Gomen ne by Country Girls
The Artist: Country Girls is a new group under the Hello! Project banner (see also Morning Musume, ANGERME). It resurrects the spirit of Country Musume, while recruiting popular Berryz Koubou member Momoko Tsugunaga (Momochi) as an active member/mentor.
Normally, I would run screaming at most things labeled “country.” However, the group has been very appealing and promising. The five junior members all have a lot of energy and their own cuteness. Their image shows surprising maturing for girls who are new to performing at this level.
I was able to watch them at a debut event while I was in Tokyo in March and was very impressed. They sounded great, engaged the fans and kept their smiles up. Momochi was definitely the ringleader, looking like LeBron James as she directed traffic both on and behind the scenes. There was a handshake event after the show, but I was already cutting it close to see the performance as I had to be at a Morning Musume concert soon after with an hour train ride between. A Country Girls billboard was on display at the famous Shibuya Crossing while I was in Japan; that’s my picture of it above.
Unfortunately, today it was announced that arguably their most popular member – Shimamura Uta – was leaving the group. The official word from Hello! Project (translated by blog!project here) is that a contract agreement could not be reached with Uta’s family. That’s sad news. Uta was really connecting with fans in her very young idol career, and the group as a whole suffers a major setback less than a year after its formation.
One wonders what the actual disagreement was. I don’t know what idols get paid; some figures get thrown around but they’re purely speculation. I do know idols sacrifice a lot of their youth and free time to pursue the dream. Additionally, it’s basically a requirement that families move to Tokyo to facilitate the girl’s career. None of that is easy. However, according to Uta’s bio page on the Hello! Project wiki, her mother was a member of an idol group. Perhaps it all happened too fast for the family. And maybe that’s a reason why H!P so often utilizes girls from its Kenshuusei training program.
The Song: The full song title is Itoushikutte Gomen ne (愛おしくってごめんね). See why I shortened it? It translates to “I’m sorry for being so adorable.” There’s a sweetness and earnestness to the whole thing. And it’s really a catchy song. There’s some harmonizing and what I feel is a summer beach vibe. It’s a slick production. While it wouldn’t normally seem to fit, the song is on my workout playlist because of the rhythm and positive feelings it elicits.
The video alternates between showing the girls in clean white uniforms doing some nice dance moves and them individually in their rooms while pondering the ways of love and their effect on the boy who likes them. You can tell they aren’t totally comfortable with the camera yet, but it works within the context of the song’s message. Uta’s personality in particular shines, and she’s featured more than the others. Momochi, who is a total pro any time the camera is on her, takes a backseat to let these new girls be introduced to the world. It’s a great debut for Country Girls.