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 Post subject: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090325 04:17 
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While I'm interested in "normal" music like classic rock and techno, I've also got more than a passing fondness for various kinds of Japanese music, as well.

One of the major criticisms of Japanese music (and perhaps modern music in general) is that it's too "artificial". I don't mind that too much, obviously, since one of my favorite genres is techno.

There are three main genres of Japanese music known to Westerners - "J-Rock", "J-Pop", and "other".

Other is the simplest category as it simply covers everything that doesn't fall into either of the two former categories. It covers traditional music (taiko [Japanese drums], biwa [Japanese guitar], shakuhachi [Japanese flute]) as well as other, less-popular genres such as "enka", which is often compared to country music.


J-pop is probably the largest genre known to foreigners and is best subdivided by genders. There are bands of dancing boys and bands of dancing girls, each designed to appeal to the opposite sex. They are run by large management companies that test many, many people before settling on a combination of looks and (artificial?) personalities that they think will appeal to the largest group. The music is largely rhythm-driven, allowing the bands to sing and dance energetically on video and in concert.

That having been said, I don't really have a problem with it; some of my favorite songs have ended up being j-pop songs. SMAP, Arashi, AKB48, Morning Musume, and Hey! Say! Jump are some examples of popular j-pop groups. There are also some popular solo performers, like Ayumi Hamasaki. Many famous performers in the j-pop world often become or are idols -- people who do everything, from voice acting to acting to commercials to modeling to talk show commentary. It's amazing how much of a reach they have in Japan compared to the US.


J-rock is the other genre and sometimes seems to overlap j-pop. After all, some groups are differentiated by j-pop groups more by the facts that they don't dance and they do play instruments than by their music. Still, some of them can produce (what I think is) good music. There are various subdivisions, usually by cosmetics; there are groups that go for an elaborate gothic look and produce... elaborately gothic/metal sounds. There are groups that go for the cool and modern look and produce... well, cool and modern alternative sounds. Fashion is as much a part of many of the more popular groups as the music is.

Some popular groups are L'arc en Ciel, GReeeeN, Bump of Chicken, Uverworld, and Ellegarden.


Have you listened to any Japanese music? Any favorites? Observations?


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090325 07:02 
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Despite my interest in Japanese culture, I've never been really absorbed into Japanese music. Maybe that's because I already exert more than enough effort in my previous musical fields of interest, being classic rock (largely British) and the blues (originally American, but also with a large British following). From what I've heard, I believe I could get into some Japanese stuff - rock and pop, as well as certain "other" things (I actually think *some* of that traditional-type stuff is pretty cool) - but I'd have to make an effort to expose myself to it, and well, I'm already quite content with what I've got.

That having been said, I've liked the girl groups you've introduced me to (Morning Musume and AKB48, specifically). I'm as much an anti-bubblegum pop guy as you'll meet, yet somehow, put a group of young Japanese girls behind the song, and all my reservations melt away. Course, I'll bet that a larger portion of the draw of that sort of act is visual than aural, which would explain my fascination more with the videos than the songs themselves...

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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090325 07:27 
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Yeah, I figured as much with respect to the videos. I don't have any problems with listening to the songs themselves and enjoy them just as much without the videos.

On the other hand, that's not saying that the videos don't add anything...

With traditional music -- taiko in particular -- the visual spectacle adds a great deal to the performance to me. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I dislike taiko music without visuals, because that's simply untrue, but I would immensely prefer visuals if available. I'd also rather see it live... the recordings of Wadaiko Yamato have absolutely nothing compared to being there live and feeling the drumbeats in your chest.

It's like comparing a cockroach with Godzilla.

Then again, that probably goes for any live.


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090325 11:01 
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Well, there are some things that don't work out quite as well live. I agree that taiko doesn't really have the same effect on a recording. It's more of a performance - that you see, hear, and feel - than just music, the way I've experienced it at least. As for other traditional music, I think the guitar-thing and the flute can be pretty interesting. Like everytime a character shows up in an anime series who plays the flute, it always sounds pretty cool. It's just a completely different musical personality - very ancient, reflective - than the modern stuff you hear. Kind of like the didgeridoo - Australian, yeah, but I think it sounds cool, too.

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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090325 12:29 
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Something I realized from listening to old Japanese songs with lyrics is that the musical theory behind it is completely different. Deaf as I am, I'm still attuned to certain types of beats or patterns, just from the natural rhythms of English and poetry that I've read. Older Japanese songs, previous to their encounters with the West, have a really awkward (for me) rhythm.


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090326 23:41 
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I like theme songs here and there of course. I don't even watch Death note, but "Hey People!" by Maximum Hormone is an awesome song. That ballad sung by Bejiita was really awesome...

I'm turned off by artificial music but Japanese music intrigues me, what little I've heard of it, because it seems to mix sounds more fluidly than US music. I hear bands that will just go wild, a little virtuoically even, where mid-song they'll flutter between standard pop, metalcore and power metal, stuff like that. Of course that might just be more common in mainstream music... come to think of it, the much malinged popular bands like System of a Down and Slipknot have a lot more range than the more purist cult bands, not that it makes them better.

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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090326 23:43 
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IfTheLightTakesUs wrote:
where mid-song they'll flutter between standard pop, metalcore and power metal, stuff like that.


I hesistate to say this due to globalization, but it may be that the cultural/musical barriers aren't as strong over here, or are even non-existent. Or it may be the other way around -- Americans make rigid, pointless distinctions for no good reason.

It's like, if you come from a country where people are segregated by hair color, then go to some other country, it's like "WHOA THEY'RE TALKING TOGETHER HOW AMAZING".


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090327 07:23 
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I haven't heard much in the way of J-pop and J-rock (or K-pop and K-rock) sans stuff like Ayumi Hamasaki. And, I mostly only like her songs remixed and electronica-ized, read: DDR-style stuff. But, I will say I really like the stuff they've remixed from her!

PS - I think NRG (New Radiancy Group) is K-pop, pretty sure they're not Japanese...

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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090327 07:26 
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Yeah, they're Korean "hip-hop". I've heard one or two Japanese rap songs that were just absolutely terrible.

I can't comment on Korean music at all since I don't think I've ever heard any.


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 Post subject: Re: Japanese Music
PostPosted: 090404 04:59 
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I've been listening to L'Arc~en~Ciel again this week (along with all my other Japanese and anime music) to get in the mood for Tekkoshocon, and I have to say, their music isn't bad, but I find that I can't really listen to more than say five or six of their songs before I get bored. And I've noticed that the singer's voice starts to grate on me after awhile. It's really not a great singing voice... I mean, he can sing just fine, but... the voice itself just has an annoying character to it...

But listening to that kind of "pop rock" music, or whatever it is, gives me even more appreciation for Tak Matsumoto (even if the only album of his I have can probably best be described as "pop" "rock" - the title is "The Hit Parade" after all - but it's more rock trying to be pop than pop trying to be rock...or something), who really sounds great. I need to get more of his material. After all, according to some rock fans in Japan I once exchanged correspondence with, Tak is (or perhaps was?) the greatest guitarist in Japan. From what I've heard so far (albeit admittedly not that much), I can certainly believe it.

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