I still have tabs open from July, so might as well well get back on the beat so I can close them already.
Seeing lots of tweets like this in H!P Twitter recently, and it’s not surprising. The last proper release was Angerme’s “Hakkiri Shiyou ze / Oyogenai Mermaid / Aisare Route A or B?” single back in June. Sure, we got product promo MVs from Beyooooonds (outstanding) and Angerme (meh) and a couple of One on One cover duet vids, but Up-Front is really pushing the boundaries of how much run they can get out of three singles and two albums. I get that Covid has made things difficult on a lot of industries, but popular culture moves fast in 2021, and expecting fans to stick with you through three-month new-release dry spells is rather presumptuous. It’s the middle of August, and there have been zero officially announced future releases from the agency. With five (soon to be six) full time groups, there is no reason for any month to go by without a new H!P release. That’s just two per group, and you keep your fans engaged and consistently looking forward to the next release date. Three months with nothing is a dangerous game for Up-Front to be playing. This should help toward that end, though:
SoloFes 2 is just hours away as I write this, and it couldn’t come at a better time for everyone involved, but especially overseas fans who can’t get to concerts. Born of necessity during the peak of the 2020 lockdowns, the first SoloFes was a massive success with fans and H!P idols alike, and anticipation has been high since SoloFes 2 was announced last month. I have to say, as pumped as I am to watch this, my excitement has been dampened a tad by what appears to be the regression of many of the girls this year. Mei Yamazaki had a rough go of it at her birthday set with multiple cracks and missed notes, which is odd for the 15ki’s most reliable singer. More alarming, though, are Ruru Dambara’s performances since at least HinaFes. Her usually dead-on pitch has been spotty, her consistent control has been fractured, and her confidence is visibly shaken. You can tell she’s holding back, and it’s sapping the electricity from her voice. It’s tough to watch, and I hope whatever is causing it, be it physical or mental, can be overcome because Ruru is one of the most special voices to ever come through H!P.
One of most anticipated performances of SoloFes 2 will be the return of Masaki Sato. Arguably H!P’s most popular current idol, Maa has basically missed all of 2021 dealing with IBS, so it will be good to see her back on stage, even if for only one night. Still, her return to MM is uncertain, and if her absence continues into winter, you’d have to think that graduation would become a real possibility. Considering her popularity and stature within the group, I could see Up-Front riding this out for as long as Maa wants, but I suspect that Sato herself would not want to become the burden of uncertainty to the group. I hope she can get the IBS under control enough to make a full return, but short of that, I hope she can at least get the graduation concert that she deserves.
I promoted @222kireina’s Morning Musume fan book project a couple of times, and this is the concert I selected as my favorite MM concert. Here’s a small bit of what I wrote for the book: “This is the show that really endeared me to the Fukumura Era group. It’s a runaway train of a set that packs more energy and intensity into 50 minutes than any idol concert I’ve ever seen. I remember being struck by the look of intensity on the girls’ faces as they took the stage — looking like they were entering an MMA octagon — and thinking, ‘oh damn, they mean business.'” The girls were given a 13-song setlist to be performed in 90+ degree heat and under hot stage lights, and said to each other, “you know, if we cut three minutes out of our four-and-a-half minutes of MC/rest time, we can fit a 14th song in and really kick some asses.” And that’s what they did. A legendary set by a legendary idol group.
If only. I mean no ill will to the new group formed from the H!P KSS Unit, but can any of them come close to this right now? It’s unfair of me to even ask the question, because had they debuted these five as a group in 2017 they’d be the most talented group in H!P right now. “Gobaku ~We Can’t Go Back~” is one of a growing list of great H!P songs that have been sadly consigned to the archives, never to be heard from again. I might have to do a list of those for a future entry.