So it’s official. Oricon released today that Japonism has sold over a million copies, in only 12 weeks. This also makes Arashi the first Japanese male artist to achieve this in three and a half years.
The feat is not easy, and is getting more and more difficult, as the music industry–including Japan–looks at the direction of digital. The day Japan finally bows to digital is the day that may spell the death of physical albums, because after all, it is the only other country aside from the US, that is still able to make substantial sales from albums you can actually possess in your hand and not saved in a thumb drive.
But I’m not here to discuss the merits of that.
I’m here to talk about Arashi, but of course.
For 2015, they earned ¥14,328,000,000 or US$122 million from sales of their album (Japonism), singles (Sakura, AoKimi and Ai wo Sakebe), and music DVD/Blu-ray (Blast in Hawaii and Digitalian Live Tour). That’s on top of their earnings from their concerts and shows like Waku Waku, variety shows, endorsements and individual projects. Of course, it’s anyone’s guess how much goes to Johnny’s.
But these are the guys who, as their TOKIO senpai Taichi said, has billions in sales but do not smell like money at all.
Just look at them.
They not only don’t smell like money, they look like they’re in desperate need for it (this is tongue-in-cheek for anyone who has no sense of humor). How can anyone suspect they actually top charts?
But they don’t only sell albums, singles, DVDs and BDs, not to mention dreams. They also sell airline, beer, appliances, food, insurance, beauty products, medicines, even toiletries…would you trust a brand that these guys sell?
Apparently, yes. The members were ranked in the top 4 among Japanese male celebrities who had the most commercials in 2015. Endorsements are an indication not only of fame but public trust as well, and it is no surprise that among the five, it is Aiba who ranked #1. Aiba has always been known as the sunshine of the group, making him an easy choice for companies who want to appeal to the general market.
Despite their very public image, however, they are very low-key in real life. And perhaps that’s how it is with people who actually live and breathe superstardom. They don’t want any of those trappings in their real lives.
But that’s what I like about Arashi. Despite the success they have achieved and the records they continue to set, they remain down-to-earth and is not afraid to poke fun at themselves, including crossdressing for the Japonism Calendar 2016 (directed by Aiba).
They may be at the top of their game but they have always known their place especially when it comes to their senpais, and in a society that gives so much importance to senpai-kouhai dynamics. They would stay in the background when it’s their senpais’ turn to shine (ex: V6’s concert last year where they fulfilled their promise of backdancing, but chose to do it during the encore instead of the concert proper, not wanting to take the spotlight from the senior group).
I’m proud of their achievements–backed by solid figures and not by hot air and hype–but I’m more proud of the people that they have grown up to be.
It would have been easy to be cocky (and to passersby, Nino might come across as that but he’s just a brat who does it for laughs) but they choose to just continue to work hard and do the things they enjoy without competing with anyone. In their interviews and songs, that’s always the message that they emphasize: to work hard and not to compare yourself to others because everyone is different.
“Other people are other people, you are you
The moment you make comparisons, you’ve lost” – Fight Song (translation source)
Perhaps they just got lucky to have found something they really love doing with people they genuinely like, and get paid for it as a bonus. But that’s not to say they didn’t struggle to get to this stage, just ask Riida or Sho or Nino, who at one time or another, had looked at this “idol thing” as temporary. But in whatever they do, even in their struggling years, they always made it appear so easy and fun. And isn’t it some kind of their unofficial motto? As Riida said, they always try to have fun in everything that they do and maybe, the day they no longer find fun in what they’re doing is the day we will see the end of Arashi.
That’s why I always look forward to their next steps, their next projects, because they always challenge themselves and grow as artists, and it is safe to say that at this point, they have found their rightful place in J-pop. Not that they’re stopping any time soon. Well, I sure hope not. Because the lesson that Arashi has taught us over the years is, if you work hard, if you love what you are doing, if you persevere without stepping on anybody, you will be rewarded.
More than numbers, the legacy that would be more important is how they contribute and give back to society. They’re not perfect (even if J seems so), they all have their foibles, but I’m proud to see how they are very much aware of their responsibility as role models and how they try to make themselves relevant to the industry they exist in, and to the community that has given them so much. Whether it’s providing a platform for traditional musicians and dancers to collaborate with them, raising funds for disaster victims, or inspiring the youth, they have transcended the boundaries imposed by idolhood. And that is by just being ordinary guys doing extraordinary things.
[Photos were sourced from my own files and Internet; I have been waiting for Japonism to hit the million-mark and use these photos for a post and finally, today. Omedetou, Arashi-san!]
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