Idol Singer

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A wildly popular trope in Japanese Pop Music is the "Idol Singer"—a teenage or early twentysomething female performer, chosen for her cute and attractive image and sunny personality more than for her actual singing ability. Idol Singers are recruited by multi-level audition processes, manufactured and managed by Japanese media companies, and ruthlessly discarded after a few years of cranking out formulaic hits. Sometimes, idol singers don't actually sing (like Milli Vanilli). Originally, an Idol Singer was also supposed to be pure and innocent, and her contract could well include an article forbidding her a boyfriend. While since the 80s this is no longer an absolute rule -- more modern idols are likely to be seen in cheesecake, or even raunchier photos -- some management teams still enforce it draconically. (Witness how many members of AKB48 have been expelled from the group for "scandal", and the tactics some managers employ to deny their idols any chance to date.)

Naturally, every Japanese schoolgirl dreams of becoming one. Those who used to be one are often Broken Birds.

Thanks to the Disney Channel, American Idol, and The X Factor, this trope is also prevalent in the West, where it often overlaps with the Teen Idol. Similarly in the East, there have been genres influenced by the idol singer movement, the most notable of which being K-pop.

If she's a villain in a Superhero or Magic Idol Singer show, she's an Evil Diva. Do not confuse with the singer Billy Idol.

Examples of Idol Singer include:

Anime and Manga

  • Numerous characters from the various Macross series, in which Idol Singers are frequently the key to saving the day.
    • Lynn Minmay from Super Dimension Fortress Macross (as well as the Macekred Robotech), whose songs were used as a shorthand for the cultural pollution of the Zentraedi by human culture.
    • Sharon Apple, the virtual idol from Macross Plus (Who managed the rare feat of being both an Idol Singer and the resident Big Bad). Also, female lead Myung Fan Long was in her way to become an Idol Singer, but due to a traumatic past she abandoned her dream, becoming Sharon's creator.
    • Sheryl Nome and aspiring Idol Singer Ranka Lee from Macross Frontier carry on the tradition, as well as forming two of the three sides of the inevitable Love Triangle.
      • The show actually brutally deconstructs the concept by showing just how easily such a singer can be replaced once the substitute is found, and how painful such a process is to the one discarded - the true power lies with the people behind the scenes like Grace. Then magically reconstructs it back by the Idol Singer pair proving crucial to the plot and finally uniting to defeat Grace.
    • Averted in Macross Zero, where the local singers are shrine maidens rather than idols.
  • Persona 4: The Animation has Risette.
  • Also noted for deconstructing the Idol Singer are Key the Metal Idol and Perfect Blue, the former including many of the same points as Macross Frontier, which is especially impressive considering that it started 13 years earlier and ended approximately 10 years prior to the airing of Macross Frontier's pilot.
  • From Dog Days, Millhiore Filianno Biscotti is a bright pink dog girl. She is also a princess.
  • Nagisa Shiratori from Chou Kuse ni Narisou.
  • Minako Aino from Sailor Moon dreams of becoming one, and in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon already has. Rei Hino tried her hand at being one in the live-action series when Minako encouraged her to.
    • Mimete of the Witches 5 is a villainous example. Kuroki Mio is also a villainous idol from the live-action series.
    • Sailor Moon Stars also had the Three Lights, a Boy Band consisting of Bad Boy Seiya, Pretty Boy Yaten, and Smart Guy Taiki. In reality, they were actually women disguised as men (crossdressers in the manga, and actual men in the anime).
  • Mitsuki "Full Moon" Koyama from Full Moon o Sagashite.
  • Mino Shinohara, the main character of Magical Stage Fancy Lala.
  • Corona, a Quirky Miniboss Squad member from Kannazuki no Miko. It's revealed in her past that she suffered sexual abuse and tons of failure, thus entering her into Broken Bird territory.
  • Key, Miho, and Beniko, from Key the Metal Idol, which also uses the their plights to deconstruct the trope.
  • Naru in Love Hina becomes an idol singer, then fears a scandal and gives it up; before she does, though, Motoko and Shinobu are also discovered and recruited into a brief recording career as a duo called "Blade and Blossom".
  • Hikaru "Rabi~en~Rose" Usada from Di Gi Charat is methodically working her way to being an idol.
  • Mima from Perfect Blue is an idol singer who attempts a shift into serious acting. Her fans are not thrilled with this decision. Then It Got Worse.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has Magical Girl Warrior types of Magical Girls dressed as idol singers that use their singing as attacks.
  • Ringo in Angelic Layer.
  • Asuka on Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is a subversion: everyone around her from her brother to her teachers wants her to become an idol singer—everyone except her.
  • Megumi Oumi from Konjiki no Gash Bell.
  • Mink Shiraishi, Kanoka Moriyama, and Mahoko Toriumi from Mink (Cyber Idol Mink in Japan) all fit this image well. Thanks to the futuristic software WANNA-BE, they can transform into singing sensations with just a voice command to their fashionable cell phones.
  • In Bubblegum Crash (much-maligned sequel to the iconic 80's cyberpunk classic Bubblegum Crisis) Priss, a successful rock singer, is offered a recording contract by a major label, and rejects it when she discovers they want to turn her into an idol singer.
  • In a bizarre variation, Idolmaster: Xenoglossia has a girl trying out to become an Idol Singer, only to discover that it's a front for an organization that pilots Humongous Mecha...called Idols, and gratuitous musical and stage terms are used in conjunction with piloting the previously-mentioned mecha.
    • The original video game series released for arcade and XBox 360 actually is about Idol Singers, with players as managers who have to help their chosen character achieve stardom through minigames and competitive online auditions.
  • Misa Amane from Death Note.
  • Onpu Segawa from Ojamajo Doremi.
  • Lacus Clyne from Gundam Seed starts as a naïve and sheltered idol singer who later is forced to grow up and become a resistance leader. And when she goes into a more secluded life in Gundam Seed Destiny, her influence on people is SO strong that The Chessmaster Gilbert Dullindal actually hand-picks her biggest fan, a Naive Everygirl named Meer Campbell, to have the epitome of a makeover and replace her. All ends up tragically when Meer, who's struggling with the identity issues she gained during her trials, ultimately dies in an Heroic Sacrifice to save Lacus' life.
  • Idol Densetsu Eriko (usually translated as "Legendary Idol Eriko") has... well, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Eriko also has an idol rival, Rei. The series is based on the life of idol Eriko Tamura, known to non-Japanese audiences as Princess Yaeko in Heroes.
  • Primera from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.
  • An episode of Martian Successor Nadesico is devoted to this concept (and poking fun at Macross) when Nergal, looking to promote the most manipulable ditz they could find, decides to hold a beauty/talent competition to select a new Captain. Most of the higher-rated contestants sing idol-style although not, oddly, Megumi Hayashibara's Expy.
  • Rare Male Example, Sho from Skip Beat! is ranked as one of Japan's top ten most popular entertainers.
  • Urara from Yes! Pretty Cure 5.
  • When Tomo gives up on attaining the look of anime character Fujiko Mine, she settles for setting her sights on looking like Real Life idols Ryoko Hirosue (in the manga) or Ayumi "Ayu" Hamasaki (in the anime).
  • Pretty much the entire cast of Kirarin RevolutionRevolution, which is a show about a girl aiming to be an idol.
    • The voice of the titular main character is Koharu Kusumi, a real idol from Hello! Project.
  • Lunar Edomae in Seto no Hanayome. For as much popularity as she has, she's a bit of a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and tries to enforce a Mistress and Servant Boy relationship with Nagasumi.
  • Idol singer trio Eclipse in Basquash.
  • The title character of Futaba Kun Change. It's funny, once you remember the main quirk of Futaba...
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. In conjunction with the premiere of the second movie, Gainax released a CD and music video of Yoko singing and dancing around in Fan Service-y costumes. Reportedly, they've got one with Nia in the works,[when?] too.
  • Masakazu Katsura's Present From Lemon has a male example. Lead character Lemon Sakaguchi wants to become an idol like his Disappeared Dad Momojirou, an enka singer who pretty much died on-stage.
  • Though she denies it, the classmates of Umino Masachika (from Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai) believe that she is the daughter of a male Idol of the same name. Her "father" was a famous TV Actor and musician, and his songs are used for popular commercial jingles.
  • Iijima Kiiro is in the middle of a "very important concert" when she gets attacked in the first Iczelion OAV. (Her seiyuu was also Nagisa in Chou Kuse ni Narisou, mentioned above.)
  • Milan Himemiya, vocalist of the Chocolate Rockers, in Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu. She was a background element for most of the show's run, but finally appeared in person in episode six of Purezza.
  • White Album revolves around a girl becoming an Idol Singer and the strain this puts on her boyfriend. It portrays the entire situation as very carefully controlled and managed.
  • Rare male example: Kuga Jin from Kamichama Karin.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, some of the girls in Mahora have a music band named Dekopin Rocket. Ako Izumi is a member (more exactly, the bassist), and her A Day in the Limelight episode centers around their debut.
  • Ming-Ming from Beyblade.
  • One of the two leads of Yuri manga Octave is a former member of a four-girl idol group that didn't catch on, leaving her washed up in Tokyo at an age when her former classmates back home have not yet graduated from high school.
  • Gintama has Tsu Terakado.
    • Otsuu-chan: "Where the hell is your mother from!?".
  • Chance Pop Session is about three girls who attempt to become pop idols.
  • Creamy Mami is the Magical Girl version.
    • Notable also for the fact that the show was actually a vehicle to build up the idol career of Mami's voice actress, Takako Oota. Creamy Mami was her debut as both, VA and singer.
  • Parsely from EL is the most popular among a stable of idol singers in the last surviving human city on Earth. Among the ranks is at the very least one Evil Diva, Reiko.
  • To-Y. Much of the story focuses on several tries to persuade the main character into a career as an idol. His biggest rival is one himself, with the whole series having a hostile outlook on the idol phenomenom.
  • Idol Angels Welcome Youko. Just what the title says. The series aim was to push Mika Kanai's singing career.
  • Idol Project takes things even further, having the universe run by an idol. The whole story is about a contest to decide what idol is fit to take over the Ruler Of The Universe place.
  • Idol Defense Force Hummingbird parodies the concept a bit. Because the Japanese SDF has financial troubles, they hire an idol group as cash cow. The parody backfired when said idol group became more popular in Real Life than the show itself.
  • Ayumu in Best Student Council is scouted to become one. Shame that didn't work out for her.
  • Luca of Hayate the Combat Butler is one. It seems that she followed this path to help pay off a large debt she had.
    • Earlier in the story, Hinagiku showed that she had the ability to be one, including the singing ability, but has apparently chosen not to follow this path.
  • Kirari from Love Lucky. The main challenge she and her husband face throughout the series is in balancing their private married life with the life of her pop idol persona.
  • Kanon in The World God Only Knows.
  • The Excel Girls (the two women who sing the intro, not the main characters) in Excel Saga are shown trying to get their big break by singing the theme song.
  • Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?: The Lovely Kira (Sarasvati), who is confronted by her subordinate Seraphim on her stealth who inadvertently gets dragged into to becoming one. Then, Haruna gets jealous and steals the show. Finally Yuu joins in as well thanks to Ariel and Ayumu.
  • Utae Sonokoe from R-15 is the Genius Idol Singer.
  • The Idolmaster. Need to say anything else?
  • The main characters of AKB49: Ren'ai Kinshi Jourei are training to be idol singers, and the group which they are part of, AKB48, actually exists in real life.
  • Tsubasa and Kanade from Senki Zesshou Symphogear. Though the latter was Killed Off for Real in the first episode.
  • Rare Male Example - Kouji Nanjo of Zetsuai 1989.
  • Rail Wars!: Noa, who first appears in Episode 4 and becomes a recurring guest-star for the remainder of the series.
  • SALA and Shidou Hayase are the two biggest examples from Charisma Doll, but since it's a manga about showbiz...

Comic Books

  • The X-Men's Dazzler, after a long period of effective non-existence in the Marvel Universe, now[when?] serves as an in-universe spokesperson for the team thanks to her celebrity status as a former disco/pop/trance sensation. Her concerts are still considered wildly popular and she even has a protege, in the form of new X-Man Pixie.


  • The Disney Channel original movie Pixel Perfect revolved around a hologram created by a band who needed a singer. She is, well, a perfect singer and dancer. Not to forget drop dead beautiful.

Live-Action TV

  • Disney Channel's been doing this with nearly every one of their teen and child stars (particularly their female ones, although a growing number of the males are getting this as well- the main examples being The Jonas Brothers and their recent[when?] one, Ross Lynch), hoping to cash in on them as much as possible before they hit their twenties.
  • Nanami in Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger, who once had an Enemy Mine moment with Furabijou. Nanami did go onto become a successful ninja/idol singer, as evidenced a few years down the line in Go Go Sentai Boukenger vs. Super Sentai. Although in a double subversion, Idol Singer IS a cover for her duty as a ninja, but Nanami clearly enjoys being an Idol Singer on her own.
    • Nanami's direct counterpart in Power Rangers was made a surfer, but Kira in the following season, Power Rangers Dino Thunder, went through her trials and achieved a degree of success as well.
      • And in the season after that, Syd is (was?, will be?) one, and cites Kira as her inspiration.
    • Sentai took idol singing to its wackiest in Go-onger with Saki, Miu and Kegalesia forming an idol group to defeat a Monster of the Week that reacted to music.
    • Not to outdo itself, the G3 Princesses were succeeded by the G5 Princes, the Go-on boys forming their own idol group. With spotlights and glitter and cheesy outfits.
    • In Choujin Sentai Jetman, the initially tomboyish Ako was revealed to have become an Idol Singer in the Where Are They Now? Epilogue.
    • Subversion: in Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger, Ranru had previously trained as an idol but gave up because she wanted to be a mechanic.
  • Nickelodeon was late to the party. They also don't push as hard to sell actresses as idol singers, leading to multiple aversions from actors who don't sign up with Nick's record label partner, Columbia Records.
    • Played Straight:
      • Their first real attempt to create an Idol Singer is Miranda Cosgrove from iCarly. They built an entire episode around a plot dedicated to having Carly sing Miranda's single Shakespeare. It has been reasonably successful, as Miranda has been on multiple well attended tours and achieved reasonable record sales. Her most recent tour was sold out across the country until a bus accident cut the tour short.
      • Victoria Dawn Justice had Victorious built around her as a singing platform for her Idol Singer role and pushed hard. They brought out a Victorious soundtrack. Her first live performance was in the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
    • Aversions:
      • Jennette McCurdy signed to a rival record label because she wanted to sing Country Music rather than getting pushed into a pop career. As a result, Nick won't let her sing on iCarly or promo her music. The closest she came to singing was rapping in an iCarly/Victorious Crossover, and the closest they came to promoting her was a short excerpt from her first single when Jennette expected the entire song. It caused her to lash out on Twitter against Miranda and Victoria by retweeting and responding to people saying she was being screwed and was a better singer than the other two girls.
      • Ariana Grande recently signed up to Universal Records, making her the 2nd Nick star not backed by Columbia.
  • Just about every Boy Band and female pop star during the late '90s and early '00s falls into this trope.
  • American Idol, as its name suggests, is second only to the Disney Channel in its output of disposable idol singers for American consumption. The most successful singers from the show are pop-rocker Kelly Clarkson (season 1 winner) and country star Carrie Underwood (season 4 winner), both of whom have multi-platinum albums to their name, although it's mainly associated with churning out one hit wonders.
    • Indeed, one of the reasons why Season 8 was so much better percieved (at least talent-wise, thanks Kara) was that Adam Lambert, Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta seemed to be personally determined to push the show as much as possible out of the pop-confection-machine mold.
    • The British version of the show is The X Factor (and before that, Pop Idol), whose most successful winner to date is Leona Lewis.
    • The Australian version's most successful singer didn't win the show. The winner of that year (Guy Sebastian) came out with a handful of pop RNB singles that flopped, with the other guy Shannon Noll taking his typically Australian country style and ending up with four top 10 albums and ten top 10 singles.
  • The British Girl Group Girls Aloud was formed by the reality show Popstars: The Rivals.
  • Robin Scherbatsky of How I Met Your Mother used to be one of these, to her great embarrassment.
  • Daddy's Daughters star Liza Arzamasova was promoted as one to capitalize on her new fame, and she released a song called "I am your sun." She has not released any songs since, but has continued to act.


  • This phenomenon is Older Than They Think; change the "Japanese" to "British", and you'd have a pretty accurate assessment of the British music scene in The Sixties (at least that bit not dominated by British Invasion bands capitalizing on the success of The Beatles). Ready Steady Girls has more details.
    • There's also an American example from around the same time. All the big Motown names were pulled right from the streets of Detroit, which wouldn't make for a very good image. In order to clean them up, Berry Gordy set up a charm school specifically for up-and-coming Motown singers. If they didn't pass, they weren't allowed to perform.
  • Hello! Project
  • Subverted with Perfume in that the group was initially an idol group in their earlier years but as their songs gained a more distinct style of techonopop the group became a "near future technopop unit"
    • Their producer, Yasutaka Nakata, thrives on this, working with several idols looking to break out of their pop image.

Video Games

  • Lenne from Final Fantasy X-2. The game also features a "Songstress" Dressphere that allows any of the characters to transform into Idol Singers during combat.
  • Connie from Steambot Chronicles.
  • Pink Monkey from Ape Escape 2 wants to be one. You actually fight her during her debut concert. After a few hits, she screams that you ruined her show and then turns into the monkey equivalent of Carrie. In the third game, she changes her image and tries to break out again... and once again pulls out the psychokinesis when you ruin her show.
    • Oh, and also in the third game, the female protagonist is a successful idol singer herself. Monkey Pink was not pleased.
  • Athena Asamiya, best known from the King of Fighters series, holds the day job of Idol Singer when she's not in fighting tournaments.
  • Misora Hibiki from Ryuusei no Rockman (named Sonia Strumm in the U.S. Mega Man Star Force video games, and Sonia Sky in the anime).
  • Rise of Persona 4. Having quit the business, she's left to cope with everybody knowing and loving her manufactured media personality, while she struggles to figure out exactly who the "real" Rise is, or if there ever was one to begin with.
  • Courtney Gears of Ratchet and Clank is the evil robotic Omnicidal Maniac version of this trope, complete with a song about destroying organic life to a catchy pop beat.
  • In Persona 2 Innocent Sin, Lisa and a few friends unexpectedly got their "Wish" to be idol singers, with a dose of Character Developement (Lisa admitting she doesn't speak a word of English, and revealing how much she hated being the "odd one out"), and plot (the songs were to spread the Joker Rumors further). In a bonus bit of Take That to the exploitive nature of Idol Singing, the manager is a pedophile.
  • THE iDOLM@STER is all about this.
    • Idolcraft is a freeware take on the same concept.
  • Okage. Linda, the idol singer evil king.
  • You can battle a couple in the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl games.
    • In the Pokémon Gold and Silver and Crystal versions, on the route leading to Mt. Silver, there's a cabin with a girl (using the overworld sprite for the Lass trainer class) and a Fearow in it. If you talk to her, she says that she was once an idol singer, and went to the route leading to Mt. Silver to hide form the paparazzi. She will then give you the TM Steel Wing, and says that she wore a dress inspired by the move at her first live performance.
  • Catgirl Repre from Atelier Iris 3...
  • Immediately followed by Catgirl Nikki from Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis.
  • Dark Hero Axel from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories was one of these, but lost his fame before the game started.
  • Makoto Aihara's superstar persona in Rumble Roses XX.
  • Yuna in Galaxy Fraulein Yuna, mostly in backstory but she still does concerts.
  • The "Idol" in Um Jammer Lammy was Satan or a demon in the original Japanese version. Executive Meddling changed the level from Hell to an island.
  • NG Resonance in Deus Ex Invisible War. Clearly inspired by the Japanese idol singers, she's encountered mostly as an AI-controlled hologram that's way smarter and nicer than the real NG who you meet near the end of the game.
  • The Garner twins from Infinite Space are an example... which the main characters really do not like. Thomas is a fan, but everyone else goes "What the hell is this Grus?" and Franny remarks that at least one good thing came from being imprisoned for as long as she was.
  • Edy Nelson from Valkyria Chronicles wants to be one of these and sees Rosie Stark as a rival because the latter is a Glamorous Wartime Singer, not just a wannabe. Alas, Edy later finds that she Hollywood Tone Deaf and just floors everyone with her horrible singing, eventually deciding to do acting instead. Her sister in the sequel, Anisette, also wants to become one, and she can actually sing better despite also being just as tone deaf as her sister, but doesn't have the stamina for it.
  • Lumi in Child of Eden, who is also the virtual face of Q Entertainment's own band, Genki Rockets.
  • Studio SiestA gives us Aqua Seep Seal of Trouble Witches Episode 1, a genius pop-star idol of the sea. Let it be known that no one should ever talk badly about her pop-idol career or her outfit. She won't like it...
  • Saki in Monster Girl Quest Paradox is a succubus idol singer. She's introduced having charmed the entire population of the city she performs in, requiring you to fight her. Afterwards, you can recruit her like any other enemy. Being a succubus, she definitely does not fit the virginal part of this trope, though that doesn't stop some of her in-universe fans from seeing her that way.
  • Angelic Buster in MapleStory is a Magical Girl who uses The Power of Rock to crush foes.

Web Comics

  • The webcomic Megatokyo has Broken Bird Erika, who is an ex-Idol Singer and extremely jaded about the whole experience.
    • Ah, but she wasn't thrown away by an adoring public. She quit of her own free will after a little relationship problem.
  • Warren Ellis' Superidol (found here) in which an increasingly scared writer for a pop culture website documents the rise of a computer-generated J-Pop singer who is slowly taking over the world.

Western Animation

  • Outside of Japan, the All Grown Up!! version of Susie Carmichael is close enough to this trope.
  • Possible reference to the phenomenon in Kim Possible, as Señor Senior, Jr. (a young man) wants to be a pop star as his all-consuming life's ambition.
  • Jerrica Benton as Jem fits the basic purpose, as someone that every little girl wanted to be like for her fame, singing and fashion. However, she is presented as a powerful, grown-up member of a rock band and her own manager, not a cute teenage pop-singing pawn. Jem also has some Magical Girl tropes thrown in too.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is an Animesque example, starring the cartoon versions of two actual Idol Singers: Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura.
  • Cherry Jam in Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures.