So so sorry for my prolonged absence! Long story short, I’ve been figuring out some things in my professional life for the past few months, which is part of why I’ve been absent from Happy Disco. I’ll be trying to get back on track in the next couple of weeks.
However, another reason I’ve been gone is, frankly, there are sides of the idol fandom that are just not impressing me. For a long time I’ve reviewed things from the 48 Groups, for example, but there has been exactly one 48 song that was released this year that I even remotely like (NMB48’s Ibiza Girl). My 48 interest is waning fast. I don’t want to focus on negatives, because if you like what the 48s are currently doing you can feel free to disagree. However, I do think my feelings are corresponding with a general trend.
It’s hard to say for sure if a group like AKB is dying down. I would personally argue that their peak in terms of recognition and popularity was in 2011 – 2012, before Maeda Atsuko started the slew of front girl graduations. However, their best selling single (according to wikipedia) was 2013’s mediocre Sayonara Crawl. Even though Heavy Rotation is their most well-known song, its sales pale to Koisuru Fortune Cookie and Kokoro no Placard. That said, if you do look at these sales and compare them by corresponding singles (i.e. comparing the numbers from election single to election single, janken single to janken single, etc.) it does look like AKB is finally on a decline of sales, despite their best efforts otherwise (which is most likely what inflated the sales for as long as they were up there).
Other metrics of looking at popularity seem to agree that AKB’s peak is behind it. Conventional wisdom would state that the idol boom is fading. Certainly AKB is the representative idol group of this current idol boom.
That said, I would personally argue that last year and this year are when things are getting more and more interesting. Even as AKB is coming off of its peak, more varied idol groups are doing incredibly well. Morning Musume is having a resurgence of popularity I never expected. Momoiro Clover Z continues to enjoy their popularity as well as bringing more and more groups under the Stardust banner to their own levels of popularity. Babymetal is having international successes. Indie idols are having a lot of really varied, interesting groups and they are starting to enter into a level of maturity, a few years into the idol boom.
Instead of having one idol umbrella completely dominate the idol scene, instead we’re at a point where many idol groups and many idol companies can enjoy the idol boom. This is leading to a much more sustainable idol model where, instead of the fate resting on one group, is spread out to many other groups. If people, like myself, find themselves bored with 48s, there are a lot more groups to find and be interested in. And now that other idol groups are popular in a major way, the casual listener isn’t limited to only 48s.
I do think that some of the groups are going to disappear and the idol boom isn’t going to be quite as big as it is now. However, as things settle down, groups are going to keep proving themselves to be lasting, which is, I think, quite exciting.