Our Idols Are Kind of a Big Deal, and I Hope That’s a Good Thing

Warning: I had no idea what to do with this at first, and still don’t, so bear with me

So as the world turns, little things that pertain to your interests will sometimes stick out at you. Case in point: Last Friday, while plowing through the absolutely absurd number of Twitter notifications that I’m set up for, I noticed an interesting series by Zenbu Kimi no Sei Da:

I can’t get over Yotsu in that last pic

It’s them celebrating the literal hundreds of thousands of views that their most recent MVs have picked up on YouTube. And if you follow that kind of thing at least as semi-regularly as do I, you’re a) unlikely to be surprised and b) pretty stoked for that kind of success. Like, compared to actual big-time big-time idols, 420,000 is pretty-good-but-not-greatest, but it’s still way way way ahead of what often happens to idols that we (operative word here) often associate with “success.”

Now, that isn’t to point fingers or run down anybody — Zenkimi got some excellent media placements and go on absolute grinds of tours all over the country, such that they’re legitimately building fans outside of the Tokyo-Osaka-Nagoya axis that most idols find themselves restricted to, so they have built-in advantages that many others don’t. And, knowing how media-savvy Codomomental is, they might be getting some mechanical assistance if you know what I mean.

But what started off here as a “How Popular Is Zenkimi Now” post has turned into something else, because Brian had shared this little item with me:

That’s a top-200 ranking of hits on idols’ Wikipedia (presumably Japanese version ) pages over a 60-day period. Even just a quick glance might surprise you to see where the eyeballs are going: After some insane numbers at the very top of the list, things start to even out, and boom, right away are BiS and BiSH and Kamen Joshi and YMM and PassCode. Like trad-style rock idols? Babyraids and Up Up Girls and PASSPO are right there, too. If you peruse for a minute, you’ll see a lot of names, is the thing. (You are welcome to look for Zenkimi on there, btw.)

Now, digital media is a weird thing. Insofar as I still work on that for Day Job, I’m used to seeing contradictory bits of data from different sources, or composites that don’t add up and make it really difficult to develop any kind of model, let alone a predictive one, so I know all too well that one set of data from one source in something as varied and occasionally incoherent as web traffic writ large doesn’t need to be replied on, but can be taken anecdotally as something qualitative even if the different numbers don’t make sense. Which is to say, a metric ton of hits on a page that counts based on metrics that you may not completely understand, or a whole mess of video views that don’t correspond to other things you can observe (for instance, Twitter followers), they’re interesting in the potential stories that they tell.

What I do think ultimately matters, though, is volume. Mass. Wishful-thinking correlatives that you’re willing to go out on a limb to support because of data that’s hard to quantify, but nonetheless observable — Kanye is probably insufferable in person, for instance, or CJ McMahon has a lot of anger inside of him. So I know that, hey, hard rockin’ and/or “alt” idols are appearing at bigger and bigger events, doing bigger one-mans, getting more mainstream media attention for their actual accomplishments rather than their zany antics, etc., and a picture starts to form, and then boom, data!

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I mean, I’ve always wanted “success,” by whatever metric made sense to the desires of the subjects, for our idols, chika or otherwise. Sell CDs, sell merch, sell tickets, make money, keep having reasons to work. This makes sense to me. But I also can’t completely shake the feeling that, coming up on seven years since Brand-new Idol Society, real change is in the air. And I’ve mentioned that feeling before, a decline in heavy idols at the expense of more accessible punk-style idols, and the recent emergence of a more art-intensive scene within the scene.

If you’re old enough to remember the 90s, you might recall Woodstock ’94. Man, that was amazing. Rock was back, baby, and hip-hop was ascendant, and even Top 40 artists had to mix things up to stay Top 40 artists, because the Top 40 looked completely different from where it had been just a couple of years prior. And just off the real mainstream, you had Metallica at the literal height of their powers, sparking a completely unprecedented public interest in metal that … well, the less said about what came about by the time Woodstock ’98 (and the early Aughts, my gawd) happened, the better.

But that’s the point: An amazing revolution happened, and for a few bright-as-hell years it pushed the dial in completely different directions, only to reach a saturation point where fans started to look for something else new and exciting (and less mopey, let’s be honest), and labels were quick to drop support for projects that they’d at times basically pulled out of the gutter in the pursuit of a buck. Nirvana gave way to nu-metal; we had Arrested Development for a hot minute and were rewarded with Chamillionaire.

Basically, the cool stuff jumped the shark whether it wanted to or not, and the cultural vestiges felt like cheap perversions of earlier work.

So I don’t know. I’ve been melancholic lately just due to the fact that so little of genuine interest has happened in a while — this time last year was incredibly exciting! — so maybe jointly observing real popularity for the biggest hitters in our end of idol while also watching the scene slow down on one hand and move in different directions on another, maybe there’s a lot of bias in how I’m describing it.

I just don’t want something that I love to die out under the weight of its own inflated importance. I want Chitti to be a rock star, but for reasons of creativity and execution rather than formulaic crowd-pleasing, you know? And not at the expense of Io and the Dots-chan and Ruru Summertree.

I’m afraid of the spark going out.

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One thought on “Our Idols Are Kind of a Big Deal, and I Hope That’s a Good Thing

  1. I know i have said this before but i think a big problem is that groups are appealing to idol fans primarily which means the quality of the music and the performance is not prioritized because wota will buy and chant along to any formulaic old bullshit as long as there are cute girls to ogle and shake hands with.

    If they aimed directly and mainly and non-wota rock/metal/”music” fans instead of seeing them as a bonus then i think the scene would be a lot healthier.

    It’s about a year ago now that i first wrote this and i still think it’s true:

    -“Alternative” idol groups are more interested in being “alternative” idols and not interested enough in being an alternative TO idols.-

    I hope(and think) that there is a new wave of hungry groups(and bands…) around the corner that are fans of and have learned lessons from the first couple of waves of groups and that can better deliver on the promise they had.

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