Why Jpop? Part Nine: Concluding Remarks

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

The great thing about being this deep into Jpop is appreciating the nuances, about having a range of preferences to suit your different moods. Sometimes I’ll ask myself if I’m in a Minimoni mood versus a SweetS mood, or an Avex mood versus a Hello! Project mood. I find I have frequent cravings for the bestselling Morning Musume singles (“Love Machine” to “The Peace!”) and the early sixth gen singles (“Shabondama” to “Ai Arraba It’s Alright”), but they will be at different times.

In my head, the different flavors of Jpop – the groups, songs, PVs, even some images – are now mapped out across a wide expanse of identity, defining a specific feeling or image or emotion… and when I want to tap into that experience or emotion, I can pluck that string and wait for the reverberations. Months after the fact, I still cry a little when I watch the “Egao Biyori” PV, and I don’t think that’ll change. (At least, not until Zone re-unites or Tomoka pursues a solo career). Minimoni’s songs will provoke a kind of reckless, childish glee in me – but different from the reckless glee of Matsuura Aya’s upbeat songs, which is in some ways edgier and sexier, which is in turn different from the goofy glee of Halcali.

I have a short clip of Speed singing Momusu’s “Summer Night Town” and I never grow tired of it… I don’t know why exactly it speaks to me but it does. All the elements combine and it’s captivating, magical… and I’m not even a Speed fan, really.

If you’re a fan of Jpop already, all this is boring you. You know this, it’s as ingrained in your appreciation as it is in mine.

And if you’re an outsider to Jpop, it’ll all sound the same… But it isn’t. It’s like people who don’t get gangsta rap and think listening to Mobb Deep is the same as listening to NWA, or that Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers is just like Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Or people who don’t like guitar noise thinking My Bloody Valentine’s magnificent Loveless is just the same kind of feedback racket as Sonic Youth’s equally magnificent (but vastly different) Daydream Nation.

If there’s anything to be achieved from prolonged examinations of pop cultural preference, it’s a widened awareness – a heightened sensitivity – to the fine points that make popular culture so powerful… and ultimately, so contentious. I don’t expect that explaining why I like Jpop means other people will go, “Aha! Now I have the key to enjoying something I’d previously thought was caterwauling commercialized crap. Thank you for this invaluable service, Ray.”

You either like Jpop or you don’t, depending on what kind of person you are and where you are in your life. (Maybe you liked it all this time and just didn’t realize it.) But at least know that there’s depths there – that there’s depths to all popular culture, and that it speaks to somebody for a reason. How and why it speaks to someone – that’s the key to understanding, and worth taking time to study. You just need to be open to it.