Friday, September 21, 2012

Tokyo Girls' Style unleashes another SweetS cover!

Today, Avex released a short PV for a new song from Tokyo Girls' Style--which happens to be none other than "LolitA Strawberry in summer" by SweetS!  this will most likely be a coupling track to their newest single, set to drop on 10/10.  I suspected that if the girls ever did another SweetS cover, it would be this one.  It is one of their more well-known songs, though, being SweetS' debut song, it wasn't one of their strongest.

Out of the two SweetS covers TGS has done so far, I have to say their "Love Like Candyfloss" cover was much stronger.  (I mean, that song is pretty much flawless/hard to mess up anyway, BUUUUUT...).  The sound of "Love like Candyfloss" fit more closely with the lyrics while not being a carbon copy of the original. It didn't please everyone, but that's going to happen with covers.

I'm going to avoid the "is it better than the original" schpiel and just say that it is different.  TGS is a very different group than SweetS.  While SweetS' music was much more dance beat driven, TGS' signature style is rock-infused pop.  I like the sound of it for the most part, but I have to say I do like the original better.

The PV is very cute and well done. GirlPOP's most recent issue featured a spread of the girls wearing the costumes their 3D avatars wore in the PV preview.  The cute plaid getups really fit with the song and how it was arranged for TGS. I always like to see girl groups being animated, and TGS animated PVs always turn out very well.  I'm not sure I'm all about the ab-flashing part of the choreography though.  Check it out!

And do see the original PV, please do!

If you want to learn more about the legendary girl group SweetS (which all self-respecting idol and Takimoto Miori fans should), the fansite SweetsDesu (formerly known as Mienai Tsubasa) is still up and running.  It doesn't update super-frequently, but anything Sweets related you could possibly ever want is here.

Question of the day: If TGS were to do another SweetS cover, which song would you like to see??

(I vote for "Sky" or "on the way ~Yakusoku no Basho e~")

Sunday, September 16, 2012


A photo from Haruna's blog. Sakura has really been getting on with her new groupmates. 
I kinda wanna frame this. *heart*

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ono Erena's escape from the 48s: the making of a truly modern idol


I did not follow AKB48 in real time until just after Ono Erena graduated, but during my survey of AKB48's older music about a year and a half ago, I heard her solo, "FIRST LOVE," and was interested in finding out more about her.  Though it was processed to the point where Ono herself did not and could never sing it live, it was a great song.  It was very well arranged, it showcased Ono's cute voice without emphasizing her flaws, and it was wonderfully free from the headache-inducing one-TWO one-FUCKING TWO cut-time percussion rhythms which seem to be the hallmark of most ---48 songs.  (Taku Takahashi, I feel your pain, buddy.)

From what I have seen, it isn't hard to see why Erena was popular for the most part, especially among overseas fans.  She was quite cute, very photogenic and had great onstage energy.  But like most of the ---48 girls, she didn't have much to offer in terms of real talent, which is one major reason keeping up with the 48ses remains a huge headache for me beyond the very popular members.

There are a lot of great personalities in the 48s, but very few of them actually had/have that spark onstage, including Ono.  Love them though we may, anyone with even a passing interest in the 48 empire must admit that the 48s Do Not exist to create honest to god musicians or dancers, and we are fools to wish they did.  They, like almost all idol groups, exist for four major purposes:

1) To prepare young women for a career in performance.

This is one of the things I actually really love about the Japanese idol industry specifically.  Idols in Japan, unlike those in Korea, are works in progress.  They are far from polished.  This is an industry in which literally anyone who really wants to can succeed.

It is often true that the most popular idols are the most conventionally beautiful (Michishige Sayumi, Yajima Maimi, Kojima Haruna, Yokoyama Yui), whether they have musical/physical talent or not.

However, there are tons of examples of this convention being broken.  Suzuki Airi was a very awkward kid when she first debuted, but she grew up to be an imperfect beauty with incredible charisma.  Nakanishi Yuuka is not very feminine looking at ALL, but she ranked in the senbatsu elections this year because fans saw her charms. (FYI, she is also my SKE oshi, so that was not in any way a bash).  And although she is more cute and cheeky-looking than fall-on-your-oshiri stunning, Oshima Yuko reigns supreme in the idol world right now.

In Korea, the most attractive girls (AND boys) with hints of talent are picked at a young age to train.  Those who have a good deal of talent but are not perfect-looking are "fixed" with surgery, something no one can deny with any credibility (e.g. Tiffany from SNSD).  So, while we get very professional, polished idols out of the K-pop industry who are always a pleasure to watch because of their mad, mad skills on stage, not just anyone can have that chance.  I love K-pop, but this has always and will continue to bother me.

It is so fun to watch idols grow up, get better, then fly away into the big, big world of performance on their own.  I love it.

2) To promote the creation of the perfect Japanese woman (read: wife, mother and home-keeper);

 Have you ever seen an image DVD that doesn't focus on showing the girls in a very personal way (by our standards)?  While it is really fun to get to know our idols like this, image DVDs serve a fairly unhealthy, non-progressive purpose in some men's fantasy lives.  Yes, men specifically.

I myself own quite a few image DVDs for 3 reasons: I find it fascinating to get a glimpse of the girl behind the camera, i like getting to know cultures outside my own, and chiefly, to support my favorite girls.  However, I am not in the target audience.  For better or worse, the target audience is young, single men just starting out their careers.  At this stage in life, Japanese people are traditionally expected to find a wife and leave their parents' homes.

Traditionally-minded men are going to be looking for wives, and thus be judging the worth of young women in the idol industry for their wifely qualities.  Unfortunately, traditionally-minded older women are also going to be doing this.  (Remember that talk show in 2009 where people went out and asked older women which Morning Musume member would make the worst daughter-in-law?  I can tell you right now that they weren't looking for smart young women with brains, ideas and successful careers)

Thankfully, this is changing slowly.  This is not healthy, and I would bet money that most idols are losing sleep over this kind of judgment.  This is not how modern idols should be made.  Is it bad for young women to enjoy things like cooking and cleaning?  Of course not.  I very much enjoy these things myself (except for the cat box--that's his job, dammit).  However, I do not want my worth as a person to be based solely on like qualities.  And I'm sure many idols don't either; but fuck if they're allowed to express that.

3) To promote ideal Japanese beauty.

As I mentioned before, the idol industry shows a great deal of acceptance and diversity when it comes to looks.  Literally anyone can be an idol if they really want to.  But the ones that get the most attention are the ones with the roundest eyes, the best bikini silhouettes, the longest, silkiest hair.  Erena did not herself fit all of these ideals, and while she was still very desirable for photos, she remained in that nebulous non-media senbatsu region that always seems to connote "popular, but not quite money."

Calling the idol industry a public eugenics exercise is a bit extreme, but in some subtle ways, the statement is completely true.  Aaaaaaaand writing that sentence wigged me out a bit.  Yuk.

4) To make old, disenfranchised men in fancy suits tons upon TONS of money.  For that gold-plated naked time room.

Seriously, "Flying Get?"  Well, at least Aki-P and co. were willing to out and out admit their capitalist pig-doggery with that one.  He, like Tsunku and friends, Nakata Yasutaka, and others, are pretty good at working out formulas.  They have staked out the best sidewalks, decorated their lemonade stands with pretty pretty colors, and put just enough crack in their mix to keep their customers coming back for more.

The idol industry is half entertainment, half money.  And most of that money goes not to the performers, but to the male CEOs, the Bobs, et al.  It's whack, guys.

Japanese society, like many other developed societies, is experiencing an identity crisis.  For millenia, men ran the whole show, from the lights, to the cameras, to the action.  Now that women have been in on the whole living life to the fullest and finding success thing for a brief spell, it's taken some people some time to adjust.  For the most part, there has been no difficulty in adjusting beyond wage gaps and women paying far more money for clothing.  But somehow, it's still okay to shamelessly profit from a gaggle of giggly girls.  (Girls Gone Wild, anyone?)

Again, I love what idols do and the performances they put out.  But I believe that the dollar signs in certain people's eyes has contributed a great deal to the 48s' (and the industry on the whole) decline in quality releases.  No longer do we see edgy, topical releases with great melodies like "Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru" or even genuine fun celebratory releases like "Namida Surprise."  No, those went for quality over quantity.  Instead, we get utter and complete shit like Gingham Check and Give Me Five, knowing that people don't buy it for the song, they buy it for the chance to be the only one in their oshi's eyes for a second.

Given the downward trend (fiery death spiral of death?) of the 48 releases, it's a good thing Ono jumped ship when she did, though there was no guarantee that she could find success.  I want to think that part of the reason she graduated was that she was fed up with the system.  But I have no right to place thoughts in her head.  All I know, all we know, is that she studied abroad, came home, and gave herself a new vision:

"About her hiatus, Ono commented, 'I could have gone wrong without this one year (of hiatus).  It was the important time for me to reconsider about myself.  Now, people say that my way of thinking got more mature.'  She continued, 'I would like to think positively about what I can do now, and would like to run my way at full speed if there is a fan who demands me.'" source

Like most 48 fans, I too thought she was lost to the ages until she came out of bum fuck nowhere and released Erepyon this year.  I gave it a listen for the funsies, and I was, oddly, pleasantly impressed.  It was an incredibly fun idol release with great musical quality--not a common thing in the idol world for those two to come together so well.

But I was even more impressed that Erena herself wrote the lyrics.

Ono Erena came back to the music industry with talent, polish and creative control, which is not something very many former idol group members can say.  The thing that impresses me most is not that Ono is now a lyricist, per se, but that she is choosing to stay within the cutesy idol genre while writing her own lyrics.  She clearly loves the fun style and the feminine theatricality the idol style offers, and it's great that she kept to what she knows for that reason. It's mind-boggling, but in a really refreshing way.

I was even more impressed when I caught the short PV preview of her latest, "Erenyan," to be released on 10/3.  It is rumored to be a remake of a Vocaloid song.  The concept is really fun--there are two Erenas, they have musical arguments in a bar, cat-eared hilarity ensues.  But what is really remarkable about this is the way she switches characters.  She uses two voices for this, one very cutesy and typical idol, and one with a really sultry jazzy quality.  Though she is rocking the danso, her deeper voice shows a depth that she simply did not have as a 48 idol.  I hope she shows more of this depth in the future.  The girl has gotten some serious skills, and for this reason, I am 150% interested in following her from here on out.

Ono Erena embodies a new kind of idol, a modern idol.  She has embraced creative control, though she still loves the musical style that shaped her as a performer and, to a degree, as a person.  The modern idol is not only a product, but an innovator, a creative process.  She is still a very new creature, but like all newly discovered creatures, I have faith that she will evolve, adapt, and spread her wisdom to others.

Check out the short "Erenyan" PV below.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Morning Musume 11th gen finalists! UPDATE: Yup, got my wish!

(Bad photoshop is the highest form of love.  DON'T JUDGE ME!!)

So, well, this seems kind of pointless now, but I'm over the moon that my hula girl is a Musume now.  I do wish a couple more had made it, but this totally works.  AND SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS I AM TOTALLY ALL WEEPY RIGHT NOW!!!!  *hearts*

It's about that time again, kiddos.  I've seriously never been this excited about an audition.  I have literally been refreshing my interwebs for hours (at work, no less) waiting for the footage.  It's truly sad.  But now that it's here, the nerdery is totes justified...right?

Our six finalists only get about 45 seconds of screen time, which isn't really enough yet for me personally to determine my picks for this audition beyond Sakura, who won my heart the second she showed up in the early stages of the S/mileage auditions last year.  But so far, I am very impressed with everyone in the finals this time around, and super stoked that my two favorite Eggs Kenshuusei made it in.

Hamamura Ayano, 12

It's like Yuukarin never left H!P, guys!  In all seriousness, though, Ayano has a very similar voice, smile and mannerisms to Maeda Yuuka.  And I'm totally digging it.  She's surprisingly polished and poised--based off looks alone, I would have expected her to have a more goofy personality like Nakanishi Kana or Sato Masaki, but sometimes I love it when I'm wrong!  I really like Ayano, and I can't wait to see more of her.


Yumeno appears to be a very earnest singer, which I'm excited about.  She is quite good at keeping to the same key in a cappella--a very good sign.  Looks-wise, she reminds me of a young Chinami/Kamei Eri mashup.  I get a good vibe from her, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of her.

Ichioka Reina, 14 (HER TOO!)

Another lovely long-haired dancer! (*the much the jellies*) I like that even though she's a very good dancer, she doesn't have the same aloof vibe that Riho and Ayumi did.  It's fresh.  She also seems to have a very upbeat and hardworking attitude. I really want to hear her sing now.  I do have the same concerns about her weight as I did with Haruna, though.

Ono Haruka, 16

This Nice Girl Project Kenshuusei is very cute and stylish.  She actually kind of reminds me of Kasai Tomomi (WTF, right?).  From what I've heard of her so far, I like her voice and her Kikka-esque moves.  I can't really say much more than that, though.  NEED MOAR VIDEO!

Oda Ultimate Utahime of teh wrolds Sakura for President, 14 

I am amazed at how Sakura has grown since last year.  She has blossomed into a beautiful young lady, she's become a wonderfully confident speaker, and her voice is even better than it was last year.  This girl has the makings of an Aichan-quality voice, and, clearly, the discipline to make it all happen for herself.  This being her second time being an audition finalist, I have every expectation that her efforts will pay off.  But anything can happen...

I'ma come unhinged if she doesn't get in though, seriously.  I will be like rampagey Miyamoto Karin fans after a drunken naked night of drunken nakedness.  AND THEY WILL FEAR MY WRATH.

Makino Maria, 12 (AND YOU!  COME ON OVER!)

The stupid narrator talked so damn much I could barely hear her sing.  But Maria is damn cute.  I kinda wanna squish her, actually.  GAWW!  It took me a couple of times to hear it well, but Maria does do well at keeping on pitch.  I really want to see more of her though.  Not enough time.

So there you have em!  The GirlPop interview happens on Saturday, so be watching!  In the meantime, who do you like best?

And here are the clips of Sakura's "induction" into Morning Musume!!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kikka: Darling To Madonna PV!

The full PV to Kikkawa Yuu's 5th single, "Darling to Madonna," has been released!  I'm so excited to see Kikka releasing another single before the year ends.

I have always looked forward to her releases (even if Hapi Rape Me Sunflies was terribad), and I was really confused when she dropped off the face of the earth after the release of her AMAZING debut album in January.  Koko Kara Hajimarunda was a great single, yet it only reached #25 on the charts and sold about 4,000 copies.

What the hell happened to her momentum?  Much like Passpo, her promotion has taken a nosedive, and that is sad to me because for a while she was less of an idol and more of an honest to god singer. Her interactions with her fans were so much fun to watch, especially her morning exercises and her morning glories blog.  And then 2012 hit and everything just stopped.  The fuck?

I am so confused.  Kikka is an incredible talent and really refreshing in the sea of squeaky xxx48 solo idol acts out there.  She had a hell of a start to her career.  Why hasn't it continued?

I was not a part of the Hello! Project fandom when the 8th gen MM auditions happened, so I really don't give two figs about the Kikka vs. Aika thing.  They both fit well where they were.  I am a Kikka fan because of her raw vocal talent and spunky personality.  She deserves and needs fan support--there are a few more first press copies (with posters, guys, POSTERS!) available at CDJapan, so get them while they're there.

The PV is your average solo dance shot with colorful effects.  Nothing really spectacular.  However, "Darling to Madonna" is a great release of hers, ranking right after the amazing Konna Watashi de Yokattara in my book.  It has a great rock vibe to it, which fits Kikka very well.  Then again, Kikka can pull off any style she damn well pleases.  This is why I will be very sad if she completely peters out.

Check out the PV and song here:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Will you Wakuteka Take a Chance? Because I think you should.

(Chocolate Haruna really, really thinks you should, too.)

So, I was pretty stoked when the dance rehearsal video for Momusu's new single was released on Friday.  I am even more excited now that I've watched it about 5 billion times and tried to find something to nitpick over.

I totally can't.  I freaking LOVE this single.  The choreography is amazing, the electronic effects are amazing, and the line distribution is to die for, seriously.  Maachan and Ayumi are being more pushed, and Mizuki is finally out in front lines wise where she belongs.   I am always going to be one of those people who loves upbeat dancy songs with a touch of electronics and a heaping help of key changes, so I'm not even going to bother ranting on "OMG STFU ABOUT THE DAMN AUTOTUNING."  It's totally my thing.  I love the experimental new direction MM seems to be going with this song and songs like "What's Up."

This single gives everyone a chance to shine.  And actually, every single time I watched it, it wasn't Reina or Riho or Ayumi or even my love Chokubo who caught my eye the most--it was Zukki.  I really tried to watch everyone, but my eye was always drawn to her in the end.  The girl has gotten GOOD, guys.  Her dancing was top-notch, and I hope that sticking her in the front row gets her some fan attention.

(On a side note, I love you Haruna, but seriously, you looked like a robot.  A super cute robot.)

Now let's hope the PV won't be as sparkleseizureiffic as One Two Three.  Tables will flip, I swear to Jeebus.