Good morning! It’s Labor Day in my country today, which for most people means a day off, barbecues, that kind of thing. I am taking the week off. I have been working at my company for over five years, which means I get three weeks now, and I plan on using all of them. Plus since it’s a holiday, I only have to take four days. Yay me!!
Okay, so on to the post.
I have made my thoughts on music like JPop, KPop, etc., pretty clear. I like some of it, could take or leave most of it, hate some of it, and basically think that, by and large, it’s unimaginative crap. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I find a gem, and there are a few! But most, nah. I thought I’d take today to explain that a little further.
My musical background is… sheltered, shall we say. I was born in the 70s, and for the most part, was protected (or sheltered) from pop music of the time. My father worked at the company that made the Souper Trouper spotlights, and when ABBA released their song, they gave everyone a free album. My parents broke it in half and threw it out. I still remembered it, though. To this day I’m something of a fan of Abba.
They also did that with a children’s song called “So let the sun shine in”. They thought it meant satan.
So the music I was exposed to was mostly stuff my parents deemed allowable, and classical/sacred music.
Now, in pop culture, classical/sacred music tends to get a lot of shit. I think it might be because people raised on a diet of sweet things really don’t know what to do with complex flavors that defy immediate description. The music I would listen to didn’t really have great melodies per se, but it was very intricate, melodies interplaying with harmonies, with different instruments taking different layers. I grew to love this. As I grew up, I started to listen to more classical music, and I fell more and more in love with it.
I remember the first time I listened to Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. I didn’t think much of it, honestly. But I listened a second time, and a third time, and it became one of my favorite pieces, simply because it’s so… flashy. And then I listened to his second concerto, and it’s so different! So much more dark, and complex, and nuanced. I so love that piece!
And then toss in Rachmaninoff, and Schumann, and, and… so much good stuff to listen to!
So this is how my musical tastes were developed. I learned how to actually appreciate music. No, I mean literally, I took two years of classes on that subject. I also took as many classes on theory. So I understand how music works, what makes it tick, and there is such beautiful, wonderful music out there that just carries you away on rivers of harmonies.
So I found Jpop once, quite by accident.
Now, the Jpop song I found, I actually kind of liked. (“Give a Reason” by Hayashibara Megumi). It had inklings of that kind of complex quality, but the thing about pop music in general is that it’s nothing at all like classical. It’s like, like I said, a sweet thing that you eat as a dessert. It relies heavily on a backing track that does not have much of any harmonic interest, it leans heavily on the lyrics, the videos can be, and usually are, an integral part of the experience, and basically, it’s the opposite of classical in every way. Those performing pop/metal music don’t have to be, and generally aren’t, talented, and that’s rather seen as a badge of honor. They just have to have a gimmick of some kind – which can be as banal as painting your face and having a long tongue.
It’s a difficult thing for someone with my (rather extensive) experience and training about good music to enjoy.
This is why I’m, generally, so hard on JPop, or any kind of pop.
So, you might ask, why do I continue to pursue it, continue to listen to it?
Well, let me tell you about another experience I had, this one with Saint-Saens’ fourth piano concerto. I had bought a CD collection of all five, and was even learning how to play the second. I was sitting in the car, I think on the way back from work (I had a thirty mile commute at the time, I was an idiot), and the second part of the second movement came on, and I was transfixed from the very first note. The melody was sooooo catchy. It reminded me of something, and I’m still not entirely sure what. It brought images into my mind of a time long past, and I had to listen to it a second time. This did not take multiple listenings. It happened immediately, and every note was absolutely perfect. There is a part towards the end where the piano is doing these broken arpeggios that just takes me away.
So one day I was watching AKBingo (I prefer the variety shows to the actual music, if I’m honest) and the opening bars of “Sakura no Hanabiratachi” came on, and I felt exactly the same way. For some reason, I loved that. I actually went into AKB48’s discography and listened to the beginning of every single piece until I found it, and it became one of my favorite songs. It was just as catchy, but in a different way. And I loved the lyrics! And the same thing happened with “Negaigoto no Mochigusare”.
My heart is with classical (well, romantic era) music, but some music just grabs you.
There isn’t much JPop that has really grabbed me like that. “Oogoe Diamond” kinda comes close, but isn’t quite there. “Love Machine” is catchy, and I kinda like “What is Love”. But the JPop I actually like tends to have some quality, like that Saint-Saens concerto, that just grabs me, and says “this is great music”. The problem is, there’s much less of that in the JPop world than there is in the classical world.
I really do feel sad for people, in a way, who haven’t learned to appreciate classical music. You don’t have to be a snob about it, but there’s just so much there. I sounds a bit like noise if you haven’t learned what it’s all about, but there’s just so much intricacy and sublime harmonics, there for the taking. Catchy is great, but it’s not the same.
So I’m hard on the JPop that doesn’t try, the JPop that phones it in, the JPop that uses sex to sell albums, the JPop that would rather be cute than be good. My musical training just doesn’t let me allow that kind of mediocrity to pass. But there is good JPop out there, it just requires trawling through some sewage to find it. And that’s part of why I’m doing the review project I’m doing. It’s a lot of mediocrity. But, like with “Furusato”, there are a few gems too, and I’m glad I’m finding them.
BTW, the reason I like Babymetal? Because it’s a lot closer to classical than JPop is, believe it or not! It’s an entirely different genre, but it has some of that same kind of complex harmonic movement. For example, the guitar solo of “Akatsuki” is really complex, and reminds me a little bit of a classical cadenza. There are some Babymetal songs I don’t like (I’ve never liked “Megitsune”, for example, and “Gimme Chocolate” is fun but it’s not anything really interesting) but they never, ever phone it in, and that’s all I really ask for out of good music.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts. Take them or leave them.