Explaining What We Take For Granted

24 05 2010

So the other day, a classmate from my Japanese class wrote on my Wall. Well, you know Facebook. Anyway, in our discussion of J-Pop, I brought up Morning Musume. And she mentioned how they are fairly new. Being the fan I am, I had to contest and tell her that they are most certainly not new and have had years and years of experience, singles, concerts, etc. behind them. She countered with, “i know but i still say they are fairly new because it takes a few years before they get known and with their constant change in members it get’s a bit confusing. … if you change members too much it’s not much of an official group because how unstable it is.” Direct quote right there.

Who knew only two of these girls would still be members today!

From an outsider’s point of view that surely sounds the case. But from an insider’s point of view, that’s like killing the credibility of a group that you like. I don’t feel mad like I do about other comments, but I don’t know how I feel. So I’m expressing whatever I’m feeling in this post.

In hindsight, I went way over my proposed limit of words/paragraphs, but oh well, this always happens. Pictures are dispersed throughout to relax your text-reading eyes!

Those who don’t know anything about Morning Musume (henceforth referred to as Momusu). All others who do already know you can skip this paragraph. Otherwise, take a little moment to go read the wikipedia article and see how many names come up for this famous Japanese girl group. To date, there have been 25 members in Morning Musume, though not all at the same time. This group has been active since 1998 and is still quite active today. So to combat the points that my nameless friend brings up, not really a new group at all. In fact, you could say they would be the oldest pop group that is active today. No other girl groups come to mind that are as old or older than Momusu and are still active.

The original five

For curious people this is one of the things that they have to learn and accept as they fall further into interest. Even the Japanese public had to come to terms with this! I won’t get into the history lesson as I expect all of you already know or have just read up, or plan on it. It’s actually quite an interesting read and I find myself very interested in the history of Momusu.

What this really comes down to now is… stability. My friend argues that it takes a few years for the group to become well known. We can argue that Love Machine made Momusu a household name. That was 1999. Their numerous appearances on Utaban is another good indication of their popularity. In fact, given the amount of entries to subsequent auditions after Love Machine, we can safely assume their popularity was set in stone. So we have now tackled this misconception. What’s next?

The eight constituents of Love Machine Correcting for Koharu, we would now have eight to match the original Love Machine

Confusion? Is it confusing that this group has more/less members than it did last year? To an outsider, surely. It’s rather discouraging for someone to get to know and like one girl only to find that they’re already gone. Trust me, Kago happened to me when I fell in love with Momusu. No surprise, she graduated as I was getting into it all. Fans who follow, absorb these shocks and come to terms with these changes.

But let’s take a closer look at this. Look at what has come from the changes that Tsunku (or dare I say someone even higher) put in place. They became popular and even more popular and then fell in popularity and … today. It really comes down to whether or not you’re willing to accept these changes. Imagine a world where the world wasn’t jealous of Japan’s future. Surely, the Japanese music landscape would be quite different from what it is today. Points if you understood the subtle joke there.

Look at all that flavor

In fact many interviews with Momusu have commented on the “current configuration” and lack of original “flavor”. Current configuration being that not everyone knows about the latest new members. More recently, I have seen that many specials they appear on frequently play the card of reminding everyone the history of Momusu or playing the card of bringing in the OG (graduated) members to talk about things they couldn’t before. Also, Sayumi and the Pandas complain about their lack of lines, but that’s for another day.

I don’t know what to say about this “not much of an official group” comment. Where does someone come up with a comment like that? What is that supposed to mean? In terms of professionalism, official is being supported by a record label and most certainly having professional work ethic. All the girls satisfy this to a certain degree with scandals and other mishaps being the exclusions. But that is most certainly not exclusive to Momusu, so we will excuse that. The group has never gone through a hiatus in which they were inactive either, so they have at all times been an active group. So…the only thing I can guess this comment is supposed to mean is that one particular set of Momusu members does not equal another set of Momusu members.

And for this reason we’d have to separate each individual change of members. When we see members leave in other music groups we still know it as the original group. Well, unless you’re like S Club 7 and have to actually dictate the number of members in your group. But I digress. After all, Momusu was built around a group of 5 auditionees. Subsequent additions were based around auditions too. The members were all chosen by the same person, ensuring that all members went through the same rigorous evaluation.

Morning Musume Academy

Over time, we have seen members stay for a long time and make lasting impressions. It’s pretty clear the effect that the 4th generation had on Momusu. Historically, many music acts have gone through radical changes as they start to embrace new musical styles as well as other entertainment. I don’t find that as an issue of stability, more of a matter of evolution. As for members exiting and entering, this is a source of instability to a certain point. It has been almost three years since the last addition of new members to today’s configuration of Momusu. They certainly are seasoned enough to confidently follow the direction of the group as well as display their own individual character.MORNING MUSUME TODAY

Most importantly, much like the first generation sang “Morning Coffee”. Today’s Momusu sing Seishun Collection as their own song. Therefore every individual set of Momusu have their own songs that are their own and belong to the collective bag that is Morning Musume. After all, many of today’s concerts use more recent songs in which a majority of the girls have been active during the debut of said song. They sometimes sing older songs that are beyond their tenure. But today’s Morning Musume are singing songs that are very much their own.

In that respect they are officially covering songs from before themselves. They are most certainly allowed to because they have inherited the title and privilege from their senpais. Tomorrow’s Morning Musume will likewise inherit the right. And that’s what it really comes down to. There should be none of this, “you haven’t been here as long as I have.” or “we’re new so let us off the hook for not being your Morning Musume”.

We are YOUR Morning Musume

I said I didn’t want to make this a history lesson, but I practically did that didn’t I? Oh well… What I want to say, as long-winded as my text always makes it, is that Morning Musume shouldn’t be considered a conventional group of singers. They are a dynamic collection of talent. They develop and harness their own character and talent to match with the tide of the market much like any other artist of today. They are very much like a school or sports team, they see generations of tradition as they forge their own mark on the world around them.

And for that, I am glad to be a fan of Morning Musume, past, present and future.

Years and years in the making

~Siggy, who feels this article was unnecessary but wants everyone to appreciate what Morning Musume pulls off~




7 responses

25 05 2010

Very good read. I really liked it.
I especially agree with the point that the girls earn the right to sing the songs. And I think the best part about Momosu is the dynamic nature of the group… it makes me sad when the girls leave the group though 😦

29 05 2010
All It Takes is a Little Perspective « International Wota

[…] Explaining What We Take For Granted (Conflict Productions) […]

29 05 2010

Great story. I would also argue hat the concept Tsunku came up with to make changes in the personnel but not the concept (like the Buzby-Berkley dancers or the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders) is unique and successful.

30 05 2010
Piper G

Understood and totally agreed with. It’s often difficult trying to explain what Morning Musume really is to people, and it is particularly frustrating when people try to view the current group (or any individual girl) through the lens they used several years ago.

If Love Machine hadn’t happened in 1999 – if the current group of girls debuted it, right now, as their own song – I doubt it would have been the hit that it was. I doubt the original Love Machine lineup could have made it a hit right now. Likewise, the classic Musume lineup couldn’t have performed Onna ga Medatte Naze Ikenai the way the current lineup does. Their vocals were gorgeous in their own right but they were softer – that awesome Spanish guitar would have overpowered them.

Morning Musume evolves. The individual girls grow and change. All of that is what makes the group such a joy to follow.

30 05 2010

Interesting analogy, likening Momusu to a sports team. The generations may change and evolve with the flow of time, but the storied history of the group remains. Very apt 🙂

31 05 2010

Technically, SPEED formed in 1996 and are still doing music, though they also had a little period of time where they were “broken up” or “on haitus” or something. So, Momusu is definitely the longest-running idol group. One needs only look at the number of singles they have come out with to realize how long they’ve been doing this. Morning Musume has been an idol group for longer than some idols (I’m talking to you, members of Tokyo Girls’ Style) have been alive. There have always been enough girls who have been there “long enough” for it to continue to “count” as the same group. Now, if everyone graduated except Aika and another 6 girls or so were added instead… then we’d have reason to start questioning whether it’s *really* Morning Musume anymore. But, most of the members of the group have been members for at least 5 years, so I don’t think that should be considered the case here.

1 01 2011
Year in Review 2010 « Conflict Productions

[…] the whole audience is in uproar. Just remember that Morning Musume is an evolving group that is not static. Somewhat coincidentally enough, I had written that post earlier in the year in regards to the fact […]

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