Archive for the ‘Younha’ Category

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Kpop vs. Jpop: The Epic, Part I

2010年 6月 5日

As you all have probably realized Tsuki no Ai has begun featuring Kpop artists on the blog. There are a number of reasons for this addition. First, I am trying to learn Korean (along with Mandarin and Japanese) as part of my major for East Asian Studies. I’d like to attain complete fluency in all three languages so I can have the freedom of living in most places in East Asia (heh Vietnamese will have to come later). Listening to Japanese music has been instrumental in my progression of the language because it helped me become accustomed to its sound and nuances. I’m trying to recreate that same affect with Korean music. Secondly, I want to warm up to more Asian cultures, aside from my Japanese “comfort zone.” Even though I’ll be reviewing Korean from now on (in addition to Japanese and perhaps the occasional Chinese), my heart still belongs with Japanese music. Why is that? Well that’s an issue I want to explore in my first ever EDITORIAL (zomg yaaaaay O(≧∇≦)O). Let’s get started.

The Lyrics

The first major distinction between Kpop and Jpop lies in the lyrical content of a song. While there are exceptions in each case, let’s take a look at two “typical” songs (English translations). I tried to choose upbeat songs from two artists (after all it wouldn’t be fair to choose an upbeat song for one and ballad for the other).

Ayumi Hamaski- excerpt from “Rule”

I don’t want to be imposed on
By the same old stupid Rules
Let’s start first, you and me
By breaking the Rules

Since the moment my strength turned into tenderness
And my tenderness turned into strength
I have nothing to fear any more
I’m feeling so

4minute- MUZIK

Let’s move within the rhythm that’s drawing us in
Let’s move within the non-stop raining music
I like the music, like, like, like the music
Listen to my song, not that boring beat

More sexier and tastier, I like it, I like it
Add more booty and do it more stylish, I like it, I like it
Now let’s fire it up with me, party tonight

Noticeably difference right? Now of course there are exceptions… you will find slutty lyrics from Koda Kumi and touching lyrics from Younha. However, what I’m trying to focus on is the general trend of lyrics. Jpop tends to focus on life- love, pain, parties, depression, childhood, parents, a journey, being sexy, happiness, anxiety, nervousness, etc. etc. Kpop’s sphere, while it can embody all of those I just listed, usually encompasses sexiness, parties, and love. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me a good slutty song, but I do like a little variety in my music. Now you most certainly can find deep Korean lyrics (especially in the ballads), but here I’m just trying to distinguish between upbeat songs.  I’m not trying to stereotype either Kpop or Jpop, I’m just noting some observations I’ve made by listening to all sorts of Asian music for 5+ years.

The Music

Now let’s focus on the instrumentation of each group. The vast majority of Kpop is sexy synth, aggressive hip hop, bubblegum pop, or moving ballads. Rarely are real, tangible instruments regularly used (with the exception of Younha, the TRAX and a few others). Japanese music on the other hand is much more diverse. We have acoustic goddesses like YUI, synth queens like Koda Kumi, pop mavens like Namie Amuro, techno bitches like Ami Suzuki, rock demons like OLIVIA… the list goes on endlessly. Japan suffered from a relatively stale music environment for quite a few years until X Japan (then just X) surfaced in the 80s. Now I’m not even concerning myself with Jrock here… purely Jpop. If I were to included Jrock into this mix the list of musical styles would expand enormously. The reason I won’t include Jrock right now is because there really isn’t a “Krock” scene to speak of. Yes there have been a few successful rock bands in Korea, but the charts speak for themselves. Korea wants pop, not rock. Now perhaps I’m not being totally fair here. The Japanese music market has had decades of history. Japan has had ample time to produce well-rounded artists of all different genres. Korean music hasn’t  been around as long (in terms of mass marketing), so it’s natural that the market is more limited. It’s not to say that Korea can’t produce talented artists, because it certainly can, it’s just that most of these artists belong within one or two genres.

Also of importance is song length. It is very rare to find a Korean song over 4 minutes long- even if it’s a ballad. In Japan it’s not unusual to see a ballad go for 5 or 6 minutes… X JAPAN’s epic, “Life of Art” rocks out for 30 minutes (ok yeah that’s rock, but you get the point). Personally I don’t think that you can make a well developed ballad in under 4 minutes… even upbeat songs need time for exposition, development, and recapitulation. Yeah Kpop songs are infectious, catchy, and dance-friendly, they’re just not long enough for my tastes. Often I find myself listening to a song and loving it but then feeling like “wait… it’s over already?” Now there are long songs that drag on, but for the most part the longer Japanese songs are well constructed.

The Vocalists
Here’s the trickiest category of them all- the singers that make it all happen. Koreans *tend* to have deeper, richer voices than their Japanese counterparts. This is especially true when it comes to male vocalists. I’m going to go right out and say it- Korean male singers a bit better. Sorry Japan =/. But here’s the thing… they know how to do vibrato, they’ve got pretty good intonation, they can phrase well. While Japanese men can certainly do all of those things, the tendency (particularly with JE boys) is to have a more nasal-y and higher-pitched sound. Japan has a much more difficult time promoting male artists that aren’t from Johnny’s Entertainment. I adore KAT-TUN and Arashi, but when you’ve got JE backing you up there’s no way in hell you aren’t going to chart well on the Oricon. Now we do get a breath of fresh air with Yuya Matsushita, who has done a superb job in the solo male department. Now you might say that JUNE and K have great voices… but remember, they’re KOREAN.

Now let’s talk about the girls. For the most part I’ll give this award to Japan (not including the travesty of H!P vocalists). There’s a lot of diversity in terms of vocal style for Japanese women… you’ve got everything from Rie fu’s soft spoken voice to Koda Kumi’s raspy vocals. Now Korean ladies can sure belt it out… my favorites being LENA PARK (phenomenal voice), Ivy (though I wish she’d do more ballads), and SeeYa’s Lee Boram and Kim Yeonji. Now I do think that Korea has a larger stock of female rappers, but I don’t think you can compete with Japanese veterans like SOULHEAD.

So this concludes the Kpop vs. Jpop Epic Part I! This was my first shot at an editorial so if you have comments or suggestions please, please, please let me know. Coming up next: international appeal, style, promotion, groups, triple threats, and more.

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Best of 2009: Albums

2010年 1月 1日

Best albums of 2009 (not necessarily in order) from left to right

  1. alan- Voice of Earth
  2. Yuna Ito- Dream
  3. Ayumi Hamasaki- NEXT LEVEL
  4. the GazettE- DIM
  5. alice nine.- Vandalize
  6. Namie Amuro- Past<Future
  7. Nothing’s Carved in Stone- Parallel Lives
  8. rie fu- Urban Romantic
  9. Mai Fukui- My Song for You
  10. Girugamesh- Now
  11. Younha- Growing Season (Honorary Korean Masterpiece)

Honorable Mentions

MiChi- UP TO YOU
Ikimono Gakari- Hajimari no Uta
Koda Kumi- Trick
Ayaka Hirahara- My Classics
Perfume-