Independent Women: Self-Produced Idols With Skills Beyond Just Singing and Dancing
When hearing the term “J-pop” or “idol”, there may often be negative connotations of mass-produced generic music geared towards being used in a commercial or sold through the use of cute performers. However, if you look beneath the surface, there is a considerable amount of creative and challenging music being produced every day.
There is a definite prejudice towards the term “idol” in Japan, to where there was a commotion caused when TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE made their “artist declaration” in December of 2014. In a previous piece by Akimasa Munekata, he shares his insights on the perceived differences between idols and artists and the connotations the words carry with them. Generally, the talents of idols are dismissed as being inferior to artists, particularly when it comes to vocal and dance skills. Many groups will often refer to themselves as a “vocal and dance unit” or some other similar term in attempts to escape being discriminated against as they work towards their dreams.
Many accomplished songwriters and producers have been lending their strength to idol groups, increasing the diversity and musicality of the genre, which makes sense for them as idols sell more than artists based on their business model of using of handshake events to sell CDs. However, the more popular a group gets and sells, the expectations of recreating or expanding upon that growth also increase, which may lead to less derivation from tactics that have already been proven to work. One example is how AKB48 followed up on the massive success of “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie” (2013) with “Kokoro no Placard” (2014), and “Halloween Night” (2015).
At the same time, using so many different creators can make it difficult for a group to define their own individual style. If you compare Team Syachihoko’s “Shampoo Hat” (music by Enon Kawatami of indigo la End, Gesu no Kiwami Otome) to some of their other songs like “Ai no Chikyuusai” (music by Minoru Comorita), “Shuto Iten Keikaku” (music/lyrics by SEAMO), the differences in style are pretty obvious.
With the collaborative nature of producing idols, it is easy to see that they often have very little input in the music they perform, what their costumes or cover art will look like, how their MVs will be, or even what events they can appear at. On the flip side, there is security in not having to expend energy on writing music, designing outfits, planning choreography, and negotiating deals with venues. Being associated with a strong agency/label brings with it more opportunities and support, like how avex trax regularly holds the music festival a-nation or how ASOBISYSTEM puts on Moshi Moshi Nippon events all over the world.
There are definitely a growing number of young women contributing lyrics to their songs, most famously Kanon Fukuda with “Watashi” her graduation song from ANGERME and Miyu Yamabe with “Stay with me” , TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE’s first single following their artist declaration. After all, doesn’t it make sense that young women would be able to express their feelings in ways that the largely male contingent of composers and producers might not be able to?
Here are a few young women who have chosen to take matters even further and produce themselves.
The self-produced unit of former Dorothy Little Happy members, KOUMI (Koumi Hayasaka), MIMORI (Mimori Tominaga), and RUUNA (Ruuna Akimoto) made their debut on February 1, 2015 during @JAM the field vol. 7 at TSUTAYA O-EAST. All three members contribute lyrics with KOUMI planning the choreography, MIMORI composing the music, and RUUNA leading the group.
Having spent 5 years as members of Dorothy Little Happy, callme was born out of the trio’s desire to show their more grownup side. They eventually decided to graduate from Dorothy Little Happy in order to devote themselves fully to callme. The tour finale/graduation concert at Nakano Sun Plaza on June 12, 2015 was full of tears and tense moments.
While it remains to be seen if callme will experience the success of their former group or escape the constant comparisons to Perfume, they are working hard to make a go of things on their own with the support of their label avex trax. It seems like every weekend, they’re performing somewhere in Japan honing their skills and refining their sound. Also, once you burn all your bridges, there’s no choice but to move forward.
callme Official site: http://avex.jp/callme/
callme Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/callme_official
callme Official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/callme.official
callme Official blog: http://ameblo.jp/callme-official
callme Official Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/callme_official/
Nama Ham to Yaki Udon
Nama Ham to Yaki Udon made their debut at the beginning of 2015 and has quickly made a name for themselves with their performances which combine hilarious skits and catchy songs that are usually about food. Named after the members’ favorite foods, high school students Marina Nishii (aka Nicchan) and Risa Higashi (Riichan) write all the music and skits used during their performances, design their costumes, and even handle booking of venues. Their fans are called “kuishinbo” (gourmands) and are often brought on stage to become part of the performances.
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