Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Success of AKB's Additional Tracks and Why Senbatsus Via Janken Makes Sense

The first additional track in an AKB single to get a PV was Tobenai Agehachou. I loved Tobenai. The song was great, the performace was great, the PV was great; it was great. Prior to Tobenai, First Love, an accompanying track to Namida Surprise, was very well received by fans, and would eventually be voted #26 in its first year in the Request Hour Setlist Best 100. Of course, First Love, to a certain degree, may have been an afterthought, since it was created as the theme song for an anime, unlike Tobenai Agehachou, which was specifically designed to be an accompanying track to Iiwake Maybe. Tobenai ranked #67 in its first year in the Best 100, but that pales in comparison with the accompanying track of the single that followed it, River’s Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara. River was a great song, excellent for mainstream audience, and yet surprisingly, it was Kimi no that ranked second in its first year in the Best 100, while River ranked fifth.

I, as well as a few other fans, loved First Love more than Namida Surprise, and Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara outranked River with fan votes, so gone are the days when additional tracks were just that, added to a single where only the title track would be the one to get a lot of attraction. Even with Watarirouka Hashiritai’s first #1 single, Akkanbe Bashi, the title track itself was met with some criticism by fans like myself, and yet its additional tracks Yasashiku Sasete and Wakage no Italian are awsum, and although Kanpeki Gu-no ne is a great song, my favorite Watarirouka song for now is its accompanying track, Bouken Etcetera. Aki-P and AKB Management further experimented with accompanying tracks with Sakura no Shiori’s competing accompanying tracks, Team PB’s Enkyori Poster and Team YJ’s Choose Me!, and when fans criticized the title track of Sakura no Shiori, they did give positive comments on the additional tracks.

The additional tracks have greatly improved from tracks just added to a good title track, and these additional tracks have been proven to be very good, at times even better than the title track. Which leads to another interesting point. You have to remember who performs the additional tracks. The additional tracks are usually performed by nonSenbatsus. Sure, you can say that the Undergirls and Theater Girls have members that have become Senbatsu at some point in the past, but by definition of Senbatsu, they weren’t Senbatsu on that particular single. And yet, they shine as much, and at times, even more than their Senbatsu counterparts for the single.

Point is, fans have shown their support for songs even when the song had no Senbatsu. Fans love the nonSenbatsu girls as well. It’s not like Shonichi ranked #1 in the Best 100 2009 simply because Mayuyu and Yukirin were there, and songs like Temo Demo no Namida and Heart Gata Virus have outvoted unit songs of Senbatsu election leaders Acchan, Yuko, et al. Thing is, Aki-P and AKB Management can’t just shake up the Senbatsu line up without disappointing a few people, maybe including the frequent Senbatsus as well. Having fans vote for Senbatsus has been done already, and it’s not like it gives chances to many of the other girls anyway. So why not randomize? A tournament where no real skill is involved would lead the Senbatsu line up to total chance, so it would be nobody’s fault. Sure, this is another dare on Aki-P and AKB Management’s part, but history has proven, fans would support AKB and their songs regardless of how many Senbatsus (or in this case I should say front girls) there are on the song. And what if the front girls don’t make Senbatsu this time? They’re already assured to appear on the single, if not Senbatsu, then as Undergirl or Theater girl, and since Undergirl songs have outshined Senbatsu songs before, this would be the Senbatsus chance to outshine the Undergirls as Undergirls. Crazy isn’t it? Besides, when accompanying tracks have shown to be as important as the title tracks, then it's not really too big a deal anymore if the frequent Senbatsus end up in the accompanying track and not on the title track. More great and interesting experimenting on the part of AKB Management, indeed!

Some people don’t like the idea that the Senbatsus (those who will take part in the recording for the title track of the single) for an upcoming single of AKB will be decided by a Jankenpon (Rock-paper-scissors) tournament to be held on their upcoming concert in Budokan a few months from now, the bracketing of which was decided via random draw held on their Yoyogi concert held a few days ago. I have different feelings towards it, but I do think it’s a very exciting idea. I would so love to watch that tournament live. It would be so nice to see live who would get a possible once in a lifetime chance to center an AKB title track. It would be a classic moment. Can you imagine one of the original members of the original Team K or Team B who have rarely if ever been Senbatsu before suddenly becomes center?

I guess Aki-P is going back on his idea when he said in a press conference last year that the reason he or AKB Management kept choosing the same people as Senbatsus is to make it easier for casual fans to put faces on the AKB name, to make it easier to increase the fanbase. But when your single is selling over half a million copies, I guess you can take a few chances.

Maybe the song Aki-P has prepared for whoever will become center via the Jankenpon tourney is a great underdog song, making the whole thing very fitting. Why not, remember the lyrics to Shonichi?


  1. Hello Silver Rain !

    First of all, thank you for your great blog, it's always a interesting source of information for everything about AKB ! I wish long live the blog ! \(n_n)/

    Your article makes sense and help me to understand this surprising decision which is the Jankenpon tournament,
    However, I am more worried about the feeling of the girls about this... For them who are working everyday so hard to be selected as Senbatsu member, they are told that this time (or even more in the future), all of their great work is completely useless, mostly "luck" will count...
    Of course they can (and I hope they do) put in perspective all of this and just have some selfless thought and give a nice chance to other hard working girls !
    But I am just a little bit afraid some of them could get discouraged (fed up?) by all of this stuff and loose strength in their hard working in order to get Senbatsu member (Once again, after all this time and maybe some other time everybody is able to become senbatsu just by pure luck)

    On the other hand I totally agree with your article, that's true that under girl songs have managed to become even more appreciated than front girl songs,
    but I just hope AKB girls don't tell themselves senbatsu just doesn't make sense any more so they don't really need to be hard-worker any more, or on the contrary they cherish so much the senbatsu thing that they will get totally disappointed by the result of the Jankenpon tournament...

    Well I guess every time you have to choose some girls from a group of them, there will always be some who will be happy, and some who will be sad ^^'
    And after all, AKB fans will always be there to support them whatever will arrive from this tournament, isn't it ? (Damn Aki-P who understood this :P)

  2. Thank you so much for the very kind comments, Eivind.

    I agree that the tournament may discourage some of the frequent Senbatsus (something I hope to discuss on another post) but to be honest, hard work is only one factor to become Senbatsu. Examples of other factors are popularity and Management push, and it is rather unfortunate that many of the other members do not get as much of these as the others. Yes, I agree that the frequent Senbatsus do work very hard, but I can also say that even the nonSenbatsus work very hard as well, maybe as much as, if not more than the frequent Senbatsus, especially if they had the opportunity. So in that angle, I too hope and believe that this will not affect the amount of effort these girls put in. Personally, I believe the tournament encourages more members than it discourages, granted the ones that are encouraged are the less promoted ones, while those that may get discouraged, if any, are the most popular ones.

    More importantly though, we have to remember that the Janken tournament affects the outcome of only one single. By the single after that, we go back to Management choosing who gets to become Senbatsus again. So the girls still have much incentive to stay on with AKB. Basically, this is just a one-time fair chance to let the less promoted members get featured on a single. Although like the Senbatsu elections, I'm betting the randomized Senbatsu tournament will become an AKB annual event.

    Whatever the outcome, I'm sure to buy the single.

  3. Discouragement will definitely come if an undergirl loses at janken, it's like their lottery ticket to senbatsu. The popular members won't care too much.

    I'm interested in the discussion of hard work. Even if the girls are working as hard as before (maybe even more) the feel of AKB is different from their early years when they weren't popular.

  4. Yeah, (like Anton Chekhov's "The Lottery Ticket", I suppose) but in a group as large as AKB, it cannot be avoided that a few girls will end up a bit discouraged, if they let themselves be, in any management decision, as Elvind also alluded to.

    I agree that the feel of AKB is different from what it was in the early years, although I think this is also a good thing; AKB Management is working to maintain and increase interest in AKB.

    Thanks, genkikoala!