Restarting the Old Rusty Engine
(For the 2nd Time too)

Click here to read more

Thursday, November 30, 2006

How I got into Hello! Project.... better late than never

Lately, have read other blogger's post about how they got into Jpop or Hello! Project. These are two of them:

Pengie (Unchained)

Paul Thomas (

Then I realised I haven't exlained mine. I think I have told some of it in forums and such, but never on my blogs. I'll start now, as a pre-cursor to next year's 10th year aniversary of Hello! Project, and to close the circle of starting a webblog.


I got into Jpop first before I got into Hello! Project. But I'll just talk about the Hello! Project part here (since this is a H!P blog), the Jpop part will be in my personal blog.

I was into J-Drama during the late 90's (Damn, I feel so old!). And J-Drama was in massive boom in Asia at that time, it was so big that people even searched for older J-Dramas ever produced. I'm into music, and always looked forward to listening to all the J-Drama soundtracks. So I went to the store and found some compilations discs that compiled recent and new soundtracks together, and also picked up a J-Pop compilation double disc set consisting of singles that topped the Oricon charts during that time. Everyone was there - Glay, SMAP, L'Arc En Ciel, Kinki Kids, Okamoto Mayo, B'z... etc. And there it was - the first Hello! Project produced song I have ever heard --> "Love Machine" by Morning Musume.

My first impression was, "Oh they're okay.. The song is catchy and nice." I have heard of Morning Musume before, but never gave them any real attention thinking that "Ah, just another girl-group". Plus I was into MAX at that time, so I made comparisons between them. Some of the voices in Momusu (I didn't find out their names that time) were too young, raw, and unpolished, and I'm real particular about those things.

But there was something there that made me play song no.4 of Disc 1, over and over again for the entire day. I was just starting out on my first job, and I played it on the PC the whole day and really annoyed my colleagues. The intro, Kaori's "DEAAARRR~~!", the orchestra-attack effect, the solid running bass, the chorus, the "Fuu Fuu~~" and "Wow wow wow wow~~"... everything just blended so nicely. It's a perfect pop song, the type that appeals audiences from age 8 to 80.

This is proof that Morning Musume is not a marketing tool, I was intrigued by the carefully written and arranged composition, with the right hooks and samplings. I haven't even see them perform yet.

My internet access at that time was limited. Real limited. The cyber cafe's were always full of gamers, and my primitive office was running on Windows 3.1 and only had a manual dialer modem (mainly for email). I depended on local entertainment magazines to know about Morning Musume. They certainly don't have the greatest look, and looked like regular girls-next-door compared to MAX. Nakazawa Yuko, being the eldest in the group really made me wonder "What the heck is she still doing there?" (But now, I hoped that she's still there...)

Later, nearing the end of the year, I flicked around the TV channels and saw the Kouhaku TV programme, Japan's New Year celebration TV show special. There they were again, Morning Musume in cute dresses and funny antics. Well, actually it was only Yaguchi Mari being the funny and restless one, while the others are well composed. They were playing some Japanese tongue-twister game of some sort. That was the first time I saw Morning Musume on TV.

I didn't look further about Morning Musume, but I didn't know that it was the mark of the beginning of Morning Musume's "Golden Age". It was so crazy, every issue of all magazines had at least one article about them. Even the Comic Weekly magazine that I subscribe to (Our equivalent of Japan's Shonen Jump! magazine), have them on the first few full-coloured feature column every week. It was there I got to read about their bio in full.

The ones that caught my eye visually were 3 girls -> Mari Yaguchi, Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi. Yep, all members of the Mini Moni in Momusu. Small-size girls always appeal to me. There were others that interested me, like the boyish Yoshizawa Hitomi (believe or not, I knew she was the perfect boyish character when I first saw her pics during her debut year ^_^) But of course, it is only until years later that I found out that the columnist didn't do his homework well, and had mistakes on his articles, such as pointing out Matsuura Aya being one of the Momusu members. Ishiguro Aya and Ichii Sayaka had left the group already, but I didn't really notice nor miss them at that time. It is only until last year that I get to see them in action on Youtube, that I wished that they stuck around. Fukuda Asuka? Nah... She should leave, really. She lacks the professionalism of an pop idol, but that's another story.

Minus singles like "Manatsu no Kousen", "Memory Seishun no Hikari", "Summer Night Town" and "Ai no Tane". I managed to get listened to all singles up till "The Peace". I found out about the subgroups "Pucchi Moni", "Tanpopo" and "Mini Moni", and really loved the songs, especially "Chokotto Love". It was a great experience. All feel-good songs that I can play all day.

Then I took a break from them. For whatever reason, I don't remember. Maybe it's because all I get to do is listen to their songs and looking at their still photos in posters and CD covers. Not being able to see them on TV or video has decreased my interest in them. I didn't use Kazaa or any p2p softwares, because the tragedy stories that I hear from my friends after using it freaked me out. But then again, that was the beginning of my era of J-Idols and Gravure Idols craze. Read more here.

During the break, I would regularly hear and read news about them - the graduation of Yuko Nakazawa, Yasuda Kei and Goto Maki, the incoming 5th and 6th gen members, the songs reviews...etc but never catching up. (Which reminds me, I should go back to my hometown and see if I still keep those mags)

Then I came back from the break, because finally, I got my own broadband net access, and now able to download and view Morning Musume in action. And the first song I heard was "Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari", which was perfect for me to get introduced to the members that joined the group "during my absence".^_^ I remember myself squealing in delight when I saw a google video of Kago Ai responding so cutely when sneaked up from behind by Ayaka in her English show (link here). I was going "Aww, that's just so CUTE~~! Is that really her voice or what?" :D

Sadly, after searching around, I realised that I have missed A LOT over the years. SO,.... armed with my super 1Mbps broadband connection and with all my technical skills and internet contacts that I have attained to date, I sworn in to the MM otaku military and embarked on a frenzy mission, commencing a wide-scale "search, scavenge, buy and download" of all Morning Musume related information and items.

Morning Musume only? Not really. I'm a big fan of Melon Kinenbi too, don't have much of their material, they don't release a lot of merchandise anyway. I like Saito "Boss" Hitomi for her sexiness and daringness (Is this a legit word? The spell checker seems to be ok with it...). I listen to them when I need some mature stuff. "Akai Freesia" was my fav.

Beginning of this year, I got into the Kids section, mainly because of I started to notice them when they were doing backup for W(DoubleU). Berryz Koubou was my focus. Not really into C-ute. They still need lots of polishing, more practice and lessons, Though Mai Hagiwara, Suzuki Airi, and Murakami Megumi stood out character-wise. I don't know about the H!P Eggs, UFA doesn't seem to find anything for them to work on.

I really couldn't pick a favourite among the Berryz, I like them all, but Tsugunaga Momoko, Shimizu Saki, and Chinami Tokunaga always had my attention. Momoko reminds me a lot of Ishikawa Rika, while Saki and Chinami are plainly my type - small, cute and have short hair (I love girls with short hair). Lots of people do not understand my liking of the U-15 category, and have outright branded me a pedophile and a hentai. These pilgrims still have a lot to learn. ^_^

As for the solo acts... I'll start another topic on this one.

So here I am today, with a simple blog about Hello! Project, my hard disk occupied with lots of MM stuff... etc. They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder", I find that this saying is true. How about you?
>> Read the rest of this article

Monday, November 27, 2006

To Tab or Not to Tab, that is the question... the JASRAC issue

Been getting requests for tablatures for the transposed songs that I played and posted in this blog and youtube.

I have this question circling my head for some time - Do I tab my transpositions or do I not? Now, I can play the songs from memory, but in time I may forget them. watercolour had encouraged me to write them down, but I don't know. While it's a good idea to write them down so I don't forget, I would need lots of motivation (which is another way of saying that I'm lazy ^_^)

Have asked around for suggestions of notations software that I can use for writing down them songs in scoresheets (Cos Doing it in pen and paper is just too painful for me).

I used to use Magix Notation, but the installation CD is lost. Have experimented with other softwares that tabs the song while I play, but that requires a REALLY quiet environment.

Transposing the chords is not a problem. It's tabbing the songs which requires time and effort. Since it's in classical version, so I'm dealing with scoresheets and the black bean sprouts (the musical notes). Don't intend to tab it in numbers and frets, that will be too much. (and I can't read those). That's when notations softwares come in handy, because some of them automatically tab it for you.


Now, when I think about it carefully, it's probably NOT a good idea to tab my works because that may bring me trouble - I'm worried that JASRAC would come breathing fire down the back of my neck. JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) was established in 1939 as a non-profit making organization, and is the largest musical copyright administration society in Japan. Lately they've been cracking down materials in Youtube and arresting people in Japan that uses copyrighted material without permission.

Santos pointed out a case before. Though I must say Santos exaggerated it just a little bit. Firstly, you need to pay the entertainment tax in order to perform in your own pub, because it involves public performance. If that doesn't cover the copyright issue, then an extra application is needed, (namely registering with JASRAC) and it's all for formality's sake. Probably that pub owner didn't do either. But my point is, I don't want to draw attention to myself more than I needed to.

Back on topic, there's this guy at Youtube given a warning by JASRAC, and Youtube admins subsequently removed his video from his account, just because he posted a video of himself playing a JPop song on his piano. Apparently public performance is not permitted and is considered as copyright infringement. On that note - Do my playing of Momusu songs here mean that I have trespassed the copyright law as well? If not, then I don't want to give JASRAC something extra for them to bite on me by tabbing my works.

Sure, I can write down my transpositions, and I should be OK as long as I do not distribute it publicly. Also, I can always justify myself with the reason of "fair use" as my lawful defense, saying that my videos are just for hobby, educational reference and tutorial purpose. Or I can say that my playings are by-ear interpretations and therefore not subjected to copyright law, because it is not taken directly from the scoresheets of the original compositions. But after looking at the fate of major guitar-tabbing websites like in the USA, still fighting a lawsuit with the copyrighters and facing a possible shutdown by their service provider, I grew more worried.

Now, I only wonder... will the activities of us bloggers showing vidcaps, blogging, reviews and sharing audio/videos of Hello! Project materials amongst ourselves, count as copyright infringement?

In conclusion, I don't want them JASRAC dudes cracking down my Youtube account nor asking Blogger to close down this blog. So.... after some long thinking, I'm afraid the answer to the question on topic is -->
Nope, sorry guys, I cannot tab my transposed songs.

...unless you got some ideas that can convince me otherwise...
>> Read the rest of this article

Manatsu no Kousen on Classical Guitar

Manatsu no Kousen (Ray of Light in Midsummer) by Morning Musume, played slow and ballady, much like the Hawaiian version in "Hawaiian de Kiku Morning Musume Single Collection" album. I haven't heard the Hawaiian version in full, only snippets here and there. It was performed by Coconuts Musume, Fujimoto Miki and Ishii Rika.

Manatsu no Kousen is listed by Music Station as one of top 111 summer songs of all time in Japan. Every time I hear this song, it certainly puts a smile to my face. An absolute "summer of love" kind of feel.

So here's what I got...

Video link

Lyrics and Romaji | Translation
>> Read the rest of this article

Monday, November 20, 2006

Otaku Intermission...

It's tough being an otaku. Seriously. The health problems that comes with it is not a matter to be joked with. Gotta give props to those otaku dudes in Japan for being able to stay fit while committing in a such a unstable lifestyle.

So I took a break from songwriting, crawling and writing for a few days, to make sure I can drive to work safely. My headache is confirmed to be caused by hypertension and high blood pressure. It's inherited from my family, plus the lack of sleep and caffeine. It's not serious yet, but I'm under some medication now.

Don't wanna blab too much here, will talk more on my personal blog later on.

I got some articles drafted out, will be published once I've done with the editing. Basically, it's some news about Aibon, Nono, Biyuuden, and the doujin parody of Momusu. So stay tuned! :)

Been thinking lately, that I've spent too much time blogging about Momusu and the gang. I should start blogging something about Berryz Koubou. This blog is supposed to cover Hello!Project after all...

Thanks, Love and Peace ^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Morning Musume makes history

Taken from the sources listed below, here is a rough translation-summary:

With the No. 1 single achievement of Morning Musume's 31st Single "Aruiteru", Morning Musume has now officially surpassed Pink Lady to have the most No. 1 singles in Japan in the female group category. In addition to that, Morning Musume is also crowned as the female group to have the most singles to rank within the top ten - 31 singles. That's ALL singles ever released by Momusu.

Total No.1 Singles (Female Group)

110Morning Musume
29Pink Lady
36Onyanko Club

Total top 10 Singles (Female Group)

131Morning Musume

Past No. 1 singles:
Daite Hold on Me! - 1998
Love Machine - 1999
Happy Summer Wedding - 2000
I Wish - 2000
The Peace - 2001
Mr Moonlight ~ Ai no Big Band - 2001
Souda! We're Alive - 2002
Koko ni Iru ze - 2002
As For One Day - 2003

This also marks as the first time for 6th generation members - Fujimoto Miki, Kamei Eri, Michishige Sayumi and Tanaka Reina, and 7th generation member - Koharu Kusumi, to achieve the No. 1 single since joining the group. Furthermore, this means every member of Morning Musume, past and present, have achieved No. 1 single at least once.

Yoshizawa Hitomi (current Morning Musume leader) comments that she was happy with the No. 1 single achievement, but is very surprised to learn that Momusu is now the female group with the most No. 1 singles, and she thanks for all the fans' support on behalf of Momusu. She adds that no matter what happens, Momusu will continue to move forward, and give their best with singing. She hopes that when the fans listen to the song (Aruiteru) will also move forward with them.

Amazing, isn't it? ^_^

[ADDED 16-12-2006]

>> Read the rest of this article

Why has it got to be Aruiteru?

This post has been in draft mode for a few days. Been busy at work, and pushing up all-nighters. Still a raw write-up but thought I'd push this out soon, before the news gets stale. :)

Firstly, according to ikimasshoi, Morning Musume's 31st Single "Aruiteru" is the Weekly No.1 on Oricon ranking, selling 41,000 copies on the first week. Source here
You don't see this on the Oricon website yet, they're kinda slow on updating the site, I think. And probably the guys at ikimasshoi had an Oricon member's account. The sales figure is correct though. EDIT: Weekly rank Updated

Oricon Weekly Chart

Oricon Daily Chart

From the Oricon chart we see Aruiteru has dropped six places to 7 now. However, it's great to see BoA on the top spot now, really love "Winter Love". A touch of K-Pop feel with a ELT-like sound - absolutely my type of music. ^_^

Ya know, I wished Konno Asami and Ogawa Makoto was still around to experience the Aruiteru wave......

.... okay, back on topic: Why? Why has it got to be Aruiteru reaching the top spot? Why not "Sexy Boy ~ Soyokaze ni Yorisotte"? Why not "Ambitious Yashitenki Ii Jyan"?

To be sure, although I am really excited to see Morning Musume on top of the Oricon charts, up till now I still cannot bring myself to enjoy Aruiteru. It's just not the type of song I play in my car on the way to office, nor playing in the background while I'm whipping up web-application codes. So I sat and thought about it for a long time, looking for an explanation on why a simple song like Aruiteru can fetch the no. 1 spot. (My penchant for analyzing things can find no end, it seems ^_^)

Finally, I had a flashback.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a branch manager of the previously mentioned recording label that I was affiliated with. She came from Taiwan to visit our country, to give some valuable advice for us budding songwriters. We discussed and summed up some answers to that million-dollar question: What makes a hit song (especially in the East Asia)?

The Hook
This is Morning Musume's specialty. Every hit song needs a "hook", it varies from a memorable intro, a catchy chorus, meaningful lyrics, an easily-recognizable melody or even a running bass line. Something that listeners can easily remember and whistle to, even when the song is not playing. Whether you like the song or not, if I ask if you can remember Aruiteru, most of you would probably recall the "A-Ru-I-Te-Ru" part, or the "Na Na Na..." part. If that's true, then the song hook has worked.

The Timing
There is a time when a song strikes a chord with the listener. In Aruiteru's case, as mentioned in ikimasshoi's reference, a lot of youngsters in Japan found a chime with the song and is loving it. Sometimes, you may have the best lyrics and songs but it may not hit, because the time was not right for the majority. I'm sure each of us can name a Momusu song that we love and thought that it should have been a hit, or should have been a A-side song. This "Timing" factor is really subjective, it can be purely luck, but it can be speculated too.

The Audience
Find the target audience and write a song for it. I am thinking that Aruiteru is meant to be easy-listening and appealing to the youth. And for that, you need simple melodies that you can sing along, and meaningful lyrics that they can relate to.

The Frequency
This is probably not related, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. Basically the more songs you write, the more your chances for a eventual hit.

And the evil way...
The Opportunity
A hit song can be "orchestrated". E.g. Create tonnes of promotions and have the radio station play the song to death, and it will eventually grow on the listener. I don't think this is related too.

There are other reasons that I thought about, but not given too much weight:

- The Japanese audience is the main target market. No wonder it doesn't appeal to us from across the ocean.
- It's a memorable occasion, cos' it's the first single with 8 person lineup after Konkon and Mako-chan's graduation. Also the last single with 8 person lineup till next audition intake. It's something people looking forward to see, I think.
- New fanbase. More young girls like Morning Musume, now that Momusu's image makes the girls seem friendlier and approachable.
- The 8th member audition has given Momusu some extra popularity.
- Koharu's solo work and GAM's Fujimoto Miki have brought in some new fans for Momusu.
- Momusu's recent eco-campaign and World Volleyball campaign, has upped their recognition.

Just my two cents... Thanks for reading. ^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bar Host Swoons Ishikawa Rika

Last week's Hello!Morning show was really entertaining. Yes, the usual zoo documentaries are still around. While it's cool to see the girls in their casual mode, I'm more focussed on the World Pucchi Game corner and Ishikawa Rika. (The last remnant of Haromoni tradition)

In the World Pucchi Game ( ワールド・プッチ・ゲーム ), the girls are to play a nursery game with random guests every week for food.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This time the guest is one Shirosaki Jin. - 城咲仁. A Bar Host in Kabuki-cho. So far he has acted in a couple dramas, and has released a CD.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

He starts the show acting like a bar host and has Rika Ishikawa blushing already.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So the game proceeds and ends, but the girls lost most of the rations of the food-prize. Yoshizawa Hitomi then asks Shirosaki to "persuade" Rika, as she is weak for words.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The strategy worked, and had Rika once again blushing (she had to fan herself with her quiz-card to cool down :) ), and so she increased the rations of food-prize. Out of gratitude, Shirosaki offers to feed her. By this time, Rika face is so red that her make-up really couldn't hide it anymore.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Finally, alls well that ends well, the two lovebirds gathered together after the feeding for a memorable two-shot. (While Yossie remarks that Rika's ear was scarlet red in the background.) :D
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

To me, it's really amazing to see a 21 year-old girl charmed away so easily, with only a few words and gestures. These girls really do not get out much. Kinda dangerous isn't it? I see now how dangerous it is to have boys around the Momusu girls. One wrong move and it's all over.

But then again, that's the always-girlish Ishikawa Rika for you. ^_^

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
(Didn't have her recent picture.)
>> Read the rest of this article

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Matsu wa 待つわ - Internet Duet

This is what it means, to say that technology brings the people together.

Song: Matsu wa 待つわ by W(DoubleU)

Performed by:
watercolour (Romania) - Guitar
Paws (Finland) - Vocals

Recorded separately in their respective countries and then edited together by watercolour.

>> Read the rest of this article

Morning Musume is on top. But.....

So Morning Musume's new single "Aruiteru" is no. 1 on the Oricon charts as I mentioned in a prior post, and I was going "Hurray!" and "Woo Hoo~~!" about it. But when I look around, other than a few guys with the same sentiments, everyone else was like:
- "Well, we'll see how long that lasts..."
- "The competition was less this week, they got lucky."
- "Yay. They're on top. Great. Nice. What's for dinner?"
- "Koharu did it again! She's a miracle!"
- "You don't need high sales to be No. 1 on the chart."
- "....... (silence)"
- "....... (nothing to say)"

Am I one of the only few people who is excited about this? I'm in no position nor right to correct anyone, but I still think we should be happy for them. It's a good thing, really.

I think, Morning Musume have been absent from the top of the charts for so long, that fans have started to become doubtful. Reminds me of "Major League II". ^_^

Gone are the times when Morning Musume was invincible in our minds, that they will always stand out among the rest, a genre of their own, a phenomenon unmatched...etc. Still, I think we should give them the support they need, and things will be looking better from here. I submit the following for consideration:

The company is happy -> This achievement on the Oricon charts gives Momusu's management something to cheer about. The board of directors and shareholders are happy, and will be more supportive in allocating resources and attention for future Momusu projects.

Ride the wind -> Will be riding on this success with more merchandises and future projects, by including the tagline. E.g. "Here's our newest product X supported by Morning Musume.... by the way, who also been No.1 on the Oricon". May also have the motivation to repeat this success on the next single release.

Milestone in Momusu history -> A long interval from their last No. 1 spot, creating a reference to be circulated and used around by journalists and paparazzi. Also another colorful entry in their history portfolio.

New breed of fans - I'm only speculating, but I think "Aruiteru" is type of music appeals more to the new generation of young girl-fans. This is really good, because we all know lots of girls in Japan do not like Momusu. A whole new market has been created.

More lure -> Their demand has become better. Suppliers and advertisers will come for them.

More appearances -> Appearing more in national broadcasts and TV shows.

There is nothing wrong in being doubtful. But there is also nothing wrong in having more hope and giving more support for Morning Musume. Myself included, am also doubtful on how long their standings on Oricon will last. But nevertheless, being within the top ten in the charts for every album and singles released, is a no small feat, especially for a long-running female group. Hopefully, this gives the Momusu girls themselves something to shout about, and I'm sure they will work harder to repeat this success next time. Yes, I am sure there IS a next time again.

Peace ^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

A moment of your time...

Just a bit of things in my head... no pun intended.

Recently I went to the doctor's because of the headache that I've been getting these days, and it could possibly migraine or high blood pressure... or both. Or something else.

That temporal muscle above my right ear is throbbing right now as I'm typing this. And the pain is starting to affect my ears and the back of my neck. I hope to get better...

If I stopped writing for a long time, I may be in a ICU ward, bed-ridden or something.

Just kidding. :)

Apologies in advance, if my writings become shorter, or rambling about something offtopic.
>> Read the rest of this article

Friday, November 10, 2006

Morning Musume is No.1 on Oricon!

Good Lord! Hurray!
Ladies and gentlemen, Morning Musume is now number 1 at Oricon charts!

See for yourself!

This happened yesterday... why didn't anybody tell me?!
Man...Three and a half years... It's been that long since they last topped the Oricon charts with "As for One Day". I have to pinch myself to see if I am dreaming! ^_^

I apologize for my previous remarks on Morning Musume's latest single "Aruiteru". but it seems that the strategy worked after all. Never mind that I was right about the concept of the song, but boy, am I SO glad that my opinion of its acceptance was wrong. It would appear that this song was created specifically for the Japanese market, easy on the listener, simple but straightforward lyrics... the strategy came through and the people loved it. Yes!

I'm a gonna get some beer now and read the interview...^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sabishii Nettaigyo by Wink, W(DoubleU) .... or The Nolans?

Lots of link for today. I really hope they don't take down the videos for this post...

Okay now, the question is... who covered WHO?

We all know the tune "Sabishii Nettaigyo" 淋しい熱帯魚, one of 80's/90's pop duo Wink's greatest hits, was covered excellently by our favourite W (DoubleU).

Now Wink is known to cover lots of English songs but this was a surprise to me -> this song may also be a cover of an English song "Tidal Wave" sung by The Nolans. This auction item seems to approve of the fact.

The Nolans came out in the 70's, one of their most well-known songs is probably "I'm in the Mood of Dancing". So I thought that the Sabishii Nettaigyo to be a cover song should be true. However, I couldn't find "Tidal Wave" song in video or audio anywhere. So can anybody from the UK or Ireland please confirm this?


Sabishii Nettaigyo by W

Sabishii Nettaigyo by Wink

Tidal Wave by The Nolans (song mixed with misc W videos)

What do you think?

EDIT 2 (13-11-2006): Received an email from Fiona, the webmaster of Has confirmed that the song "Tidal Wave" IS a cover of "Sabishii Nettaigyo", their album also entitled "Tidal Wave" was released in 1991. She further mentions that The Nolans song "Sexy Music" was covered by a certain Japanese artiste in the early 1980s. There may be other covered songs. (Thanks Fiona! ^_^)


More on The Nolans

I love 70s and 80s music, but due to our limited access to Western music from where I come from, I've only heard of "I'm in the mood for dancing".

The Nolans in action:
"I'm in the mood for dancing" by The Nolans

I also found out that The Nolans were huge in the Japan music charts, outselling The Beatles at one point.

This is probably why:
"I'm in the mood for dancing" by The Nolans (sung in Japanese!)

>> Read the rest of this article

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Koi No Dance Site on Guitar... Having bit of fun

The workload during the past week has been killing me. I know I am not in good shape if I cannot play a full song without making mistakes. Had a hard time recording "Koi no Dance Site", couldn't get it right after so many tries. (I didn't write down any of my transpositions in music sheets, so I have to play from memory) So I said "oh what the heck" and played the song differently. Here's what I got in the end:

You don't wanna know how it sounded in reggae. :)

"Koi" was supposed to be a fun song anyway, so I guess it's still okay. I'll get the proper one up another time.

Also, I managed to transpose "Koi no Vacance" by W too. Short song, lotta fun. That will come after this...
>> Read the rest of this article

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Insight on Hello! Project and Morning Musume from a different point of view - Part 2

For those who read Part 1, mighty thanks! This article will further delve into some of the business model and strategies of Up Front Agency.
I hope I don't get into trouble by doing a business case-study like this on Up Front Agency. Anyways, my discussions here probably may not even qualify for a university level thesis. So just treat this like a regular personal opinion from an avid fan.

Picking up where I left off - many fans are thinking that Morning Musume has been getting less attention from their management, and are falling back to the dark pits. has pointed out a news clipping about Yoshizawa Hitomi's weight problem and her future as Morning Musume's leader after graduation. After reading that article, the summary at have about summed it up nicely. It's an aftermath for which I have feared for the current (and upcoming members) of Morning Musume.

So where shall I start? I think I'll start on where we fans have most contact with - the artistes.

Whereabouts of past and present of Morning Musume members

Past members of Momusu (which I still love till this day) have seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. Other than Abe Natsumi, the others seem to be missing.

That's not really true. In fact, they are still very active and busy. But they are work they are given are not known publicly and are less related on the music scene:

Nakazawa Yuko - Recently released a new Enka single, but most of her work have been Japanese TV based like variety shows, cooking shows and talk shows.
Abe Natsumi - Recently released a pop single. Very much involved in movies and drama. She is involved in a new project titled "white snake tale"
Iida Kaori - Mostly variety shows and dinner shows. Not much that I can find out about her.
Yasuda Kei - Not music related, but mostly involved in acting and theaters. Also very much involved in dinner shows, I hear.
Mari Yaguchi - Mostly mass comm related, MC-ing, talk shows, and radio programmes.
Maki Goto - Still music related. Also assigned for the upcoming Eco-campaign project as an ambassador in Korea next year
Tsuji Nozomi - Can't find what to do with her, so mostly following Momusu schedules and appearance in variety shows.

As you see, they're still around but they are involved in things that in which us fans overseas have limited access to.

See here for a general guide. The musical note symbol represents for "Concert" (Anything music and performance related), the fork and knife symbols represents "Dinner show" (Dinner functions, with performance and MC-ing), and the microphone symbol represents "Talk Show" (...err, talk show.)

As for the current ones we see and hear the most about:
Morning Musume - You know these: Futsal, public promotions (World Volleyball, Eco-campaigns), promote Hello!Project works (movies, photobooks, solo singles, etc...)

I hope the above will help understand on what I'm about to discuss on.

Marketing Strategies

Generally, UFA's strategies are create products to sell, and they love their own creation. So the next step is to sell them to customers. Just like how Microsoft sells the Windows OS. You know, I am more comfortable with finding out what the market needs and THEN you create products. No point creating a product and that nobody needs, and then you HAVE to get people to buy because you got a sales target. Here are two of the strategies used by UFA and what I think about it:

Strategy 1: Conviction marketing
UFA's style is always been conviction marketing - which means having blinding faith on your own products, without regard for the demand of the market. Don't get it? That's Asian businessmen for you. On the plus side, this means the company will always have resources to attend to the product. However, this is also dangerous, because at any given time, UFA will be overwhelmed with the changes of the entertainment business. Yes it is customer based, but more like persuading the customer take what the supplier has to offer. It's like "Look here, we got Momusu, we got C-ute girls, and we got some Berryz for ya, they're cute and hot, how come you no like? You really should! We got them new songs and costumes for them, PB and merchandises. We, the UFA set the standards around here they're good stuff and shit. So just take 'em, okay?" I do not know if they ever conducted any public research or survey. If they do, probably for the sake of justifying their decisions.

Strategy 2: Relationship Marketing
Confidence in customer support is one thing, being complacent and too relaxed towards customer loyalty is another. For a long time Hello!Project have such a massive fanbase, and that attributes to their past successful projects. Now all they have to do is to keep them, to ensure consistent income for sure.
Yes, H!P have strong customer base. but they may not be there forever. I am an avid fan since the first generation of Momusu. I watched the kids grow up, graduations come and go. I was a fan when I was only a college student, now i am a working adult getting ready to tying the knot with my partner. People move on. One by one, surely fans will have certainly move on to another point of focus. Customer retainment is good, but they should really think about getting a new breed of customers coming in. Otherwise the well would one day run dry.

So what happens if UFA can't sell Momusu and their other talents? Use more advertising? Use more sex appeal? (e.g. Maki Goto) Use shock value? (e.g. GAM) Assign them to other non-music related work? ..... Actually that last one is happening now.
So is that what explains the current Momusu bland activities and the poor response to the latest single? Rather than trying to get quality music out?

Came up with these few points after a conversation with friends, and some people in the music biz a long while ago. These are some the probable reasons for the current Morning Musume situation.

1) Artistes now depend mostly on income from performance rather than sales of CD, which already declining. (may be also due to this age of torrents and p2p file sharing)
2) When an artiste's name is already established, no need for more focus on music, they make enough money just by appearances alone. Unless we're looking for a reputation makeover, it is okay to be on mellow mode.
3) Artistes (especially those with established reputation) now make more money just doing concerts, shows, appearances and promotions compared to CD sales. Releasing singles are only to maintain public existence.

Be on the positive side, it's reality in the music industry. Be sure that what Morning Musume is facing now is but a common phase for long time acts. They can bounce back with the right strategies. But they need an aggressive one, for sure.

UFA should not forget Morning Musume is an idol group, not marketing tools. While Momusu is doing great with the event management projects, and the company is making some handsome revenues out it, UFA should NOT get distracted and recall what Morning Musume is supposed to be - a musical act. They are in serious need of a new musical makeover. If they can do this, then we can be sure that the Morning Musume wave will be back soon enough.


Footnote: Thanks for reading up to this point. I hope that with this article, with what little of my insight and knowledge on the entertainment industry that I have shared, will help the readers understand more about the current status of Morning Musume. Any comments are welcome, good or bad. Thanks again!

"Dancing! Singing! Exciting!"

Peace ^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Spikes, mics and the like...

Nothing Hello!Project nor Aibon news on this post. So skip this is you want.

Yesterday, I got a tremendous traffic spike on this blog. Nothing impressive, but high enough for a fairly new blog. I am most certain that it's because I mentioned about Kago Ai entering the TBS building bit. Today, the traffic is normal. Most of them visitors are from Japan. Don't know if they are crazy or clever, because minutes after I posted that entry, the link to it turned up on a Japanese BBS already. How did they do it?? Nevertheless, this also mean that a lot of fans still care about Aibon and her whereabouts, and are not hating her as many people think. Will try to harder to find whatever I can on Aibon, so stay tuned.

I need a new microphone for my recordings. This mic that I have is meant for web-conferencing, and is too sensitive. It picks up the bass too heavily. Had a look around, but the standard recording mics are way too expensive. I guess I will have to wait for my bonus to come.

I don't know if I am able to do recordings tonight, because some dude nearby are having some sort of a party/show at his home compound, complete with some goddamn fireworks. The fireworks didn't go higher than 100 metres to the sky, and I was worried that he would set some homes to fire. This is a residential area, dammit! It's been going on for hours already, and I'm hoping that it will stop soon.

I wrote a script so that the image on the top banner of this blog can change when you refresh the page. It worked before, but after some further tweaking today, it didn't work no more. Don't know what happened, maybe Blogger found out what I'm trying to do and stopped it? Oh well...
EDIT: I did it! :) The script works now. Will be creating more banners later on.
>> Read the rest of this article

Insight on Hello! Project and Morning Musume from a different point of view - Part 1

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.

And finally...

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!
Peace ^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

Friday, November 03, 2006

When Will We See Aibon Again? Some New Thoughts...

Heard from a buddy at that Aibon (Kago Ai) was spotted by his friend in Japan, that she was walking into a TBS building a week ago, with some old guy and a young girl. A possible comeback maybe? Collecting her previous/final paycheck? No wait, that would have to come from UFA... So what is it? Negotiating a new contract? Or just another lookalike? Furthermore he said that there were rumours that Aibon is re-continuing her singing lessons again...

Now, I've heard so many rumours and speculations like that about Aibon, that I really am weary from the feeling of waiting and hoping for the sky to drop. Yes, I am anxious to know about any news about her. Even asked my sister, who is in Japan now, to keep an open ear for anything Aibon-related. But I needed something concrete.

But it's hear-says like that, plus the case of Meguru's leave that gave me a new thought on this case.

Truth to be known, the girls in Momusu like Takahashi Ai hopes that Aibon will come back soon. On 14th October, during a Young Town Doyoubi radio show, Sanma-san asked about Aibon briefly. Ai-chan says that Aibon will be back, but Mikitty interrupts in to say "actually, we don't know". (Don't hate her for that, she is probably trying to save their ass from being scorched if the conversation about Aibon had continued.)

Here are some more of my thoughts on the fate of Kago Ai.

The return to the dorama screen
Recently while patrolling, I dove into, and the guys there gave a different (and hopeful) opinion, which in some way may attribute/enforce some truth in the walking-into-TBS-building story above. Source here.
I discussed before on the chance that Aibon may not come back, and that UFA is possibly waiting for Aibon's contract to be over, and then they can give her the boot. However, when Aibon is finally a free agent, she can freely negotiate contracts with other labels or TV studio. Possibly do some acting work in doramas, like Mari Yaguchi. She already had two dorama stints in 2001 and 2003 under her belt(not counting the Brementowns series), and her co-stars have praised her highly. In another way, yes, we may get to see Aibon again, if Aibon has any desire to be back in the entertainment biz. But she may not be able to sing.

Recording with UFA rivals
UFA's rivals like Avex, decided to recruit her. I'm not too keen on this option, looking at the under-utilised condition of Suzuki Ami, but something is better than nothing. Kago Ai is a reputable singer with a cute voice. A good complement to the likes of Otsuka Ai, who also have that kind of high-pitched singing style. Though they (the recording labels) may have to face the problem of associations with her previous scandal record, but it's totally up to them, if they want to take her in. UFA may or may not extend a stopping hand on this (they can if they want to), we'll just have to wait and see.

The grey line in W / UFA contract
We have a quite a number of kaisans and graduation cases this year. In a way, us fans have been educated on the contractual agreements in the entertainment business and the way labels handle their talents. :) But heres my take:

I know I assumed that UFA is probably waiting for W contract to be over. However... why is it that Murakami Megumi and Yaguchi Mari gets terminated immediately? Isn't there a notice period served before termination, given by either party (agency or artiste)?
Now suppose that there is a clause that says "termination with immediate effect is applicable, if both employer and employee agree mutually agree on the decision", so either Aibon or UFA is holding back on the final say.
Additionally, assuming that Aibon is the one holding back (most likely), and there is most commonly a supporting clause "If the employer finds a misconduct or breach of contract on the fault of the employee, the employer has the right to terminate the employee with immediate effect", then why didn't UFA terminate Aibon in the first place? Remember that the longer UFA keep Aibon, the more the agency suffer loss in maintaining a suspended talent.
Although I can think of at least 3 counters to my previous statement, but I think they are still not strong enough reason to it, and are not good business decisions also. Unless UFA is made out of idiots, adding maintenance costs on top of monetary loss for some trivial pride is never a wise decision.

And that's what gives me more hope. UFA may NOT really want to give Aibon the boot. But rather keep Aibon out of action, as her penance. For how long? As long as UFA can afford, I think.

Okay, some may think that I may be back in a state of denial again, coming up with theories to support my own thoughts, but still it makes sense, yes?

As usual, keep your hopes up... we may get to see some news later on.

Although I may come to a point where I am looking back at this post and Aibon still did not come back, but I am glad that my loyalty towards Kago Ai has never faltered and has never changed. Hope yours aren't either.

Peace ^_^
>> Read the rest of this article

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Murakami Megumi Leaves Hello!Project

Announcement from Hello!Project site.

Oh man~~~! Not AGAIN?! What's going on this year?

Murakami Megumi(also affectionately known as Meguru) is now leaving Hello!Project, and wants to return to ordinary school life, saying that idol life has made her feel insecure about her private life. She also said that she have thinking about this since six months ago, and have finally decided.

However, it is also noted that a few days before, she has been photographed by a supposed stalker, walking together with a guy. So she may not have quitted at her own accord, but terminated by the agency.

More can be found at ikimasshoi,
, and

Made a long draft, thinking whether I should post it but I decided to tone it down. I don't have the right to do say anything bad about Meguru, because I wasn't a big C-ute fan. (I prefer Berryz Koubou over C-ute) And because most people are already feeling bad about this, so I'm not going to pour oil to the fire.

But I have this to add ->
While most people blame the stalker, I'm thinking that this has happened at the most peculiar time. C-ute was scheduled for a show in a few days, a debut single release on February next year, and a soon-to-come C-ute concert on the way. Had a flashback - Kago Ai was caught in a scandal right before W's 3rd album. I sense a saboteur, but still not sure...

Actually, I'm only starting to notice C-ute only recently, and Meguru really stood out among them. So I guess all I can do is to offer my best wishes, and hope that someday, if she should change her mind, she can come back later.

What I'm wondering now is - what is going to happen to C-ute's 2007 calendar?

Good luck! Murakami Megumi~~~
>> Read the rest of this article