Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Seven Days of J-POP : Introduction

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My friends and I were already regulars of the subtitled version of the TV show Iron Chef syndicated in the 90's on a UHF international channel in Orange County, California. But we turned on the TV 30 minutes early one night and discovered a particular pop music TV show that preceded our idol, Kaga. The first thing we saw was a man with slick hair and a very large microphone speaking in a funny, authoritative voice instructing his cast to make a small chant, then -- venerate the fish! *SWOOSH* The Camera swiftly swung to the large fish tapestry hanging from studio ceiling as the entire cast looked toward it in rushed reverence.

This was the Japanese pop music show The Yoru Mo Hippare (Japanese/Romaji for "The Night Of The Hit Parade.") It was different from other pop music programs in that the Top 10 songs of the week were performed/karaoked by other pop artists from past and present. Most of the time, the show had only a few fun moments each. Every now and then, there was one stellar climax where the final performance of the night changed the world for four minutes.

The performance that made my friends and I fall in love with the show circa 1995 was the older female duo that went through a medley of Japanese pop hits but threw in Shampoo's "Trouble" and Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" -- with bells, whistles, glitter, the kitchen sink, and an accompanying guitarist with the most incredible guitar solo face ever. The duo never cracked a smile. They had work to do -- which was to sing, dance, and blow our minds. Everyone on that show had taken a giant paintbrush and smothered us with every possible pop music style one could muster all at once -- until all the colors blended into one. From that show on, we included The Yoru Mo Hippare as a staple of our Iron Chef Sunday TV/dinner nights. Except we didn't know what the show was called at the time, so we dubbed it "The Pop Apocalypse."

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the legendary Shampoo/Deep Purple medley today, but here are some more representative YouTube samples of The Yoru Mo Hippare:

Western pop culture has been, for lack of a better phrase, intensifying and speeding up every new decade. In the 90s, however, Japan had seemingly surpassed the U.S.'s intensity factor by 20 years, so seeing these magic moments on The Yoru Mo Hippare was mindblowing then, hence the impromptu coinage of the word "Apocalypse" that first night. My friends and I couldn't imagine a pop world that could surpass these rare moments, hence the world couldn't exist if "the next level" was achieved.

We were very wrong. Today -- and perhaps just today, internet technology allows anybody with internet access to see rare pop culture gems from almost any country from almost any time period. You want to see live performances from the immortal German baritone crooner Heino or the frenetic post-punk Icelandic band ├×eyr? No problem. Just go to some website, type in some key words, submit, and watch. Just a decade ago, "Netscape vs. Internet Explorer" was a current event. "Mp3" sounded like a missile model number. The idea of immediate access to J-Pop videos, much less any country's pop videos, of past and present was a crazy dream.

With additional inspiration from a fellow DJ at KUCI (the college radio station of my alma mater: University of California, Irvine) who had a dedicated J-Pop radio show, I then started my side interest in purchasing J-Pop -- within a reasonable budget. Given the high prices of Japanese import CDs, I had to choose very carefully. Thankfully, my first purchase was a hole-in-one. More on that in the coming days.



The Seven Days of J-POP Mission!: I will post an entry on a different J-Pop artist or group each day, with each entry containing music and video links as well as a bit of elucidation on the history and the music itself.

Speaking of the term, there's often debate over what exactly is "J-Pop" as opposed to "Japanese pop". For simplicity's sake, I'm defining J-Pop as Westernized Japanese pop for The Seven Days entries to come. If you want dive in one arbitrary swimming pool's deep end, here's J-Pop vs. Japanese culture explained. Agree, disagree, agree to disagree, etc.



I'm hoping to become more educated on J-Pop and, in turn, the history of Japanese pop culture, because it's incredibly fascinating, far more multi-faceted than one could imagine from reading about it on the net, and -- most importantly -- a potential sign of global music industry trends to come. Or is it?

I also hope to educate people along the way. But I'm coming from a position of knowing less than more. So, my role here is to play the befuddled newbie poking holes in the air. So, feel free to comment, correct me, insult me, pwn me, lol me, etc. plus!


Each artist or group will be revealed on the day the entry is published. You'll just have to wait and see. There's no criteria for whom I choose. It's all based on the resulting entropy of my browsing YouTube or the preview stations at Japanese book/music stores such as Kinokuniya Books or Book*Off.



This starts within the week.



Um, right here at



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You rock star, you star of rock. Well done.

5:48 AM  

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