Release Date: October 12, 2011
Morning Musume’s 12th album was originally rumored to be titled 12 Kakusan Kibou but was renamed to the shorter & easier to pronounce 12 Smart. I would like to point out that this is the lamest title for a Morning Musume album I have seen. The original title seemed to have some meaning behind it with the Spread Hope Freely message. 12 Smart? It seems rather dumbed down in comparison. At least the numbering system is still in place in case we all forget how many albums they have released.
With that tiny rant out of the way let’s look at what most of us are interested in, the music. 12 Smart as a whole is the same mash up of styles that long time fans have become accustomed to. Newer listeners on the other hand, may become easily confused or frustrated at the lack of a single musical direction. Thus is the appeal of Morning Musume giving mostly everyone what they want.
The album doesn’t exactly start with its best stuff as we are treated to more Emo Musume with Give Me Love & the previously released Only You. Fairly paint by numbers material that has been recycled infinitely since Shouganai Yumeobito. Both songs are fairly catchy and I believe that Give Me Love sounds like a Hinoi Team song (without the fat dude rapping) so both get a passing grade from me.
As we progress through the album we encounter some of Hello! Project’s interpretations of R&B and Technopop. Platinum 9 Disc & 10 My Me showed that it’s entirely plausible for Morning Musume to do Urban Contemporary without sounding totally out of their element.
That’s not so evident on Silver no Udedokei. Sometimes it’s great with the older members on lead, okay with certain 9th gen members & almost out of tune with others. This is where our friend auto-tune would have come in handy. Nothing wrong with giving a few of the 9th gen the T-Pain treatment in this case.
Suki da na Kimi ga on the other hand is all Sayu all the time and it’s unexpectedly awesome. While it’s not unheard of for Sayu to get solo songs (i.e. It’s You) it’s strange to call anything she sings lead on one of the better songs on the album but it is. (This is the perfect representation of what Perfume would sound like if they were drinking the Hello! Project Kool-Aid.)
When adding Kare to Isshoni Omise ga Shitai to the mix we have a strong case for Sayu getting more front girl treatment. Not because she’s a spectacular singer (she’s improved by leaps & bounds but let’s be honest here…) but because what they give her is great material to work with that brings back that youthful (and possibly immature) enthusiasm that is missing amongst the adult angst and songs about crying.
Sure tracks like the two mentioned above along with Otome no Timing and Maji Desu ka Ska feel more like hangovers from Kusumi Koharu cracktasticness but they’re a welcome change of pace from what we’ve normally been getting from Hello! Project’s flagship group.
I mentioned earlier in this review that Show Me Love is the Hinoi Team sound-a-like. I was wrong. If anything sounds like Hinoi Team it’s OKAY YEAH! That is some hyperactive music that definitely needs an incoherent fat guy rapping about… Uh… Whatever that fat guy in Hinoi Team was spouting off about.
When you listen to this album you can tell there isn’t the rushed feeling like when Fantasy Juuichi came out almost immediately after 10 My Me. There was a little more breathing room this time that definitely benefits 12 Smart.
It appears that Morning Musume is reverting back to a more playful, less serious kind of image and sound with the group getting significantly younger on average and 12 Smart is probably just the beginning of many changes to come.
12 Smart (Regular Edition)
12 Smart (Limited Edition)