Listening to AKB48, for me, is like watching paint dry. Their songs have too simplistic melodies for my liking.
And that's why I'm challenging myself to do this review, to test my talent and patience as a writer.
That being said, I really do enjoy the girls themselves, and watching them perform, and most of the fandom, but usually their songs just don't reel me in.
I've never actually finished an AKB48 album, because a lot of the songs are so bland.
But I'm doing this just to say I have. Also, for my fans' enjoyment.
Keep in mind that I'm listening to most of these songs with a fresh ear, excluding "Beginner," which I've heard once, and "Heavy Rotation," which I've heard many, many times.
Also, I apologize if this review has repetitive wording. Their songs do tend to repeat themselves often.
So, without further ado, let's begin!
NOTE: A-sides are bolded.
1. Shoujotachi yo (AKB48)
Starting off, this song has that power-pop-trumpet thing going on that a lot of AKB48 songs have. It's a safe method they've used for a while now, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't slightly enjoy it. Also, I'm really enjoying the faint background electric guitar strumming, but if you read my blog, you'll probably know I'm a sucker for guitar in idol songs. The chorus has a very typical AKB48 sound, which I expected from the opener of the album. The chorus is definitely a step down from the verses. The second verse kicks in with a bit of a drum beat, which I really like. The instrumental bridge is actually quite breathtaking, but unfortunately the instruments in this song really shine over the girls' vocals and the melody. However, the instrumental is so amazing that I can fairly say this is a good song. The song ends with a bang, with a little twinkling effect at the end. Overall, I really did enjoy this song, and I think I might keep it on my computer.
2. Overtake (Team A)
Of course, when starting, again this song follows the AKB48 formula. However, I'm a little more forgiving with this one because it's just Team A and they were the building block of the AKB48 sound. The girls' vocals sound really nice and smooth in this song. It's always nice to hear the mixture of high and low voices. Listening to the chorus, I'm almost sure I've heard this song before. In this song's case, that's not a good thing. It's very bland. The second verse starts with a little acoustic instrumentation in the background, eventually building up with percussion again. It seems that in the second chorus, even more percussion is added. This song's charm thus far seems to be its crescendo of sorts. The bridge consists of a chorus of "ooh"s followed by the girls singing again, then back to the boring chorus. I think overall, this song is very forgettable. Sometimes, the AKB48 song formula creates great songs, but this one is just a filler track, in my opinion.
3. Boku ni Dekiru Koto (Team K)
Before starting this song, I have higher expectations of it already, because it's Team K and Team K are my favorite team. They are my favorite team because of their cool image and also because they create the highest quality songs in AKB48. The song starts with powerful "Wow wow"s with the girls. The first verse has soft but cool instruments in the background. In the pre-chorus bridge, I really like the smooth but amazing transition. The chorus has overlapping and echoing harmonies, to give it a more unique and fresh feel. As soon as the chorus ends, back to the "Wow wow"s that I could listen to forever. In fact, as I keep listening to this song, I am loving it more and more. It's really hard-hitting, feel-good, and beautiful. This song gives me that "I'm so proud to be an idol fan" feeling. There is an electric guitar solo in the bridge, followed by the chorus yet again. The "Wow wow"s are definitely my favorite part of the song. Overall, a great song.
4. Ren'ai Circus (Team B)
When this song starts off with an electronic-rock thing going on, it really shocks me. This song has a fun ska feel, which surprises me a lot when it comes from Team B, because I've heard they have cuter songs. The little background noises aren't doing it for me, and the chorus sounds very juvenile. I guess the title of "Circus" really does fit the song, because it's very all over the place. Thankfully, the girls really do sound like they had a lot of fun recording this song. Also, it's nice to hear the ska representation in this song, even if it is a little overshadowed by the overall awkwardness of the composition. My favorite parts of this song are the guitar parts, which sound really nice with an electronic filter.
5. Kaze no Yukue (Kuramochi Asuka, Sashihara Rino, Takahashi Minami, Oshima Yuko, Minegishi Minami, Kashiwagi Yuki)
From this lineup, I expect two things: solo lines and a mature concept. Let's see if I'm right. It starts off with an instrumental that sounds like it would be in a commercial for medicine, showing happy families prancing around in a green field. Then, the vocals kick in, and the undeniable idol feel starts. I'll tell you, AKB48 songs are really good at one thing, making life feel like it's all right. The chorus is very melodic and pretty. This song kind of reminds me of an upbeat, more idol-y version of "Aruiteru" by Morning Musume. Maybe it's because of the chimes that can be heard in the background. The girls in this song seem like some of the better singers, except for Yuko, who I know is just mediocre. Even though this song doesn't seem to have any solo lines like I expected, it survives just fine without them. It's a very beautiful song. Wait, I swallow my words. There are two solo lines in the bridge, coming from Takamina and Yuko. Something I really like about Takamina's voice is how well it flows from one note to the other. Yuko does not have the best voice, but it's obvious she got the other solo line because she was very popular during her time in the group. Even so, her voice definitely does not ruin the dynamic of the song. The melodies and harmonies and everything about this song is just so pretty, and I think this album is pretty solid so far.
6. Wagamama Collection (Oota Aika, Maeda Ami, Komori Mika, Sato Sumire, Watanabe Mayu, Matsui Jurina)
To avoid looking stupid, I looked this song up first on Studio48 to see if it has solo lines. It does. From the translation of the lyrics of this song, I expect it to be a cutesy song.
Out of the girls in this song, I know of Lovetan, Sumire, Mayuyu, and Jurina. I'm not familiar with the other two girls, but I do hope they are well-suited to this song. Well, let's find out. Oh dear, this is just very...50s? Too cute for my tastes. Very sugary and whiney. Not my thing. I should've expected it. The girls are trying very hard to sound high-pitched, which is making me feel uncomfortable. The chorus is disappointing, as I expected some big leap from the verse sound to the chorus, but no luck. The melody of this song grates on you, and seems to repeat itself over and over. This song's brother-little sister complex is not really my thing, even though I know it's quite popular in Japan. The bridge switches things up. In fact, it's almost acapella, then an out-of-place electric guitar solo. I really don't like this song, but I can see how it would please some idol fans.
7. Ningyo no Vacances (Takajo Aki, Nito Moeno, Yokoyama Yui, Kasai Tomomi, Kitahara Rie, Sato Amina, Masuda Yuka)
The song has a really island-y, chill-out feel in the beginning. There are a lot of H!P-esque background vocals. This song is acoustic guitar-heavy, which is really unique of an AKB48 song. The melody is fairly simple, and I'm not a fan of the song so far. I feel like with selected member lineups for songs, the girls should have chances to shine, and I feel like with this song, they don't get their chance to, especially with the unreasonably loud male vocals overpowering the actual girls. There's not much of a group dynamic in this one, unfortunately. There's not much more to say about this song, since it stays pretty much the same throughout. Perhaps, it's the weakest song of the album so far. Something I will give it, though, is the lyrics have really nice imagery.
8. Kimi to Boku no Kankei (Maeda Atsuko, Itano Tomomi)
This should be interesting. I'm not particularly fond of either Acchan or Tomochin, but if I had to pick, I would pick Tomochin. I still feel really weird hearing Tomochin in AKB songs simply because of the trainwreck American-style music she makes now. The song starts off with really awkward English, then jumps into the melody. This song is very J-pop. It has electronic accents, with very typical idol vocals. The chorus is infectious, kind of reminding me of a Euro-pop track. This song is chock-full of effects, which works well. Suddenly, a random guy comes in and raps in Engrish. It's horrid. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but does he say "I wanna wanna see you all gay"? Hopefully, I'm hearing that wrong! This song was decent until that rap happened. Now it's just laughable.
9. Iikagen no Susume (Katayama Haruka, Kojima Haruna, Shinoda Mariko, Akimoto Sayaka, Miyazawa Sae, Matsui Rena)
Can I just say, I'm digging this lineup already. Especially since my AKB48 kami-oshi, Sayaka, is in it. I cannot wait to listen. To start this song off, it has some nice piano, then morphing into a more upbeat tune. Not going to lie, it gave me the chills. The song starts off with a long solo line from KojiHaru, which I can't complain about. The transition from solo to group works really well. The girls' voices blend really well in this song. The chorus has a really mature feel, with great instrumentation. Yes, I've said that a lot in this album review, but that's another thing AKB48 does really well. The instruments are always really great in their songs, and the instrumental compositions are always well-thought-out. I really like how Sayaka's deeper voice sticks out during the group parts, not to mention she is a really good singer. This song has a really nice balance to it, and overall it's very enjoyable.
10. High school days (Team Kenkyuusei)
Finally, a song from AKB48 trainees! I expect this to have...prepubescent vocals, since Aki-P recruits 'em young. The song starts off really prettily, but then takes an unfortunate dive once the singing starts, with the same melody from a million other songs I've heard. The chorus is a little refreshing, and it might actually save the song from being a snooze-fest. I have a feeling I already know what this song is about, without looking up the translation: "Oh, I'm a schoolgirl...oops, my seifuku lifted in the wind, did you sneak a peek? Oh, I always blush around you...what to do?" Well, what do you know? I was pretty much right. It's expected, though.
11. Team B Oshi (Team B)
Dear God, if this song is anything like "Wasshoi B!," I'll need to get away from it as fast as I can. That damn song gives me nightmares. Here's hoping it's not. Of course, it's a cute song. Well, this song is definitely a song meant for wotagei. Why does it seem that every Team B song has to have obnoxious background noise? Oh well, I suppose they're supposed to be the team with "personality." A nice touch to this song is the chanting of each member's nickname in the choruses. It's very inclusive, since there's so many girls. Plus, it gives wota the chance to scream the loudest when their oshi's name is called. The yelling between the notes in this song really does annoy me, but I do like the AKB48 chant parts. At least this song is miles better than "Wasshoi B!"
12. Chance no Junban (AKB48)
Now, here are where the A-sides start. It starts off with the most formulaic AKB48 melody one could think up -- no lie. I have a strong feeling this song was just one of those ones that Aki-P just threw together in five minutes and thought, Well, it doesn't matter if this song sounds the exact same as 3000 other songs I've created, it'll sell anyway! A lot of the strengths in AKB48's A-sides usually do lie in the PVs, anyway, so here's to hoping this song had a great PV. I'm sure the girls do get tired of singing the same melody all the time, though. Like I said, there's nothing at all that sets this song apart from their others, so I literally have no opinion on it.
13. Beginner (AKB48)
"AY YO! POSITION..SET!" What a freaking transformation. AKB48 goes hip-hop. This song is just so freaking...cool. This song makes me want to just clap and stomp along with it. It's something different from them. I really love the "Cha-change your mind" parts. I think they should do more badass songs and concepts. "Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai" was really badass PV-wise, but the song sounded kind of generic. I want another hard-hitting hip-hop song like this one from AKB48 again, because it just works so well for them. This chorus is very memorable. Then there's an amazing, empowering, bridge that I just can't get enough of. This song just makes me want to conquer the world. It's extremely epic. It actually makes use of the many girls, being that the group singing works really well for it. I can definitely imagine myself listening to this one often. I give this song a 10/10.
14. Ponytail to Shushu (AKB48)
Will this song be a ballad? That's what I thought, until of course the trumpet pop thing came in. Great, another generic song. I would've liked to heard a ballad for once. Maybe, I'm thinking, the fans like these kinds of songs so much because they're just so "sugary idol." You don't really have to think to enjoy these types of songs. You can just kick back, relax, and enjoy the happy voices of your wonderful idols. I can kind of see the appeal, realizing that H!P, which is my main fandom, has really distinctive songs that are really for specific moods. With AKB48, the songs are more just like "I'm in the mood to listen to some sugary idol goodness, let me just put on an AKB48 song." It's not really my thing, and I prefer H!P anyday, but like I said, I can definitely see the appeal.
15. Heavy Rotation (AKB48)
Ah, my first AKB48 song ever. My second J-pop song ever, after Mini Moni's "Ai~n! Dance no Uta" (please don't look that second one up, it's an embarrassment to all H!P fans.) This song is notorious for its wonderful lesbian sleepover-themed music video. This song actually started my obsession with J-pop, because despite having that AKB48 song feel, it actually has a really distinct tune. Yuko is the center and the only one with solo lines, which is a nice switch-up from the Acchan-dominated world at the time. This song is perfect pop goodness, you might just get a cavity from listening to it. I remember watching the PV and trying to learn the girls. I was instantly attracted to Shinoda Mariko, as she was the dance center. Of course, this was when I knew barely anything about the group, but Mariko-sama still remains one of my favorites. Overall, this song is really awesome, and pleases my ears to this day.
16. Koko ni Ita Koto (AKB48, SKE48, SDN48, NMB48)
Finally, the finale song of the album, after two hours of writing this review. It's featuring all of AKB's sister groups at the time (don't even remind me of SDN, so sad.) Wow, this time it's actually a ballad. A very pretty-sounding one, too. There's a nice violin in the background along with simplistic piano. I can imagine this song being performed at a graduation concert, and I'm sure it has been. The harmonizations are a really beautiful and angelic touch. There's a little chorus on either side on the ear. It's faint, but extremely aesthetically pleasing. This song has no doubt the best composition on the whole album. The song descends into epicness, with trumpets and light percussion entering, then goes back to the simple instruments. The dynamic of this song is very smooth, and the girls sound flawless. I think this song is an outstanding finisher.
Overall, I am pleased with this album. Some tracks were track, some not-so-great, but for AKB48 standards, I give it an A+.
Songs I'll have on repeat
-Boku ni Dekiru Koto
-Kaze no Yukue
-Iikagen no Susume
-Heavy Rotation (of course!)
-Koko ni Ita Koto
Songs I'll avoid
-Ningyo no Vacances
-High school days
-Kimi to Boku no Kankei
-Kimi to Boku no Kankei
Well, that's it for now! Request any J-pop album for me to review, and I'll do it! Thank you so much for reading! Calli, out!