When I first started getting into Japanese music, the three artists I consistently listened to were Miyavi, Utada Hikaru, and a little-known girl-group called Vanilla Mood. I’d forgotten completely about that last one on the list until today, when my cousin sent me a clip of them playing my favorite childhood song, “Puff the Magic Dragon” (Hush up with the insistence that there’s a drug reference there! Let me have my childhood memories!). So for those of you interested, here’s a bit about this group, and why I love them.
(L to R: The flautist, and my personal favorite, Waka, the cellist, Mariko, the violinist, Yui and the pianist/vocalist, Keiko)
Vanilla Mood are a four-member girl group who play all of their own music. Before you think to yourself, “SCANDAL?” let me assure you that the resemblance ends there. Vanilla Mood has a unique sound all their own, created by blending their talent at classical instruments with elements from more modern genres of music. Unlike most girl groups under the Avex label, these girls can not only play their own instruments, but they also produce and compose their own music.
A few examples of Vanilla Mood’s incredible range of musical styles:
This PV is beautiful, this song is beautiful, the girls are beautiful. What more does one need? I think that this song is also quintessentially them. it showcases what they’re really good at: Instruments. Often, the pianist, Keiko, provides vocals. While she is actually quite good, well… there are plenty of song-and-dance cute girl groups out there. But few groups can catch and hold our attention without any singing at all.
Day by Day
This song, on the other hand, has more of a generic pop sound. However, you do get to hear Keiko’s lovely vocals, and in the end, I love this song just as much as Haku.
When you compare acts like this with various Hello! Project acts, the gap is shocking. While it’s true that in both groups, girls are making a name for themselves based off of their strengths and talents, the way in which their management treats that talent is radically different. Avex was intelligent enough not to just leave these four as a bunch of somewhat cute girls singing pre-fabricated pop tunes, and allowed them to utilize what they already had. Many people have pointed out that H!P could and should do the same with their girls. Junjun and Captain Saki can play piano, and Kei is Teh Talented Granny when it comes to saxophone. I’m sure there are other talents within H!P that could be utilized to increase each group’s potential!
Thinking back… wasn’t there this one T&C Bomber concert where that… one… gymnast (gah, was it Ruru?) did a bunch of backflips and whatnot all over the stage? That’s the kind of thing that I mean. Although I doubt that Sayumi or Risako could do backflips even with a harness, it’d certainly be more interesting to watch them try that than to hear them sing ANOTHER duet (sorry, fans of that pairing. I love Sayu, but Rii ruins it for me).
As a final comparison:
UFO- Vanilla Mood
UFO- Morning Musume