The Value of Mature Idols: Goto Maki, Brown Eyed Girls

Maki Goto: Japan’s Mature Idol? – Plastic Candy
Show Ayanocozey and Maki Goto offer Non Stop Love – Neaux Clicked On It
Brown Eyed Girls: The Metamorphosis of a Girl Group – Seoulbeats

Alvy at Plastic Candy has already established himself as a Goto Maki fan par excellence, and in his latest post explores how Gocchin is an example of a “mature idol”, a term used in Kpop for the likes of Brown Eyed Girls. He does so in relation to the latest single from Goto, her collaboration with Show Ayanocozey, “Non stop love 夜露死苦!!”.

On the one hand, it’s odd to describe a collaboration with Show as being “mature” – whether with Kishidan or as DJ Ozma, he’s always been something of a boyish mischief-maker, a prankster who loves a good joke perhaps a bit too much. On the other hand, Kishidan and DJ Ozma both have an undercurrent of nostalgia and sentimentality (I don’t think any group valorizes romance and even family quite like Kishidan) that does indeed indicate a maturity beneath all the goofing about. And Jesus Christ, it’s great to see him bring out a Kishidan-like enthusiasm and playfulness in Gocchin herself, who’s clearly having the time of her life with this collaboration.

As Alvy describes it, the term “mature idol” as epitomized by BEG “fits them really well, not only because the girls are older than your average idol, but also because the music they make is a lot more mature than other releases in contemporary K-Pop, despite following an idol-like release format”. That is, one embraces the format and genre of idol music, but allows one’s personal growth to inform that music and the style with which one presents oneself. If anything, that’s exactly the struggle Gocchin has had to deal with, going back to her last few releases on Hello! Project and certainly into her Avex years. The genius of working with Show, however, is in understanding that idols are all about fun and good times – and one doesn’t have to forfeit maturity just because one wants to have a good time.

Alvy goes on to go through all the Gocchin-related offerings that are coming out before her hiatus. The photobook is of special interest, as it looks like it’s going to cover her career as an idol from beginning to end thematically – a record of the first phase of her public life, as she goes into private life for a while. One thing’s for sure – she’s going out with a bang, and on her own terms. Hopefully she’s made enough people stand up and take notice that she won’t stay away too long.

And by fortunate happenstance, Maddie of Seoulbeats has a fascinating profile on Brown Eyed Girls and how they’ve developed over the years. Following through on the notion of mature idols, she writes so eloquently this summation: “for an adult idol, with age comes freedom. The freedom to express themselves without the criticism or limitations characteristically placed on younger idols who are still under the guidance of their entertainment companies. Also, reaching a certain age doesn’t imply losing your following or fierceness it is just another life stage.”

Wow. Kudos for such excellent writing, as well as for the long-range vision it encapsulates. The profile itself manages to be compact while giving you a sense of the group’s evolution and why it was so consequential, and how it led to “Sixth Sense”. It took me a while to find Seoulbeats, but it’s already become my go-to place for solid, thoughtful articles about the issues that really matter in the Kpop industry. The lack of selca news pieces notwithstanding, I have to say this is essential reading for anyone who cares about Asian idols.

Watching the MV for “Sixth Sense”, my first reaction was: “I didn’t know there was a Kpop group inspired by Grace Jones”. The word “fierce” is bandied about in the Seoulbeats article a good deal, but with very good reason. There’s not only a very aggressive sexuality in play, but one that also challenges established norms of beauty and gendered roles. The song itself also has the driving, if slightly dated, stylistic energy that manages to both assault and caress; “Slave To The Rhythm” could well be a subtitle for this single.

And I have to confess, after watching the MV for “Sixth Sense” and loving what I both saw AND heard, I just picked up the album on iTunes (as well as the only MV available there, for “Abracadabra”) on impulse. (Hey, some of us happen to LIKE Grace Jones.) For all my constant praise of the pedolicious side of idols, there’s something to be said for well-deployed maturity and the kinds of confidence that imposes, whether it’s Nakazawa Yuko in Dream Morning Musume, Kahi and Jungah of After School, or BEG.

And for all she’s gone through and all she’s accomplished, definitely include Gocchin in that group. And with any luck, her own understanding as a mature idol will grow during her time away from the spotlight and she’ll return to surprise us even more.