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The End of an Era

m.o.v.e announced today that they were disbanding.

Even in the midst of work, finals, and a lot of stress, this news strikes me and saddens me. Enough to break my silence on this blog. (I’ve been doing Japanese music-related things. Went to the Yoshida Brothers x MONKEY MAJIK concert, for example. But that’s not for this post.)

I remember listening to this on the flight to Hong Kong in 2001 and falling in love at first listen. I remember downloading the MP3s from Napster and online sites and burning them and replaying them over and over, both on Winamp and in CD format. I remember hunting down their CDs in Kinokuniya and Book-off and playing them in the school store when I worked. They were my first music fandom, and the efforts they make to keep in touch with their fans no matter where in the world they live or what language they speak astounds me.

It might be safe to say that without them, I wouldn’t be as into Japanese pop music as I am. This blog wouldn’t exist. (Hell, the name is derived from one of their songs.)

I’m always going to regret never being able to go to one of their lives.

But for 15 years of music that I still genuinely enjoy, I’m grateful, and I wish yuri, motsu, and t-kimura all the best in whatever paths they pursue from here on.

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Categories: m.o.v.e/move, Rambling

Obligatory Ranking Post (the very belated and lengthy sequel)

04/08/2011 2 comments

I gotta say, I love posts that inspire discussion and all – I really do, even if I’m not a very talkative person myself – but let’s take a different track this time. Sorry to say, not every post can be as awesome and provoking and thought inspiring. Or maybe just plain provocative.

At long last, I finally offer you another ranking post.

Read more…

The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly

03/24/2011 11 comments

I have a very simple question to pose to you today. (Perhaps not so simple, given that I’ve been mulling over it for the better part of two years.) What is a bad fan?

Fans can be generally defined as people who fanatically like something – but what actions separate the good from the bad?

Is it a person who doesn’t financially support the artist, but downloads everything instead?

Is it a person who wants to become a major player in the fandom and resorts to harassment, stealing, and other sorts of wank in order to spread their name?

Is it a person who is delusional regarding the subject of their fandom, such that they believe s/he is their *~*ONE TRUE RABU*~* and may even stalk her/him, if the option is available?

Is it a person who likes only one part of the whole, instead of the whole?

Is it a person with absolutely nothing to contribute to the fandom other than inane and potentially insulting commentary?

Is it a person who automatically jumps to insults and derogatory words (see: bitch, whore, slut) when referring to people they dislike?

Is it a person who is insultingly outspoken about what they consider immoral only so that s/he becomes known as a major speaker on the fandom in question?

Is it a person who, despite being a fan, abuses language in their fanhood? (Note that this is not the same as not being proficient in the main language in which you are communicating – usually English. See: “hi minasan ginki des ka” as an opener, usage of the word “bakka” in reference to an idiot instead of the proper “baka”, random usage of the terms “kawaii” and “kakkoii,” and ending every other sentence in “ne.”)

Is it a person who may like the fandom in question, but are very outspoken regarding parts they do not like?

Is it a person who thinks that they have the right to judge who is a “true” fan and who isn’t?

Is it a person who is truly fanatical, someone who is almost rabidly unforgiving of anyone who holds a different opinion in regards to their fandom, even in a public forum for the open discussion of the topic?

Is it all of the above?

Or is it something completely different?

You tell me.

Categories: Rambling Tags: ,

What is J-Pop?

On Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 (I give you the exact date so you can see either how much I’ve been thinking about this subject, or how much I’ve procrastinated on this post. Exactly which of the two is a matter I leave to your imagination.), my Twitter feed was bombarded by a bunch of tweets from Taku Takahashi of m-flo fame. Well, the bombarding was actually quite normal. It turns out DJ Taku has a lot to say.

Back on topic – the main subject of these tweets? The use of “J-Pop” as a category.

Y’see, I am one of those people. I’m anal about the tagging of my MP3s. I’ve gotten called out on it, and I’ve verbally displayed my annoyance at people who don’t. I don’t care if you know what the song is, why the hell would you leave “[insert mp3 site that you probably didn’t get the song from here!].com – [Generic Song Title]” in the Song Name tag? For one thing, you’d have to wait for the site name to scroll past before the actual title comes up; for another, sometimes the title isn’t even in there. To say nothing of it fucking with tag-reading things like Last.fm, any iPod games involving music information, or MP3s uploaded to tumblr.

I like to think I’m not too bad about this obsessive behavior. All I really need is the

  • Song Name
  • Song Artist (as styled officially, whether in kanji or with Up AnD dOwN letters)
  • Year
  • Track Number (# of # – even if all I have is the one MP3 from a release with 30 tracks)
  • Album Title
  • Disc Number (Only if there’s more than one CD)
  • Genre
  • Album Art – preferably in a size at least 300×300, but I’ll put up with less if that’s all that is available. (JOHNNY’S! I SHAKE MY FIST AT YOU!)

I usually fill out “Album Artist” with either the romanized name (if in Kanji) or an associated grouping (every one of the 188 tracks on the BEMANI BEST for the 10th anniversary compilation is under “Beatmania”) and I’m a bit less anal about composer – I’ll fill it in if the information is available, but I won’t hunt it down like everything else.

“No,” you’re telling me, “All that’s pretty anal already. Isn’t all you need for the tag stuff the name and the artist, anyway?”

Well, here’s the kicker, then – for someone so anal, I’m guilty of just shamelessly labeling the genre tags with “JPop” over and over and over. It matters not whether it’s Johnny’s or Pay money To my Pain or SOUL’d OUT or Vocaloid that I’m tagging – ctrl+I in iTunes, “JPop” in the genre box, and I am satisfied.

Not so much since that tweet.

“J-Pop”, obviously, is Japanese Pop. “Pop” being pop music, and quoting Wiki:

Pop music (a term that originally derives from an abbreviation of “popular”) is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented towards a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.

So is there something wrong with saying that a track has popular appeal? Just take m-flo, seeing as the tweet sparking this post originated from one of the members. Though categorized as hip-hop, the fact that they are chart toppers alone speaks to the fact that they have popular appeal. The music in question was undeniably a hit with the younger generations (teenagers and early twenties) – and besides, as he says in the original tweet “I think it is ok to make something ‘pop'”

Perhaps it’s the Japanese part? Well, it is Japanese in origin, debuting in the Japanese music market, with Japanese lyrics. And he does admit, generally, m-flo is jpop. He also tweeted this and this, and let’s face it – Japanese pop, as mass-produced can be corny, stupid, or both.

But let’s make it simple. Here, he just says outright that he thinks the term “JPop” is lame. And going back even further, here he asks if the term “JPop” is necessary anymore, for both users and people working in the industry. When you get down to it, he’s got a point – music is globalized. Even if you don’t listen to Japanese music (and what the hell are you doing reading this blog if you don’t?), at some point, you have very likely listened to something that has played elsewhere in the world. Perhaps it’s time to drop the language boundaries. Away with the K, away with the C, away with the J, away with the Euro – wait, europop is a legitimate genre. Never mind that last one. But the terms “JPop”/”KPop”/”CPop” and even “Anison” (anime songs) are admittedly extremely loose. As long as it’s Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or tied to an anime, it will technically fit into the respective “genre”. And when you rip a Japanese music CD, the automatic MP3 genre tag is “DOMESTIC POPS” – which doesn’t work quite as well when you’re overseas, but makes it very clear that, of course, to the Japanese, J-Pop is just pop.

So saying, would you tag Nightmare‘s the WORLD as Japanese Pop? It was in the Japanese music market, after all. Japanese Rock? Since it is undeniably Japanese, and undeniably rock. Or perhaps the more specific subset Visual Kei? (Though that technically applies more to the visual style than the musical style.) Can we say it’s an anison? It was the first opening theme song to the Death Note anime. Do we drop it altogether and let them be the rock/heavy metal they are?

And furthermore – should you tag each song in a release individually? Take a mixture album like the Dance Dance Revolution soundtracks where there are many different musical genres. Is this one trance, this one happy hardcore, this one ska? Or are they all just unceremoniously filed under “Soundtrack” or “Game”? CHEMISTRY is primarily a R&B duo, but if you listen to their regeneration album (also primarily R&B), second track Period is clearly rock-tinged pop. Oh, it was a theme song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, too. How to squeeze anison in there?

I know. I’m making a huge deal out of this. All this really comes down to is – in the end, I want my MP3s tagged properly. And yet if an artist is going to say that s/he doesn’t want to be called “JPop,” I want to respect that. Until I figure that out, and manage to retag over 25000 MP3 files*, my music library is going to give me a headache.

*Barring Johnny’s and other idol groups, of course. C’mon, those are unrepentantly Japanese pop.

State of the Fangirl #01: Boyband Releases

01/16/2011 1 comment

I know, I know, the first three new posts on this blog all about boybands? Hey, my blog. My rules.

1) Huzzah! It has happened! Arashi has finally released a single that is not boring again! Or, will, rather. The preview for Lotus, their next single and the theme song to Aiba’s upcoming drama Bartender, is making its way around the interwebs. As you can see and hear, it’s not as bland as the stuff they’ve been putting out in the latter half of 2010. In fact, the PV style and dance seems to harken back to 2008’s truth and 2009’s Believe, both of which were songs that both showcased Arashi’s maturing image. (They can’t be happy rainbows forever.) The song also reminds of truth‘s dramatic melancholy – I don’t like it quite as much as I loved truth when I first heard it, but I definitely like it better than Love Rainbow, Dear Snow, and Hatenai Sora. I think most importantly, though, as various Arashi fans may say – they’re dancing again!

2) This is not news. The Pi-loving fandom (Yamashita Tomohisa, that is. Not 3.14159265…) has been ecstatic about his upcoming solo single, Hadakanbo, for weeks now. I figured since I was going to do this post anyways I should at least watch the titular music video. In growing up, Pi’s gone from an adorable teenager to “dead fish eyes,” and one can’t help but get the feeling that his idea of the “cool & sexy” image is blatant apathy. (Either that, or he’s a very bad actor when showing how much he cares.) It doesn’t change in this video. Like I grew to love Kuroki Meisa’s criminal because of her bedroom eyes in the PV, I think I could’ve grown to like this song. Now all I’ll see is Pi in his NAKED lights with his geisha-haired backup dancers and think of what could’ve been. Hopefully his upcoming album (Supergood, Superbad), is better.

3) w-inds.‘ upcoming single, –Be As One-/Let’s get it on, is the second since their amazing album ANOTHER WORLD. -Be As One- is the one that’s got a tie-in (the 6th ending to FAIRY TAIL… wait, didn’t I have problems with being addicted to FAIRY TAIL music?), so Let’s get it on is the one that gets a PV. Just so things are fair or something. The former is a pop ballad in w-inds. style, sweet and melodic. (The ending sequence that goes with it is pretty nice, too, focusing on ice-wielding character Gray.) But if -Be As One- is tame, then Let’s get it on is as dangerous as the title threatens. Abundant use of English in the very sexy lyrics, vocoded vocals, an attempt at a sexier image in the PV (Ryohei ends up looking kind of shady and Keita’s a bit of a joke at parts, but Ryuichi completely succeeds at being a sex god) are all things that could possibly put off listeners, even those who love their recent electronic style. Even if Ryohei and Ryuichi finally have a bigger role in the song again. But! If you like bare female midriffs this is the music video for you.

4) The Tohorangers (TVXQ!/THSK/DBSK) are now down to two. Well, you probably should’ve figured that out after The Girl, Ultra Mushroom, and Kamen Laser (Jaejoong/Yoochun/Junsu, aka JYJ) went off on a non-profit tromp through the US and released a horrifically ridiculous Stateside debut video, but just in case you were living under a rock. (I don’t blame you.) Bondage Ranger and Gi (Yunho and Changmin) squared up their shoulders, wiped away the tears, and said they’d keep the Tohoranger name going. Why? (Keep Your Head Down) is the first fruit of their efforts, and it needs to be said – if nothing else, SM Entertainment knows how to make a music video. The song is also fierce, Yunho’s effeminate rapping is in full force, and while there’s some questionable outfit and hairstyle choices, it’s so much better than, well, JYJ’s reentry. HoMin may have kept their heads down from the Toho mess this past year, but clearly they can come back heads held high.

5) Everything but the music video for KAT-TUN‘s upcoming single Ultimate Wheels has been released – but you can catch a snatch of the song in their commercials for the Suzuki SOLIO. I had a really really bad joke to make regarding the title, but… I think the commercial I’ve linked is hilarious enough, especially with this particular song. Who knew selling cars could be done in such a dramatically shounen manga way?

6) Speaking of KAT-TUN… Akanishi Jin‘s first solo release after leaving KAT-TUN and signing up with Warner Music Record Japan is set to come out in early March, under the name of Eternal. He’s also going to put out a US album in the summer, for which I’m shamefully excited because I (contrary to my dislike of him) did enjoy A PAGE, even if it means he won’t really sing songs like care again. But back to Eternal. There are also so many unclassy jokes to make about that name, whether you love him or hate him or just want to refer to his eggplant. I’m not that bad. You come up with the jokes yourself.

Alright, that’s January, February, and early March in one swoop. What are you excited for? Displeased that I’ve left out Tegomass/Choshinsei/your boyband of choice? Something I absolutely need to listen to? Point me in the right direction.

When I say broken promises, I really mean to break them.

12/31/2010 1 comment

Hi. Me here.

It’s been almost a year, I know. I promised. I tried.

…let’s be honest – no, I didn’t. Okay, end of that.

A lot of things have happened.

I absolutely cannot stand AAA anymore. By no fault of the band. Unless you count the fact that they attracted the fans (and fandom) that ended up putting me off them to begin with. Yes, it’s been a year, and I still want to retch even when I listen to the music that I adored back in 2006 – and believe me, nostalgia goes a long way in how much I like a song. I’m sure there are plenty of nice fans out there. But if you have an inkling of what I’m talking about, you’ll understand.

I still adore V6. I adore the music. I adore the variety shows. I also adore that the fandom is relatively drama free. But mostly I adore Miyake Ken. (Let it never be said that I am not superficial.)

I’ve fallen into the abyss(?) that is Vocaloid music. Sort of. Sort of in that I can tell you I am a definite fan of AVTechNO!, even if his Luka is unintelligible to me about 50% of the time, and Yuyoyuppe. Sort of in that I have about 50 Vocaloid-related albums sitting on my laptop that I should probably listen to. (I’m not exaggerating that number. I wish I were. I’d have more space.)

At some point this past year I delved back into my Japanese music roots. That’s right, anime songs. Not just anison, but seiyuu-related releases as well. Since what got me diving back was Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side 3rd Story, that was a natural matter of course. But I have my own specific preferences for seiyuu and anison is a matter of nostalgia, so I allowed myself to be selective and only have about 30 specifically anison/seiyuu-related releases sitting on my laptop that I should listen to. Not too bad? I think? Can I get some validation here?

And somehow, it also seemed natural to follow up Vocaloid and anison with game music. Might as well cover all the unreal otaku bases, right? Persona 3 Portable came out this year, so that was a major part of it. The Vocaloid interest also extended into the doujin group Halozy, who does vocal remixed covers of music from various Touhou games. (No, not Tohorangers/Tohoshinki.) And face it: once into Beatmania – any part of Beatmania – always into Beatmania.

This one, I’m not entirely sure how I got to. In this past month (that is, December), I started listening to Chinese music. Again? I guess again is appropriate. Seeing as how I’m, y’know, Chinese by birth, speak conversational Cantonese and Mandarin, and my parents immigrated from Hong Kong, which I visited about every few years for most of my life. Yes, definitely not the first time in my life listening to Chinese music. And there was that time in 2009 I found some (two) Fahrenheit songs I liked and downloaded all their albums only to find that those were the only two songs I really liked. (I like to pretend that never happened.) So toss on a few more Chinese artists onto my Chinese song playlist.

But what better way to sum up 2010 than to tell you exactly what I liked? Then you can go hunt it down yourselves. I make no claims that these are the best releases 2010 had to offer – there’s so much that I didn’t listen to and so much bias involved. But I say favorites. Your mileage will obviously vary.

Read more…

3rd Time’s the Charm?

01/24/2010 1 comment

Congratulations! You’ve found the new blog of Kimitsu, procrastinator, slacker, and non-writer extraordinaire.

This will mark my third public blog dedicated to Japanese pop culture and my ramblings on it, and you’ll notice, it has a shiny name to go with it. 無礼講⇒ナイト [bureikouNIGHT], Bureikou for short, comes from the title of a move/m.o.v.e song, “無礼講ナイト ~Bring your mic.” It’s one of my favorite songs from one of my most enduring fandoms. Bureikou means something akin to “putting aside rank” – which, in a hierarchical society like Japan, is loosening things up quite a bit. Since blogging began feeling like work – which I put plenty of aside already – we’ll say this name is hope that relaxing on this will help me to blog more!

This is meant to be a separate blog from my past efforts – but I’ve kept some of my old outputs, whether as a basis for things I intend to continue on this blog, or as a piece of writing that I liked, if only for a four-word sentence. You can see these just below this post if you’re early enough to the party, or in the archives if you came fashionably late.

You’ll also notice that unlike my first two blogs (let it beat! and minnaSTAR), this name doesn’t come from the title of an AAA song. Which isn’t to say that they don’t have any songs that I could use for the title of this blog – “suredanse” and “hareruya” are still open for interested WordPress users – but to mark a distinct move (pun unintended) from the AAA fandom. Lately I’ve been privy to seeing some drama from AAA fans that has become rather annoying and even outrageous, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve become ashamed to have been a fan.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t like AAA – even if their work has been tiringly monotone lately – but to those fans, whether or not they’ll read this, have a hearty “F— you.” Thank you for killing a fandom that has always been one of my prides. I’m sick of the rampant attempts to be Big Name Fans; I’m sick of the pettiness that makes people think they can legitimately ask for credit for finding (yes, finding – as in, they did a Google search and posted it somewhere, and want credit for that); I’m sick of the lack of acceptance between fans towards each others’ opinions; I’m sick of seeing things declared as fact on speculation, on opinion, on feeling and bias alone with a lack of proper information; I’m sick of everything that I have seen in the past few months from ALL sides. (You may think you’re the better one. You probably aren’t.)

So thank you for making a spectacle that was – and still is – absolutely disgusting to watch. Thank you for bringing the drama of the Johnny’s fan communities into what has never been an uptight, closed-minded, extremist group of fans. Thank you for killing my happy memories of the group. Thank you for making the Internet a worse place.

To those of my readers sticking around after this, get ready for a new embittered blogger when I do rant.

Because it always sucks when fans kill the fandom.

We now return you to your usual happy Johnny’s-filled posts of glee!

Categories: Rambling