If you’re into J-pop and follow the Oricon Charts regularly, I guess AKB48’s 18th single doesn’t need any introductions. Beginner was released just last week, but it has already become the best-selling single of 2010 in Japan so far with the mind-blowing amount of 827,000 copies sold in its first week – the highest first week sales ever for a female group. Actually, it only needed 3 days to reach the top of the yearly charts over Arashi, who previously held the #1 spot.
By looking at its insane sales, we can tell it’s more than obvious that Japan has loved this single (although I guess the whole controversy about its “violent” PV somehow helped to boost its sales). But… does Beginner really deserve its huge popularity? Let’s see.
2. 僕だけのvalue (Boku Dake no Value)
3a. 君について (Kimi ni Tsuite)
3b. 泣ける場所 (Nakeru Basho)
The first thing we notice when listening to the lead song of the single is that it’s very different from the usual cute and happy song we usually expect from an idol group like AKB48. Compared to most of their single tracks, Beginner is a darker and more “serious” tune which reminds a lot of songs like RIVER or some of their stage songs. Many people who never liked AKB48’s music and/or idol pop in general happened to like this song… and I’m not surprised because it’s simply awesome. It’s powerful, catchy as hell, and the vocals are really good for an idol song. I played it over 130 times in less than 7 days, so I think you can get an idea of how much I love it: once I listen to it, I can’t help leaving it on repeat. It probably ranks alongside Sakura no Shiori as my favorite AKB48 song ever ♥ .
After the explosion of awesomeness that was Beginner, we move on to the first of the three b-sides. Unlike the a-side, Boku Dake no Value is your average idol pop song: nothing too special, but cute and fun to listen. It somewhat reminds me of Ponytail to Shushu: not only because the style of both songs is very similar, but also because I didn’t really like it at the first listen, however, after some plays it ended up growing on me, just like Ponytail did. It’s not one of those super-catchy songs I love to leave on endless repeat, but I like it and it’s good enough for me to listen from time to time. Perfect as b-side material.
The next song, Kimi ni Tsuite, is exclusive to the Type-A version of the single (remember that AKB48 often split two of the b-sides between two different versions of the same single in order to milk the fans’ money). It’s a cute slow-paced song, nothing too impressive, but nice to listen. Even though this is probably my least favorite song off the single and I don’t see myself listening to it very often, I don’t think I’ll ever skip it when it randomly pops up in my playlist. The song itself is just average, but it’s so cute I can’t help liking it somehow.
And last, but not least, we have Nakeru Basho, a beautiful ballad which can only be found in the Type-B version. I liked this one since the first time I heard it: it’s pretty similar to some of their other ballads like Anata ga Ite Kureta Kara or Sakura Iro no Sora no Shita de, and while I don’t like it as much as those two songs, I still think it’s a very good one and it’s probably my favorite b-side off the single. The first thing that caught my attention about Nakeru Basho were the vocals: they are really good for an idol song, and since many of the girls get solo lines, we can hear how some of them can actually sing. Perhaps they chose the members with best vocals on purpose for this song and that’s why they called this special unit DIVA…
Overall, this is a very good single. The lead song is just amazing, and just because of that, this single totally deserves its huge popularity. The b-sides, however, may feel a little lacking compared to the sheer awesomeness of Beginner, but they’re still decent and enjoyable if you’re a fan of idol pop songs. While the single as a whole may not be the most solid one I’ve heard this year (I mean, the difference of quality between the a-side and the b-sides is just too big), Beginner is, for me, one of the best songs of 2010, and I’m totally looking forward to the next song they will put out. Good job, girls!