A Unified Theory of SweetS: Introduction

Love oftens stands as a monumental emotion in one’s life, a towering edifice which we build everything else around. But that doesn’t mean love is itself monolithic: if anything, it is nuanced and complex, sensitive to the slightest of differences, as sharp in its rebukes as it is omnivorous in its desires. Different kinds of love can be evoked by different experiences – and different kinds of music can evoke different kinds of love.

In my younger days, I often claimed that the electric version of Yo La Tengo’s “Barnaby, Hardly Working” felt like being in love: by that I meant there was a sense of drowning in the feedback wail, sustained over time, providing a foundation on which everything else is built upon. Another masterwork of feedback is My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, perhaps the most perfect pop album ever created: this love was complex, demanding, at times obscure, yet always awash in beauty and ego and ineffable sadness. The Replacements’ “Valentine” is yet another sense of love: cocky and drunken on the outside, but poetic and wistful on the inside… if you pay close enough attention and get past all the beer-goggling.

For me, SweetS is the first Jpop group which not only feels like being in love, but a love of epic proportions, a consuming passion that shapes one’s life in unexpected ways. Part of it, of course, is that the affection I feel can be extended beyond the music and directed to the people presenting the music. Given my predilections, any one of the girls in SweetS is more desirable, than Ira Kaplan, Kevin Shields, and Paul Westerberg combined.

I’m not going to lie and pretend that SweetS would be as important to me if they were male, or if they weren’t Japanese, or if they weren’t so young. I’ve been writing this blog too long to be afraid of sounding perverse (unfortunately), but it’s obvious that one of SweetS’ greatest assets is that they are Japanese girls barely in their teens singing songs about budding sexuality. They were the epitome of rorikon in Jpop, proof positive for all those nasty suspicions that Japanese pop music caters to dirty old men like myself.

But consider this: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is thought by many to be one of the greatest love stories ever written. For those who study and appreciate Lolita, it’s one of the great achievements of world literature, something for the ages. And yet the lyricism and beauty of the prose, the allusive and labyrinthine plot, the mastery of Americana in the mid-twentieth century, all of it serves a lurid tale of a man seducing his pre-teen stepdaughter. The novel makes us want to fall in love, yet to fall in love is to condone nymphophilia – or, if you’re not of narrator Humbert Humbert’s mind, simple pedophilia. Part of us wants to embrace Dolores Haze the way Humbert desires, another part wants to throw the sick fuck in jail no matter how dashing and lovesick he presents himself.

It’s a playful trap laid out by VN, a rather twisted joke in a novel quite notorious for its twisted jokes. (My favorite, for the curious among you, is the notice about Mrs. Schillinger in the novel’s introductory letter.) And while I can write even more about the glory of this book – please, read it if you ever get the chance – there’s a basic truism we can carry from Lolita the novel back to rorikon and Jpop.

That truism is: the human heart cannot be controlled, and this weakness is the comedy of life.

For me, that is the seduction of SweetS. It isn’t about falling in love with the girls in the group, but forbidden love as a concept. It’s an intellectual exercise designed to expose the weakness of heart and groin, and an exposure of the blind spots that keep us feeling safe and secure in our society. As I’ve argued before, it’s possible to keep your wits about you and still enjoy Jpop for all its guilty pleasures. It’s possible to dream of Haruna the Jpop persona and still know that Haruna the flesh-and-blood girl is nothing like that in reality.

And like Lolita the novel, SweetS also dares you to consider the flip side: that the girls like being glamorous and sexy, that what wary adults see as dangerous actions and exploitations is, for the girls, the everyday business of growing up and being more like the world they want to be a part of.

In that way (and probably that way alone), SweetS are the ne plus ultra of Jpop girl groups, the very extreme by which one can seriously (even self-reflexively) explore the desires stirred by Japan’s entertainment machinery without giving in completely to the disturbing aspects of such desire. For a brief time, SweetS walked the fine line between being about rorikon and actually indulging in rorikon with its audience. Take a step back, and you had the safer Hello! Project and its stable of pop idol singers; take a step forward, and you have preteen girls as simple sex objects, seen in the U-15 materials that Irie Saaya’s career detoured through.

Ironically – and it’s a very deep irony – American entertainment doesn’t know how to draw this fine line, at least in not such a public fashion. For America, the choices are starker and more polarized: kiddie porn or Nickelodeon. This is fitting, as Americans couldn’t handle Lolita when it was first published, and an obscenity trial was held. Simiarly, America as a culture can’t handle (or fully understand) SweetS for a very similar reason: not only is the desire suppressed, but the elaborate joke is lost on them.

I doubt creating such Nabokovan complexity was the intention of the people behind SweetS… but I’d argue that, for at least the first phase of the group’s history, that complexity was the end result.

A lot of it had to do with the music – or rather, the people behind the music. Bounceback was the production team that handled most songs on the first mini-album, including the first three singles. If anything, Bounceback is as responsible for the love I feel towards SweetS as the girls themselves. This duo not only defined the quintet’s sound, but through the songs the initial attitude. Even more important, the music they created was perfect for the girls of SweetS – you couldn’t have given these songs to any other girl group at the time and had the same impact, the same jarring temptations. Bounceback created the slap and tickle of some infectious pop songs, but needed the hands of nymphets to make the songs convincing.

Aided and abetted by the clothing line Penty, the choreography of SAM (a.k.a. the former Mr Amuro Namie), and the make-up and hair folks, SweetS not only sounded sophisticated but looked and move the part. With the package so complete, the girls weren’t about rorikon, but about giving Dolores Haze a run for her money. That distinction is subtle and speaks volumes for what the group can still achieve.

If all of this makes the girls sound like puppets manipulated by ironically-minded (or just plain cynical) adults… Well, Jpop is all about manufactured personas and marketed images, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s part of Jpop and not something to be held against the singers who represent the sum efforts of whole companies of support staff.

But this does not mean the girls of SweetS are ciphers given identity solely by outside forces. The five girls of SweetS are distinct: it’s difficult to mistake Haruna for Aya, or Miori for Mai, or any of these four for Aki. They each play a role within the group dynamic and understand this to be the case. While SweetS could have been formed with other girls, these are the girls that did indeed define what the group is, as well as what we can expect of them.

Even if the membership changes (which it looks like it will, if only temporarily), these five will be the SweetS that fans will most love and treasure.

There are two completed phases for SweetS, each covering three singles collected in a mini-album. The first phase covers “Lolita Strawberry in Summer,” “Love Raspberry Juice,” and “Love Like Candy Floss” – all collected in the first, eponymous mini-album – and can be dubbed the rorikon or Bounceback phase of SweetS. The second phase covers “Grow Into Shinin’ Stars,” “Sky,” and “Countdown” – all collected on the mini-album Keep On Movin’ – can be dubbed the schoolgirl phase of SweetS. It seems that “Mienai Tsubasa” and “Earthship” (which was released today) marks a third phase and there may be further changes in store when Aya and Aki take a six month hiatus from the group to prepare for high school entrance exams.

In future entries, I’ll be giving each PV a very thorough analysis: I may be crazy, but I know there are patterns there, meanings that can be dug up and sorted through and understood better. Again, this may not have been the intent of SweetS or their handlers – but it’s there, begging to be excavated and examined. And that’s what we’ll be considering.

Obviously, I think there’s meaning to be mined out of the first phase of SweetS, but the second phase is interesting because it seems a counter-intuitive step backwards (stylistically and musically), a reaction to what came before and a struggle to find a strong post-rorikon identity. By the third phase, it looks like they’ve succeeded in this quest – but that also is worth examining, especially as a case study of a Jpop girl group that’s managed to not only survive, but to have a long, bright future ahead of them.

The future does look bright for SweetS, and now is as good a time as any to look back on what they’ve already achieved. You may be surprised at what they’ve been capable of, and what we can get from it.

So That’s What She’s Doing Between TV Appearances…

Sekshi Biiiiiiiiiiiiimmmuu!!!

At a manga blog called Irresponsible Pictures I found a photo of Yaguchi Mari posing with what appears to be her manga collection, all shelved quite nicely, prim and orderly and apparently well-cared for under a soothing pink light.

Could it be? Is Yagu even more of a comic book geek than me? I don’t bother to bag or board my funnybooks, leaving them in large stacks on the bookshelf until I’m ready to shove them in order into a comic box. I may have too much comic book information crammed into my poor noggin, but I’ve learned to be quite cavalier about the treatment of my reads. Which doesn’t automatically make me less geeky than Mari, just more sloppy and reckless, now that I think of it…

At any rate, the idea of Mari being a manga fangirl is way cooler than when I found out Asia Carrera is better at gaming than I could ever be.

In semi-related Mari news, I’ve been watching original Tanpopo’s “Motto” PV on my iPaq lately and it’s like a video wet dream with the sexiest Momusu of all time. Ishiguro Aya, that is. However, what’s surprising about the PV is just how sexy the other two members of the subgroup are. Iida Kaori has spent so long not fitting into the Morning Musume line-ups of recent years, it’s refreshing to look back on her Tanpopo PVs (including the second line-up with Kago and Rika) and see her smiling and relaxed, and to hear her beautiful voice. And in “Motto” she is absolutely torrid: she uses that deer-in-the-headlights stare to look very adult and emotional, instead of lost and clueless.

As for Mari: I’d always thought that she needed to find her Sexy Beam before she became the larger-than-life Yagu we all know and love, that she was essentially uninteresting before “Love Machine” and “Koi no Dance Site” turned Morning Musume upside-down. “Motto” seems to indicate otherwise, as she holds her own in the PV with her two towering co-singers, doing just as strong a job of looking sexy and haunted as Iida…

Though of course, Ishiguro Aya beats them both just because she’s, like, several hundred percent sexier than any other Momusu past or present.

At some point I need to watch all the other early Tanpopo PVs – more than Petit Moni or Minimoni, I’m beginning to think they were the strongest subgroup of all, in terms of style, personalities, and especially music.

Doll’s Vox To Debut!

Wapiko mention this on the MM-BBS and of course it intrigued me tono end: a new girl idol group is debuting this week, called Doll’s Vox. The name is unfortunate, sounding both mildly kinky and clumsy at the same time. But what sets them apart – well, sorta – is that there are 24 girls in the group. Twenty-four! So that’s more than Bishoujo Club when they debuted, but not as big as Bishoujo Club now. It’s about half the size of Hello! Project but over the twice the size of the current Morning Musume line up. And while it’s three times larger than dream, it’s only fifty percent larger than 1st X-Mas.

And I read somewhere about an upcoming one-time-only idol group of 100 women and 4 men posing as women, but they don’t count because they’re just a marketing gimmick of some sort.

The individual pictures of the girls of Doll’s Vox are cute enough, though the photos could have just as easily been taken from audition head shots or a high school yearbook… Not that I want them all to wear horrendous orange jumpsuits the way Bishoujo Club 21 did on their debut PV, but you’d think their management would stress these girls are a group and have at least one group shot on the homepage.

Bets can now be placed on: how long this collective will last; the number of girls in the line-up for the second single (if they make it that far); which girl will go solo first; whether or not some kind of subgroup will form; which one eventually winds up an AV superstar. Okay, the last one isn’t likely, but what the heck. If Hasebe Yu can become a gravure idol, how long a shot can my idea be?

We’ve now got four pretty sizeable stables of girl idols that can be forced to combat one another deathmatch style. Hello! Project beats out all the others in size (unless Bishoujo Club recruited another dozen or so members), but I’m willing to bet Avex’s girl groups (dream, Hinoi Team, SweetS, Parago) woild be the most ferocious – as well as the most fashionably dressed. (That is, forgiving the occasional lapses into hooker-wear.) Sure, futsal now means that H!P and Avex (really, dream and some others) get to face off in sports once in a while, but we need more!

Something involving bloodshed, a culling of the girl idol field. Maybe have each stable do their own version of Battle Royale, and then have the four champions face off. It’d be cool to see Ishikawa Rika (you know she’s been training for it all these years) versus Tachibana Kana (the alpha female among the Avex girls) versus Beni Arashiro versus some Doll’s Vox girl. Much as I’d love to see Kana win at the end, Rika’s a lock for being the last idol standing.

It’s funny that the girl idol market is on the decline and yet these ultra-huge groups pop up, trying to recreate past glories and sales numbers. Maybe Doll’s Vox will click, “Love Machine” style. I doubt it, but you never know.

Feed of Pop!

It took almost a week to pull together even the bare bones of this project, but I’ve set up Feed of Pop, a Jpop feed aggregate.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, I’ve taken the feeds of several blogs that deal with Jpop and placed them together on one page. That way, readers have a central resource for finding some of the latest and most interesting writing about Jpop (not counting the scintillating banter on MM-BBS, of course).

If you have a blog, livejournal, or any other site with an RSS or Atom feed, I’d love to add you to the Feed of Pop aggregate. If you have a Jpop-themed site but no feed, I’d love to list you on the links page. The criteria for inclusion is simple: that your blog / journal / site deals with Jpop on a regular basis, and that it’s in English. For more information, please check this FAQ.

I don’t expect Feed of Pop to catch the English-speaking Jpop community by storm right away, but I’m hoping this becomes a useful resource and a way to expose Jpop fans to blogs and other sites they may not otherwise be aware of.

Ninagawa Mika Photographs

Discovered this through octopus drop kick!, a homepage for photographer Ninagawa Mika. The photograph gallery has some truly incredible images, vibrant and beautiful and springing from a unique sensibility. I’m including two here, they just take my breath away and I need to share. The picture above (also used by odk) was what made me sit up and take notice in the first place. I love the golden cowboy hat, that just about sealed the deal for me among all the Japanese iconography.

And this one is just so beautiful, the subject has an incredible smile – somewhere between snarky, shit-eating, and knowing. The fishbowl in her hands, though, elevates it into something stranger, more dreamlike. In a way, it feels like falling in love.

(And, I just realized, the subject looks a lot like a student I once had in Iowa. But she had black hair. I don’t remember her name, but I remember I gave her an A for the semester despite being late in handing in each and every paper. But then, she had the same smile as this subject, so…)

I also saw some celebrities in the photos – I’m pretty sure there was one of Kuriyama Chiaka and I know I saw Paris Hilton with I think her mother in one portrait.

Do yourself a favor and take a look around that site. It’s pretty damn nifty, and some of you’ll probably recognize celebrities I couldn’t name.

Can’t Get Enough of Hard Gay! Woooo!

I just found an excellent article about geinou, talento, and Hard Gay in the Japan Times. It’s great reading, and points out the limitation of Hard Gay’s act – that is, he’s funniest when he’s helping people out (the term the article uses is yonaoishi, “social improvement”). The author, Philip Brasor, makes a clear distinction between geino and talento and how the longevity of a comedian’s career (or shtick, as the case may be) depends on how much one develops his gei (talent).

Also, if you can read Japanese, check out Hard Gay’s very own blog!


I can see that Wooo! getting tired real fast without the leather-shorts crotch thrust. I’ll try to keep it at a minimum from now on. (You really don’t want to see me in leather shorts.) But don’t let that stop your comments from Woooo-ing to your heart’s Hard Gay content!

Rooting for Berryz

As always, Idolizing St. Anna’s got news worth talking about. Berryz Koubo’s new single, “21 ji made no Cinderella,” debuted on the daily Oricon charts at an impressive #5. I was going to write about how this shows Berryz’s strength since they didn’t need a gimmicky event to promote sales for their single. They had a release event (with Goto Maki and Viyuden attending!), but didn’t make the rabid fanboys buy multiple copies of a CDS in the hopes of shaking a favorite idol’s hands.

But today, again from Santos, news that the single dropped to #15 on the Oricon daily. So… never mind.

Considering the staying power Morning Musume’s single had over the course of its first week – sustained no doubt by their handshake lottery – “Iroppoi Jirettai” finished #4 for the week, a very respectable showing and one that should be applauded. That said, I want to see what happens when they’re not using such a gimmick to sell their CDs and see how well that does. The multiple copies reported to have been bought by hardcore Momusu fans doesn’t bode well in that regard.

On the bright side, Berryz is doing very well for the Hello! Project stable. They’re succeeding without the benefit/burden of a group name that has a long history and strong expectations, nor have they had any line-up changes (despite the original plan for Berryz to have a rotating line-up of H!P Kids).

Personally, I believe Berryz will surpass Morning Musume very soon, perhaps by the end of the year. But that’s cause I’ve finally given myself over to the group. After months of complaining about not being able to tell who’s who in Berryz and dream, I can now identify and name all the Berryz by sight (not yet with dream, but give me time). I also have a clear pecking order of favorite members: Risako above all others, then Chinami, then Yurina (who just turned an astounding 12!). And there’s even a Sayumi-like figure in the group who continues to stir ambivalence in me, the “is she talented or just annoying?” Momoko. I’ve been listening to several of their older singles (that is, from before “Special Generation” which is when I first started to give a damn about them) and loving “Piriri to Ikou” and “Fighting Pose wa Datejanai” especially. I look forward to the two group photo albums coming out this month, which is itself a great show of faith on management’s part. I even have a Berryz wallpaper on my laptop, and the last time I’ve had an H!P wallpaper has been way too long…

In other words, I’m emotionally invested in Berryz, perhaps more than any other H!P group right now. (Though nowhere near to SweetS, but that’s another story.) I like Viyuden a lot musically and admire their girl-grope PVs, but don’t feel as committed to them. I absolutely adore Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi, but their unit W hasn’t sparked my interest so much musically these past months. Melon Kinenbi seem to step in and out of H!P limbo – which is better than being stuck there, like some other units.

And as for Morning Musume – I love them still, but they don’t stir my fanboy otaku nerves the way Berryz do right now. Maybe it’s fatigue from all the line-up changes and scandals in the first half of 2005. Maybe it’s because I find myself missing 15-nin Morning Musume so much (sales aside, I’d argue that was the last truly great line-up for the group, though this line-up also holds great promise). Maybe I don’t like flamenco as much as I thought I did. But my pecking order at MM is Reina on top, then everybody else… And the recent MM songs don’t get nearly as much play on my iPaq as other eras of MM (golden age and 15-nin, specifically) and recent Berryz.

The new Berryz single doesn’t do much for me yet and I’m actually mildly horrified by the costumes they’re wearing for this. They look like pastel street urchins, making the prettier girls look dorky and the less-pretty girls look… well, mildly mentally deficient. (You know I care about Berryz if I’m searching for euphemisms.) That said, I’m reserving full judgment until I see the PV – as visually oriented as I am to Jpop, a great PV would do wonders for my liking a song.

I know I’m not the first to predict Berryz’s ascent in the H!P pantheon. Some have seen it a long time a-comin’ and while I used to scoff at this… well, they’re preaching to the converted now, and I can’t wait to see the girls earn the audience they deserve.

It’s Good to Be Hard Gay! Wooooooo!

Thanks to both Mainichi and the MM-BBS, I’ve recently become exposed to the fabulous faux queer magnificence of Hard Gay and all I can say is…


On the one hand, I know I should be offended by the stereotype that Hard Gay represents. On the other hand, it’s pretty damn funny and that excuses most anything in my world. In his black leather outfit of biker cap, sleeveless jacket, and Daisy Dukes, Hard Gay doesn’t just flame, he’s a strutting, gyrating inferno of potent homosexuality. His signature move is grabbing his hands together and gyrating his crotch while yelling, Woooooooo!

You’ve gotta admit, that’s pretty damn catchy.

Considering the impulse to often stereotype gay men as effeminate and mincing, it’s relatively nice to see a gay character who’s intensely butch without being bitchy, who’s friendly and happy and helpful and openly sexual. There’s no self-loathing, no self-consciousness – and a signature fashion sense, come to think of it.


And yes, Hard Gay wants to help people. No, let’s rephrase: he is ridiculously eager about helping those around him. No job is too small – not even picking up garbage – nor is any job too big, such as promoting a ramen shop. He’s constantly running all over the place, he’s so full of energy and a desire to give his fellow man a big helping hand. But just because he wants to help doesn’t mean he’ll act any different. He runs up to people and begins helping people without even waiting for them to ask, still gyrating and woo-ing at the top of his lungs.

And apparently, this freaks people out.


For example, when he decides to run a Hard Gay rickshaw taxi service, he scares the hell out of a business man whom he offers a ride. He tries to chase down the business man to explain his intentions, but that doesn’t seem to help matters any further. In essence, then, Hard Gay is a heartfelt lesson about not looking a gift horse in the mouth… or in its leather-bound gyrating crotch, either.


That said, Hard Gay isn’t without his own moments of discomfort – such as when he’s playing with children in the playground and, lying backwards down a slide, a little girl shows up between his legs. Then a little boy tries to press Hard Gay’s thighs onto the girl and you can hear our poor leather-clad hero’s dismay at the situation.


Of course, Hard Gay is just a character being played by a straight comedian, Razor Ramon Sumitani. (Razor?)

That said, he’s already done a great deal of good in my life. For starters, he’s recontextualized Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca” for me. As it’s Hard Gay’s anthem – it often plays as he goes about his good deeds in the clips – it’s now a source of unfettered joy and outrageous homosexual flaunting, instead of… well, whatever it used to be to me. (And in the surprise bonus department, one clip begins with the excellent Specials song, “A Message to You, Rudy”.) I will never hear any Ricky Martin again without thinking of Hard Gay.

But from what I understand, I’m probably way behind the curve in that respect.

More seriously, I believe that Hard Gay represents a universal desire to be loved for who we are, to take care of people out of a sense of goodness in our hearts, and to make funny noises in public whenever we can get away with it. We have all felt these things, we know what Hard Gay goes through.

In a sense, there’s a little Hard Gay in all of us.


Does This Qualify as a Miracle?

According to ikimasshoi.news, Morning Musume’s “Iroppoi Jirettai” sold 68,000 copies in the first week – their best since “Ai Araba” in January 2004 and better than the total sales for each of the past three singles. I’m happy at the marked improvement, but at the same time wonder how much of it is an artificial inflation from their handshake lottery event and if that doesn’t make the higher figures a pyrrhic victory at best.

The closest analogy I can make is the event-driven summer-crossover in American superhero comics. On the one hand, such tactics pique the interest of the fan base and gets more of them to buy the product. But it drives sales lower in the long run because such gimmicks tend to become jumping-off points once the novelty fades. The analogy is by no means perfect, but the main point is this: gimmicks cannot replace a strong product and a dedicated marketing strategy. And the latter just doesn’t seem apparent with Morning Musume – though admittedly, observing from halfway across the Pacific certainly leaves me out of the loop.

Some argue that “Iroppoi Jirettai” is a strong single musically which is why it’s sold well, and I’ve even read a few people on MM-BBS who think it’s the best Momusu has produced in a long while. (Or at least the catchiest) I hope that’s a part of it. Personally, I prefer “Osaka Koi no Uta” but apparently it sold the least of all Momusu singles in Hello! Project history – this despite having at least one day as #1 on the Oricon, something “Iroppoi” didn’t get. (“Iroppoi” had steadier day-to-day sales which is why its numbers are better.)

At least two people, Alice Lee and JunHagi, have wisely pointed out to me in comments to previous posts that the idol market in general is on a decline. JunHagi further pointed out the false assumptions in my mildly inane notion that the current Morning Musume line-up would do better if they jettisoned the name and the “burden” of its legacy. It’s not that Morning Musume doesn’t remain at the top of the girl-idol heap, it’s that the heap is shrinking.

I think I’d feel better if I knew Morning Musume would be doing even more handshake events and not have to Willy Wonka invitations to such events. Perhaps they can also do surprise lives of the kind that Santos of Idolizing St. Anna describes for Avex idol groups such as dream and Paradise Go!! Go!! – and now that I think of it, W had a surprise live earlier this year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Momusu. And definitely, packaging a PV DVD with their CD singles would at least make them current with other idol groups who do this already – which as I noted already, Matsuura Aya will do with her next single.

It’s like Hello! Project has to be nudged little by little to try out new things, when fans who care about such matters are wishing they’d speed up and enact more drastic changes. What someone like me sees as re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic could actually be, from UFA and Zetima’s point of view, a desire to not mess with a formula that’s worked in the past and could work again in the future.

Sunday Blog Roundup: Flashing Koreans, Hinoi Team, a Sex Wiki, and Two New Sites

There’s an excellent blog entry on undoing the mercator projection about the nature of indie music in Japan and Korea and the ramifications of full frontal male nudity during a Korean rock band’s TV performance. Again, even not knowing these bands, the larger issues that crs brings up is fascinating and insightful.

On a tangent, crs mentions how indie music in America has become a feeder for the major labels. That only began in the early 1990s, as Sonic Youth signed onto DGC (and wishing they were actually signed to the bigger, more prominent Geffen label) and the Seattle grunge scene encouraged a feeding frenzy for groups such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney. Before that, alternative bands were very cautious of selling out (Sonic Youth even talked about their group “buying in” rather than “selling out”). For a while, there was one article after another in magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone announcing one new sign-up after another, with bands as unlikely as L7 and the Melvins doing so. Afterwards, moving to the majors emphasized reaching a wider audience while maintaining their artistic integrity and street cred.

Since I don’t really listen to American music anymore, this all feels like ancient history anyway…

Over at the always-scintillating Idolizing St. Anna, Santos has discovered the joy of Hinoi Team. He compares the performance of the group against Morning Musume’s on a recent episode of Music Fighter then gives a report on a live Hinoi Team event in Tokyo that he attended.

At SugarBank, Sam Sugar is contemplating the establishment of a Sex Wiki and what it can provide. If you’re interested in such a project, drop by the site and drop him a line.

Last but not least, there are two new blogs worth mentioning.

ikimasshoi.news has revamped and now provides a feed of Jpop-related news. (Or maybe they always did and I never noticed.)

morning magazine is a new electronic magazine (in PDF format) devoted to a wide range of Japanese popular culture, including Jpop music. The magazine looks really nice – beautifully designed with a wide editorial coverage; there’s even an article on SweetS with a very nice picture of the girls! The magazine and project also have a blog called morning feed, which you may want to tune into.