Added some new stuff and combined it with a previous draft. Meant to publish this ages ago. Since it is too long, it will be split into two parts.
So here we go.... ^_^
I used to write songs, and had signed with a local branch of a certain publication label here as a songwriter for a few years. During that time, I had the opportunity to look inside the music industry from a different perspective. Honestly, it's the same as everything else - strictly business, nothing personal. Which is quite sad, as it is different from what I had imagined it would be.
Gone were the days where music quality were paramount. Now, everything comes in a package, sales comes first and music comes second. We were not required to write just ANY songs, but songs where the genre was pre-chosen by the recording labels or talent agencies.
- Boyband X requires 3 R&B/Pop songs for new album, mellow and laid back like Craig David's style, use more guitar.
My point is, in the entertainment industry now, business have to come first especially when your music reputation is already stable. I'm not referring to only Morning Musume, I'm referring to the Hello!Project umbrella and Up Front Works. I will be discussing on the part of Morning Musume here.
So what's the deal with Morning Musume now? Their popularity and sales are dropping and nothing is done about it?
The end road of Morning Musume
Pengie of Unchained wrote a very, very good article about the disbanding of Morning Musume. Pretty much took away a lot of things that I'm about to write. So please do not be disheartened, just go ahead and read it.
My comment on Pengie's article, is that I do not think Morning Musume's time is over yet. The eigth member is coming in soon, you will need for her to fit in at least a year or two. (However, if Tsunku decides in the end that no one is qualified, then you can start panicking) BUT if Morning Musume is to be dissolved, it will have to wait till after their 10th year anniversary, which is a couple years away. Why? Because that's a good marketing plan. 10 years of Momusu, think about it. DVDs box set of a decade of Momusu performance, celebration concerts, or promoting a new generation of Momusu if they intend to continue. (I remember from a TV show that Yuko Nakazawa commented in the current Momusu line-up, other than Yoshizawa Hitomi, she have not performed with any of them.)
True, that their music is not on par with what they used to be. I personally do not like their latest single "Aruiteru", and the "Na na na na na" part is weak. The PV is lame, and consists of a cameraman filming the girls walking around in a farm and a campfire shot. Also too little video editing effort for my liking. I prefer more CGs and sound sampling just like the old days. STILL, I do not think that this single is given less thought and effort. That "Na na na" part was meant to be the hook of the song, and the whole song is meant to be easy on the listener so that they can sing along. What producers did not realize is that this strategy is too old, and does not appeal to most people. Rather the "na na na" becoming a hook or vogue, it became an point of criticism. So it's actually a marketing strategy gone wrong.
Until the day Morning Musume has outlived their popularity and lost all their lure and purpose, they will be around for a while.
The Attention Given
Currently it would appear that Morning Musume is given less attention, and many fans would agree. Berryz Koubou has been given the type of songs which what defined Morning Musume during the golden ages. It's fun, energetic and catchy. C-ute is no less different, they are slowly gaining recognition among fans, and have their own concert lining up next year. Not to mention that the Hello!Project Eggs, and other units and talents under Tsunku's new company are coming up already.
In my opinion, way back Hello!Project only have Morning Musume, which is why they are so successful, so quick. Now it's different, they have other units to take care of. Therefore, the overall MUSICAL attention for Morning Musume has been less. But the general attention for Momusu is still more compared to the other units under the Hello!Project. (I hope this makes sense) They get more work to do, tons of promotion work, photobooks, advertisements... etc. Which brings me to my next point.
"Morning Musume is a marketing phenomenon".
That's what the local critics here calls Morning Musume, and I think it may be the same in other countries. In some ways, I agree. Remember in the beginning, Tsunku promised the 1st Generation Momusu a contract, with the condition that they can sell 50,000 copies of their single within a week. Sometimes, I really wonder Tsunku is really testing their marketing skills, rather than their musical talent. On topic, while Momusu is well known for their catchy songs, and their work within the entertainment biz is wide and extensive.
The Morning Musume brand and name is still well-known in Japan. Whether people love them or hate them, they are widely known. And that's where they can still sell from this direction.
For the past many weeks, Momusu's weekly show - Hello!Morning has become more of a variety programme, not a place where Morning Musume shows their self-appeal to the fans. The only segment in Hello!Morning that still retains that past tradition is the Sekai Pucchi Game and the Hakkan Commercial. Week after week, they show the girls going around visiting zoos and play with pets. Long filmings are made and are aired in parts for a span of a few weeks. Hello!Morning has become a show for advertisement for retail businesses. I miss the days where we can laugh and enjoy seeing the girls fool around with themselves.
I don't think they are running out of ideas for the show, but they are moving with the current trend of Japanese television where variety shows are favoured. And in the meantime, using Morning Musume's name to do advertisements within the show. It sounds like a small job, doing ads. But do not underestimate the power of variety shows in Japan. For example - my sister in Japan tells me that there was a time where a variety show was aired doing a health programme about bananas, and all the bananas in supermarkets are totally sold out on the very next day. However, do not think that they are trying to "get-by" by just doing all these. Retail is a very lucrative business. Don't know about how much commission the girls get, but certainly their company is making lots of money out of it. In other words, Morning Musume has become a marketing tool.
The future and focus of Morning Musume
Morning Musume is no longer a musically inclined group now. But group of models, variety show talents (tarento), promoters, and mass comm hosts. They are used to sell their own fan merchandise, appear in futsal games or promote other products and promotions. Releasing singles are to maintain their existance.
Momusu have trouble finding their own path now. In the beginning, Momusu is to be a musical group, lots of harmonies are used and have more mature style. Later, they began a young and energetic direction at the entry of the 3rd and 4th gen members. Even later, a younger and girlish direction with the 5th and 6th gen members.
And that's where the problem starts.
With the beginning of "The Manpower" single, things start to become weird. "The Manpower" was written by Tsunku as an official theme for the Rakuten Eagles Baseball Team. (Note that Rakuten is currently managed by UFW). The next two singles "Osaka Koi no Uta" and "Iroppoi Jirettai" was supposedly written by Tsunku and dedicated to his now current wife. The following single "Chokkan 2 ~Nogashita Sakana wa Ookiizo!~" was a remake song of the previous year's album. I was going "What the heck is all this?"...
Thank God, the next one "SEXY BOY ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~" is okay, really good catchy song complete with signature moves. Then the next single "Ambitious! Yashinteki de Ii jan" a real dissapointment. And I talked about "Aruiteru" already above.
Obviously, total lack of focus. Hopefully, with the addition of the 8th gen member things are going to change. Because obviously, 7th gen member Kusumi Koharu is absolutely of no help at all. Yeah she's a miracle, her current achievements are really amazing. But she is a Momusu member. If UFA need a soloist, then don't let her join the group, for goodness sakes.
While it's a good idea to let Momusu do what they are doing right now, they will eventually run out of reputation and lure when their entertainment value drops. Retailers don't need to go to Momusu as their promoters or advertisers if they don't want to. Model agencies have millions of girls waiting to be called, and they have prettier looks and bigger boobs.
UFA need to really start acting like a real talent agency and start thinking on how to boost and improve Momusu's entertainment value. Rather then allowing them to become a group of TV 'tarento' which Japan have in overflowing abundance.
Also, I worry about Berryz Koubou and C-ute, that they may follow down the same path as Momusu. Sometimes I even wonder if Murakami Megumi's departure is actually a good thing.
Why has this become like this? Don't they know that we enjoy Morning Musume more as a musical group?
Will discuss more on this portion on Part 2.
Footnote: Thanks for reading up to this far. I am still learning to write, and I tend to ramble away non-stop and probably have tons of error. So please bear with me. Thanks again!