Arama They Didn't

8:15 pm - 09/13/2011

How K-Pop Conquered Japan

“Part of K-Pop’s success in Japan can be attributed to globe-hopping musical production. Ian Martin of The Japan Times writes that Korean acts take most of their cues from Western music, meaning a lot of European electro house (2NE1’s Diplo-ish “I’m The Best”) and American R&B touches (Girls’ Generation’s “Mr. Taxi” and KARA’s “Mister”) among other influences. In the case of Girls’ Generation, it especially helps that most of the tracks on their Japanese debut album were sculpted by Western producers. These touches might not necessarily impress Western ears, but in Japan they ring revelatory. A common stereotype about Japan is that it’s a nation stubborn to change, and in regards to J-Pop, this is completely correct. Most of the popular tracks of today could have been frozen back in the mid ’90s and thawed out at any time, the combination of goofy numbers and sappy ballads remaining basically unchanged for the past two decades. Japanese music plays it safe, resulting in a bland popscape where artists have very little opportunity to expand internationally. Meanwhile, K-Pop has conquered Japan and most of Asia, and is even taking baby steps into the Western world.”

“Image also plays a critical role in separating the two countries’ pop music. A crass way of summing it up is this: K-Pop stars out-sex their J-Pop counterparts. The members of Girls’ Generation show a fair amount of skin in their music videos, while many fans were drawn to KARA by a chunk of choreography Wikipedia dubs “the butt dance.” Beyond straight-up sex appeal, K-Pop groups look and act like real adults, whereas J-Pop outfits often emphasize adolescent cuteness…The most popular Japanese act of the moment, AKB48, is a collection of 48 singers usually wearing high-school uniforms while behaving like 15-year-old girls. It’s been a tried-and-true path to pop success; Japanese singers have been donning their staple sailor suits since the ’70s-a fashion shtick that’s far from progressive. Girls’ Generation and KARA aren’t glimmering examples of feminism, but at least they look and act like grown women.

"Much much more at the source. A great read for anyone who’s having trouble accepting the popularity of Korean groups in Japan.

Yao and I have been saying this for over a year now— unless Japan lets go of its’ ingrained pop culture stubbornness and outdated ideas of what is “cool” among the youth and starts to draw from other popular cultures (and you can see the beginnings of that in V6’s tragic new single HONEY BUNNY), they will continue to come in 2nd, 3rd, 4th to Korea and the West. As it stands now, I think a Korean group has 2x the chance of making it in the U.S. than a Japanese artist because Korea is watching what is popular not just in their own country but everywhere, and emulating it (no, pushing it forward, too!) rather than clinging to what worked ten years ago and then blaming dismal sales and reviews on their more successful neighbors.

Wow, that makes me sound like a major K-Pop fan. I guess I kind of am now though. Sorry Japan, hallyu even has its’ hooks in me!"

Atlantic Article
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queencrystallia 13th-Sep-2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
lol k-pop conquered Japan LMAO
I do not know... maybe some people just do not know what "conquer means"
It is sad O_O
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nekobot01 13th-Sep-2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
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nudrive 13th-Sep-2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
What's with the mahousive writing?

I think a Korean group has 2x the chance of making it in the U.S.
And? They're still flopping over there lol

Edited at 2011-09-13 09:12 pm (UTC)
yasmine2009 13th-Sep-2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Oh snap, another Korea rules Japan's music market article! Let me get my popcorn and a drink.

queencrystallia 13th-Sep-2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
i will also read and enjoy drinking my water :|
cherrycoloured 13th-Sep-2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
I love K-Pop and all, but I really hate when people act like all J-Pop is idols. Err, Namie Amuro and Koda Kumi are just as mature and sexy as K-Pop stars, if not more, and they also borrow from R&B and hip-hop sounds (lol at "Mister" and "Mr. Taxi" being called R&B- I love them, but they're straight-up pop). If one wants to just compare idol groups, then fine, say that, but say all J-Pop is like AKB48 or Morning Musume pisses me off. I hate this cultural elitism. What's even weirder is that this guy isn't even Korean, so I don't get it.

I agree that K-Pop has a bigger chance than most J-Pop acts at getting mainstream Western acceptance, but that doesn't make it better. I love what makes Japanese music unique from other places, and I hope it stays that way! I'm a fan of both K-Pop and J-Pop, and I love that they sound different from each other.
asweetsymphony 13th-Sep-2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
I hate this cultural elitism. What's even weirder is that this guy isn't even Korean, so I don't get it.

LOLS! Ikr. Cultural elitism or any forms of elitism pisses me off. It's not right for an outsider or an observer to call another culture's backwards simply because it doesn't follow Western ideals.
arisu_aru 13th-Sep-2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, so you're saying that Japan has their own unique way of showing their pop bands, while k-pop copies everything from others?
It's not like I haven't heard it few times. :)

nishi_heart 13th-Sep-2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
Agree with you. And even if Kpop do get some inspiration from the western culture, SO WHAT? Its not like all Japanese artists are original.

Don't get me wrong. I like both kpop and jpop.....I just wish ppl didnt make such sadistic comments when they dont know jack shit.
msclairvoyant 13th-Sep-2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
zomboid 13th-Sep-2011 09:20 pm (UTC)
The whole article at The Atlantic was better.

Most of the points raised are pretty played out and the guy makes it sound like Japan's music scene is all about idol music when musicians like Shiina Ringo, Yamashita Tatsuro, and various other music artists top the charts all the time. They might not be all over the variety circuit but they're definitely popular seeing as how their shows sell out during presale.

I wonder if we're ever going to get an English article from a Japanese music journalist talking about how they see kpop in Japan because as horrible as this might sound, it just sounds like white people talking about an exotic culture and how it's outdated and out of vogue because it doesn't meet their western expectations.
nekobot01 13th-Sep-2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
LOL! I just left a similar comment. I wish more people would call these white guys out on this type of thing.
nekobot01 13th-Sep-2011 09:20 pm (UTC)
I read the article and I think the author does that thing where "Western" is mistaken for "modern/desirable."

Just because Mr. St. Michael doesn't see what he perceives as "adult sexiness" from women in every J-Pop video doesn't mean that J-Pop is somehow behind the curve. Did it occur to him that maybe he's just reading the signs wrong... all he needs to do is pick up a copy of Anan's sex issue to see idols doing all sorts of things.

Showing skin and playacting sex isn't the only way to show adult sexiness.
asweetsymphony 13th-Sep-2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
"Western" is mistaken for "modern/desirable."

Ikr. He is imposing his own 'white-man' views on Japanese society and culture.
daisyham 13th-Sep-2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
the formatting of this post is so timeless and classy
buyme_arashi ikr?14th-Sep-2011 12:35 am (UTC)
asaphira_sachi 13th-Sep-2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
The article make it sound like Jpop has no potential to expand internationally. But IMO, they chose to remain the domestic market as they still are, not because they lack potential. Tbh if Jpop changed their sound, won't be Jpop anymore.
asweetsymphony 13th-Sep-2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Why does the West always try to change Japan's traditions or impose their own views of it? They always try to find something wrong with it. Ethnocentrism much?

Japan has a rich history of idols... they like their idols sweet and cute and stuff like that because they are meant to make people happy and raise the public's spirits. Jpop has a lot of really talented artists too.
(no subject) - Anonymous
kazunika 14th-Sep-2011 03:39 am (UTC)
Boa english album = 8000 copies sold
hikki english album = 50,000 copies sold
exdream1999 13th-Sep-2011 09:40 pm (UTC)

1. Japanese people find K-pop exotic because they don't listen to Western style music? Really??? Really?? The country where Lady Gaga arriving at the airport makes the news?? And same Lady Gaga had a major deal with a cell phone company so her songs feature in their CMs?? Really?? Japaneses people have no idea what "Western" music sounds like??

2. Just a personal side note, I kind of like the fact that quite a bit of J-pop doesn't sound like what's on the air in the U.S. I kind of like the fact that some of pop songs feature actual instruments and isn't full of electronic sounds. But that could the band geek in me that likes hearing things like violins and trumpets and saxophones.

3. I don't have time to read this in depth because I'm getting ready for work, but are the people in this article actually living in Japan? If so, *headdesk* If not, as someone living in Japan...*LMAO*

4. You know whose opinion on Hallyu in Japan I actually want to read about, Marty Freeman's.
hhnd_2002 13th-Sep-2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Japan is not a copy of the West?!

People don't realize that Korea's main targets lies in foreign markets - Japan, the rest of Asia (especially Southeast Asia), and possibly Western market (why not?) so they have to produce something more "global" that any culture can appreciate. Japan on the other hand has a huge domestic music market, so they can afford to focus on Japanese audience alone. If their major goal was to expand overseas, they would have approached it differently. When it comes to money, nobody's stupid ;)

But then again, what's new? The majority of Korean films borrow heavily from Hollywood stylistically, whereas many Japanese films still hold on to their slow pace and content that are (a lot more) in touch with reality. Sleep-inducing and harder to watch as that might be, I think efforts to preserve originality will produce outputs that are much more likely to survive time.

As necessary as it is to learn from other cultures (as no culture is really "original", let's face it), it is much harder to preserve unique (and positive, I hope) aspects of one's culture than to "borrow" and slightly modify from other cultures. Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V are certainly not things I would go around and brag about :D
peachie_ego 13th-Sep-2011 11:52 pm (UTC)
....umm Japan been nothing but copy and paste since WWII though so you're not going anywhere with this.
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