That’s My Jam is a weekly feature where one person from the Selective Hearing staff goes to wax poetic about music that is pivotal to their musical tastes. Whether that would be an album, a song, or anything in-between. We all had to start somewhere.

Morning Musume 3rd Love Paradise

Release Date:  March 23rd, 2000

Tracklisting:

  1. ~Ohayou~
  2. LOVE Machine
  3. Aisha Loan de
  4. Kuchizuke no Sono Ato
  5. Koi no Dance Site
  6. Lunchtime ~Rebanira Itame~
  7. DANCE Suru no da!
  8. Omoide
  9. Harajuku 6:00 Shuugou
  10. WHY
  11. “…Suki da yo!”
  12. ~Oyasumi~

Review

Towards the end of the year 2000, I happened to hear of a Japanese idol group called “Morning Musume” and their newest single at the time, “Happy Summer Wedding.” I thought the song was a great breath of fresh air from most of the music I was hearing at the time, and also had something special and unique over the Kpop and anime-related Jpop I had been listening to a few years at that point. As usual with most new artists that I come across and enjoy, I started looking back at their history as best I could. Keep in mind, this was long before the days of torrents, direct download sites, and availability of Asian media of any kind aside from clunky and slow peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, so researching that history was a pretty big chore on its own.

Soon after that, I ended up finding a copy of their most recent album at the time, called “3rd LOVE Paradise” and decided to give it a spin. This album blind-sided me with a level of quality and uniqueness among idol music compared to what I had heard at the time. It barely even sounded like idol music as I knew it, but sounded more like a high-quality, mature pop album by an experimental pop artist, with sounds ranging from rock to disco, jazz, lounge music, and modern dance tracks. While this was far from the first material I had heard from them, it was, and still is some of the best, even today. Here’s a quick overview of the tracks and what I find memorable about them.

Ohayou:

This is the intro track for the album, and it basically consists of all seven girls nudging you to wake up in the morning by talking in your ear (only seven girls in Morning Musume, imagine that..) The track isn’t just voices, though, as there’s a gorgeous, lush backing track behind their voices with lots of strings and wind instruments that creates an uplifting sound that’s very audibly representative of “morning.” It’s a great way to start off the album, and adds to the concept of the record.

LOVE Machine:

While I don’t want to talk down about this song too much in general, it has grossly overstayed it’s welcome in H!P and I’m terribly tired of it at this point, but for it’s time, the song was pretty revolutionary in it’s own way. The arrangement still has a lot of great Dance☆Man flair with some really cool layered backing vocals and funk/disco feel, but it feels pretty out of place on this album, which tends to focus on more unique, mature styles of pop. This one is a pretty straight-forward dance pop track with some of his usual funk/disco embellishments, and while it has it’s importance and really put Morning Musume on the map to the mainstream public, its not even close to being one of their better songs.

Aisha Loan de:

This song is loads of fun, from the moment the intro riff kicks in and starts mocking The Knack’s “My Sharona” all the way to the very end where the song slows down to a hault with a repeat of the chorus section. After this opening passage, the song quickly morphs into a totally different song, with the verse and chorus being really fun, playful idol progressions played with a rock arrangement that still sound great today.

Kuchizuke no Sono Ato:

This song is a kind of solemn-sounding modern pop-rock song, full of poppy guitars and emotional rock melodies. The production values are pretty authentic to this kind of sound and remind me of some mid-late 90’s American soft rock songs. It makes for a pretty mature and laid-back sound that isn’t very characteristic of what you’d expect from Japanese idols. The instrumental interlude in the middle even sounds like a french pop song for a few seconds, with some random accordion paired with acoustic guitar.

Koi no Dance Site:

This, much like LOVE Machine, (the only other single on this album,) feels out of place. It’s another Dance☆Man track, and as everyone knows, it’s layered with tons of wacky dance breaks, silly vocal deliveries, and “exotic” Middle-Eastern sounds, aside from the usual Dance☆Man production sensibilities like layered vocals and heavy electric bass. This was Tsunku’s first attempt at re-creating the sound of Dschinghis Khan, as he would later go on to cover and further steal this sound on plenty of other H!P releases in the future. While I don’t dislike the song, it has lost some appeal over the years, and once again, sticks out like a sore thumb on this album.

Lunchtime (Rebanira Itame):

Lunchtime is the “halftime” track of the album, and its a short skit that’s set up as if the group is on a radio talk show under the name “Morning Mask” and is being asked some questions by the DJ. They always have to respond with the title of the track “Rebanira Itame,” then their response usually gets turned into a weird impromptu song using their voice sample. Its a pretty funny track, and a fun break in the middle of the album.

Dance Suru no da!:

This is the first non-single song arranged by Dance☆Man on the album, and easily one of the best tracks on the album overall. This song is catchy, upbeat idol pop mixed with a pretty authentic funk/dance sound and has a pretty dynamic song structure that doesn’t linger on any part too long before switching to another passage. There’s tons of fun on the track production, from the huge layers of crowd vocals in the background, funk keyboards and turntable scratches filling in the gaps, and a false ending 3/4 of the way through the song. The whole track exudes fun, but not in a completely silly and phony “idol” kind of way like a lot of the group’s later music.

Omoide:

This is a smooth jazz track, very akin to some of the early stuff Hello!Project subgroup Tanpopo did for their earlier singles. It’s not very cheerful, but more of an emotional jazz track with lots of softly-spoken vocals and a classy jazz arrangement featuring guitars, heavy bongos, and some powerful, very active basslines. Once again, not something you’d really expect to hear from an idol group, but lends a lot of diversity to the concept of the album.

Harajuku 6:00 Shuugo:

Here’s another jazzy track, this time a little more lively, with some blaring jazz horns and some great multi-layered harmonies, all done by the girls themselves (yes, the group members used to do the vocal harmonies, not just Tsunku or someone else.) The track is a blast from start to finish, with tons of diverse instrumentation, power, and a jazzy dance rhythm that’s super catchy without sound phony or “idol-y” in the end. Another of my favorites from the album.

WHY:

WHY is another interesting calm, jazzy track featuring some male rapping by famous early 2000s Japanese rapper UMEDY, and lots of other interesting vocal production techniques. Most of the song is all sung so quietly that its almost a whisper, and there’s lots more backup vocals by the girls here. Probably the most unique vocal production technique used for a lot of the song is where the lyrics are all sung with each syllable by a different girl, and while changing singers with each syllable, the vocal track also shifts from one channel to the other, alternating left and right at the same time. Listen to this on headphones for a head trip. It has a distorted electronic interlude in the middle that causes a short swell of intensity for a few seconds before dying back to the very quiet nature heard in the rest of the song. Another very unique track that doesn’t quite sound like anything else on the record.

…Suki da yo!:

Here’s the other non-single Dance☆Man track for the album, this time sticking much more with a very authentic 70s disco/funk arrangement that sounds a lot more like a legitimate American track from this era and style, (something along the lines of Earth, Wind and Fire,) not mixing in the idol side so much like “Dance Suru no da!” does. Another interesting feature is that the vocals were recorded completely in mono and put into the right speaker channel, where the music is all in the left speaker channel, just like an old record from the 60s/70s era, which is a very cool nod to that early stereo era of music that many people might not notice. More backup vocals and layering here by the girls as well, like most of the album tracks. A really fun track that seems all but forgotten in H!P’s history, as it was only performed live one time in their entire history.

Oyasumi:

The closing track is the companion to the opening track, serving as the opposite bookend, where the girls are all wishing you “good night” while the melody of the track from the opening plays on a music box in the background. A very cute track that gives a little extra bit of memorability to the album and closes the “concept” of the record as a whole.

Closing thoughts:

Some of the most standout features of the album were already mentioned here, including lots of vocal harmonies and backup vocals that are done by the girls in the group themselves, which leaves a wonderful lack of the all-too-common Tsunku backup vocals we hear in H!P nowadays, which makes it feel a lot more mature overall. His voice is barely heard on this album at all outside of the single tracks.

The album also goes for an overall more mature sound, which is something that was really lost after this album came out. While their 4th, 5th, and 6th albums all had some great tracks, none of them had the maturity, cohesiveness, ingenuity, and overall quality that 3rd LOVE Paradise had.

This is a far cry from the modern Morning Musume that newer audiences have fallen in love with, as there’s barely a trace of a synth or non-organic instrument here. Everything is recorded on real instruments or something that at least sounds very real, lending a lot of legitimacy to the music as a whole.

The vocal production is all very raw, where you can tell that they’re not entirely professional singers, and aren’t trying to be pushed as such, yet its also polished enough that it doesn’t detract from the music. The album pays tribute strongly back to the 1960s and 1970s era of music, where things were done very differently and much more “analog” than they are in most eras afterwards.

Another great feature here is that there were only two previously heard songs on the entire record, where most idol albums now barely ever include more than 4-5 new songs. This album was mostly all new material, and very well-produced and diverse material, at that.

Its hard to believe this record is already almost 14 years old, when it seems like just yesterday I got my copy in the mail and played it for the first time, but it still holds up really well after all this time and was one of the first albums that made me realize there can be a lot more to idol music than most people will let on at first glance.

If you want to listen to the album and don’t have it already, you can listen via this playlist:

Morning Musume – 3rd LOVE Paradise

3rd Love Paradise

iTunes

Thanks for reading!