What comes to mind when you think of this fabulous season? Is it the beach? The heat? The heaps of ice cream you get to eat?
Whatever may be the case, as we head towards winter, you are probably missing those dog days of summer. HR can help by reminding you of those feelings with their debut single “Natsuiro Candy” (Summer-Colored Candy).
HR, short for Hakata Reboot, is an enormous idol group based in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture aka southern Japan. The group formed in 2010 with fourteen members with a simple motive; be an AKB48-like group for girls who want to become idols but can’t move to Tokyo. It sounds a bit fishy but plausible because, despite Japan looking like a tiny country on international news reports, the distance between Tokyo and Fukuoka is over five hundred kilometers (or over three hundred miles). That might or might not seem a lot. But, a hopeful idol who wants to make it big in the idol industry, it is.
Trying to keep their dreams alive, HR opened their own theater on the third floor of Box Town Hakozaki. Interestingly, a sister group of AKB48 performs in another theater near HR. Selective girls perform on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, which are the days that HKT48 closes their theaters in order to have members do promotional work all over Japan. Smart thinking, HR managers!
The group constantly adds members with countless auditions they hold throughout the year. And, like all mainstream idol groups, members graduate or leave the group. However, I feel like members in HR leave faster compare to other indie/not-so-popular idol groups due to the prospect of other, well-known, Fukuoka-based groups like LinQ and HKT48. If you take a look at HR’s Japanese Wikipedia page, there are more graduated members listed than active members. That is a bit surprising.
Nevertheless, the group persisted and released their debut indies single “Kimi ni Spark” on May 2, 2012. Three years later, they released their debut major single “Natsuiro Candy” on June 24 under the Columbia Records label. To promote the single, the group split up into “teams” and did various promotional store events across the country.
I decided to go see HR at Nagoya’s Kintetsu Passe before I went to see ANGERME at another mall because I wanted to kill some time. Like most of the groups I mention on this blog, I didn’t know about HR before I saw the mini-live. I actually briefly saw the music video for “Natsuiro Candy” and wasn’t impress. Seriously, the music video is basically having is girls dancing and singing in bikinis on some beach, I thought it was unflattering, boring, and a blatant ripoff of AKB48’s bikini fest music videos.
I arrived at Kintetsu Passe five minutes before the event started. There were a small number of male fans starting to queue their place in the event space. By the edge of the area, members were circling around, chatting with fans and non-fans while promoting the event to people passing by. No really approached me and tried to start a conversation with me sadly. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping that someone would want to strike a conversation with me. Maybe they were afraid to or that there wasn’t enough time to chat.
Once it was one o’clock, the members headed towards the stage and began to sing their opening number. I don’t remember which song they sang. But, I stuck around for three songs before I had to catch a bus to see ANGERME. I can’t recall what songs they song, what was their opening talk about, and can’t seem find a set list anywhere on the web.
HR isn’t my cup of tea since, like I mentioned above, their music videos and songs are an obvious ripoff of famous AKB48 summer songs like “Labrador Retriever” and “Sayonara Crawl”. Although they are AKB48’s most popular singles, I find them to be bland and tasteless as they feature simple vocals and basic instrumentation. Though “Labrador Retriever” has somewhat of a plot going through the music video, the primary focus is on the girls doing a plain choreographed dance in their bikinis. Maybe I am looking at these summer songs at the wrong angle but I don’t find them interesting at all. I am more of a “RIVER” and “Halloween Night”-type of fan.
In the same regards, that is how I feel about HR and “Natsuiro Candy”. The girls are pretty nice, cute, and ambitious. But, their songs are a snooze fest. There is no personality or taste in both the song and the music video. I understand that this is their debut single and they probably didn’t get a lot of money to get a great song or music video. But, for the love of all things good, put that money to good use by making something diverse. We don’t need ANOTHER AKB48-sounding group!
I would recommend HR if you like the 48 family or knock-off groups like Idol Kyoushitsu. If you aren’t, you could still enjoy them since they are pretty cute and have a feel good attitude. However, don’t expect too much as “Natsuiro Candy” isn’t much of a memorable song. HR just needs time to find their sound as they should stop copying a popular idol pattern and do their own thing.
They will release their second single, “Toy Soldier”, this Wednesday. It’s much better their debut single but still copying that bland idol formula.
Fun Fact: HR’s image color is “Mentaiko pink”. Mentaiko is marinated fish eggs from pollacks and cods. It is part of the Japanese cuisine. The group’s hometown of Hakata is famous for “spicy Mentaiko”. Thus, the group’s image color pays homage to their hometown dish.