The Rise of J-Pop in Asia

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不指定 2005/05/26 17:38 [音樂]


前言:沒想到英文及日文的文章hit點不比中文差。這文是對J-pop有興趣者的入門。講起J-pop,我至愛是Mr Children。特別是<深海>。



The Rise of J-Pop in Asia

and Its Impact

______________________________________________________________


By Ng Wai-ming, Benjamin


Japanese pop music is commonly referred to as “J-pop,” a term coined by Tetsuya Komuro, “the father of J-pop,” in the early 1990s. The meaning of J-pop has never been clear. It was first limited to Euro-beat, the kind of dancing music that Komuro made. However, it was later also applied to many other kinds of popular music that make an impact in the Japanese music chart, Oricon, including idol-pop, R & B, folk, soft rock, easy listening and sometimes even hip hop. This article uses a boarder definition of J-pop.

J-pop has been one of the most fast-growing and influential music forces in Asia since the 1990s, warmly embraced by young people in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Top J-pop artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki, SMAP, Speed, Hikaru Utada, V6, Kinki Kids and W-inds have become common idols among Asian youths. Their records and merchandize sell like hotcakes and they serve as models for Asian music companies to train and promote their own singers.

Reasons for the Rise of J-Pop in Asia

J-pop has become an integral part of Asian music. Why are Asian youths so crazy about J-pop, an alien music sung in an alien language? First, the musical form of J-pop itself is appealing to Asians. J-pop is a hybrid music which fuses different foreign music traditions with the Japanese touch. On the top of Western pop and local pop, J-pop provides a viable alternative for Asians who look for something different and refreshing. J-pop is quite mainstream and easy listening. Asians have been familiar with Japanese tunes, thanks to the popularity of cover versions since the 1970s. Sometimes, Asians listen to the cover versions first and then turn to their original Japanese versions.

Second, J-pop singers sell not only music, but also their images. They are mostly handsome young boys and cute and pretty young girls who know how to sing, dance, talk, act and dress. Hence, many J-pop fans in Asia enjoy music videos (MVs) as much as CDs. Due to physical and cultural proximities, Asian youths feel close to Japanese idols. Unlike Western idols who are too out of this world to Asians, J-pop idols adopt a down-to-earth approach and present themselves like neighbours next door. Asian youths think that they will never look like Western idols but can somehow copy Japanese idols. For example, the hairdos of Noriko Sakai and Takuya Kimura as well as the make-up of Namie Amuro and Ayumi Hamasaki were once very popular in Asia.

Third, the popularization of Japanese dramas and the Japanese language in Asia promote J-pop. Many J-pop singers (in particular artists under the Johnny's Office) participate in Japanese television dramas or sing the theme songs. Japanese dramas have jumpstarted the J-pop craze in Asia. Many Asians listen to J-pop for the first time through Japanese dramas. Soundtracks of Japanese dramas sell extremely well in the Asian market. In addition, Japanese is now a very popular foreign language in Asia and thousands of people are taking Japanese lessons in major Asian cities. Learning Japanese through listening to J-pop is a very popular pedagogy adopted in Japanese classes in Asia.

Fourth, the Asian edition and pirated edition play an important role in making J-pop affordable and accessible to Asians. Japanese music CDs are made for the Japanese market and thus they contain only Japanese lyrics and their prices are very expensive. Without Asian and pirated editions, J-pop would never have been so popular in Asia. Some Japanese music companies such as Sony and Avex Trax use Hong Kong and Taiwan as the bases to make Asian editions of J-pop albums for the Asian market. Compared to Japanese editions, Asian editions are more user-friendly and affordable. They usually come with the Chinese translation of the lyrics. These Asian editions are much cheaper (about 50% less) than the Japanese originals and are only permitted to circulate in Asia outside of Japan. They have a wide circulation in Asia. For example, in 2000, the Asian edition of Kiroro’s album produced by Music Street sold more than two million copies in Asia. Pirated editions made in Taiwan, Mainland China and Malaysia are omnipresent and cheap but are inferior in sound quality and packaging. Since the concept and legislation of copyrights have not been firmly established in Asia, pirated editions continue to flourish. In addition, the recent trend of downloading music illegally to computers or MP3 popularizes J-pop at the expense of the returns of Japanese music industry.

The Making of a J-Pop Craze in Asia

Japanese pop music has a relatively long history in Asia that can be traced to WW2. In 1963, “Sukiyaki” (Ue o muite arukou) [I will walk with my head up] by Ryu Sakamoto was a smash hit in Asia introduced indirectly from the US. During the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese enka (nostalgic and sentimental ballads) had had a very strong impact on Taiwanese pop songs in which about half of Mandarin songs were cover versions of Japanese enka. From the 1980s onward, Japanese pop music has been introduced to different parts of Asia directly from Japan. There were two golden eras of Japanese pop music in Asia. The first boom was taken place in the early 1980s when Japanese idol singers such as “Machi” Kondo, Akira Nakamori, Seiko Matsuda, Shonentai and Hideki Saijo became the hottest idols in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. They came to Asia for concerts and their tapes (many were pirated) and LPs sold well. Many Asian televisions broadcast the Japanese Red and White Singing Contest (hokaku). “Machi cut” was once the trendiest hairstyle for men and the cutie style of Keiko Matsuda also made an impact on Asian fashion. The cross-dressing and outrageous make-up by Sawada Kenji also influenced some Asian singers (such as Roman Tam). Young men and young women groups modelled after Shonentai and Shojotai mushroomed in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The second peak appeared in the late 1990s when Speed, SMAP, Namie Amuro, Noriko Sakai, Hikaru Utada, and Kinki Kids became Asian superstars. In different Asian nations, J-pop albums entered the local music charts and concerts by J-pop artists often received full-house reception.

Taiwan and Hong Kong were the two consumption and distribution centers of J-pop in Asia outside Japan. In the late 1990s, the circulation of J-pop could match its local and Western counterparts and a J-pop album by top artists could usually sell more than hundred thousand copies in Taiwan and Hong Kong. For example, Hikaru Utada's “First Love” album (1999) sold more than 500,000 copies in Taiwan. J-pop artists go to have big concerts in Taiwan and Hong Kong every year. J-pop fans in Taiwan and Hong Kong have founded fan clubs, both official (like Johnny's Fanclub in Taiwan and Noriko Sakai Fanclub in Hong Kong) and unofficial, for their J-pop singers. The Johnny’s Fanclub in Taiwan has recruited thirty thousand members. J-pop fans in Asia are very faithful to their idols. Some follow their idols to Japan and other parts of Asia just to listen to their concerts. When Goro Inagaki was sidelined by the Johnny's Office for trying to escape an illegal-parking ticket and hitting a policewoman in 2001, hundreds of letters sent by fans of SMAP from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China flooded in the Johnny's Office to ask for lenient treatment. On 2003 Christmas, fans of W-inds in Hong Kong sent ten thousand letters to their icons.

Singapore is the major market for J-pop in Southeast Asia. J-pop albums have entered the top ten of the Singapore music chart since March 1999. In 1999 and 2000, 19 Japanese artists had their albums enter the top ten in the Singapore music chart and at least 9 Japanese albums topped the chart. J-pop albums also sell well in Malaysia, Thailand and China, although piracy remains a serious problem. Even young people in South Korea are also under the spell of the J-pop craze in Asia. J-pop had been an underground music in South Korea before the South Korean government partially lifted its ban on Japanese songs in 1998. Some restrictions have remained after 1998. For instance, Japanese singers are not allowed in sing in Japanese in their lives in Korea (the World Cup Soccer 2002 concert was an exception). Mainland China is the market that the Japanese want to penetrate. After 2000, increasing number of top singers (including Ayumi Hamasaki, V6, Glay, and Rip Slyme) have held concerts or performed in China.

The J-pop craze in Asia reached its peak in the late 1990s and began to cool down in the early 2000s. The decline of J-pop in Asia after 2000 has been affected by a number of factors such as the slump of the music industry in Japan and Asia, the rise of Korean pop music, the end of the Japanese dramas boom in Asia, and the problem of piracy. Regardless of its decline, J-pop has become an integral part of pop music in different Asian nations and it is going to stay and make a comeback in the future.

The Impact of J-Pop in Asia

J-pop is now one of the most influential music forces in Asia and it is no exaggeration to say that Asian music has been somehow Japanized. The Japanization of Asian music can be seen from the following five aspects: the popularization of Asian cover versions of J-pop songs, the introduction of the Japanese idol-making system, the adoption of Japanese methods, the use of Japanese words in lyrics or as aliases and the collaborations with the Japanese.

Making cover versions of J-pop songs is a common practice in Asia. It is cheaper, faster and safer to make cover versions of J-pop rather than to create original songs. Smash J-pop hits usually have multiple Asian cover versions. For example, Chage & Aska, Miyuki Nakajima, Southern All Stars, and Anzen Chitai, each has more than twenty songs made in different Asian cover versions. “Ruju” (lipstick) by Nakajima has more than ten different Asian cover versions (including Mandarin, Cantonese, English [in Singapore and Thailand], Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Burmese, etc.). Taiwan and Hong Kong have produced a large number of Mandarin and Cantonese cover versions. It is said that 20-35% of Cantonese pop songs made in Hong Kong in the early 1990s were cover versions of Japanese songs. Sometimes, cover versions can be more popular than the original songs in Asia. Examples are the Cantonese version of “Manatsu no kajitsu” (Southern All Stars), the Mandarin version of “Otoko to onna” (Chage & Aska) and the Mandarin version of “Nagai aida” (Kiroro).

The Japanese idol-making system has been introduced to Asia. Japanese music companies (such as Sony Records and Avex Trax) and talent agencies (such as Hori Production and Inoks) set up regional headquarters and branches in major Asian cities. One of their main objectives is to scout, trian and promote Asian pop singers in the Japanese fashion for the Asian market. For example, Sony has been holding auditions called “Voices if Asia” in 8 Asian nations to choose promising new talents. In China, Sony signed 4 young females to form the Shanghai Performance Doll, a dancing and singing group modelled after the Tokyo Performance Doll. They were sent to receive training in Japan and their Mandarin songs were produced and written by the Japanese. In the late 1990s, the Singaporean composer Dick Lee, who worked for Sony (Asia), signed more than 10 singers from Southeast Asia. Inoks chose three Singapore young females from three thousand participants in auditions in Southeast Asia to form Mirai (“future” in Japanese). Trained to sing and dance by Inoks under the Japanese system and recording in Mandarin, English and Japanese, Mirai targets the entire Asian market. Tetsuya Komuro handpicked new singers in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China to join his “Komuro Family.” His family members went to receive training in Japan. Hori Production holds auditions in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to look for new singers.

Music companies and talent agencies in Asia also learn from their Japanese counterparts in creating idol singers. For example, the Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG, Hong Kong) and the Comic Ritz Production (Taiwan) are managed in a Japanese fashion. Like Johnny's Office and other Japanese talent agencies, these Asian companies sign long-term contact (usually 5-10 years) with good-looking young people in their teens and then train them to sing, dance, act and talk. The companies arrange different kinds of jobs such as music recording, TV dramas, TV commercials, concerts, and movies for them and acquire a very high commission (usually 30-50%). The singers under these Asian companies have a strong Japanese feel. For example, Twins under EEG model after Puffy and Comic Boyz under the Comic Ritz Production are the Taiwanese version of V6. Likewise, Sky under Go East (Hong Kong) is the Hong Kong version of SMAP. These five Hong Kong young men even sing a number of Cantonese cover editions of SMAP’s songs. EO2 (Star East Hong Kong) and Energy (Universal Taiwan) remind us of Da Pump in music and dance. Cookies under EMI Hong Kong is regarded as the Hong Kong version of Morning Musume. Similar copied groups can also be found in other parts of Asia.

Asian companies and artists are learning from Japan on different aspects of music production and marketing, such as music composition, MV, stage design, sound effect, costumes, make-up, dance, promotion, jacket design, and PR skills. In Asia, Japan is playing the role of "recycling" Western music. Euro-beat, R & B and Hip hop have largely been introduced from Japan rather than directly from Europe and the US. How do the Asians learn from Japan? Usually the Asians study and apply these Japanese methods by themselves. Sometimes they ask the Japanese to transfer know-how. Taiwanese and Hong Kong talent agencies send their hottest or most promising singers to Japan to receive special training in music, dance and stage performance. For example, EEG sent Nicolas Tse to learn guitar and music composition as well as Joey Yung to improve dancing in Japan under Sam (Masaharu Maruyama), the ex-husband of Namie Amuro and a dancer of TRF. In late 2003, Twins received 3-day intensive dancing lesson from Fumiko Yamato, the dance teacher of SMAP. Likewise, EMI and Universal in Hong Kong also send their singers to receive music and dance training in Japan.

Japanization of Asian pop music can also be seen from the use of Japanese in lyrics and as aliases. Taiwanese singers use Japanese words and phrases in lyrics very often, sometimes even the entire section is in Japanese. Hong Kong singers also like to insert some Japanese in the lyrics such as “aishiteiru” (I love you), “suki” (I like you), “sayounara” (goodbye), “kawaii” (cute) and “ichiban” (the most”. The lyrics also contain many hot spots or famous symbols in Tokyo such as “Yamanote”, “Shinjuku”, “Shibuya”, “Harajuku”, “Nichomei” and so on. Even song titles can be in Japanese (such as Sammi Cheng’s “Arigatou” [a cover version of Kokia’s “Arigatou”], Joey Yung’s “Aishiteiru” and Miriam Yeung’s “Futari mae”. Some Asian singers (in particular females) use Japanese names (such as Yoko, Miki, Yumiko, Sakura, Junko, Yuki, and Taro) as aliases.

The collaborations between Japanese and Asian musicians have increased tremendously in various forms such as music production, composition, arrangement, recording, singing, playing music and co-organizing concerts. For example, Black Biscuits (disbanded) and Core of Soul are groups combining Japanese and Chinese artists. The guitarist from Luna Sea and the drummer of Shiina Ringo played the music for Nicolas Tse in one of Tse’s Cantonese album. Nicolas Tse and Mayday (a Taiwanese Band) were guest performers in one of the Glay’s concerts in 2001. In 2002, LMF (a disbanded Hong Kong hip hop band) performed with Rip Slyme in concerts in Japan and Taiwan. In 2003, Glay performed as guests for Mayday. Takuro, the leader of Glay, made music with Yundi Li, Vanessa Mae and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Ryuiichi Kawamura and Sugizo (Luna Sea) wrote songs for Kelly Chan and Nicolas Tse respectively. Chage & Aska wrote a song for the Chinese singer Naying and Yuming wrote a song for the Hong Kong singer Dior Wong who studied under her in Japan. Noriko Sakai and Yuko Yamaguchi were guest singers in Hong Kong albums. These kinds of transnational music exchange will generate new artistic ideas and business opportunities and will likely to increase in the future.

Posted by 知日部屋屋主 | 評論(6) | 引用(0) | 閱讀(28074)
ramen +
2008/02/08 20:12
这篇文章的显示有点问题
右边一撅看不到
不过我又想看这篇文章
屋主能否编辑一下呢?
^_^
gakinme Homepage +
2006/12/09 14:03
Neat article. Thanks for posting it. Definitely transnational cooperation is better than doing cover songs. It brings prestige to the Asian artists to have a Japanese composer write for them. But anyway, I stopped listening to c pop because I've learnt to appreciate the originals anyway. I think the Japanese are one of the most creative people in art and music in Asia.深海 is a formidable song. The album still holds the 1.2 million record one week sale to this date and Kat-Tun didn't topple it. Quite amazing!
Asuka +
2005/10/11 23:15
说到P2P软件,就不能不说WINMX,而要用私人服务器(日文为“KOSABA”)
那上面收集比较强的人很多,很多都是某个歌手的铁杆FANS
若要真正了解日本音乐,还是多上WINMX和人交流为好
因为,第一,有人说日本音乐的一半在于CD,一半在于LIVE,我也基本赞同。因此,我喜欢某个歌手就一定会找LIVE来看,WINMX上这方面的资源是最多的,特别是老歌手

第2,BT上能找到的都是些在中国比较流行的东西,而实际上,日本人所欣赏的东西和中国人非常不一样。要真正了解JPOP,不仅要接触新东西,还必须了解70-80年代的经典,而WINMX上就有非常多的资源
道道 +
2005/08/09 20:16
我也很喜欢Mr Children的歌,宇多田也不错.楼主的文章我拜读了,觉得和风的流行还在现在便捷网络通信.海量的信息,免费P2P下载(主要是BT),使得我们可以很容易于日本保持同步
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