Friday, January 13, 2012

Front Girls I am Okay With

Front girls.

You either love them or you hate them. The idea of a front girl is often seen not only in idol music but bands in general. I probably shouldn't use the term "front girl" to describe this type of singer but since I'm applying this to idols I'll just go with that. Anyways, you can pretty much guess what a front girl is: she's the face of the band. This is member who will always get the most promotion, the most lines, the most screen time, the most fans, etc. Sometimes it's intentional and other times she'll just sort of shift into that position. Either way this is the member that even if you're not familiar with the group's music, you still know of this one girl.

I've noticed there are a lot of front girls in a majority of idol groups and usually it's from either a "push" or being a genuinely good personality to showcase. Usually it's the latter but occasionally you do find some idols that are rightfully in the center spot they so deserve. But for the ones that are pushed because the management wants them to be pushed, this is usually when the fandom starts to get a little split apart. Sides are formed in which you're with or against the new front girl and there are huge debates about whether said girl deserves all the attention and popularity she's getting. One of the latest debates I know of is Sashihara Rino of AKB48; the fans either love or hate the idea of her getting a solo career along with the mass amount of adoration from Aki-P over her. The idea of a pushed girl can either rub the fans in the right way or the wrong way but from what I've seen not many international fans like the idea. And sometimes it really doesn't work... and then other times it does!

Now there are a few subversions of front girls... or guys. For instance, Perfume! Another reason why following the fandom is a wonderful decision that will enhance your life. Not that I'm biased or anything. It might be because there are only three of them and that doesn't leave a lot of room for underpromoted members but I think pretty much anyone who knows of the group probably knows the members by heart. A-chan, Nocchi, Kashiyuka = Perfume-desu! You can't have one without the other. Another group is Arashi from JE. I don't follow the Johnny's groups but even I know about Ohno, Sho, Nino, Aiba, and Matsujun. I think the reason groups like this have no front... person is because they've established the members equally from an early start. Even in their Bee-Hive days Perfume was equally promoted and that trend followed as their fame grew. The same goes for Arashi; while in the songs some members may get more featured outside of their music each member has his own successful career in acting, singing, modeling, etc.

But I'm not here to talk about equality in groups because that's often very rare. Oh no, I am writing this to talk about front girls. A common complaint I see in international fans is how they don't like it that one member is "pushed" in contrast to say, more deserving members. But are all front girls really that bad? Personally, I don't think so. I actually do like some of the front girls in groups I enjoy! Keep in mind that doesn't apply to all the front girls I know of but these are the ones I like. So without further discussion, let's talk about those front girls!

Maeda Atsuko

I've noticed in the AKB fandom you either think Acchan is the worthy goddess of AKB who rightfully deserves her positions as the ultimate front girl or the bland, overused bore Aki-P's milks too much money out of. It's very hard to find anyone in middle ground (but if any of those people exist on the Internet, I praise you) and for me I actually do like Acchan. I think one of the reasons I'm so okay with Acchan as the face of AKB is because she's been at the front since the group started. When the group debuted back in 2006 Aki-P already had her in the center even during their indies and she's stayed at the top of the group ever since. I think another reason I don't mind her so much is because she's not the only front girl in the group, just the most easily recognizable. If I had to chose someone on par with a s much recognition as her, I'd go with Yuko. And I like Yuko too! I loved her charisma in Heavy Rotation and she's a very entertaining personality both in AKB and Not Yet. But when it boils down to who's the face, I still go with Acchan. Keep in mind, Yuko didn't really get the push Acchan had been receiving until the time they switched records. Even then, Jurina (who's not even in AKB) was pushed more. But every single, (excluding the half-assed Ue Kara Mariko), Acchan's been there. It's not even a surprise anymore but something I just know will happen. Now I'm even comfortable with that; if I saw someone else as center (excluding the amazing Yuko), I'd probably be put off. Sure, Acchan manages to sometimes look bored in the center but to me she's a pretty decent girl to have as center. She's not so in your face and she seems like a nice person; her voice isn't cacophonic and she doesn't whore her position as the face of AKB. In fact, I think she's just as comfortable being the front girl as I am with her being one. However, her massive popularity garners a lot of hate and that's to be expected from such an insane popular group. As for myself, I don't mind. But Aki-P just in case you want Yuko to be Senbatsu center again... hint hint.

Suzuki Airi

It's strange because at first I didn't really enjoy Airi as a front girl. Probably because one of the first songs I heard from C-ute was SHOCK! which was really just an Airi solo. When I listened to some of C-ute's older songs too I was very upset with that fact that she got about 60% of lines and screen time. In album songs, PVs, concerts, she was everywhere. I think it made me mad because I kept thinking how unfair it was to the other members that they were getting shafting for this one girl. In C-ute's older singles, I didn't even think she sounded that good. In hindsight none of the members did but all my hate was directed at Airi. However, her personality won me over. I looked at backstage clips of her and I can see why the fans gravitate towards her: she's hilarious. What I like about Airi is that she drifts between charming and derpy. Just look at the Youtube videos of her acting like a parrot! It's hilarious to see her so completely ridiculous. I saw a lot of that in videos of C-ute performances and that was what endeared me to the Airi fanbase. And in their newer singles, I think she sounds great. Airi probably has one of, if not the best voice in Hello! Project right now so naturally UFA uses her a lot in C-ute's songs. I also like how well she gets along with other members; she doesn't seem to be raised on this platform of greatness but has this cute, bumbling personality and shines onstage. She can be either funny or elegant but never in a way that's annoying. That's what I really like about Airi. She combines my two favorite things in an idol: a great personality and an amazing voice to match it.

Arai Hitomi/Konishi Ayano

I wasn't sure which one to put for this because Hitomi is almost always center for TGS singles and albums but Ayano gets just about as many lines as she does. In the end, I decided to include them both because they have one thing in common: they both get more attention than the other three members. I like Hitomi as center because I think she just... fits. It's kind of like the same reason I like Acchan; she seems comfortable and more confident at the center in both dancing and singing. So whil Hitomi's voice is... okay-ish to me I think the way she carries herself on screen is why I like her so much. The reason I like Ayano so much is because of her voice. I swear, I can't believe she's so young; her voice sounds so developed and mature already! It reminds me Kanon's but more polished and defined. Like in Limited Addiction she sounded amazing. So naturally I'm glad that Avex is using her voice a lot in their singles because she has a wonderful voice to showcase. And that's one of the reasons why I'm okay with the other three girls not being as promoted: their voices. Granted, everyone in TGS sounds amazing (Avex knows how to train their singers...) but when I put say... Miyu's voice up against Ayano's, Ayano wins by default. And because I'm so accustomed to hearing such good vocals, I'm a little thrown off when the others sing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they sound bad; you might even like them better but to me, I'm with Ayano and Hitmoi at the front. I think they have a lot of talent to be at the front and they're not promoted to the point where the Miyu, Mei, and Yuri are just their backup dancers. It's still a group; it just has front girls.

Takahashi Ai

Looking back, I'm actually a little sad Ai's not in Momosu anymore. I guess over this year I was so used to her being the center, getting the most lines, etc. She'd been captain of Momosu for four years even when they were going through their Emomosu phase! She spent such a long time in the group and contributed so much it's no wonder she was the face of her group and even Hello! Project. So while she has a boatload of fans who enjoyed her as captain there's also an equal amount of fans who say she weighed the group down. I will say I do think she took up a lot of MM singles, albums, concerts. And why not? She had the best voice in Momosu; why not show it? But I also think that was why MM spent so much time in their Emomosu phase: because Ai sounded so amazing in that direction. Fans still debate about whether or not this benefitted the group or bogged it down. Even I have to admit there was a lot of Ai in their past singles. But I was okay with that. I think it's partially because Ai has an amazing voice but mostly because I've only been following MM for a year. I got interested in the group around the time of Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game and just before Ai's graduation was announced. So when I looked back on their past singles, I felt of combination of awe and sadness such a talented member of Momosu was leaving so soon. I also like that subdued personality she had; it was boring but just very quiet. I think her personality was in her voice and that showed during concerts. She had such a devotion to Momosu and I admire her for that. So long live Ai's legacy and I wish her the best of luck in the future!

Tamura Meimi

I think there's pretty much a broken base on whether or not Meimi should be the new front girl of S/mileage. I've heard from both sides of the S/mileage fandom that Meimi is either A) An adorable little ball of energy and sunshine with a cute voice or B) A demon vampire with a plot to get rid of all the original members of S/mileage. Okay, maybe not quite as exaggerated a B but there are still a lot of fans her criticize her for having a bad voice. And I agree with the bad voice part; Meimi cannot sing. She's cute as a button but her voice could break my glasses (another reason why I switched to contact lenses). She can even get a little annoying to me at times, especially when I'm not in the mood for someone so energetic. But damn, does she try. I noticed in Chotto Matte Kusasai that even though she still sounded bad she was still giving it her best to match vocals with Kanon and Take. And I really admire that in her. I've said this before, but I really like idols with personalities. That's one of the reasons why I don't gravitate to idols like Riho or Manoeri. But in the auditions, Meimi showed so much spirit and personality and seemed she really wanted to be in the group and that was refreshing for me. And seeing her get so much screen time and lines in Chotto Matte, I can tell that she loves what she's doing. I like Meimi because it doesn't seem like she's in S/mileage just to be in S/mileage; even if her voices hurts my ears at times, it's drowned out by how enjoyable it is to watch an idol just genuinely have fun.

Yamamoto Sayaka

From the beginning of NMB's formation, I pretty much knew Sayaka was the group's Acchan. In their dance formations, B-sides, she was very prominent and featured. Because at the time I still didn't really care abou NMB, I just shrugged it off and continued focusing on AKB and SKE. Then I saw her performance of "Bird." It blew me away. I was very surprised at how well this front girl sounded so I decided to look further into her and the group. And I've liked what I've found out. Sayaka seems like the perfect idol. She has a nice personality, a nice voice, and is pretty good dancer too! I think she makes a nice center and when I listened to her solos in the NMB7 songs, I really enjoyed her! I'll have to get into the group more before I can really like her but she's one of main reasons my interest in NMB48 was kindled. So I thank her for that and wish her the best of luck in NMB as their front girl!

As you can tell, I don't have a boatload of front girls I'm okay with. But I don't have a bunch of front girls I'm not okay with either! But we'll get to those in the next post. Right now, I'd like to voice my appreciation to front girls. Even the ones I don't like! I can't imagine it's easy being one and knowing how the fanbase will either love you or hate you. So let's take this moment to acknowledge the crap they put up with from haters and the adoration they get from fans. I'll always have those front girls I can't stand and those others ones I love.

But now I'm curious. Do any of you have front girls you're okay with?


  1. This is one interesting post! It makes me want to write one - except that mine would be a major duck fit about how much I hate Acchan and Riho as front girls (my dislike for Acchan started before I even knew she was a front girl - I never liked her face XD)

    Ranting is fun, but this post is awesome! Make one about front girls you dislike! XD

    1. I probably will make one! But I as I was reading about Sashihara Rino's push it got me thinking and hence this came out! But making one about front girls I dislike IS an awesome idea... I'll have to look in to that!

  2. So glad for this post! I used to be a serious Acchan hater myself :P One frontgirl I think should be cut some slack is Sayashi Riho. The girl has improved so much since the audition, and she really CAN sing very well. She just sounds like a *surprise* squeaky 13-year-old :P