After Thought: The Beginning of a New Adventure (aka My Thoughts on ℃-ute Disbanding)

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It comes as no shock as the Japanese pop girl group ℃-ute announced that they are disbanding on June 2017. The reason? The girls realized that they have completed their idol dreams and have developed new ones. Many are sad that some of the girls are going into “disappointing” careers. Some are just sad as they are kicking the can. But, nothing ever really last forever. Even SMAP, who has been in the Jpop idol business long before these girls made their début in 2006, is announcing that they are disbanding by the end of this year (Thank god!).

I should be sad. I should feel sorrow for these lovely girls who are about to leave their singing careers. I should be saying something along the lines of “Like come on, Airi, you should be a solo singer”.

But, I am not.

I am really not.

It has been predicted for a long time that these girls would eventually graduate Hello! Project someday. Let’s face it. We knew that the other H!P Kid members were going to be grouped into another kids unit after Berryz Koubou was sticking with a permanent line-up by mid-2004. We also knew that ℃-ute would eventually break-up when Berryz Koubou disbanded last year. It’s just a simple cause and effect.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a big ℃-ute fan for a long time. Sure, I love a couple songs here and had a favorite member or two (Hey, Erika Umeda!) there. Yet, I was more into Berryz Koubou starting from my high school days to recently as they had talented members, catchier songs, and a stable lineup.

I actually lost interest in ℃-ute around 2009 or 2010 when Umeda graduated. She was my favorite even though she barely got any lines and was more of a background performer. Nevertheless, she was an interesting girl and was a good performer. At least she was able to carry a tune and dance pretty well unlike some girls…

The group’s musical quality has been diminishing over the recent years. It is true that the girls have grown-up and thus their musical and style tastes have changed. However, it didn’t get better, it got worse. I blame someone who calls them ℃-ute’s vocal couch as I feel like he or she didn’t coach them well. Airi can’t sing high notes really well anymore, Mai’s vocals got worse over time, and Chisato had to get surgery because of nodes. You hear this limiting and painful vocal style of not properly singing through your nose in other groups sadly. I experienced it first hand with a trial lesson at a well-known vocal studio.

One more thing, ℃-ute’s songs are always a hit or a miss. Other groups within Hello! Project (like Berryz Koubou) had more memorable songs than ℃-ute ever really did. I mean some songs like “Dance de Bakoon!”, “Bye Bye Bye”, “Massara Blue Jeans”, “THE FUTURE”, and others are impressive.  Hell, “Dance de Bakoon!” is a superb signature song for  ℃-ute as it’s funky and makes you want to dance. Still, there is a handful of the group’s songs are lackluster or have not a lot of meat on the bone. I still think one their latest songs named “Naze Hito wa Arasoun Darou?” is too mundane. Maybe that is because a) UFA is giving this group the short end of the stick or b) UFA is just having a bad year in producing decent good music (which isn’t really the case because Morning Musume. had a great single this year…)

Nonetheless, I am happy that the girls are going into something they love to do. Furthermore, they seemed to be pleased with their eleven-year career.

Maybe we should start making predictions for their last concert? I am secretly wishing that Erika Umeda would come back…

By the way, enjoy my favorite ℃-ute song, the 80’s flavored “Bye Bye Bye” (I think it would be something that Duran Duran would do):

P.S: I was watching a lot of C-ute’s music videos today. Oh my word, the music video for “Kanzen na Otona” is awful. The shot is 0:13 is so horrible that I want to call it something like “Dinosaurs Ready for Dinner” because it looks like it:

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Morning Musume Creates a Modern Vision

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As I sit and write this, I am listening to the livestream of Kanon Suzuki’s final concert with Morning Musume. It’s a very sad day for many fans, including me, as we have to say our final goodbye to Kanon as she is retiring from show business to focus a career in social work.

Why do I like Kanon Suzuki?

What in earth possess me to like an idol group?

Am I crazy or what?

Those are the questions that I, friends, and my coworkers have been asking as to why I like Morning Musume. In Western countries, people get weirded out if you say you are a fan of AKB48 or any idol groups. Maybe because most of these groups are filled with girls under the age of 18 and are usually dressed in a less conservative outfit. Some of these groups’ fan bases are made up of males who are over the age of 35, which is a bit creepy.

However nowadays, there are a increasing number of female fans. Someone who went to Meimi Tamura’s graduation (from ANGERME) concert noted that there were more females at that concert than usual. But, these fans have different and unique reasons why they like idols.

My reason for liking Kanon Suzuki, a reason that I have been thinking about during this whole month, is a very personal one as Kanon was a brave, inspiring person who didn’t have the negatives of life get to her. Kanon was able to be herself while rising above the loads of bitter fan comments about her weight. She used her personality as a charm point, being natural funny and always smiling while not letting the negatives of life bring her down. She was always thinking about the people surrounding her, hoping to make them all smile.

Originally, I wasn’t going to talk about “THE VISION” because I felt that “Utakata Saturday Night” was Kanon’s true graduation song as it featured her a lot. But, I can see that “THE VISION” was somewhat a graduation song for her from Tsunku. (“Utakata Saturday Night” was surprisingly not written by Tsunku at all. :O)

If you take a look at his notes about the song, Tsunku writes that he wrote the song when he was thinking of Suzuki and the changes she will embarked after her graduation. He used his experiences from the early days of SharamQ, the dreams expressed in the eyes of the students at the Kindai University Opening Ceremony in 2015, and the dreams of Kanon and Riho Sayashi to penned the lyrics about the future vision that everyone envisions and hopes to gain.

I really love the lyrics as it relates to the ups and downs of achieving goals during life. But, what I love most about “THE VISION” is the piano part. When I fully listened to this song at the Morning Musume. concert on Saturday, I was surprised how modern it was. I kept on thinking this song was a Daniel Powter or John Legend song due how Tsunku used the piano. I feel that if you were going to play Morning Musume music to Americans who never heard of the group before, “THE VISION” would be the best option as the song is relatable to modern piano pop artists.

However, the song does have some weak points. I really wished that Tsunku didn’t used the clapping sound effect or the electric drum kit as they watered down the song’s quality a bit. Like I understand that Tsunku is trying to mix piano pop with EDM (and Tsunku does produce amazing EDM music), but this song isn’t suppose to be an electronica song. Even Tsunku mentioned that the song is “whimsical”. I don’t think you can’t get that feeling with electronic instruments. I think it would be better to get rid of the clapping effects, the synthesizer during the instrumental break, and the electric drum kit and replace them with something more natural like a snare drum and a classical piano.

“THE VISION” is one of the best songs that the modern Morning Musume has ever put out. It’s modern, refreshing, and beautiful. The song’s peaceful atmosphere combined with its inspiring lyrics makes “THE VISION” a must listen to all ages, even if you are moving onto a new part of life or not.

Congratulations on your graduation, Kanon Suzuki! Best on luck on your future! Hopefully your vision will come alive soon!

 

11 Years of Thanks

A couple of days ago, one of the longest running idol groups in Japan held their farewell concert at the Nippon Budoukan with thousands of fans attending. Personally, I been a fan since they released their debut single in 2004; watching these once elementary school girls grow into beautiful ladies. During the years, their music even spread across the globe in various places like the USA, France, Thailand, and beyond.

Although their farewell concert was full of tears and such heartbreak, this blog post will have none of that. Instead, let’s take the time to remember what Berryz Koubou accomplished as each member heads down on their paths to the future.

What is Berryz Koubou?

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Berryz Koubou is a Japanese idol group that was formed in late 2003 with eight members from Morning Musume’s “little sister”-like training program called Hello! Project Kids. The program was formed in 2002 after a group of about fifteen elementary-aged girls successful auditioned for Hello! Project. Initially, Berryz Koubou was planned to have a ever-changing lineup as girls from Hello! Project Kids would be shuffled in and out of the group constantly. However, that plan was abandoned for unknown reasons as the rest of the Hello! Project Kids members went onto to form their own group called °C-ute.

Berryz Koubou released their first single, entitled “Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai”, on Hinamatsuri (a festival day for girls that is held on March 3) 2004. “Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai” isn’t describe as a typical idol song as it contains a funky beat, R&B meets pop melodies, Indian instruments, and the girls wearing shiny hip hop street clothing. But, they weren’t just an R&B-sounding group, their sound was always changing with every release. Over their long-standing careers, Berryz  sang anything from sugary pop to doo-wop and beyond. Sadly, we didn’t get Metal Berryz! That is left up to the fans to produce their own remixes! Evil Morning, anymore?

(A little side note: The group had eight members when they made their debut. However, one of the girls, Maiha Ishimura, graduated in 2005 to focus more on schooling. Since then, Berryz has had a stable lineup. You might get confused with the number of girls in the above picture with the one at the end of this post.)

Why them?

Why Berryz Koubou? Why do you like them? What is so special about these guys? Those are probably some of the questions you are asking. Let me explain!

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be an easy explanation.  Let me start from the beginning. I been a fan of Berryz Koubou since their third single, “Piriri to Yukou”, releaserd in the summer of 2004. At that time, I was a “freshman turning into a sophomore” high school student in love with their sister groups and friends like Goto Maki, Morning Musume, W, and other girls. Beside the sugary cute songs and innocence lyrics, what attract me to Berryz or any girls groups is the wanting to be THAT girl featured in Berryz. I wanted to be really pretty, have really good clothes, and have the ability to sing and dance despite being a nerd with no musical talent back then. I remember when I covered my first Berryz Koubou song exactly ten years ago in a cover group called Ongaku! Project. Oh, the horrors! I really sound bad back then!

As the girls got older, I still admired them for their amazing skills. However, recently I have felt like they been apart of life as we all grown up together. Even though I am only three or four years older than the oldest member in Berryz, I feel like we experienced many things together; heartbreak, happiness, pain, triumph, and such. It does sound a little weird but let me put it in another perspective. My father’s idol has always been Michael Jackson, from the time he made his debut in the Jackson 5 till his death. My dad always admired Jackson because they are about the same age and that my dad would always turn on the TV and see his idol growing up like Jackson was part of my dad’s family. That is how I feel like with Berryz; these girls made me feel like their were my friends and/or family members.

What is your favorite member and song?

I can admit when I first became a Berryz fan, my favorite member was Risako. I don know why, maybe for her singing voice or her uniqueness. As time went by, I gradually became a fan of each girl as each member possesses their own unique qualities: Miyabi and her rock-girl image (see Buono!), Momoko with her cute annoyance, Chinami with her charming cuteness, Risako with her exotic beauty, Saki and her amazing makeover (and hair colors!), Maasa with her funny personality, and Yurina with her elegance.

As for songs, I reallllllllllllllly love a lot of their stuff! But, if I had to choose one song, I would definitely say “Yuke Yuke Monkry Dance” as my favorite. Why? Because it’s such an awesome song with it’s monkey dance routines, oddball lyrics about Japan, monkeys, and dancing, and a really cool melody! Besides, who doen’t want to dress up in these monkey costumes?!

Whatever the future holds from me and these girls, Berryz Koubou will always have a special place in my heart.

Thank you girls!

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