Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.
Introduction to the Album and Country Musume
What now follows is a review of the Country Musume album called Country Musume Daizenshuu 1 and it is the group’s debut album. It was released on December 12, 2001. The opening song called "Hajimete no Happy Birthday!" is a kind of silly pop song with the repetition of the words Happy Birthday plus some clapping by the girls. Note: Country Musume now goes by the name of Country Girls and it has a very different lineup but as we review an album unknown to Western audiences, we will review this album under the name of Country Musume. For this first album the lineup is Rika ishikawa, Rinne Toda, and Asami Kimura. The group's style of music is classified as Japanese pop and in some instances electro pop but I would say it is a mixture of pop music with country music influences.
A Photo of the Country Musume Members for This Debut Album
Country Musume Daizenshuu 1 Song Names
Note: as this review is being updated here is a list of all the songs with their English titles wherever it is possible to provide them.
- The First Happy Birthday
- A Lover is the Heart’s Cheerleader
- Hokkaido Shalala
- A Girl’s Investigation Time
- The Season When Love is Wonderful
- A Couple’s Hokkaido
- Unrequited Love is Hot Milk
- From the Snow
- Which Way is Beautiful…
- Ah, Some Kind of Wonderful
What Follows the First Song Hajimete No Happy Birthday?
The next song is better and it is called "Yukigeshiki." It is a country music influenced type of song. There is no contribution from idol singer Mai Satoda because she would join the group after the release of this album. The third track called A Lover is the Heart’s Cheerleader is an up-tempo dance song that you can clap to and dance at the same time. The album is not as good as a Morning Musume or an AKB48 album but it still makes for a good listen. By the end of that vibrant third song, don’t be surprised if you get a little emotional. Even for someone like me that doesn’t understand much Japanese, the album is an enjoyable listen.
A Photo of Mai Satoda With Rika Ishikawa and Hitomi Yoshizawa
"Hajimete No Happy Birthday"
The Contributions of Rika Ishikawa
One person that makes a contribution on this album is former Morning Musume member Rika Ishikawa. She sings guest vocals on the song called “A Girl’s Investigation Time.” The song is about a girl that is curious to find out all the details about her friend because her friend has a boyfriend and this one girl really wants to find out all the details of their romance. I wrote the English translation of the song to make it easier for those non-Japanese speakers. The song called A Couple’s Hokkaido in English which is song 7 contains some male rap style vocals which makes it silly in a way.
A few other members making appearances on this album are original leader Rinne Toda and second leader Asami Kimura. Both of these women have graduated from both Country Musume and Hello! Project. This debut from Country Musume did not sell very well, selling only about 24,850 copies as of this writing. In spite of the low sales volume, the album is an enjoyable listen and can really lift your mood and spirits up if you are having a rough day.
Thoughts About the Album in 2020 and Beyond
Fans of this group Country Musume will also enjoy Hangry & Angry (a dance pop duo formed by Ishikawa and former Morning Musume member Hitomi Yoshizawa), as well as the mentioned Morning Musume and AKB48. Country Musume was formed by TSUNKU and the group’s main producer Yoshitake Tanaka back in 1999. Upon reviewing this album several years later, I realize that the first song called "Our First Happy Birthday" is not as silly as it sounds so the album gets an 83 out of 100 points but it still is not as good as a Morning Musume album. Even so, in the history of Japanese pop music, the album is still enjoyable more than 18 years after its release. Country Musume Daizenshuu 1 in terms of its style is softer pop mixed with a limited amount of rap is how I would describe the album. The second song which is basically called Snowscape has that country influence in it if you listen closely enough. Upon closer analysis, Country Musume’s first album isn’t just pop music but in the 4th song there is a melody part that would have been used by the band Angra in their career, making the album a mishmash of various influences. "Hokkaido Shalala" is about a woman that says that the spring winds in Hokkaido have a fresh scent just like the person that she loves. Even though she is getting used to being alone, she knows that she would rather spend the time with her lover or romantic partner.
Perhaps it should be no coincidence that the popularity of Country Musume rose in the same year that this album was released. With the arrival of Rika Ishikawa this rise in popularity for the group was made possible. At the time, Ishikawa herself was a teenager that had established herself in Morning Musume and she was able to use her talents to help out Country Musume. Ishikawa is considered to be one of those members that was borrowed from Morning Musume for a short time but it helped make the album a good listen even if the commercial success wasn’t there in terms of sales. The strongest songs in this album are several including song #8. “The Season Where Love is Wonderful” isn’t too bad either. This is a song that is about being able to experience love for the first time even if it is under the night sky. She says that for her this is the first time and she tells her darling that she is very happy. She spent time a bit longer than usual on Sunday so she decides to go a little farther away to spend time with the one that she loves.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Ara Vahanian