Friday, 13 August 2010

Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14

Since I mostly watch dramas and quiz shows, and because most of my news about music comes from Japanator or HearJapan, I hadn't previously been aware of the phenomena of Beckii Cruel, except for having read about her a few months ago on the Japan Today website. Then I saw that the BBC had done a documentary about her, so I had a look.

The story is one for our times: a video of a schoolgirl dancing to an anime soundtrack in her bedroom goes viral and clocks up half a million views. This grows as she puts up more videos, gets a manager, and visits Japan during her school holidays to promote her photobook, new single, DVD, whatever.

In the past before the internet, when an act became an "overnight success", they almost certainly had several years of experience in doing what they did in local clubs, theatres, etc. Now, "overnight success" can almost mean just that. So Beckii epitomises that dilemma: when you have millions of people watching what you do, what should you do? Beckii and her family's attempt at building on this popularity is reasonable enough, but she's got no training, no particular skills and no natural talent. She just happens to have got a lot of people's attention. If this had happened over time, she could've prepared but as it is, she's learning her trade in full view of the public.

The story told by the documentary is a bit heart-warming, and a bit disturbing. The idea of the internet as some lottery of fame and the next one could be you, is one that a lot of people are attracted to. But the pop industry is like one of those animals that eats its own offspring, and I wonder how far this attempt at cracking the Japanese market can go.

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