Juice=Juice finally released their album a while ago, and I’m here to tell you all about it! Since the first disc is a collection of most of their singles that they’ve released since they started up, I’m not going to talk too much about that. I really want to try and spend most my time covering all the new stuff instead. That being said, listening to the first disc, called “The Best Juice”, gives you a nice little history of the progress they have had since they started. Interestingly, the disc doesn’t actually start with their first song. It starts with their final indie single, which was really them providing their version of a Hello Pro Kenshuusei song: ‘Ten Made Nobore!’ In their defense, it’s the only indie single of theirs that never saw a major release. It’s a slower song that is pleasant to listen to, but is a weak way to begin the disc, in my opinion. Moving forward, the rest of the songs on the first disc are from their major debut single (‘Romance no Tochuu’) all the way to the release right before the most recent single (‘Senobi’ / ‘Date ja nai yo Uchi no Jinsei wa’). They had actually started with a very strong jazz-like presence, which evolved into a much more pop style as time went on. They still retained the slight jazz feel in order to push forward their ‘cool’ theme, but the style isn’t as strong as it was when it started. This can, of course, be heard as you listen through the first disc on “First Squeeze!”
The second disc, “The Brand-new Juice”, is where the fun really begins. It kicks off with one of the songs from their newest single releases: ‘Wonderful World’. It’s not particularly mind-blowing, but it is a very pleasant song to listen to. It doesn’t show off any exceptional singing talents, but it does manage to pull you in with a pleasant melody that is simple to follow. The next song is ‘CHOICE & CHANCE’, which is a new song that is addictively catchy. It doesn’t do anything brave, but keeps with Juice=Juice’s theme they’ve been keeping. ‘Ai Ai Gasa’ follows which sounds like the sort of song you would expect to hear on the beach as you relax on a pleasant summer day. ‘Umaretate no Baby Love’ is the first song that really starts to show a little bit more skill out of the girls. While there isn’t much vocal range presented in this song, they manage to hit their notes quite effectively and also keep in sync with each other very well. ‘Erabareshi Watashitachi’ is next and it features a much more instrumental and rock style to it. The guitar sections, while not particularly complex, add a lot of personality to the song as a whole, which really helps give a slight contrast yet accentuate the lovely vocals. It’s definitely a pleasant change of pace from the more jazz/pop style of most of the other songs so far. ‘Ça va? Ça va?’ follows, which is the other song from their newest single. A bit different in style from Wonderful World, this one focuses on a more catchy yet cute feeling while throwing in a little bit of French here and there to try and make it sound a little exotic.
The next song is by far my favorite song on the album: ‘GIRLS BE AMBITIOUS’. This one has a more rock feel to it, like ‘Umaretate no Baby Love’. The beat is extremely catchy and is the type of song you can’t help but bob your head to. It fluctuates back and forth a bit from a focus on vocals then a focus on instrumental then a focus on combining both of those. To top it off, it is by far the best use of vocal skill that has been presented on the album so far. I also found out after I decided it was my favorite that it was actually written and composed by Takui Nakajima, who has been grabbing my attention a lot lately with his exceptional work (see: Taiki Bansei, Lady Mermaid, Ikujinashi, etc.). Up next is ‘Ai no Diving’. This one has a pretty repetitive set of lyrics, which may or may not appeal to you. That being said, the instrumental is actually pretty fun to listen to, which helps give this song some quality that it wouldn’t have otherwise. For some reason, this song makes me think of the type of song I’d expect to hear while playing Mario Kart. ‘Tick-Tock Watashi no Shun’ is more like ‘Wonderful World’, with a much more soothing and calm melody. Considering the more daring songs that have been on the disc, it helps add some much needed variety and rest to the listener. Next is ‘Mirai e, Saa Hashiridase!’ This song has just the right amount of relaxation and enticing sounds to make it appealing to the ears. That being said, there isn’t really much to make this stand out. It’s a fairly generic song overall, especially considering the top quality of the rest of the album. The final song on the second disc, ‘Tsudzuiteiku STORY’, is the expected ballad-like song that Hello! Project albums tend to close with. That’s not to say that the song isn’t good, it just follows the same mold. From the standpoint of the listener, it’s actually a pretty good way to present things. You start off the album a little slow to ease in the listener then attack their senses through the middle then slow back down to allow the listener time to absorb everything they heard. They keep using this formula because, frankly speaking, it’s effective.
The final disc, “The Cover Juice”, is a small collection of covers of other Hello! Project songs. The first track is ‘Magic of Love’, originally sung by Taiyou to Ciscomoon. It retains the classic dance style of the original, while infusing that Juice=Juice personality. Quite effectively, I might add. ‘Kosui’ is up next, which was originally sung by Melon Kinenbi. I feel like Juice=Juice did a really good job of capturing that really pleasant feel of the original in this cover and that the lines were distributed quite nicely in order to make each singer’s strengths shine a little. I always loved ‘Narihajimeta Koi no Bell’, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear Juice=Juice’s cover of this song by Ongaku Gatas. The more jazz-like style of this song suits Juice=Juice really well, and helps compliment them as a group. ‘Scramble’, originally sung by Maki Goto, is an oddball. While the cover is actually done pretty well, part of the charm of it being a solo song is taken away with having five singers contributing to the song. This is a personal gripe, and most will likely enjoy the song, but this fact kind of turns me off to the song. The next song, which happens to be one of my favorite Petitmoni songs, is ‘BABY! Koi ni KNOCK OUT!’ (Sung by Yuka Miyazaki, Tomoko Kanazawa and Akari Uemura in this cover). My opinion on this is meaningless, because I love this song so much that no matter how good or bad a cover is, I’ll still love it. I really like that Yuka and Akari, who aren’t the most talented singers exactly, are able to shine next to the much better Tomoko. This song really does play to them together as a trio. The final disc closes out with the Tanpopo song ‘Last Kiss’, sung by (arguably) the two best singers in Juice=Juice: Sayuki Takagi and Karin Miyamoto. Listening to both versions back to back really helps show how much skill Tanpopo had in this song, and how Karin and Sayuki have a little bit to go to catch up. The thing is, though, that they are very skilled, but have a slightly different style. In the end the cover is well done though, and they do a beautiful job of doing the song justice.
After having waited over two years for their first album to release, Juice=Juice did not disappoint in even the slightest. There is a good variety of content on here, and even a little fan service to sate the more nostalgic fans on the final disc. They play to their strengths and paint a portrait that helps give a sense of finality to the style they’ve been developing since they started. Hello! Project has managed to push out some really nice things this year, and this album seals the deal. The best part is that there is still plenty more to come.
Juice=Juice’s first album (released on July 15, 2015), “First Squeeze!”, is available in three editions. Limited Edition A comes with a Blu-ray disc that contains all of their music videos and variations (Dance Shots, Close-ups, etc.). Limited Edition B comes with a DVD that contains their full concert performance on 4/25 at Sapporo from their first live tour. The regular edition contains the third music CD which is where the covers are. Yes that’s right, only the regular edition has all three discs of music. The others only have the first two discs. “First Squeeze!” is available on iTunes (though lacking the covers) or can be purchased from cdjapan.co.jp.
- Yuka Miyazaki
- Tomoko Kanazawa
- Sayuki Takagi
- Karin Miyamoto
- Akari Uemura
Music videos of album exclusive songs can be viewed below: