undoing the mercator projection

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

If you care anything about East Asian music, you should read the blog undoing the mercator projection. The blogger, crs, is intelligent, erudite, articulate, and knows her music inside-out.Her last three posts are proof enough of what makes her essential reading, and worth explaining here in the hopes of getting you to check out the site.

Law of Diminishing Returns: Gackt (CI #2) begins with an autobiographical account of crs’ discovery of Asian music via the internet, tracking her exposure to various artists as well as the developing online community that made this music more readily available to a global audience. She speaks about first encountering Morning Musume with “Renai Revolution 21” and she winds up taking a look at Gackt’s career from its very beginning all the way to “Arittake no Ai de”. (I wonder what she thinks of “Black Stone” and its white trash trucker PV.)

Those fucking Americans! is the instant masterpiece of the bunch. It has a great opening line:

Hm, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but I will say that drawing lines between English, Korean, Japanese-language popular music seems less and less meaningful every day.

She then proceeds to prove this point, step-by-step, using numerous examples that shows she both knows and cares about her music. She explains why Jrock is a term that exists outside of Japan and why it’s useful among English-speaking fans to draw distinctions in Jrock that aren’t nearly as important among Japanese music fans. She explores in great depth the entanglements between Japanese, Korean, and American music, as well as its larger meaning for conflicts between the nations, particularly Japan and Korea.

With this article, crs reads like a highly accessible academic discussing a pet project. As somebody who spent too many years studying comic books in graduate school, I see the telltale signs: the precise vivisecting of jargon, the fine-tuned examples to bring home a particular point, the constant urge to place the more focused pop-cult argument in a broader sociopolitical context. I’m not saying that she definitely is doing academic work on the topic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was. Myself, I’d love to read what she thinks of hip hop and its uses / changes in Japanese and Korean music, especially issues of authenticity (“keeping it real”) and the rather strange mediations of race (i.e., Orange Range’s hilarious and horrifying “Locolotion” video).

Her most recent post as of this writing, !!! takes an amusing look at her site statistics, what people are looking for when they go to her blog (apparently, that includes “grandaddy’s fucking boy”), and offers to post requested files if people will answer some questions of hers. My favorite question: “Define ‘poppin’ coochie’. Alternately, if I have chics, why do I need to put ’em up?”

Ahh, why are you still reading this post? Unless you’re only looking for pictures of sorta-cute Japanese girls saving China or modeling handcuffs, you should already be linking to crs’ blog and taking in all that brilliance and cleverness. (If you are only looking for pictures of sorta-cute Japanese girls saving China or modeling handcuffs: “Welcome to my world / Won’t you come on in…”)

It always encourages and gladdens me to see great writing, especially on a topic that I care about. More to the point, it makes me consider my own motives for writing a blog that focuses so much on Jpop, especially since I’m so new to its world. Compared to crs, I’m a tourist and not a fellow traveler – taking in the sights but rarely seeing the full picture. With guides like crs’ and Santos’ blog, however, maybe I can learn as I go. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.