There’s been a lot of fuss in the last days regarding AKB48, the most popular, loved and hated Idol unit of today’s Japanese music industry. Everything started a week ago when Yasushi Akimoto, founder and producer of the group also member of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics executive board, proposed to choose the girls as performers of the opening ceremony for this important event, words that immediately unchained discussions on the web that reached the peak when cross-dressing personality Matsuko Deluxe stated that AKB48 would be an “embarrassment” for Japan, leading to a situation of great confusion between fans defending their favorite group and detractors throwing hate like never before, other than globally famous headlines with big names and small knowledge on the subject speaking nonsense in the middle: Long story short, nothing with a bit of sense is coming out of it.
So, in order to understand the matter at the best, it’s necessary to take a step backwards and ask ourselves a question: Is there any sense behind all the hate towards AKB48?
The answer is no, there’s no sense in it. It’s not about defending the group, it’s about all the people hating these girls for the most futile reasons (how do you hate a music group anyway?). Sure, it’s not like the famous Idol unit avoided controversies in the past, as questionable events stained their image more than once: The most notorious and sad episode is certainly the case of Minegishi Minami, the girl spotted coming out of her partner’s house that later shaved her hair and apologized in tears in a video that went viral. This happened because the girl broke the rule of the group that denies any kind of sentimental relationship (something she definitely knew when she signed her contract, by the way) and self-punished herself for not following it, a kind of gesture that finds its roots deep in the Japanese culture, but that doesn’t justify the brutality of a video that was simply unnecessary. I could also mention the pathetic AKBaby promotion seen in 2011, where fans could upload pictures of their faces online and “merge” it with one of the members’ pic to see what wonderful baby would come out from this “fusion”, something that’s just plain ridiculous. But apparently this only makes part of the past now, as most of the haters already forgot about these episodes and still keep on detesting AKB48 mainly for their generally attractive image, showcased in videos where all the members dance in bikini by the seaside, in photobooks where the undeniable beauty of some members is shown at the best, and in their provocative outfits that tease the thoughts of their fans. Wait a second: Isn’t that exactly what almost all the Idol groups out there do?
The general idea is that this “dirty” and “impure” sexy factor in Idol music that should “embarrass” Japan has been brought by AKB48, which is absolutely wrong: It was like this way before them, and it’ll probably be forever. As usual though, when you’re successful and popular you’re always going to attract all kinds of critics, and my suspect is that people generally don’t accept the fact that Yasushi Akimoto created a perfect cash machine with an impeccable concept fueling it; Like it or not, these people is there for money, or else we wouldn’t call their products “manufactured groups”.
These people should seriously realize that AKB48 is generally just an Idol group like many others out there, except maybe for a couple of factors: their extremely shallow music, which, guess what, is something you barely hear coming out from the mouths of the detractors (but that’s subjective, really) and what is probably the only real problem with this group, which is the monstrous amount of copies they sell with each release and the impact they have on the industry; We’re talking about a group who can sell a million and half copies of a single in barely a week, thanks to exclusive contents featured in each one of the several editions every release gets, and in this case I think it’s fair to fault charts like Oricon that, while it shouldn’t alter the final results, it should impose some kind of filter on these kind of releases, something that should be applied with Johnny’s groups as well, because when you take a look at the Year End chart results and the first fifty (50) spots are all about 48, Arashi and similar, then you know there’s a problem. Other than that, this is another factor that’s targeted by some people labelling the AKB fans as “obsessive” and “ridiculous” for buying multiple editions of the same product; I don’t like this group’s music and I don’t claim myself a fan, but I have many friends who do, and during my trips to Japan I went with them in some of the famous 48 shops, and while curiously and silently browsing between the shelves of these undoubtedly fascinating places, I’ve seen in my friends the same passion I have for Perfume when looking for old and new releases to add to my collection: I, with my room completely filled with merchandise from the Hiroshima Techno-pop trio, am no different from them. We love our favorite group, and we support it, like anyone else. Simple as that.
But it’s not like something is gonna change, not yet at least, since everything can happen from here to five years. But still, should AKB48 really represent Japan at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? I believe it depends on the approach and personality of this important event: In terms of performance, spectacularity and talent, there are many groups out there who can definitely do better than these girls. In terms of representing Japan’s music industry and actual culture, though, I think they can fairly find their place in the list of artists to choose for the opening ceremony.
But it’s all a matter of time, really. The situation could drastically change in five years. And after all, if One Direction performed at the London 2012 Olympics, why on earth shouldn’t AKB48 open the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?