If following various real-world elections over the past year has made you exhausted, take a break and dive into one with much lower stakes. The AKB48 general election season kicks off later this month, and this form of democracy simply sets about ranking who the most popular member of the biggie-sized group - and the various spin-off and sister units around Japan - really is. To vote, fans have to purchase their latest single, which comes with a ballot. Those truly passionate about the outcome can buy many copies of said CD, to get more ballots and thus push their candidate up. Every year, you can bank on local media running a story about someone buying boxes and boxes of singles for voting purposes.
The general election isn’t quite here, but the song for this year is out, and it’s “Negaigoto no Mochigusare,” or “Useless Wish.” Although fans have to wait until May 31 to get physical copies (and the sweet, sweet pieces of paper within), AKB48 shared the video for the song last week. The main clip is 11 minutes long, and you can watch that one on your lunch break, but for everyone else who just wants to hear new AKB music, check out the “short version."
When it comes to election singles, AKB48 could release a blank CD-R with a ballot stuffed behind it and still sell thousands upon thousands of copies. Yet “Negaigoto” finds the long-running idol group trying something different out song wise. It moves at almost waltzing tempo, guided by synthesised accordion and string swells. The group themselves describe it as resembling a “Russian folk song,” but most intriguing is how they approach vocals. Given that over a dozen voices appear on a typical AKB song, many of their more uptempo songs are like a wrecking ball, a bunch of singers coming together at the hook and plowing into the listener. But “Negaigoto” offers a more delicate approach, letting vocal passages glide over one another during the verses before coming together at the chorus for a center that isn’t totally overwhelming.
Ultimately, this is a vehicle to promote a yearly election extravaganza that airs on national TV and dominates social media for a day. But “Negaigoto” is a nice switch-up from a group that often opts for familiar, uptempo to diminishing results. It’s good to see the songwriters behind AKB48 play around with the dynamics of the vocals, rather than just pile them up on one another and bludgeon listeners with it.
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