December 27, 2010
Pop chart domination
In a pop culture fluke, a girl group (AKB48) and an aging boy band (Arashi) completely dominated Japan's 2010 top-10 CD singles list, with the former taking four places, and the latter claiming six.
AKB48 is such a dazzling Ziegfeldian execution of theater and marketing I recommend reading the Wikipedia article here. Otherwise, all I can say about it is that it's yet another manufactured girl group from Japan's idol factories, a bunch of very cute but replaceable girls prancing and lip-syncing their way to instant but short-lived stardom.
The culture of cute is alive and well in Japan.
Arashi has been at work for a decade and has recently branched out all over the place. The music is perfectly okay--friendly, inoffensive, easy-easy-listening and occasionally harmonizing pop. Arashi's recent success seems more a product of sheer perseverance and the non-musical talents of its members, combined with its nice-boy-next-door image.
(Japan's previously reigning boy band, SMAP, lost a lot of good will and valuable endorsements last year when band member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was arrested for wandering around a Tokyo park drunk as a skunk and stark naked.)
Kazunari Ninomiya (center) had a supporting role in Letters from Iwo Jima, and I've seen him in two television series. He's a seriously good actor. I'm looking forward to seeing Masaki Aiba in My Girl (I quite like the manga), about an engineer who discovers he's a father when his ex-girlfriend dies unexpectedly. Arashi did the theme song.
Arashi does a lot of theme songs. I like this "There's an app for that" attitude. If you can do X, and there's a big demand for X, then go ahead and do a lot of X! Laugh all the way to the bank! After all, the typical pop star in Japan has the longevity of an NFL lineman. So sock away those acorns for the long winter nights of eventual obscurity to come.
There's a whole sub-genre of manga and TV melodramas about a teenage girl in a group like AKB48 who ages out of the role after two or three years with no education, no real talent (other than her looks), and no realistic job prospects.
Baseball according to Drucker (6)