Archive for September, 2012

Sep 21 2012

What’s in a voice?

Published by under Momusu

Today’s post comes in two parts.

Part 1:

The recent 11ki auditions have inspired me to tackle one of the quintessential idol questions: “How important is singing ability for an idol?”. Usually this is debated as to relative popularity within the group. “Are the most popular girls the best singers?”, “Are the girls with the most lines the best singers?”, “Does singing even have ANY bearing on popularity/line distribution?” , etc. However, given the recent discussion surrounding the Utahime audition, I’ve been asking myself “How important is the singing ability of the members for the success of the group?”

Short answer, while I think you can make a case for singing ability being a factor in the popularity of the individual girls, as far as the group’s overall success, it doesn’t really matter at all.

Longer answer: Many people have been saying things like “Morning Musume HAS to find a new great singer to replace Reina!” or “Thank God Sakura joined. Momusu really needs someone with strong vocals right now or they’re done for!” And people on the forums, the westerners at least, take it for granted that these things are true. However, there is plenty of evidence that idol groups can do just fine without great, or even good, singers.

I’ll start by mentioning Momoiro Clover. They have been quite the up and coming group lately, and, not to be harsh, most of their members are not vocally gifted. Correct me if I’m wrong here Momoclo fans, but it seems to me like the green one is the only girl who can really sing, and she usually is in the back corner of their formations while the red one gets the important solo lines.

Yes, I must pull out the example of AKB48 here. I don’t deny that they have some good singers. A few great singers even, but the awful singers far outnumber the good ones. Recently, SKE published a series of solo music videos featuring each of their members, and I am forced to conclude that even in a recording studio, over half of those girls are worse singers than the worst H!P has to offer. Again, some of them did very well, but I truly believe that the world’s most tone deaf girl would be let into the group, probably even made a “front girl”, if she were cute enough. And hey, that works for them. Not my cup of tea, but it is a successful business strategy.

Fortunately for idol groups, there are ways of coping with vocal failings.

1. Limit the number of solo lines. I don’t like this technique because it makes the songs sound more generic, but if you look at AKB singles and group songs, you’ll notice that most of them don’t have a single solo line. In fact, a girl can be in a 48 family group for years without there being any footage in existence of her singing even one line solo if she gets the wrong stage unit. Two to four bad singers together sound passable. A whole group of them can sound pretty good, especially if a couple good singers are thrown in the mix.

2. Autotune. Morning Musume has been making use of this lately. It might get old if you use it for every song, but if it’s just in spots to hide the voice of the “problem girl”, in this case, usually Sayumi, it can work.

3. Lip sync. I will cry the day that Morning Musume starts doing their concerts mostly or all lipsync. I hope that day never comes. However, AKB uses A LOT of lipsync, and their fans don’t seem to mind. (Please don’t tell me it’s just changed on the recordings. I’ve been to a couple of their stage shows and they were 100% lipsynced). This is not meant to be a critique of AKB. I’m just saying that limiting the vocal exposure of their members doesn’t have any negative effect on their popularity.

The point I’m trying to make here isn’t that I personally don’t care about idol voices. I want my idols to be able to sing!! I like solo lines in songs, and limiting autotune and lip syncing. HOWEVER, are strong singers necessary for the success of an idol group in Japan? Nope. Not at all.

You might say that Morning Musume isn’t just any idol group and that their fans expect good voices, but some of the most popular girls in the group have been weak singers, so I’m not so sure that’s true. I think Morning Musume fans will continue to support the group as long as they like the girls, and singing ability is only one factor out of many that determines likeability.

Part 2:

Anyway, while the overall public in Japan might not care if Momusu can sing, I certainly do. Part two of this post is my ranking of the current voices in Morning Musume. I am not a trained singer, so really this is a matter of personal preference. There are two main factors that determine how much I enjoy a girl’s voice: Control (singing in tune consistently) and Vocal “Quality” (How pretty is her voice? Is it nice to listen to? A girl can hit all the right notes, but I still might not enjoy the sound of her voice).

So, ranked from worst vocals to best vocals:

11. Ikubo Haruna- Really lacking in both control and quality right now.

10. Ikuta Erina- She can get a bit shouty. I usually don’t find her pleasant to listen to.

9. Michishige Sayumi- Sayu has come a long way. She has greatly improved her control, but her voice just isn’t usually very pretty and it turns nasally when she’s singing anything other than a mid-range ballad.

8. Suzuki Kanon- Kanon scores pretty high for vocal quality. She has nice strong voice and sometimes she can sound amazing. Unfortunately, she has poor control so she hits wrong notes, and her voice often cracks.

7. Ishida Ayumi- Kind of the opposite problem as Kanon.  Her control is pretty good, but her voice isn’t very “pretty”. I hope she can improve on that.

6. Sato Masaki- Masaki has really surprised me with her control. For a beginner, she is very consistent with hitting her notes while dancing, and she rarely sounds out of breath. I think that’s why she’s getting picked to do a lot of the duet parts in recent songs, and she even got a prominent solo line in the new single. She still sounds quite childish and squeaky right now, but she shows a lot of promise for when she gets older.

5. Fukumura Mizuki- She has a very pretty voice, especially for ballads. Where she’s lacking is power. She can’t really “belt it out” yet for more aggressive songs. I like her a lot in the supporting role she has for now (lots of duet lines plus sexy “sing talk” parts).

4. Kudo Haruka- I personally love the tone of her voice, but I can get how some people wouldn’t. Good control. Actually, despite her voice’s “huskiness” she could use more power as well. Sometimes I just want to shake her to make her sing out more. I know she can do it because she did at auditions, but I feel like she’s holding back in performances.

3. Sayashi Riho- Her control isn’t perfect, but it’s gotten A LOT better, as has her vocal quality. She’s become quite expressive with her voice, and I think she really deserves one of the lead singing spots.

2. Oda Sakura- From what I’ve heard so far, she has the whole vocal package. Range, control, power, and her voice is just very pretty and easy on the ears. I’m giving Reina the benefit of the doubt for now because I don’t know how well Sakura will do at singing while dancing.

1. Tanaka Reina- The girl is a machine. Listen to her singing during lives, and you would never know she is dancing and therefore ought to be out of breath. Very consistent and able to hit a wide range of notes and song styles. I think Sakura’s voice is prettier and fuller, but like I said, giving Reina the benefit of the doubt for now.

Whew! Long post,


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Sep 14 2012

11th Gen Audition Results, Already??

Published by under Momusu

And the winner is… Oda Sakura!!

On the one hand, I’m not unhappy with the results. From watching the extended video, the girl is a gifted and versatile singer, and she looks much better now that she has bangs. Truly, I was impressed with her audition footage, and I think she will make a great addition.

On the other hand, I’m supremely pissed at how quickly this was announced. Before we even got to see the training camp!! Half the fun of auditions is getting to know the finalists, rooting for your favorite, predicting who you think will win. We saw a tiny bit of footage, and then the next day they announce the winner? I feel cheated. =(


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Sep 13 2012

11ki Auditions GO!

Published by under Momusu

Ah, time to clean out the spam comments waiting to be moderated, for the 11th gen Morning Musume audition is nigh!

Only 6 finalists.

My quick first impressions.

Kishimoto Yumeno- Seems to be a decent singer and pretty cute. Middle of the pack for me right now. I’d like to see more of her.

Makino Maria- Kind of has two first names. Seems a little too young. I mean, I know younger girls have joined, but Haruka and Masaki can pull off more mature songs, and I’m not sure that this girl can. Singing is not impressive either. I say make her an egg and give her some time to mature.

Ichioka Reina- She’s cute in a unique way. Seems to have something special about her. I’d give her pretty good odds on being chosen, though I’m not so sure about her singing.

Ono Haruka- Strong singer, but not the most physically attractive. Still, MM has plenty of cuties, so I think they can afford to let one girl in on talent. She wouldn’t be very popular, but her vocal support would be valuable.

Oda Sakura- Similar comments as Haruka. Not the prettiest, but has a lovely voice. She seems to have good range and expressiveness, which I like. However, she also seems pretty shy. If you’re not super cute, you kind of need a big personality…  I’m not against her being in the group, but I need to be convinced.

Hamaura Ayano- Cute, cute, CUTE. I don’t care how talented this girl is or isn’t. Just look at that face! Don’t you just want to pinch her cheeks? Squeaky voice, but seemed to be in tune. Reminds me of Yuuka. As long as the generation contains at least one other girl who is a good singer, I want Ayano in!

Overall, I am inclined to think that only 6 finalists means that this generation will be on the smaller side. Then again, 9th gen’s only had 5 finalists (6 if you count Mizuki) and there were 4 in the generation, so who knows? My early expectation is a 2 member generation with one of the “cute” girls (Ayano, Maria, Reina, or Yumeno) and one of the less cute girls with strong singing skills (Haruka or Sakura). My personal hopes at this point are for Ayano because she’s got the kind of cute factor that doesn’t come along very often, and Haruka because she’s a good singer and it’d be weird if just the two eggs got in.

Also, gotta say that I’m happy and relieved not to see Mogi Minami or Miwa Satsuki, the two girls from previous auditions who I really did not like.

In summary, right now my order of preference (subject to change when we get more footage of course):


2. Haruka (if Sakura doesn’t get in)

3. Yumeno

4. Sakura (if Haruka doesn’t get in)

5. Reina

6. Maria



Quick commentary on some other goings on:

C-ute’s new single becomes their best seller ever- YES! It’s a great song with an awesome dance. C-ute truly are the best performers in the h!p fold right now. Also, I’m glad it’s overtaken their dreary last single.

Morning Musume’s new album- Meh. Overall kind of disappointing. I much prefer their last two albums. Well, I like “What’s Up Ai wa do na no yo”. Maybe some of the other songs will grow on me.

Morning Musume’s new single- Awesome. I like it even better than 1,2,3! I feel strongly that this new direction MM is taking musically is the right choice for the group at the moment.

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