I find it increasingly bizarre that the Black Eyed Peas are still #1 with “I Gotta Feelin’.” Twenty-six weeks after they debuted with “Boom Boom Pow” and moved in to replace themselves and that song still hasn’t gotten any less annoying (like, oh my gawd!). The Hot 100 is a bit sketchy to use as a comparison, having no real Oricon equivalent, but it’s the closest we’ll get before delving into those pesky genre dividers. But the Oricon Top Singles has a completely different turn over rate which tells us a lot about the fickle music choices of the Japanese. Westerners may spout cliches about constantly looking for the next big thing, but it seems to apply less to individual trends than the names behind them. In Japan, the opposite seems to hold true: #1 singles no longer hold the spot for longer than a week or two before the next single takes it place. But forget about hoping boy bands or idols will just go away; unless there’s a scandal involving drugs or a sudden death, you can be sure to find the same names still charting every three months or so.
While this may say more about the importance of the single in Japan than in America, where iTunes and radio play are really the only markers of track popularity (though the prediction about the death of albums increasingly point to the return of the single’s dominance), it also speaks to the larger conundrum of consumer interest. The longest #1 on the Oricon singles chart was Shiro Miya and the Pinkara Trio’s “Onna no Michi” in 1972, which reigned for sixteen weeks. Although data on these things are a bit tricky to find (so please correct me if I’m wrong), the most recent best selling single was Southern All Star’s “Tsunami” in 2000 which stayed at #1 for two weeks, was kicked out by B’z for one week, and then returned to #1 for three weeks. Three weeks! Even Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” managed to stay sixteen weeks at #1 in 1995.
In Tom Ewing’s Pitchfork roundup “The Decade in Pop,” he says, “The appeal of pop, for me, is that its definition of effective keeps changing. […] The constant dance of “what’s great” and “what works” is what keeps me a pop fan: It’s as close as art comes to sport.” Although we can debate which artists have the means to steal the spot, with its constantly shuffling #1s, it seems the Japanese sport of pop is a lot more exciting.