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Sponichi: COVID-19 Could Be to Blame for AKB48 Missing Out on This Year's Kōhaku Music Contest

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Idol group participated in Japan's most-watched music television program for 11 consecutive years

When the NHK revealed the lineup for the 71th Kōhaku Uta Gassen ("Red and White Song Contest") music television program on Monday, many observers were surprised to note that the popular idol group AKB48 was not participating this year, despite their previous 11-year streak. An article by Sponichi suggests that the cause of AKB48's non-attendance may be rooted in COVID-19.

AKB48 was first established in 2007, and had participated in Kōhaku from 2008 to 2019. However, the group released only one single this year: "Shitsuren, Arigatō" (Thank You, Broken Heart), which shipped in March. Although it did sell over 1.16 million copies in its first week, according to Oricon data, subsequent live events were cancelled. For the idol group, which relies heavily on handshake events and live events, it has become difficult to bring out their unique appeal.

"To appear in Kōhaku, it's assumed that you have a representative song for that year," wrote Sponichi. "They must been prepared to lose their appearance streak (by not releasing new songs)."

It should be noted that several idol groups are participating in this year's Kōhaku, including Nogizaka46, Hinatazaka46, and Sakurazaka46 (formerly Keyakizaka46).

The Kōhaku Uta Gassen is Japan's most-watched music television program. The full lineup for the 71th Kōhaku Uta Gassen includes:

(Note: The number in parenthesis represents how many times the singer/group has appeared on the program, including this year.)



In this year's contest, actress Fumi Nikaidō (Tezuka's Barbara) is leading the red team, and TV personality Yo Oizumi is leading the white team. Comedian Teruyoshi Uchimura is the MC for the fourth consecutive year, and NHK newscaster Maho Kuwako is announcing. The theme this year is "This Time We'll Sing And Yell Together," expressing a message of hope and togetherness during the uncertainties of post-COVID Japan.

Source: Sponichi via Hachima Kikō

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