Odds & Ends: Country Musume Album, More Denial, My New Jpop Buddy

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Country Musume to release second album. After something along the lines of two years since the release of their last single, Country Musume will finally release a second album later this year. I like Country Musume, though admittedly not as much as other H!P acts, so I’m happy that they’re at least back on track. With C-Ute becoming a powerhouse of releases, Melon Kinenbi releasing their new single, Maeda Yuki’s final single / graduation, and the formation of GAM, the notion of a revitalized Hello! Project is stronger than ever.

Also, if you count Puri Puri Pink – and I’m not saying you have to, or even that you should – that means in the past year or so, there’s been a music release involving all the current members of Hello! Project… except Ayaka. And Lord knows if there will ever be a Coconuts Musume release again, so I think this is about as comprehensive a use of H!P as we can hope for.

I do wonder if there’s going to be more of a shake-up, though. We’ve got three departures with Konno, Makoto, and Yuki. There’s still no word on Kago’s return, which is making me wonder now if she is coming back or if UFA has given up on her… I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be more such changes in store as well, downsizing in the name of creating a more efficient collective. It just seems that they’re placing the house of Tsunku in order, and that at least another idol head or two will roll before it’s all settled.

Denial ain’t just a brother of Frasier Crane… I’m still refusing to completely acknowledge SweetS’ breakup. That is, factually I’ve accepted this turn of events, but emotionally I haven’t let go yet. And it’s not the kind of thing that requires an intervention, a metaphorical (or even literal) slap in the face – at least, I don’t think it does. I think I just need a little more time.

What factors into this? First, the subtlety of their June releases: the single, DVD, and photobook may have all been farewells, but they didn’t trumpet it the way Zone did, or the way a Momusu graduation does. It’s a mature move on their part, but also doesn’t rub my nose into the loss incurred and forces me to acknowledge the end. If anything, it’s just meant a whole stack of SweetS goodies to bask in this month, which I’ve been doing. I carry my copy of Hi MA’AM everywhere with me, like a security blanket, and when I look through it I don’t think, “Goodbye forever,” so much as, “Wow, how they’ve grown…” (And, “Man, Miori is smoking hot in that bikini!”)

Second, in some ways this ending for SweetS actually adds to a sense of narrative completion, that the group has played out its own unique story as idols and did so in a compelling manner. On that level, there is a satisfying closure that for some reason allows me to revel in all that they’ve done and not consider as much what could have been if they’d stayed together. So it’s not like they tore out my heart, the way Zone did – the sense of lost potential isn’t there, and so the sense of loss isn’t as immediate for some reason.

Third, and this may seem paradoxical, but there is another type of closure I’ve been seeking and since it hasn’t been provided, I feel like I’m entitled to keep the door open on SweetS. And that is, of course, an announcement of which girls are going to continue their idol careers and what they’ll be doing. This may be the denial talking again, but five idols this talented and charismatic can’t all just walk away. Haruna practically promised she’ll be hanging in there, and I’m going to hold her to it, at least.

At any rate, I made a deal with myself a few days ago: SweetS won’t be “over” until the release of Delicious. That singles collection will be the time when I can mourn, if I decide it’s necessary, but I’ll definitely let go by then. And hopefully, by that time I’ll also have something to look forward to as well, with some kind of announcement for Haruna’s new project or whatever. And in the meanwhile, I’ll just continue the long goodbye to SweetS, not quite believing it’s the end but going through the motions until that belief does sink in…

I’ve got a Jpop buddy! Well, you’re all my Jpop buddies, of course. But at my full-time job, there’s a new co-worker who I’ve developed a strong rapport with, a college student working a summer job here. On the very first day she started, I told her over lunch about my interest not only in Jpop and blogging, but my rather strong affection for U15 girl groups. Most of my other co-workers don’t even know I’m into Jpop, never mind that the sight of Momoko makes me all giddy and unbearably light – though they do know my strong interest in cannibalism, which I guess is more acceptable in a professional atmosphere.

(At my part-time job, everybody there already knows I’m into Jpop because I play the damn videos while I work and make constant inappropriate U15 jokes. The cycle of me pushing the limit and my co-workers pushing it further has reached a point of vulgarity and tastelessness that is absolutely glorious.)

This new co-worker and I have had one long rambling conversation after another, over lunch and when we’re doing tasks together. Or rather, I go yackity-yackity-yackity in her direction and she listens or at least pretends to. (Once I get started, the torrent of blather tends to flow non-stop.) We also talk about other kinds of music, writing, cannibalism, Jeff Stryker, the work we do, my impending fatherhood, cannibalism, television (I suspect she finds my unabashedly enthusiastic enjoyment of reality TV more troubling than my enjoyment of Jpop), and cannibalism. But Jpop is a big part of our conversation, of course, and I think she’s trying to wrap her head around my interest in it and I do my best to explain. I not only enthuse over the pleasure of Momoko and SweetS, but also the broader issues of the socio-economic perspective, the amateur ethnographer aspect, the immersion in a distinct subbacultcha and the joys of mastery inherent in such…

I’ve showed her my copy of Hi MA’AM, had her read my Berryz in Pink Dresses poem off my PDA… I’m working up my way to showing her actual PVs, don’t want to scare her away by moving too quickly. So it’s been fun, and it’s been forcing me to think in detail about why I am so interested in… this stuff. The good news is, I can articulate my interest from a variety of angles: it isn’t just “I like Japanese teenage girls” (at least on screen, singing and dancing and being all geino – in person, I’m more ambivalent), though I never pretend that isn’t a huge factor. But that spark of libidinal interest does open up to a larger matrix that ties into my attitudes on pop culture, on the interaction of art and commerce, and on the increasing postmodernity of our world.

So I’m really glad to have this person around and hope she continues to put up with my babble for a couple more months.

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5 Responses to “Odds & Ends: Country Musume Album, More Denial, My New Jpop Buddy”
  1. Craig says:

    Just don’t bite her head off is she doesn’t 🙂 (I KNOW you like that joke :))

  2. Chuck says:

    I like Japanese teenage girls.

  3. Julia says:

    I love people who listen to my babbles. Good for you for finding one! And hmm, never listened to Country Musume before, admittedly…I’m a little behind on H!P as a collective, I just spend hours on Momusu, W, and Berryz. Yeah…attention grabbed now, though.

  4. The co-worker says:

    Let it be known that the co-worker is *not* above visiting this blog for purely self-absorbed reasons. When Ray said he wrote about me, I finally decided to find his infamous jpop blog. For all I knew, he could be writing gossip about our Jeff Stryker or post-op/pre-op conversations in worrisome contexts (not that they are unworrisome in other contexts). I’ve noticed that he’s already mentioned cannibalism four times in reference to our discussions. I’m here to set the record straight in hopes of saving whatever online dignity I possess. To that I effect…

    It’s all Ray’s fault. He initiates it. I only ask the questions. He navigates everything after that.

    I’m only kidding. Sort of. And since he said such nice things about me, I have no choice but to reciprocate. Even though I only understand every other one of his jpop references (though I’m slowing catching on) he does put an interesting spin on something I never imagined had a backstory. The fact that he can make so many academic statements about the manufactured aspects of jpop is impressive to me, and as long as he can keep me impressed, or even unsettled (no problem here) I will continue to listen to his so-called babbling. Plus, it sure beats the hell out of cleaning the hole puncher during the last 90 minutes of work.

  5. That IS my co-worker writing the last comment, she’s clever enough to include several telling details. She also reveals my favorite strategy: any kind of depravity becomes more palatable if you give it enough of an academic / high cultural twist. And many thanks to her for not revealing my strange reaction when I found out Friday just how young she is…

    My co-worker is a lovely, intelligent, empathetic human being of the highest caliber. And I’m saying that, not just from the bottom of my heart and deep-seated respect, but from a fear of ridicule in the coming work weeks.