How a Japanese girl-group empire is conquering Asian pop —

by Patrick Winn

The world’s biggest pop group, literally speaking, is AKB48. This Tokyo-based power-pop ensemble typically features between 110 and 140 singers. Most are in their late teens with a smattering of 13-year-olds and women in their mid-20s.

When the group debuted in the mid-2000s, AKB48 was more easily dismissed as a novelty act. But in recent years, the group has expanded into a bona fide musical empire — one that has spread across Asia. It is now reimagining what it even means to be a pop group, borrowing elements from both “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “The Hunger Games.”

AKB48 produces what is called “idol” music: in-your-face melodic cuteness, hypercatchy choruses, coquettishness that sometimes takes a turn for the PG-13.

Roughly 10 years ago, as AKB48’s popularity exploded, it started spawning sister groups across Japan in cities such as Osaka. This brought the total membership to more than 300 singers. But now, the group is in the midst of an even grander feat: building up foreign satellites across Asia.

These overseas groups — seven in total— bring the combined number of singers in the AKB48 universe to well over 500.

There’s SGO48 in Saigon, MNL48 in Manila, JKT48 in Jakarta and perhaps its most influential franchise of all: BNK48 in Bangkok…

Reblogged from

Image courtesy of BNK48/YouTube

April 04, 2019 — 1:00pm EDT

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