SPEED is a famous and highly respected female J-pop group founded in 1996, consisting of four members hailing from Okinawa Japan: Hiroko Shimabukuro, Eriko Imai, Takako Uehara, and Hitoe Arakaki. The girls all attended the Okinawa Actors School (OAS) which also counts Namie Amuro, MAX and Da Pump among its alumni members.
Speed is officially the biggest selling female group in J-pop history and their sales figures have yet to be broken till this day. Prior to their disbandment, none of their singles released ever sold below the 500,000 mark - a feat. yet to be matched by any other artist. With their 6 albums & 11 singles, they have sold over 19.28 million records. With their success and accomplishments, they paved the way for many other youthful female groups such as Folder 5, Morning Musume and Zone.
When the group formed in 1996 the youngest member of the group Hiroko was only 12 years of age. Unlike most artists from the OAS which were signed to the Avex record label, SPEED was instead snatched up by Toys Factory. Their sole producer during their time together was Hiromasa Ijichi. Upon forming, SPEED recorded a few songs, however Body & Soul
was quickly chosen to be their debut single. The video for the song was filmed on location in San Francisco and Los Angeles and sold an impressive total of 638,000+ copies upon its release (Body & Soul was also SPEED's longest chart song, lingering in the charts for well over a year). Body & Soul was quickly followed up by the ballad single Steady
which was their first million selling single (1.27 million copies). Following Steady SPEED decided to go with a more upbeat song and released 'Go Go Heaven
'. The video for the song was filmed on location in New York and Miami. The song sold over 665,000 copies and became the girls first number one single. Following Go Go Heaven, SPEED released their debut album Starting Over
. The album contained a mix of upbeat songs mixed with soft ballads. When the album was released it entered the Oricon charts at number 1 and sold over 2 million copies.
After the release of Starting Over, SPEED followed on with their upbeat genre and released the single 'Wake Me Up!'. The video for the song was filmed on location in the Philippines and sold approximately 671,000 copies (total shipment: 890,000) when it was released. It was also during this time that SPEED decided to have their debut concert. The concert titled 'SPEED - First Live' was staged outdoors on location in Odaiba and featured an impressive stage with pyrotechnics and acrobatic stunts.
Following the single Wake Me Up, SPEED's music took a drastic change. Their style took a more mature turn and in October they released what was to be their best selling single 'White Love'
. The Christmas/Winter themed single was released in October and became the smash hit single of the holiday period. By the time the single exited the charts it had already sold an impressive 1.85 million copies and was voted by the public to be the 2nd most favourite Winter song of all time. Even till this day, White Love is one of the most sung Karaoke songs in Japan.
After White Love, SPEED continued on with their more mature style and released the anthem like song 'my graduation'. The single was also very well received (it's dramatic change in musical composition throughout the song was highly original and initially came as a shock to most fans) and sold 1.475 million copies. After My Graduation, SPEED finally released their highly anticipated second album 'RISE'. SPEED's second album followed on from their change in musical style and took on a much more futuristic sound to their original album. In fact, it appears that the single Wake Me Up! arguably received a remix just so it could fit in more appropriately with the other tracks on the album. RISE was highly successful, entering the Oricon chart in the top spot and selling over 3 million copies.
, SPEED decided to give acting a try with the girls starring in the Takashi Miike
directed Sci-Fi thriller Andromedia. The film was screened across Japan and was highly successful. To accompany Andromedia
SPEED also recorded a theme track titled 'Alive
'. The single was shot in location in Hawaii and became one of SPEED's most popular singles. Despite the single's popularity, the song slightly failed to cross the 1 million mark in sales (total 967,000 copies). However, this was probably because Andromedia
also released a soundtrack that contained the single Alive, thus undermining the single's sales.
Following Andromedia and Alive, SPEED begun what was to be one of their incredible feats - their RISE Tour. They begun their tour first by visiting most of the major cities throughout Japan. To no surprise, all of their concerts sold out really quickly. They followed up their mini concerts with what can only be achieved by the most formidable artists in Japan - the DOME TOURS (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka). The girls managed to achieve this all with just an average age of just 14 years.
During the Dome tours SPEED also released another single titled 'All My True Love', a fast upbeat song shot on location in the Grand Canyon Arizona. The single was exciting for fans for many reasons. However it was also the turning point for SPEED as seen by many. The single was exciting because it contained the first official solo tracks sung by the two lead singers of SPEED: Hiroko and Eriko. Hiroko's song was titled Mitsumeteitai and Eriko's, Tsumetakushinaide (Eriko actually teamed up with a dance troupe called Crunch at the time and thus was known under the name, Eriko with Crunch). Both songs also contained their own music videos that were shot in sound stages in Universal Studios, Hollywood. The single was also SPEED's first Maxi single to be released on a regular 12cm CD cased within a Digi Pak. The single topped the charts again and went on to sell over 1.22 million copies.
After the release of All My True Love, SPEED followed up by releasing their hits album: Moment - The BEST album, which topped the charts and shipped over 3.04 million units. Moment contained all of SPEED's released singles along with a couple of popular album and single tracks. The album also contained a critically acclaimed Christmas Orchestral version of the single White Love and a hidden instrumental track of the song as well. The first print edition of the album came with flip book that shows the girls performing their trademark dance moves when flipped through quickly. Three versions were available (though fans didn't know which one they were getting) - Body & Soul, White Love, and My Graduation.
SPEED released the single Precious Time
. The single's video was shot on location in Los Angeles and the single itself also featured a coupling track to celebrate the cartoon character Doraemon's 40th anniversary. The single went on to sell over 623,000 copies.
Shortly after the release of Precious Time, news broke that Takako of the group will be releasing a solo single in March. More surprisingly, the producer will not be Hiromasa Ijichi, but instead Ryuichi Kawamura of Luna Sea. Takako's debut single My First Love was highly anticipated and came in at number 1, selling over 530,000 copies. The video for the single was shot on location in Hawaii.
Following Takako's solo debut, it was revealed that another SPEED member, Hitoe would also be releasing a solo single. For her debut Hitoe decided to go with a much more adult look, appearing in her video wearing nothing more than a swimming costume and track jacket. The single titled INORI was more rnb in nature and show cased Hitoe's impressive dance moves. In fact for the single, Hitoe adopted the pseudonym Hitoe's 57 Move (57 meaning GO-NA - gonna in Japanese). Hence Hitoe's Gonna Move. The shock value of her image may have worked against her as Hitoe's debut single sold approximately 230,000 copies - nonetheless an impressive figure for a debut single.
After Inori, SPEED was back on track again and released another upbeat maxi single, this time titled 'Breaking Out the Morning'. The single also contained another solo track by Eriko with Crunch titled - Everyday be with you. The single sold over 582,000 copies and at the time was actually Speed's worst selling single.
Following Breaking Out to the Morning, the time came for Hiroko to show case her solo talents. Her single titled 'As Time Goes By' was produced by Hiromasa Ijichi and was the theme song of the drama series Tengoku no Kiss. The video for the single was shot on location in New York (mainly Brooklyn). As Time Goes By was an instant hit, high charting at no. 2 selling close to 900,000 copies!
After Hiro's single, Takako released her second single titled: 'Come Close to Me'. The single was again produced by Ryuichi Kawamura and sold over 200,000 copies.
Carry On My Way
It was during this time in October that SPEED sent shock waves throughout Japan. The group decided to hold a spontaneous press conference and announced unexpectedly that SPEED has decided that they will be disbanding. The news shock many fans and artists alike as they appeared to be breaking up at the peak of their time together. The reason offered was that they have grown up and would like to pursue their own solo paths and interests. The date announced for the disbandment was the following year - March 31, 2000. This date was chosen because it was the time when the Sakura would bloom in Japan, thus signaling new life.
Following the news SPEED, released their final single together as a group titled 'Long Way Home'. The single featured all of the girls vocals and had an R&B vibe to it. Although the single didn't top the charts at no. 1 (due to competition from Arashi's debut and Utada Hikaru's highly anticipated First Love follow-up Addicted to You) it still sold over 613,000 copies in total. Shortly after Long Way Home, SPEED released their final album 'Carry On My Way'. The album contained a variety of tracks from soft tone ballads, to R&B songs and even a couple rock songs. Overall the album sold 880,000 copies in total. At this time SPEED also commenced their final tour of Japan titled 'SPEED Final Tour: Real Life'. The concerts outdid their previous ones in terms of stage settings and performance. In addition they also managed to complete another DOME TOUR of Japan with their very final concert being held in the Fukuoka Dome.
A few weeks prior to the disbandment of SPEED, Eriko Finally released her own solo CD. Her debut solo single titled 'Red Beat of my Life' a fast paced song was produced by Hiromasa Ijichi. The video was filmed on location in New Mexico USA. The single came in on the charts at no. 3 and sold over 240,000 copies. SPEED officially disbanded after they performed on Music Station on March 31, 2000.
On March 31, 2000 after 1335 days together SPEED officially disbanded and to celebrate they released two CD albums titled 'Dear Friends 1
' and 'Dear Friends 2
- 1335 days' respectively. The albums contained all their hit singles along with previously unreleased tracks. Dear Friends 2 contained their break up theme song April and the video featured the girls along with review clips of their past music videos and concerts. The albums also contained a program that when installed displayed little virtual images of the girls on your computer screen.
During their time together as a group SPEED won multiple awards and went on to become the most popular female group in Jpop history. Despite the members pursuing solo projects the girls have in fact reunited a couple of times to release singles and albums and hold concerts for charity. The first reunion was for an earthquake charity concert in which the girls recorded a single titled One More Dream and also released a live concert album titled One More Dream + Remix
featuring remixes of 'All My True Love' and 'STEADY' by Hiroaki Hayama, and a new recording of the single 'White Love'. The second reunion was to raise money for the Save the Children aide. SPEED 'Save the Children' concerts was extremely popular and more concerts were added to the schedule due to popular demand along with a live album titled 'BEST HITS LIVE Save The Children SPEED LIVE 2003'
. In addition the girl also recorded a new single 'Be My Love' for the occasion. The single was shot on location in New York and features the girls revisiting the church where they danced in the 'Go! Go! Heaven' video clip. Following this single, SPEED also released another one titled 'Walking in the Rain / Stars to Shine Again'. 'Walking in the Rain' was produced by the Gospellers and 'Stars to Shine Again' was produced by Tomoko Kawase
of the Brilliant Green. The was the first single released by SPEED that was not produced by Hiromasa Ijichi. In addition to the two singles SPEED also released a charity album titled Bridge
. The album featured songs produced by some of Japan's most prominent musical producers and contained a rich variety of musical compositions. All proceeds from the album went towards the Save the Children campaign.
On August 20
, SPEED officially announce reformed after a eight years disbanment. All members appeared on their first appearance after five years on the 24 HOUR TELEVISION charity programme on August 31
. They received a significant of calls asking whether they will continue reformed as SPEED or become on hiatus once again. Their first single after five years will be released on November 12
. This is the first SPEED single to have two version (CD & CD+DVD) and a Japanese title. This song is produced by the long time SPEED producer, Hiromasa Ijichi. 'Ashita no Sora' is also the theme song to NHK drama, 'Japan OL'
- SPEED 1st debut as a unit with 3 other Okinawa Actor School students to form 'BRAND-NEW KIDS'.
- The band Deeps was largely modeled after SPEED. Not only was Deeps produced by Hiromasa Ijichi, SPEED's longtime producer, but their name is also "SPEED" spelled backwards.
- Their final concert in 1999 was attended by famous musicians such as Takuro from Glay, Namie Amuro and Utada Hikaru.
- Six of their promotional videos have been filmed in the USA ("Body & Soul" in San Francisco/Los Angeles; "Go! Go! Heaven" in New York/Miami; "ALIVE" in Hawaii; "ALL MY TRUE LOVE" in Arizona; "Precious Time" in Los Angeles; "Be My Love" New York).
- Their smash hit single "White Love" was the most requested radio song of 1997.
- During their "RISE" tour, they visited various Domes in Japan, which set a record of the youngest singer to hold a successful concert in Tokyo Dome during the time. Hiro was 14 when they first held a concert in Tokyo Dome.
- They were also the youngest group to hold a DOME TOUR in 1999 (which they already did in 1998, however, the tour was not name as "DOME TOUR"), during which they visited four domes.
- Compilation album "Moment" sold platinum in Singapore during 1999, which was a difficult mark to reach, as Singapore CD sales market was considerably low. The album sold over 2,000 units in a week and with an end sales of around 20,000 units, a notable feat as Japanese artists typically did not sell well in the country.
- On October 6, 2001, SPEED had a one-night reunion for a charity concert which is also their first reunion. The charity is mainly for the 911 incident in America which happened in the same year.
- In mid 2003, SPEED reunited for the second time and did a Save the Children project that reunited them for half a year.
- SPEED visited a village in Vietnam for their 'Save the Children' project in 2003.
- On August 20, 2008, the band announced that they would be getting back together for the third time.
- They appeared on the "Yomuro Hippare" TV show in their early years as a band. They sang cover versions of J-Pop hits. Videos of these performances are on Youtube.
- "SPEED" group name was chosen from sent-in by viewers on "Yomuro Hippare". "SPEED" was chosen by Takako and Eriko.
- All SPEED Members have their own driving licenses, however, the only member that doesn't have a car is HITOE. (Said on "FUN" when they attended during their second reunion(2003))
- Eriko Imai is the only SPEED member to get married, divorced and have a child.
- hiro is the youngest and the tallest member.
- HITOE is the oldest and the shortest member.
- Takako Uehara is the only SPEED member who did a semi-nude (Only the full back view of hers) shoot for her photobooks, 'Vingt' and 'Veintitres'.
- Hiro and HITOE shared the same birthday.
- Each member has a nickname in the group. hiro is known as 'Space Person', often staring into space. Eriko was given 'Tangerine Alien' as she could finish a box of 50 tangerines within a short period. Takako is called 'Granny' due to her loving and caring personality. HITOE, due to her superb dancing moves, is given the nickname 'Swaying Hips'.
- SPEED is under Vision Factory Management Agency. The agency also manages Okinawan artists such as Namie Amuro, Olivia, Da-Pump, MAX, w-inds etc.
|| Release Date
|| Chart Position
|| Total Sales
|"Body & Soul"
|| 1996August 5
|| 638,000 |
|| 1996November 18
|| 1,279,000 |
|| 1997March 26
|| 665,000 |
|"Wake Me Up!"
|| 1997August 6
|| 671,000 |
|| 1997October 15
|| 1,845,000 |
|| 1998February 18
|| 1,475,000 |
|| 1998July 1
|| 965,000 |
|"ALL MY TRUE LOVE"
|| 1998October 28
|| 1,221,000 |
|| 1999February 17
|| 623,000 |
|"Breakin' out to The Morning"
|| 1999May 19
|| 582,000 |
|"Long Way Home"
|| 1999November 3
|| 613,000 |
|"ONE MORE DREAM"
|| 2001December 12
|| 136,000 |
|"Be My Love"
|| 2003August 27
|| 126,000 |
|"Walking in the rain"
|| 2003November 27
|| 29,000 |
|| - |
|| Release Date
|| Chart Position
|| Total Sales |
|| 1997May 21
|| 1,926,000 |
|| 1998April 29
|| 2,048,000 |
|| 1998December 16
|| 2,319,000 |
|Carry On My Way
|| 1999December 22
|| 880,000 |
|Dear Friends 1 (Compilation)
|| 2000March 29
|| 506,000 |
|Dear Friends 2 (Compilation)
|| 2000March 29
|| 522,000 |
|One More Dream + Remix ||! (Concert Live Recording Album)
|| 2001December 19
|| 84,000 |
|| 2003November 27
|| 98,000 |
|Best Hits Live ~ Save the Children SPEED LIVE 2003 (Concert Live Recording Album)
|| 2004February 25
|| 19,000 |
VHS & DVD
- SPEED FIRST LIVE Starting Over from ODAIBA (VHS:19.11.1997)
- SPEED VIDEO CLIPS SPEED SPIRITS (VHS:18.3.1998)
- SPEED // TOUR RISE IN TOKYO DOME (VHS:20.1.1999)
- SPEED FINAL DOME TOUR REAL LIFE (VHS:1.3.2000)
- SPEED VIDEO CLIPS SPEED SPIRITS II (VHS:27.9.2000)
- SPEED SPIRITS COMPLETE (DVD:20.12.2000)
- SPEED FIRST LIVE Starting Over from ODAIBA (DVD:18.9.2003)
- SPEED // TOUR RISE IN TOKYO DOME (DVD:18.9.2003)
- SPEED FINAL DOME TOUR REAL LIFE (DVD:18.9.2003)
- SPEED VIDEO CLIPS SPEED SPIRITS (DVD:22.10.2003)
- SPEED VIDEO CLIPS SPEED SPIRITS II (DVD:22.10.2003)
- SPEED Save the Children SPEED LIVE 2003 (DVD:25.12.2003)
Andromedia 1998July 11