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Cultural Affairs Commissioner criticizes Japanese music, angering many

54 Comments
By SoraNews24

This month Shunichi Tokura was appointed the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, a division of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology tasked with, among other things, promoting Japanese art and culture abroad.

Tokura’s appointment was an interesting one, because he is an accomplished songwriter with a career spanning decades. His most notable work is probably the 1977 hit “UFO” by Pink Lady.

This should be good news for the many musicians in Japan who have been struggling to work with the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Soon after taking his seat in the agency, Tokura has vowed to work hard to help the recovery of music in Japan by working closely with artists and even pushing for the “enjoyment of culture and art” to become the 18th item on the U.N.’s list of Sustainable Development Goals.

Tokura also stressed the importance for unity in the Japanese music industry so that they can keep up with the likes of South Korea, who the 72-year-old commissioner admits overtook Japan in the blink of an eye. To that end, he says that Japanese artists need to also up their game to compete on the world stage, and this is where the trouble begins.

“I won’t say who,” Tokura told media while discussing current Japanese recording artists, “but songs are weakly sung, put through a computer, and released. What about substance? Is there blood coursing through the music? These are the important questions.”

Most people would agree with the sentiment that heart needs to be put into music to make it truly great. But by prefacing his remark with “I won’t say who,” Tokura really seems to have a certain person or people in mind, and his words come across more as an attack on modern music than a rallying cry.

Netizens were a little confused and largely unimpressed as a result, and some questioned whether Tokura was really the right man for the job at hand.

“It’s your job to make sure all Japanese musicians can make money. Don’t impose your personal taste.”

“I think he’s talking about groups who process their voices like AKB or Perfume, not artists who got famous through the internet like Kenshi Yonezu or ado, right?”

“I wouldn’t want to be an EDM artist in Japan right now.”

“Some people said that Yasushi Akimoto broke the Japanese music industry, and I agree.”

“Pitch correction is nothing new and is used all over the world. What is this guy talking about?”

“It sounds like he’s talking about Pink Lady.”

“Way to diminish the entire art of record engineering mister commissioner.”

Some comments pointed out an interesting irony to Tokura’s words, referring to the fact that Japan’s arguably greatest musical export of the past decade has been exactly what he described. People who might not have singing skills themselves can still create and release songs with vocals by using computers and Vocaloid software, which was developed in Japan.

That being said, it doesn’t seem like he’s attacking the concept of digital effects on music wholesale. After all Tokura was at his prime right about the same time that Yellow Magic Orchestra were pioneering the art of digitally altered vocals and synthesized sounds in Japanese popular music.

Rather, he’s simply trying to say that if Japan ever hopes to achieve greater global fame, it needs to move away from the type of lazy music production that relies on computers to compensate for a celebrity’s innate lack of skill in order to capitalize on their good looks or other marketable qualities.

Sources: Sports Hochi, Itai News

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© SoraNews24

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54 Comments
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Rather, he’s simply trying to say that if Japan ever hopes to achieve greater global fame, it needs to move away from the type of lazy music production that relies on computers to compensate for a celebrity’s innate lack of skill in order to capitalize on their good looks or other marketable qualities.

Thats it in a nutshell, unpalatable truth. He is the right man for the job.

36 ( +36 / -0 )

“Some people said that Yasushi Akimoto broke the Japanese music industry, and I agree.”

Truer words have seldom been spoken.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Let's be honest these days. Most music these days has no soul. It's all about looks.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

“I won’t say who,” Tokura told media

Well, It can't be SMAP. They aren't around anymore.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

“Some people said that Yasushi Akimoto broke the Japanese music industry, and I agree.”

While I agree wholeheartedly with this comment, I also think Johnny's is also to blame for untalented boys destroying the music scene for years and years.

22 ( +22 / -0 )

Talent agencies have a monopoly on TV time, and are linked to a certain advertising agency thus get airtime radio time and promotion. When SMAP broke from their agency, even as individuals were black banned. Seem to have ended as Mr Evil is dead. But it just shows the artists are created for business income not legitimate art.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

While I agree wholeheartedly with this comment, I also think Johnny's is also to blame for untalented boys destroying the music scene for years and years.

That is true, but at the very least bands from Johnny's agency were considered to be unattainable stars, rare idols removed from the general population. With AKB, Akimoto has created a disgusting form of imagined closeness and accessibility with the girls, which in turn made most people of think that they could be an idol too, thus exponentially increasing the sheer number of idols in Japan (be it directly through all his off-shoot bands, or indirectly with all the pros and amateurs now copying his system). Add to that that it's all based on the erotic exploitation of minors AND that the music is complete manure...

The fact that products like the AKB are proudly being called "kokuminteki idol" is a shameful stain on this nation and a cancer on its culture.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

The whole YMO concert is absolutely fantastic and still sounds as fresh as a daisy 42 years later:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUn6V49PG00

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Wow, he nailed it! There are actually a lot, a large number, of really high quality musicians in Japan who are really proficient on their instruments, across the board from symphonic musicians to struggling blues musicians and children's performers to local rock bands, and they are all pretty creative. There are some interesting performers on youtube. There are also lot of really high quality composers who write children's music, video game music and movies scores. Really solid artists.

The problem is that in pop music they have all been replaced by producers who quantify the entire song and just copy past music and things they see on TV and music companies that lock down all creativity and only care about a quick cycle through of mindless synchronized dancing children with no talent at all. Even the producers are not allowed to create outside of the standard formula.

Not that Japan is any worse but I do see a glimmer of hope with the Anderson .Paak/Bruno Mars project. The drums were actually laid down in one take with no beat fill.

Let Japanese talent out from under monopolistic corporate blankets!!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

My two cents; I think he's making the comparison between the Global popularity of modern K-pop and the faded glory of Asian popularity of J-pop. Why has K-pop risen while J-pop has faded? I'm not sure if many are aware of this so...The Korean music industry has kept very strong ties with the LA and NYC music industry scenes since the early 90s, sending people to continuously train, stay relevant, produce, collab, etc... Now we see the fruits of their labor are blossoming, with BTS becoming the first Asian group to go #1 Billboard 200. There's a lineage there. It didn't happen over night. Japanese music industry hasn't stayed connected to their counterparts in the States in the same way so they are floundering. They just stayed isolated and focused on themselves, thinking they are staying relevant. It's not just in the music industry. This is applicable to other industries as well. I understand this is just mainstream music but it is what moves the dial for most people.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

He's saying its time for another punk revolution.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The problem with breaking Japanese musicians abroad isn't the quality of Japanese musicians. The problem is the insularity of overseas audiences, who want everything sung in English and sounding just like their own popular music. We've already seen too much African music processed and spat out so it sounds just like London or LA, and more commercially the Eurovision song contest used to have much more genuine local colour and flavour in the music (believe it or not!) before it became just a great big glitzy dancefest. Personally, I can't see the point in defining Japanese, or any other non-Anglo, acts as "successful" if in order to achieve that they're just going to sound like the product of any studio, anywhere.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

Many of the problems with J=pop have already been pointed out, its sad that it is so hard for people who form their own groups etc to even have the remotest chance at any success here in Japan let alone overseas, although there are some J-artists who have gained overseas followings & can & do tour(except now of course) overseas, but they are still almost rare as hens teeth!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The problem is the insularity of overseas audiences, who want everything sung in English and sounding just like their own popular music. 

That is completely untrue. Overseas audiences have absolutely no problem with "foreign" sounds. BTS sing in Korean and sound completely korean. I'm not a fan, but they do seem to write their own lyrics and have some form of depth to their message. Which is something j-pop does not and will probably never have until Akimoto is retired (or in jail). Modern J-pop promotes ephebo-eroticism and chauvinistic messages. It will never be popular in modern occidental societies.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

although there are some J-artists who have gained overseas followings & can & do tour(except now of course) overseas, but they are still almost rare as hens teeth!

They are not as rare as you might think. There are loads of good to great japanese indie bands touring around Asia, Europe, America or even Africa. The problem is, those bands have close to no media coverage, because Johnny's and AKB-type "music" takes up so much of the available space. Bands like Boris or the Boredoms are regulars at many big-name festivals around Europe or America. When's the last time Yamantaka Eye was on tv?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"The 72 year old !!!" That says it all !!! These are key decision makers in Japan .Now apply this to ALL industries in Japan and you start to truly understand the term " Galapagos Dinosaurs" The pace of extinction of Japanese Industries and industrial might is set to rapidly speed up especially with the onset of AI.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

People who might not have singing skills themselves can still create and release songs with vocals by using computers and Vocaloid software, which was developed in Japan.

The reality is generally speaking most Japanese music is bubblegum crap that lacks serious creativity, lyrically as well as musically and while music is always subjective to the the MAJORITY of listeners there are some real critical and verifiable facts that just can’t be ignored.

That being said, it doesn’t seem like he’s attacking the concept of digital effects on music wholesale. After all Tokura was at his prime right about the same time that Yellow Magic Orchestra were pioneering the art of digitally altered vocals and synthesized sounds in Japanese popular music.

Which is extremely popular in Asia overwhelmingly, but not as popular in the west.

Rather, he’s simply trying to say that if Japan ever hopes to achieve greater global fame, it needs to move away from the type of lazy music production that relies on computers to compensate for a celebrity’s innate lack of skill in order to capitalize on their good looks or other marketable qualities.

A large portion of J-talent are mediocre at best when it comes to playing skills, easy chord progressions, simple beats, top 40 bass 2 note playing. Case in point, I noticed especially when it comes to Japanese women artists, when they show videos they are often on the keyboard or piano, so to make them more marketable, they have them playing guitar to increase the visual effect that these women are serious musicians and they’re multitalented artistically. As long as idol groups reign supreme on the music scene, there’s not much hope for the Japanese music scene.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

My favourite Japanese singer songwriter is Miyuki Nakajima. She’s exceptionally talented and creative, both on the writing and performing front. And she has a colossal discography.

And, surprise surprise, she’s never done the tarento circuit.

Japan needs more Nakajimas and fewer…I won’t say who.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Let's be honest these days. Most music these days has no soul. It's all about looks.

Music comes from anger and oppression.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

If he wrote UFO by Pink Lady, there is no way you can seriously refer to him as an accomplished songwriter. But he's still right. People who cannot read music, play instruments and carry a tune should not be called musicians - they are "content providers" or "lifestyle products".

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I miss "Princess Princess" and "Southern All Stars" and the guy who did all the Lupin soundtracks.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

He's saying its time for another punk revolution.

Or hip hop, or house, or techno, or grunge, or whatever else excites the kids.

Punk comes in waves, from Iggy, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, to the Sex Pistols and The Clash to The Slits, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Wire, Pere Ubu, Killing Joke, The Pogues, Nirvana, Green Day, BBQ Chickens, Gogol Bordello, Sleaford Mods, Fontaines DC and so on.

But there's room for all genres. Of course the middle aged and older aren't going to like what's coming out today. They never have. And that's the way it should be. The music of our teens can define our tastes to a large degree, of course. The sad thing is when people just get stuck there and become their parents.

No offence to Mr Tokura, but he's no John Peel.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

K pop is more popular now because the boys and girls are much prettier, dress better and choreography is sexy instead of childish. The music and talent is also bad but a bit better than the j pop.

I disagree also that Japan has many good musicians. They are technically perfect, I do agree with that, but there is no feeling or soul in the music or performances and that is what music is about. Of course there are exceptions. But they are exceptions.

j pop has still the same, bad , choreography from 40 years ago, same childish” innocent” moves, no talent voices ( exceptions again luckily). Japanese broadcasters remain in “talent” pushing contracts with the agencies and same same same old continues.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

No offence to Mr Tokura, but he's no John Peel.

You mean he never...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

They are technically perfect, I do agree with that, but there is no feeling or soul in the music or performances and that is what music is about

I do completely agree with that. Musicians in Japan sadly lack heart and soul. Young artists mostly have nothing relevant to say, when they should be on the forefront of rebellion against a reactionary society that has so many things to criticize it actually borders on the ridiculous. Their lives are too comfortable and their opinions too meek. This is especially true in japanese hip-hop, which is often simply derivative and copies the mannerism of its american counterpart without any of the depth. But then again, you can't expect someone born and raised in Nakameguro to have the same things to say as someone born and raised in a Staten Island project...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Shunichi Tokura, 72, was appointed the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, a division of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology tasked with, among other things, promoting Japanese art and culture abroad.

His most notable work is probably the 1977 hit “UFO” by Pink Lady.

So, the newly appointed 72-year-old commissioner was the only candidate?

Actually Ryuichi Sakamoto, YMO, best work, in my opinion, was collaborating with David Sylvian

Ryuichi Sakamoto & David Sylvian :: Heartbeat ~ Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ffj19ZuuLs

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That is completely untrue. Overseas audiences have absolutely no problem with "foreign" sounds. BTS sing in Korean and sound completely korean.

Overseas audiences have every problem with "foreign" sounds. It requires extremely narrow musical parameters to describe BTS as sounding "completely Korean" just because they sing in Korean. BTS are just the latest manifestation of a bland, manufactured, undifferentiated worldwide boy band sound that began decades ago, and their success in overseas markets has everything to do with the fact that they don't frighten the horses musically and with the fact that the band members conform to currrent ideals of androgynous Asian male beauty, specifically put together to appeal to the young female market. Why not listen to something like Japan's Wagakki Band instead, if you want to get some idea of what as truly contemporary music with a genuine Japanese component might sound like?

And btw, BTS's marketing success in the UK came after a run of 60 years without any Asian-language song troubling the overseas charts. Yeah, that's acceptance all right.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Musicians in Japan sadly lack heart and soul.

Have to disagree with that. Several of my Japanese pals are musicians and singers and they put their hearts and souls into their performances. Yes, of course, as a mate, I'm going to be biased, but without revealing too much, other mates in "bona fide" bands (who at their age, should know better) seem to be phoning it in, at times.

It's all subjective, natch.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

That is completely untrue. Overseas audiences have absolutely no problem with "foreign" sounds. BTS sing in Korean and sound completely korean

Yes. It can be done if you hit the right note.

A large portion of J-talent are mediocre at best when it comes to playing skills, easy chord progressions, simple beats, top 40 bass 2 note playing

Many of the greatest pop songs ever written use simple chords and simple beats. Two of the first songs I ever learned on guitar were ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘Peggy Sue’. My brother taught his kids ‘Hey Ya!’ - brilliant pop song with simple chords. You don’t have to be a virtuoso to write and play great music. Don’t think it’s easy to write a classic with simple chords. I can’t do it. Can you?

La Bamba is another timeless pop classic with simple chords. Not written in English either.

Has to be good enough.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This man is right. You have to up your game than the sleepy Japanese music.

Think hard , loud and just do it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Have to disagree with that. Several of my Japanese pals are musicians and singers and they put their hearts and souls into their performances. Yes, of course, as a mate, I'm going to be biased, but without revealing too much, other mates in "bona fide" bands (who at their age, should know better) seem to be phoning it in, at times.

It's all subjective, natch.

So far nothing that the west would embrace and put it bluntly if you can make it in the West, you made it period and that's the only thing that matters, everything else you would be a mediocre musician. Now when it comes to Jazz and improvisations you do a bigger pool of raw Japanese musical talent to pull from. "Hiromi Uehara" is one of them. She's pretty much what you would call a true musician of the highest caliber. Keiko Matsui is another one that comes to mind and that has made it in the music world. When you can cut an album with the late Chick Corea, you know you pretty much entered the pearly gates.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I still get a thrill out of listening to Damo shouting all over Holger and Jaki's bass and percussives, to be fair.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Criticizing and crucifying any person for speaking the truth = ONLY IN JAPAN!! WAO RYOU!!

The problem with breaking Japanese musicians abroad isn't the quality of Japanese musicians. The problem is the insularity of overseas audiences, who want everything sung in English and sounding just like their own popular music. We've already seen too much African music processed and spat out so it sounds just like London or LA, and more commercially the Eurovision song contest used to have much more genuine local colour and flavour in the music (believe it or not!) before it became just a great big glitzy dancefest. Personally, I can't see the point in defining Japanese, or any other non-Anglo, acts as "successful" if in order to achieve that they're just going to sound like the product of any studio, anywhere.

South Korea proved this wrong.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

J-pop is pretty crap- that I can agree with

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Overseas audiences have every problem with "foreign" sounds. 

K-pop's popularity in the western world (not just BTS, but blackpink and other bands as well) prove that they don't. I don't even know why you're trying to debate this.

Why not listen to something like Japan's Wagakki Band instead, if you want to get some idea of what as truly contemporary music with a genuine Japanese component might sound like?

This is a completely different debate altogether. No genre will ever be as popular as "pop music" is, so when you're asking why people don't listen to "Wagakki Band", it's the same reason why the Rajasthan Express isn't touring stadiums around the world. And the same reason as much of a genius as Bob Dylan is, Madonna sells more albums than him.

You're not condemning the west for somehow "refusing" foreign sounds, you're condemning humanity for loving pop music.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Have to disagree with that. Several of my Japanese pals are musicians and singers and they put their hearts and souls into their performances.

Oh most of my friends are musicians, some actually pretty popular, so I'm not just talking out of my butt. Of course everyone puts their "hearts and souls" into their performances, otherwise they wouldn't attract anyone to their concerts. But that is not the same as actually pouring yourself into your music and using it to express what you think and feel, however controversial or rebellious it may be. And even those who would have something to say can't because their label knows it would make waves (in the wrong way). Once you get signed into a japanese label, you're more of an employee than an artist, with actual homework (have to write xx songs in xx months,and so on...). It stifles artistic liberty but on the other hand it's pretty much the only way of living from your music without working part-time at an izakaya.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

He complains when he was a major part of the whole problem.

Japan's Indi hard Rock, heavy metal right now is one of the most innovative and bright.

But the industry tops the agencies all want conformity, autotune, formula songs written by those like this guy.

Maximum the Hormone, One OK Rock, Band Maid, Lovebites, Hemophila and many more survive because of armies of online fans telling the world about them.

Band Maid release a new song this year called "Manners" the lyrics basically tell the story of them and most of the others mentioned above.

They are not from the idol machine factory they are all extremely accomplished musicians, highly skilled if their instruments, vocals and song writers.

But they were refused deals because the only way would be to accept playing the garbage formula junk songs they were told to play offer written by people like this guy.

Whether it is Jpop or Kpop with their over produced autotune, surgery altered perfect looks ( my view is more like plastic life size dolls) playing song after song that one cannot tell when one ends and the next starts or even which group is performing because all the song are written, mixed and produced by the same people.

BTW this is not just Japan, Korea but nearly all the top 40 in the past few decades in North America were written by just 2 guys, supposedly with the singers as co-author ( sure they did sarcasm) .

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I agree with Jsapc: You're not condemning the west for somehow "refusing" foreign sounds, you're condemning humanity for loving pop music.

Almost every poster in this thread is attacking the music that actually sells by the cartload in Japan and abroad.

Yasushi Akimoto has exported the AKB model to China, India, The Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

He is the closest thing Japan has to the Kpop industry.

Like book publishers, music agencies produce a product to sell. It's what they do. So they aim for the mainstream.

The Japanese entertainment industry has always had a strong domestic focus, because Japanese companies are quite insular. Language is the main problem, and not just in Japan.

Korea has always had a stronger export mentality. They also have kdrama, which is amongst the best in the world. Jdrama is relatively slow, didactic and simplistic, rarely subbed or marketed abroad and highly priced.

YouTube offered the opportunity for free global advertising and Korea dived in. Some Japanese bands have done too, posting MVs and other material to build an international following, but others set the lawyers on uploaders and operated on an almost secretive model, not even allowing CD covers to be shown. Crazy.

Idiosyncratic music will always sell less, regardless of how you market it, but many regard it as 'better' because it makes them feel superior by advocating it.

Mainstream pop music will cross borders, but it requires more effort. Much of the Japanese entertainment industry has never felt the need or desire to market internationally, doesn't particularly want to, and may lack the skills.

It's not the content that is the problem. It's the industry.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The Japanese media reflects the mindset of the audience. Which pretty much speaks for itself.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

But that is not the same as actually pouring yourself into your music and using it to express what you think and feel, however controversial or rebellious it may be. And even those who would have something to say can't because their label knows it would make waves (in the wrong way

Undoubtedly. And that's the history of the pop labels, not just here.

And thank you for replying, by the way. There's often a lot of snobbery when it comes to pop music, but most of us can appreciate it for what it is... heart or no heart :-)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

JsapcToday 03:26 pm JST

Overseas audiences have every problem with "foreign" sounds. 

K-pop's popularity in the western world (not just BTS, but blackpink and other bands as well) prove that they don't. I don't even know why you're trying to debate this.

Sorry, my friend, but if you're seriously suggesting that Kpop/BTS/blackpink/whoever sound "foreign" to Western ears then you are seriously lacking in musical education. Their success is entirely based on the fact that a) they sound no different whatsoever and b) that they appeal to criteria other than their sheer musicality, or lack of it, as described in my previous post.

No genre will ever be as popular as "pop music" is,

So now the definition of what "pop music" is, is entirely encapsulated by and within K-pop. Sigh.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

There are incredible musicians throughout Japan. From Senri Kawaguchi to myriad other jazz & rock performers. Many toil in obscurity. Any week, nightly, at a club like R.A.G., in Kyoto, the array of musicians in various genres are amazing.

The all female rock band, Band-Maid has a massive international following. Obscure groups like Drops are mostly unknown, but also have an international following as does Tricot. All are female groups.

The innumerable jazz musicians throughout Japan are fantastic, from the former Indigo Jam Unit to the Blue Note Tokyo Allstar Jazz orchestra led by Eric Miyashiro.

Doubtful the 72 year old Japanese version of Lawrence Welk has a clue. And really? Another old man, no wonder the music INDUSTRY is dead, as it well should be, if it is to become the purview of old geezers whose forays into POP produced drivel like Pink Lady, UFO in 1977 or electronic drivel that sounds like calliope music run backwards on a tape machine.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

So obviously there's going to be a generational gap with music but I'm one of those guys that can like Ikue Asazaki, Home Made Kazoku, Junko Yagami, and I can actually enjoy them.

I can agree with the notion that music typically has a better ring to it when you're actually expressing yourself - however it may be - but it must be genuine. Just trying to rig a bunch of sounds together to repeat the same lyric in the entire song is kind of lazy (to me).

That being said, I personally don't care what or how they make music sound good - if it sounds good, then it's good for you. That's kind of the end of it. I personally don't like listening to Vocaloid. Does that mean nobody else can't find it entertaining? No, perhaps they can. Everyone's tastes are different.

What I would rather stop have happening in the entertainment industry is the cheap theatrics being shoved in everybody's face where they put people in skimpy outfits (if any at all) just to get a fanbase going. Now THAT is CHEAP and LAZY. Any random chick or dude can parade themselves in suggestive clothing and get people's attention - that is in fact the point of wearing those type of outfits in the first place. It's enticing. However, if you're actually passionate about your music, why resort to something so pathetic? It's just sad because not only do you disservice yourself and your supposed talent but your character is questioned.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

GBR48:

“the music that sells by the cartload...exported the AKB model....the KPop industry...music agencies produce a product to sell...they aim for the mainstream...”

Yep. Popular music is just another commodity, like junk food, and should be made, marketed and sold accordingly. It’s not “superior” to lament the lack of musical diversity and its sacrifice to the rampant gods of international commerce.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Gee, I may have missed something here, but they are talking about pop music right? When has pop music ever been about soul or talent?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

BigYen I agree with you wholeheartedly! We are losing cultural diversity. I occasionally listen to so-called 'world music', and I believe that music around the world now sounds much more similar than it ever did.

A century ago, Egyptian music was very different from American music, which was very different from Japanese music. These days, they sound kind of similar. The language might be different, but the sounds come from the same computer software.

Contemporary Arabic pop music retains a bit of a distinctive flavour, but it's losing it fast.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

KaFKa :

Good to read your comment. I’ve always liked Arabic pop, and if it is indeed losing its distinctive Arabic flavour to a more homogenised Western sound, that would be a tragedy.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

“but songs are weakly sung, put through a computer, and released.

The group 'Perfume' says it all. Where are they now, by the way. I'd give anything to see them 'sing' live.

I'd also love to see the members of Momingu Musume, ex-SMAP, and all the other Johnnys and what not 'sing' live, solo.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

you are seriously lacking in musical education

The moment you resort to ad hominems is the moment you lose the argument :)

So now the definition of what "pop music" is, is entirely encapsulated by and within K-pop. Sigh.

I have no idea what that's supposed to mean or how you came to that conclusion from what I wrote. I'm just saying your problem is not with the state of modern music in general, but with pop music in particular.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rather, he’s simply trying to say that if Japan ever hopes to achieve greater global fame, it needs to move away from the type of lazy music production that relies on computers to compensate for a celebrity’s innate lack of skill in order to capitalize on their good looks or other marketable qualities.

Just listen to artists like King Gnu (i can type more than a hundred names here). this statement is ridiculous. Japanese music industry is actually a really good industry filled with opportunities (if you remove the idol bulls**t). i've seen thousands of incredible artists who were nobody but became rose to fame through the internet. All this guy gotta do is open up more and more music schools and who said music production done by computers doesn't have heart? many vocaloid songs portray dark themes like suicide, depression etc. and what does he mean by capitalizing good looks? and why japanese music isn't popular? well, bad marketing and that's it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

HiroApr. 23  07:18 am JST

Let's be honest these days. Most music these days has no soul. It's all about looks.

I barely remember 'Pink Lady and Jeff' on TV.

There are some good Japanese rockers out there today and they need to be seen and heard. I have seen and met the lady punk trio Shonen Knife four times. They write, sing, play - no dancing, no posing. The real deal. And in 2019 I saw and met the psychedelic band Acid Mothers Temple and they are wild, innovative and crazy!

There is also the psychedelic metal band Boris, and of course YMO who are lots of fun. Then there's Japan-X, and the late synthesizer whiz Tomita.

And of course these 'idol groups' are total garbage.

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My first impression when I started reading this article was that Tokura san is just some old fashioned guy, but actually he is 100% right. Currently majority of the recording process is “good enough, we will fix that in the production”. No, musicians should nail their part in studio or go home. Why some pre digital age songs are able to emotionally touch you? Because you could feel the artist. Nowadays you don’t feel them because everything is super processed, time aligned and it just sounds artificial. This is true no matter the genre of music.

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Main reason for failed rock, any rock, isn't the musicians, it's the fans/supporters not catching them well enough. Pop has huge/crazy fanbase that support their group in any level to make themselves feel good (some even at suicide level although this isn't good).

Ironically those parents whose favourite music genre that includes mostly any rock actually support their children's genre esp daughter's favourite idol group by buying/paying the gifts,albums,tickets of those pop groups. Now who support who? What went down, what went up?

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To the issue of pop music that is just subjective taste. As was previously pointed out, pop music is the most listened to genre in the world, and even if it's not your taste and just going by the staggering numbers the total revenue being generated in the recorded music industry amounted to 21.5 billion U.S. dollars alone. Streaming (which is still to take on in Japan, but slowly picking up) made up 56 percent of this figure, bringing in 11.9 billion dollars globally, again, that is GLOBALLY. I personally am not a particular fan, but it is without a doubt the safest and most trusted genre that pretty much attracts all ages and you will find a song or two that the entire family can listen to. Why do you think pop music is so popular in Karaoke bars. Gothic, Jazz, Industry, or Heavy Metal won't cut it with a large audience, besides it's a great marketing tool. One reason why pop music in the US, as well as Europe, has a gargantuan following has to do with the environment and surroundings. In the West, the way a lot of music is written is based on the life experiences socially, economically, all the trials and tribulations that we see in the west: politics, sex, drugs, depression etc. things the average Japanese has little experience with MEANING: politics is not something the average Japanese are deeply interested in or passionate about, the experiences with drugs, doing drugs or know someone who has done drugs, sex is a topic not widely discussed on any level publicly especially.

Japanese life and the way they often write music is based on their social reality: school, study, office work, lyrics, for the most part, should be positive, uplifting, inspiring everything should be written in a major chord, light, soothing rhythms, so there's a fluffiness or simplicity to it and that is why J-pop sells out like crazy. These artists quite often will generate 2 sometimes even 3 albums in a year, they chuck them out so fast and they always have great sales and once they go on tour, they do pack these stadiums and the Japanese artists (like them or not) have some of the best light and stage shows on the planet, very creative, very inventive and their fans just want to have a good time, so, for the most part, the artist doesn't have that much to worry about in Japan, their music will always sell. Just look cute or cool whether you can sing or not, screech in a high-pitched voice and you have nothing to worry about.

This strategy would never work in the West, people are more critical, the audience can be very brutal (check the Apollo theater in Harlem) and if you can't convince your audience that you can sing, play or write well, you will lose fans (Vanilla Ice) In 1980 when Pink Floyd released their double album The Wall, it didn't get glowing reviews at first, but once they went on tour and played these songs live that changed everything for them, but the entire story behind it would just not translate so well for the Japanese, it's too rigid and complicated and nothing they could really relate to, not to mention the playing styles and chord progressions and the complexity of it is just not something the average Japanese would listen to. Now if you are Utada Hikaru you will have completely sold-out shows every single time. As bad as the average J-pop music is, for this nation, young people and middle-aged people love it even if it's for us devoid of substance.

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