Popularity.

I love ‘Beginner’.  I can say it a million times.

What makes it even more sweet is the great success it’s been seeing according to Oricon:

  • AKB’s ‘RIVER’ was their first single that charted #1, and ‘Beginner’ marks their fifth consecutive #1 single.
  • When charting ‘Heavy Rotation’, I celebrated the fact that AKB48 was able to hold a record with Utada Hikaru and Hamasaki Ayumi for having two consecutive singles selling more than half a million physical copies on opening day as females artists.  With ‘Beginner’, they’ve broken into their own league, having three singles in a row break half million first day sales.  Neato!
  • ‘Beginner’ achieved the highest first week sales ever for a female group.  Their previous single ‘Heavy Rotation’ also charted in 5th place.  The best first week sales ever for all female artists still go to Utada Hikaru as #1, Amuro Namie as #2, but AKB gets a respectable #3 with ‘Beginner’.

While it’s great to see my favorite group make a dent in the record books and become recognized, you can’t help but notice some things come out of the woodwork as a result.

Popularity is such a silly thing that can greatly impact a large number of fans.  There will always be “bandwagon-ers” who follow the most popular group like thrill-seekers, rejoicing and being swept up with every record-breaking release and later jump ship in search for the next big seller.  Ridiculous popularity is usually driven by temp fans like this.  Similarly, there will always be the old fans who become turned off by new-found popularity and pack their bags, looking for the next under-represented talent.

Both are different sides of the same coin; their reasons for following a group is mainly based on popularity, or lack thereof.  Even if it isn’t the main reason you follow an artist, it affects us all in similar ways with varying intensity.  Whether we like it or not, popularity comes with ugly baggage.  And that’s just talking about what happens within the fan community; from the outside you can always bet on a sea of malicious and unwarranted remarks, many of which are baseless judgments solely set out to rain on the parade.

Do I expect any AKB single to sell insane numbers?  Absolutely not.  Many don’t realize that it’s only been a year since AKB has been basking in the spotlight, and as always it’s due to a large casual audience.  Big numbers and popularity is neat, but never a necessity or an indicator of a fantastic song.  Look at Momoiro Clover, Tokyo Girls Style or SKE48—they’ve been making some of my favorite singles this year regardless of numbers.

With every release I wonder if AKB’s sales numbers have plateaued.  Is it something I worry about?  No, but when a group gets this much attention, it’s not easy to look past.  I just try to look at it simply.  It’s not always going to be this way, so why not enjoy the icing while it lasts?

#1 most popular track globally. COME ON, THIS IS NEAT.

Dae

About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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