By Jin Kiyokawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterAt first glance, they look like any other pretty and friendly girls. However, once they start singing, they create powerful and perfect harmonies. A single phrase sung by Little Glee Monster can deeply impress and attract numerous people.
This summer, they released a new song, “Sekai wa Anata ni Waraikaketeiru” (The world is smiling at you), which will make people across all generations smile, with the song being used as a theme song for Coca-Cola, which will likely help to boost their popularity.
Making people smile
On the day of their Yomiuri Shimbun interview, I heard a song from Hayao Miyazaki’s film “My Neighbor Totoro” from the back room of a building in Tokyo where the interview was being held — the beautiful harmony was coming from Mayu and Serina. It sounded great, as if it had been composed just for them.
“I was singing the song for the first time. I accidentally sang it because I saw someone’s paper bag, which was a Ghibli one,” Mayu said. Serina, who joined her to harmonize, said, “Whenever someone is singing, I always harmonize with them, and so does everyone.”
I was amazed — the girls really like singing. I felt that I was lucky to hear the live impromptu singing, and at the same time, I could get a glimpse of the secret of their strength.
Little Glee Monster released their debut single “Hokago (After-school) High Five” in October 2014. So far, they have released three albums — “Colorful Monster,” “Joyful Monster” and “juice.” They became familiar to TV viewers when they sang in a Sony Assurance Inc. TV commercial.
The group, popularly known as Rito Guri, is comprised of five members aged from 17 to 20. Following an audition held in 2012 to select the “most powerful young female singers” from across the nation, the group was formed with junior high school students.
“I started singing songs and dancing at age 3,” Karen said, while Asahi said, “I went to karaoke with my grandmother and sang ‘Koi no Vacance.’”
While they grew up in different environments, all of them love music and earned the respect of those around them. Each of the girls has great talent and is attractive as a solo vocalist. Outstanding on their own, they gathered together and honed their harmonies.
At first the group emphasized an atmosphere of being a female Japanese version of The Jackson Five and they sang original songs that sound like Motown with a rich groove, which made them more appealing. Gradually, they came to sing more pop songs, which are more appealing to the mainstream.
Their 2015 song “Sukida (I like you)” was used as a theme song for the TV drama series “Omotesando Koko Gasshobu” (Chorus group at Omotesando high school), and the song helped make them stars, according to Asahi. They proved that even if they sing a simple song, they can bring out the various charms of the song.
Many of their fans are girls in their “tweens” and teens, while there are also many parents and children and three-generation families among the audience at the group’s concerts — Little Glee Monster’s fans are called “Gaora,” and some mothers and fathers call themselves “Mama Gaora” and “Dad Gaora.”
“Many people say their first concert experience is Little Glee Monster, which made us happy,” Mayu said. Thanks to their wholesome and friendly image, they attract people who wouldn't normally go to a concert or other such events.
In January last year, they successfully performed at Budokan, drawing an audience of 13,000 people. Performing live at Budokan hall had been their dream since the group formed, and they put on a great performance without showing any nervousness. “I was delighted with everyone, and I will never forget that,” Serina said. “Since fans and staff have dreamed of holding a live concert there, I looked forward to it,” Manaka said.
Performing in front of Abba
Not only does Little Glee Monster sing appealing original songs, but the group also covers hit songs in various other genres and have sung in front of a big jazz band and orchestra. In July this year, they traveled to Britain and sang Abba’s “Dancing Queen” a cappella in front of Abba members. “They carefully listened to our song while looking into our eyes. They told us our voices sounded pure,” Manaka said.
Founding member takes break
While they have successfully advanced their career, there has also been a regrettable event. In April 2017, Maju, one of the group’s founding members, took a break. Since their songs were composed so that they could be sung by six members, the remaining members changed the composition of their songs.
“It was hard work, but it made us more united, and the characteristics of each member now stand out more than before,” Karen said. After the struggles, the members were support acts for concerts in Japan by Earth, Wind & Fire and Ariana Grande. At the end of 2017, they participated in Kohaku Utagassen, NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve music show, for the first time.
They are continuing to progress this year. With their third album released at the beginning of this year, they performed on Feb. 3-4 at Yokohama Arena, which is larger than Budokan hall. They also sang the annual theme song for Coca-Cola, which proves that Little Glee Monster is among the top artists.
“The song is summery and has many elements unique to Little Glee Monster. I believe it will be our masterpiece that will surpass ‘Sukida,’” Mayu said, referring to the group’s latest single “Sekai wa Anata ni Waraikaketeiru.”
The five songstresses have overcome genre boundaries and connected various generations. While there is a common perception that popular and active young female groups are usually idol groups, Little Glee Monster has broken that idea with their own talent.
Even so, they aim to create a group that can be successful globally, and have bigger dreams of holding a world tour and singing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I was amazed by the Spice Girls’ performance at the London Olympics,” said Karen, who wrote about her dream of singing at the Tokyo Olympics in an assignment essay for her audition, which was held before the decision to make Tokyo the venue for the 2020 Olympics.
“To achieve my dream, we need to hold a world tour to have Little Glee Monster known to people across the world. We need to make more efforts,” Manaka said.
The five girls successfully performed their first Asian concerts in Taiwan and Hong Kong in July. I feel they will make their dreams come true one day.