Friday, 26 March 2010

Why Japanese pop matters

Today the Guardian newspaper took a rare dip into the world of J-pop, with a piece written by Teresa Nieman about five notable female artists. Leaving aside any comments about my opinions of the music, and the impossibility of capturing J-pop with just five artists, it’s worth noting that of those five Shiina Ringo seems to be the only one on the list who’s genuinely influential. And even then her work is pretty challenging and perhaps not where I’d advise people to begin their journey into Japanese pop music.

Reading her article reminds me of the ropey quality control that J-pop seems to have. The writer admits that most of the artists she lists have released duff material. While it’s a shame that an article designed to celebrate J-pop has to mention the failings of it, but perhaps it’s for the best. You don’t want people buying Shiina Ringo’s latest album and then wondering what all the fuss is about.

Including Tomoko Hawase on the list is certainly interesting. I like Brilliant Green but I’ve not head her side-project Tommy Heavenly6 – perhaps because I was put off by Tommy February6 – and I’m now inclined to give it a go.

As for the rest, they all sound intriguing, except for Ayumi Hamasaki who I already knew about. But it’s nice to see some coverage of J-pop written by someone who clearly follows the scene and isn’t just cobbling together a bunch of oddities to fill a few hundred words in a "isn't Japan weird" type story.

I tried to work out which five female artists I’d chose and decided on Hitomi Yaida, Yui, Shiina Ringo, Kimura Keala and possibly Mai Kuraki, whose recent Hellenic goddess image is a hypnotising slice of pop perfection.

1 comment:

  1. Coincidentally, I just bought two Shiina Ringo albums (shoso strip and singer's luck). Alongside Ringo (whose Sanmon Gossip wasn't really my fave), I would have added Salyu as pop perfection. Her vocal range and overall aura is just so... enchanting. No wonder she was Lily Chou Chou xD

    On the topic of Alan, though, I find interesting that the article points out that Alan's strengths relies on her most-Chinese-influenced songs. I find the mainstream J-pop scene somewhat homogenized and a bit predictable, while a lot of Chinese performers doing Rock and Hip Hop are mixing it up with Beijing Opera and other more traditional sounds.

    So I wouldn't know who to choose as my Top5 female artists... xD if it weren't gender constraint, I would have named Miyavi.