Hello! Project – The weirdest year yet?
We’re still a few weeks away from 2011 being complete, but I’ve found this year to be the biggest test on my Hello! Project and Up Front Agency fandom.
2011 was the year where Hello! Project were going to make up for the mistakes of 2010. S/mileage were coming into their own. Morning Musume had it’s first new members added since 2007. And Dream Morning Musume were going to debut. But why did things not come off as planned?
The S/mileage Disaster
Like a lot of people, I’ve believed S/mileage to be one of the most interesting groups to come out of Hello! Project for a long time. Instead, this year we were treated to a shock announcement of auditions and three shock departures – okay one of them wasn’t even a full member, but everything that happened in S/mileage seemed to be a reaction rather than a calculated decision. Addition of members = reaction to Saki leaving; full membership of the 4 sub-members = reaction to Yuuka and one sub-member for health reasons departing. S/mileage were not just the most interesting group within H!P, they were one of the most interesting idol groups at the moment. I also don’t thoroughly subscribe to the idea that Yuuka and Saki left due to bad management or something being wrong with the group – my next point will go into more detail about that…
C-ute and Berryz Kobo and the rubbish singles
I can categorically say that since Maji Bomber, Berryz Kobo haven’t had a good single. The same about C-ute with Kiss me Aishiteru. Where focus has been put on the new Musume’s and S/mileage, C-ute and Berryz have suffered, and not even a joint single can save them. Under investment, aging members, I don’t think either group will be notching up many more sales – and I think S/mileage must have looked at their two sempai groups and got nervous. I think their stability may be the thing which is killing them. But, they have been booked up into 2012 (well Berryz and Buono! at least). Maybe if they release a few more interesting singles or properly merge into one super group… I no doubt think that Yuuka and Saki looked at Berryz and C-ute, thought “that’ll be me in 4 years time, I better go to university if I want to earn more money” – especially if they weren’t particularly interested in fame and wota. A focus into photobooks and DVDs has meant that I have little interest in these groups.
Buono! don’t rock as hard
I love Buono!. Their early singles were ace and I loved “Our Songs” with a passion. However, no longer linked to Shugo Chara, their latest singles have been boring and a little less rocky. Their mini-album was interesting, because it seemed to have a essence of K-Pop about it. Still, these girls have a long way to go to get anywhere close to where they used to be. A live in France is an interesting development, but we all remember what happened last time they were going to come to Europe. Let’s hope another recession doesn’t mess it up.
Let’s release our most boring single as Mobekimasu
The majority of singles from Hello! Project have been dire. Kiss Me Aishiteru, Maji Desu ka Ska, Uchoten Love and Kare to Issho ni omise ga Shitai! have been the only tracks to really write home about. Considering this, it’s also a massive shame that the “shuffle” single – Busu ni naranai tatsugaku is as boring and hell and simply uses the lead singers from each H!P unit (sans Mano Eri). What is the point?
Sorry, who are Yuu?
Kikkawa Yuu – you know? The girl from MilkyWay who could sing? Apparently she’s a solo artist!
Is she a member of Hello! Project or UFA?
Well… I’m not sure.
You’re not sure?
Well there’s this weird agreement with Sony going on – but she was promoted by H!P promoted her at first.
They seem to have abandoned her… but her singles are great.
Yeah the Kikkawa Yuu situation is a weird one. What the hell is going on?
But on the upside…
Like 2010, I think 2011 has been pretty much a write off year for Hello! Project single wise. Although a few gems peek out, lack of consistency and a focus on photobooks and DVDs has marked a sharp shift in Hello! Projects overall aim, and have also made me question whether or not this is the idol collective for me. I don’t particularly have the “photobook bug” – I have a handful of the things. Nor can I afford, nor want DVDs of the girls in bikinis. I want great singles, something a lot of idol collectives (not just H!P) have lacked this year.
But prep for 2012 is already done. I think Momusu fans understood that 2011 would be tough – 4 new members, Ai-chan leaving, and Aika out of action for the most of 2011 (which was not predicted). A lot of moves also made sense. Riho being pushed to the front. 4 new members being added. These investments will surely bare fruit in the future. I still think a Momusu live performance DVD is worth 10 of any other idol collective. I still remember of disappointment of watching an AKB live DVD. Yes, they do have better singles, they are more popular but there’s something inherently lacking for me which I find within Hello! Project, which is why I haven’t abandoned all hope.
S/mileage will probably suffer a little from Yuuka leaving. She was their star player, and it will be tough, but getting graduations and auditions in place will strength the girls in the future.
Berryz, C-ute and Buono! – I always doubt how much longer these girls have with Hello! Project, but considering they have international lives booked for next year, I’m impressed. Hopefully they’ll be allocated better singles.
One person I haven’t mentioned is ManoEri… I think her music career has gone the same way as other Hello! Project solo artists, but she’s still considered an important member of H!P or she would have been graduated.
And, the Dream continues
I would have included Dream Momusu earlier in what I though was crap about 2011… their album was a major disappointment. But there’s something great about their live performances. Also, the fact that Maki Goto is “taking a break” from Avex and has also stated that she would love to be brought into DoriMomusu. Maybe it was a grass-is-always-green situation with avex, or maybe the huge changes in her personal life made her reassess her relationship with Hello! Project and UFA. I can imagine that there’s an awful lot of bitchyness and bullying, but there also must be a great support network, especially as the girls mature. Pure assumption, but I’d love to see the girls all perform together again! What would make my 2012 for H!P and UFA? This!