Before K-Pop, there was J-Pop. Japanese Pop. Let me get this done with so that I can talk about other stuff.
J-Pop was the polar opposite of K-Pop. With the Koreans, you get the feeling that they work very hard to provide what they feel the international audience might love. And then they go on world tours to meet the fans.
The Japanese did no such thing. They made their own music for their own people, and they never bothered with
faking stuff packaging for the international market. They never came out of Japan to meet us. We were the ones who intrude their entertainment world just because they are Japanese, and let’s face it, anything Japanese is supposed to be cool.
I was into Japanese stuff at a relatively young age, like when I was 7 or 8, specifically the cartoons and kids shows. I’m sure you all know about Doraemon, Ultraman, and Baja Hitam (Kamen Rider)? Then as I got older, I never stopped. I continued with more serious animes like Slam Dunk, Dragon Ball Z, Samurai X, Vandread,
Ah My Goddess, etc etc etc, the list goes on. Strangely though, I have not watched what most kids watched, like Pikachu or Naruto.
Which is also why my tolerance towards Japanese songs are much higher compared to Korean songs. The thing is, all those years watching English subbed Japanese anime meant I can recognize words. Nowadays when I listen to Japanese songs, I could probably figure out 15 to 20% of the lyrics, as opposed to 0% of a Korean song. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit, my Japanese language proficiency is probably better than my Hokkien proficiency even after living in Penang for 6 years. Yikes…
So which are my favoritest J-Pop songs?
1. Amuro Namie – Mr USA, Aishite Masukatto
I’m not sure any of you know Amuro Namie. I suppose if I mention Utada Hikaru or Hamasaki Ayumi, many people will know. Amuro-chan predates them. I think she is the first modern Japanese female singer to achieve international super-stardom. When these songs were released, she was with a dance group called Super Monkeys. Then she went solo, which I think is better for her. She was so young back then. Nowadays she’s hotter and more seductive, of course 😀
I know, I know, those are catchy dance tunes, I’m a bloody hypocrite for claiming that I’m a sentimental type previously. Slap me then.
2. Flame – Truly
My sister introduced this song to me. Back then she was more prophetic than any of us. She still is now, I reckon. She chased after J-Pop before it was cool, then moved on to K-Pop when her peers started to chase after J-Pop. Nowadays she is no longer that enthusiastic about the Koreans anymore, since it is no longer cool because everyone else is chasing. I wonder when she will discover a new trend to chase after.
Anyway, these guys were like 14 or 15 when they made this song. I hardly watch the video though, it’s a bit unsettling to watch blonde Japanese boys sing sentimental songs. I just listen to the song.
3. Sakuraba Yuichiro – Omae ya nai to akannen
This one is the theme song of a drama series, Mukodono (Son-in-law?). Sakuraba Yuichiro is the character name in the series, his real name is Tomoya Nagase, and he’s a member of some boy band. He never released this song under his real name though, it is only released as part of the drama series.
That series was pretty awesome. Back then (it was year 2000 or 2001-ish), I would watch it with my sis, and mom would come to the living room to scold us for neglecting other stuff for the TV. She would always end up sitting there, watching with us XD .
Actually in the 2000s, there were many awesome Japanese drama series that would totally punk the generic Korean drama series nowadays. My favorite was one about ice hockey, starring Takuya Kimura. That series was pure awesomeness. Pride, if you wanna try Google for it.
4. I WISH – Futatsu Hoshi / Asu e no Tobira
While Amuro-chan is my favorite Japanese artist as a whole, this is by far my favorite Japanese singer. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Kawashima Ai, lead singer of I WISH. I usually listen to songs while doing other stuff. With her songs though, I would stop whatever I am doing and concentrate on her wonderful and sad melodies. Sometimes I would drop tears while listening. True story.
There are quite a few more of my personal favorites, but as I mentioned earlier, the Japs are so secluded that I can hardly find decent Youtube videos of their songs, so I better not be bothered…
The thing with listening to foreign language songs is that, because you do not know what they are singing, you have to try to interpret based on their tunes and melodies. You will be able to appreciate the emotional side of the songs better. It is kind of like how a blind person will have enhanced sense of hearing and touch. That’s why I do sometimes enjoy my dose of songs of different languages, to get more into the emotional side of things. Does that make sense?