There’s still a lot of confusion in recognizing Idol units in the midst of cute girls, shining smiles and sugary melodies: Someone says even Perfume are technically idols, and even though this might be true in a way, I don’t think the three girls from Hiroshima would fully agree with this. But does it even matter in the end? In all honesty, no. Labelling an artist is sometimes useless, as only music and talent is what makes the difference in the end, and Niigata based unit Negicco have lots of good music and passion to deliver, showcased in several of the trio’s discography with their 2013 studio album Melody Palette as the high peak of it and the best proof of what Nao☆, Kaede and Megu are made of. What makes Negicco so particular and, in a way, special, is their history and never-give-up attitude, and to understand this at the best, it’s necessary to take a few steps back.
Negicco formed in 2003 under contract of the Japan Agricultural Cooperative Group, as young promoters of the local Yawahada Negi, a particular kind of green onion related to Niigata’s typical food. While this may not sound like the most serious or enthralling beginning, the real intentions of these three girls were anything but a joke: Indeed, after the end of their promotional period, Nao, Megu, Kaede and Miku (who left the group in 2006) continued their activities together as an idol unit, keeping the green onion leaks as symbol of their identity.
Produced by their hardcore fan connie and creating the choreographies by themselves, Negicco continued to dance and sing for all the 2000s, and between change of formations and label shifts, in 2010 the three girls won the local idol award U.M.U. , a real turning point for their career. In 2011, after the release of their first Best album, they left their old label to join T-Palette, Tower Records’ indie label, finally getting more attention by the national audience. The three girls then started to release some very good singles, such as Ai no Tower of Love and Idol Bakari Kikanaide, to then release their first original album Melody Palette, a solid and consistent pop album with lots of variety and very good tracks emphasized by valuable collaborations, including tofubeats, Yasuharu Konishi (Pizzicato Five), RAM RIDER and many more, a factor that blessed the album with a very positive recognition in 2013.
After the release of their first original studio album, the girls explored new musical genres, a constant approach that always characterized their thirteen-year career, and started to adopt more acoustic and jazzy sonorities to their sound, with nice results like their classic track Sayonara Music and others like Sunshine Nihonkai and the most recent Hikari no spur, even though the same can’t be said for other tracks. The release of their second studio album Rice & Snow brought mixed feelings: While some tracks like some of the ones mentioned above are good, as well as others exploring new sonorities spacing from Techno-pop to a slightly Shibuya Kei feel, most of the other ones kinda resulted in less attractive compositions, leading to a controversial result represented by disappointment due to some shallow tracks and excitement for the future brought by some interesting and well done compositions exploring different sonorities. After all, this is what happens when an artist dares to explore new influences and constantly renew its sound, something that needs courage and tenacity, which are strong points of Negicco’s personality and something absolutely admirable: “Trying” can result into success or failing, but the will of constantly offering something different with great effort is what makes an artist alive, and that’s why Negicco are still a constant presence in the Idol scene. These girls are tenacious and incredibly passionated, and even now, after more than ten years, they still perform in small stages and put one hundred percent in their performances, something that definitely not all the short-life idol units out there can claim, and you can bet they will be like this for many years to come. Their strong personality is perfectly showcased in live performances where all the charisma of these three girls comes out, dancing and singing tirelessly, and constantly involving the audience: There are no special effects here, only lots of passion and fun, and their down-to-earth personality will make you love them instantly.
Let’s be honest: If they really wanted to, today Negicco could have been one of the most successful Idol acts of the mainstream scene: They have talent, passion, and their production team can craft valuable compositions, sometimes even above the standard of the Idol pop scene. And while all the most famous acts unavoidably move to Tokyo at a certain point of their career, Negicco decided to “protect” their identity and origins by remaining in Niigata, as their wish is still to represent their hometown at the best and with lots of love.
The truth is, Negicco are an anomaly in the Idol scene: in thirteen years they could have reached any milestone a standard Idol group dreams of, but at the same time, as local idols, they reached a national (and also global) fame that no other group in their category ever achieved, dancing, singing, crying and smiling for thirteen years, something that most of the Idol groups out there can only dream of. And despite their conservative, sometimes rebellious approach towards the Idol scene, they probably represent the most natural and human form of it, something that after all these years, judging from the tears they shed everytime they’re in front of their ever growing fanbase, is finally starting to pay off.