…That really is the question.
What brought about this topic? Well, recently a friend of mine has gotten me reeled back into the Japanese pop (jpop) scene. I don’t even recall how that conversation went down, but she did manage to get me back into the whole rabid jpop music biz. Now, before I go on a ranting rampage, let’s begin by mentioning the primary group that will have their heads on the chopping board this go-around.
Say ‘ello to the girls of Hello Project!
Now I know what some of you guys might be thinking: What the hell is this jpop group doing on a Korean rant blog? Let me get to the point before you bitch me out. Besides, I’ve already mentioned something about jpop previously so come on, this should not have come as a surprise.
WARNING: For those of you not familiar with this blog or moi, take the time to read the early blog entries from 2008 (and please pardon the grammatical/spelling errors. I’ve been too lazy to edit them.) if you can. If not, realize that I’m the kind of person that will not sugarcoat shit for you. I say what I think and I don’t really care if you think any less of me for doing so. I’m aware of what I’ve written and I won’t change it (unless it’s false information) because you’re being a butthurt douche fan. Grow up and learn to accept the opinions of others.
I will not tolerate any bashing. I am in NO WAYS a hater of any of the groups mentioned below. If anything, I like them too much. This is why I’m using them as specific examples.Thanks for understanding.
Anywhozies, so yeah, Morning Musume. It’s weird because when I was very much into jpop back in the day (does anime count? lol), I never paid much attention to the group even though they were pretty much the awesome-ness equivalent to sliced bread (to most people, I’m assuming). Of course, back in the 90s the group was still much MUCH smaller than the above picture implies and their singles weren’t exactly rocking every single Oricon chart.
What made this group intriguing to many was that the mastermind behind the group, producer and former musician Tsunku (and everyone else responsible for the group’s existence), had created a system of graduation, rotation/shuffle, addition, and subgrouping. I couldn’t exactly tell you if he was the very first person to come up with the idea, but hey I’m just human. If I’m wrong, please don’t hesitate to correct me, alright? I don’t bite.
But yes, the whole addition and graduation system. This intuitive innovation was actually a very wise decision for the group. The sheer number of members that were added to the main group of Morning Musume made a variety of things possible. Soon after Momusu, several groups started rising onto the scene, following and perfecting the whole graduation/addition/etc. system that Tsunku had started, but more on that later.
While a lot of people would automatically consider a group of huge numbers to be more of a burden than anything, the pros behind this idea sort of outweigh the cons for the most part. Let’s elaborate on those first.
So first and foremost, I’d like to mention the most obvious appeal of a large group. After getting past the stage where you’ve gotta match the faces with the names and vice versa, learn the singing voices, and finally learn the roles and personalities (hey, some people are obsessive. Be chill about it LOL, try not to judge) you find yourself being drawn to one particular member. This member appeals to you so strongly that they essentially become your personal favorite member. Every person has their considered favorite in every group, regardless of how big or small the group is. Sure, favorites switch here and there, but as long as you have a favorite, that’s all I need to make my point. Essentially, the larger the group, the easier it is for someone to find a member they like due to the (hopefully) wide array of personalities and faces they can choose from.
Next up, the following pro is the ability of the group being split up. The larger the group, the easier it is for the group to have some sort of representation in some sort of entertainment show at all times. Two members could go to a radio show appearance, another 3 could be present at a show filming, one could be hosting a variety program, while the 5 or so other members could be filming a commercial and participating in a photoshoot. Some call it overkill and just pure sadism to overwork the often underaged members of the group, but hey, the more exposure the group gets, the more fans (hopefully) they’ll be reeling in, and finally the more cash the company rakes in.
The subject of subgroups appears when mentioning the splitting of the larger group. Once more, this allows the company to rake in more cash without having to search, train, and develop more talented youngins. That does cost money after all, so why not just use the resources that you already have? The essential purpose of the subgroup, as aforementioned, is to bring home the bacon. Also, this would allow the members of those subgroups to break into a different genre from the main group. That’s ideal, of course, and depends heavily on the leniency of the heads of the company. More musical freedom and establishment is what real artists would hope to achieve and some do get that. Which ones? I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head, sorry.
Also, the creation of subgroups once again brings me back to the topic of exposure. Who says the group needs to be confined in the motherland? Screw that! By sacrificing some (or a lot. I suppose it depends with how badly the company wants the group to break through) dough, the company can take a chance and ship off a subgroup overseas and begin a promotional period while the main group takes a breather or something from their main set of promotions. Rather than having the whole entire group fly overseas and promote, a subgroup allows attention to be created overseas while having the remaining members of the group maintain popularity and attention back home.
Let’s bring out the first set of examples. In the 90s, Korea had an excellent Korean girl group known as S.E.S. The trio managed to reach a high status in the Korean pop industry and so the company they had belonged to (SM Entertainment) decided to try bringing the girls to Japan to expand their fanbase and essentially gain more cash. However, with the trio’s absence in Korea, another up and coming girl group, Fin K.L., had claimed the throne at #1 and when S.E.S. was shipped back, the battle of the two top kpop girl groups had begun.
Some modern examples would be Super Junior and their Chinese based subgroup Super Junior M (how creative…), showing that SM Entertainment has indeed learned from their past errors. While DBSK/TVXQ/Tohoshinki were promoting big time over in Japan, BoA was situated in the states, super Junior M was busy with the Chinese industry, and groups like SNSD, SHINee, and f(x) were dominating the motherland. That’s a lesson well learned, SM. Good job.
Of course, with every pro there must be a con floating around somewhere. The larger the group, the more the company must pay for schooling (depends on how much the idol essentially cares about learning LOL), food, housing, transportation, and the ever popular medical bills. However, if the group manages to successfully reel in all the dough they need and then some, spending cash on the above essentials shouldn’t hurt the wallet that badly.
There’s also the issue of having to share the love and wealth. The larger the numbers of your ranks, the easier it is to overshadow many seemingly regular members. So, while a couple of members manage to garner more fans and spotlight due to their great looks, smooth dance moves, amazing vocals, or great variety show skills/humor, others aren’t going to be able to keep up and will fail to garner as much love for themselves. Companies aren’t completely unaware of this either, if anything they totally shove the fan favorites into our faces to the point of overexposure. Some fans might grow sick of it, to most fans, they’ll just eat it out of the palm of the company’s hands. Anywho, back to the point. The less popular members will fail to gain as much love and will thus receive less exposure, less pay, and will be forced to ultimately decide if it’s worth staying in the group anymore.
And that’s where I’d like to transition back over to the ladies of Morning Musume. I’ll begin this portion by asking ya’ll to bear with me. My knowledge of jpop and the biz is extremely limited. I mean hell, I’m not ashamed to say that back when I was still in grade school I began my supposed conquest of jpop through what I heard on various animes I watched. So hey, suck it. I’m not going to pretend I know everything about the subject and preach my spiel about nonsense to ya’ll. But feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on whatever topics I mention from this point on. Thank you!
Around the early 2000s, I used to rip a lot on the group (though I vaguely knew who they even were) due to their ridiculously huge numbers. Living in America, I was only exposed to groups of 3 to 5 members only. The most remarkable number to hit me was 7 (as in S club 7) and that’s where I drew the line. I forgot when, where, and even how I even came across the Momusu name, but I managed to find it and that’s all that essentially matters. I often made snarky comments to myself about how ridiculous they looked as a single unit, laughing at the creative yet ludicrous ways they tried to fit all the members onto one album cover. Remember, this was early 2000s, so the group was boasting a good 15 members at this time.
So as my interest into kpop deepened, my bitchy outlook on Momusu and jpop in general kind of just drifted away (hooray puberty!). Now, a good decade later I’m facing the ghosts of my prepubescent past with a much more open mind. These days, I’m feeling rather jaded with the kpop scene. Several of my go-to groups are now defunct and other current groups are just boring and disappointing me. Nothing fresh is popping up, everyone is starting to sound and look the same, and it’s just getting so BORING. *gets shot*
Which is why I randomly decided to start looking up more Tohoshinki songs. I was a huge fan of their single Beautiful You and their more current releases like Why Did I Fall in Love with You? and Love in the Ice. As many of you Cassis and non-Cassis out there know, the group is signed with mega Japanese entertainment company Avex. So it just happened to be fate that while I was looking up youtube videos of their other Japanese singles, I stumbled upon the group’s videos under the Avex youtube account. Since I was so desperate to find something new and different for my inner musical monster to feed on, I dared to take a look at what else was being featured on the Avex account. Aside from BoA’s videos, I managed to find this one video:
Some of you most likely and cleverly determined that the girl group above is not Morning Musume. You’re very correct! Give yourself a cookie or something. It’s actually Avex’s latest girl group creation, Tokyo Girls’ Style, and that’s their song Onnaji Kimochi (or something like that). My inner pedobear (we all have one, don’t even kid yourself) squealed with guilty delight and I eagerly asked my friend if she knew the group. Not surprisingly enough, she did. One thing led to another and by the end of the night, I was drowning in various jpop MVs. Too many to really count and remember.
One particular artist she had shown me (that is actually relevant for once, I swear) was Maki Goto, former Momusu member and current Avex solo artist. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS OUT, HUH!?
Yes, those were the videos I stumbled upon, in that exact order. It’s amazing what a gyrating, scantily clad jpop idol can do for one’s memory. So after seeing those videos and being told that she was a former Morning Musume member, my memory immediately clicked. I was like, “Wait…I thought Morning Musume was all cutesy and was the tangible equivalent to rainbows and sunshine in your pockets?”
Well, I was right. My friend had told me this was post-Momusu Maki. I learned a lot of facts about the idol, learning how badly she wanted to skank things up right away. And thank GOD she did (LOL)! I just ROFL when I see Maki before her solo career sometimes, because I find it just so hard to believe that she started out that way. What do you know, I remembered the conversation! LOL
Anyway, back to the relevant topic at hand. The very sexy Goto Maki was just my first step into the old school Morning Musume fandom. Notice how I specifically stated “old school.” More on why as we progress through this. After I spazzed about my fated finding of Goto Maki, I asked my guy friend (who liked old school Momusu as well) about what else he knew about the group, hoping to expand my painfully limited knowledge of the group. He pointed me out to this video:
After watching the video, my eyes were literally the size of watermelons. I asked my guy friend, “Are there really THAT many members in the group?” He went on to explain how this was like some final project for the graduating elder members of the group, with each generation singing verses in the order of their seniority. Not only did the video feature the highly acclaimed Morning Musume, but the subgroups and solo artists under Hello Project as well. Though I was confused as hell from trying to remember all 46 or so faces and names of the members in the video, my frustrations only fueled me further to learn and memorize everything I could about this huge group. It helped that I found the song catchy, too.
So after doing the stereotypical wikipedia search, I immediately youtube-d the group, avoiding the music videos. I have this anal thing about me where I can’t listen to the music or watch the videos because I can’t immediately recognize the voices and faces. It’s weird. But anyway, so I searched up some videos where the girls were on variety shows. A particular favorite of mine was Ayaka’s Surprise English lessons. I’m showing you the following video (out of 206) because I just died after watching it.
What I enjoyed about this short but cute segment set of videos was that it allowed me to single out the members, letting me learn the faces, names, and personalities (somewhat). And thus, my interest in Morning Musume was fully ignited. While I continued to struggle with the various generations of faces and names, my lady friend pointed out this video of theirs to help me out further.
Anywho, after watching some more variety shows featuring the girls, I started feeling confident enough to look up their songs and venture off into the various subgroups of the early Momusu. Though the lyrics and MVs for most of the songs made no real sense to me, the tunes themselves were catchy. They weren’t as achingly repetitive as kpop and even American music, even if the tunes themselves sounded really outdated. To sum this up, I liked what I saw and I quickly pointed out which members I greatly favored from the group that built up its legacy from catchy tunes, easy to follow dance moves, and quirky personalities.
I’m slowly making my way to the present Momusu. I know who the members are and I’ve familiarized myself with some of their songs and PVs. However, while searching and creeping online for more information of the current line up for the group, I found some not so favorable things being said about the group. Things like, “Their music sucks now,” “Their PVs are really cheap looking,” “They’re not funny/entertaining anymore,” etc. Even though I’ve only been a fan for a grand total of one week, I was feeling a bit butt-hurt with the comments I stumbled upon.
That’s when I got to thinking…
Why was I, a former anti-Momusu turned crazed admirer, feeling angered by the hateful comments I found online? I mean, what should I care, right? I thought about it some more. My favorite member (Yaguchi Mari, as an FYI if anyone was wondering) was no longer a member, nor was Rika Ishikawa (a close second), so why was I caring? Most of the comments were directed specifically towards the current generations in the group. The Momusu I grew to love and spaz over was what many consider the golden age of the group, so why the sudden butt-hurt?
My thoughts are scattering right now, so forgive me if it looks like I’m not making a point at all.
So over the course of one week, I obsessively searched and managed to fall for Morning Musume, generations 1 through 5. It was time consuming, it was tedious, it was…hard LOL Because in the back of my mind, I knew it was coming…
…I knew that I’d have to face the fact that I had essentially wasted my time on yet another fandom. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much admire and enjoy the early Musume girls. Hell, I haven’t even made a dent in the list of videos I need to watch of theirs. But after being exposed to the videos featuring the current Momusu, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I’m not pointing fingers because that would just be unfair and to be honest, I wouldn’t know who to point them to anyway.
I initially blamed my bitterness on the fact the group was still functioning. I partially blamed the group for the size. Due to my stubborn nature, I made sure I knew each and every member, with each and every personality that came along with it at all cost. Little did I know that by doing so I managed to create some creeper emotional attachment. Yes, I’m a creeper, but so are the several other fans out there. Get over it.
Of course, I can’t very well simply blame it all on the size of the group. Oh no no no. Things like this happen to me regardless of size or genre. As time goes on, interest fades. It’s just in our nature, so it seems. A group that can’t boast 13 or so years of existence, or even 46 or so senior and current members that I managed to fall hard for was the Wonder Girls. You might have heard of them.
For the few that knew me outside of this blog, you would know very well that I used to be gung-ho about the Wonder Girls fandom. I’ll allow myself to be used as the pitiful example of a douche fickle fan. I started out (much like with Momusu) as an anti-Wonder Girls fan, and eventually warmed up to the group. At the height of their career, that was the height of my fangirlishness for the girls. The moment the girls stepped foot on American soil was when my interest began to wane. By the time the girls returned to the kpop scene in 2010, I honestly couldn’t give a rat’s ass about them anymore. I held no expectations for their upcoming track, because I could guarantee that it would be a retro-themed, repetitive and irritatingly catchy single. What do you know, I was right! And now they’re back in America to repeat the cycle of madness.
I gotta hand it to many of the Wonderfuls that stuck with the fandom. I can blame my disinterest on my lack of time to dedicate to fangirling, the influx of new girl groups, or my overall apathy towards well, everything. But I can’t even lie about it anymore. I just can’t care the way I used to because it’s just not the same.
In hindsight, I did punch in several hours of my time and money out of my pocket for the girls. Do I regret it? Of course not. I’m not that much of a bitchy fan. Do I want them to succeed in their conquest for the world? Of course I want them to succeed, but you won’t be seeing me cheer for them even halfheartedly anymore because that would just be a big fat lie.
So does that mean I even feel the slightest bit of regret when I read my twitter and facebook updates about how Wonderfuls and the Wonder Girls are doing this and that? I’ll be lying if I said no. Because of all the time I invested in the girls, I feel as though I should still be in it, but I can’t keep lying to myself.
And this is what I’m afraid of with the current Morning Musume. Much like how I see the Wonder Girls now, Morning Musume is hitting rock bottom pretty darn fast (according to some fans/former fans). They’re surviving off life support with their less than stellar singles, PVs, outfits, members, and lack of variety. The current influx of other huge groups like Idoling!!! and AKB48 make it seemingly impossible to keep up with their innovative new flavors of entertainment, while Momusu seems to be riding the waves of the past. Of course, this is just what I’ve gathered off various online sources and for all I know I could be wrong. But to me that’s the way it seems.
The Wonder Girls aren’t as popular as they used to be. I’m not the only fan they lost while they were in America. Sure, for every fan lost, I’m willing to bet the girls made a fan elsewhere. Good for them and I wish them the best of luck. But back home in Korea where they essentially belong, they’re slowly become just another group, the way I see it. Though my rant way above was about huge numbers of a single group, for this situation, I want numbers to refer to the HUGE amount of new idols pouring into the scene left and right. There are just too many to count and I can’t keep up. Some appeal to me, some don’t. But what does this flood mean for the Wonder Girls? They’ll just be another old group for some, while the dedicated fans will do all they can to revive the hype and restore the love.
I forsee a future Momusu situation, where the girls will be living off entertainment life support. Call me cynical all you want, but I refuse to be the fan that’s fooled by all those articles about the group’s success overseas. I’m a doubting Thomas if you will, but can you blame me at all?
Hits being produced are merely flavors for a certain time. When the next best thing comes along, it will rock the masses and you’re left with another flavor as the world continues its vicious cycle. You can’t very well continue supporting a group that produces mediocre hits and cheap looking PV/MVs can you? Maybe you can, but you will constantly be on your toes defending what little dignity the group has left.
When it’s time to quit, it’s time to quit.
I hate that feeling of having to feel sorry for the group you once poured your heart over. It just hurts to see them falling, especially after all that emotional attachment created from all the time you spent creepin’ on your idols. The biz is a cruel place, ya know?
As I continue looking like a baboon jumping from topic to topic (thanks for hangin’ in there), I’ll return to Momusu once more to re-introduce the topic of graduation. Groups like AKB48 and I’m assuming Idoling!!! and even After School have adopted this system and I feel as though it’s just a faster way for me to lose interest.
What can you do when all your favorite members have left the group? Well you can learn all the new faces and names and hope that the group as a whole can continue to produce hits like they did before. I’ve tried and it’s not working, and yet I still feel bad for what’s left of Momusu because they’re not fooling anyone anymore.
The group no longer has that cohesiveness that binds them together. Individuality is no longer something I can scope out because half of their programs suck/are boring. Their songs and whatnot are just the icing on the cake of despair for me. The girls are definitely getting a lot of heat for turning the sexy knob higher and higher. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I like sexy a lot LOL Maybe some people just find it weird how quickly they grew before their eyes. Before the girls were sporting pigtails and now they’re shakin’ what their mamas gave ’em and singing songs about their charming ass or whatever. The group is definitely not goin’ down swingin’. Forgive me for beating the dead horse, but ya know me. Please put the knives and guns down, fans.
I understand why people creep the way they do. I’m not going to lie and say I live a freakishly extravagant life. I’m really boring and most of my day is routine. I creeped on idols (primarily cuz it’s my job LOL) because I needed something to shoo away the boredom of living. Some people like to live vicariously through their idols, but it’s safe to say I no longer do that, jaded as I currently am.
This is my final jump, I swear. So given the choice of stalking your idols to develop that “bond” and emotional attachment or just admiring the idols on a shallow level, which one would you chose? Would you risk wasting hours upon hours of your life, several hard-earned dollars for a split second moment of content? Or would you rather be merely satisfied with just knowing the names, faces, and songs the idols produce?
As I venture back into the world of jpop and its sea of idols, I can’t help but feel skeptical with every step that I take. I do believe after Momusu, I will no longer be punching in the hours I spend creeping on idols and creating that emotional “bond.” I refuse to be tempted by the huge numbers that make me want to test my memory skills. It’s just not worth it. Maybe I’m just old and cynical, but hey, that’s the way I see it. Even though I’m beyond it these days, idol worship will never die. Not as long as there are cute little Asian girls and boys ready to take on the masses with their cute charms and mediocre talents, only to grow up to basically become masturbation fodder for horny losers like me. Remember: When it’s time to quit, it’s time to quit. Spare us fans the emotional turmoil that comes with your downfall.