren'ai Revolution 21" and "Koi no Dance Site" were fun, too, it wasn't until "The Peace" came along that my attention was just as riveted as when "Love Machine" had hit the charts.

Released in July 2001, "The Peace" was composed and written by Hello Project Svengali, Tsunku(つんく), and arranged by disco-loving Dance Man, the same tandem behind "Love Machine". The song is truly a mix of American musical symbols: from the military shoutout intro known as the "Peace Rap" to the Charleston-like segments which weave in and out of the song, and then the synth-disco which takes up the rest of the pretty much demands the glitter ball, and sure enough, there is one in the official video.

"The Peace" was Morning Musume's 12th single, and it did very well in the rankings although, with 682,320 copies in sales, it was nowhere near the 1.6 million that "Love Machine" earned. But it did hit the No. 1 spot on Oricon and became the 20th-ranked single for 2001. Of course, the Kohaku Utagassen came beckoning.

Speaking about the video, it was probably one of the more entertaining things I'd seen all year. I'm not sure where the idea came for the high seas theme but watching Captain Iida and the crew dancing about in sailor suits while swabbing a ship's head and disco dancing was pretty good fun. Strangely enough, and this was in the years before YouTube (as hard as an Earth without a YouTube must seem to believe), even the dedicated music channels only showed two-thirds of the video....just up to the end of Rika Ishikawa's monologue. In fact, viewers had assumed that was the entire video. One of my friends had a big laugh at one of the Akihabara electronics stores one day...."The Peace" was playing on various television sets inside the store which gathered quite a crowd. As soon as the Ishikawa monologue near the end of the song finished, the group of people started to walk off when the rest of the video came friend told me that there was such an about-face to return to the monitors that the space-time continuum momentarily unglued!

And what an ending. Off come the sailor suits and in come the Vegas showgirl outfits, and the urinals become disco lights. One wonders what the video producer was drinking the night he/she had come up with the idea.

After 2001, with some further changes in the lineup and a direction into (at least in my opinion) a more kiddie-ish direction, my interest in Morning Musume did the inevitable fadeout. But there was one more song after "The Peace" that kept the fun going.

Morning Musume -- The Peace


  1. Hi, J-Canuck.

    "The Peace" is one of my favorites Morning Musume songs. I agree with you about the kiddie-ish direction of the group after this particular single. It ruined them for me, too. There were one or two very good songs after "The Peace" ("Souda! We're Alive" in 2002 and "As For One Day" in 2003), but nothing more.

    But I do enjoy the pre-Love Machine era as well, because there are some good disco-inspired songs like "Daite! HOLD ON ME" (their first number one single), "Summer Night Town", "Manatsu no Kousen" and "Happy Night" (b-side of the "Memory Seishun no Hikari" single).

    And one of my main hobbies last year was to watch the subbed Utaban episodes in which Morning Musume appeared. It was so much fun to see how much Nakai Masahiro and Takaaki Ishibashi teased the girls back then, especially Kaori Iida. Don't know if you had the chance to watch some of them while you were in Japan.

    The only problem that I found in "The Peace" (and in some of their other singles, like "Koi no Dance Site", "Happy Summer Wedding" and "Renai Revolution 21") is the constant noise in the background (they surely told the girls to shout a lot in the background to add the sense of fun in the songs). For me, it just hurts the arrangement, and becomes kinda annoying. It would be better if the songs were clean, like the pre-Love Machine ones. But other than that, no criticism about this particular Morning Musume era.

    Today I just see a bunch of kids in the group. The members are nowhere near as charismatic like the first generations, and the songs are not very exciting too. But we can always enjoy the good things of the past, and the old Morning Musume surely needs a lot of love.

    1. Hi, Marcos.

      I haven't paid attention to MM for about a decade now. So, I only recognize jus one or two old members in the group. If I'm not mistaken, is Reina Tanaka still there? If so, I think she would probably be the leader by now, and maybe the longest-serving one.

      I bought the group's first BEST compilation so I've heard all of their earlier stuff. The pre-"Love Machine" songs are OK but I think what really gave Morning Musume that oomph for me was when Tsunku and Dance Man just added that little bit of disco and R&B. I hear you, though, about some of that background noise, but I guess Tsunku wanted to get a ton of happiness into the tunes.

      Did watch "Utaban" a fair bit on Thursday nights, and so I remembered the Morning Musume segments being regular highlights on the specials. It was there that Kaori Iida got the nickname "Johnson" from Takaaki Ishibashi. I was never quite sure what the intent was, but I hope Ishibashi didn't name her for the sleazier meaning of the word. :)

      Morning Musume always turned out to be a highlight on a lot of the 2-hour specials for the music shows such as "HEY HEY HEY" since there were so many of them that could be teased. There was one notorious segment in which several of the girls had to enter their heads into a cage with a hungry iguana with a slab of raw pork attached to their heads...the contest winner was the one who could keep her head in the cage the longest. The segment even made it onto CNN's Anderson Cooper show.

    2. Reina Tanaka is still in the group, but she is not the leader. Sayumi Michishige, who entered in the same audition of Reina, is the leader now.

      Their first compilation is a must. I need to buy it someday.

      About "Utaban", I've laughed a lot of the "Johnson" nickname. He said it was the name of a baseball player, but who knows? Takaaki's head is always kind of dirty.

      That episode of "HEY! HEY! HEY!" must have been funny. I laughed of it just reading your comment. But I didn't find any "HEY! HEY! HEY!" of Morning Musume with english subs. I must look for it again.

      But the girls were really fun. I don't know if you get this feeling but they were kinda "raw" at the time. They were there and did a lot of crazy things. And I don't think that TV shows nowadays could do the same thing with the newest members.

    3. Oh, that Takaaki...he just LOVES to embarrass the girls silly. The things he did and said to people like Miki Imai, Rie Miyazawa and Arisa Mizuki.

      I think compared to Onyanko Club back in the 80s, the MM girls were given more leeway to express themselves...not that they could be fully frank but their emotions were more easily seen.

      Ah, I remember...there was that one time when the MM gang had to watch the horror movie "Ringu". There was that climactic scene when the evil female spirit Sadako climbed out of the that moment, one of the girls disguised as Sadako jumped out of the wall behind the TV. The reaction was priceless! It may still be out there on YouTube.

  2. Now that Momusu has re-created itself from the scratch, it has become almost a techno group. There might be strategic thinking behind it. On the left side there is Akimoto juggernaut, on the right side Nakata machine. There might be an open slot somewhere between. Opinions and such, but at least the latest Momusu releases sound fresh to me. This hasn't happened for a long time.

    I too lost most of my interest to Momusu after 2nd generation. Still it was nice to see Yaguchan on video.

    1. I became happy when Morning Musume started selling well again last year, but, at the same time, I'm not sure if this techno route is good for them. It might be okay now, but, in my opinion, they can't insist too much on this. As they did four singles in a row with this style, it started to get boring, at least for me.

      One might point out that Nakata's production are always electronic and nobody complains. It's true, but he adds a lot of variety to the songs, and, for me, that's something that is lacking in Morning Musume's techno songs. Going further, Nakata is always trying different styles of electronic music on his productions, like techno, house, picopop and, most recently, EDM (in "Spending all my time") and DnB (in "Point").

      But I did enjoy "Ren'ai Hunter" and "One Two Three". I just think that Tsunku should have created some new ideas and concepts after those two singles, though. On the other hand, I understand that he opted to overuse this style as the group started selling better. They have a new single coming up soon. Let's see what Tsunku has under his sleeves.

  3. Hi, guys. Anything is possible in the wonderfully wacky world of entertainment around the planet, so I can imagine (and hope) that Morning Musume can grab that Oricon brass ring once more. I've yet to hear any of their more recent material, so I'm surprised to hear that they're going a bit techno now. If Nakata or Tsunku or even Dance Man can provide a really killer hook that is somehow different from a Perfume or an AKB 48 song, that could be the thing. But I'm just an armchair producer here. :) Fun talking about this, though.

    1. Hey J-Canuck.

      Their latest single, Help Me!! reached #1 on the weekly Oricon charts selling more than 100,000.

      I think that besides the techno songs and good hooks, Morning Musume is kind of being positively affected by this "new idol era" that is masterminded by Akimoto and his "_ _ _48" groups.

      I checked out their newest song, "Brainstorming!", and it continues with the techno style. But they are releasing another a-side on the same single. So, like "Matenrou Museum" in "One Two Three", we can hopefully expect a different style.

      But I thought a lot about Morning Musume yesterday and realized the new songs are really okay (not amazing, but quite good). The main problem, for me, are the kiddie-ish vocals. They are kids, of course, but maybe the techno style is a bit to mature for this young Morning Musume. Even Perfume is not doing this kind of song anymore, and that's something they should do in spite of the cute and fluffy stuff they insist in releasing (like the new song "Mirai no Museum", a Doraemon movie theme). But that's another story.

      All in all, I think I had too much fun with the old Morning Musume, and that fact alone probably blocks me of enjoying the new Morning Musume properly. But in the end I'm always cheering for them.

  4. Hi, Marcos.

    100,000 copies sold, eh? That's a nice sign for a group that's going on 16 years now! I'll have to check out "Brainstorming!" and some of the other recent tunes to see how the new group is sounding. And it's been years since I've seen Miss Michishige...she used to be the cute interviewer on "Hello Morning". I kinda wonder how much she's matured over the past decade

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