“RIVER” is to AKB48 what the 3rd Symphony, “Eroica,” was to Beethoven.
And the way I figure is this: “Eroica” was pretty much the first step in Beethoven revolutionizing the form of the symphony FOREVAR. Before that, his other symphonies had been cute little copies of Haydn, albeit already with the fancy-ass introductions and whackjob key changes that would become his trademark. But whereas, in the olden days, a symphony was supposed to be this 20-minute piece of fluff that you could knit to, Beethoven said to himself, fuck that shit, how about 20 minutes for the entire FIRST MOVEMENT. And how about the entire symphony be, like, 45 minutes long. I bet I can make those Viennese n00bs sit down and listen for 45 minutes if I felt like it!
So he did.
Fortunately, one does not need to sit down for 45 minutes to enjoy “RIVER” (although it would be awesome if you could), but you do have to sit down for 5 minutes and withstand a barrage of unexpected musical styles, including an entire first minute that is essentially notated as “N.C.” (no chord). The whole thing is as transformative as the idea of a 45-minute symphony; it’s a song that overturns the idea of AKB48—if not all of idoldom—being these randomly hyper dance-pop songs that you can knit to. (Besides knitting, they are also great for multiplayer shooter games. You try popping a cap upside the head of some bad dude in Uncharted 2 with “Aitakatta” blaring in the background. THUG LIFE.)