In the past, Hello!Project are notorious for their ever changing Morning Musume lineup, with their frequent graduations and newly added members combined. There was also the shuffle groups and subgroups, most shocking of all is the splitting of the Momusu lineup to Sakura and Otome gumi. What are they doing? Probably experimenting with group handling and finding out how/which kind of variation can help with sales and self-appeal. I can name two that have been immensely successful: Minimoni and Tanpopo. Currently UFA is moving on to the formula of duos.
W(DoubleU) was the first - a combination of the troublemaker and moodmaker duo of Tsuji Nozomi and Kago Ai. The concept of W was a twin duo group but not biologically twins. Stemming from their Minimoni image of cute and playful girls, W was formed almost immediately after the hiatus of Minimoni. Later, UFA felt it was safe to move them a level to the mature audience and gave them a kawaii and sexy image outlook, starting with their hit single "Miss Love Tantei". I am most sure that UFA have plans to go all the way with these two, seeing that their singles have been at most 4 months apart and have two albums to their credit within a year.
Until that fateful day, when Aibon was caught smoking by Friday. W is put on hiatus and Aibon was suspended indefinitely.
So UFA is shelving the duo concept away? Hell no! It's a marketable concept and W's track record have proven it. So in comes GAM.
GAM (Great Aya and Miki) combination of two long time best friends Matsuura Aya and Fujimoto Miki and that became their concept. Maybe my interest in W was too strong, but I can't help but see traces of similarities between GAM and W.
1) Same costume - It's common in Japan for duos to wear similar costume/uniform, but they don't have to do the same for GAM, they are different enough and can each carry their own weight. Still the bonding and association between the two have to start somewhere, hence the costume.
2) Shoujou-Ai - Long time fans of Nono and Aibon knows that both of them have less interest in boys, and both of them have been intimate enough to kiss. They have developed a chemistry that even by looking at each other's eyes, they know what the other is thinking. Ayaya and Mikitty can do the same.
3) Self-appeal - W's appeal strategy is to let them talk their hearts out on-air. Their closeness, talkativeness, bickerings, how well they know each other, how well they get along etc... are enough to promote themselves to the market. GAM is about the same. Although, yes, Hello!Project is known to use "let the product market themselves" strategy most times. But after GAM's appearance on Hello!Morning and Music Fighter, I feel they are stressing this point too much and too obviously.
4) Music style - I cannot help but think that their style is a continuation of what W's path could have been. The bits and pieces of unreleased W songs sung by Nono reflect on GAM's singles. (Just a little bit, in my personal opinion).
So what's next? Create another duo of course! This concept works, so why not spawn another one. Maybe not immediately, but I think another one is on the way. So who is the next two best friends within the Hello!Project or Morning Musume?
I can think of two:
A) Michishige Sayumi + Kamei Eri
B) Takahashi Ai + Niigaki Risa
The two sets above are well-known to all fans as best friends off-stage. But I don't think they will work. Combination (A) have two slow-pokes together, and they are easily rivals as they are best of friends - that's bad energy. Combination (B) cannot work either, since obviously Takahashi Ai is booked for a solo career in the future, adding the less popular Niigaki in will only lower Ai-chan's popularity. So, I'm guessing it's neither of the two combination, but one half of each: Eririn (Kamei Eri) + Gaki-san (Niigaki Risa).
Why? After watching Morning Musume related programmes and performances lately, I noticed that Eririn and Gaki-san have been paired up quite frequently.
Hello Pro Hour
The latest Morning Musume Single "Aruiteru" Jacket shoot
And during previous performances, notably "Wonder Hearts Land Concert 2006" (past concerts too) and also the "Music Fair 21", they are paired up together again.
Unlike GAM and W, the Niigaki-Kamei combo is quite different, they may have not have the rapport and chemistry, but they are a perfect boke-tsukomi pair, for sure.
Right now, I'm just speculating, it may or may not come true. In any case, they are probably reserves for now, like a backup duo-group, in case GAM have any problems. (I see that UFA have learned from its past mistakes). Right now, I feel that Gaki-san and Eririn still lacks the chemistry but it's up to UFA to work on it.
There must be a reason why they don't pair the real-life best friends together. Maybe to UFA, their company goals and missions trumps all personal interests and situations. Kinda sad, but that's showbiz for you.
End note: Actually, it's hard to compare GAM with W. GAM is already unique on its own already, and I like them that way. But somehow, I cannot help but see W in them. I see GAM as how W could have been if they were not suspended.
Additionally, I hear GAM's next single is already in the making and will be released before the end of this year, and I'm looking forward to it.