Idol Thoughts: Announcements and CMs

I tried to think of a post to do this week, but really there’s not
much I could have done other than Tsunku’s Morning Musume
announcement. I mean, look at the options. It could have been a huge
announcement of world-shaking proportions, and I would have definitely
had to write about that. However, what happened was underwhelming for
most people, to say the least, and now this is an interesting jumping
off point to talk about.

From here, I’m going to break this down into two parts:

1. The announcement, or rather the hype around it.

2. The CM itself, and how this will affect Morning Musume.

– The Announcement/hype –

From the beginning, when Tsunku announced that there was going to be a big announement, I noticed a split of two camps within the people who actually cared about this: there were the people who were excited and possibly nervous about such an announcement, and there were the people who were convinced this was nothing at the getgo.

I think both sides are fair, but I was on the side of being probably convinced it was nothing. While Tsunku said that it was a risky move, very few moves Up-Front ever really does are risky. I didn’t expect there would be a huge announcement of something risky when that’s just not how Morning Musume operates.

Still, despite being pretty certain it had to be nothing, I still dutifully sat down and watched the livestream at the conference. Why was that? Because despite nothing ending up happening, there was a lot of hype and discussion.

It was hype for hype’s sake, essentially. It was Tsunku getting people to talk about Morning Musume even though all the theories and ideas about what it could be were most likely false. If you’re promoting something, you want people to be talking about it. Even if it’s just the fans getting worked up, it’s still keeping interest on the group (as opposed to another group).

– CMs-

I think people are underestimating the power of a national CM. Yes, it’s fairly underwhelming. However, more press for Morning Musume is a good thing, and this could do a lot to show the new lineup of Morning Musume to the current public who doesn’t know MM.

Personally, I don’t listen to any American radio; the music I like generally doesn’t get much airtime, and I prefer being able to listen to my ipod. I watch talk shows only if a guest I like is on (and then I generally only watch for the celebrity I like). The only way I’m aware of top 40 American music is pretty much through word of mouth and commercials.

That’s the kind of audience that MM could reach through a CM. I’m not saying it’s going to generate a lot of new fans, but it could, in a way, raise some awareness for the group from people who have similar habits to me or who just ignore that group entirely.

Plus, the CM is actually pretty humorous; I love that it implies that Tsunku makes bad decisions about Morning Musume while drinking. This could also get people talking.

It’s not going to be a huge turning point, but this kind of shows that Morning Musume is getting back to being fairly big national idols again. This kind of campaign won’t change everything, but it’s more emblematic of the place that Morning Musume has gotten to. And that’s exciting.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know and you will be featured in my “Your Thoughts” post next week!

Review Monday: Morning Musume – What is Love?

I was kind of racking my brain for what I could review for this week’s Review Monday post. The problem is, not much has come out recently that I really need to say something about. I considered Juice=Juice’s new PV, but I have nothing much to say other than “I kind of like this.” AKB48’s latest came out recently, but even that’s a bit of a letdown after the fantastic Koisuru Fortune Cookie. Then my friend Dani suggested I take a look at Morning Musume’s newest song “What is Love?” It hasn’t been released yet, and there’s not even a plan for its release yet, but I thought this was an excellent idea.

Oh wait, no, wrong clip (sorry, I know this joke is so old by now).

Song: I’ve been really into this song since the first short preview popped up online, and if this gets put on a single it will potentially be my favorite Morning Musume song of the year. That’s how much I like this.

One of the things common to a lot of my favorite songs is that they bend genres. I’m a fan of groups like Babymetal and Rhymeberry because they aren’t afraid to do something unusual with their music, and to mesh an unusual genre with idol music. Morning Musume does this almost perfectly with “What is Love.” They take the current electronic/dubstep-lite sound that Morning Musume has been doing for their last few singles and mixed it with, of all things, 1920s era swing/jazz. This is the type of thing that doesn’t get mixed with current music a lot. If modern music decides to look back, they usually stick to the 50s onward. But here, Morning Musume is taking on a genre and era of music, mixing it with some very modern sounds, and doing something very unique.

There is a bit of risk to doing this song; if this was done poorly, it would have been just awful. That’s generally why Hello!Project acts tend to keep it safe, musically. However, Morning Musume does this unusual mix very well here. The swing music mixes remarkably well with the electronic music and, apart from the initial shock of hearing two separate genres combined, doesn’t sound forced or like a bad combination. The song itself is very catchy and the arrangement fits well. I normally prefer real instruments, but the type of song fits this type of arrangment.

Basically, I love this song on multiple levels. It’s very listenable and catchy, but I also love what it represents, bending genres. Morning Musume has been on a roll with solid releases lately (even though I didn’t enjoy their remix album), and I’m very impressed by what they’ve done with What is Love. 9/10

Dance: Since there’s no PV, I’ll just give a few quick words about the dance. Dance is probably the area I know least about with idols. However, Morning Musume’s dances have stood out a lot lately, and this is no exception. I know to some the dance formations are getting a bit old, but that’s one of the aspects I love about current Morning Musume. The dances all look a thousand times cooler and more interesting when all the members are moving together in a formation.

Some people think this dance is too weird. It is a bit odd, at times, but ultimately it fits really well with both the style of music they’re doing as well as the current style Morning Musume has right now. I especially like the part during the chorus where the girls swing their leg in front and in back of them. Ultimately, as a complete non-expert on dance, I really like this. It’s unusual, but I like unusual.

Verdict: This song and dance are great. While I’ve had my misgivings with MM releases in the past, Morning Musume does an excellent job with What is Love. 9/10

Review Monday: The Best ~Updated Morning Musume~

Happy Review Monday!

Full disclosure: I am primarily a classic Morning Musume fan. My favorite songs are some of the ones they updated in this album. Ishikawa Rika’s one of my top two favorite idols. That said, I am a fan of the current Morning Musume. I’m a big fan of Ishida Ayumi, and I really like the rest of the 10th gen in particular. I really admire the group for the past couple of singles.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised and happy about the current Morning Musume comeback. While I tend to focus on other idol groups, Hello!Project has a very special place in my heart. I’ve been especially pleased with seeing how much MM has emphasized being a new Morning Musume, instead of dancing in the shadows of Love Machine. This is why I was a little nervous when I heard about an album of remixes. On the one hand they’re making these classics their own; on the other hand, remixing old stuff is hardly letting it go. Some of the songs on this album are nearly perfect pop songs, in my opinion, and remixing them is pretty risky. So this album is really interesting, and I knew I just had to review it for this Review Monday.

1. Love Machine: This album goes in chronological order and starts with the big one – Love Machine. Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t even try some of the older stuff. Ai no Tane and Morning Coffee I think would have been particularly interesting, and would highlight more of Morning Musume’s history. Was H!P like “nah, they can’t handle Memory Seishun no Hikari, so let’s not even try.”? Well, that’s probably true, but still. Morning Musume didn’t start with Love Machine, by any means.

That said, Love Machine’s a hard act to top. It’s easily Morning Musume’s most recognizable song. And so, in this remix, they did the wise decision of not doing too much except updating the instrumental a little. It sounds like the Dance*Man original, except changing a couple of things around and adding some new effects on vocals here and there. It seems that even in this new album of remixes that Morning Musume was hesitant to change much about the song. Which, IMO, is a good thing; this new version won’t replace the original, by any means, but I find it pleasant to listen to.

However, while I like that MM decided to play it safe, I can’t help but compare this to the wonderful ‘DD Jump’ by Dancing Dolls. The song is a remix of sorts of Love Machine, but makes it into an original song in its own right. It keeps the feel of Love Machine, but makes it something all its own.


Dancing Dolls DD JUMP by HDnakkyun

I’m not sure that Morning Musume would be able to do this; it’s too different. However, IMO this shows the possibility of remixes to make something completely new, and I almost wish that Morning Musume would be able to take more risks.

So I guess my consensus is that while I wish MM could have taken more risks with its signature song, it’s still very listenable and pleasant. 7/10.

2. I Wish: I Wish is one of those songs that has a lot of emotional baggage that comes with it. It’s a big song for Morning Musume’s 4th generation, which I’m a particular fan of. It was a graduation song for years, and Ishikawa Rika graduated to it. So I have a lot of strong feelings that go along with I Wish. The song’s really lovely in how it’s both moving and happy at the same time; it carries both emotional strength and happiness, which makes it perfect for graduations.

Which is why I just don’t think this cuts it. For me, the defining moment of I Wish is when it breaks into the first chorus. The verse up to then is soft and fairly quiet, but the chorus is just big and joyous. I get shivers every time I listen to it. However, the chorus in this remix is just underwhelming. I’m not quite sure why they had all the girls sing so staccato, but it’s the type of odd choice I could get past if I Wish got the feeling of the original right. And it just didn’t. The other big moment of the song is Kago Ai’s “Demo egao wa taisetsu ni shitai” near the end, and, while I’m not the biggest fan of Oda Sakura, she did it nicely. So Kudos, Sakura, you made one part of the song good.

If I divorce I Wish from its original context, I feel like I might be able to enjoy this more. However, it’s just impossible to take I Wish away from the original, and this remix does the worst thing a remix can do, which is remove everything that made the original great. Not impressed. 3/10

3. Renai Revolution 21: RR21 is the other big song of Morning Musume, after Love Machine. If you see Morning Musume do a medley, you’d better bet that Love Machine and RR21 are the two songs that they put in there. It’s also tied with the next song in this album for being my favorite Morning Musume single, and one I never get sick of.

And ehhh. I can definitely see where they’re trying to go with this rearrangement, but none of the elements feel cohesive. Frankly, it feels like a jumbled mess of elements.

This is also something I have to compare to another rearrangement, which is the Renai Revolution 21 remix for Hangry & Angry’s first single, Reconquista. There they manage to make it a song that not only fits Hangry & Angry’s sound, but is cohesive and pleasant to listen to. It’s definitely heavier and electronic influenced, but this fits H&A.

Morning Musume’s updated rearrangement, on the other hand, just feels jumbled and like they threw in various dubstep and techno things over the original and decided to call it a day. I don’t necessarily hate the various pieces that make up this arrangement, and parts of it could make a good rearrangement if they stuck to it for the whole song. The whole thing feels like it’s just trying to gild the lily; the original still fits today, so it just feels like they’re throwing on jumbled elements to try and make the new version stand out.

That said, I don’t really hate every bit of the song, and I really like some of it. Ultimately, as a whole, it’s just not very good. 5/10

4. The Peace: Full disclosure: Ishikawa Rika’s one of my top two idols of all time. As such, I’ve listened to The Peace a lot.

This is another song where I like it in theory, but there are parts I just don’t like. The opening sounds lovely, like it will be a pretty good rearrangement. But then they suddenly throw in all these dubstep elements. It feels more cohesive than the Renai Revolution 21 arrangement, though, so while the parts I like don’t necessarily shine through as much it’s still not bad. The ending’s not very good, either, and I don’t particularly like that.

Personally, this doesn’t come anywhere close to The Peace. However, I see where they’re coming with it, and I don’t necessarily hate it. I really like the opening, and so the sudden dubstep was disappointing. However, there’s enough good with it so that I just can’t completely hate this remix. 5/10

5.Souda! We’re Alive!: Perhaps it’s lighter than these other rearrangements so far, but I really like this. All the girls sound really nice in this song. Perhaps it’s because the original song just fits the youthful energy of the current group, but this is possibly the first time I feel like this song really fits the group.

This, much like the Love Machine arrangement, does a good job of balancing the original song and the way it feels with the new arrangement. This feels like the utter energy and happiness of Souda! We’re Alive but with an updated instrumental and arrangement. This is the type of thing that seems to be what they should be doing with these. Again, I’m not sure if I’d choose this over he original, but I definitely enjoy it. 8/10

6. The Manpower: I really like The Manpower. However I can’t for the life of me figure out why they decided to do this song. Why not one of the earlier MM songs like I mentioned earlier? Why not Shabondama, which would make sense given the presence of Sayumi. Why not Roman ~My Dear Boy~? Why not Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari, with updated lyrics, instrumental and members. I just don’t get it.

That said, I like this update. Even though I like it, I’d hardly consider The Manpower one of the great Morning Musume songs. I really like how the girls all play off each other, and sing really shorter solo lines (almost like the great song Dokusenyoku. There are some really lovely harmonies put in here as well.

This is possibly the only update I might like more than the original. The original was a good song, but never really stood out to me. This feels like it’s improving a lot on the original, taking a song that was fine and making it a lot more interesting. This is definitely my favorite update so far, and one I can see myself listening to in the future. 9/10

7. Aruiteru: You know how a couple of paragraphs ago I was questioning why they chose The Manpower? Double that for Aruiteru. WHY Aruiteru? It’s just such a bad song. I have nothing good to say about Aruiteru; IMO it is one of the worst singles Morning Musume has ever done. I’m just baffled as to why they chose Aruiteru and not one of the earlier singles or one of the later singles. If they wanted a #1 oricon single, why not Shouganai Yume Oibito? Why not every other song that Morning Musume has ever done?

I prefer this to the original. But that’s because the original is just so boring that nothing can really make it worse. This is a Sayumi solo song, and she doesn’t sound too bad but she doesn’t sound that great. Her voice isn’t one I necessarily need to listen to for a long time. She actually does songs like It’s You pretty well, but her voice doesn’t really fit the original that well.

This is OK. It’s improving a song, but that doesn’t say much. Aruiteru is already a song I never listen to, and I’m going to listen to this even less. 3/10

8. Renai Hunter: And now we’re up to mostly current members. It feels just so weird that, for an album that’s about updating and remixing, the majority of the songs are new ones. I guess they didn’t want to put in much work? Or pay for more rearrangements? That’s probably it, honestly.

Renai Hunter’s only real difference is an additional dubstep intro/break, as well as the updated member roster. So it all really comes down to how much I like the original. Which I really did; it’s a really solid single that reaffirmed my faith in Morning Musume after the very weak Pyoko Pyoko Ultra. Normally dubstep isn’t my thing, but Morning Musume did a pretty good job of incorporating those sounds in with a nice pop song.

This also cleans up the instrumental a bit and updates the member vocals, and I think overall they do a nice job with this. Riho’s vocals in particular have improved a lot since the original recording, and everyone in general sounds better. Sometimes the dubstep breaks go on a little long for my tastes, but I like the direction they went with updating this. 7/10

9. One Two Three: While I didn’t initially like One Two Three, it grew on me as Ayumi impressed me with her dancing in the dance shot.

This seems to update even less than Renai Hunter, just updating the vocals. And I’m not sure if it’s just me, or do the vocals here just sound strange? Whatever effect they put on them this time just sounds strange. I thought I would be more inclined to listen to this one, mostly because I’m not the biggest fan of Reina’s voice, but something about the effect they put on the members’ vocals just make them sound not very good. Which is odd. There are also places where it sounds like they reused vocals, which is kind of not cool.

This seems like it would be a straightforward update for a solid song, but even then Morning Musume figured out a way to mess it up. Figures. 5/10

10. Wakuteka Take a Chance: Much like the past two, they didn’t update this much, just the vocals. Even then, they didn’t seem to update everything; there are definitely lines that are just taken from the old recordings, mixed in with new ones. It makes it kind of distracting, and a hodgepodge of an old recording and a new one.

I normally like this song, but I just can’t get past the way that vocals are being reused. It just makes it odd and distracting, which is not something you want from a song. 5/10

11. Help Me!! Same as the last; the instrumental is the same, they updated some of the vocals and reused some of the old ones. The result is a weird hodgepodge of old vocals and new vocals. Since it sounds like they just updated a little bit (the opening narration is the same and a lot of the lines that Riho and Sakura have stay the same), it is a lot less noticeable than some of the other songs. However, they update just enough that it’s distracting while listening to.

I don’t like this as much as I like Morning Musume’s subsequent releases (Brainstorming and Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke), and the PV for Help Me is absolutely horrendous. However, I enjoy a lot about the song. I just see zero reason to listen to this version over the original. The one reason I can think of is that Sakura sounds pretty good in here, for some of the lines she covers from Reina. I normally don’t care much for her voice, but she sounds nice here. 6/10

12. Brainstorming: Like the others, this is just updating vocals. Nothing sounds strange like One Two Three, and there are only a couple of lines that are redone, namely the ones that Reina did.

The lines that are redone stick out like a sore thumb, but other than that I still like Brainstorming a lot. However, the few Reina lines stick out so much that I don’t think I’ll listen to this all that much. 7/10

13. Kimi Sae Ireba Nani mo Iranai: In my initial review of this single I preferred the Brainstorming half of the single, while liking Kimi Sae. However, I think the redone solo lines in this are just a bit better than in Brainstorming. This is basically because most of the vocals are very heavily autotuned, but hey I’ll take whatever I can get with this album. This is still a really solid song that I really enjoy. Again I’m not quite sure how much I’ll listen to this, given the fact that it’s just the same as the old one, but hey. 7/10

14. Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke: Since this was just released, nothing has changed or been redone with Ai no Joke. I really enjoy this song a lot, perhaps even more than I initially liked Brainstorming. There’s a really good energy and pace to the song. It’s high energy, but doesn’t feel rushed. It features the shouted “Aisaretai” lines, which I really enjoy. The titular line “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” and its subsequent “Onna no ko ni dake wakaru talk” is, in my opinion, a really good case of lyrics writing. Not necessarily because of what it means, but because it gives the lyrics a really good rhythm.

The song’s just fun and emphasizes the type of group Morning Musume has become. If you don’t like the current Morning Musume’s style, I don’t expect you’d be a big fan of Ai no Joke. However, if you’re really into fun songs and the type of dubstep-influenced, high energy, electronic-sounding music that MM has gotten into lately, I’d expect you’d adore Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke. 9/10

15. Wolf Boy: Wolf Boy is the only completely new song on this album. Another Morning Musume song that was only on a best off album was Say Yeah! Motto Miracle Night, which happens to be one of the most fun Morning Musume songs ever, and is a song I’m convinced drove the sales for that Best Of Album.

Perhaps this is an unfair comparison, because how do you even begin to compare with Say Yeah Motto Miracle Night? But still, it is the first thing I thought of when I first saw they would have one new song, Wolf Boy.

As expected, it’s nowhere even close to Say Yeah. However, it’s still a really nice song; I like the instrumental, especially. It fits in with the cooler, electronic style that they’re going for. It doesn’t quite have the same energy of, say, Brainstorming and Kimi Sae Ireba, but this definitely sets it apart. The song itself isn’t catchy, and I’m not sure how much staying power it’ll have. But it’s certainly not bad. 7/10

Overall: This is an album of missed opportunities, baffling choices, and overall issues. There are a few tracks on here I enjoy, but for the most part these reimagining of Morning Musume classics (and new songs) do not do the originals justice.

My Top 15 Songs of 2013 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe 2013 is about halfway over! And so, it’s a good time to look back on the year in idol music, as well as pick some of my favorite songs of the year.

The idol boom has been going on since late 2009/early 2010, and I keep expecting idol groups to suddenly start disbanding or fade into obscurity. However, things are going better than ever, all things considered. AKB48 broke records and sold massive amounts with Sayonara Crawl, Momoiro Clover Z keeps climbing up, and even Hello!Project groups are doing very well. Indie groups are growing more popular, and gaining traction. Groups are becoming diverse, with alternative acts like BiS, Alice Project and Babymetal growing in popularity. Honestly, I can’t think of a better time to be an idol fan, based almost entirely on how many groups there are out there. There are a lot of groups I’m not even putting on this list but are really good groups.

And so, my top 15 songs of the first half of 2013. Note that this is just songs that have been on a release through the end of June; Koisuru Fortune Cookie’s going to end up pretty high on my full list of the year. Honorable mention goes to Oomori Seiko’s Mahou ga Tsukaenai; not quite sure I’d classify her as an idol, but I love this song to pieces.

15. Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya – Juice=Juice

Can I put a song on this list for one sentence? If so, that sentence is “just listen to that saxophone!” Because seriously, I love every second that a saxophone plays in this song.

In all honestly, I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel about Juice=Juice. I didn’t follow any of the Eggs/Kenshuusei that made the group, and I hadn’t seen the hype about Karin. I thought (and still do) the name was silly to a fault. The early pictures had all the girls in white and it looked kind of boring. And while I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be a super fan of Juice=Juice, I am a huge fan of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya.

While I was just being silly with what I was saying about the saxophone, that’s actually pretty close. The sound’s so unique, and I can’t think of another idol song like it. Underneath, Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya isn’t that unique of a song. It reminds me strangely of Melon Kinenbi’s Amai Anata no Aji but sped up. The structure feels kind of similar, as does the tune (though I definitely don’t mind H!P bringing back Melon Kinenbi songs). I don’t think Juice=Juice is anything like Melon Kinenbi, mind you, but the overall song isn’t completely new. However, the entire thing put together with the saxophone arrangement, it feels fresh and interesting.

So yes this song is pretty much on my list because of the sax.

14. Kawasaki Junjou Ondo – Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

As I’ll be writing a bit more about later, I love songs where there’s a lot of genre fusion. While I like standard idol pop songs, there’s something really interesting about putting together genres like that.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi is a group you probably haven’t heard of, unless you follow Tokyo Idol Festival and/or read my TIF posts religiously. But I found them from doing my TIF research posts, and was initially unimpressed by their concept of promoting Kawasaki, mostly because another group I wrote about had a very similar concept. However, Kawasaki Junjou Komachi really shines with their music and performances, the music being a really excellent fusion of traditional sounds with a modern pop sensibility, complete with a rap section. I don’t know Japanese instruments enough to tell, but it sounds like they’re using a lot of traditional instruments in there. In addition, it’s really catchy and fun to listen to and the vocals are really mature and lovely.

I think another reason I’m so impressed by Kawasaki Junjou Ondo is just how good it is for a local indie group. Lots of great music comes from indie idols, and I don’t want to put down indie idols. However, this is the type of song I would be very impressed if I heard it from a big, major label act. If KJK is able to continue this really great mix of traditional and pop and have this general level of quality, I predict they could grow and grow in popularity.

13. Brainstorming – Morning Musume

Late last year and early this year was when I first started to like Morning Musume again. I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi, I started liking (but not necessarily loving) the music, the other new members grew on me. I didn’t like the Help Me! PV, and the song was good, but I didn’t quite love it. However, because of Ayumi, I decided to listen to and watch Brainstorming as soon as I could. And I couldn’t get enough of it.

I think the biggest strength of Brainstorming is how fired up it works to get you. The instrumental works together with the vocals very well to make sure that there’s always something going on. Even in the slower solos (i.e. the solos Sakura does), there’s stuff going in the background. While Morning Musume has used dubstep influenced sound in Renai Hunter, and I really enjoy that song a lot, here the sound feels really integrated.

While I’m one of those people that misses old school Morning Musume a lot, really one of the strengths is in the arrangement. One of the biggest thing that makes me dislike a song is when the instrumental falls flat, and feels empty. Here, that’s not a problem, with so much going on in the back. However, nothing feels extraneous. There’s a lot going on throughout the song, but it feels warranted.

It’s also a great song for the group; it features a lot of the members doing shorter solos and mixed group bits. I don’t want to be one of those foreign fans who always complains about the line distribution, but varied groups like Morning Musume work at their best when everyone gets at least a little to do. Brainstorming really utilizes the members in a really great way.

Ultimately, this song is what brought me back and got me really excited about Morning Musume again. I actually preordered the single, because this is just that good.

12. Haste to Waste – BKA48

When I first heard there was going to be a unit of the members who scored low on the Mechaike special, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be something silly and not quite serious. And there are slightly silly parts. However, it’s a pretty standard mid-tempo song with a good deal of guitar and piano in there. A really good standard song, mind you.

Listening to the song and knowing the lyrics, though, it feels right that this is the BKA48 song; it’s silly, but it’s about being happy even if you aren’t necessarily smart. The thing that interests me is just how strangely epic the chorus feels. Perhaps it’s the lyrics mixed with the song, but it feels like it should be the theme song to the anime/drama about Kawaei Rina. Which I would definitely watch, by the way.

Honestly, this song isn’t necessarily the most interesting song on this list. But it’s solid, has a catchy melody, and I really love the lyrics. Especially the line that actually mentions Haste to Waste, taken word for word from the Mechaike special.

11.Sekaichuu ni I Love You – Rhymeberry

When most people got interested in the new Rhymeberry single, they really liked the song R.O.D.. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a great song. However, I was really taken by Sekaichuu ni I Love You, just because of how different it is. It’s 30s era swing/jazz (not sure if this is sampling or not) mixed with rap. I’ve never heard something like this before, and if you know of any other songs even remotely similar please tell me.

The instrumental is really entertaining; I love hearing all the instruments featured, especially the clarinet (which I play), but the piano is really what shines here. Miri, Hime, and Yuka all shine and they are really improving their skills. They really sell the song, too, putting a lot of energy into it, which is a marked improvement from their last single (where the live version is a lot better than what was recorded). There are also some fun lines in here; I appreciate the Han Solo reference, and I always giggle at “Dope the shit!”

I think I mostly like this because it’s such an experiment. It’s fresh, new, and something I personally have never heard before, which is really rare for music.

10. Walk my Way – Yokoyama Rurika


Yokoyama Rurika – Walk My Way by oshiruka

I think every time I talk about Idoling!!! I mention that I want to follow them more. Which still stands. I think they’re a really solid, interesting idol group with some great music, but I just don’t follow them. I heard about Yokoyama Rurika getting a solo single, but I didn’t need to read it. One thing changed my mind. Hyadain.

When I heard that this was a new Hyadain song and that it was good, I raced out to listen to it. And oh yes, it is good. The thing about this song is that it really works because of Rurika’s really strong vocals. From what I’ve heard Hyadain really wrote a song for her strong voice, and you can hear it. Hyadain, like always, writes a really strong melody, but here it fits Rurika perfectly, and her strong voice compliments the strong instrumental, or rather the instruments compliment her. This isn’t a very subtle song; this is something that’s meant to be belted out. That’s why Rurika’s voice fits it perfectly.

Steve from Selective Hearing wrote a very good analysis of Walk My Way here, and I suggest you all read it because I’m not going to write something this great about the song. One thing I can say is that, as a Hyadain fan, I love almost everything he does. His music really fits my tastes. However, since he writes almost exclusively for idol acts, I rarely get to hear music by him from an artist with a voice as strong as Rurika’s. So this song is really a treat for me, and I know it’s something I’ll listen to quite a bit.

9.Maji Kansha – Team Syachihoko

If you haven’t noticed, I really love Team Syachihoko. I wanted to put all four songs from their latest single on here, but I was able to narrow it down so that I’d have a more varied list (though another one of theirs is coming up).

One of the things I really like about Stardust groups is just how energetic their songs are, but that’s a bit of a curse as well; there aren’t many Stardust group songs I’ll break down crying while listening to, whereas I’ve cried at many AKB48 songs. And while I don’t think Syachi is going to move into serious ballads any time soon, I have to say I love their first song that seems a bit more serious, which is Maji Kansha.

I’m a sucker for strings and idol music; it’s actually something you could probably notice in this list. So when I first heard the swell of strings of Maji Kansha during a livestream of a Team Syachihoko event, I was hooked. The thing about Team Syachihoko is that if you’re looking for a polished performance with strong vocals, you’d best look elsewhere. However, the thing that I personally love about Syachihoko, that you can definitely hear in this song, is that they really work hard and push themselves. Their voices might not be strong enough to carry a song like this, but they give it their all.

It’s a really lovely song in general, and one I think could become a favorite to perform at Syachi concerts. It’s definitely the most normal Syachihoko song, but that, in itself, makes it the most usual. In a really good way.
8. Bokura no Eureka – NMB48

The easiest way to describe NMB’s summer singles is in comparison to other 48 groups. Whereas Nagiichi was much like songs like Ponytail to Shushu; happy and upbeat, Bokura no Eureka feels a lot more like Manatsu no Sounds Good. It’s a bit darker, more serious in tone, but still retaining a summer feel to it. Bokura no Eureka is a bit slower, very strings heavy (yes I do love that), and it just works.

NMB has had more mature sounding songs before (i.e. Virginity), but I didn’t really expect this song when I saw that it was an NMB48 summer song. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so unexpected that makes me love it so much. It allows for something like their full PV, where the NMB girls are on a deserted island; even though it’s a summer song, and has fairly typical lyrics, it has a lot more emotion to it. It’s a bit darker, slower and more serious than I expected from this track, and I have to say I love it.

7.Megitsune – Babymetal

Babymetal keeps surprising me and taking themselves to new levels. Every time I hear a new Babymetal song it’s exciting, because I never know what it’s going to be like. Megitsune is a new direction for Babymetal, now incorporating traditional instruments and themes into their metal/idol pop hybrid. It completely works. It’s still one of the most ‘metal’ songs Babymetal has put out (though perhaps not as metal as Ijime Dame Zettai), utilizing Suzuka’s strong vocals and a lot of drums.

It’s kind of amazing, really, that all these elements work so well together. I’m constantly impressed by how innovative Babymetal’s music can be, in incorporating Suzuka’s voice, Yui and Moa’s shouting, the metal sound, while still being accessible to people who may not necessarily enjoy metal music. I know I never really listened to metal before Babymetal. And perhaps I wouldn’t be so fond of this if I was a metal afficionado. However, Babymetal does a really great job of creating accessible music for everyone that blurs the lines of genre in a really fantastic way.

6. Den Den Passion – Dempagumi.inc

2013 is shaping up to be the year of Dempa for me; I’ve known about them for a while, but I really got into them this year. Den Den Passion does one of the things I wish more idol groups did, and really plays off the fact that this is a group effort. Especially in the chorus, there’s a lot of vocal overlap, which fits really well. I really like what they did with the vocals in this single; the voices in the chorus often sound almost vocaloid-esque, or a high-pitched Perfume, but in a way that really fits Dempagumi.inc.

That’s the thing that I really love about this single. Everything about it fits dempa’s identity as a group, which, as a fan of the group, is something I love. The quick pace, the high pitched vocals, the focus on the group, the entire song feels very dempagumi. Even the rap section really fits the song (perhaps it’s the edited vocals in that section). Sometimes when writing reviews for this blog, as an exercise, I try to imagine another group tackling a song. This is a song that I can’t imagine anyone other than dempagumi doing.

It’s frenzied, energetic, and fun. While another song on this list convinced me to start following demmpagumi.inc (spoilers), Den Den Passion helped keep Dempagumi.inc as one of my favorite idol groups out there. It’s not one of their strangest offerings, but it’s a worthy addition to the dempagumi discography.

5. Te wo Tsunagou – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

Who else has spontaneously started crying during an idol song? Because uh, that’s the first thing I did when I listened to Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku’s latest, Te wo Tsunagou.

Ebichu is another one of the Stardust idol groups a long with MomoClo and Team Syachihoko. However, for whatever reason, Ebichu hasn’t quite clicked with me in the same way as these other two groups. However, I can’t deny how great their music can be (especially since they work closely with Hyadain a lot), and Te wo Tsunagou is just incredible. Instead of taking the usual energetic route that Stardust group often does, Ebichu does a really great job with a sweet, heartfelt song (though they have done some of this before, to be fair).

The song starts off on a great note with the strongest vocalist in the group, Kashiwagi Hinata, singing a capella. She sounds really lovely, and is a really great start to the rest of this song. This song has a really great pace, helped out by the strong percussion in the background, but ultimately it’s just how earnest this song feels, both with the song, the vocals and the lyrics, that makes me really love it.

This song isn’t quite as unique as the others on this list. It’s not even as unique as the other song on this single, Kindan no Karma, which is a much darker song. However, this song does pretty much everything right in being a really lovely, heartwarming song. As groups search for the next gimmick or style, this proves that what you need more than anything is a good melody, charismatic performers, and a strong arrangement.

4. Ijime Dame Zettai – Babymetal

I remember distinctly the first time I heard this song. This had been a very long awaited song for Babymetal fans, so I was very excited. I was doing a project for a class (auditioning people to be in a project I was managing), but I had to listen to this as soon as I saw the PV had been posted. It was completely worth the anticipation. I sat alone in the room I was holding auditions in, mouth open, completely in awe of what I was listening to.

I’d argue that Ijime Dame Zettai is the most metal of the Babymetal songs; you could potentially make a good case for the song Catch Me if You Can, but I’d argue the chorus gets too pop-y. IDZ, on the other hand, is pure metal, without the pop influence of other Babymetal songs, and it’s just good. One of the things that I love about IDZ are the slower sections; the piano-heavy section at the beginning, the slower section right at the beginning of the second verse, and the section before the big guitar solos. These do a really great job of pumping up the more intense sections, and making them exciting. All the guitar solos in this are incredible, as are the rest of the instruments; they do a really excellent job of pumping you up, and having a lot of energy.

Suzuka’s vocals, while they’ve since improved again for Megitsune, made a really big leap from Headbanger to Ijime Dame Zettai. She sounds amazing here, her strong voice really fitting the great instrumental. Yui and Moa take a bit of a backseat from their already limited roles, but their presence mainly serves to remind you that yes, this is actually Babymetal you’re listening to.

This isn’t metal-pop. I’d go so far as to say this is just metal, with pop performers. Suzuka sounds great, the instruments sound great, and everything about this track is phenomenal.
3. Shuto Iten Keikaku – Team Syachihoko

Figuring out which two Team Syachihoko songs made this list was a bit of a difficult decision, because the whole single is pretty amazing, but it came down to Maji Kansha and Shuto Iten Keikaku. Let’s just get it out of the way: I’m biased towards Team Syachihoko. They’ve quickly become my idol group of choice, and I can’t think of a song they’ve done that I haven’t liked. However, this is because they have really high quality music, and this has continued with their national major debut single.

This song was cowritten by Japanese hip hop artist SEAMO, and that’s pretty obvious. Even if there’s only one actual rap section (done wonderfully by Haruna), you can hear the hip hop influence throughout the whole song, which features a lot of spoken parts and a whole lot of attitude. According to wikipedia, one of SEAMO’s influences was MC Hammer, and I do get a bit of an 80s/90s hip hop vibe from this. This is honestly not a song I expected to hear from Team Syachihoko, but they really put a lot of effort into this song, with Chiyuri rolling her R’s and Nao putting in a lot of energy. All the girls really fit in this well.

The lyrics are one of the most fun parts of the song, featuring Syachi’s plea to make Nagoya the capitol of Japan. It’s a silly topic and the lyrics are silly, but Syachihoko actually sells it pretty well. There’s a pretty good translation on the PV on the official Syachihoko channel, so I recommend you check that out.

Otherwise, all the parts come together for a really fun and entertaining song.

2. W.W.D – Dempagumi.inc

W.W.D stands for “worldwide Dempagumi,” a very fitting title given Dempagumi.inc’s recent announcement of performing at Japan Expo USA this August.

W.W.D is weird. And this is coming from someone who loves weird music. Can you guess who wrote this song? If you guessed Hyadain, yep you’re right. However, while some people may criticize W.W.D for being kind of disjointed, in actuality it really fits the group. The song centers around the group of six girls, their individual stories and how they all came together to become one group. Therefore, the fact that the song has so many different styles in it actually makes a lot of sense, because it’s reinforcing this narrative found in the lyrics. I’m really glad they decided to work with Hyadain to write this deeply personal song for Dempagumi.inc; Hyadain is the master of writing very eccentric songs that somehow work, and W.W.D is one of those songs.

Because this song is based off the histories of the girls in dempagumi.inc, they perform it really well. The girls all have an interest in Akihabara culture, and as such really play up the shouted parts well. Groups in the past have called themselves ‘otaku groups,’ but you really believe it with dempagumi.inc. This song is so weird, but Dempagumi.inc manages to sell the slow/serious section as well as the energetic sections. They do well with a song that I imagine would be difficult for most idol singers to get.

If you don’t like your music weird, I doubt you’ll like W.W.D.. In fact, I have a feeling it’s the type of single that would be very polarizing. However, I really like Hyadain when he’s at his wackiest, which he is here. Combine that with the personal stories of dempagumi.inc, and you have a classic idol song on your hands.

1. Hai to Diamond – Momoiro Clover Z

If you read my review of Momoiro Clover Z’s album 5th Dimension, you’ll already know how much I love this song, so I’ll keep this brief. Hai to Diamond is incredible. It’s not necessarily the most idol-y song out there, but it’s a really beautiful song featuring orchestral instruments, many different sounds, and some really nice performances from Momoiro Clover. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, written very well and arranged even better. It’s gorgeous, epic, and has been an instant favorite ever since I heard it.

This is one of the most beautiful pop songs I’ve ever heard, and I know I’ll keep coming back to it again and again in the future.

PSA: Please Take Domestic Violence Seriously

This is a little bit of a serious thing for Happy Disco, but it needs to be said.

Recently, ex-Morning Musume member Yaguchi Mari has filed for divorce from her husband. The clear reasons are infidelity, because she cheated on her husband. However, she’s stated that one of the reasons is that her husband was violent towards her.

I don’t want to apologize for people who cheat. It’s not a good thing to be doing. However, I’ve been really disappointed by how people have been treating Mari’s allegations of domestic violence. So I wanted to make this post to say that.

“But Yaguchi mentioned this after she got caught cheating!” So what? So that means that we can immediately dismiss allegations of violence? We don’t know everything that happened, but domestic violence is one thing that should be taken seriously.

“If she had been treated violently, wouldn’t she have said something before?” Not every victim feels like they are able to stand up and say something. In the US “On average, only 70% of nonfatal partner violence is reported to law enforcement. Of those not reporting, 41% of male and 27% of female victims (34% average) stated victimization being a private/personal matter as reason for not reporting, 15% of women feared reprisal, 12% of all victims wished to protect the offender, and 6% of all victims believed police would do nothing.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)”

Further, those are US statistics; talking about domestic violence is possibly more taboo in Japan than in the US. “In a society as gossip-phobic as Japan’s, the shame associated with domestic troubles was monumental. All measures were taken — by family members, victims and victimizers alike — to prevent discord from becoming public” It may have been hard for Mari, a public figure, to come out and say that her husband was violent to her before now.

Like I said earlier, we don’t know the whole story and probably never will. However, I’ve been extremely saddened by the comments of people completely dismissing her comments. Domestic Violence is a serious problem and we should take it seriously.

Why 12th Generation Morning Musume is a Great Idea

When it was announced that Morning Musume was adding a new generation, I saw a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of finger pointing, at one person in particular.

While Tsunku might not be the one to blame in this situation (most of the decisions are made by UFA higher ups), it still is a curious situation. The tenth generation really seemed to come quickly after the ninth generation, and the 11th generation soon after. So, why do they do it?

Announcements Feel Quicker Than the Real Deal

Maybe this is a bit obvious, but to state the obvious: auditions take time. Not necessarily for every idol group, but MM likes to have multiple stages of the audition process, publicize the last bit with the boot camp, and then pick girls. Even when that’s all said and done, there’s some time between when they’re picked and when they actually become active members of the group. So even though it feels like Oda Sakura JUST joined, she was accepted into Morning Musume about six months ago. It’ll take awhile for these new girls to join, Reina will be long gone, and it might work out nicely.

No More S/Mileage/Country Musume Situations

Not that I ever think this could happen to Morning Musume, but for me one of the weirdest times was right after Eri, JunJun and LinLin left the group, but right before 9th gen entered. Five members, the first time since the group formed. Morning Musume needs a steady stream of members, so that they can maintain having a steady group of people. The reason I think S/Mileage went for the multiple generation route was because Ogawa Saki was leaving (happened after the 2nd generation announcement, but management still could have, most likely knew) and they possibly already knew Maeda Yuuka was leaving. The group wasn’t stable, so to maintain this new group they wanted new members. They didn’t want another Country Musume situation on their hands, where after the first single Rinne just had to do some solo singles until they added Asami and then Ishikawa Rika for the Country Musume ni groups. Hello!Project’s going for longevity, so they want a good number of girls in Morning Musume at all time.

Really, the Group’s not THAT Full

Reina’s leaving. This is a fact. It’s also pretty safe to bet that in the next couple of years, Michishige Sayumi will also say goodbye to the group, mostly because she’s been with Morning Musume for so long, and the age gap is getting even bigger. So when Reina leaves, there will be 10 members, and when Sayumi leaves there will only be 9 members. For those who mostly got into Morning Musume in the Platinum era that was the norm, but having more than that is by no means unheard of, right around when 5th generation and 6th generation joined.

More members can also bring in more fans; one of the ingenious things about AKB48 is it’s sheer size, and the fact that the concept (a classroom) encourages various types of girls. With all the different members, it’s easy to find at the very least one girl you like, if not more. Even if there are front girls (which is the case for pretty much any idol group), Morning Musume putting in more girls means that there are more opportunities to get fans interested. I know that I was ready to stop paying attention, but then I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi.

Stagnate Morning Musume is One to be Avoided

This is possibly the most important thing to remember. Right now, Morning Musume are making an honestly fantastic comeback, and are at the best sales they’ve had in a while. They’re starting to get more and more recognition as being more than “that group that brought you Love Machine.” Of course, they’re not mainstream popular yet, nor are they anywhere close to being the top idol group in Japan, but it feels like they’re finally putting in a lot of effort as a group. Part of that includes a fresh line up. One of the things that Morning Musume is known for, other than Love Machine and Renai Revolution 21, is their line-up changing system. And for good reason! But in their heyday, almost every single was a change in line-up; before Koi no Dance Site Ishiguro left, before Happy Summer Wedding the fourth generation joined, before I Wish Ichii left, Renai Revolution stayed the same, and before The Peace Yuko left. It generates a lot of buzz and is honestly the thing that keeps the group going; the stagnate line-up of the Platinum era did no favors, and didn’t bring in many new fans. So adding new members, if it contributes to keeping these fresh line-ups and making the group interesting again, is fine by me.

First Impressions: Brainstorming

This comes in at a weird time, as I’m going to be completing a comprehensive rundown of how bad Morning Musume PVs have gotten. It’s more negative than I like to be at a place called “Happy Disco,” but it’s things that I think need to be said. However, I’m so excited because,  much like Abed from Community, “I guess I just like liking things.”


Yes I am just using this as an excuse to put Community in Happy Disco. Go watch the show if you aren’t already.

So while I’ve been pretty positive as a whole about Morning Musume lately, I’ve been wondering about their future. I was, thus, pleasantly surprised this morning when the new dance shot for Morning Musume’s newest single, “Brainstorming,” came out.
Here are just a few of my immediate thoughts on this.


Dancing Musume

For the most part, current Morning Musume feels very dance heavy. This has also been noted by others (in Chiima’s look at it she calls this the dancing era of Morning Musume). However, it is notable that for the past few singles that the first thing to come out is a dance shot, which for other groups might not even be a thing. This shows that one of the first thing management wants you to see isn’t the actual girls, but the dancing skills, which says something about the values and focus of the current group.

This is really reinforced by this dance shot. This dance is strong, there is a good amount of parts where stronger dancers are emphasized and put forward, and there’s even the lovely mini dance battle with arguably two of the best dancers of the group, Riho and Ayumi. I’ve wanted dance solos for so long, because in Hello!Project often the lead singers get put in the front and the girls who are strong in dance don’t really get to shine. So this mini dance battle makes me hopeful that Hello!Project is starting to get it.

No Crummy Greenscreen!

One of the things I’m writing a lot about right now is how terrible the greenscreening is for Help Me. Which it is. But I’m glad to see that’s taken a break and they’re back to good sets. The production values look decent here, with good looking costumes and a good looking set. I’m really hoping they don’t mess it up with terrible effects in the post-production phase (a la 1 2 3 and Wakuteka Take a Chance), but nothing here looks cheap and terrible. Which is a good thing.

I Like the Song!

While I’ve seen other people calling this song a rehash of other Morning Musume songs and their recent style (which may be true; the section that’s very similar to Wakuteka Take a Chance is telling), I think this might just blow the others out of the water. While it is very similar in style to Morning Musume’s past efforts, it’s a step up. They’re keeping similar styles while improving and breaking new ground. The instrumental feels fuller and more complete, and the melody is immediately catchy. I honestly don’t mind that this is very similar because it’s just good.

They’re Finally Starting to Use More Girls!

By far my biggest surprise of the song was Haruna’s (albeit heavily autotuned) solo line. While yeah, MM is still the Reina and Riho show, this overall feels much more like a group effort than anything in the Reina and Ai era of Morning Musume. While the part that gives everyone short solo lines is very reminiscent of Wakuteka Take a Chance, it is still a great way to integrate the rest of the group together. I was personally happy for the bigger Ayumi solo line, and even the dance felt like Morning Musume was an integrated whole. This is something that Morning Musume really has lost for a while, and it feels good to have it back. The only lines that really felt out of place were the Sakura lines, personally; I didn’t really dig the sudden belting singing. But hey, it’s nice that they fit her style into Morning Musume’s current overall style.

So ultimately, I’m honestly really positive about this release. I’ve felt issues with Hello!Project in the past, but if this is the future of Morning Musume, the future looks really bright!

Best Surprise EVER.

Now here’s something I never thought I’d see nowadays:

 

Here….

 

That’s right, it’s Ex-Morning Musume member Goto Maki visiting Dream Morning Musume! Not only that, she visited them on stage!

Now, while Gocchin isn’t my favorite OG (I like her, but prefer others), just seeing her on the stage with the rest of DMM makes me really excited. After leaving Hello!Project/UFA and joining Avex, it seemed like she was almost blacklisted. She never came back, and was rarely (if ever) mentioned by other  members. She wasn’t as taboo as Kago Ai, but she wasn’t very easy to hear from.

Then, I wonder, perhaps this is because she’s splitting from Avex? She hasn’t gone on hiatus yet, but her intent is clear.

So now, there is the inevitable question “Will Goto Maki join Dream Morning Musume?” which I have to answer with a tentative “probably not.” Gomaki joining DMM would be a dream come true for a lot of fans. Yet her Avex career was doing pretty well. She isn’t retiring out of lack of interest or poor sales; I genuinely believe her when she says she’s taking a break for herself. DMM would probably be fun for her, I imagine, but it would be a lot of work when she really could continue her solo career with Avex and do just fine with that.

Still, the fact that Goto Maki is able to stand on the same stage as DMM with Tsunku/UFA’s approval shows that there is still more opportunity for H!P fans to see more of Goto Maki, which I think has to be considered a good thing.

The Morning Musume Risk Paradox

Earlier I saw a new post on Intl Wota about Morning Musume and popularity. Now, this question has been discussed over and over again. I remember this being asked back when I first found Morning Musume, back in early 2008, and I know this discussion of what Morning Musume is doing right/wrong has been going on for a while. However, something in Cat’s post HERE has made me think about this question a bit more, and apply a little something I’ve learned in my Mass Media and Popular Culture course at my university. This I will henceforth call the Morning Musume Risk Paradox.

One of the issues that Cat brings up why Morning Musume doesn’t get on TV shows anymore and why they’ve been in a downward spiral of promotions. While she astutely says that Morning Musume is less popular now than they used to be, this is I think only part of the issue. Yes, Morning Musume is less popular, but I do think a big part of that is because of their less frequent television appearances.

Why doesn’t Morning Musume appear on TV more? The answer lies in the concept of Risk. No, not the board game, but the idea if something is risky, or dangerous. Now you might be wondering “what’s risky about having Morning Musume on TV?” The reason that risk comes up in talking about television and media is because the one thing that companies (including media related) try to do above all else is to minimize risk, especially when it involves losing money. Television shows cost a lot to film and produce, and so it only stands to reason that a TV show is going to focus on what makes up that money and minimize risk in doing so. Same for things like film/drama opportunities.

However, this really just reminded me of a recent complaint I saw, and that was that groups with lesser sales and various KPop groups got TV shows, but not Morning Musume. However, this is still in effect minimizing risk. KPop is booming right now, so it makes sense they’d get on the various music programs. Now, in the case of the groups with lesser sales, let’s compare with a hypothetical. Suppose you had two music shows in front of you. One show had a new, up and coming artist that you may have heard of, but the group’s in a genre you enjoy and you’ve been thinking of giving them a shot. Conversely, there’s another show with a group that you used to like but haven’t followed for years, doesn’t have any of the same members you liked, and will perform their most famous song again. Now, I’m sure some of you are going “I’d choose the second one!” since you realized that’s Morning Musume (and the song is Love Machine). However, would a TV show rather be the show that discovered and helped a group to fame (basically what could be said for the MM/Utaban relationship) or the show that iddn’t know when to let a group die.

It’s tough, and I know it does suck, especially  if you want to see your favorite group succeed. However, television is a business, and the media industry is all about minimizing risk factors, and I doubt that we’ll see a huge surge in Morning Musume in television promotions unless for some reason they become really popular.

However, don’t think that Morning Musume is immune to the whole minimizing risk aspect. That’s why it’s a paradox. Have you noticed that sometimes H!P releases sound alike? They have all the same front girls for years? The PVs will consist of a dance shot with some close ups and some other miscellaneous shots? Morning Musume is minimizing its risk too, focusing a lot on trying to please the demographic that it has right now. The group is dropping in sales after every single release, and that’s got to be scary for management. At this point, H!P is pretty set in its ways, to try and make sure that sales don’t drop any lower, by appealing to Morning Musume wota.

This is also shown in things like concert setlists, the DVDs/shows H!P produces, and the PVs. There is hardly any change from H!P product to product, and most of the change is superficial (i.e. the new Morning Musume PVs have new graphics, but use them to make a pretty standard PV in terms of story/editing).

That’s where the paradox is. Television shows won’t put Morning Musume on the shows because they’re not popular enough, but Morning Musume needs these shows to be popular. Television shows are minimizing risk by not having Morning Musume on, but by minimizing risk it’s doubtful that Morning Musume will gain new fans. It’s a tough situation, and I don’t know if there’s anything that UFA/H!P could do to make this situation better, but Morning Musume is indeed stuck in a conundrum.

Thoughts on Aibon

I’m sure this is old news to anyone who reads this blog, but this morning of September 11th 2011, Kago Ai attempted to commit suicide.

When I saw the news online today, I can say that I was in shock. Granted, Kago Ai isn’t the idol I’d be most surprised to see doing something like this, but it’s still a hard thing to see. Ai has never been one of my favorite idols. Perhaps it’s because I became a H!P fan after her initial scandals, but she’s not one of the girls I like best. However, I do hold 4th generation Morning Musume in a special place, partially because of it being Rika’s generation, but also because I think they were monumental in MM history.

It’s really hard to see Kago hurting like this, and I’m honestly somewhat at a loss of words for this. It’s easy to blame her, to be upset at her or to find one aspect of her life that she should change. Anyone who writes this sort of thing isn’t necessarily wrong. Kago is obviously in a tough place in her lie and something has to give. However, suicide isn’t a light decision, and depression is a complicated disease to deal with.

The one thing I think about all of this is that above all Kago needs help. She needs to talk to someone and get things straightened out, which is beyond dumping her boyfriend or quitting her showbiz career.

The thing that I think she needs more than anything are people in her life who care about her enough to urge her to get help or to be there for her, which I don’t know if she has. She has a public enough life for us to know that her family life has been dysfunctional from the start.

I’m keeping Kago Ai in my thoughts and I really do hope that she can get the help that she needs. One thing I want the online idol community to get is that depression and suicide are serious things. If you feel depressed or like you want to commit suicide, please go find help or call a hotline. What you’re going through is rough, but please seek the help that you need.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

 1-800-273-TALK