Little Glee Monster On The Move!
Hi Everyone! This is David. It is November 2,2020 as I write this. Big events are in the offing.
One, which will be enjoyable for me, is the upcoming release of a collaborative music video between Pentatonix, one of my all-time favorite American vocal groups, and my favorite musical group in the entire world, Little Glee Monster, otherwise known as LGM. I raised two girls. The oldest, K.J., was a Sailor Moon fan. Little sister, Kassandra, liked Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! So, anime and anime music became the order of the day for our household. My work was often stressful, and at the end of the day, I had to drive home in Dallas rush hour traffic. I usually played The Eagles or Joe Cocker in the car at high volume to destress. Over time Kassandra and I developed an expansive collection of anime, Kpop, and Jpop music, so I began to play those songs on the drives to and from work. I found them wonderfully soothing. Pretty soon the Japanese and Korean music became my studio music as well. Kassandra and I became fans of a few Jpop Idol groups like Juice Juice, Smileage, Morning Musume, and Fairies. But as we watched them and got to know the girls in each group, we learned more about the Japanese Idol system and did not like what we learned. Overall, it was male dominated, and the girls were not treated well. This was around 2013. I told myself that, surely, there had to be Japanese vocal groups in which the members were treated well. So I began to look around. My timing turned out to be perfect. Almost immediately I ran into this group of young ladies who were amazingly good and who just dressed like school kids, not like little Idol princesses. I had found the brand new group, Little Glee Monster. In 2013 Watanabe Entertainment, who had represented big names like Frank Sinatra back in the day, and was still pretty much the top talent agency in Japan, joined with Sony in a casting call for girls of small stature who had strong vocal skills to form a vocal group specializing in harmony. Extensive tests and try-outs were held. Over 2000 young ladies applied. When the dust had settled, Maju, Karen, Serina, Asahi, Mayu, and Manaka had emerged as the best of the best and formed the group with the silly name, Little Glee Monster. The corporate heads at Sony never imagined what these children would become. They expected the girls to become popular as a variety act on children’s shows and to fade into obscurity in a year or less. The photo of the girls to which I have affixed name labels shows the girls at or around this time. The girls were all still in school. Half or more were in Junior High. Most were born and raised in Osaka, so that became their initial base of operations. In the photo, the girls were brought to a park near Shibuya in Tokyo to perform during a festival. They did not even have a place in the park. No one had ever heard of them, so they were given a little sliver of space at the edge of the park. Actually, it was under the highway. They had a cheap portable stage and no band for accompaniment. They used an old record player or tapes, which sometimes stopped in the middle of a song. But the girls were excited and thrilled. Sony had kept its promise and sent them to Tokyo to perform. So they did what they always do. They smiled, stood up straight, and gave the best that was in them.
Fast forward to today: Manaka, the youngest, is still only 19. But Karen and Serina are 22. They are college age now, or becoming so, but they are seasoned performers and are ranked by most people as the best group in Japan. Those who don’t care for their name refer to them simply as LGM. But most fans still prefer Little Glee Monster. I have watched them grow and mature as my own daughters (both huge Pokemon fans) have done the same. In the earliest days they did the end theme for the Pokemon XY series. Any of you remember that? “Gao Gao All Stars.” Here is a bit of fun trivia for you. “Gao”, to the Japanese, is the growl a monster would make. LGM fandom calls itself the Gaora, those who growl like monsters. Online, they are very protective of the girls and keep the landscape clean by ejecting trolls quickly and forcefully. Respect the girls or pay the price.
Arai Maju-san, the sempai (eldest) of the group, wanted to write and sing some songs of her own. She was writing and singing her own songs at the age of 12 before she joined LGM. She says she had bargained for that concession as part of the “basis of her bargain” (important legal term) when she joined. Three or four years into things, with the girls making more money than Sony or Watanabe had ever imagined possible, Sony was less amenable to having the group sing songs written by Maju or to allowing Maju to do solo songs of her own. Big, gigantic, really stupid mistake on their part. In Maju’s eyes, Sony’s refusal to let her sing her own songs was breach of contract, pure and simple. So she said goodbye and was placed in coventry (due to NDA’s etc.). For two years, no one heard a word from her or even saw a photo of her. Her loyal fan base waited and watched for her return.
No one knew what would happen when she did return. Would she rejoin LGM? Would she become a solo act? Would she ever sing her own songs? And then on her birthday, almost two years to the day from when she disappeared, Maju was back. She was a leaner, more beautiful, more sophisticated Maju. And she brought with her a full album of her own songs. She rented out the small venue which had been the site of LGM’s first professional performance in Tokyo and performed her songs to rave reviews from Orbit and others. It was touch and go for her because she was no longer supported by a huge publisher like Sony. Her plan was to do a tour of all the major cities in Japan during 2020 and build up her war chest. Poor baby. Covid has dealt her plans a severe blow. But those of us who still follow and admire Maju will not count her out just yet. She is too talented to be dismissed.
If you look in my Gallery under the Fantasy category, you will see a painting called “Queen Maju”. I did that to honor her and to welcome her back after her long absence. It is my view of her spirit form. I truly like that kid. I will remain her fan. I pray that 2021 will replace all that 2020 took from her.
Maju’s separation from LGM was devastating to the other LGM members as well as to the fans. Many, myself included, considered hers to be the best voice in the group. LGM had risen to fame on the quality of their six part harmony. Without Maju, many of the group’s top songs would never sound the same or simply could not be performed, so strong was Maju’s contribution to the group. The five remaining members of LGM had to decide whether to call it a day and close the group or whether to restructure their harmonies and call on each member to perform with more confidence and strength than ever before. Being who they are, they chose the latter option and amazed Japan and the world. In the past, management had given the best parts to Seri and Manaka (and sometimes Maju). With the loss of Maju, the voices of Karen, Asahi, and Mayu were suddenly given better parts and were called upon to excel. Excel they did. They went on a grand tour of Japan and performed better than ever. They proved that five part harmony could be amazingly close to the magnificence of their former six part harmonies.
As things stand now, LGM is better, stronger, and more popular than ever before. Their eyes are set not just on Japan. Back in 2013, when they formed the group, they prepared a mission statement. In it they declared that their goal was to use their voices to bring hope to the world. Despite Covid and other setbacks, they have continued to grow and move forward. They are now able to reach out to the world at large and are doing their honest best to bring hope, as they promised. They have already done great collaborations with Earth, Wind, and Fire. Their upcoming collaboration with Pentatonix will mark a new page in their growth. I can’t wait to hear it.