W (ダブルユー, Daburuyū), also written as Double You or Double U, was a Japanese pop duo associated with Hello! Project. Nozomi Tsuji and Ai Kago, former fourth generation members of Morning Musume, were in the group.
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W's formation was announced not long after the "graduation" of Kago and Tsuji from Morning Musume was announced in early 2004. At the time, the duo--longtime best friends since they met at the auditions that landed them in Morning Musume in 2000--were simultaneously in both Morning Musume and one of its most popular subgroups (or side projects), Mini Moni. The latter group was about to be disbanded with the departure of Mika Todd (see Mini Moni's entry for details); with Kago and Tsuji almost at a complete loose end, the decision to pair the two best friends and lifelong bandmates together in a new group was made almost immediately.
As they were winding down their Mini Moni and Morning Musume duties, W released their debut three-song EP, Koi no Vacance, the title track being a rocked-up cover version of a 1960's hit by Showa period female duo The Peanuts. The EP was followed a few weeks later by their debut album as W, Duo U&U, which contained covers of other Showa period female duo songs exclusively. One of the other groups covered by W on the first album was Pink Lady, a 70's-era duo that was becoming active again as a performing (if not recording unit). Since Kago and Tsuji had done two Pink Lady songs ("Southpaw" and "Nagisa no Sinbad") on Duo U&U, Pink Lady were invited to perform with W on Japanese television as a one-time four-piece ensemble. Their joint performance of "Southpaw" became a trading favorite amongst American Hello! Project fans on VCD, DVD, and BitTorrent (Pink Lady also sat in with Kago, Tsuji, and their Morning Musume bandmates on "Nagisa no Sinbad" and a medley of the former act's "S.O.S." and the latter's "Love Machine" on the same show).
Kago and Tsuji performed their graduation concert (final performance as members of Morning Musume) in August 2004; a week later, their second single "Aa Ii na!" was released. Not only was it the duo's first release since they departed Morning Musume, it was also the first W single to feature an original composition by Hello! Project founder/producer/songwriter Tsunku. A third single of original material, "Robo Kiss", followed three months later.
In December 2004, W joined their fellow Hello! Project members on the 2004 shuffle unit single "All for One and One for All", credited to the H.P. All Stars. W also began joining Morning Musume onstage at concerts during this period to perform Kago and Tsuji's final Morning Musume single, "Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari" together with their former bandmates. These appearances served to dispel unsubstantiated Internet rumors that Kago and Tsuji's departure from the band was due to personal differences.
Their second album, 2005's 2nd W, released not even ten months after their first album, contained an even balance of new W originals and more Showa period classic J-pop cover songs, many of them topically centering around the end of the duo's teenage years (Kago turned 17 a month before the album's release; Tsuji would turn 18 that June). Their prolific pace continued when a new non-LP single, the Devo-influenced "Ai no Imi o Oshiete! (Teach Me the Meaning of Love)", followed a few months afterwards.
In the Spring of 2005, W starred in their first concert musical, Cara & Mel, the Case of the Stolen Dangerous Violin, a stage show which was afterwards released on DVD.
In September 2005 the duo released their 6th single "Miss Love Tantei". The song and video feature a more mature Kago and Tsuji and actually earned them not only critical acclaim, but also some comparisons to Russian pop group t.A.T.u. because of the song intro's unintentional resemblance to "Not Gonna Get Us". The video, which features Kago and Tsuji playing multiple roles (including a reprisal of their stage musical roles of Cara & Mei), raised even more eyebrows when the duo were depicted adopting the controversial ganguro look in one scene.
In addition to their musical career, W continue to appear on Hello! Project's weekly TV show Hello! Morning, often in tandem with Morning Musume.
In videos and in concert appearances, W sometimes perform or co-headline with Berryz Kobo, the eight-member pre-teen girl group formed under Hello! Project. Berryz Kobo have appeared as dancers on W's "Aa Ii na!" and "Robo Kiss" videos.
On January 11, 2006, the release of a new single, "Dō ni mo Tomaranai" on February 22, followed by their third full-length album, W3: Faithful on March 15, was announced. The title of both releases became known on February 7, 2006--coincidentally, Kago's 18th birthday.
On February 9, 2006 it was confirmed that the magazine Friday (the same one that provoked Mari Yaguchi's sudden departure from Morning Musume) would be publishing photos of Kago caught smoking. The legal age for smoking in Japan is 20, and Kago had just turned 18 two days prior. On February 10, 2006, Hello! Project issued a press statement saying that the singer had been suspended "indefinitely"; speculation as of that date is that the punishment may be brief. As of February 10 the forthcoming seventh single and third album releases by W, scheduled for March 8 and 15 respectively, as well as the promotional appearances for them, have been postponed indefinitely due to the scandal.
In January 2007, Ai Kago returned to Tokyo and was working at the offices of Up-Front Works, the agency behind Hello! Project, while the company was making preparations for her, and presumably W's, return to the public eye.
On March 26, 2007 following a newly publicized scandal involving Kago dating a thirty-seven-year-old man as well as smoking again, it was announced by Up-Front Agency that her contract had been cancelled. An English translation of the announcement:
To whom it may concern:
Regarding our client Kago Ai and the article in the weekly magazine that went on sale on March 26th, the information in the article has been verified with Kago herself, to our regret.
One year ago, when Kago was 17 and the smoking problem happened, we still considered her future in this company, and as punishment, she was imposed to house arrest in her parents' home. Seeing how she had progressed over that year, it was decided to start from scratch and start preparing for a comeback by bringing her to Tokyo and having her do clerical and other office duties, starting on January 23rd. Although this worked out well for two months, there was another incident and the comeback plan was abandoned. After consulting with the family, as she is a minor, it has been confirmed, and she has been released from her contract.
We're very sorry that it has come to this, and accept full responsibility.
We feel a renewed sense of responsibility for the future, especially when it comes to minors.
2007/3/26 Kawaguchi Yuukichi, Representative Director, Up Front Agency