Apparently it was so bad that Thai music fans wondered, “Are these really idols?”

AKB48 is a massively successful “idol group” made up of more than 100 girls and young women. Their popularity stems from the concept of “idols you can meet”, and with some of their CDs fans can receive a ticket that admits them to a “handshake event” with different members. Needless to say, diehard fans buy multiple copies so they can get multiple tickets, so that they can shake an idol’s hand multiple times, and that’s part of the reason why AKB48 has dominated the sales charts and become such a cultural phenomenon, in spite of the fact that some would say they aren’t very good at singing or dancing.

Despite their unrivaled success in Japan, they aren’t quite so popular in other parts of Asia. Last year, after performing alongside Korean female idol groups, who are known for their intense choreography and strong vocals, they were heavily criticized by Korean and even Japanese netizens for their subpar performance. Unfortunately, in netizens’ eyes, they don’t seem to have improved, as just last week, foreign spectators were disappointed with the group’s performance at Japan Expo Thailand 2018.

Serving as the main event of the Expo, which invited a lot of Japanese celebrities, six members of the group performed seven of their most popular songs, including “Aitakatta”, “Heavy Rotation”, and “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie”. Afterwards, their Bangkok sister group, BNK48, joined them on stage and performed a song together with them, before a short Q&A session with fans.

Despite this portrayal of their best, fans were not impressed. After the performance, Thai attendees were apparently heard to remark things like, “It didn’t look any better than an elementary school talent show,” and “Did they really have to sing?” When a video of the performance was uploaded by a Korean YouTube channel, it was soon swarmed with negative remarks from many other foreign viewers:

“With the way they sing, shouldn’t they be embarrassed to even go to karaoke with their friends?”
Japanese idols are just a bunch of tone-deaf singers. They can’t dance and they can’t sing, either. I don’t understand Japanese people who like them.”
“If they tried to charge for a live show overseas, they’d probably get rocks thrown at them.”
“They aren’t matching the beat of the music, and their dancing isn’t even in sync. If they can’t work together as a group then they can’t even be considered singers.”

Some Japanese idol fans even agreed with the comments:

“Yup, karaoke level.”
“They should have practiced first!”
They’re an embarrassment to Japan.”
“I want AKB to stop going overseas because they keep embarrassing themselves. They should send [AKB’s sister group from Jakarta] JKT instead.”
“To send these girls in as the face of AKB is bad management. They’re only good for the Japanese fans.”

Other fans defended the group:

“It looks like the people there are having a good time, so who cares?”
“That’s pretty standard for AKB48. Or rather, they’re missing the ones who can actually sing.”

“They can’t help that they were performing in front of people who don’t know how to appreciate idol groups.”
“Aren’t Japanese idols and idols from other countries different anyway?”

In the idols’ defense, from watching the clip, you can tell that they have some microphone trouble at the beginning of the performance, which could have thrown them off of their game a little bit. Plus, in an interview afterwards, the girls did say that they were pretty nervous before the performance, and it’s likely that the songs in the above video were at the beginning of their show, before they got used to the stage and the audience.

▼ You can see from this fan video that the audience is having a good time. The singing sounds much better in this video, too.

Whatever the case, idol singers have a lot to worry about. When you have to try not to fall in love, or be constantly wary of gifts from fans, and are always afraid of being attacked at handshake events, it can make it pretty hard to give a stellar performance 100 percent of the time. In fact, it’s fair to say that, in general, it’s pretty hard to be an idol, and like everything else, you really have to accept the fact that you can’t please everyone.

Source: 48ers via Otakom