AKB48 is not a band, or even a pop group: AKB48 is a hate crime. With “Koko ni Ita Koto,” pop music has reached its lowest ebb. And that is precisely why this album is not my favorite of the year, but the one I think is the most important.
You could almost forgive AKB48’s relentlessly manipulative marketing (faux-breastfeeding in an Web service provider ad, anyone?) if the music wasn’t so hollow, but “Koko ni Ita Koto” exists to generate money, not fun.
“Ponytail to Chocho” throws syrupy and uninspired vocal melodies over cheesy keyboards and a flat, lifeless “rhythm,” and exists only as an excuse to fill a seven-minute pop video with young girls stripping in a locker room and prancing around in bikinis. “Heavy Rotation” does the same job sonically, but its raison d’etre is six minutes of lingerie and girls kissing.
While that may sound hot, it’s a kind of sexless sexuality, presenting the girls as unthreatening objects of disinterested desire. No wonder Japanese people have pretty much stopped reproducing — AKB48’s libido-sapping music dribbles from every TV set in the land. Rather than use the group’s unusual left-of-mainstream position to at least slip in a few subversive tunes, as Yasutaka Nakata does with Perfume, AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto takes the laziest possible approach and pockets the cash. It’s as sinister, widespread and darkly corrupting as a cesium leak.
Every great musical subculture has been sparked by something awful. Just as high unemployment led to the Sex Pistols, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher inadvertently gave us The Smiths, it’s my sincere hope that the atrocities committed this year by AKB48 and Akimoto will spark a new generation of heartfelt music. Hopefully, 2012 will be the year I no longer wish I was deaf.
What I’m looking forward to in 2012: Revolution.