Another Stab At The Musumes In America Debate

Filed in American Wota 2.0

Before you start, it’s best to read the following posts first, since I’m responding to them and their comments:

I love CJ like a brother, and don’t mind if he considers me one of the “elitist assholes who want to keep their little musical discoveries to themselves rather than share them with the world”. I don’t think I’m an elitist, and I certainly want as many people to listen to H!P as possible.

That said, I also want millions of people to read the comics of Matt Howarth and the poetry of Sharon Olds, but know that won’t happen. Put simply, there are many things we want to happen, but the right circumstances have to be in place and the obstacles to the goal have to be assessed realistically. CJ seems to think that I’m not a true fan because I don’t share his optimism. I prefer to think of myself as being realistic.

Before going any further, I think it’s necessary to establish one important aspect of the argument. When we talk about Morning Musume or Hello! Project coming to America, what exactly does that mean? A full concert tour, with singles released for an American audience – that is, a full line of performances and product made specifically for a Stateside audience? Or something more limited, say a few small shows and events to promote American translations of their Japanese offerings? Or how about something even more limited, like doing an appearance at a major anime convention to peddle their latest import-or-U.S.-iTunes-only release?

There’s huge differences in logistics for each, and I don’t believe Morning Musume would do well in America if they tour and try to sell singles here. That’s the scope I’m getting from Radicalpatriot’s post, and I think that’s what CJ means as well. I do think that the anime convention route is feasible, and will explain why at the end. But for now, I want to focus on the big ticket dream, the idea of Morning Musume – if not all of Hello! Project – preparing to do a full concert the way they do in Japan, and selling their singles in American stores and getting radio airplay.

Now, the only argument I made on the Intl Wota post was that corporate interests would find a poor cost-to-benefit ratio in taking Morning Musume to America. I’m standing by that: from a purely commercial perspective, Morning Musume are “a Menudo-like girl group selling a fraction of what they sold at their peak”. There are other artists with better current track records that Sony Japan could promote if they wanted. However, as I said, I don’t think Morning Musume have a chance of touring America in a major way and getting airplay on American stations – I’m with pengie and wu-san on that point.

So with that in mind, let’s tackle the points CJ addresses in his post, as they’re very much on-topic with the debate taking place.

First, CJ refutes the idea that “Momusu are on a decline” by saying they’re still the biggest selling girl group in Japan. That’s true, but that just means girl groups in general are also on a decline, as were music sales in general. The numbers speak for themselves: the sales of Morning Musume singles seven years ago were in the millions, and there was a steady downward spiral for several years, and now it seems to have stabilized in the past year or so at fifty thousand.

If you don’t call sales from seven digit figures to mid-five digit figures a decline, what do you call it? And it’s not like there aren’t artists out there still selling considerably better – solo divas such as Hamasaki Ayumi and Koda Kumi and Amuro Namie are doing great and still getting mainstream notice and setting trends. Sadly, Morning Musume and DRM and AKB48 are not having the same kind of impact as the divas; we’re a long ways from the days of Speed dominating the charts.

To me, it’s a simple fact: Morning Musume sales dropped considerably from their peak, and they rely now on a hardcore fan base instead of the mainstream Japanese music audience. Actually, most all girl groups now rely on a similar (if not the exact same) fan base to carry them. In Japan, girl groups are now a boutique industry that caters to the wota audience, much the same way the declining American comics market catered to its fanboy audience in the last quarter of the twentieth century (that’s still the best analogy I can muster). I personally don’t have a problem with that, mostly because I’m a wota myself and also because it shows an admirable ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

(Wait, there’s one seeming exception: Perfume. At least, they seem to be trying different tactics from other girl groups. But they’re still not faring as well as Momusu, I think.)

Now, are Morning Musume on an artistic decline? I don’t think so; if anything, I’ll argue for a minor renaissance with eighth gen’s debut. But art and commerce rarely match one another perfectly. Noting the decline of Morning Musume is not meant to disparage what they’ve accomplished; rather, it points out where they stand in the commercial food chain of the Japanese music industry.

Second, CJ addresses the notion that there won’t be an interest in an underage singing group, pointing out that evidence to the contrary. Well, that’s not quite the argument I was hearing. There’s no doubt there’s a market for underage singers in America – but here’s where the cultural disconnect becomes crucial, in my opinion. What I get from this point is that the nature of this particular underage singing group – this Japanese idol group – would alienate American audiences.

Put simply, Japanese attitudes to teenage sexuality are different from American attitudes, and it leads to different expectations and audiences. I’ve been saying this for a long time now – you might as well read or re-read that link, because I’m not going to regurgitate it here. That difference is one of the things that most fascinates me about Japanese idol culture, intellectually as well as emotionally. Not only am I intrigued at the idea of fifteen-year-olds doing bikini photobooks, I enjoy some of those books as a fan. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen in America, so I turn to Japan for that fix.

In general, American culture is schizophrenic about underage sexuality: while obsessed with youth and youthful sensuality, there’s also a knee-jerk fear of crossing the line and advocating teens exploring their sexual identities. Britney Spears may have had a hit dressed up as a naughty schoolgirl, but there was a huge furor surrounding her as well, very much along the line of how it’ll effect children. For the most part, underage performers are going to follow the High School Musical mold of being antiseptic and safe for kids and ultimately of little interest to the adult audience. The demarcation line of the Nickelodeon / Disney tween entertainment empire has been noted in many articles: “If you haven’t heard of [fill in the blank], then you’re probably over eighteen because all the kids know and love them even if adults have no clue who they are.”

The way Morning Musume are currently marketed would raise a huge stink in America among those who wish to “protect the children” – both the kids in the audience and the kids on stage, in this case. These are teenage girls appealing to an audience that’s primarily adult men. Try telling an American who isn’t well-versed in Japanese pop culture about the obsessive fans, the bikini photobooks, the costumes the girls wear, and see what they think about it.

There was a recent incident in Florida where some homeless guy was found with a bunch of Junior Idol DVDs – including one by Irie Saaya – and it was branded kiddie porn by the media. (What a homeless guy was doing with DVDs, I have no idea. Did he have a DVD viewer with him as well?) Keith Olbermann had that memorable piece way-back-when where he expressed disdain for Morning Musume based on a YouTube clip of the Musumes wearing pork chops on their heads to tempt a lizard. So, explaining the distinction between Irie Saaya and say, Koharu’s POP to an outsider will sound like a lot of pointless hair-splitting and even defending pedophilia. Further, claiming “It’s a Japanese thing and you just don’t understand” won’t cut it if the girls are trying to make in-roads to American audience. After all, if Hannah Montana had as visible an older male audience as Morning Musume does, there’d be hell to pay.

Last but not least, CJ addresses the language issue. Saying that many overseas Jpop fans don’t understand Japanese but like it anyway is beside the point; we’re a self-selecting group who know what we’re getting into, like people who watch subtitled foreign movies. And even among fans of anime, English is preferred to Japanese – dub has historically sold much better than sub. The people who cosplay and go to cons aren’t the whole market, there’s the kids who simply like watching the funny cartoons on TV and don’t want to bother with a different language to enjoy it. As for the Japanese listening to English language music – well, that’s cultural imperialism for you. Not to be flippant about it, but English is the lingua franca for pop culture. Japanese isn’t.

As for using a song from 1963 as proof that Japanese language songs would be accepted in America, I don’t buy it. If it’s the only example – and one that’s even older than me or CJ – that seems to be the exception that proves the rule, not a pattern of future possibilities. I think it’s better to consider it a novelty song, capitalizing on the exoticism of the language choice, than evidence that there is a mainstream audience who want Japanese language music. If there was a regular stream of Japanese language music selling in America, as there is for Spanish language music, I’d be more easily persuaded.

However, this line of reasoning strikes me as beside the point anyway: CJ and some others assume Morning Musume would stick with singing in Japanese if they want to break into the American market. Never mind whether or not there’s an audience for Japanese language music, would management even allow such a venture without having English language songs to maximize their chances? Again taking it from a corporate standpoint, English lessons would have to take place if they’re going to be serious about building a large audience in the United States.

When Pink Lady tried to break onto the American charts, they went with English; Utada Hikaru did the same, and I’m willing to bet BoA will do the same thing next year. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Dir en grey didn’t bother with English when they toured America – but Dir en grey aren’t going for mainstream success.

Now, having said all that, I’ll argue that Hello! Project does have a chance of breaking into the American market… but only if they stick with the anime otaku niche. They’re perfect for it, and I suspect they may be priming themselves already. I’m guessing that all the anime tie-ins in the past couple years are going to lead to some of these smaller H!P units – Koharu, Kira Pika, Buono!, Athena & Robikerottsu – being invited to anime conventions. And they’d be foolish not to accept.

Certainly, the logistics and cost-to-benefits arguments are easier to make here. It’s easier to bring three or four girls over than nine, and all they’ll need for a con appearance is a microphone and backup music and a spare weekend in their schedule. The rorikon U15 aspect won’t be nearly as much of an issue with that crowd. There’ll be a ton of merchandise they can peddle, from photos to DVDs to whatever else, and anime fans aren’t that much stranger than Japanese wota. Well, maybe a different kind of strange, but whatever. If they pick the right venue in the right city, they can even bring a tour of Japanese wota with them, just as they do to Oahu on a regular basis.

And perhaps best of all, this otaku audience scenario is a world where Koharu is the queen of Hello! Project, the person by which American audiences will recognize H!P and all its goodness. (At least, she’s top of the H!P anime heap right now.) Who knows? If Morning Musume does an anime theme song or two, maybe they’ll break into the otaku market too. Or maybe Koharu would become so popular with Kirarin Revolution that the other eight girls can follow her to Anime Expo or Otakon as “Koharu Kusumi and Her Morning Musume”. I kinda like the ring of that. “Aika Mitsui and Her Morning Musume” has a better ring to it, though.

I find the idea that Hello! Project – if not Morning Musume in particular – can be big fish in the small pond of the American otaku market believable and do-able. I do not find the idea that Morning Musume can become even small fish in the large pond of American mainstream music is at all feasible. And to bring the argument back to the beginning, I’m betting the people who hold the purse strings probably feel the same way. For me, at least, the pragmatism of the corporate backers are what determines the reality of these arguments.

I do think there are Japanese music acts who have seriously great chances of breaking into the American market if they want to. Right off the top of my head, I think Amuro Namie, the Brilliant Green, L’Arc en Ciel, and Bennie K could all become serious forces in American music with a little bit of preparation and the right backing from their companies. I’m not so sure about Gackt, though he’s very subtly making his presence felt. I’m not as sure about BoA either, though it may be because I’m not a fan. As for Hikki’s next attempt, I’m not a fan but she’s got some experience now. We’ll see how it goes.

The great part about this raging debate is that it does feel less hypothetical now than it did the last time it popped up. Not only are more Japanese acts making it to America, but H!P in particular seems to be following a strategy that’s in keeping with this trend. I would love to read what other people have to say, as I know we’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg here, and I’m sure I missed a few salient points.

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24 Responses to “Another Stab At The Musumes In America Debate”
  1. If CJ and Ray are at the extremes, I’m stuck in the middle, and not necessarily in a pagoda.

    Judging from what just happened to Puffy AmiYumi on their tour last week (they had to move from the Fillmore to a smaller club, Jim’s, because of lack of ticket sales), Ray certainly has the upper hand in this discussion.

    Since last year, when I first started exploring exactly what H!P and Morning Musume were all about, I’ve tried and tried to fit into the mindset that “it’ll never work here,” but I can’t. H!P has way, way too much surplus, amped-up energy to ever be really controlled by anyone, and the Internet will be the key for these girls to finally break loose and capture the globe by storm. It … is … inevitable.

    I know I’ll get rolled eyes and catcalls on this, but this argument, though seemingly reasoned, is exactly what the U.S. pop music “experts” were saying about the Beatles and the other British bands in 1960. Exactly. History has proven that wrong; artistic barriers are made to be crushed asunder by the revolutionary and the belligerent. Well, here we all are.

    Pengie also had it right earlier, pointing out that most J-pop is not even on most Americans’ radar screens. Yes, but the powers-that-be that control H!P, Morning Musume and Puffy AmiYumi are trying (and failing) to keep the good girls down.

    To even have the esteemed high privelege to talk about this topic with such depth and expertise (and I’m talking about my fellow bloggers; I consider myself very much the newbie) has given me new life and determination. I have a goal. Like CJ, I look forward to Hello Project one day invading the Staples Center in L.A. Hell, I’ve even dreamed about it (and these dreams are no nightmares, people).

    It takes only one great rock show to change the world, as Jack Black said in “School of Rock.”

    Maybe Hello Project and Morning Musume will be that one great show, soon, at an arena near you.

  2. Justin says:

    I guess I`m an elitist. I don`t want everyone knowing about Morning Musume or Hello! Project or Japanese music in general, much less for these things to become Americanized. Is it really a coincidence that the U.S. – release Utada Hikaru album was her worst CD? One of the reasons I listen to J-Pop is because it`s not American; if everyone and his brother-in-law knew about it, I probably wouldn`t like it as much. So, I`m actually glad that Morning Musume taking off in the U.S. is unlikely to happen, and I can continue to derive the same satisfaction I get from telling oblivious friends about how much better Japanese rock and pop is than anything they`ve heard before.

    (it is, coincidentally, the same satisfaction I get from telling Japanese friends that I listen to Sonic Youth, Mars, Xiu Xiu, Coil, Nurse with Wound, Wolf Eyes, etc, instead of the godawful American Clear Channel pop or lite R&B they`re familiar with)

    Indie assholes of the world, unite!

  3. The truth hurts, but you’re right on, Justin.

  4. royalpalmtree says:

    I just have to say that I agree with every point you made in this post. I am firmly on the side of “there’s no way H!P could ever make it in America,” and I am even more firmly of the idea that there’s no big conspiracy trying to keep them out. I would like to drive down to Pittsburgh in a few months and attend Morning Musume’s USA Spring 2008 BIG PARTY BANZAI! tour as much as the next fan, but I think me and the other 35 people who would attend are going to have to keep waiting until hell freezes over.

    I do think you made a good point about anime conventions being a good way to get over here if they wanted to though. There’s a crowd that is already familiar with all the eccentricities (from a foreign perspective) of Japanese culture and entertainment, and has already accepted the language barrier (which, and I don’t care what anyone says, WOULD put a lot of “normal” people off J-POP). Some of them are even already J-POP fans, and would more easily embrace something like Morning Musume than your average person off the street.

    Although I do agree that it might be their best option, it’s good to keep in mind that so many big-name acts already HAVE done anime theme songs and then made appearances at conventions, but not much came of any of that in the long-run. Interest in them flares up for a while, but eventually goes back to almost nothing, with only a handful of people going on to become actual fans (and very few of them caring enough to actually BUY anything of theirs). If they can’t even develop a substantial fan-base among anime fans, then they have no chance with the mainstream public.

    On a final note, I never thought of myself as an elitist fan who didn’t want to share H!P with the rest of America, but thinking about it, I just might be. All I know is that when anime became more mainstream it became a whole lot less fun to be a fan and a whole lot more irritating to visit fan communities. It would be a he shame if the same happened to H!P.

  5. HarimaKenji says:

    Ray, much love to everything you said. The only thing I don’t agree on is that those anime units are going to be called to an anime convention. I believe they’ll need something with more impact in the American otaku community to get in a convention, and they certainly aren’t doing that with Kirarin. That’s an anime aimed at little girls, same can be said to Shugo Chara. They will need a big hit in a big anime, like L’arc~en~Ciel with the opening to Full Metal Alchemist, or the seiyuus for The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi., to cite some past guests in conventions.

  6. pengie says:

    “CJ seems to think that I’m not a true fan because I don’t share his optimism. I prefer to think of myself as being realistic.”

    Hey, now I don’t have to make a post, too! 8D That’s exactly what I was thinking.

    I still don’t buy (or understand) any of the comments about people actively trying to keep groups from succeeding in America. Um, if they didn’t want Utada/Puffy/etc to succeed, would they (Sony, Tofu Records, etc) really have spent all that money to release their albums over here anyay…? Maybe I’m misreading the comments, but I don’t get the whole conspiracy theory here.

    I’m glad you posted about this, Ray–you’re always the one who brings sense to the table. If I attempted to post about this, it would just turn into a huge rant about which groups have a better shot and oh christ, why hasn’t Tofu released HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR’s second album over here, and why did the Nana albums only get released in England?!

  7. Kimitsu says:

    I think it says something when I’m not an H!P fan and I still find myself highly interested in this debate. Of course that thing happens to be “Can J-Pop Acts ever do well in the US?”, which doesn’t just concern H!P.

    Even with the gradual preference change from dance-pop towards rock in the Japanese music market, I think there’s still two things that needs to be made clear when it comes to bringing J-Pop over. First, Japan has different priorities when it comes to music than America does, whether it’s lyrically, musically, visually, or even marketing-wise. Most releases in America are hoping for you to recognize the artist as someone with talent regardless of the actual situation; most releases in Japan are done looking for the numbers that comes with each sell. I think VERBAL described what Japanese listeners want best when he said, “Vocal skill or melody isn’t the frequency that captures Japanese people’s hearts.” (from here: http://dunadan.vox.com/library/post/m-flo-loves.html) In contrast, Americans, ever the secluded elitist “we are the top”, want the vocal abilities and melodies because it allows them to justify what they like – and our media knows it well. At the same time, though, because Americans close their minds to the world, you tell someone new to J-Pop that it’s Japanese, and they will expect either anime music, or something involving ethnic instruments. Neither preconception helps, unfortunately, and I think that may have been the case with Utada.

    Second, it’s fairly safe to assume that even in the age of much file-sharing and websites, we’re not seeing everything Japan has to offer. We only know what we like and spread out to other similar things that we are given. And much of what we’re given is either an imitation of Western music, too close for it to really be accepted (such as with Korean artist Rain/Bi when he attempted to breakthrough here); or too different from what radio airwaves are looking towards for it to make more than a ding. Artists like KOKIA, OLIVIA, and Rurutia; or, well, a lot of Morning Musume’s songs. Though I have to admit that when I think of Momusu, what first comes to mind hails from around the “GO GIRL! Koi no Victory” period, and then slowly creeps into their more recent singles before looping around to the earlier releases.) Continuing on the “we go from what we like to similar things”; that becomes even harder with American to Japanese music, because though songs may be similar in nature and genre, there comes the obvious language bias, and with it, the comparisons that can’t really be considered a fair comparison. I’m biased towards Japanese; many American listeners prefer English. It’s hard for me to jump into any song that’s not originated from Japan in some way, and I think the same holds true for most listeners in the US with English (and Spanish, but it’s safe to say that this developed from artists like Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Inglesias, Ricky Martin, and Gloria Estefan making it big in the English language first.).

    I do think that attending an anime convention could help the chances of any Japanese act wanting to break into the US, whether or not they have anime-related songs. It seems limiting at first, but having seen firsthand the sudden surge of new fans of AAA (who don’t have a single anime song to their name, just tie-ins to a Hong Kong movie based off Initial D and a tokusatsu series) that became interested solely by the announcement of their appearance at Otakon, it would certainly tap into a niche and test the waters at little charge to the company itself. Sure, you’ll have naysayers – but you’ll also gain a hundred more listeners for every 5 or so of those. Perhaps most of these are casual – but frankly, these people are already paying to go to the con with a free concert as a bonus. The point is to find people who do become fans, and hope the word of mouth spreads. (I would continue with the AAA example, but that High Rock incident didn’t do them any favors anywhere.)

    Tofu had a decent thing going until they shut down because they would go to SONY artists that would sing for more than just anime. Geneon, despite bringing their signed artists over, isn’t helping because their focus is solely the anime market. What’s needed right now, before anything can begin, is to show the mainstream American audience that J-Pop isn’t just anime or shamisens, and then the market may grow. With the increase of J-Pop acts who have a decent grasp of English (whether because they attended an international school in Japan (m-flo) or a school overseas (BENNIE K) or were raised overseas (Ito Yuna, melody.)); it may be better for these acts to attack first, then make a big deal of their Japanese careers later.

    …and my point completely deteriorated into a nonsensical rambling comment. Okay, I’ll leave the debating to the coherent people now.

  8. Ray Mescallado says:

    Real quick, or as quick as I can make it:

    @Radicalpatriot: Putting these arguments in the context of the British Invasion of the 1960s is interesting. Do you recommend any light reading along this line?

    @Justin: How well known are Sonic Youth in Japan? I thought they were more popular there than they are in America, though maybe I was just buying into an indie rock myth. I do recall Banana Yoshimoto mentioning she was going to see them in concert in the afterwords to one of her books.

    @royalpalmtree: Great point about anime conventions not having an impact in the long run. Building on a fan base would take more than one appearance, after all. For the anime fans out there, how well is Yoko Ishida known among the otaku community? I know she toured the U.S. anime con circuit last year and I think had been in America before that as well. How is her fan base, as a result?

    @HarimaKenji: I had the sense that the anime H!P are involved in aren’t going to click with the U.S. otaku community, but I’m also thinking that if H!P keeps doing what they’re doing, SOMETHING is going to click.

    @pengie: From what little I heard, High and Mighty Color would also do well in America – and they can appear in Okinawan festivals as well as anime cons!

    @Kimitsu: Your point about the different cultural attitudes to the music is a great one to consider. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t think the High Rock incident damaged AAA’s image that much in the long run.

    BTW, does anybody know if Orange Range has ever performed in the States? I’m guessing not, but they’d seem a natural fit for an anime con.

  9. CJ Marsicano says:

    I’ve had my entire day wasted by my idiot asshole of a boss (that I’ve been trying to cut loose from for two years already, but that’s another story.)

    First things first: I was not singling anyone specific out with the “elitist assholes” remark, I was merely describing a rather poor attitude I’ve detected in the past, not just in J-Pop circles.

    Two things I would not do when bringing Morning Musume or any H!P act over here are try to go through the anime market or highlight just one member in the manner Ray suggests here. The marketing to anime fans is nothing more than asking for failure – Tofu did that everytime and failed miserably. I said in past posts on MotokoAoyama.com v1.0 that in order for a J-Pop act to gain a good foothold in this country, they would do best to market them as a music act, not as a tie-in to something else. Whichever label lays their nuts on the line for H!P will do well to learn from the mistakes Island Def Jam made with Utada (don’t just throw them to the wall and hope they stick, don’t compare them to American artists).

    That having been said, I still think the example set when Shakira had an unexpected hit with a Spanish-language song a couple of years ago fits. Sure, perhaps MoMusu would have to do a few English-language songs – preferably out of their own back catalog – but quality tends to win out a lot of the time over just plain hype. If “Egao YES Nude” were ever to hit the American airwaves even in its original language, I’m sure it would stick. The right exposure and the right label could make all the difference.

    I’d write more, but having had 12 hours of my day wasted on what was supposed to be a day off by my boss over his goddamn new house has me a bit burnt, and I want to use my remaining energy towards working on Here Is The Wonderland (formerly “My Idea Of Fun”).

  10. royalpalmtree says:

    Regarding Yoko Ishida, let me just put it this way – her name was familiar to me, but I did not know who she was until I looked her up and found out that I in fact love many of the anime theme songs she has done over the years. I have been an anime fan for over 10 years, and if I can’t place her name with the anime songs she did without looking her up, and never see her mentioned in the online forums and communities I visit, then it’s likely she hasn’t made much of an impact. There are really only a handful of artists who do anime songs that gain any kind of long-term popularity among US anime fans.

  11. Kimitsu says:

    I know of Ishida Yoko and heard about it when she was touring through America too (not just cons, but also appearances at malls). But she doesn’t have as much of an impact, probably because she’s best known for her anime works. Likewise with Shimokawa Mikuni and Okui Masami, who’ve released scores of albums but are best known for their anime songs. A lot of the “long-term popular” artists for US anime fans, as royalpalmtree put it, usually have anime tie-ins as a bonus promotional kick for a single that would probably be released even without the cartoon factor. (One look at the Gaia Online anime music subforum confirms this. And makes my head hurt.) Because of this, I think H!P has a greater chance than singers like Ishida Yoko as far as increasing popularity through anime fandom.

    And on AAA – perhaps High Rock didn’t have any actual effect on their US potential in the long run. But being an obsessed fan, I like to think that had it not happened, they might have oozed into “mainstream jpop” as anime fans know it instead of getting a sudden flare of 15-minute stateside fame that died down just as quickly. (Also, I’m just bitter about things slowing down post-Otakon. :P)

  12. pengie says:

    I think bringing up Utada raises a good question (and forgive me if this has been answered before, as I honestly don’t know)–did she choose to go the route of R&B for her release in the US, or was it a decision on the part of her label?

    I’ve seen many mentions of “shitty marketing,” which I do agree with, but based on some of her past material it’s difficult for me to blame her label for her choice of music. It’s a little more dirty and “trendy” than we were used to, but the material on her US album really wasn’t too different…

  13. Kimitsu says:

    ^ Did I say Gaia Online? 😛 I meant Animeboards. (Hmm, this can’t be good when one forum runs into another for me.)

  14. L.Alger says:

    very well put Ray..I COMPLETELY agree…

    oh and RadicalPatriot…the place is called “Slim’s” my friend…not Jim’s

  15. Chuck says:

    I totally agree on this one, Ray. Honestly, any foreign singer who doesn’t say “hola” is going to have a really, really, really hard time cracking the American mainstream, and Morning Musume is not the most mainstream-friendly group in any country. Even Europop has a tough time surviving here, and that’s without the relatively severe language and culture barriers.

    I think “Love Machine” is easily one of the best pop songs of the decade, but it’s just not what Americans listen to. You trot out a bunch of 15-year-old girls in sparkly golden skirts singing some weird disco crap about “love, love, love factory” and they’re going to get laughed at even worse than they do in Japan these days. I don’t know if that makes me elitist or what, but damned if it’s not true.

  16. broomhead says:

    Hey! You remember the Saaya thing! The link is @ http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2007/sep/11/man-facing-250-years-child-porn-charges-strikes-pl/ if you couldn’t find it.

    It would be surprising to see Morning Musume or any H!P act in a mainstream form here in America. It would just make a lot more sense for them to reach out to nearby Asian countries. Assuming they attempt it and don’t re-image, I wonder if they’d even stand out in the crowd. Most pop music acts in America are about the individual. Even when there are groups, almost always are certain individuals focused on. Destiny’s Child had Beyonce and Kelly Rowand. Nsync had Justin Timberlake and JC Chavez. Even the Beatles had strong contrasts in their personalities between the four members. The whole “all for one and one for all” image would be hard to maintain. And what individuals in the current Musume would carry over to an American audience? Ai Takahashi??

  17. “@Radicalpatriot: Putting these arguments in the context of the British Invasion of the 1960s is interesting. Do you recommend any light reading along this line?”

    Yes, Ray. “The Compleat Beatles,” a video documentary of the group compiled in the 1980s and narrated by Malcolm McDowell, details precisely how: 1) EMI conspired against itself to suppress Beatles releases (an extensive analysis, with George Martin of EMI in the flesh providing every gruesome detail, and 2) how EMI’s worse fears were realized when the Beatles finally did enter the American pop market and pretty much wreck EMI’s properties, Motown and most everyone else — this from Motown’s own managers and other key recording-industry gurus.

    A side note: “The Compleat Beatles” also bluntly analyzes the effect Yoko Ono had on the group and John Lennon particularly. Frankly, I am one who is grateful those two got together despite the cultural/musical earthquake it causes in American pop in the 1970s.

    It is no coincidence, in my view, that the John Lennon Museum is located on the site of Saitama Super Arena, where most of Hello Project’s greatest concerts of the last 10 years have been staged.

  18. Julia says:

    You know, I’m really just too lazy to throw myself into this whole debate. Might be kind of lame but I don’t really care. But I’m probably going to wind up writing something kind of personal that’s related to the topic…because now it’s got me thinking along other lines, and I might want to elaborate on those topics.

    But honestly, why has the WHOLE blogosphere been talking about this lately? I’m sitting here like, “Whatever, I have my Momusu, I’m good.”

  19. Karisu says:

    It comes down to 1 thing. Language.

    Most Americans don’t like Spanish creeping into their lives, you think they want yet another, even more foreign language introduced? No way in hell would it happen.

    If they did purely English stuff, I could imagine it working though.

  20. I live in an area that has a high percentage of Spanish-speakers. I understand some of the language and can’t help but notice that a ton of sites and springing up with H!P lyrics being translated into Spanish, and that this Spanish following is growing very rapidly. Yes, I sometimes get annoyed with Spanish “creeping into” my life, but it’s become kind of cool. And now with H!P, I have a lot more common ground with some of the Latino people I’m meeting online.

    radicalpatriot.vox.com

  21. Japonaliya says:

    If you ever have listen to the awful Morning Musume English “cover” CDs, you know why it just wouldn’t work here in the US….

    I go to Japan twice a year on ave. for business and I have seen Morning Musume 2x in concert. I love the pop scene etc.
    However, my wife can’t understand my “obsession” with “little Chinese (sic) girls with screechy voices…she thinks I only like them because of their skimpy outfits!

    Hmmmm..maybe she’s right….

    I think Morning Musume will do fine in the US if they perform naked…..

    At least 1/2 of the US male population would buy tickets….and if they wear outlandish costumes, maybe the “other” half of the male population would also!

  22. I wold never make Morning Musume cover any of their songs in English. But in a U.S. appearance, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have subtitles on the large screens in English. And the “obsession” goes far beyond looks, as anyone realizes as soon as they critically watch a couple of the DVD concerts. There is real power, energy and meaning in this musical art form that is simply absent anywhere else.

  23. jim says:

    I got halfway through an entry about this and I don’t know if I’ll finish it soon, it was mostly about Utada’s attempt, but…you just have to look at bands like P5 and Polysics who’ve made name in America: they did it by swallowing their pride and accepting they would not be huge here. They put out greatest hits records with English versions and play(ed) small clubs. MM is not going to do this, or if they did I think it would be a disaster. It’s a unique thing that doesn’t translate. (A lot of it’s appeal for me to be honest.) I think H!P will continue getting a bigger wota/anime fanbase here, maybe do a couple big shows…it’s not really a tragedy for them not to make here. That’s even more American-centric to think that everybody has to to be a success.

  24. Radicalipton says:

    There you have it, my friend: “It’s a unique thing [Morning Musume] that doesn’t translate.” You are also on point: “… I think it would be a disaster” to put out a greatest hits record with a English versions of their songs.

    Finally: “[I]t’s not really a tragedy for them not to make [it] here.”

    I would go further in that Morning Musume should not perform in America, or at least not unless they use a venue like the Staples Center, the American Wota community gets considerable advance notice and the wild atmosphere of a Hello Project concert in Japan can be recreated on American soil.

    Let Puffy AmiYumi do the clubs in the U.S. I love their act; you can stand right next to them in America. That goes for the upcoming “Japan Nite 2008” in March.

    Great points!

    http://www.bloggerparty.com/blog/radreview

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