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   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #493  (Vol. 10, No. 36)  This edition is for the week of August 31--September 6, 2009.

MOVIE REVIEW
"Halloween II"  by Mike Smith
LA FLORIDIANA
Thyme and Again with Florida's Mister Magic!  by William Moriaty
RETRORAMA
Loose in Las Vegas: 2009  by ED Tucker
THE ASIAN APERTURE
A Brief History of Jpop  by Jason Fetters
MUSICAL MUSINGS
Cover Songs  by Bobby Tyler
STATE OF THE NATION
Who Is The Enemy? .... Let Me Challenge You .... .... .... .... .... .... by Brandon Jones
MIKE'S RANT
End Of The Season .... Spidermouse? .... Chick-fil-mmmmmmmmmmmm .... Fingerprint File .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... by Mike Smith
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A Brief History of Jpop

I started listening to Jpop before I knew what Jpop was. Back in 1994, I was browsing through a record store at the mall and saw Shonen Knife Rock Animals. I'm always looking for new music so I gave it a chance. I wasn't disappointed.

Then in college I lived in a big apartment complex close to the campus with 3 Japanese roommates. I had a catalogue that said something about Chara being the Madonna of Japan (back in the early 90's) so I wanted to hear it. Anyway, one of my roommates, Hiro, had a girlfriend who was going to stay with us for a couple of weeks. He asked me if I wanted anything from Kyoto and I just asked for a Chara CD. When his girlfriend arrived we picked her up at the airport and she brought me Junior Sweet with one of Chara’s biggest hit songs Yasashii Kimochi. Then my other roommate, Junnichi, translated the kanji into hiragana so I could read it. He also provided an English translation and the song is about the gentle feelings of a woman in love. I learned to sing the whole song in Japanese. By the time I was living in Osaka, one year later, I could go to a Karaoke bar and sing Yasashii Kimochi entirely in Japanese. This was a big hit with the Japanese back in 1999.

Here are some songs that I like from Japan.

1.) Edo no Uta for shakuhachi, shamisen, biwa, 2 kotos, and bells) by the Ensemble Nipponia. OK, I'd like to start with a traditional Japanese classical song because it showcases the use of the Japanese scale. You can hear influences from Chinese music, yet it still sounds very Japanese. I started with this one to show the Chinese influence before the American Jazz influence that would dominate the '40s through '60s and beyond.

2.) Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto. This is the only Jpop song to reach number 1 in the US on the Billboard music charts. It has been covered many times by many different people. I still prefer the original in Japanese.

3.) Anata no Ai o shiritai no by Sanii Shingaazu. A popular song for cute idols singers during the '60s. Although it does have American Jazz influences, it still maintains a Japanese flavor.

4.) UFO by Pink Lady. My favorite Japanese female Disco Duo. You really have to see the video on YouTube, for this one, so you can learn the UFO dance. A lot of Japanese were dancing the UFO dance back in the '70s the same way people were doing the YMCA dance by the Village People. Pink Lady also had a music variety show on US TV back in 1978.

5.) Technopolis by Yellow Magic Orchestra. Sakamoto Ryuichi is a great modern composer and I like him best with YMO back in the '70s from my favorite album, Solid State Survivor. If you like Devo back from 1975 and Kraftwerk, give this song and the whole album a try.

6.) Banana Fish by Shonen Knife. OK, moving on to the '80s, we have this wonderful all-girl punk band. This is an early song that I like because it sounds so raw. Lots of energy and fun. Before they tried to sing in English.

7.) Linda Linda by The Blue Hearts. Another cool '80s punk band. I heard about them from the movie Linda, Linda, Linda so I had to go out and get their greatest hits collection. Great punk song that you can sing along to.

8.) Kawano nagare no yoni by Misora Hibari. An interesting singer who recorded this song back in 1989. There used to be a Misora Hibari-kan museum in Arashiyama, Kyoto. However it closed in 2006 and became part of the Edo-Tokyo Museum. According to an NHK music poll, back in 1997, this song was voted "best Japanese song of all time."

9.) I Love You by Ozaki Yutaka. Great song by a tragic Idol singer who died too young. Ozaki is the first Idol singer to really sing about the realities and anguish of young Japanese teenaged life. He is still looked at in Japan the way the US sees Kurt Cobain.

10.) Yasashii Kimochi by Chara. Her biggest hit in Japan and still a staple at Karaoke bars. This was back when she was trying to break out of the idol mold and go indies. All of her recent music is indies now. Jpop mixed with numerous other elements like American folk and psychedelic

11.) Asa ga Mata Kuru by Dreams Come True. A very successful Jpop duo back in the 90's. It's from the album The Monster, which along with Junior Sweet, were my first tastes of Jpop. This is a wonderful, catchy song with excellent female vocals.

12.) First Love by Utada Hikaru. Despite her unsuccessful attempts to break into the US market with this year’s This Is The One (a truly bad album), her first single from her 1999 debut is still a favorite. Right now her popularity is down, with other female singers pushing out more top ten singles like Shiina Ringo, Boa, and the Queen of Jpop, Hamasaki Ayumi. Still, for a brief period in time, First Love could be heard blasted through speakers at baseball games and piped in at Mr. Donuts all over Japan.

That's all for now. Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite Jpop songs are.


"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.