The H!P Kids Are Alright 6: Ray

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Having re-read all that’s gone on in this roundtable, I believe that Morning Musume should become more like Black Sabbath. Which seems like the chosen topic’s been completely derailed, but bear with me here.

First, to sum up just a little: Celestia points out that Morning Musume is able to renew itself with the audition / graduation cycle in a manner that the H!P Kids units cannot. (And probably never will – I can’t imagine young hopefuls auditioning for Berryz or C-ute as a possibility, though wouldn’t that be a truly interesting development?) However, Broomhead sees this as a double-edged sword, as the Kids units are less resilient if they lose key members and Momusu is currently undergoing an identity crisis. Henkka feels that Momusu currently lacks strong personalities, and that the Kids units can be resilient even with a fixed membership, as the departure of Megukami proves.

It’s clear that determining the role of Berryz and C-ute is inseparable from determining the role of Morning Musume, and I’m going to follow along that line just a little longer.

One thing that struck me recently as another problem with the cyclical nature of Momusu and the way that it renews itself is that Morning Musume has become a sort of way station for H!P idols. You get into Hello! Project by auditioning for Morning Musume, but once you’re in you can look forward to being a soloist or leading your own unit once you graduate. Koharu gets more visibility and even better sales as a soloist than in Momusu, and I daresay is more valuable to H!P in that capacity. Becoming a Musume may still be exciting, but the post-Musume career seems even more valuable (or at least more desired by the idol) in the long run.

In comparison, Johnny’s units aren’t temporary havens for idols, they commit to permanent membership even as they manage to build solo careers. SMAP’s five members have been around forever in pop cultural terms. I daresay that Arashi will stay together the rest of their natural lives if they could, given what Celestia’s written about them. But Morning Musume has become a strange diaspora of idols with ex-members enjoying varying levels of success, but are obviously happy to no longer be in Morning Musume.

Further, I think that dissatisfaction passed along to the mainstream audience, who saw the most familiar faces leave and wound up not caring as much about Momusu as a result. Morning Musume has stayed the flagship mainly because they’re the most recognizable brand that UFA has, but have they been properly utilized over the years? To me, it makes good business sense to accept that Morning Musume is best known to the general public for their Golden Era and proceed from there. The best way to catch the public’s attention is to play off that nostalgia not only in song selections, but also in membership.

UFA should quickly graduate the remainder of fifth gen from Morning Musume, as well as all of sixth and seventh gens; they were headed out in the next couple years anyway, and Koha’s already got solo success. Then they should assemble what’s left of the classic line-up – Yuko, Nacchi, Kei, Mari, Yossie, Rika – and re-imagine Morning Musume as an oldies act performing their best-loved hits. This further benefits the older members by potentially attracting a larger audience than they currently do through their solo work. They can continue to do solo work or perform with units like Ongaku Gatas, but now reach wider audiences who may come for “Koi no Dance Site” and “The Peace!” but will also give a fair hearing to Yuko’s latest ballad or a piano number from Kei.

Seventh gen can remain to fill in the gaps left by those Golden Era Musumes who’ve left due to scandal and/or pregnancy. However, keep them as backdancers and backup vocals only. As they grow up, they can go solo as well or form new units – again, which they would have done eventually – and some Eggs can take their place.

After all, if what UFA is doing with current Morning Musume members is training them so they can graduate and move on to other units, why not make the new members true trainees / proteges in a more formal sense? Maybe some of them can even stay permanently in Morning Musume if they’re deemed worthy enough. Imagine if staying in Morning Musume for good was considered a more rewarding experience than graduating and moving on! Wouldn’t that be a welcome change of pace?

It’s like Black Sabbath. The classic original line-up had broken up in the seventies but the clamor for that golden age of Sabbath – Ozzy, Geezer, Tony Iommi, and the fourth guy whose name I always forget – always held a special spot among fans’ hearts. Ozzy did great as a soloist, but he will always be known best as the lead singer of Black Sabbath and classic songs such as “Iron Man” and “Paranoid”. Actually re-uniting the original Sabbath line-up made imminent sense in that light. (Though that said, the line-up of Momusu I describe isn’t so much the original Black Sabbath line-up as it is the subsequent Ronnie James Dio line-up that now tours as Heaven and Hell. Dammit, my analogy is already falling apart mid-paragraph!) The point is, these classic line-up persist in the general public’s imagination and thus succeeded when they reunited. The same can happen with Momusu, and it would be good business as well as returning the best-loved songs to the singers who epitomized their popularity.

Also, I really want to hear all of H!P sing “War Pigs” someday. I love “War Pigs”. If they can sing songs about saving the earth, they can do anti-war dirges as well. Kei can play the Luke’s Wall section on the piano.

Now, to shift things just a little, a general question to all of you: Can you see a time when the H!P Kids become better spokeswomen for Hello! Project than Morning Musume? As Henkka pointed out in his first post, only Risa and Takitty have been around longer than the Kids in the current Momusu line-up. In a sense, the Kids are senpai to sixth gen onwards, and certainly that will be the case for future gens. Would this change how we understand the different units? The way things are going, it will only be a matter of time when the average age of Berryz and C-ute will be older than that of Momusu. Would this diminish Morning Musume in any way, or elevate the Kids units?

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3 Responses to “The H!P Kids Are Alright 6: Ray”
  1. Radicalipton says:

    Man, it is tempting to bring back the whole gang and have a vintage Morning Musume, but does Tsunku and UFA really want to completely relegate them to an Elder Club? No, I can’t envision this. Honestly, the Elder Club appeals to a large, nostalgic fan base, yes — but not to me. I can’t get excited about a vintage Morning Musume. The occasional reunions are best taken in small, and infrequent, doses.

    Even with its current weak lineup, Morning Musume still kicks it, as their latest single, “Resonant Blue,” shows. Sure, “Resonant Blue” might not carry ths screamy clout that, say, “Cafe Buono!” does, but it remains fresh — and young — Morning Musume.

  2. CJ Marsicano says:

    I daresay that Morning Musume is a lot more stable than we realize. The core of Takitty, Risa, Reina, Eri, Sayumi and Koharu is there. Aika is already fitting in nicely and the Pandas are right behind her. I would hardly call that a weak lineup. If they wait on adding a ninth generation until, say, near the end of the year, and not graduate anyone unless a really horrible disaster happens, they’d be fine. Other than that, the only thing Morning Musme really needs to do is keep up the auality of their singles. “Resonant Blue” may very well be a good beginning for the band’s second decade.

    H!P already has the “Elder Club”, and I would like to see alumni release more recordings as well.

  3. Cat says:

    Well, I hope I don’t get flamed for this but… do people even care about Golden Age Momusu anymore? I’m not talking about us, of course (and especially not me, my favorite Momusu song is Sukiyaki. WTF? XD) but about the mainstream japanese audience. The people who were rabid fans of Koi no Dance Site 8 years ago, have probably moved on with their lives since, and I doubt that they would be interested in listening to that same old song. No, wait, allow me to rephrase that. They could be interested in listening to that music again, you know, for old time’s sake. But they wouldn’t really buy Momusu merchandising or anything. Something that made me think this was the response to the audience to the Kouhaku performance of LOVE MACHINE. Sure, we’re all sick of that song, but the non-fans and casual listeners who bought the single like 7 years ago aren’t as jaded as we are, or at least they shouldn’t be. But they still didn’t seem to care. Evryone looked bored during that performance, and it’s supposed to be Momusu’s BEST song.
    Argh… I always write overly long comments… Anyway, my point is that perhaps bringing back the OG would be pointless right now. Sure, there was a time (around 2006) where that would’ve been an exciting possibility, but I think that right now, a cycling Momusu is even more appealing than the idols from 10 years ago qho are kind of “stale” in a way now.

    Finally, I just want to say that IMO what makes the Kids and Momusu different isn’t the fact that Momusu are supposed to be their senpais in all the meaning of the word, but the legacy of being a Musume, which is like an establishment already. It’s like being part of a gang (ok, bad analogy) if you become a member of the strongest gang, it doesn’t matter if you’ve just been there for 2 hours, you’re already at a different level than the founder members of the less strong gang. (Bad analogy, I insist)
    I hope that the Kids keep rising, even though I don’t think that they’ll ever be able to overpower Momusu, even if it becomes a fossil, just because of its “history”, but I also think that that’s not the point of the kid units anyway. Ok, no more rambling, I’ll shut up now.

    ~Cat

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  1. International Wota » Blogs Hello! Project » [Blogs] American Wota: The H!P debate continues with Parts 6 and 7
  2. American Wota 3.0 » Shuffle Group » The H!P Kids Are Alright 9: Ray