If you were not aware, Girl Groups are a big thing in Japan. Their popularity amongst the Japanese fans is ever-growing, and there are no signs of slowing down. Girl Groups of Japan reflect genius marketing. More than the talent itself, it is about cutesy girls dancing and singing around on TV shows and music videos. What started in the ’90s has grown up to the point where it has gone global. Today, the admirers of Girl Groups remain in ‘awe’ of their work and make sure that they catch a glimpse of their favorite stars every now and then. With that being said, let us talk about how it all started and where it stands today.
History of Girl Groups
The idea of Girl Groups came about in the 70s, which was the post-war era. However, it initially started from idols that were hired by Japanese talent agencies. Things became serious when in 1963, a song from a French film “La plus belle pour aller danser” went on to sell over a million copies in Japan. This was one of a kind phenomenon. The song was sung by Sylvie Vartan, who was admired and adored for her charming and youthful looks by the Japanese fans. Her presence on television supported her record-breaking popularity in Japan.
As a result, the talent agencies of Japan around at the same time joined the bandwagon and started hiring young individuals who had the looks and talent in terms of singing and dancing. Amongst the very few people who had tasted success at that time included Mari Amachi, Saori Minami, and Momoe Yamaguchi. With time, these idols started forming groups and gave birth to collaborations. While some groups had 4-5 members, others went on to have 30-40 members. The idea of idols performing individually did not settle well with the Japanese audience. Therefore, the creation of Girl Groups took flight.
East Asia Idols
The introduction of idols did not influence the Japanese audience only; in fact, it had impressed the entire East Asia. Now there were not only Japanese idols but Korean as well, although some argue that there is not much of a difference between the two, we believe that there is.
Japanese stars/idols can be identified or termed as being ‘Cute.’ These individuals display childish behavior in addition to dancing adorably. Most Korean stars would be identified the same way, but today, they would like to be termed as ‘Sexy’ by wearing mini-skirts or short skirts, featuring long slim legs and dancing more maturely than their Japanese competitors.
If you happen to watch the videos, you will have a hard time identifying as to which idol is Korean or Japanese. The reason being that both idols utilize more or less the same methods to sell themselves. What this means is that the fans are not actually paying for the music but their personality. The girls attending live shows, with their cute personalities and smiles, is what makes these groups sell their albums. Therefore, if it wasn’t for the Television shows, more than half of the Girl groups you know today would not have even existed.
How many Girl Groups are there?
According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 207 J-pop girl groups. While some of them are still alive and performing, others have disbanded. It should be mentioned that in many cases, the bands continue to join their sister bands where they either release or add existing members. Therefore, in total, the actual number could be quite less.
Being Cute, Sells
As already mentioned, being cute in Japan sells. If you happen to observe occasional girl bands such as the Sapporo based “Zone” or Osaka based “Scandal” that consists of young girls who can play their instruments and possess actual talent, you will come to find out that the appeal for most girl groups is different. Although these cutesy, naively, and innocent young girls are successful in appealing to many, not everyone develops a taste for them. These groups attract young fans more even though they tend to market themselves for all ages. It can be said without any doubt that if they were to be more ‘sexy’ than being ‘cute’, their appeal would drag them towards the adult market, but they choose to keep themselves visually appealing for everyone.
Considering the mannerisms, culture, and traditions followed by the Japanese, it is surprising that these ‘sexy’ individuals can market themselves to all ages as nudity and explicit content is something they are strictly against. In fact, if they were marketing themselves as ‘sexy,’ they would be limiting their audience. Therefore, looking for a sweet spot that allows them to cater to everyone is a wise choice.
Lastly, for the Japanese idols to be famous and popular, they have to practice being a Japanese idol. Do not think of it being similar to a singer, actor, or dancer. In fact, it includes everything. You can lack one or two skills as long as you can make it up for them. So, in the pop world, that is the whole package. No one cares what you sing or how you dance, as long as you look pretty and cute, you are good to go.
Most Popular Girl Idol Groups
The most popular Girl Idol Group in Japan is AKB48 and without any doubt. AKB stands for Akihabara, which happens to be a town in Tokyo considered as a hub for J-pop. The number 48 represents the company sponsoring them. Furthermore, the company sponsors other groups as well outside Japan. So if you come across a group that has the number 48 mentioned alongside the name, it means that it is the same sponsoring company.
If there were already enough reasons to mention KBG84, the fans would still find one. Hailing from tropical islands of Okinawa, the KBG84 is a one of a kind. What makes this group special or unique is the fact that while most girl groups consist of young individuals, the KBG84 features women that are at least 80 years of age. Their success comes from the ability to mix J-pop with their super kawaii traditional sound, creating waves that have gone viral.
Niigata Rice Girls
If there were a group that was a direct rival to the KGB84, it would be these ladies, the Niigata Rice Girls. As you must have guessed, Niigata Rice is not only delicious but one of the most expensive and sought out in the market. Therefore, if you were a fan of Niigata Rice, then you will automatically become a fan of these women as well.
In the end, the answer to the question ‘Why and how are girl groups so big in Japan’ lies in being cute and displaying innocent childish behavior. The Japanese fans look towards physical features the individuals have to offer rather than talent. While it may be an unusual market for some, it is definitely a great selling point for the groups, because they know, as far as they are pretty and good looking, they can easily make anyone their fan.