Every so often (and by that I mean every time I wander the H!P fandom) I see somebody talking about the good ol’ days of Golden Age Morning Musume or Golden Age of Hello!Project, which I find equal parts hilarious and annoying. And maybe just a little bit absurd. Perhaps it’s because of when I joined the H!P fandom (late 2005), and perhaps it’s because I still remember people groaning about how 5th gen Morning Musume was the weakest generation for their lack of talent/personality/loliciousness, when now they’re the only ones associated with the Golden Age of the current MM; either way, I don’t see how Golden Age MM/H!P is so vastly superior to current H!P. (With the exception of Ayaya, of course, but you just don’t get idols as perfect as Ayaya often.) So here’s why:
1. The Makeup. Okay, I know this was the late 90s/early 2000s and everyone did this, but seriously, the frosted white eyelids and dark red lips just aged everyone and made them look vaguely like a cross between a wannabe-vampire and a zombie. (Is that a zompire?) Attractive zompires, but still zompires nonetheless.
And don’t get me started on the costumes. I’ll take wacky layers of puffballs over track pants any day.
I think I’m just asking to get flamed at this point (I’m really not! ;_;), but seriously, just because MM/H!P was more popular and mainstream back then, it doesn’t mean that they were necessarily better back then than now. Popularity has something to do with how great your idols are, I won’t deny that (actually, now that I think about it I’m not sure), but popularity also has a lot to do with television/radio promotions (which H!P does less now), general taste of the public, and so on and so forth. You can have the best indie band but Britney Spears is always going to sell more, probably because she’s signed to a major label that has access to the major distribution channels that can bombard your ears with her wonderful screeching every time you go to shop groceries. The popularity of many bands rise and fall with changing public tastes, like the Spice Girls, I guess. Maybe they could have made a come-back by all becoming more like Lady Gaga and doing synchronized dances in mead-dress-like-dresses, but then they wouldn’t be Spice Girls anymore.
More importantly, I think a lot of fans need to get the idea into their heads that it’s okay to like something that isn’t popular or cool. Or that it’s okay for something they like to not be popular. Just because something isn’t mainstream, doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.
Also, I realize another issue is that people want the idols that they like to be popular, which is why so many fans are frustrated, and part of the reason why MM’s current low sales is so hard to swallow for many fans is because MM has been popular once. I’ve got nothing for this, really; personally, it doesn’t bother me because I think MM gets by fine on merchandise/concert sales, and that they’re a different group now, more focused on concerts instead of merchandise, and I was never into H!P for MM anyway. More on this in point…5 or something.
3. The Music/Genki Musume
Yes, there is nothing sacred in fandom to me. Seriously though, I just don’t enjoy the ‘classics’ such as Renai Revolution 21 or Love Machine or Chokotto Love or Koko ni Ikuzee or Koi no Dance Site (though I admit that most of these songs are catchy). And while I liked Reina’s cover of Memory Seishun no Hikari, I am so happy that they stopped harmonizing, because MM only ever did the version where they went a few notes higher, and I was tired of whomever was doing the warbling higher vocal notes. Maybe MM did harmonize by going for lower notes, but I never heard it. I didn’t even like it when Maki Goto and Aya covered Memory Seishun no Hikari, which is kind of saying a lot since Aya can do no wrong in my view.
This isn’t to say that I liked no music out of Golden Age MM, because I did like Do it! Now, As for One Day, and Shabondama. This is probably where Golden Age MM fans and I differ the most, in that I didn’t care for any of their genki stuff, and still like MM. I find a lot of the genki songs chaotic to listen to, and not necessarily in a good way. But hey, if people like that, it’s okay, because I do see the appeal of a giant group of energetic teenage girls bouncing around – it’s not my cup of tea, but it’s perfectly okay that it’s yours. Just so happens that my cup of tea is a bunch of energetic teenage girls rocking out. It’s a good thing that H!P covers enough different genres so that everybody has a bit of something. Current MM has experimented with different genres, which I think is a really good thing.
Also, I am a big fan of how H!P has better access to better autotuning/harmonizing equipment now; I know it’s inevitable that their production is better with better tech, but I do have to point this out.
4. The Lead Singers/Natsumi Abe
First, Nacchi: I love her looks. I love her personality. I love how she hasn’t aged at all in the past 16 years.
However. I just didn’t like her voice (ever, pretty much), I am so glad that she has graduated. I know, I’m a terrible person. (That said, has anybody noticed how Maeda Atsuko looks vaguely like Nacchi? I can’t be the only one who finds it coincidental that she’s the one pushed as the frontgirl of AKB48 when she looks so much like Nacchi. ;D)
Also, I prefer the singing of Miki/Ai/Reina to Maki/Nacchi, mostly because I prefer throatier singing to more nasal singing, though of course your mileage may vary (and Miki is kind of nasal anyway…).
And yes, Koharu’s singing kind of sucked, but they graduated her anyway. MM from ’06-now has largely been Miki/Ai/Reina based, and I think the sound is actually better than Maki/Nacchi/Aibon. And yes, Miki has graduated, and Ai’s going too, but I think MM will get by, just as MM has always gotten by. Personally, I think they’re going to get by from utilizing Mizuki’s voice, which is easily as good as Aibon’s.
5. The C-ute/Berryz/S/mileage/Kirarin/etc.
While we’re kind of on the topic of singers, I don’t think MM ever had the best singers in H!P anyway. I’ve always thought that Aya/Miki were better than Maki/Nacchi (and I kind of count Miki as only half part of MM, since she had a solo career + GAM), and even more so, I think a lot of the strongest singers in H!P now come from the kids groups/Eggs, and have done so ever since Miki graduated. Since this is my own blog (yay!), and I get to post my own biased opinions (yay!), I’m going to state that aside from Ai (and maaaaybe Reina), I think the best singers in H!P right now are Airi/Miyabi/Chisato/that other kid/Kikkawa/Sakitty/Kanon, and honestly, they sing a lot better than most of MM has, even in the early days. Maybe not so much technically, but in terms of vocal strength? Oh hell yes. I think the kids are doing just fine.
And the kids are doing fine for sales. They get a less in terms of promotions than MM, I think, and yet consistently sell at least half the amount that MM does, having no incredible legacy of RR21 or Love Machine to draw from, and a lot of new fans of H!P come in from their related anime-work, because these are the girls that are closer in age to the young teenage girls who are into idols. A lot of eggs are big fans of Momoko instead of Rika, and I think that this is where H!P has succeeded.
In terms of longevity, they’ve already outlasted Pucchi Moni/Mini Moni/Coconuts Musume/Country Musume or are well on their way to outlasting these groups. Are they more generic? Probably. But I’ve always found the ‘country’ image of Country Musume kind of insulting, Pucchi Moni never really released enough singles to be interesting, Mini Moni wasn’t my cup of tea (noted curmudgeony tendencies to dislike genkiness and all), as Coconuts Musume’s music never appealed to me (having been to Asia enough the English lessons stopped being funny after going through a lot of the same myself).
And, okay, it kind of sucks that Chisato/Momoko never got to form a duo and appear on TV, but
Oh wow. Okay, this post is long enough, so I will continue to flippantly overlook your favourite H!P era more later, which includes more praise for the Kids, some harsh words for Melon Kinenbi (maybe), and more curmudgeony-ness! Yay!