Odds & Ends: Koharu’s Solo Debut, Why Chokkan 2 Beats Sexy Boy, and (Not) Missing SweetS

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Kusumi Koharu’s solo song debut isn’t impressive. But it doesn’t really need to be, does it? It’s a bunch of pretty music and so-so wailing on Koharu’s part, meant to show off these images of the heroine Koharu voices for on Kirarin Revolution.

This doesn’t negate her Miracle Ace status. I mean, if the song was fabulous – and if she sang it well – that would’ve affirmed her Miracle Ace status somewhat. But she’s still got a lot of ways to prove herself as the new essential Musume. (A good, strong shot of puberty with the requisite Alo-Hello DVD may do the trick..) And hopefully she’ll follow through on one of those; I’m rooting for her now, at any rate.

“Chokkan 2” is much better than “Sexy Boy”. I realized this when I found myself craving to watch the “Chokkan 2” PV more than “Sexy Boy”. I think I watch “Chokkan 2” more than “Sexy Boy” now, mostly because I skip the latter whenever I run into it and seek out the former when I’m in a general feel-good H!P mood.

Here are some reasons:

  • The dance is catchier on “Chokkan 2”. Okay, there isn’t much of a dance in that PV, but there’s that move several girls make where they’re throwing an imaginary fishing rod into the sea and reeling it back in. And when I think of “Chokkan 2”, I find myself making that move sometimes as I semi-sing along. It also helps that “Chokkan 2” is a catchier song in the (sort of) long run; much as I initially liked “Sexy Boy” it’s grown tired too quickly for me…
  • Funny is always more sexy than glamorous. The girls go for a daisy fresh, sun-soaked glamor in “Sexy Boy” but “Chokkan 2” has a wider range of looks, expressions, goofing off. Some girls I can watch being glamorous or funny – Sayumi, Miki, Reina – but if I don’t have a particular fondness for a girl, I’d rather see her being funny. And unintentional funny is fine – such as that look-at-the-camera segment – but it doesn’t go far enough.
  • There’s a pleasant subgroup effect with the costumes in “Chokkan 2”. Which I didn’t realize was so important, but being able to differentiate the girls by how they dressed – and in doing so, associate them with certain traits – seemed to serve the girls better than being an undifferentiated mass of white sundresses and floppy hats. As a result, it’s easier to enjoy the girls as individual idols, such as they are.

I’d think this SweetS breakup news would bother me more… But apparently, it doesn’t. And I’m the guy who bawled all of last year over Zone breaking up. Now, why is that? Both groups promised great potential for a long-range future. Both groups absolutely wow me on the musical and eyecandy factor, though both also had misses.

So here’s some reasons I can think of:

  • The ending of SweetS seems much more satisfying as a narrative. I won’t go into the details too much – I need to save something for my pet project SweetS wiki – but when SweetS release their last products, the majority of the girls will at last be fifteen (i.e., Haruna joins Aki and Aya). So their U15 status is shot. Also, the cycle of songs and themes look to be played out in a strange Pynchonesque manner that I’m still trying to sort out… In contrast, Zone was left hanging as a narrative, they were poised for greatness and just getting warmed up with Tomoka.
  • The Bounceback singles tend to diminish the later works a bit too much. But I’ve flogged that horse well past death at this point. In contrast, Zone’s last four singles were some of their finest work, though it took a while for “Glory Colors” to win me over.
  • The last two SweetS singles were really weak. I’ve said my piece on “On the Way” when it came out and will get around to “Bitter Sweets” later this week… But even in the context of the non-Bounceback singles, these were not at all impressive. And the PVs haven’t been as good, either… If anything, the cheapness shines through in a way it didn’t in the past.
  • Some of the girls will be continuing on as idols, it seems. And whichever ones decide to focus on school, good for them! I’ve been watching the “Switch On!” Berryz concert a lot lately and the more I watch it, the more I appreciate both Maiha’s decision to choose school as well as the hard work and dedication of the girls who want to continue as idols. So while I welcome seeing whichever SweetS decides to stick around – as a new group, or perhaps added on to dream or some other Avex act? – I also hope some of them commit to school and do well in it.

And for those not keeping up with weather news, Hawaii’s been drenched in rain for over a month now. The rainfall has been prodigious here in the land of paradise, and it’s taking its toll on everyone… or at least feels that way. I feel sorta-kinda sorry for the tourists who come here and aren’t getting the fun in the sun they expected, and there’s actual ecological concerns – especially with that sewage issue right here in Waikiki and the flooding on the windward side.

But mostly, I just feel all washed out. Drained.

However! Just last night I found a Hello! Project PV from a few years back that I never really paid attention to but now strikes me as a work of friggin’ genius – genius, I say! – and that will not only be my umbrella against the rain, it will also burn away the clouds with its incendiary greatness.

You’ll be hearing more about this in the next couple days, of course. Just need to get all wound up again and plot out the right secret architecture…

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7 Responses to “Odds & Ends: Koharu’s Solo Debut, Why Chokkan 2 Beats Sexy Boy, and (Not) Missing SweetS”
  1. Steve Harrison says:

    Gee, you got me into SweetS and now you are sort of dissing them!?

    I did think BitterSweets was weak at first, but now it’s growing on me, though it is a bit repetitive. (The last few PVs/songs were boring THAT I will conceed..)
    I didn’t like Earthship, and I ignored the 3 nin single, However, there is so much post Bounceback stuff that is MUCH better that the “fruit” singles, I don’t know where to begin.
    Mirai he is prob. the best ballad ever written. Comming close is the tear-jerker, “Our-Song” The Aya solo stuff (Wishing Star) is top notch. SKY is a wonderful song…those harmonies again….”Countdown” a very sophisticated retro-disco number…
    I do agree that I don’t play disk one of the 5 ElementS CD much, except for Sentimental Journey, and the aformentioned solo stuff….but come on…the Bounceback songs worked because at the time SweetS sung them, they were still Lolita-kids. In fact the Lolita Strawberry in summer is a perfect example of pre-teens wanting to play “dressup” and trying to look more mature than their years..(sorry, but I still sigh when I see AYA’s toenails being painted….what great feet!!….oops better not go there..)
    SweetS seemed to mature quite quickly after Candy Floss…sometimes it’s hard for me to relate to the SweetS of SKY and Countdown and beyond to the SweetS of Love Raspberry Juice…

    Anyway…if you aren’t shedding tears over SweetS (I do every time I listen to them) please send me your SweetS poster, and goods…I will be more than happy to put them to good use…my address by request, Arigatou

  2. I don’t think of it as dissing more than: a) showing tough love and b) accepting what now looks inevitable. I care about SweetS a great deal even now and wish them the best of luck. But as I’ve said time and again, I do find all the Bounceback work (including the non-singles such as “Lonesome Cherry” and especially “Into the Daylight”) superior to everything else that’s come out by them. For me, it’s llike preferring the Ray Manzarek-produced X albums than all the other X albums that followed – everything combined in a way that was very effective to me as a part of the audience.

    However, I have also said time and again that some of the other songs, especially the singles, have grown on me: in particular, “Grow Into Shinin’ Stars” and “Mienai Tsubasa”. (And “On the Way” is catchier than I like to admit, actually – but I still think it’s horribly produced.) As for “Bitter Sweets”, a more detailed explanation is forthcoming.

    And the reasons you cite for why “Lolita” isn’t as good as later singles are, ironically, the reasons I love it. The Bounceback era is the best self-reflexive examination of rorikon in Jpop I’ve yet to encounter, and it’s because everything combined perfectly – including the girls’ ages and their vocal abilities (which even then was quite striking), but also the various outside influences. Even the detail you mention of Aya’s toenails is striking for its allusion to Kubrick’s Lolita.

    I’m not as upset about this breakup but I do mourn the passing of SweetS. (So I’m keeping all my SweetS goodies for now… but I’ll keep you in mind if I ever let go of them!) For me, though, it just feels a more natural time for the group to end for the reasons stated in the post – the cycle of themes that unifies SweetS’ work has played out to a logical conclusion, the girls are at a key juncture in their education / career – so I’m much more ready to let go than I was with Zone.

  3. Kenia says:

    for some reason i wasn’t really feeling the more recent singles of Sweets (earthship and everything else from then on) so i took a break from them….but recently i decided to listen to the songs and i LOVE earthship (the dance is so good) and the last 2 songs were nice as well……

    but now they are breaking up b/c they realized the need to go to school! LOL!

    i know that’s not the entire reason….but even if they were getting out of the U15 area i think they still would of did well and grew up to be something like SPEED (but i’m not sure if they would be as popular…b/c the NEVER really got popular in the first place sadly)

    i could tell that they experiemented with thier sound….first started off very mature (with not so mature singing execept for Aya)…then that love like candy floss song…it was so good! despite haruna’s shiny short shorts in the cold (i know miori wore shorts too but they looked ok at least!) would but it was a good song and dance! then i think they started to try to act thier age and sing more popish, inspiring “u can do it! makenai!” kind of songs…then they even did some techno….i couldn’t wait for what else they would do next but i guess we won’t see that.

    i just hope that ALL of them find a way back to the music scene and go to school….was it a little weird how they made a big deal of aki and aya’s tests and let them have a break from the group b/c of it? i mean education is great and all but u NEVER hear anything like that in morning musume or other groups with young girls in it (maybe they didn’t want to embarrass the morning musume members with thier bad test scores! LOL! j/k)

  4. Kenia says:

    oh, i think ppl think you’re dissing SweetS is b/c of the way u titled the article “….and (not) missing SweetS”

    i mean, i know what u mean right now but when i first saw that i definitely thought i had to write some angry comments! LOL!

  5. Steve Harrison says:

    And the reasons you cite for why “Lolita” isn’t as good as later singles are, ironically, the reasons I love it. The Bounceback era is the best self-reflexive examination of rorikon in Jpop…

    Ray, i agree mostly to what you said, and surely we all love SweetS in out own way.
    However, I wasn’t saying that the BOUNCEBACK stuff was not as good..(I LOVE LOLI in an innocent way!)
    Only that YOU alluded to the fact that the later songs by Romantic High etc. wre NOT as good…
    My point was that the songs matured as SweetS matured. If I could hold back time i would keep SweetS forever at 12, Momusume at the 4th gen. and myself would remain in 5th grade (my favorite year) forever…but we can’t, so the girls had to mature in their output.
    As good as the rendition of Lolita Strawberry in summer was in the Earthship live…it wasn’t the same as the precocious 12 year olds who performed at a-nation…..
    Any way, they were running out of “fruits” to sing about…..Hey maybe their last single will be “LOVE*Grapefruit Juice”, and their DVD calld “Sour Grapes” !

  6. Garamond says:

    I’d just like to comment about On the Way’s production, which Ray Mescallado mentioned he doesn’t like. I absolutely love it myself.

    It’s not the most modern type of production, but it suits the song IMHO. With this mid-tempo song, having a simple and clear production is very becoming, at least in my ears.

    I also love the solo instruments (piano and later guitar) parts…
    A rather outrageous (?) thought emerged while I listened to it again, just now. Imagine this song having English lyrics, and being song by Donald Fagen… It’d make a great Steely Dan song! 🙂

  7. Garamond:

    Holy crap, you’re right! It IS a Steely Dan song! Especially the piano parts… I’m listening to the instrumental version right now, and it’s making me appreciate “On the Way” in a very different light…

    (I must admit, I’m not a Steely Dan fan though I sometimes hear them on the radio, but I do remember fondly Fagen’s “New Frontier” from MTV and once in a blue moon find myself humming it.)

    So now can somebody convince me that “Bitter Sweets” is a good song? Maybe compare it to Jethro Tull or something?