The 54th Japan Record Awards – AKB48 wins for the 2nd consecutive year with “Manatsu no Sound good!”

The 54th Japan Record Awards was held at the New National Theater of Tokyo on December 30th, 2012. For the second straight year AKB48 took home the Japanese Grammy equivalent with their massive summer hit Manatsu no Sounds good! while solo female newcomer Ieiri Leo won the Best New Artist Award.

The 54th Japan Record Award nominees:

 「Arigatou」 JUJU
Kaze wa Fuite Iru」 Ikimonogakari
GO FOR IT!!」 Nishino Kana
「Sakura」 Hikawa Kiyoshi
「Sake no Yado」 Kaori Kozai
777 ~We can sing a song!~」 AAA
Hanabi」 Sandaime J Soul Brothers
「White Angel」 Fairies
Manatsu no Sounds good!」 AKB48
「Yasashiku Naritai」 Saito Kazuyoshi

More than half of these nominees were also in the running last year including AAA, JUJU, Ikimonogakari, Nishino Kana, Hikawa Kiyoshi, and of course AKB48. One very interesting thing I learned is that the winner of both the Japan Record Award and Best New Artist Award is decided during the live airing! A 21-man committee made up of four reps from Japan News Network (JNN) stations, twelve newspaper reporters, and five music critics/producers deliberated at length in a conference room within the venue as the show aired.

AKB48 opened up the show with a solid performance of Flying Get, the winner of the 2011 Japan Record Award. The members wore the same exact outfits; it sure was a trip down memory lane! Right before the song they showed exclusive footage of after their 2011 victory performance, which was cut from the broadcast (this entire part was actually cut from the original broadcast as well XD). The girls were crying so hard they could easily be heard without mics from the audience…I had no idea they got that emotional. The award clearly meant the world to them.

Flying Get, the winner of the 53rd Japan Record Award.

 

The first of the two main accolades to be presented was the Best New Artist Award, with the four nominees being former AKB48 Team K member Ono Erena, Usuzawa Misaki, Tina Carina, and Ieiri Leo. I knew from the get-go who would be winning, and I’m sure it was pretty obvious for others as well. Ieiri was a solid lock for the award after the raves she got in 2012. Her only real competition was Usuzawa Misaki, and that’s not saying much.

Like many others watching I was mainly focused on who would go home with the prestigious Japan Record Award. Most of the performances I watched came during the second half of the show, and AKB48 kicked it off with a specially arranged version of Manatsu no Sounds good! It sounded superb with the backing of the JRA ensemble and the entire 36-member senbatsu line-up (minus a certain graduated member) was present for the performance. The white outfits made them look angelic.

Manatsu no Sounds good!

 

Sandaime J Soul Brothers was up next and gave possibly one of their best Hanabi television lives, both dancing and singing-wise. I’ve come to appreciate the song fully after seeing it. Coupled with its awesome onstage performance I thought the song was a very strong contender for the award.

Hanabi.

 

AAA is one of those artists that I have no idea why they got nominated, and for a second year in a row too. Their songs are a little above average at best. Being an avex artist probably has something to do with it. Fairies also happens to be under avex. Just look at their song White Angel, which came out in November, just one month prior. Yet there are plenty of other great single songs released way before in 2012 that did not get the nomination. Hmm…

Anyway, AAA‘s performance wasn’t anything spectacular. One interesting thing to note though: they were the 7th artist to perform on the show, performed their song 777 ~We can sing a song!~, and exactly 7 years ago they won the Best New Artist Award. I noticed that Misako has gotten deathly thin, to the point you can see her spinal protrusions @_@. Holy shit.

777 ~We can sing a song!~.

 

Kanayan not only got nominated for the Japan Record Award, but also won the Best New Album Award with Love Place. Because of this she got to perform not one, but two songs!!! Unlike last year‘s fierce diva image she looked pretty adorable in her sparkly dress and actually got a proper introduction :D!

GO FOR IT!! was the most energetic and cheerful performance of the show, even beating out AKB. The cheerleaders and Kana’s expression as she sang really brightened up the venue. There was a smooth onstage wardrobe change for Tatoe Donna ni… as the dancers peeled off her first layer and attached a beautiful round skirt around her waist. The resulting outfit looked amazing on her. I loved how the skirt fluttered back and forth during the song. It was hypnotizing!

GO FOR IT!! + Tatoe Donna ni…

 

AKB48 performed once again because a certain man won the Best Lyrics Award XD. This time it was GIVE ME FIVE! and Gingham Check, and both songs got the special arrange treatment as well. The backing tracks sounded absolutely fantastic with the live ensemble breathing new life into the music.

GIVE ME FIVE! + Gingham Check.

 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was one of the Special Achievement Award recipients and performed a medley of all her 2012 hits. Slowly but surely this girl is growing on me. Her voice didn’t sound too good during the talk (sick maybe?), but she sounded perfect during her live. Hmm…XD. Despite her ridiculous costumes I think she’ll always look extremely adorable. The short hairstyle just did it for me here.

Tsukematsukeru + CANDY CANDY + Fashion Monster.

 

At this point the winner of the Japan Record Award had already been determined by the committee. After a brief look back at all ten performances the moment was finally at hand. The JRA committee chairman himself took to the stage to announce who would be going home with Japan’s most coveted music accolade.

The 2012 54th Japan Record Award goes to the singers of Manatsu no Sounds good!, AKB48.”

Only four artists in the history of the acclaimed award had won it two years in a row. AKB48 became the fifth artist to do so, and the first female group to achieve such an amazing feat. Takahashi Minami, the appointed general manager of the 48 family groups, instantly became overcome with emotions, as did Oshima Yuko and Watanabe Mayu. Other members such as Tomomi Itano and Shinoda Mariko had surprised looks of happiness on their faces.

Asked about winning the grand prize again, Takahashi could barely talk as tears rolled incessantly down her face:

I’m extremely happy. Last year we really wanted to win the award. This year, with the commencement of our second chapter, I thought we had to win it no matter what. It’s such a great honor to be chosen from among all these wonderful artists.

AKB48 center Oshima Yuko was also asked to comment:

“…This year the award was really won with the feelings of all our fans, staff, and members as we go into our second chapter. Next year we will once again continue to create a new AKB so please keep supporting us.”

The announcer pointed out that Watanabe Mayu did not shed any tears last year, but they overflowed this year and asked for her thoughts:

This year after Maeda graduated, leaving only us…”

She became so overcome with emotion she had to briefly pause to compose herself before continuing:

“…I’m very truly happy. I will hold my head up high and continue to do my best. Thank you.”

Asked about the need to produce results with the members left after Maeda’s graduation she stated:

We felt all kinds of pressure to perform after [Maeda] left, but winning this big award will boost our confidence and pave the way to another achievement.”

 

As is the custom of the Japan Record Reward, the girls gave one final victory performance of their winning song to close out the show.

Manatsu no Sounds good!, the winner of the 54th Japan Record Awards.

 

Manatsu no Sounds good!, AKB48‘s best selling single, the best selling single of 2012, the best selling single in the first week of release, and now, the winner of the 54th Japan Record Award. There cannot be a more fitting way to end a spectacular year for the group. This was the proverbial icing on the grand cake.

Maeda may have left the group when this award was won, but I believe it still counts under the AKB era she was a part of. In other words, contrary to what many fans and even the members themselves may believe, this should not be seen as an accomplishment under the group’s “second chapter”.

Manatsu no Sounds good! marked a turning point for the group, representing a baton pass from the old to the new generation and signalling the start of its second chapter. The track was the very last A-side to feature Maeda Atsuko, who had carried the group up to this point. Indeed, this song is her everlasting legacy that will forever go down in the history books.

As described by one of the announcers earlier in the airing, the Japan Record Award is bestowed upon the work that garners strong support from the general public and is exceedingly artistic, original and creative. There certainly is disagreement out there over whether or not AKB’s song fits all these critiera, but they most certainly beat all the other nominees on the “strong support from the general public” part of it alone.

To be honest I had my doubts about them winning for a second year in a row. While I’m a huge fan of AKB, I’m also a fan of Japanese music in general. Both of these interests are now conflicting… For such a prestigious award considered the Japanese Grammy equivalent, do idols really have a place in winning it twice in a row, let alone at all?

What does it tell the rest of the world about Japan’s music industry? People will get the wrong idea, especially when there’s lipsynching and over 30 idols involved. The word “idol” and “musician” are not synonymous to me, and I’m sure many would be inclined to agree.

I love AKB48 to death, but I think once was more than enough for them. For the sake of other great musicians out there, they don’t need to keep winning this. The group has already done so many other things that they will forever be remembered for.

With the precedent set at three consecutive JRA wins, we can be sure AKB48 will be back again in 2013. And most likely we will see them take home the grand prize once more. I feel it’s almost inevitable at this point, but it is my hope they follow EXILE and Hamasaki Ayumi‘s example and withdraw from a subsequent fourth nomination afterwards.

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