biography - 11.10.2009 23:20


Everything started during an audition in 1992 at the Music School in Okinawa. They wanted a group of five young girls who knew how to dance and sing. Five girls were chosen, amongst them was Minako Ameku, Takushi Nanako and the well known Namie Amuro. The group was called SUPER MONKEYS.

Their debut in September 2002 was slow and timid. The group didn't seem to take off, however, because even if they revolutionized the style of that era thanks to their dancing abilities, they were not taken seriously due to their young age. Another problem the group had was that their members were always changing such as Ameku Minako quitting the group to take up a career as a dance teacher and Haragaki Hisako also quitting as well. To replace the two vacant places, Reina Miyauchi and Ritsuko Matsuda were recruited.

In 1994, the group changed their name to Namie Amuro and the Super Monkeys to reflect Amuro’s rising stardom. Their fourth and fifth singles gained the group a well earned success. These four members became Namie Amuro’s backup dancers and slowly gained attention for themselves as they performed more and more.

In 1995, Namie Amuro suddenly left the group to take on her solo career and later on become one of Japan’s top female idols. Luckily for the SUPER MONKEYS, the main producer of Avex Trax, Masato Matsura, took charge of them. When Mina was reintegrated into the group in 1995, MAX , an acronym for “Musical Active Experience”, was born and was finally ready to become one of the most adored female groups of Japan. Each took a stage name associated with the suffix “na” and the four starting members of MAX were Nana, Reina, Mina, and Lina.

Their first single, released on May 10, 1995, Koisuru velfarre dance ~Saturday Night~, was a cover of the Whigfield song Saturday Night. The song didn't go down so well, whereas TORA TORA TORA, which was released in February 1996, was their breakout hit. During these early stages of their career, MAX was still performing back up for Namie Amuro but with this single, they were finally able to break free and have a musical career of their own.

In December 1996, they released their first album, MAXIMUM, which went to the top of the charts, selling over one million copies. The tracks were very much 'dance' songs, so a lot of thought was put into the dance routines for the songs. And indeed, the girls from MAX were safe in the knowledge that they were the only group in Japan with choreography that were just as important as the singing.

The point where their career reached its climax was with the release of their sixth single, Give me a Shake, on April 9, 1997 which was the theme song to a movie in which they star in, showing off their acting talent. The MAX craze had begun as they were seen everywhere on television and radio. In winter of 1997, they even began their first national tour, "J-POP GIG TOUR" selling out everywhere they went, including the prominent Budokan. The following few years, MAX would reign the charts with various singles and albums.

However, the group’s popularity started to decline towards the end of 1999. The year 2000 came and MAX started off the year by adventuring into something new, writing and producing their own music. Their first self-written and self-produced single, Never gonna stop it was a disappointment as it was the first single not to reach the 100,000 mark. The next two years would be more self-written singles with more of the same declining result.

After their second very pop album, their third album, MAXIMUM GROOVE, used the same recipe as the second, a lot of pop with some nice ballads. They did a lot of concerts, which were real spectacles, since the members of MAX are so talented in dance. After the release of their first best-of album, their fourth album, EMOTIONAL HISTORY, was released on the March 14, 2001. It was totally different from anything the group had released previously.

In 2002, Mina announced she would leave MAX temporarily due to her marriage and baby. With this sudden announcement, their single Spring Rain was released with unfortunate results. These results lead to a previously announced album to be postponed only to be replaced with another best of album release and the group on hiatus for a few months.

MAX came out of hiatus with a fanclub meeting in July, announcing Aki Maeda would be replacing Mina, restarting MAX . Aki got along very well with the group and took on her role perfectly and eventually became a permanent member despite the media reports of Aki being only temporary.

The single, eternal white, came out in November 2002. It was a nice song, with a slightly nostalgic touch. The girls took advantage of this to totally change their look: haircuts and colors were totally different in comparison to their debut. The best example was Lina whom had short hair with a timid look at the beginning, then changed into something more mature with larger eyes and long hair.

Festa, which was released in March 2003, was more rhythmic and contained a little bit of the spirit of old school MAX. Far from bringing down the group, Aki Maeda seemed to give the group freshness. LOVE SCREW had a more exotic feel in comparison. The year 2003 for MAX held very little activity besides these two singles. 2004 saw the release of a single featuring the cover of Atomic Kitten’s Be With You and their US debut at the anime convention AnimeFEST in Dallas, Texas. Following this was little activity as the members moved onto solo modeling and acting careers.

2005 celebrated MAX’s 10th year anniversary; however the only activity they did to commemorate the occasion was a hotel tour. Since their single in 2004, Be With You, MAX have released a further two singles, and a maxi-single, SPLASH GOLD - Natsu no kiseki/Prism of Eyes released early August of 2006. They released their seventh full-length album, Jewel of Jewels, in February 2006 which would be their first and only album release with Aki.

Including these releases in 2006, MAX began to be more active during this year particularly overseas. They returned to the US for a performance at another anime convention, AnimeUSA, in Vienna, Virginia. In July, they had performed and gave a special live interview to fans in Shanghai and in October they returned to China to give a performance in Beijing.

Following these overseas activities, MAX became silent once again until the beginning of August 2008 when it was announced Aki would be leaving the group to pursue her career as a singer/songwriter. The group would go on but it wasn’t revealed until a few months later that their original member, Mina would be returning. The group released another best-of album, NEW EDITION ~MAXIMUM HITS~, in December which included remixes of their popular songs as well as a new original song. MAX gave a sold-out performance at Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall on January 31, 2009 which was later turned into a live DVD. Following this performance was a nation-wide tour and the release of their first single in almost three years, Rough Cut Diamond on July 29th.

MAX seems to be still going strong after many years, so far with the return of Mina they seem to be picking up activity once again.
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