WTF S/mileage Auditions?
If there was one unit within Hello! Project which I thought didn’t need changing, it was S/mileage. I’m not saying they’ve been managed in a flawless style (hacking everyone’s hair off for Shortcut was a big no-no), but to me, they somehow provided a template of how the other groups within Hello! Project should be managed.
So why the hell are they holding auditions for a 5th member, and at that, why with an age range of 13-18?
Let’s back track a little… S/mileage was formed two years ago by tsunku, just after the idol collective had had a serious shake up, and what was followed by Morning Musume’s most successful period since Yossie and Mikitty departed. A year and 4 Indies singles later, under much less favourable conditions (e.g. declining single sales from all groups), S/mileage made a successful debut. Unlike other Hello! Project units, they’ve managed to maintain fairly stable sales, with each single selling 17-20k copies in the first week of charting. For an idol group, this isn’t bad at all, and in some cases their singles have outsold Berryz Kobo and C-ute, and have left Mano Erina very far behind.
The girls also have a definitive style in their music, PVs and costumes. It’s the epitome of “KAWAII“: energetic songs, cute mini skirts and playful PVs. They have a clear theme, much like EmoMusume did, and unlike, say, C-ute.
And talking about C-ute, here comes the dilemma which S/mileage will one day face: they’re not going to stay cute and youthful forever. C-ute’s plan was to try some new things – sexy outfits, mature songs and fast paced, energetic dance routines. However, they’d then produce something like Momoiro Sparkling, which is probably very confusing to any mainstream fan base trying to follow them – pick a formula and stick to it! Like S/mileage.
You might say that adding a new member to S/mileage is a good idea then, to keep the group youthful. However, why the heck have they put an age range on the auditions which is two years older than the oldest member? Not that I can imagine they’ll add anyone older than Dawa… More to the point, why try and “fix” something that isn’t broken. S/mileage are the last Hello! Project unit which needs a new member or some kind of big change. ManoEri needs some serious investment in her career, followed by someone who can keep C-ute in one direction and then someone who can promote Berryz Kobo properly. I’m also wondering how one new member will disturb the dynamic of the 4 girls who spent ages as Eggs, and a year in preparation for their mainstream debut. Maybe tsunku feels they’ve got too complacent and are taking their success for granted (which I doubt). Or maybe one of S/mileage members is unhappy and/or thinking of leaving (as they’re all getting to High School age)? I doubt that, but it wouldn’t be unheard of.
I have a feeling it’s all about publicity however. Morning Musume may not be the most popular idol group at the moment, but whenever “auditions” are mentioned, they begin to trend on Twitter and member’s blogs are bumped up on ranking sites. I also wonder if tsunku is once again trying to replenish his Egg stocks and maybe he’s not getting the right kind of girls audition for Morning Musume. Maybe he’ll even switch some girls around between the S/mileage and Morning Musume auditions. Who knows what Hello! Project and Up Front Agency are thinking any more? I find the whole situation bizarre and unnecessary. It’s a publicity stunt which could wreck a decent Hello! Project unit.