Got back from a monthlong trip to Japan about a week ago. To be honest I've sort of gotten bored with the majority of the Japanese music scene the last year or two, but my trip did make me kind of rediscover and fall back in love with some of my favorite past records and songs.
It's motivated me to try digging a little deeper than I normally would for new music, although it's going to be difficult given that Japan still is pretty slow/backwards in terms of utilizing the various avenues and services online that would help make discovering and listening to music easier. Spotify and other services have been able to drastically increase the amount of Japanese music available, but it's still really not enough. I get that Japan's market is big enough to sustain itself without expanding, but it's pretty frustrating as a fan.
Korean music seems to be getting more exposure than ever. BTS is obviously huge, and BlackPink is one of the headliners for this upcoming Coachella. Boy groups are the big money makers, but it's a sign when a lot of the girl groups are doing U.S./world tours again. I actually saw Red Velvet on their opening night for their Japan tour in Fukuoka, and I'll be seeing them again in Chicago next month. On top of all this, their independent scene seems promising as well with acts like Se So Neon and Mid-Air Thief getting some recognition domestically and abroad.
Anyways, I'm looking forward to this year and hope I can keep this high I've been feeling about music throughout 2019.
1. "Spangle call Lilli line - Dreams Never Die (LP, Japanese, Indie Pop/Rock..." In response to Reply # 0
I've been listening to the new album for a bit more than a week now, and I have to say that it's probably one of their least immediate records. ghost is a dead felt like a really subtle record that had these moments of payoff that were absolutely gorgeous like on "escort & landing" and "evoke," but those moments were really apparent. With this one, they're toying with that line for subtle/boring a bit more and the tracks as a whole feel a bit more minimal, but they still manage to come out on the right side.
This was a surprise for most people as they put out the single with practically no promotion. It was sort of leaked on a radio show that they had done a MV for the song, but most people were not aware, and there were no real official previews of the song the way Korean companies usually do it. The song came out maybe a day or two before the start of their Japanese tour.
The song is just good at best as the chorus doesn't do that much for me even if it's kind of catchy, and the verses aren't too interesting even with the weird bass and brass(?) sounds, but the prechorus is amazing. The bassline, jazzy chord progression, the their vocal line (Joy, Wendy, and Seulgi, especially the vocal runs) are pretty much perfect.
I was at their Fukuoka show where they performed this live for the first time, and seeing them with a large crowd filled with mostly teenage Japanese girls going crazy was quite an experience. The crowd especially seemed to be into it when the performed their Japanese songs. As manufactured as everything is in kpop, which can make one a bit cynical about it all, seeing all their fans cheering earnestly was pretty endearing.
3. "I Really Want To Get Into Some K-Pop Stuff But..." In response to Reply # 0
...I just seem to not be so into it, seems like they are making the exact same music these trap pop artists are doing but more on the edm tempo, example it's like if I heard a Chainsmokers or Calvin Harris song but in Korean, youknowhatImean?
It's not having much feeling into as most of the J-Pop artists were doing, but there was a few artists I've seen videos for (cause Time-Warner Cable/Spectrum has a on demand video channel and they have a K-pop selection with about twenty different videos that change I think once every three to four weeks) and I actually liked what I heard, it sounded like they got a producer(s) who maybe did r&b in the 80's & 90's to produce their music, damn I wish I pay attention to the name though.
If I had a better paying job I would maybe try and buy some stuff, but for now I'll just catch something when I do but I'm not going to go full in, I'll just stick with catching up on all these jpop stuff I've been wanting for the past ten plus years.
5. "RE: I Really Want To Get Into Some K-Pop Stuff But..." In response to Reply # 3
>...I just seem to not be so into it, seems like they are >making the exact same music these trap pop artists are doing >but more on the edm tempo, example it's like if I heard a >Chainsmokers or Calvin Harris song but in Korean, >youknowhatImean? > >It's not having much feeling into as most of the J-Pop artists >were doing, but there was a few artists I've seen videos for >(cause Time-Warner Cable/Spectrum has a on demand video >channel and they have a K-pop selection with about twenty >different videos that change I think once every three to four >weeks) and I actually liked what I heard, it sounded like they >got a producer(s) who maybe did r&b in the 80's & 90's to >produce their music, damn I wish I pay attention to the name >though. > >If I had a better paying job I would maybe try and buy some >stuff, but for now I'll just catch something when I do but I'm >not going to go full in, I'll just stick with catching up on >all these jpop stuff I've been wanting for the past ten plus >years. > > >
I know exactly what you mean when you talk about how similar it is to certain kinds of music from the West, and I think it's a perfectly valid criticism of kpop. With that said, I still think the harmonies and other musical aspects like the kind of scales they favor differ enough, and often it's exactly what I'm looking for.
I'm not sure exactly which group you might've seen, but SM Entertainment often relies out outside composers/producers, and they are probably the ones most likely to utilize a more retro R&B sound. I've talked about Red Velvet plenty on here, but they certainly have tracks that resemble those 80s/90s/00s R&B sounds like these tracks:
I'm digging this song "Lool" by Red Velvet so much that I put their album "Pefect Velvet" on my wantlist when I get some money, the other song on it "Peek-A-Boo" convinced me that it will be worth getting.
27. "I'm glad you like it." In response to Reply # 26
They actually put out a repackage of that album, and it's called The Perfect Red Velvet, and that has 3 additional tracks including "Bad Boy," and I think the additional tracks made it even better. It's easily my favorite K-pop album of all time.
13. "I'm really enjoying the new album" In response to Reply # 10
>They're an instant purchase for me now.
They have a signature sound that is very energetic and catchy because of the majority of their singles, but I think my favorite songs on this album are the more laid-back tracks like "ばけものだらけの街" (track 5), "リスミー" (track 6), and "有頂天" (track 13).
I was away on vacation, so I don't remember if their title track and single was posted in the previous thread near the end of the year, but I love how catchy it is, especially the "I want you/I hate you" part at the end with all of the great instrumentation:
A teaser was released yesterday with previews of all the new songs. Really happy with the production they are sticking with for this release, which gives the record a pretty cohesive sound, and the vocal melodies sound great.
Their second song since Chiaki Sato left the band. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've been enjoying these songs. Their new singer doesn't quite have the same distinct presence as Chiaki, but I do think she fits with these kind of poppy rock songs, which has been the direction the band has been going for some time now. My main issue with Akai Ko-en has been that they've been quite hit or miss since their debut EPs, but I think these last two songs have been pretty promising.
17. "Minami - Kawaki wo Ameku (Japanese, Single, Rock, Pop)" In response to Reply # 0
She's gotten pretty popular lately because of her latest single that is the opening theme song for the Domestic na Kanojo anime. The single/EP has quite a few of the other songs that have been posted on her YouTube channel. She reminds me a lot of YUI's output before she went on hiatus (and even after she came back in Flower Flower) , and I think the most notable thing about her is how emotive her voice can be. It's pretty straightforward j-rock, but it's done really well.
19. "Can you fill me in on how K Pop became IT?" In response to Reply # 0
A decade ago it seemed like there might be a Jpop moment but then Kpop blew the hell up two or three years ago. I never figured out how, whether it was a result of Gangnam Style being such a massive hit or what - but most of the stuff that seems big is a far cry from that. SO I don't really understand why either is big here, nor why/how Korea came to dominate the US market so quickly.*
My only theory is that by the time the last wave of really successful manufactured pop acts matured, the market for American acts kinda fell flat so the industry stopped producing them; and Korea and Japan have never stopped making that stuff. (Which seemed really weird to me living in Japan in the mid-90s when it was completely dead here, but then in 99 NSync, Backstreet, ,Britney, Xtina etc.)
My library is sponsoring a teens Kpop dance group activity. Feels really weird. I never click on the articles but even so I get Apple news headlines about so and so having left GreenStreet737B for a solo career. It's weird that Apple would think that's big enough news to interest me.
*maybe that has something to do with Jpop's self-limited availability here?
As someone that's listen to J-pop and K-pop since the late 90s, it's been interesting to see the trajectories of both genres these past decades, especially with what's going on now. I'm sure others might disagree on my points, but these are the things that stand out to me the most.
1. K-pop is just better? At least it is when it comes to making the kind of pop that is needed to crossover and/or succeed in a global landscape. Take a listen/watch of BLACKPINK's "DDU-DU DDU-DU" (https://youtu.be/IHNzOHi8sJs) and Red Velvet's "Bad Boy" (https://youtu.be/J_CFBjAyPWE). It's not hard to picture someone that enjoys pop music to hear these tracks, get a little interested, and decide to delve a little deeper into Korean music. I think they do a good of making songs that follow global trends (e.g., currently hip-hop and R&B influences) that still have elements that make them sound just different enough from Western pop to make it seem unique to Western audiences. This article from Rolling Stone (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/how-american-rb-songwriters-found-a-new-home-in-k-pop-627643/) interviews Western R&B writers that have started writing songs for Korean companies, and a common theme is that Korean pop is a little more dynamic and willing to play with melodies, harmonies and genres.
On the other hand, I don't think Japan is creating the kind of pop that appeals to Westerners, and the stuff that is "different" doesn't have broad appeal or just isn't good. If we're talking about stereotypical "cute" pop music from Asia, there's nothing from groups like AKB48 and similar acts that sounds as good as TWICE's "LIKEY" (https://youtu.be/V2hlQkVJZhE) or "TT" (https://youtu.be/ePpPVE-GGJw). TWICE has made Japanese albums too, and listening to their Japanese singles makes it really apparent how much more boring for formula for mainstream J-pop is (https://youtu.be/wQ_POfToaVY). For Japan, you have some stuff like Nakata’s acts (Perfume and Kyary) that are moderately popular, but that is still a pretty niche sound and style that can capture just a small segment of the pop music demographic. I think stuff like Gen Hoshino's "Koi" is great (https://youtu.be/jhOVibLEDhA), but it still doesn't really fit the mold of songs that have that broad appeal to young kids and teens in the West.
We can talk about all of the other factors that come into play in terms of pop music success, but at the end of the day, songs have to be good to get new fans and keep them listening, and as someone who has increasingly learned to appreciate pop music more over the years, I think modern K-pop simply sounds a lot better, at least for the mainstream stuff.
2. K-pop idols are better singers and dancers. Many of these K-pop idols join companies and go through years of vocal and dance training. That is not really the case for J-pop idols. Popularity and success in the music industry relies on factors beyond actual talent, but that perception of having performers that are talented goes a long way in terms of fan support. I can name a few off the top of my head that are known for being strong singers from Korea such as Ailee, Taeyeon (SNSD), Hyolyn (Sistar), Wendy (Red Velvet), Yuju (GFriend), and the girls of Mamamoo, but it's a challenge when it comes to the Japanese scene. There are interesting singers and voices like Aimer and Minami, but they do not make the kind of music that is going to generate hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, which is ultimately the kind of music that is required to generate the kind buzz that you are describing necessary to end up in an English language news feed.
3. Japan’s music industry is too insular, and they are stubborn and backwards when it comes to reaching global markets. They do not care as much about global expansion because their market is self-sustaining. The Japanese still buy a lot of CDs, and they don’t rely as much on foreign markets to survive. K-pop has always tried to expand to other markets (partly out of necessity), and it really shows. Their music videos often contain subtitles for foreign audiences, and their music videos and discographies are easily accessible on platforms like YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, etc. Japanese record companies still region block their music videos, and although there has been some progress, it is still difficult to find Japanese music on the aforementioned services. K-pop is all about mass exposure and generally do not care how the music and other media are shared as long as it gets out there. Try uploading a mainstream Japanese artist’s music on Tumblr or YouTube, and Japanese companies will block it or get it removed with the quickness. In contrast, K-pop companies do not enforce much of that at all, at least not on places like YouTube. They realize that they are pushing a brand and not just CDs. So what if you have people pirate some CDs? Dedicated fans will still buy and collect, and companies will still make money off other things like concerts, goods, brand endorsements, and increased exposure is just going to generate more of that. Japan doesn't put in the effort or practices to needed expand, and it's the complete opposite for Korea.
4. It's easier to follow the K-pop scene. K-Pop revolves around 3 companies. Well, and BTS’ company (Big Hit Entertainment). There are many smaller companies that are trying to make it too, but these 3 companies (SM, JYP, YG) dominate the market. This makes it extremely easy to follow K-pop music and news. Each of these companies has a limited number of acts that they actively promote, so there are just fewer things to keep track of, which means it is easier to follow all the major releases in the scene, especially for foreign fans. Aside from the AKB-styled groups, J-pop is not as consolidated, so as a foreign fan you are somewhat just left to doing a lot of research yourself.
5. Use of technology and social media. The growth in K-pop has coincided with technological advances and trends very well. Social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram) and streaming services (YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music) make it incredibly easy to follow, share, and consume K-pop news and music. K-pop also utilizes things like VLive (celebrity live streaming) to engage with fans. Fans will tune in to watch and chat/interact with their favorites. Even if they do not speak Korean, these streams are saved for later broadcast and often will have subtitles added (official or by fans) for foreign audiences. These groups also produce content like reality shows, and all of this builds a connection with fans (artificial or not). ?uestlove’s interaction with fans through OkayPlayer was a huge draw back in the day. Now imagine taking artist-fan interaction to another level and with all the technology and social media changes of the last decade. K-pop fans really like the social aspect of following groups that keeps them interested beyond the music.
There are other factors that I have less of a feel for, but things like gender and other demographic factors come into play as well. Boy groups are actually the huge moneymakers in K-pop, and their fan bases are heavily female-skewed. I think gender differences in interaction with the hobby (time and money spent, social media use) impact how the media decides to focus on K-pop in the news.
21. "this was really interesting and informative" In response to Reply # 20
I don't follow K- or J-Pop, but based on the time I've spent in Japan, I can say your comments about "artists" and the industry here are really on point. Korean acts are huge business out here too, but from the little I've seen, they definitely seem to be deeper than the average manufactured Japanese idol (tho that's not a difficult bar to clear).
and I'm really looking forward to reading that Rolling Stone article about R&B artists writing for K-groups. whenever I DO hear K-pop, it all just sounds like black music to me (and the choreography is all Michael/Janet/Beyonce). I thought they were really good at imitating, but now I see it goes deeper than that.
25. "RE: this was really interesting and informative" In response to Reply # 21 Wed Mar-06-19 09:13 PM by Steve O Tron v2
SM Entertainment is the label that is mostly known for pulling foreign talent for a lot of their songs. The Stereotypes who are known for Bruno Mar's biggest singles like "Finesse" and Cardi B's latest track "Please Me" and have produced some great tracks for groups like Red Velvet's "Bad Boy" (https://youtu.be/J_CFBjAyPWE) and "Kingdom Come" (https://youtu.be/vJEAMow2A4o).
A lot of these songs are originally written with demos in English.
f(x)'s "No More" was originally Ariana Grande's track "Boyfriend" Material" but didn't make her first album.
Red Velvet's "Red Flavor" was originally written for Little Mix.
And when it comes to home-grown composers and writers, I don't think you're wrong at all when you say that they are very good at imitating styles. Aside from the hip-hop & R&B sounds we've talked about, they also do a really good job of recreating other sounds from countries they try to promote in.
Some examples of K-pop groups and their Japanese songs that utilize J-pop styles:
And then you have some K-pop songs that borrow from J-pop like this K-pop group's Korean song: Dreamcatcher - Fly High (https://youtu.be/39yeTdIuKJU) (very anime J-rock influenced)
And I just learned that one of my favorite K-pop songs from last year was partly written by a Japanese writer (formis9's "Love Bomb": https://youtu.be/-SK6cvkK4c0).
One of the biggest K-pop idol contest/survival shows last year had their main premise revolve around having south Korean K-pop trainees competing against/with members from AKB48, Japan's biggest idol pop act, so it just goes to show how big K-pop has gotten where AKB48 is willing to have their idols participate.
Another thing I forgot to mention last time was that a lot of these newer K-pop groups have members from other countries too. The biggest girl group in Asia (and probably the world) has 5 members from Korea, 3 from Japan, and 1 from Taiwan. Other groups have members from countries like Thailand or ethnic Koreans that have grown up abroad (Canada, New Zealand, Australia), and so they are very much set up for communicating and appealing to foreign audiences.
We also had something kind of interesting last year where a Japanese porn star (Yua Mikami) made a K-pop group (but all other members are also Japanese porn actresses), and they actually did a great job of creating a very K-pop sound with their single: https://youtu.be/LAOT6JscCVU
Not posting this because I'm particularly fond of it but I thought it was interesting in the context of the K-Pop vs. J-Pop discussion from above. This is much more inspired by current trends in American pop music but it's something that I'm personally not used to seeing from Japanese artists, not that I'm very knowledgeable about the more mainstream stuff.
Pre-post edit: And right before I hit send I saw that she's actually Korean-Japanese and the song features both languages.
23. "(G)-IDLE - I made (Korean, EP, Pop)" In response to Reply # 0
Didn't think much of the single at first (Senorita: https://youtu.be/G8APgeFfkAk), but it's really grown on me. The hook with the horns is really catchy and has been stuck in my head, although I wish they had done something a little bit more for the ending of the song. Soyeon is impressing me with her songwriting, which is something you don't really see as most female K-pop artists don't seem to have much input in the creative process, but she's writing and producing these tracks for her group.
was planning to hit either the Phila. show or one further upstate at Lafayette College. by the time I called for tickets to Lafayette (much further, but much cheaper, smaller venue, and commute time probably about same), it was sold out... and my wife had booked a bunch of stuff for the night of the Phila. show.
33. "Kaho Nakamura - AINOU (Japanese, Album, Pop, Rock)" In response to Reply # 0
Released in November last year, but I just recently discovered this record. I think this album might be of interest for fans of NakamuraEmi and/or Yoshie Nakano/EGO-WRAPPIN'. I really like her voice, even (or maybe especially) with its slight imperfections, and the production ranges from track to track with light glitch, synth, or jazzy elements.