From WWD to Princess Dempa Power, Shine On!, a retrospective in the Dempa mythos
Two things come to mind when one tries to put into words the key identity aspects of Dempagumi.inc: high-energy music, and the candid way in which they present their personal struggles to the fans they want to connect with. Their first single after a radical lineup change, Princess Dempa Power, Shine On! / Senshuu Banzai! Denpa Ichiza is a bonafide example of the first, but its more interesting point resides in how it takes what was once meant to be a personal, relatable narrative and adds a mythological-like twist to it in order to allow new members to embrace both their unique charm and the group’s quirky aura.
Musically, both songs can be described as two sides of the coin that is Dempagumi’s trademark sound: with Princess Dempa’s lyrics and composition taking direct cues from musical theater numbers, all while gradually exploding into a zany number that puts special attention to ensuring that not only every member gets at least one line of her own, but that their hierarchies within the group are reflected in the singing. As for the Tamaya 2000%-penned Senshuu Banzai Denpa Ichiza!, the combination of more folkloric instruments and the trademark frantic basslines-driven melodies finds dynamic ways to combine the group’s ten voices, showcasing the eagerness of the new members to embrace the chaotic, over the top performance style the group
The theatrical approach of the first song allows each new girl to reflect on what it means to make her dreams a reality, while also giving them a little personal moment to connect with a new audience of princes (ie. nerds) that awaits them at the metaphorical princess ball of their dreams. This is all tied up with the presence of senior members, who mischievously assume the role of mentors while reminiscing about what is expected of a princess after the crowning ceremony (a sweet, if obvious, metaphor of the ups and downs that come with being an idol) and about the need to embrace changes in order to remain true to themselves.
This reintroductions letter of sorts also adds a layer of depth to the narrative of aggressively embracing yourself despite your shortcomings Dempagumi.inc became known for during the height of popularity of the now legendary lineup consisting of Mirin Furukawa, Risa Aizawa, Nemu Yumemi, Eimi Naruse, Moga Mogami, and Ayane Fujisaki. When looking into the many charm points of this particular set of members, it becomes clear how a big part of their draw came from the way the group made each member’s individuality a core aspect of everything they set out to do. In terms of music, this would be reflected the most within a set of songs known by fans as the WWD series, which comprises WWD, WWD2, and (the now guilty of hubris) WWDBEST.
Opening with a series of short monologues about the experiences that drove each girl to seek refuge in different activities related to nerd subculture, the original WWD turns a wide array of orchestral and playful, electronic sounds into an epic dedicated to the group’s vow to standing together and finding the place in the world from where they can send others hope. The dark side to this message of “All For One, One For All”, WWDII exposes the hardships of fighting for that same dream in a way unlikely of idol songs, leaving both the group and their fans well aware of the more bitter side of their bond, one that the girls eventually commit to facing, all of the sake of what they have achieved and strived for together.
Originally a celebratory moment that would, for a short time, feel like an awkward memory WWDBEST has the group taking a moment to look back and praise themselves for 5 years of achievements and adventures with that 6 member lineup.
Memorable and endearing in its declarations of having found sense in being alive and in refusing to let their dream end as just a dream, the (for a while) definitive entry in the WWD series had the misfortune of being followed by a year-long hiatus that would culminate in the departure of Moga and the poorly-handled addition of members Rin Kaname and Nagi Nemoto. Two events that would prove difficult to navigate for a group so reliant on the individual contributions of each member.
The following years would see the group clumsily trying to weave additions and future graduations into the same narrative that would eventually let them conquer controversies such as a married member and said member becoming a mother. Though the attempts of taking Dempagumi.inc to outer space and making them into a family of sorts worked in musical and visual levels, they didn’t feel as committed to the message of “one for all, all for one” that had once driven the group, something they probably tried to distance themselves from after graduations stopped being taboo for the members.
This changed with the release of Princess Dempa, a passing of the torch song that welcomes the 5 new girls aboard and bestows them with Dempa Pathos, now crystallized into a philosophy of reaching for the future you look up to, all while making sense of the bad in your life. By revisiting these ideas from the point of view of a metaphorical princess who’s faced with the aftermath of seeing her dreams come true, Dempagumi is finally allowed to revisit the past via their music, openly acknowledging that things have changed and will continue to do so. A takeaway for both the members and their fans on how the passing of a dream to someone else is also a way to keep that dream alive.
Coming out strong despite personal shortcomings is a narrative everyone can aspire and relate to, but by making it into a fairytale mythos Dempagumi.inc are now backed by the narrative that every girl can become one of the princesses they’ve always looked up to, provided they’re willing to put the work that comes with the title.
After a couple of lineup changes that undoubtedly shook up a group that came to heavily rely on its members’ strong identities, Princess Dempa Power, Shine On! / Senshuu Banzai! Denpa Ichiza stands on its own music merits as a strong, welcome addition to the group’s catalog but its biggest contribution comes from its bold declaration of a rebuilt Dempa Ethos. Introducing the new members as clear long-time fans that are now a step closer to their own dreams, all while giving them a crash course in how fun it can be to overcome the hardships along with those that have inspired you in the past.