If you haven’t caught the buzz lately, EMPiRE are no more. Just as nations become lost and empires fall, so do idol groups.
What, too hamfisted? It was a sentimental break-up, so we wanted to use some powerful language! Still no? Well… they broke up and released their final four songs as a group, out to stream right now.
So, what happened then? Well… we can’t actually tell you. Most people think it might be to do with a non-renewal of their contract with Avex. Remember, EMPiRE started out as “Project aW” (Project Avex-WACK), with the goal to combine both of their strengths into one sleek and stlyish idol group, with a little extra edge. One day, that dreaded “important announcement” tweet showed up and they were announcing their break-up at their next live, which was four days from then. It was livestreamed on YouTube, sorry if you missed it, and after one last emotional song, with tears all around, Watanabe showed up to announce that WACK would form a new group under EMI Music called ExWHYZ…
…with all of the members of EMPiRE becoming the founding members of ExWHYZ. If you’ve been a longtime fan of WACK, you’ll remember when Pla2me rebranded to POP (and then rebranded to GANG PARADE) but the difference here is that instead of a rebrand, they’re a whole new group. Hence why people think somebody at Avex just decided to not keep on keeping on.
“But why wouldn’t they want to keep EMPiRE? Aren’t they incredibly popular?”
Your first mistake is thinking that Avex make sensical, good decisions! But yes, EMPiRE were incredibly popular. Watanabe even called them WACK’s number 2, next to BiSH. All of the members have been featured in various magazines, the group has had clothing brand tie-ins, Mayu hosts her own radio show… They make a lot of money and have a lot of fans! That’s why the sudden shock was such a shock, because it was so sudden.
But how did they get here to begin with? For a lot of longtime idol fans, when they think of WACK they think of BiS and BiSH, with GANG PARADE doing their own thing and suddenly, we have this new group called EMPiRE. Wait, what do you mean they’re one of the most senior groups at this point? What’s a MAMESHiBA? How did you get into my house and why are you touching my CD collection?
Their concept from the start was that sleek kind of sci-fi futurism in terms of visuals with the members themselves also being sleek and gorgeous. That isn’t to say that there are idols that aren’t beautiful, because all idols are queens, but EMPiRE’s raison d’être is all about aesthetics. They were here to serve and serve they did goddamnit.
In terms of sound they were a stark divergence from what people typically associate with WACK, Kentacore rock ballads and kind of pop-punk, and instead opted for a more electronic sound. It was fresh and new and as time went on, they ended up working with music producers outside of WACK and SCRAMBLES. Fan favourite “IZA!!“, produced by Seiho, is a great example of how they took on EDM in their own unique way.
As a group they were overall incredibly stable too. Past the Yuina fuckery and Yuka leaving, they never lost any members! They’ve had the same lineup since 2019, over half of their tenure and basically 30 years in idol time. Because they were so solid, the fans were able to develop an emotional connection to the members and that made their more sentimental songs pack just a little extra punch.
It really felt like they’d just keep around… and in a sense, they will. ExWHYZ is basically EMPiRE 2.0, but hey, maybe looking at it like that is a little boring. EMPiRE really did end, so why not keep those memories as old memories, seperate from the new adventure that everyone is about to go on? There’s new songs to sing and more importantly, new horrifying WACK-y antics that we can’t even think of. You just got off the last ride, hop on to a new one!
So… thanks EMPiRE. You were a pretty good group! Please give us more than 4 days of warning before you break up next time.