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Even if you have only the barest passing knowledge of Japanese music, there’s a very good chance you know the name Ayumi Hamasaki. Arguably the queen of Japanese solo pop artists, between 1998 and 2012, she managed to move over 50 million units including both singles and full albums. That’s a number so big, I need all my fingers, toes and a calculator to keep track of everything! She’s even crossed international boundaries with numerous fans around Asia and managed to be a star for over a decade in a country where pop stars come and go like…well, pop stars.

But is her glory finally at its end? While we’d be loath to make any proclamations about the future, the sales for her newest single “Terminal” have been nothing short of dismal, apparently shocking many music industry insiders.

The beginning of October saw the release of a new single for Ayumi Hamasaki’s song “Terminal” off her new album, Colours, which was released this July. While it’s been a while since anyone could say that the singer was at the height of her popularity, we hadn’t quite realized how far she’d fallen until cold hard numbers smacked us in the face. According to Oricon, a Japanese music ranking site, the singer’s 52nd release debuted at only number 24–and only sold a scant 2,889 units in one week. This is apparently the first time in over 16 years that a Hamasaki release hasn’t debuted in the top twenty.

▼”Poker Face” was a Hamasaki song before Lady Gaga even existed.

In Hamasaki’s defense, the actual album sold a bit better, debuting in the number five spot on July 2. Unfortunately, it fell to 16 by the next week and 31 the week after. From there, the album slipped off the charts–not exactly a good sign for someone in the 16th year of their career! And in addition to her dismal album and single sales, it looks like the pop songstress is even having trouble with domestic concerts–though apparently she’s somewhat in denial. After a show with plenty of open seats, she still tweeted that there wasn’t enough room for everyone and that they’d find a larger place next time. We’re not exactly PR experts, but that seems like something you probably shouldn’t do.

So, what happened to one of the longest lasting pop singers in Japan? Are people finally just done with her?

▼At least her dogs still love her!

While we suppose everyone is entitled to having an off-day–or even an off-year–there are a couple different theories going around for the poor sales of her new single. For example, one industry insider suggested that the single and the club remix by Armin van Buuren simply weren’t to the taste of Hamasaki’s fans. The insider suggested that the song wasn’t entirely dance music or J-Pop, but rather a mix of the two–perhaps not far enough in either direction to satisfy fans of either genre. Give the club mix a listen and see if you agree with that assessment.

▼Ayumi Hamasaki – Terminal (Armin van Buuren Club Mix)

Another rumor is a bit further into conspiracy theory territory. Apparently there wasn’t much promotion in the lead up to her album or single release–at least not on the level that we might normally have expected from Ayumi Hamasaki. Another industry insider suggested that Avex Trax, Hamasaki’s record label, may be giving up on her after her previous release, a maxi single released last December, also only debuted in the number five spot. Could it be that the label simply didn’t bother promoting her new releases? If so, that doesn’t seem like a great way to run a business to us–but then again, we’re not music moguls!

However, we have our own theory. It might be a backlash to her releasing a video that was pretty much just one long selfie

▼It was kind of funny when the Chainsmokers did it, but this is going way too far.

Regardless of the reason for the low sales numbers, the numbers themselves are apparently quite a shock for many in the Japanese music business. Even if you don’t like J-Pop or Ayumi Hamasaki’s music, when someone like her struggles to sell 3,000 albums, it’s a worry for the industry as a whole. Obviously, it’s not set in stone that where goes Hamasaki there goes the Japanese music industry, but could it be that this is a sign? As one insider said, even in an age where CDs aren’t selling, you’d still expect Ayumi Hamasaki’s new release to move units.

Well, regardless of the rumors, we’re not sure that Hamasaki is done yet. And if she needs a little pick-me-up, all she needs to do is read this inspiration from Kenko Hoshi.

Sources: Rakuten Woman (1, 2, 3), Oricon (1, 2), Zakzak
Images: Amazon