Tag Archives: jpop

this is not an anniversary post

Three years ago today, I wrote my very first post about music on SOLILOQUY. But no, today is not SOLILOQUY’s 3rd anniversary. 2009 doesn’t really count given that I only wrote 2 measly articles that year. What I want to celebrate today instead is something far much important: the first instance this musically-challenged noob decided to crossover from passive listener to active advocate of jrock.

If, by any chance, you strayed over into my About page, you would have noticed that it contains nothing but a quote from George Starostin, a respected linguist who also found recognition as a music critic, and I’m reprinting it here:

Of course, this is presumptuous. Who am I to make my opinions matter? Basically a nobody — not a musician, not a musicologist, not even a superb connoisseur of the pop culture, and not even a native English speaker. There are so many people in the world who are better “qualified” for this line of work than me, it’s not even funny. And who am I to give someone something? How have I been authorized? How have I even been able to suppose that someone might want to con­sider taking this bullshit from me?

The answers are simple: you cannot really know until you try

So try, I did. And SOLILOQUY was born.

Well, that quote was actually part of a very insightful essay on internet based amateur criticism entitled “Why Writing About Music Beats Dancing About Architecture”. I was moved the first time I read it but the essay took a whole new level of significance when I found myself reading it over and over again during the times I’m contemplating whether to continue with SOLILOQUY or not. I’ve had my fun. The numbers might not have been groundbreaking, but at least I knew that there are those willing to take some “bullshit” from me. Now what?

Starostin captured that dilemma spot-on:

Then, at one point, the rut set in, and a crisis was imminent. First came the understanding that the process is endless; timeless musical masterpieces may be few, but “good” music stretches out to infinity, in width as well as in depth, and my idealistic “encyclopaedic” dreams of covering eve­ry­thing worth covering were shattered and smashed…

Second came the understanding that I had run out of things to say — there’s only so many different words in the English language, and far from all of them are easily applicable to a music review, and this brings on the horrible idea that, perhaps, if you catch your­self applying the exact same words to a dozen different albums by different artists in different times, this might mean that the music sounds exactly the same? And if it does not, what good it is to try and capture its essence with such inadequate means?

At a moment like this, the only thing that keeps you going is understanding that, if you just drop it, this means you have wasted an awful amount of time and potential with all your previous writing. There is also the idea of “obligation”: people who like to read you expect you to entertain them further, and maybe they have a certain flimsy right to. But going on just for the sake of going on isn’t a lot of fun, either.

Ouch on that last line.

Given that I’ve only been doing this for about a year or so, to speak about being burnt out is premature and to some extent egotistic.  But when there are tons of drama happening in real life, sustaining an existence in the blogosphere becomes yet another task competing for attention. At the end of the day, you just have to ask: “Is this a commitment really worth pursuing?”

April 3rd of this year, I found my answer. So here I am, looking forward to writing more about the music that I love. Once more, with feelings.

pensive HYDE

note: to read Starostin essay in its entirety, go this page. I highly recommend it. Be cautioned though that the page takes time to load and the essay is at the very bottom.

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NO MUSIC NO REASON

Music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. High school was a breeze because of top40 hits. Then as I got older, my taste became, shall I say it, more refined. I survived all-nighters in college with my eyes on the computer and Rage Against the Machine blaring on my ear. In my college thesis, I almost included Radiohead, Nirvana and Silverchair on the acknowledgement page as they helped me get thru tons of research and re-writes.

And then I discovered jrock and as they say, my life has never been the same.

It all began with a mixtape.

My younger brother brought home a compilation of anime theme songs given to him by a classmate. I’m  a big fan of anime so he lent it to me. To be honest, I’ve never bothered with the theme songs before as I’m guilty of skipping the opening credits. But lo and behold, amidst the confetti of jpop fluff I discovered gems. That mixtape introduced me to the music of Siam Shade, Asian Kung-fu Generation, and of course, to the 1 of only 2 bands I would ever admit of being a fangirl,  L’Arc~en~Ciel (in case you’re wondering, D’espairsRay is the other one but we’ll get to that later).

L'Arc~en~Ciel
Have Laruku, will follow

I owe it to that mixtape for introducing me to jrock. But what really immersed me hook, line, down to the damning sinker is the online forum Ongaku Society. Becoming a novice fan of jrock when one is tens of thousands kilometers away from Japan is tough, especially when my friends give me a blank stare every time I gush about a new song I discovered. Just imagine then my joy upon finding out that there is a site dedicated to Filipino fans of Japanese music. In the presence of peers, my fascination for jrock became a full-blown commitment.

Sadly, Ongaku Society is no more. The site was down for the longest time only to resurface without its most vital component: the forums. My memories though of the time spent lurking on the site remain intact to this day. For the longest time, Ongaku Society has become my one and only resource for jrock. It sated my appetite for all things L’Arc~en~Ciel and introduced me to the likes of Alice Nine, the GazettE and most importantly, D’espairsRay. I remember that visits to the Alice Nine and the GazettE threads were always a source of pure amusement to me. The said threads were always updated with the latest pictures and adorned with comments like “<insert band member’s name here> – sama!!!” I also owe it to those threads for expanding my vocabulary to include “ikemen” and “smexy”. Good times indeed.

I never stood a chance. Jrock-related stuff is actually part of my budget now. I made my first purchase in 2007: HYDE’s first and last album as a solo artist: Roetngen and Faith. I bought it off Amazon US as the American version of both albums were much cheaper. Then I learned about the wonders of Oricon and so I opted to buy my stuff on YesAsia and later on, CDJapan.

my first jrock loot
topmost was the actual box that encased my first jrock cds

There’s only one thing left really, and I’m fervently anticipating the day I get to complete the full jrock experience: to watch at least one of my favorite bands live. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I find it quite ironic that despite the Philippines and Japan being on the same continent, performances by Japanese acts are close to nil in my country. And for some reason, every time these bands embark on the a “world” tour, Asian countries are left out. Nevertheless, I’ll have my chance soon and I’ll be sure to faithfully document it here on SOLILOQUY.

So that’s just about it, my history as a jrock fan. If you have wandered into this site and have read up to this point, chances are we share the same affliction. The question now is, how did yours started?

(note: post title is courtesy of girugamesh from the album NOW)

single review – Nanka Buttobase (SCANDAL)

Scandal Nanka Buttobase [Regular Edition]

SCANDAL’s Myspace account describes them as “the most powerful Japanese girl band” that “started their musical activity with their fearless personality and aggressive rock sound". However, with only their latest single ‘>Nanka Buttobase as basis, I find the claim somehow farfetched.

The girls all share vocal duties while playing their assigned instruments: HARUNA on guitar, MAMI on guitar, TOMOMI on bass and RINA on drums. In Nanka Buttobase, they strike me as 4 variations of Nana Kitade during her Kesenai Tsumi days.

image

The song certainly has that garage rock feel but there’s something about the refrain that defies their promise to “send anything flying”. It has a nice beat but not enough sass to project the “aggressive rock sound” that they are said to personify. A few more tweaks (like a more prominent bass, maybe?) and we may have ourselves a winner. And perhaps the girls could consider doing away with the synchronized dancing in the pv? Sure, it looks cute but I don’t think that’s exactly what they are aiming for.

on jrock/kpop

When jrock-dedicated website Tainted Reality announced that they will be hosting a kpop radio show, the response had been fiery. While there are some who are ok with the idea, many, particularly the fans of each musical “type”, were against ‘”mixing the 2 fandoms” (check out the animated discussion here). I myself is ambivalent towards the whole thing. I approach it with the same wariness I had when Animax (a cable channel in Asia that features anime and shows about Japanese pop culture) began broadcasting Korean dramas. It just seem strange. Then again, it is really nothing to be surprised of. The Korean wave is smashing shorelines and this, this is barely the crest of it.

credits to abetterday in omonatheydidnt (LiveJournal) 

First, a little lesson in history. This so called Korean wave or Hallyu began during the late 90s and it refers to the phenomenal increase in popularity of South Korean culture not just in Asia but stretching as far into the United States, the Middle East and some parts in Europe. Today, Hallyu is a billion dollar industry that has boosted South Korea’s income from film and television exports, merchandise and even tourism. Triggering the wave was the huge success abroad of Korean soap operas. A most often cited example is the massive following of Winter Sonata starring Choi Ji-woo and Bae Yong-jun. The show was said to set record TV ratings in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Though the interest has on Korean soap opera has yet to wane, Hallyu seems to fortify its influence now via another medium.

Cue in the sounds of kpop.

Whilst housewives fawn over their Yonsamas and Byonsamas, their teen-age daughters (and perhaps even sons) are gawking at the likes of Se7en, Super Junior and SHINee. In the Philippines, the adoration for these Korean boybands and their female counterparts is reaching fever-pitch, it’s practically insane. Tune in to any local radio station and chances are you’ll hear a kpop song blaring. Check out MYX (the Philippines’ answer to MTV) and an hour will not pass without one or two kpop music videos playing. Records bars plaster Wonder Girls and 2NE1 posters on their walls alongside Lady Gaga and the cast of Glee. They are even invading the live scene. Just a few weeks ago, Rain and UKiss had fans trooping over to the largest concert outdoor venue in Manila. Super Junior earlier conquered the largest concert indoor venue. I repeat, IT IS INSANE.

Japanese pop culture also has it share of fans in the Philippines but it was never this omnipresent. Jpop/rock appreciation, while not necessarily underground, remain clustered among a chosen few. Sadly, our numbers or perhaps our presence, is not enough to warrant an actual visit from our favorite Japanese acts. (I still find it ironic that I have more chances of seeing say, D’espairsrRay of L’Arc~en~Ciel live if I move into another continent even though the Philippines and Japan are just neighbors.)

Anyway, back to the “mixing of the 2 fandoms” brouhaha. Personally, I find it strange because jrock and kpop are two very different musical styles. The only thing they have in common, in my opinion, is that looks play a very pivotal role. But looking at it from a purely musical standpoint, the 2 is akin to apples and oranges. Yes, it is possible to like both but it is just mildly amusing how fans of dark, gothic, and hardcore sounding jrock (via its most prominent form visual kei) could also exhibit the same level of adoration for the bubbly, well synchronized (with matching choreography to boot) sound of kpop. It’s like a Marilyn Manson fan professing love to the Backstreet Boys – quite possible but a bit strange nonetheless. And isn’t it more peculiar that it’s jrock that is being pitted against kpop and not jpop?

In conclusion, I would like to stress that in my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with kpop crossing paths with jrock. Liking both is ok and being loyal to one is just as fine. To each its own. And if fans would remain steadfast in their chosen type of music, then there is no need to fear kpop eating into jrock. Most importantly, as an Asian myself this increasing interest on both jrock and kpop is really commendable. Hopefully, it will also pave the way for other Asian music acts to penetrate the international market. Afterall, isn’t music supposed to be universal?

maxi-single review – Ya-Ya-Ya (Orange Range)

I first encountered Orange Range via Bleach and found their song Asterisk one of the better anime themes out there. That was years ago. The second encounter is with their latest single Ya-Ya-Ya. And boy, was I in for a major surprise. Talk about polar opposites. Ya-Ya-Ya couldn’t be any more different from Asterisk. While Asterisk is laudable for its effective blend of rock and hiphop, Ya-Ya-Ya leaves us with just the hip and perhaps a dash of the hop.

Ya-Ya-Ya_Orange Range 

Ya-Ya-Ya contains 3 tracks that are a blend of synthesized-pop and dance music. The title track blasts bubblegum beats its entire run. Think classic video game music that is looped over and over. As the title suggests, Ya-Ya-Ya is repetitive. It is also quite annoying.

Koi no Merry-go-round is far more interesting. The title though is misleading. It’s not just the merry-go-round, it’s the whole carnival. The track has a bouncy beat that shifts pace erratically. The chorus is sure catchy but I find the ending weird. The song actually didn’t end, rather it was as if someone just turned the volume low until nothing could be heard.

The final track is definitely my most liked (it prolly be the only one that would stay in my playlist) as it has the Daft Funk feel to it. Uturusanu –SONPUB remix – is a fairly infectious dance track that is elevated in status by the inclusion of the genteel voice of a lady commanding listeners to just DANCE! Later on, the same refined voice could be heard mouthing expletives and I tell you the effect is amusing.

Listen to this maxi-single when you are already in a good mood. Otherwise, look for something else to perk you up.

single review – Flavor (spiv states)

CLUD-0001

I searched far and wide for a description that is not an adjective closely associated with another artist but came empty so I’ll use it nonetheless – spiv states’s first single Flavor is nyappy. It is unabashedly pop and has enough saccharine to cause diabetes. Calling the title track Bubblegum would have been in fact more proper. Or Skittles. The cover artwork is colorful enough to be inspired by the candy brand.

The second track Horry is far much more enjoyable. It has a big brass brand feel to it and the chorus made me think of girls doing the can-can ala Moulin Rouge.

spiv states has been described as a “futuristic visual rock unit” but fans of oshare kei would have been more at home with this single as hardcore visual kei followers would find Flavor’s syrupy vibe a bit off-putting.  Both members (JUN and Iori)  are from Phantasmagoria so it’s possible that they just want to try something different, as in 360 degrees different.

You have been warned.

a public service announcement

In the interest of expanding my musical horizon, I am now exploring different bands beyond those that usually haunts the hallowed halls of my media library. As such, my subsequent reviews would mainly focus on the works of bands I encounter in my exploration. Most likely I’ll comment on their latest releases but might throw in an oldie for the heck of it.

If I like an artist enough then I might check out at least part of its discography, but expect that the focus of the reviews will be on the merit of the featured album/single per se.

All entries born out of this endeavor will be tagged with “Dora”. (Why? Just because). My review of rice’s latest single CICADA is actually the first and I’m now in the process of crafting my comments for a few others that caught my attention.

My day job is now on its hectic and punishing best so the succeeding entries could be far in between. If something came up though from an artist that I really like or is already in my elite list then you can bet I would move heaven and earth just to post something about it.

A quick look at my tag cloud would hint at where my musical taste swings to. That said, any suggestions are most welcome.

got anything for me?