Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Have you ever sat down with a friend from back in the day, and found yourself starting most of your sentences with, “Remember when…?”

I find that amongst several Hello Project fans, that’s a statement that everyone’s rather familiar with, especially among those fans who had particularly strong ties to older members of Morning Musume or other defunct groups under the UFA company. I mean, with this particular line-up, the nostalgia factor just strikes you and you honestly can’t help but miss everything about them. And this is where this editorial begins. Allow me to introduce you to Dream Morning Musume!

I know what you must be thinking, especially if you’ve read my previous posts regarding anything jpop related: “I thought you LIKED this line up of Morning Musume members! What’s the matter now? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE HAPPY?!”

It’s pretty simple really. Prepare yourselves for another long ass analysis while I put myself into the minds of UFA officials and unravel how their thought processes work.

A press conference was held on January 28, 2011. That’s exactly 13 years since the debut of the jpop idol group Morning Musume. The rest is obviously history. But on this monumental day (fast-forward 13 years now, folks), former Musume members Nakazawa Yuko, Iida Kaori, Abe Natsumi, Yasuda Kei, Yaguchi Mari, Ishikawa Rika, Yoshizawa Hitomi, Ogawa Makoto, Fujimoto Miki, and Kusumi Koharu had come together and announced quite a plethora of things that blasted the minds of fans and former fans all the way too freakin’ Pluto.

It all began several months ago when these members, including Tsuji Nozomi, had announced they would be going on tour. However, they have since lost Konno Asami (due to her announcer position) and Tsuji Nozomi (due to her newborn) from their ranks, but clearly that has not stopped the group from advancing even further. In addition to the “Dream Morning Musume。Concert Tour 2011 Haru no Mai 〜Sotsugyousei DE Saikessei〜” tour, these lovely ladies will be releasing their very own album entitled “DoriMusu①” under the group name Dream Morning Musume. They also announced a following Fall tour that would total an impressive 40 performances in 20 different cities.

To any fan of these seasoned veterans, this could be several things. It could quite possibly be the best thing they’ve heard from the UFA in years. Yet it could also be a Russian roulette gamble by the group + UFA. Let’s go through the possibilities, shall we?

I would have written this yesterday, when the news first broke out. But honestly, I was undergoing such a clusterfuck of emotions that I couldn’t possibly write something coherently. It would have basically been something along the lines of, “OMG RIKA ON STAGE SOME MORE OMFG! MIKI ON STAGE AGAIN! IS THAT A GARTER I SEE?!” I’ll take it further and abuse the whole “Dream” title that got tagged onto the Momusu part: OMG IT’S LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE! PINCH ME, I’M DREAMING! WE’VE GOT THE DREAM TEAM BACK IN ACTION! And who really needs to read my embarrassing remarks like that?

But after a day to collect my thoughts, I’ve thoroughly looked at every possibility I could muster, through the positive and negative perspectives, simply for the sake of argument. Now, since I’m such a Debbie Downer, let’s go through everything that’s wrong about this.

A few months ago, Tsunku boldly stated that H!P/UFA/Morning Musume would be on the offensive side and that this would be their year. Who would have thought he meant something like this? What is this man and the UFA possibly thinking?

Does the company have such little faith in 9th generation, or a Morning Musume without the single force juggernaut that is Takahashi Ai? I’ve already shared my feelings about Ai, so just go one article before this to catch up on those silly musings of mine.  Is this group’s formation a move of total desperation by the UFA? Will the OGs forever be the crutch that the company falls upon so helplessly in times of struggle? I wouldn’t shrug my shoulders at this, if I were you.

It is no secret that this line-up of ladies were members during the golden age, the time of relevance for Morning Musume and Hello Project. I’ve said this way too many times to count. But did the company decide this all along? Knowing full-well that Ai would be leaving around this time, Morning Musume has a lot of potential to lose a huge portion of their fanbase, which would essentially lead to a loss in profits for the company and man, they can’t afford to lose profits anymore. Their PVs are already crap as they are.

Would reviving and reforming the OGs back into a group that many fans and nonfans were familiar with be enough to draw the masses back into the UFA’s palms? The company isn’t even bothering to hide the fact that they are completely relying on the OG’s nostalgic factor. Whenever these ladies appear on some variety show of some sort in their post-H!P careers, it’s a freakin’ guarantee that they’ll play a clip from their glory days. And it’s another guarantee that they’ll talk about the same things, the same people, and the same old jokes, performing the same old songs. Same ol’ same ol’. And while some fans have moved on and made the decision to flip the channel, others simply can’t get enough.

Are they relying too much on the nostalgia? While I’m all about reminiscing of the glory days, there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I won’t mention names, of course, but while some OGs haven’t done anything major for themselves since their days in Morning Musume, others have. Why the hell can’t we talk about that instead? Is the media so focused on portraying these women solely as former Momusu members that they can barely give a rat’s ass about what they’re up to these days (if they’re doing anything at all)? Yes, it’s true they did wonders for making a name for themselves during those times, but can we PLEASE talk about something else for once? Clearly, they’re pushing on this single factor because the company hasn’t even bothered trying to make a decent new group name for them. Sorry, but adding “Dream” in front of Morning Musume doesn’t change anything. I see what you did there, UFA.

But obviously, UFA officials fail to hear my pleas, because…well, let me show you the tracklist of their dual disc 1st album. By the way, for those interested, the album is set to drop on April 20:

DISC 1
01. Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari (Dream Morning Musume。 Ver)
02. Morning Coffee (2011 Ver)
03. Roman 〜My Dear Boy〜
04. Mikan
05. Aozora ga Itsumademo Tsuzuku You na Mirai de Are!
06. Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou?
07. SEXY BOY ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~
08. Afternoon Coffee (Afternoon Musume。)
09. New Song
10. New Song

DISC 2

01. Summer Night Town
02. Daite HOLD ON ME!
03. Memory Seishun no Hikari
04. LOVE Machine
05. Koi no Dance Site
06. Happy Summer Wedding
07. I WISH
08. Renai Revolution 21
09. The☆Peace!
10. Souda! WE’RE ALIVE!

Seriously? Two discs filled with 90% covers of songs from when most of these women were still in the group? They could have at least added some current songs! Like, are you being for real right now UFA? I shake my head. At least make an effort to make your poor nostalgia tactics a little more subtle. I think it’s a real crime that they didn’t dedicate one disc to more modern Morning Musume songs so they can blow the current line up out of the water and it’s an entirely other crime to cover just the singles.

If I were running this, I would have opened this matter of choosing tracks to the fans, at the very least the members of the freakin’ fanclubs of the individuals in the group, as an open poll vote sort of thing. Because let’s face it, we’re all sick of hearing Love Machine and Renai Revolution 21. Plus, it would have been majorly epic to hear how the OGs tackle songs like Nanchatte Renai, Shouganai Yume Oibito, or Resonant Blue. And personally, I just wanted to see Rika perform something like Kanashimi Twilight or Egao Yes Nude. But clearly, I’m just being a selfish fan =P

But honestly, the OGs held their own against the youngins and looked pretty damn good doing so in this first performance video, and several others:

Yet, some fans have already gotten on the defensive on this particular matter of cover songs. Some say it’s only the 1st album and that there will surely be more covers on albums that will follow. But tell me something, how many groups under the company (including all its sub-labels) have gotten past that 1st album hump? GAM, Ongaku Gatas, hANGRY & ANGRY, and I’m sure there are others might have a bone to pick with you.

Other fans have come out and bluntly stated that the group consists of older members. Key word: “old”. The average age of this group is 27, which isn’t really that bad in layman’s terms. But in idol years, that just seems to be freakin’ ancient to many. I’ve read on some random sites and blog translations of these OG members that they’ve confessed that it’s much harder to perform “energetic” songs and the routines are much more taxing on their bodies. They’re not 18 anymore, obviously. Two of them are married, and several of them haven’t been on a real stage performing since the Elder Club graduation in ’09.

So won’t seeing these women attempting to do high kicks and maintain a decent stamina in sparkly idol performance outfits just make you shudder and turn your heads away? Are these women selling out for another chance at the spotlight? As I’ve previously mentioned, some of these ladies haven’t exactly had a blossoming career after Momusu, so hey, maybe it is. Or maybe this was entirely upon the UFA.

However, a statement by Fujimoto Miki led me to believe this was a mutual agreement. At the press conference, she stated, “All I’ve been doing lately is laundry, so it’s been too long since I’ve sang and danced.” The thought of a domesticated Miki makes me want to cry.

You guys can’t tell right now, but a part of me just died. In Miki’s case, I’m pretty damn happy to see her back on stage and hopefully doing all sorts of groping and ass-kicking. And no, I don’t give a fuck if she’s married. Every married woman has some tension they’d like to release and Miki is undoubtedly ready to catch up on the good ol’ days.

Back on topic, yes these ladies aren’t the lithe and limber youths they once were, but no one can stay young forever, obviously. They’re seasoned veterans and it’s not like they’re 50 with arthritis, my God. Besides, if Madonna can still get on stage and grind her guitar on the stage like the untalented youth of today’s rock bands, there’s hope yet for our Dream Momusu members.

Whatever the reason for this amped up OG reunion, this is undoubtedly great news for those fans that have been dying to see their ladies back on stage. Rather than watching certain members fade into the black hole of mundane monotony of non-idol life, we can finally see them back on stage! And the group seems to be just as antsy as the rest of us, since they’re already making comments like, “If you ask me who our rivals are, it’s every female group in the world!” and “It’s like a dream. We’re aiming for the rookie of the year award,” courtesy of Nacchi.

Hold your horses there, missy. Yeah, ya’ll were big back in the day. Yes, your fanbase as a whole pretty much kicks the crap out of the current line up, but let’s not get too hasty. It’s not like you’ve sold any albums as of yet.

Though, a lot of international fans have shared the same musings as I’ve had. What are the odds that Dream Morning Musume’s first album, which consists of two discs that are basically covers and 2 songs that god-only-knows-what-they’ll-even-sound-like, will outsell anything the current line-up has sold in recent years? I would honestly laugh.

But reality check: most of their fans have probably long since moved on, perhaps even pledging allegiance to another idol group. It wouldn’t surprise me, and that’s a natural thing for one to move from one interest to another, especially when the original subject of interest hasn’t been up to anything interesting lately. Also, there are some newer generations of fans that could probably care less about the older members. But man, let me tell you something. I would honestly just LAUGH if they did outsell.

Let’s look at this shall we? You’ve got the majority of the group with the old school nostalgia effect that they bring along, with their old fans that enjoyed the old glory days of Momusu. Then you’ve got Koharu. Yes, a lot of fans have vocalized their dislike of her being a part of this group, but hey, there’s obviously a reason for such madness. She’s the youngest of the group (a nice balance to Yuko’s 40-something-ness) and adds much needed energy and freshness to an otherwise washed up/sell-out old school group of vets. She can appeal to the newer generation of Momusu fans and reel in even more dough for the group. It was a nice touch, sales-wise.

And since I’ve managed to move into a marketing sales perspective, let’s discuss my musings some more. I’m more than convinced this is just a test. It started out as “just a tour,” because hey, the company needs some money. The current groups/soloists we have aren’t doing what we need them to do, let’s reel in some old resources and squeeze what we can out of them. I’m most certain that was the original thought process.

But then, we’ve got Eri, LinLin, JunJun, and Ai graduating, the hype with 9th gen and the bold “all offense” statement from Tsunku. All of a sudden, the UFA gets their shit together and a lightbulb burns brightly. “Let’s take things a step further. Add an album. Add another tour. Let’s announce this during the 13th anniversary for good measure.” Yeah…

Oh nostalgia, look what you did to the UFA. You even got them making a website for this group! But I digress. I’m sure the company is just putting the minimal necessary touches for this group to get JUST ENOUGH promotion (because God forbid UFA actually learns how to properly promote ANYTHING/ANYONE) to make them SORT OF relevant in the eyes of the Japanese public. If all goes well, and the group DOES manage to somehow miraculously sell more than the current line-up, maybe this group will be a permanent asset to the UFA. Though I’d rather not think about it. We’ll talk about that if and when it happens. Hopefully, if permanence is achieved, these girls can think of NEWER things to talk about. That’s all I’ll ask for.

So what’s the moral of this article? When the going get’s tough, UFA brings in the OGs to get things going. That’s lesson 1. Lesson 2? The UFA is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you’d like, but you can never leave.

Join me for the ride. It’s been quite literally a roller coaster ride of emotions, from the ups that came with this announcement and the 9th gen kids to the downs that came with the graduation announcements. Let’s see if this entire reunion fiasco will be a success or just another topic for a sentence that starts something like, “Remember when…?”

One response to “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

  1. Pingback: The End of an Era: Takahashi Ai’s Graduation Concert and the Future of Hello! Project UNCENSORED « Not Another K-Blog!!!·

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