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?