Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Suzuki Airi - True Colours (Update Girls July 2016)

℃-ute celebrated the 11th anniversary of their formation this June. Suzuki Airi has continued to be an active member of the group the whole time. She turned 22 in April.

'Compared to the past, I get the impression that the themes and atmosphere of our songs have become really mature. Actually, as the years have gone by, all of us have gone past the age of twenty. If you were to ask us to perform with the same energy we had like when we did "Meguru Koi no Kisetsu" (2007) for example, it'd be difficult. We'd try, of course. (laughs) Thinking of it that way, it's because of how we are like now that we're able to perform our latest single, "Naze Hito ha Arasoundarou? / Summer Wind / Jinsei ha Step!"

Indeed, their three songs have the allure of a mature group that has gone beyond the idol framework: The calming, soulful pop of 'Naze Hito ha~' with its gospel tinge, the impressive, cool groove of 'Summer~', the fusion of swing jazz and electro in 'Jinsei ha~'. But the girls had no intention of shifting gears from so-called idols to a mature vocal & dance group. Instead, through the mature mood of these 3 songs from their latest single, they themselves realised that lying beneath their performances and at the root of their minds was that they want to be 'idols' until the very end.

'We can't forget how ℃-ute are as idols, I can't forget how Suzuki Airi is as an idol. Even if we built up personas, the fans would acknowledge us as idols. While things are different from how they were in our teens, it's not like we're forcing ourselves to appear mature. You could say that as idols, we're acting our age. I'd prefer naturally radiating an idolness that can only be produced by the ℃-ute of the present, the Suzuki Airi of the present.'

She tells us with a smile on her face that she believes that being an idol suits her. The reason for that suitability? It's because she possesses a certain trait within her.

'I'm really curious, so I think that I'm suited to being an idol. I get to sing various types of songs, and as we receive jobs that are varied in content, I get many opportunities to take on new challenges. Even though I've continued on being an idol for over 10 years, it's always an adventure, there's always something new to discover. So working as an idol really suits my curious self. Another thing is that, in the midst of getting to do all sorts of things, I prefer not to set limits. I won't tell myself "I can't do that!" There have been times when I lose confidence because I'm unable to pull something off, but even then, I'll actually keep at it, regardless of how bad I am at it. It's one of my merits. I think that it's important to not be tied down by anything, and believe in my own potential. By thinking that way as I do activities, I'm able to have a smile on my face every day!'

A combination of curiosity and positiveness. Perhaps the young girl standing before us cultivated those traits since she started being an idol. Or perhaps she possessed them since birth.

'I've been doing idol activities since I was in my second year of primary school, so I honestly have no idea. (laughs) But I don't think I've changed fundamentally. Be it my curiosity, or my personality that isn't too fussy. Of course, there have been things that have changed for the better once I became an idol. When I joined H!P in my second year of primary school, I think that my competitive personality was out in full force. I'd actually never gotten a star for 'cooperativeness' in my school report card. (bitter laugh) But in my 4th, 5th year of primary school, I received stars for that! I'm sure that it was because I got to interact with many people through my idol activities. If I hadn't become an idol, I might have never become cooperative, I'd have become a person who would just push on with just my own opinions. That's right, ever since I became an idol, I've received a lot of praise on how I greet and address others! H!P gave us strict guidance, so I'd heartily go "Headmaster! Good morning!" In my report card, I got two stars for being respectful.'

Her relationship with the members has also changed over these 11 years.

'When we were still children, Okai (Chisato)-chan and (Hagiwara) Mai-chan would even fight and scramble over rice condiments. (laughs) That doesn't happen now of course! When it comes to performances, we now discuss them calmly. Recently, the five of us planned to discuss our concert setlist through our group LINE. All of us just happened to be at home on our day off, and we got started because we wanted to try out the simultaneous group conversation function. It's amazing! However, we were having so much fun that we never got started with our plans to discuss the setlist. (laughs)'

And in that way, that ℃-ute tour that they were supposed to discuss has arrived at its final leg at the Nippon Budokan on the 20th of June. However, the 'Hello! Project 2016 Summer' tour started from the 16th of July, featuring the entire Hello! Project roster.

'All of the H!P members appear at those concerts, so we stand on-stage together with the kouhai. But I'm always conscious about the kouhai. In the past, I used to watch the senpai rehearse, so much that my eyes could have burnt holes in them. So as a member of H!P's oldest group by member age, those girls are watching me in the same way, so I've got to become a senpai that they can look up to. That said, I'm not doing anything in particular to be admired, but I hope that by showing them the things that I've learnt from my accumulated experience, it'll make the kouhai feel something from within. It was the same for me. More than remembering whatever the senpai said to me, I think I acquired more from them by watching them and learning from that. Recently, there have been more kouhai telling me that they admire me! Then I'll ask them what they admire about me. (laughs) And those kouhai will tell me things like how they admired my facial expression at a certain moment in a certain song, or that they liked how I moved my body when I was dancing. Their replies were more specific than I could have imagined. I'm happy that they watch me to that level of detail, but I end up being a bit too conscious about the specific points that they raise that I can't pull them off smoothly the next time they come along. (laughs) Despite being like that, for the sake of the kouhai as well, I'd like to go on with activities without bringing down the "Idol Suzuki Airi" image that I've been sticking to straightforwardly so far.'

And, on the 25th of August, she's scheduled to be at 'Buono! Festa 2016' as a member of Buono!, a 3 person unit with Tsugunaga Momoko and Natsuyaki Miyabi.

'I recently had a meeting about the promotional goods with the other members, and thinking things like "These kinds of rock designs are so Buono!" The fact that we're truly making a comeback has really hit me. But it's been so long since we had activities that I wonder if fans will turn up. (laughs) As for our Budokan live, I think it would be great if we could deliver a performance that's more powerful than what we've ever done before, mixing in what each of us has cultivated in that period of time when we didn't have Buono! activities. Since I always keep on listening to Buono! songs, even when we didn't have activities, I've got the lyrics down pat! It'd be nice if we could show how we've developed, while maintaining the Buono!-ness we've had so far.'

And in synergy with her group activities, she works as a model attached to the magazine 'Ray'.

'For me to be a model in a fashion magazine, I feel like it's an insult to other models. (laughs) Even now, at photo shoots, I get so embarrassed that my body heats up. There are many people who are more senior than I am when I go to their shoots, so I get nervous. There are many differences in photo shoots compared to my daily activities as well, and I find a lot of things difficult. But the shooting locations for 'Ray' are really cheerful, and while I'm not used to the job yet, everyone teaches me things, so I'm able to fit in naturally. Having got to work as a model, I've grown to have an interest in my own dressing. Up until now, it'd just be like "I wore this the day before yesterday". (laughs) The way I manage my money has also changed. What I used to spend on meals and snacks is now being used for fashion! I also found out about things that I wouldn't have learnt about by just doing idol activities. Examples include information about the latest cosmetics or methods to angle my legs while posing to make them look pretty! I think that I'd like to bring back what I've learnt from my modelling work to the ℃-ute members. Also, I think that having not just a single self, but having various versions of myself is something that'll definitely be of use as an idol.'

Her new encounters outside of her group have also been a huge source of inspiration for her.

'I'm good friends with Shiraishi Mai-chan (Nogizaka 46) and Jonishi Seira-chan (Tokyo Performance Doll), who also model for "Ray". The other day, I went for a meal with NMB48's Yamamoto Sayaka-chan. Meeting and talking with members of idol groups outside of H!P has been a good source of motivation.'

Brimming with curiosity, with endless positivity and an appetite for anything, how will the people-loving idol Suzuki Airi change in the future?

'I don't think I'll change fundamentally. I'd like to continue on with singing, which I've loved ever since I was small. And still, while I've lived for 22 years, there are still lots of things that I don't know, so I don't think that my curiosity will go away!'

Seeing her say that with a smile, we asked, 'Are there times when you feel down?'

'Of course. There are the occasional times when I feel down and break down in tears, but I forget about it after I've gone to bed. (laughs) Also, when I'm down in the dumps, I often look downwards. So when I realise that I'm doing that, I look towards the sky. Besides that, I look for joy in my daily life, like when I notice some pretty flowers. Doing that brings a smile to my face. Things that make you smile are undoubtedly effective, so I hope that you try it out when you feel down, and that it'll bring a smile to your face!'

UPDATE Girls / Space Shower NetworksWatashi no Key wo Shittemasuka / Airi Suzuki

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