Atsuko Maeda (born in Ichikawa, Chiba) is a member of the Japanese idol group AKB48. She is in Team A and one of the most prominent members in the group, being voted number one in the 2009 and 2011 Senbatsu Elections. In the 2010 Senbatsu Election, however, she lost to fellow member Yuko Oshima, who was the lead for their 17th Single: Heavy Rotation. She is part of the “Senbatsu” group which consists of AKB48 members that are featured in their most recent singles. On Sunday 25th March, 2012, she announced her retirement or ‘graduation’ from the group.
AKB48 released “Aitakatta” on the major label Defstar Records. Before this release, two singles were released as independent records. For this song, 20 members were selected from the 36 members of Team A & Team K. Maeda was one of these selected members, and she performed a leading role in the promotional video of this song. She has appeared at the front of every single ever since.
The group’s 12th single, “Namida Surprise!”, included voting tickets for the 2009 AKB48 Senbatsu Election, where fans can vote for who will be featured in the next single. Maeda won with 4630 votes, becoming AKB48’s most popular member and frontgirl for their 13th single, “Iiwake Maybe”. However, in 2010, another election was held and Maeda lost to Yuko Oshima, who had 31,448 votes, whereas Maeda had 30,851 votes, so Yuko became the frontgirl for “Heavy Rotation”.
Later that year a different type of election was held (AKB48 Janken Senbatsu Tournament) where any member in the group could be front girl. The members were selected by using the rock-paper-scissors method and Mayumi Uchida received the top spot of AKB48’s single “Chance no Junban” which marked the first time a relatively unknown member has been at the front of a single. Maeda and Yuko were back at the front spots for the next single, “Beginner”.
In 2011, a third AKB48 senbatsu election was held. During the early results, Yuko Oshima was leading with first place. However in the final results Maeda won first place with 139,892 votes whereas Yuko Oshima had 122,843 votes beating her with 17049 votes.
On 25th March 2012, during an AKB48 Concert at the Saitama Super Arena, Maeda announced that she will be graduating from AKB48 soon.
As a solo singer
On April 23, 2011, it was announced by Maeda herself at AKB48’s handshake event in Nagoya Dome that she would make her solo debut with her debut single “Flower”, one of the insert songs for Moshidora, a movie in which Maeda plays the leading role, released on June 22, 2011. She is the second AKB48 member to release a solo single after Tomomi Itano with the single “Dear J”.