The post that was supposed to go somewhere but didn’t.
So SuuDesu/Sakura RABU…, trailing over to my tiny little blog somehow some way, left a not entirely unwarranted comment on my About page. For those of you too lazy to click, here it is:
I’m a little curious, if you’re american/chinese, then how come you don’t write anything (seemingly) about C-music? Not that it’s required just ’cause you’re half chinese or anything, I just happen to like both japanese and chinese music. And there are some pretty chinese equivalents to the johnny boys as well! ^-^ Personally, I think 吳吉尊 is cute ^^
So, first a couple of nonsensical comments that you all could really do without. I’m seemingly full-blooded Chinese (the jury’s out on that one because I looked mixed, and to be honest I don’t know my Asian-looking father’s ethnicity.), though my friends have joked that I could be half-Japanese, half-Chinese. (Based on the half-J/C people I do know, I can say I’d much rather not.) I don’t deny that I do find some Chinese males attractive – generally my taste in males runs on the East Asian side of the spectrum anyways – but looks aren’t the only reason I have grown to adore Johnny’s. (Maybe a third of the time I still think Arashi looks pretty – that is, pretty ugly. Another third they look plain, and the final third is just pretty. And when I first started knowing of them, I thought they were all plain.) Lastly, I had to look up 吳吉尊 – or for your convenience, Wu Zun of the Chinese boyband Fahrenheit. The looks of any person depends on many details, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and Wu Zun tends to look on the plainer side in my opinion. Though his profile picture on their official Japanese site gets a pass from me, and that’s what we’ll head into now.
To be honest, I’m heavily biased towards Japanese things. I’m considerably less inclined towards Tenjo Chiki, BoA, MEILIN, SS501, Rain, Lee Jung Hyun, Tohoshinki – all of whom are Korean acts who debuted in Japan. There may be more, but I just don’t especially care. Most of the Chinese artists I know anything about is because I feel like it’s somewhat expected of me, as a Chinese person raised in a Chinese family from Hong Kong, and flanked on both ends by a female relative who enjoys Chinese pop culture. In short, I know the basics and then some. Elongated – Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui, Aaron Kwok, Nicholas Tse, Edison “Taking Sex Scandal to New Heights” Chen, Jay Chou, Kelly Chen, Guang Liang’s Tong Hua, Twins, Faye Wong, S.H.E., Mayday, Leon Lai, A-mei, Eason Chan, Beyond, F4, Leslie Cheung, Joey Yung, Hacken Lee, Jacky Cheung, Khalil Fong, JJ Lin… on and on. Family car trips are spent with me listening to Japanese music through earbuds while in the background, Frances Yip or Teresa Carpio belts out some English song mid-concert. A few scattered Chinese CDs – compilations or Kelly Chen’s Dynacarnival live, or even my sister’s Twins albums – lie around my CD area, banding together with my few English CDs and yet still greatly eclipsed by the number of Japanese ones. When I visit my paternal grandmother, about 40% of the time there will be an old Chinese movie that of course, is their form of a musical. I also have the requisite knowledge that yes, Jackie Chan sings for more than just movies, and no, he’s really not very good at it.
“Kimi,” you say, “There is no way you can not be interested in Chinese pop music if you’re name dropping to this extent. In fact, this isn’t even name dropping anymore, it’s just outright stupid.”
“Reader,” I say, “This is what happens when you live in a Chinese family, embrace your culture without really doing anything about it, and spend nights watching MTV Asia in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Taiwanese hotels, having grown used to not sleeping until 2AM whether in one half or the other half of the world. You’d probably do it in Hong Kong too, but you share living space with your parents there and they like you to sleep more than they like you to have mindless ambience music.” Or in the words of dubbed Naruto – “Believe it!” I do realize I have just anchored all thoughts regarding my stupidity, yes.
I have grown up listening to Chinese music, watching Chinese music, possibly breathing Chinese music the way I “breathe” Japanese music… and I still don’t really care for it. (And this blog was made for me to write about stuff I care about. There. I have answered the topical question and the rest of this post is my usual tangential pointless rambling. You have been warned.)
Some of the easiest ways to explain a preference for a music from a language that is not yours is that it’s “exotic”, it’s a new twist on the old familiar musical conventions that exist from country to country, or that because you don’t understand the language it’s easy to enjoy the music for what it is without getting detracted by the lyrics.
Arguing against reason 1 is Korean music. I. Just. Don’t. Listen. To. Korean. Music. I haven’t really tried. And the closest I’ve gotten is, well, Younha’s Korean music. Which is all very nice, I’m sure, but I actually haven’t even gone beyond Audition -Time 2 Rock-, her debut single there. (And she’s what, released two albums since?) And because I haven’t really listened to Korean music, I can’t say that my preference against it as anything to do with the quality of the music.
And then of course, there’s pop music from the rest of the world. Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia. (I haven’t ever given Thai a try, too.) Germany, the UK, Russia, France, Spain, and oh-dear-god the thriving Europop genre. Wouldn’t listen to it. Not unless it came from Japan. (As was the case with meister’s I met the music, despite a healthy smattering of UK vocalists.)
Moving on to Reason 2. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I adore ethnic instruments and influence in my music. I’ve always been one to enjoy a hearty dose of dance pop or synth eletronika, but I can appreciate classic instruments as well. When the Princess China Music Orchestra did a cover album of Hamasaki Ayumi’s songs, I leaped on that. Rin’ mixes in traditional Japanese instruments with more modern synth in their releases? I’m aboard. The bagpipes of Arashi’s One Love? Didn’t have a bad word to say about them. Any time a Latin or Arabian influence pops up in a song? I’m all over it.
But to be honest, I probably wouldn’t touch the 12 Girls Band and PCMO’s original albums. And Hilary Duff’s Stranger, again courtesy of those late night/early morning sessions with MTV Asia, is the closest I’ve gotten to Arabian-styled music outside of Japanese pop. I was still listening to American pop when Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Enrique Inglesias, and even Selena were rampaging the charts, so I can’t say the same for Latin influences, but since immersing myself in the world of Japanese pop I haven’t looked back.
So what do I have going for me left… Reason 3? Wait, no that gets shot down for the same causes Reason 1 did. The fact that I don’t quite understand sung Chinese also leaves me with no excuse as far as “understanding” goes – though watching a few Missy Elliot videos under the influence of my sister left me wincing. And while I started learning Japanese as a side effect of my interest in the music, my level of natural comprehension usually doesn’t go beyond a few lines before I have to look things up, but those few lines are usually enough when most songs tend to go on the same lines.
The fact is, it seems, that if it’s not Japanese I won’t like it. For whatever reason, I can’t stand to listen to music from other sources or other languages for a prolonged amount of time – especially not anywhere near the length of time I will have a single Japanese song on repeat. Not that this makes me, or anyone like me, a Wapanese/weeaboo, I would think. Hope. Possibly pray. My bias only extends to Japanese music, at least that’s my excuse.
But why this bias? I like my boybands, especially dancing ones, but I won’t give DBSK or Fahrenheit any thought unless it has to do with their Japanese releases. I actually didn’t bother with F4 until Jerry Yan released a cover of w-inds.’ Pieces (which was a cover of RETRO G-STYLE’s) – and on that subject, most of the time I don’t listen to Chinese artists unless they’re doing a cover. Joey Yung did one of w-inds.’ Lil’Crazy (also originally a cover) and Sammi Cheng one of Lee Jung Hyun’s Ba Kkwo (which she’d redone in Japanese when she tried to break into the Japanese market). And that’s pretty much all I have to do with each of the aforementioned singers.
Of course, personally, I think this leaves me completely unqualified to write about Chinese music. (Not that I have any “qualifications” to write about Japanese, either.) I’ve also gone onto a magnificent tangent. So continuing.
I could expound on any length about Japanese pop and how the Chinese industry does a lot of imitating, and Korean music seems to be an extension of the American market… but Japanese music isn’t all that unique anyways. The only thing you might call uniquely Japanese in this entire business is enka – which, with the exception of Jero, who’s a big if – I think most readers of this blog don’t listen to. (Shimatani Hitomi doesn’t count. Hasn’t for a long time.) Hailing Nakata Yasutaka become surprisingly commonplace since Perfume got around the blogosphere, but he’s certainly not the only electronic producer out there. It’s also not the subject matter, because to anyone who wants to say Japanese music is bright, happy, and pure – I can name 5 songs, spur of the moment, that involve sex or matters that would still be considered sexual. Without bringing up Koda Kumi, Amuro Namie, or Akanishi Jin. If you said that person listened only to anime music, I would have to raise you Takahashi Hiroki’s Chichi wo Moge from Konjiki no Gash Bell!. And Japan’s been hopping on the English bandwagon for years – especially avex – enough that there’s a good variety of artists that have a number of English-only songs. Which throws the language excuse out the window.
But there’s nothing that makes Japanese music any more special than anything else. And why it must be Japanese for me still goes unsolved. But hey, here’s a post and I’ve let out almost 1800 words. Aren’t you proud of me?
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