You’d be silly if you said that AKB48 isn’t in their declining state of stardom. Sure, they’re still top dogs and selling millions, but it’s no question that with so many vital members graduating from the group, they’ll end up dying off just as Morning Musume did back in the day. My question is… with how well Morning Musume is doing, could they be Japan’s number one girl group again?
It’s true that 100,000 sales are nothing compared to one million sales. AKB48 are superior to Hello! Project when it comes to marketing and strategizing… Or so it seems. Nowadays, Morning Musume and other groups within Hello! Project are broadening their ways of marketing and approaching their audience. I’m sure–despite much lower sales than AKB48–Morning Musume isn’t an unknown group within Japan. I mean, come on! They were the biggest thing in Japan at one point!
If you don’t remember that time, then you’ve at least heard or learned about it. You know about LOVE Machine being the only MoMusu single to surpass one million sales. You know about Maki Goto being recognized as the thing that possibly blew Morning Musume up. You know about the massive number of 16 members. You know about the Ai Kago scandals. You know about the Minimoni and W success. All of it played a part in MoMusu’s ultimate success during the 1999-2005 time-frame. The group was a beast back then–releasing catchy and addicting tunes, having new and exciting members to keep the fans on their toes: it’s all what they were known for.
When the Platinum Era struck, things just weren’t the same. Majority of the extremely popular members of the Golden Era had graduated, there were hardly any new girls to come fill in the gaps, and a high percentage of the members were pushing 20. The line-up stayed the same for two-odd years, which was most likely a big no-no for them. With a group like Morning Musume and their ever-changing line-up, it was probably stale to most; the lack of new faces didn’t reel in any new fans either.
When AKB48 became a force to be reckoned with back in 2010, Morning Musume had already fizzled out. The spot of Japan’s number one girl group was up for grabs and AKB was there to seize it. We could come up with as many theories and hypotheses trying to figure out how or why AKB48 shot so quickly up to stardom, but at the end of the day, they’re there and nothing has really been dragging them down. After so many scandals, former members becoming AV idols, the sexualization accusations, losing top members, and conspiracy theories, this group is still selling millions and topping Oricon each year. What in the hell is their secret?
I don’t think anyone will ever know. But it won’t stay like that forever. Sometimes it feels as though AKB48 will never surrender their number one spot, not even for a minute. And well, good for them! But just as Morning Musume fell from stardom, AKB48 will, too. Whether that’s in 5 years or 15 years, it’ll happen. Right now, these girls are strong. They’re exceptionally hard-workers despite being worked to the bone. Call it exploitation all you want, management is doing one hell of the job keeping AKB48 shoved in the faces of millions in Japan. Not to mention, they’re keeping us Westerners entertained as well.
Recently, Morning Musume has been putting in some serious work, too. Ever since summer 2012, the group’s musical style has taken a sharp turn, but it’s clearly worked for the better. Every single in 2013 has shot straight up to number one and has stayed put for at least one week–something that was unheard of back in the Platinum Era. The group’s focus has shifted towards dance and song appreciation. Comparing songs from 2013 to songs from 2003 would be like comparing rock to paper–there is no comparison. Electronic beats, dubstep breakdowns, choppy vocals, and serious dance numbers are all the rage with Morning Musume now. The girls are making an effort to prove that they can go back to being top dogs through hard work and dedication. The only thing I think that is holding them back is…
Yeah, they’re an idol group and idol groups don’t have to be amazing singers, but Morning Musume are a bit lacking in that department. Regardless of the shitty opinions people like to have about AKB48, a lot of the girls are actually very good singers. And luckily, they have the numbers to cover up anyone that might not quite have it yet. Morning Musume’s overall vocals are squeaky. Sure, they have autotune and effects to mask it, but it still doesn’t do it completely. In my humble opinion, if MoMusu create a more mature sounding vocal aesthetic, then they can definitely strut it out.
So, can Morning Musume top Japan again? Is it possible? Of course, we probably aren’t talking within the next year. Maybe in several years? How long will it take AKB48 to dissipate? Will the world be overrun by zombies by then? Will we ever know?