Category Archives: Hello! Project

tsunku trolls us all again

imagesLast year, the name of Morning Musume’s Spring concert tour “Michishige SOUL11″ sparked speculation that Sayumi Michishige would be the next Morning Musume graduate. Shortly after, it was announced that the other 6th Generation member Reina Tanaka would be graduating instead.

Hello! Project producer tsunku loves trolling us all – but his latest announcement has shocked everyone. After annoucing the search for the “Mirai Shoujo” of Morning Musume, to which 5,600 girls applied, tsunku has now announced that no one has passed, as well as giving us a few other interesting morsels:

  • Morning Musume currently has it’s strongest lineup;
  • If the 12th gen applicants had applied at the time of the 9th gen auditions, they would have won and
  • No one of the 12th gen applicants is strong enough to join Momusu.

tsunku’s confidence is Momusu is amazing, but many old school Momusu fans don’t agree.  Vocally, Momusu are at one of their weajest points and have relied heavily on autotuned, electro-pop singles to mask this.

tsunku’s point about the 9th gen seems a little… insulting.  Although he mentions the 9th gen’s improvement, it begs to question whether they will be first to go once the graduations kick in.

I’m a big Platinum era fan, but a grievous error was made during this time.  tsunku took too long to insert new girls into the group, leaving Morning Musume vocally weak and now heavily dependent on Ayumi and Riho’s dancing abilities.  The current line up need to develop their singing ability.

I agree that Morning Musume didn’t need new members, but why was everyone’s time wasted in the first place with the auditions?

Oh tsunku!

(Source http://www.takamaruyo.net/blog/archives/5698 )

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.

And now?

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!

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.

Morning Musume Announces 10th Audition

Wow, this came out of the blue. Tsunku has announced that Morning Musume will now be accepting applicants for the 10th generation audition starting from today and ending on June 13th.

The theme of the new generation is “Genkijirushi” which my dictionary tells me means “Promising“. Looking back however, names are meaningless to a generation. Wasn’t Koharu supposed to be the Miracle? Miracle for her own solo career in Kirarin Revolution maybe, but not so much for Morning Musume. The age range is also very slim: 12 – 15 years it’s probably one of the most specific yet.

This announcement could be the prelude to something a little more ominous, however. Could another of the older members be graduating before the end of the year? Either that or the amount Ai‘s being paid is going to support two new members and excessive promoting alone (which I actually wouldn’t doubt). I would not at all be surprised if we saw Aika being the leader of Momusu within two years, as the new wash of talent being recruited and new style will definitely lead to Gaki, Reina and even possibly the “forever young” Sayu looking out of place with a bunch of under 16s.

But, the news isn’t all bad. New members wouldn’t have been put into the group unless the 9th generation were proving popular – right? Either something is going terribly wrong at Hello! Project HQ or tsunku thinks enough has already been done for the girls to attract new fans. Also, many fans have noticed the depletion in the stock of Eggs lately. Personally, I’ve never had much time for the Eggs, except for the MilkyWay girls. When they hatch, they can produce some excellent talent (S/mileage, ManoEri, V-U-DEN, Lin Lin), however, watching an Egg be incubated is sometimes a slow and monotonous process. Maybe it’s a secret ploy to get another Egg into H!P to stop a particular girl from leaving? Who knows?

I do wonder how the 9th generation will feel about this however. They were probably looking forward to being the juniors for a little bit longer, and instead, it looks like they could possibly be mentors with less than a year of experience. I would imagine that it will push them to really up their game and stand out. For me, Zukki (Kanon Suzuki) with her hilarious behaviour and Riho (Riho Sayashi) have done this alone. Riho is being branded the next Ai-chan, which we can see from her extraordinary dance skills. The problem is, none of the 9th generation have those exceptional vocal abilities that Ai-chan has. Out of the remaining members, Gaki and Reina are the only girls who have very, very good singing voices, but neither compare to Ai-chan.

All the same, I’m keeping my eyes open, as I suspect at the Summer Hello! Project concert we may hear another “shock” announcement from Gaki, Sayu or Reina.

Any chance they’ll let Mogi in this time?

You’re still my #1 Mogi! Speaking of age range, Mogi wouldn’t have been accepted by last years standards? I wonder how young the mysterious 6th girl who dropped out was? Maybe they felt that the ender 12s were too young?

Anywho, I’ll look forward to the current unfolding events from Hello! Project. They know how to keep me interested.

C-ute – Momoiro Sparkling

I’m a little confused by C-ute. Their last few singles have shown a move towards a more mature image, yet all of a sudden, they come out with fluffy, ubeat “Momoiro Sparkling“.

To be honest, from the reactions people were having to the song, I was expecting it to be a regression of the girls, but instead, I was nicely surprised. A bright, airy summer PV, traditional H!P backing vocals (it sounds like tsunku and Atsuko Inaba although as her contract with UFA has ended it probably isn’t) and… equal line distribution – in C-ute?! For me it’s always been a fact of life that C-ute was the Airi and Maimi show, but to see and hear so much of Nakky, Chisa and MaiMai is great!

As people have said, this single is a bit of a departure from their previous singles. Since Dance de BAKOON! C-ute have been pushing hard towards a sexier image, which really worked for them. But, although I can understand many fans’ disappointment, I’m glad that they can still put Maimai in some dungaree shorts, let the girls play with water-guns and inflatable balls and still pull it off. I think all the girls are wearing fantastic costume choices, and those killer heels still give all 5 girls an element of maturity. I especially love Chiasato in this PV. She’s really starting to stand out, in a very good way, in C-ute – and her hair and outfit are adorable.

For once, the main problem with this song isn’t the PV, the vocals, the balance or even the arrangement of the song. It’s that the song just isn’t very catchy. The chorus just doesn’t draw you in enough, there are no real hooks to the song, making the track forgettable.

Overall though, I love this PV, and the song does grow on you. H!P have seemed to perfect the “budget PV” (although I’d ask for your money back for those pink CGI bubbles) and regardless of making comparisons to other groups it’s a cracking effort from C-ute, going in a different direction to their usual one.