Posted by: Leek | February 25, 2015

Music Purchase in Review: Aikatsu! 3rd Season Single – Beautiful Song

So I was under the misunderstanding that this single would come out last week. Not like it’s a life changing happening or anything but I was really ready to turn it out last week. Oh well. This will probably be the first of three music reviews (since I have two other CDs sitting right next to me waiting to be opened). I might just not do the others since I only seem to review Aikatsu! music anyway.

Oh yeah, if you came looking for a download again. Well, there are plenty of this people that seem to enjoy giving out things for free. I’m a pretty nice and generous person but not in that way.

General Overview
Beautiful Song is the first of the new fleet of singles we’ll be getting for the new season. And just like the start of every season, it returns to the normal format of three songs and three off vocal tracks. To be honest, it’s the one thing I really miss at the end of the season when they start packing more music on the CDs. Not because I’m sad about getting more music on one CD but I’m a man who really gets a lot out of off vocal tracks.

There’s only two other real speaking points for the CD otherwise. One, this is the first single that introduces Miho (Juri’s voice) into the roster. The second is my usual spiel about the people who write the music itself. Once again, the writers at one trap are responsible for most of the music on this CD but one face from first season makes a return again. NARASAKI makes his long return to put up one track on “Beautiful Song” (note that he’s not a part of one trap or MONACA) for those of you that missed him after “Signalize” stopped being the opening four openings ago.

That’s about all there is to really speak generally about on the CD. There’s been so many singles you’re probably used to the drill by now.

You know how the single designs go. Have some cute artwork on the front that decides the general theme and then throw some character models on the back. Which is what I would say but they did seem to actually put some clever thought into the character designs for the backside of the case. And by that, I just mean they threw them onto tarot styled cards to go with the general Sumire centered CD design. That’s really the only thing you could say they really did that’s “different”. I’ll never hate clean, simple designs but I tend to drift more towards the cuter themed Aikatsu! designs. That’s just a personal preference though.

I also find it funny how excited I was to see Akari on a cover for the OP/ED single and now she’s already off. I realized they kind of shook up the covers to feature who took center stage on the CD in Season 2, but it’s kind of sad Ichigo ended up on so many CD covers and Akari is getting more than a little shafted. She’s not even absent in the show as a main character (the music however is a different story). I guess we’ll just have to wait for Akari to get her own character song in the hopefully near future so she can get on the cover of a another CD again.

Music/Track Progression Musical Overview
You could say that “Beautiful Song” sticks to it’s name pretty strongly. All songs are on the gentle side even if “Hello! Winter Love♪” brings more cute to the table than anything else. Otherwise, you could say that there’s a good amount of grace in every song. All the instrumental choices and theme choices are pretty easy listening and offsets the really upbeat previous OP/ED single pretty nicely.

It’s a decent variety of music but probably doesn’t scream as loud as other Aikatsu! singles in the past. Even with the one stand out track buried in the middle, all three tracks are pretty standard sounds you’ll find in Japan’s pop music market. Not to say that’s a bad thing as a couple of the songs are sounds that Aikatsu! has, strangely enough, been missing for awhile. But generally avoiding the status quo sounds of the pop market is never really a bad thing. It just doesn’t hurt to hear them every so often if they’re done effectively.

Track by Track Breakdown

tarte tatin – I’ll always admit I never liked “Signalize” and thought it was one of the weakest songs to come out of the first season. And I never held it against NARASAKI so much at the time, but when you come back and do a song with the same old same old synthesizer abuse I’m going to hold it against you. I think there’s a part of me that sees it like “Kira pata shining” where I just don’t know if there was an actual focused direction the song was supposed to be taken in. I don’t think “tarte tatin” is as horrendously busy as “Kira pata shining” was but it has some moments where I just kind of scratch my head. And I know at least 50% of what bothers me is how Mona is forced to do the vocals for this song. I know half of it is to perform in a distinct voice for Sumire but the whisper style of it just forces some really bad things when she has to hit higher notes. There are good ideas in this song and I won’t say it’s completely bad, but I do think it’s a mess when I play it back.

Passion flower – Even if the CD is designed around Sumire, it’s hard to say that “Passion flower” isn’t the real stand out song on the single. A little while back when “Arabian Romance” came out, I mentioned how it had been a bit of a step in a direction of those songs that always show up in Japanese pop music. “Passion flower” is probably another case of that and it’s a sound that I’m been baffled has taken as long as it did to show up. There’s nothing particularly complex about it but that’s not always a bad thing. It’s just a fun song to listen to and I think the vocal pairing on it was chosen perfectly. I had complained about the vocal style Mona was forced into for “tarte tartin” and I’m glad she was able to return to the same voice that she generally used for Mikuru. Both vocals compliment each other well, and I won’t mind Miho at all as she feels like she takes all the good points Risuko had in STAR☆ANIS without suffering from the issue of overpowering other vocals.

Hello! Winter Love♪ – Aikatsu! has managed to go two seasons without writing that staple Christmas pop ballad. I assume mostly because they really wanted to get use out of their souped up version of “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. Not that I’m here to complain, “Ugh, they finally did it”. It’s more of a “Wow, they finally did it,” kind of situation. “Angel Snow” was the closest Aikatsu! had ever come to a really seasonal Christmas song but it was such an upbeat romp that it was hard to get that same seasonal sensation. I’m fairly sure “Hello! Winter Love♪” isn’t a song you can listen to all year round, but it is something that is cute to pull out around the holidays. And that’s honestly the only real complaint you can file about songs like this that really focus on a season. Do you want to listen to it when it’s not that time of season? Usually not, but it’s at least there if you ever desire a really cute holiday song to turn on.

tarte tatin OFF VOCAL – I think removing the vocals of “tarte tatin” helps it a lot, which is why I pointed out how much the vocal direction of it bothered me. And really playing back the off vocal made me appreciate what NARASAKI was trying to do. The only thing that really kills me is the random jazz break that happens early in the song. I really don’t know why it exists because hearing it just makes me feel like the song wanders off during it. If I were to sit down with NARASAKI to talk about the song I would have told him to go back and do the entire song based around that jazz break or just flat out remove it and figure out some way to use what he had already. But when you insert that break into this song it just feels like a lack of focus to me. But without that I can happily listen to this instrumental and I feel like just altering the vocal direction could actually do wonders for the song (to me anyway).

Passion flower OFF VOCAL – “Passion flower” is a pretty big step in the opposite direction of “tarte tatin” when it comes to the off vocal track. It’s a song that is mostly carried by it’s vocals due to the relatively simple backing but you can still get a good amount out of the vocal track. Even if all the separate parts are really subtle, it is enjoyable to deconstruct it and have a good listen. Chances are you’re going to opt for listening to the vocal version on the majority of occasions though.

Hello! Winter Love♪ OFF VOCAL – Stereotype or not, “Hello! Winter Love♪” is just a beautiful song (I figured I would opt for that over pretty just to fit the mood) to listen to. Much like I said about the actual version of it, I really doubt you’ll be listening to it very much due to the it’s seasonal limitations. But if you remove all those lyrics about Christmas, then you can listen to the off vocal version anytime you want! Alright, so I’m probably the only person who’d ever do that and I’m really just joking around. It’s simple, it’s easy listening, and it’s still adorable without the vocals included.

Wrap Up
Despite my minor issues here and there with it, Beautiful Song was a really strong single to open up the new season with. There’s a lot of personality in all the music and it did a good job of showcasing the newer cast (outside of Akari who had a marginal amount of Season 2 to debut herself). I know it’s a little past Christmas to be buying a CD that basically has a Christmas song on it, but just remember you’ll have it for seasons and seasons to come. If not that, then just remember that you can always buy the single for “Passion flower”, and that’s not really a bad decision if you ask me. Honestly, this single just excites me. I will admit I was hesitant as one trap composers slowly started to fill in for the MONACA staff, but it has hardly worked against the Aikatsu! music library. And I feel that the new season of music will turn out just as fun and full of variety as always.


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