Thankful for Jpop 6: Glorious Reinventions

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

When I first developed a strong interest in Jpop, there were four groups I quickly fell for: Morning Musume, Zone, SweetS, and Halcali… In that order, all of them within the first three months. At this moment, none of the groups are the same as they were at the time. Morning Musume lost six of its fifteen members and added a single new one. Zone broke up and bassist Maiko has just formed her new band, Maria. SweetS has gone through several image changes and is temporarily missing two of its members. And Halcali disappeared for almost a year but has re-emerged with a different, surprisingly wonderful, look and sound.

Of course, reinvention is often a necessary part of staying relevant in the world of pop music. And sometimes it takes on a hugely unexpected turn: who’d have thought Ishiguro Aya would become a spokeswoman for young motherhood after her success at "Love Machine"? Or for that matter, who’d have thought Tommy of Brilliant Green would create not one, but two distinct personalities with February6 and Heavenly6? (Madonna and David Bowie may have been pop chameleons, but is Tommy a pop schizoid?)

Right now, the four groups I mentioned at the beginning are still in a tentative stage of their respective reinventions… We only have one single from all but Morning Musume, who’ve now had two with their current line-up. 3-nin SweetS needs a strong single to follow up "On the Way" and Maria’s debut isn’t until early next year (though their single is already circulating and winning me over). Halcali has struck a more mature and thoughtful chord with "Tip Taps Tip" but will we ever get to see their more playfl, snarky rapping again? If not, that’d be a loss as well.

Oddly, I’d say Morning Musume has suffered most from its changes in the almost two-year interim – which is odd, since the built-in rotating membership of the group forces change on a regular basis. However, they have suffered from a major talent drain with Nacchi, Kago, Tsuji, and Rika going their own ways… Luckily, the remaining ten Musumes have their own wealth of talents, comedic (Sayumi, Eri) and musical (Mikitty, Reina). They have a strong leader who’s a good singer in her own right and also leads the futsal team. 2006 may be a make-or-break time for them, but of course with Momusu you have to assume further changes – graduations, more auditions, and so on.

And yes, sometimes, change isn’t for the best. Matsuura Aya deciding to do only ballads for her singles hasn’t panned out as well as doing an upbeat ice tea jingle, for example. Nobody expects Ayaya to stay her childish "Nee"-era  self for the rest of her life, but the spark of her work seemed drained for a while.

So I’m thankful for the way groups reinvent themselves – not because it guarantees success (it doesn’t) or even continued loyalty from fans such as myself (ditto), but because it makes me re-assess what I like in a group and why they interest me so. One’s taste in music shouldn’t stagnate – or else you’ll be listening to the same old noise albums from the 1990s over and over (like, say, when I need a shot of American music every once in a while). Change and evolution, reinvention and re-assessment, are what make the pop landscape so exciting, and what makes these changes from groups I loved in early 2004 still groups I love in late 2005.

Though to be completely honest, I’m still sore Tsunku went with Koharu instead of the cute sixteen-year-old who did a great "Shabondama". She was robbed, I’m telling you. 


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4 Responses to “Thankful for Jpop 6: Glorious Reinventions”
  1. S says:

    People have been predicting doom for MM since I can remember, and I’ve become really jaded about it. People stop following MM once their favorite member graduates, which is too bad since to me it’s missing the whole point of the group.

    I’m thankful that under the H!P name, though, these graduations are often evolutions into solo careers or different groups. I wouldn’t call it a talent drain, since the talent remains in H!P. I wouldn’t even call it a talent drain from MM itself, since it gives other girls a chance to uncover their talents and shine like never before.

    I love Halcali’s new song, even if I do miss their rapping as well.

    And regarding Koharu, the only reason she was picked was because of her sense of child-like wonder, happiness, and enthusiasm at pretty much everything. The cute sixteen-year-old looked like she was washing dishes at a dingy Mexican restaurant. Koharu looks like Nacchi on crack.

  2. “Koharu looks like Nacchi on crack.”

    Wow. That’s just… wow. That one’s a keeper.

  3. Solid says:

    Solid, but i goes by the name RyuuZu

    Mr.Ray, do you have or know aaaaany site that put Japanese song’s chord?

    i have a band , and we’re playing ZONE and Morning Musume.

    ZONE’s songs that has been played by us are
    Akashi, Gooddays, Hanabi, Boku no Tegami, Egao Biyori, Taiyou no Kiss, MIND, +-x/, Hitoshizuku, True Blue, Dai Bakuhatsu no.1,…

    Momusu’s are
    Roman My dear boy, Love n Peace, I’ll never forget you.

    … Mr Ray, could u help me with the other ZONE/mmusu’s songs ?


  4. Hi Solid:

    Unfortunately, I have no idea if there are any such sites out there, though I assume they’re much more likely to exist in Japanese than English. Any readers out there able to help out?

    And does your band have a website or blog or anything like that? I’d be interested in finding out more about them and how they sound!