Hello WAWA MAMAS! Let’s have some fun this week, and lap up the delicious sweetness of J-pop, and the impact of Japanese popular music here in the US.
It all started back in 1980 with the release of "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors, from their album “New Clear Days”. The lyrics consist mainly of the singer talking about pictures of his love. Musically, it features an Oriental riff played on guitar.
Here’s the video:
“Turning Japanese” wasn’t the start of the movement, but rather its first war cry! Japanese ex-patriates have been sharing the music of their home land here in the states since they first arrived on US shores. From ancient Kabuki to modern J-Pop, Japanese music has had a huge impact on Western culture and music.
The most popular current form of imported Japanese music is J-Pop:
J-pop (often stylized as J-POP; Japanese: ジェイポップ jeipoppu; an abbreviation for Japanese pop), natively also known simply as pops, is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 1990s. Modern J-pop has its roots in traditional Japanese music, but significantly in 1960s pop and rock music, such as “The Beatles” and “The Beach Boys”, which led to Japanese rock bands such as “Happy End” fusing rock with Japanese music in the early 1970s. J-pop was further defined by new wave groups in the late 1970s, particularly electronic synthpop band “Yellow Magic Orchestra” and pop rock band “Southern All Stars”. Eventually, J-pop replaced kayōkyoku ("Lyric Singing Music"), a term for Japanese pop music from the 1920s to the 1980s in the Japanese music scene. The term was coined by the Japanese media to distinguish Japanese music from foreign music, and now refers to most Japanese popular music. The musical genre has been immensely influential in many other music styles, and hence those of neighboring regions, where the style has been copied by neighboring Asian regions, who have also borrowed the name to form their own musical identities.
Probably the most notable J-Pop celeb here in the US, and a favorite for all Otaku, is J-Pop superstar, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
Here’s a lovely pic of her on Japanese television:
Kiriko Takemura (竹村 桐子 Takemura Kiriko?, born January 29, 1993), known by her stage name Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ Kyarī Pamyu Pamyu?), is a Japanese fashion model and singer. Her public image is associated with Japan's kawaisa and decora culture centered in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. Her music is produced by musician Yasutaka Nakata of electronic music duo Capsule. Kyary is well known for her iconic 2011 single, "PonPonPon", which made Japan's top ten.
Here is her video for “PONPONPON”, in all of it’s cheesetastic glory:
The most interesting J-pop star in my opinion right now isn’t a person at all, but rather a projected hologram animated star: Hatsune Miku.
Here are some memes of the virtual phenomenon:
Hatsune Miku (初音ミク?), sometimes referred to as Miku Hatsune, is a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application developed by Crypton Future Media. Hatsune Miku is portrayed as a 16-year-old girl with long turquoise pigtails. She uses Yamaha Corporation's Vocaloid 2 and Vocaloid 3 singing synthesizing technologies. She also uses Crypton Future Media's Piapro Studio, a singing synthesizer VSTi Plugin. She was the second Vocaloid sold using the Vocaloid 2 engine, and the first Japanese Vocaloid to use the Japanese version of the Vocaloid 2 engine. Her voice is sampled from Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita. Hatsune Miku has performed at her concerts onstage as an animated projection.
Here she is wowing the in-studio audience on the recently retire David Letterman’s “Late Show”:
Modern Japanese music has been able to escape the confines of J-Pop, and have expanded into the rock and hard rock genres.
My current Japanese musical invasion obsession is the mind-bendingly awesome “BABYMETAL”. Their ironic mix of kawaii style and death metal is well…heavy!
Babymetal (stylized as BABYMETAL) is a Japanese metal idol band. Their line-up consists of Suzuka Nakamoto as "Su-metal", Yui Mizuno as "Yuimetal", and Moa Kikuchi as "Moametal". The concept of the group is a fusion of the metal and idol genres. The three teenage girls and their band are managed by the Amuse talent agency. They released their debut album of the same name in February 2014. Kobametal, Babymetal's producer came up with the name as a "divine message". "Baby" may indicate cuteness, "metal" – intensity. Also, he has come to like interpreting it as "newborn metal". In an interview for Razor TV while in Singapore in late 2013, the band members also used the latter interpretation. They stated their brand of metal was a newborn genre, and that was what "baby" in "Babymetal" stood for.
They have recently completed their US tour, headlining for SLAYER (death metal royalty here in the US), and they are now touring the globe.
Here’s their official site:
Mr. Dante is big on lists lately, so here are my top 5 picks for J-POP genius:
#1. Ikimonogakari (いきものがかり）
Hands down, “Ikimonogakari” is the hottest new Japanese band. Comprised of two male guitarists and one female singer, their songs are surprisingly girl-oriented despite most of their songs being written by Yoshiki Mizuno, one of the male guitarists. The singer, Kiyoe Yoshioka has a voice that is very strong, clear, and never whiny, even when she jumps and runs across the stage while singing at concerts. Ikimonogakari does a fantastic job on their ballads and their up-tempo songs, and has created songs that are both simple and complex at the same time.
Kiss-my-ft (pronounced Kisu Mai Futto Tsū or just Kiss My Foot Two) is the most ridiculous Johnny’s band I have ever seen. I don’t know if anyone takes their pretty-boy roller-skating display or effeminate manliness seriously, but they’ve become pretty popular lately (maybe it’s because their music videos are gum commercials?). In August 2005, two Johnny's Jr. units, Kis-My-Ft. and A.B.C.Jr., combined to form Kis-My-Ft2. The name came from the first letter of each of their family names: Hiromitsu Kitayama, Kyōhei Iida, Kento Senga, Toshiya Miyata, Wataru Yokō, Taisuke Fujigaya, Yūta Tamamori and Takashi Nikaidō ("ni" being the Japanese for the number two). They performed as an eight-member group until the end of March 2006 when Iida left Johnny's due to his studies, leaving Kis-My-Ft2 without its "I" (Kitayama's name would later fill this void). Watch this video all the way through, you won’t be disappointed.
“Goosehouse” is a group of singer-songwriters who have gained popularity by posting covers of popular songs on YouTube. Since then, they’ve posted originals and plan on releasing an album this summer. Watching their covers is a great way to discover new songs and artists!
#4. Perfume (パフューム)
This group would have made the list for their silly name alone. “Perfume” us a technopop with girls. Technopop with three insanely cute girls. “Perfume” is as bubblegum as it gets. Loud and dancey, “Perfume” is what you listen to when it is 3:00 AM and I have a report due at 8:00 AM. At first just an average singing group, “Perfume” became what they are today when the genius producer/composer Yasutaka Nakata became their main producer. Nakata has also been responsible for the techno group “Capsule” and has recently been producing and writing for the ultra-famous Kyary Pamyu Pamyu as well.
#5: Namie Amuro (安室奈美恵)
One of Mr. Dante’s favorite’s, Namie Amuro, often called the “Queen of J-Pop,” definitely deserves to be on this list for her looks alone. Mostly an R&B singer, her music is more similar to popular hits in the US than AKB-type musicians. Her career has spanned longer than any other female artist, starting in 1992, and she continues to make music today despite controversy as a divorced single mother.
Till next time MAMA NATION. – Mr. Dante