Friday, March 19, 2010

[ARTICLE] SweetS Reincarnate: Tokyo Girls' Style- doomed to fail?

The disbanded girl group SweetS of Avex is remembered as a dream deferred. How will Avex's new flagship fare in these tough times?

Remember the good ol’ days, guys? You know, in the early 2000’s, what this generation likes to call the “Golden Age” of Hello! Project and its ilk. Yeah, in ancient times, arguably the peak of Morning Musume success, one of Japan’s most prominent music labels, Avex, launched a group of its own, named SweetS. The group seemed to have it all: Fresh-faced, adorable pre-pubescent members, two strong lead vocalists, and an extremely catchy (although slightly controversial) debut single. But perhaps due to Morning Musume’s popularity at the time, the group only achieved moderate success, and though they continued to record quality singles and albums, the five members left the entertainment industry in 2006, apparently because the high schools they wanted to attend did not approve of their students being involved in the entertainment industry.
Ironically, just as I was discovering dead!SweetS for the first time, I also found out that Avex is forming a brand new girl group this year- their first, in fact, since SweetS. According to Avex, this group was formed due to the “high demand” for girl groups. ORLY? Where is the research and development sector of Avex located, South Korea? Last time I checked, every idol girl group in Japan was rocketing down the sales charts. Maybe they meant that they wanted to REVIVE the girl group hype in Japan.[EDIT: blanket!statement fail. Actually, girl groups outside of H!P such as AKB48 are enjoying a great surge in popularity (thanks Nic!). However, H!P sales have indeed been dwindling.] Plus, you’d think they’d switch up the formula once it failed, but the new group, set to debut this coming May, bears an uncanny resemblance in structure and dynamics to the deceased SweetS. Maybe four years ago is ancient history to Avex too.
Tokyo Girls Style
Named “Tokyo Girls Style” or “Tokyo Joshiryu” (Avex likes to go with both) this group features five adorable pre-pubescent girls, and, although it may be too early to judge at this point, there seem to be two lead vocalists while the others are going to get a solo sound-bite here and there while mainly singing in unison.
Perhaps the only thing that they have running against them is their more generic, safe approach to their debut. Their recent performance of one of the songs on their debut single was less than memorable, featuring a very simple cutesy pop sound with lots of sparkly synth and an overall light flavor. Then again, SweetS far more risqué debut single, “Lolita Strawberry in Summer” was not well received, so maybe this is a smart move on Avex’s part. Besides, H!P is much less of a competitor with their dwindling sales these days.

Also, despite the ominous SweetS-esque vibe that this group exudes, it is quite valid to consider us in a completely different time compared to the Sweets era, especially in terms of celebrity promotion. Staying with the times, Avex has created a Youtube channel well ahead of debut time and posted various videos familiarizing and promoting the members from day one. The account features videos of their performances, profile-ish clips of each member, as well as very cute videos of the girls showing off their dance routines sans music and goofing off during their downtime.

The number of subscribers this channel as earned, around 850 at the moment, is almost 20% of the number of subscribers Upfront Agency's channel (which features videos of prominent H!P groups such as Berryz Koubou, Morning Musume, C-ute, Smileage etc) has- and Tokyo Girls Style has yet to debut! The interactive nature of promotion (thanks to their tech-savvy managers, I wager) may be the greatest saving grace for this new group.
Avex sure chose an odd time to be throwing a new group out to the sharks. But who knows? Maybe these girls can beat the odds of an economic recession, a losing battle of public interest, and bring back the girl group genre! I, for one, have my fingers crossed.


  1. 'Last time I checked, every idol girl group in Japan was rocketing down the sales charts'

    I'd go check Perfume and AKB48's sales if I were you.

  2. Haha oh yes, the AKB48 sales. You're right. I guess I was a little too Musume-centric while I was writing this article. Thanks for the correction :)
    As for Perfume, I know they would technically fall in the same category, but the specific genre of music they are always categorized in sort of sets them apart from the rest of the idol scene.

  3. They say it's the Age of Idol Civil War as there are so many girl groups now.

  4. Haha I agree! Did you hear that Avex is going to come out with ANOTHER idol group- a 12 member one at that? Haha and I don't want the idol scene here to dominate the music scene like it does in Korea T-T.

  5. Do you think the main reason for there being a sudden surge of new idol groups (like srsly, I feel like I here about a bew group debuting once a week) could be due in part to the fact that H!P is dying? Obviously, during H!P's peak they were at the top of the game, and now I feel like avex and many other agencies and labels as well feel like the number 1 position is up for grabs.

  6. @Anon: Sorry for getting back to you so late. College life is killer. Anyway, H!P has been "dying" for a while now. This might be just my H!P bias speaking, but I feel like they will always hover somewhere in the background of the idol scene-- I mean, they've managed to hang on for so long, and if you look at the string of craptastic singles they've put out recently, well, thinks can't get much worse from here on out. Of course, when they dominated the market it was also because there was no other competition. Having a shitstorm of girl groups (including the K-Pop ones) barging in on their party is news to them (although it shouldn't be... but H!P are such old timers I guess it takes them a while to react.)

    Right now AKB is obviously at the top of the idol heap at the moment, and TGS is flopping royally on Avex's side. In the meantime you have these sort of dark horse groups gaining traction (see Momoiro Clover and Passpo, a group that just got #1 on Oricon!). It's definitely a more saturated market these days, and I think it actually makes things more interesting.

    In a sense, the top position is definitely up for grabs just because there are so many groups vying for that position and honestly any of them could de-throne AKB within the next couple of years if AKB doesn't find a viable business model to keep themselves afloat once their star players inevitably get too old and graduate (this is what happened to Morning Musume after all).
    It's a very exciting time in idol-dom :D

  7. I know this is an old article sort of but I can't help but say something in a article about the SweetS (i ADORED these girls! so sad avex couldn't do anything with them!)

    I just wanted to add an observation that Avex has yet to make a truly "successful" girl group since...well, the young SPEED.

    There were some other groups like MAX and dream (3nin) was well respected to say the least...Just watching as the "great" Avex, being pretty successful with their solo singers, but can't have another truly successful girl group. It makes me wonder why do they keep following the same girl-group models (1-2 great singers, cute center girl, etc.)? I know that it worked very well for SPEED (I'm a fan of SPEED, even though i REALLY wish the other two could have at least a COUPLE of solo lines) and other jpop girl groups (and yes, using global media sites like youtube helps a lot nowadays) but I wish they would try something different.

    Or maybe they won't try anything different since current popular jpop groups, such as AKB, are more like the style of the earlier large idol groups like Onyanko club (members wearing similar uniforms, singing in unison for most of the song, etc.) perhaps? Morning Musume became a hit probably because they sort of departed from the "traditional" style of a big idol group. They had more individual style, personality, tons of energy on stage, and sometimes just crazy fun. While AKB seems to be more like the traditional idol group but with that same energy in most of their performances and concerts. (I feel Morning Musume was mostly energetic in their concerts, not on TV performances.)


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