Released: October 12, 2016
Japanese group Happiness, a sub-unit of the collective unit E-Girls, have spread their wings once again for their second studio album, Girlz n’ Effect (the name? the album cover? I dunno either…). It’s in fact the girls first record in over four years, and is the first full-length with members Anna Suda and vocalist Ruri Kawamoto, whom joined Happiness back in 2013. And yet again, Girlz n’ Effect showcases the brilliant and smart deliveries by original member Karen Fujii, alongside killer choreography by performing members Sayaka, Kaede, Miyuu and Yurino. With 14 tracks long, the girls channel a more fierce, cooler and stylish image that was lacking within their debut, but giving the fact the original members were younger back then, it comes to show a surprising yet trendy maturity with Girlz n’ Effect.
The striking element with Happiness, in comparison to their sister groups Flower and Dream, is the fact that they are willing to step outside the J-Pop field a little more, having dipped their fingers in mainstream pop, dance, the occasional ballads and four-on-the-floor EDM for Girlz n’ Effect, and switch up their ever-evolving image. Not to say that Flower and Dream aren’t as polished or powerful when it comes to the performing or singing, but given the fact that Flower only has only vocalist (the beautiful Ms. Reina Washio) and that Dream members are ALL vocalists that sing over-top some pretty decent compositions, there hasn’t been any opportunities for improvements or a brave push of flexibility in their work, to which Happiness happily (no pun intended…) are happy (I mean it, no pun…) to do. Having said this, their debut Girlz n’ Effect showcases what Happiness do best; having fun, offering some solo parts, incredible and infectious rapping by member Karen and the additional ballads.
For most part, Girlz n’ Effect boasts some fast yet up-tempo jams such as the K-Pop influenced “Ordinary Girls”, a crazy holiday-contemporary pop hybrid running through the sound of “Holiday”, the empowerment anthem “Seek a Light” and the sassy instrumentation of “Sexy Young Beautiful” (get a load of Karen’s rapping in these tracks). EDM is another element that runs through entries like “Show Me Your Heart”, which also showcases an impressive dubstep moment, and the euphoric sounds of “Juicy Love” and “Love Wonderland”. Here and there, the ballads “Bright Blue” and “Dancing in Solitude” (solo tracks by member Ruri) highlight the singer’s vocals, which is a major part here, but the album’s brightest moment is the agile girl anthem “Come Come”, which is a breezy pop friendly track that shimmers essences of acoustic riffs and fun drum ‘n’ bass/breakbeat synths.
The missteps of the album is… well, the other tracks, such as the pretty useless “Born to be Free”, the overly cute and E-Girl-esque rip-off “Be Mine” and the bland “Always”. Even though the slow-jam “Autumn Autumn” is rather simple to the albums collection, it’s experimentation with crisp ska and jazz sounds manage to save its booty. Another note than needs serious fixing within the J-Pop community is the rather incohesive structure of the tracklist; why would you put “Sexy Young Beautiful” at the end? Why is “Autumn Autmn” near a gentle ballad track? Why are the EDM and uptempo features scattered everywhere? Ughh, my mind hurts in trying to understand…
But maybe that’s it. Maybe the numerous moments of exploration through their image, the fluffy pop hooks and the over-the-top incorporation of every genre in the music book are the reason why Happiness manage to grow stronger and stronger with their sound and image. Yes, that may sound like an excuse to just say that Girlz n’ Effect is a so-so album, but to tell you the truth, Happiness’ second record is actually quite good. It’s a bit messy and lacking cohesiveness, but the offerings are strong and catchy enough to keep you entertained and updated for more offerings by the band.
Track List (Bold means best tracks)
- Ordinary Girls
- Love Wonderland
- Be Mine
- Juicy Love
- Seek a Light
- Bright Blue (Watashi no Ruri-iro)
- Dancing in Solitude
- Autumn Autumn
- Come Come ~Liam’s favorite~
- Show Me Your Heart
- Born to Be Free
- Sexy Young Beautiful