The following are the opinions of myself and regular roundtable contributor Data and do not necessarily reflect those of the rest of the Selective Hearing Staff or the site’s affiliates.

While browsing a site called Criticize Everything Harupuro I stumbled upon the following picture:

CEHP MM

Of course I had to tweet this out on my personal account. It rings true after all. One person took issue with this and it lead to a discussion about one’s expectations of the new Morning Musume.

My queries were in regards to performance level and how it equates to the most overused word in Hello! Project fandom, “Amazing”.

My theory is that one would use proficiency in performing to quantify level of amazement. If you take the text in the picture above literally, then the level of amazement should be low or non-existent right?

After all, “amazing” should denote something exemplary or easily identifiable. It does fall in the realm of opinion that H!P fans who overuse the word may not be technically in the wrong but make themselves look more like sheep when they cannot elaborate on this said awesome they speak of.

The counter argument was that it is not proficiency or skill in performing, but the idol’s potential and how it relates to your personal level of enjoyment that quantifies level of amazement. How well the idols perform is inconsequential and the fact that they have tried their hardest to please the fans is what counts.

To me, fans who are of that mindset consider Morning Musume the Special Olympics of idol groups. They’re just glad their idols showed up with smiles on their faces and no one seriously injured themselves.

Does that sound awful? Yes, but I’m not the one who came up with the counter argument (that person will remain unnamed to protect their identity) Look, I simply believe you cannot be “amazing” by throwing out sub-par performances no matter how hard you try.

If one is looking at the argument objectively it is a fair point as well since one should always see improvement over time. It is one of the charms of idol groups to see members grow as they get more comfortable in their idol skin. But it can also be argued that H!P fans tend to forget how the flagship group has been mismanaged over the years to get them into the position they are in now.

The girls don’t write their crappy music, crappy dances, and crappy scripted idol personalities after all.

The best way to relate this to something more tangible is to think of sports. I tend to think of hockey (because that is my sport of choice when not watching idols) and some of the franchises that have had rosters full of rookies with little or no veteran presence.

The freshest one that comes to my mind is my favorite team the Edmonton Oilers. A team with 3 first round draft picks, plenty of up and coming young talent in their system and a few old veterans in the mix. In this shortened lockout season they were projected to compete for the 8th and final playoff spot in the west based on their potential.

They had their flashes of brilliance during the regular season but in the end the team was exposed for its shoddy defense and lack of consistent offensive output. And in the end they did as they always have done, sucked and quickly fell out of playoff contention by seasons end. The silver lining in all of this is that they did not place dead last and were in a more respectable position in the standings.

Definitely not an amazing season by any stretch of the imagination and more like disappointing and underwhelming I think.

What does this have to do with Morning Musume you might ask? Well I see them in the same type of situation. A completely rebuilt team with 3 members of who have real long-term Hello! Project experience and then a bunch of rookies who would equate to 1 first rounder, 1 second rounder and the rest a bunch of second stringers or lower draft picks.

From watching their recent concerts and H!P group appearances I feel their performance level has indeed dipped. They’re as raw as you can get but full of potential right?

That potential that can only be realized with intense practice, a producer willing to get out of his comfort zone, and a staff with a vision. Something jaded and disenfranchised fans feel UFP/H!P has lacked for a significant amount of time.

Morning Musume are not completely awful by any means (that trophy belongs to new S/Mileage in my world) but they’re not worthy of the high praise of amazing or whatever synonym you see fit to describe your shock and awe just yet.

Use the excuse of “they’re all noobs, give them time” all you want, but if you can’t agree with the fact stated in the picture at the beginning of this article you are letting your blind faith lead you.

Now this is the point where the discussion turned to less friendly territory so let me get one thing clear. Even though I may think Morning Musume (or as I like to call them, Michishige Sayumi’s babysitters club) may not be so great at this point in time it doesn’t mean that you have to take it as if I’m fucking Moses dropping some 10 commandments shit on you.

You as a sentient being are free to make up your own mind about things and if you think I’m ruining your good time or what you find amusing then that’s okay. I am also free to interpreting your lack of open-mindedness and the launch of the good old “H-Bomb” as a sign that you were never paying attention in the first place.

Fair is fair, 50/50, give and take and all that correct?

What I am asking those of you who think that Morning Musume are doing “amazing” things is to step back, take the wota blinders off, put down your UFP Kool-Aid and really think about how you are using the word in context with what you are seeing/hearing.

Does whatever you are watching or listening to really deserve that high praise if others around you are shrugging their shoulders and going “meh”?

Comments

  • Steve Summers May 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I wouldn’t change a word here, well-done.

    I’ve made a few somewhat related tweets in the last few days about this as well, especially with this new uprising of people saying that their favorite H!P members or groups are “working so hard” as if they were taking part in a contest where they can be fairly measured by the effort they’re putting forth.

    People are so blind that they completely ignore and overlook the fact that if management is giving them shit to work with, they’re going to appear like shit, and any kind of perceived judgements you have about the members’ amount of effort or work is nothing but your ridiculous bias and favoritism speaking for you. They’re basically puppets of the management and do whatever management tells them to do, and anything past that is just smoke and mirrors and/or what they want you to see/think.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it posted in the last couple weeks about how C-ute are such hard workers and they deserve everything in the world, but Berryz are just a bunch of lazy sluts who should just disband. My head is still reeling from the idiocy and sheepishness I encounter when I go to H!P related forums of any kind.

  • Gabby May 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I think everything you said is correct. That said, here’s the conundrum, and perhaps where your sports analogy breaks down: MM may be at its lowest in terms of performance level, but they are selling more than any time since the very height of their popularity.

    Let’s extend your hockey analogy back to the Platinum years. That lineup contains Takahashi Ai, perhaps the best all-round performer in MM history (matched perhaps only by Goto Maki). She scores full points in everything except maybe charisma. She’d be an All-Star in hockey terms, like a Jonathan Toewz or Anze Kopitar, and the Platinum years were her prime. All the other members, performance-wise, were also very competent, with Tanaka as a good second banana (if rather aloof, like one of those enigmatic Russians in the NHL), and Michishige, Niigaki and Kamei as capable supporting cast. Even the Chinese girls and Mitsui, relegated to the 4th line if you will, can hold their own and even have flashes of brilliance (in Linlin’s case). If this were sports, that may be a championship contending team. In the idol world, however, despite their vastly superior performance level, they are being owned sales-wise by these raw rookies, and sales is really the only thing that matters in the Japanese idol market.

    So is there any incentive for UFA to put resources and effort into improving performance of their idols, when apparently putting in new marketing techniques (giant ads, multiple versions of singles, release events with many perks attached, Youtube channel, etc.) is enough to hit the sales target they wanted?

    Again, not really arguing with you, but just want to point this out.

    • Greg May 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Hi Gabby,

      I totally get what you are saying. From what I understand from fans who still talk to me the possible reason sales are high has to do with the second theory of watching fresh faced new members grow and learn the ropes.

      Based on your comments, it seems there might be some merit to that. That is very much against my theory of performance based metrics and the hockey analysis.

      With that in mind Morning Musume fans would rather watch a team of unproven and raw AHL players than they would proven NHL caliber players.

      I guess they’re tired of the old guard.

      Perhaps those of us who are expecting Morning Musume to have a competitive roster in the overcrowded idol market are asking too much for a bit of competency to prove that this upswing in sales is not a fluke or because of graduations or anniversaries? Hard evidence of growth I guess.

      Granted that is a pipe dream given the popular opinion within the fan culture. After all they don’t necessarily push for anything so there really isn’t an incentive for UFP to re-invest or to even show that maybe they will do something more than what they have been so far.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      • Verilian May 28, 2013 at 10:07 pm

        “Perhaps those of us who are expecting Morning Musume to have a competitive roster in the overcrowded idol market are asking too much for a bit of competency to prove that this upswing in sales is not a fluke or because of graduations or anniversaries? Hard evidence of growth I guess.”

        The upswing is more marketing, more events, more wota-pocket gauging ways, and fresh loli faces to lure in the kinds of people who’ll shell out more money for fresh loli faces. I don’t think it’s a fluke – I think it really is cold, hard marketing tactics + fresh loli faces that have the interest of fans piqued. Sadly performance competency has nothing to do with this, otherwise AKB48 would never sell as well as they do. Even MomoClo doesn’t sell purely on performance competency but more on the spectacle of their crazy produced theatrics – like, CAN those girls sing? No, not really, right?

        And yeah, performance competency has dropped a LOT, but I think the current group is amazing…ly cute. And fresh faced. Kind of adorable personality-wise. That’s pretty much good enough for me, lol. After years of being an idol fan I don’t actually expect any real talent to emerge from idols, though if singing talent is your thing keep an eye on Oda – she can actually sing, has decent range and ear for mimicry, and will be probably amazing once she’s 15. Imo in the H!P roster right now she’s got the most potential. Anyway. Idols? Talented? Lol.

        This actually has inspired me to do a new blog post. Huh.

        • Greg May 28, 2013 at 10:44 pm

          I guess because I am no longer as tempted by the H!P brand of lolis I fail to see the cuteness in the group beyond Ikuta Erina and the old lady Michishige Sayumi.

          I do hold out a sliver of hope that now that Tanaka is gone Oda is no longer shoved to the back and is given a proper front girl role if she is to reach her potential.

          Although scoffing at the lack of talent in the world of idols is kind of dismissive. For example, I remember that Namie Amuro started out in an idol group and l would not necessarily call her untalented these days.

          I would expect that perhaps somewhere buried in the zillions of look-a-like 48 groups/members there is also some hidden gem as well. Although, that is a kind of a long shot from what I have learned about the organization so far.

          In regards to performance competency I don’t expect Japanese idols to follow the strict regiment of say a K-Pop girl group who slave away before they debut. Just enough skill to not look lost or like a fish out of water having a seizure on the ground is enough.

          In the end it’s like what Serenyty said, a matter of personal taste.

          Thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to your upcoming article if you decide to go forward with it.

  • Serenyty May 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I think it’s tricky and quite honestly subjective. It’s possible to value different things. For me, for example, I got into MM right near the start of the Platinum Era, and while I got into MM, the Platinum years bored me to tears. Takahashi Ai, who people argue is a great performer, never did anything for me because while she definitely has vocal talent, it’s not the best Morning Musume had and she never really performed with the passion that I think defines a great vocalist. My biggest example of this is the Ribon no Kishi musical. I know that since I’m a Rika fan it’s hard not to think I’m biased, but I was personally very moved by her rendition of Anata ni Aitai. She performed it with a lot of soul, even though her skill as a vocalist is relatively weak. Takahashi, on the other hand, performed it pretty straight. Her vocals were strong, but she didn’t really take the performance anywhere interesting. I’d take Rika’s performance, even with her vocal flaws, any day.

    Not to bash Aichan at all; she was a really great member for what she did. It’s just to illustrate how I feel about Morning Musume right now. The members may not be the most polished, nor may they be the most talented, and the performance level definitely has dropped overall, but I’ve gotten more interested in Morning Musume now than I have been in years.

    I guess this just shows that tastes are different. While the Platinum Era had it’s share of quality songs (Shouganai Yume Oibito, Nanchatte Renai) it had its share of stinkers, too. My biggest complaint was that it wasn’t very interesting. The members were stagnant, which is great for people who are into the front girls, but I got increasingly frustrated when Mitsui Aika kept getting thrown to the back. The songs eventually bled into one another, and I didn’t find them to be doing anything new. Even one of the better songs of the era, Nanchatte Renai, was criticized at the time for being too similar to Shouganai Yume Oibito.

    I would say that we’re getting into a similar situation now, really. A lot of the styles are very similar and it seems like they’re keeping on a similar path singles wise. The biggest difference is that I personally prefer things like Brainstorming to things like Shouganai. MM is in a very fragile place, and they need to mind how they move forward. I was very relieved when I heard about the 12th gen because to me that shows that they’re thinking about the future, adding more members to the group. They’re thinking about the mistakes of the Platinum Era, where they left the group stagnant, and sales slipped.

    So for me it’s a matter of taste. You may prefer your more seasoned, polished group, I prefer a raw group with fresh faces. (And clearly our tastes are different, because I’m going to go on record and say that I think Tamura Meimi is the best performer of the current Hello!Project members.)

    • Greg May 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      I agree that even during the Platinum era that the popular “Emo Musume” songs did sound the same. That is the nature of producers milking a popular sound to death. Kind of like how Dubstep elements are the “in” thing for pop producers now. And yes, the current “Electro Musume” is suffering the same fate with recycled beats and sounds as well.

      Morning Musume is definitely hitting a fork in the road with upcoming 12th generation audition. Unlike you, I watch with trepidation since Tsunku & his cronies have had an established pattern recently of selecting “project girls” instead of a sure thing (with the exception of Sakura Oda and arguably Sayashi Riho)

      Why they just don’t pull from their remaining Kenshuusei who might be ready for prime time is beyond me, but that’s another discussion altogether.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Serenyty May 28, 2013 at 11:09 pm

        I think the next few singles are going to be kind of interesting, to see if they keep with the tried and true and end up milking it to death or if they do anything new. I’m kind of hesitant, and I think the chances of them milking this sound to death are pretty good. But we’ll see.

        While I don’t follow the Kenshuusei as much as I used to, I’m not sure many of them are ready for prime time, at least in the way you’re suggesting. Lots of the girls with talent have left and have done things like Up Up Girls (Sekine Azusa, for example, was wildly talented and could have done interesting things if in Morning Musume). I would be surprised, though, if this audition has completely new girls and ignores, say, Sasaki Rikako. She’s pretty new, but has gotten a lot of attention and her voice is pretty decent, and could be pretty good with some training (which is the biggest thing we’re missing here; H!P is shit at training the girls with potential).

  • NyNy ♛ ナイナイ May 30, 2013 at 3:20 am

    A really good post though unfortunately there is nothing for me to add.