Shit, this was difficult -- in a good way -- because I see 2016 as the best year for H!P since 2003. We really are living through a new Golden Era for the Hello! Project, which, five years ago I never imaged was possible. The beginning can be traced directly to the S/mileage shakeup betting ANGERME, followed in short order by the formation of Kobushi Factory. Both of those groups produced quality material immediately, which deflected attention from the fading flagship. What truly heralded the new era, though, was the emergence of C-ute as a force of nature in 2016. Totally unexpected, they exceeded the expectations of even their most loyal fans, and converted many indifferent observers (like myself) into hard-core followers. I can't recall seeing any group rise so far above their historic norm to close out their career as C-ute has with these two singles. ANGERME continued to grow, despite losing key members, to the point where they are considered the "real" flagship by a lot of H!P fans now. Kobushi Factory shows the potential to someday challenge for that position, despite have a ways to go. Juice=Juice returned with a single stronger than anyone could have expected. Country Girls offered a fun tonic to the mostly-electronic pop that the others groups have adopted as de rigeur. (Although, I'd like to see them ditch the straight-up 50s rehashes for more modern sounding stuff like Koi wa Magnet).
And Buono! returned. I was disappointed in both of their songs when they were released, but upon listening to them again for this list, I discovered I liked them, especially Solatido. I think my desire for a classic Buono! track clouded my mind at the time, and I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't enjoy them in the moment.
About my list: I didn't include any songs from the Kobushi album, because I haven't heard any of them yet, nor did I include any remixes or Tsubaki Factory songs, because I haven't listened to them much. I'd say the top 10 is pretty set-in-stone, but it gets mushy after that. And I can say with confidence that of the 37 songs ranked, I legitimately enjoy the top 30, and I don't hate any of them. Which is crazy, when you think about it.
1. Mugen Climax - C-ute
2. Tsugitsugi Zokuzoku - ANGERME
3. Dream Road ~Kokoro ga Odoridashiteru~ - Juice=Juice
4. Ai no Tame - ANGERME
5. Summer Wind - C-ute
6. Sakura Night Fever - Kobushi Factory
7. Utakata Saturday Night! - MM '16
8. Ai wa Maru de Seidenki - C-ute
9. Osu! Kobushi Tamashii - Kobushi Factory
10. Jinsei wa STEP! - C-ute
11. Mukidashi de Mukiatte - MM '16
12. Wasurete Ageru - ANGERME
13. Solatido ~Nee Nee~ - Buono!
14. Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin - Kobushi Factory
15. Sexy Cat no Enzetsu - MM '16
16. Koi wa Magnet - Country Girls
17. KEEP ON Joshou Shikou!! - Juice=Juice
18. Umaku Ienai - ANGERME
19. Sou Janai - MM '16
20. Samba! Kobushi Janeiro - Kobushi Factory
21. Tokyo to Iu Katasumi - MM '16
22. Rock no Seichi - Buono!
23. Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou? - C-ute
24. Itoshima Distance - ANGERME
25. Koi Nara Tokku ni Hajimatteru - ANGERME
26. The Vision - MM '16
27. Singing ~Ano Koro no You ni~ - C-ute
28. Bacchikoi Seishun! - Kobushi Factory
29. Ranrarun ~Anata ni Muchuu~ - Country Girls
30. Ashita Yarou ga Bakayarou - Juice=Juice
31. Otona no Jijou - Juice=Juice (NY)
32. Boogie Woogie LOVE - Country Girls
33. Namida no Request - Country Girls
34. Next is you! - Juice=Juice (NY)
35. Dou Datte Ii no - Country Girls
36. Karada Dake ga Otona ni Nattan ja nai - Juice=Juice (NY)
37. Ora wa Ninkimono - Kobushi Factory