What is a Japanese Idol Group?
Japanese pop idols are young manufactured stars marketed for their cuteness. Idols are intended to be role models, they are supposed to have a good public image and set good standards for young people. Idols sing, appear on television shows, act, and model in magazines. The term “idol” is commercialized by talent agencies that hold auditions for boys and girls that have little to no prior experience in the entertainment industry. Most idols are expected to sing songs that are popular at the time, many groups sing cute sentimental songs and some say they have their own genre. Rather than their singing ability, they are recognized for their appearance and public image. The biggest annual idol concert festival is Tokyo Idol Festival. In 2016 over 300 idol groups performed and there was 80,000 spectators.
Photo Credit: akb48.co.jp
AKB48 is a idol group that was named after Akihabara in Tokyo, where the group’s theater is located. Since December 2015 the group has expanded to over 130 members. Their producer Yasushi Akimoto wanted to create a group that fans could actually meet instead of just seeing them in concert or on television. They perform live everyday and the main concept is “idols you can meet.” The girls rotate into groups so that they can perform and have several events at the same time. There are sister groups in Japan, China, and Indonesia, with more upcoming groups in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. In 2013, the group became one of the most earning musical performers in Japan with over $128 million in sales. As of December 2015, the has sold over 41 million records, including 36 million singles and over 5 million albums. Every year their songs occupy the top four or five spots on the Oricon Charts.
#2. Momoiro Clover Z
Photo Credit: momoclo.net
Momoiro Clover Z was the first idol group to perform a solo concert the the National Olympic Stadium in Japan. They have been the only group that has sang songs for worldwide known animes such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon. The members are known for their energetic performances, the use of ballet elements, gymnastics, and action movies. In 2015 they collaborated with the American band KISS and it was the first time KISS collaborated with another artist. In 2013 they were the fourth highest artist by total revenue sales in Japan with over 5.2 billion yen. Momoiro Clover Z have been ranked as the most popular female idol group in Japan from 2013 to 2016. In early 2016 the group announced they would be going to Hawaii, Los Angeles, and New York for concerts in November 2016. The members each other their own color so it is easy to distinguish them.
#3. Morning Musume
Photo Credit: helloproject.com
Morning Musume holds the seconds highest overall singles sales of a female group on the Oricon Charts as of February 2012. They also have the Oricon record for the most top ten singles with an amount of 50 and they have sold over 21 million copies in Japan alone. The group was forming in 1997 by rock singer/songwriter later turned record produced Tsunku. He has composed a large amount of songs over the past decade. They are the lead group of Hello! Project, they specialize in upbeat, pop-oriented songs along with dance performances. The groups often collaborates with other Hello! Project acts such as Country Musume, Berryz Kobo, Cute, and Melon Kinenbi. The word “musume” translates to daughters, many of the members are under 20 years old. The average of the group members remains unchanged to keep a “school-like” system. The members continuously change and new members are selected from nationwide auditions admitted to the group almost annually.
Photo Credit: perfume-web.jp
Perfume is an idol group from Hiroshima Prefecture. The members are Ayano Ōmoto (“Nocchi”), Yuka Kashino (“Kashiyuka”) and Ayaka Nishiwaki (“A-chan”). Perfume started in the early 2000’s at a small talent agency in Hiroshima and they debuted with their first local single “Omajinai Perori” released in March 2002. A year later they moved to Tokyo and started working with Capsule’s producer Yasutaka Nakata. Their first nationwide indie single, “Sweet Donuts” was released in August 2003. In 2005 they got a major contract with Tokuma Japan Communications and released their major debut single “Linear Motor Girl” in September. However the group really took off with the song “Polyrhythm” which was chosen to be the theme song for a NHK recycle campaign. The song peaked at number seven and it was their first Top 10 single. The group has sold over 3 million records and 1.5 million albums as of March 2012. The groups started singing post-Shibuya style music as it was popular at the time, then transitioned towards electronic dance music that included synthpop, bubblegum pop, dance pop, and house music. Their music is known for their processed vocals, heavy use of auto tune, and vocoders. The groups musical structure has been identified as “techno-pop”. In 2012 the group signed a contract with Universal Music Group and with that they have been able to expand their horizons and go global.
Photo Credit: nogizaka46.com
Nogizaka46 is an idol group produced by Yasushi Akimoto, built to be the rival of AKB48. The group was named after the SME Nogizaka Building which houses Sony Music Japan. The number “46” was chosen as a direct challenge to AKB48. In June 2011, the formation of the group was announced and was labelled the “official rival” to AKB48. There are other sister groups to AKB48, but Nogizaka46 was created with few members and it’s a competition to see who can do better. At the final auditions, there was 56 finalist and 36 member were chosen. Over 38,934 girls applied to join the auditions. Later a surprise announcement was made and another 16 girls were going to join as “senbatsu” members. Senbatsu means certain members are chosen for certain events and CD singles. Their debut single Guruguru Curtain was released on February 22, 2012. It sold 136,309 copies in the first week and ranked second on the Oricon charts.
Photo Credit: babymetal.net
Babymetal is a metal idol band and the members are Suzuka Nakamoto as “Su-metal”, Yui Mizuno as “Yuimetal”, and Moa Kikuchi as “Moametal”. The concept of the group is to fuse heavy metal and the Japanese idol genre. The three girls and their band are managed by Amuse talent agency. The instruments are played by the Kami Band. Babymetal released their debut album had the same name. Their second album Metal Resistance was released worldwide on April 1, 2016. Many idol groups do handshake events but Babymetal does not. In 2010 the group was initially formed as a sub-unit of the group Sakura Gakuin, the three members didn’t know what metal music was when they first started. Their first song, Doki Doki Morning was released in April 2011 and it was performed at Sakura Gakuin’s first solo concert. The music video was released on YouTube and by the end of 2012 there was over 1 million views. In August 2012, Babymetal debuted at Japan’s Summer Sonic Festival, with their average of 12, the band became the youngest group to perform at the festival.
Photo Credit: e-girls-ldh.jp
E-girls is a 20 member, collective Japanese group signed to record company Rhythm Zone and managed by LDH and Axex Trax. The group is made from the groups Dream, Happiness, Flower, and three original member who debuted as part of the group. They are a sister unit to the boy-band Exile. The group names comes from Exile Girls Unit and Girls Entertainment Project. In 2011, Exile had a nationwide audition called, “Exile Presents Vocal Battle Audition 3 ~For Girls~”. The televised competition was held to find members for the dance-only group Flower and to find a new dance and vocal group named Bunny. Later it was announced by Exile’s Hiro that E-girls would consist of all members from Dream, Happiness, and Flower.
#8. Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku
Photo Credit: shiritsuebichu.jp
Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku or “Ebisu Private Junior High School” is an idol group from Stardust Production that was created to be a “little sister” group to Momoiro Clover Z. The band’s name is shorted to Ebichu which can also mean “in a shrimp”. The group is named after a fictional school in Ebisu, a town in the Shibuya Ward. The original concept was a group of elementary and middle school girls with rough singing and dance skills. The slogan was supposed to be poorly articulated dancing and shaky vocals. The group was formed in August 2009 and currently there is eight members. Although in April 2012 two of the members entered high school but they remain in the group. In June 2011, it was announced that Ebichu was going to hold their first solo concert on October 8 at Shibuya O-East. After six self-published indies singles a few charted on Oricon and they signed a temporary contract with the major label Defstar Records.