Femtrooper’s Guide to Asian Pop: Introduction

소녀시대 아레나 공연 사진

This post is part of an ongoing series about Asian Pop Music.


Firstly, a part of me does not want to do this because my blog surrounds geek culture; however, with geek culture comes Asian music.  This has always bothered me on so many levels.  Why is pop music from a large area of the planet associated with pimple-faced otaku’s?  If people in Japan or South Korea listen to Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, or Katy Perry, they aren’t considered geeks, but if people outside of Japan or South Korea (particularly in western regions) listen to Asian music, they are considered odd or geeks.  This has always troubled me because music is music, no matter what part of the world its from.  Many artists from places other than the main English speaking countries have broken into the ‘American market’ like Psy’s Gangnam Style, A.R. Rahman’s Jai Ho, Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus, or Kyu Sakamoto’s Ue O Muite Aruko.  It seems that once in a blue moon there is that one ‘foreign’ song that everyone starts poorly singing and accepts into western culture.  No one could sing Gangnam Style when it was first released back in 2012, but English speaking natives could care less, they loved the tune and that was all that mattered.  It saddens me that there is only room for one foreign singer and one foreign song every 10 years or so in western society.  Why can’t we listen to music from all over the world?  English speaking countries seem to be the only ones to shun music other than English, because travel anywhere else in the world where English is not the native language and they are bellowing out Madonna or Frank Sinatra.  They could care less that they don’t know what is being said, they love the music, and that’s what music should be about.

I have loved Asian music since my early teens when I first discovered Ayumi Hamasaki back in a Asian video store in my local China Town.  I saw her Arena Tour from 2002 on the shelf and for whatever reason, I bought it.  I turned on my PS2, put in the DVD, and my mind was forever changed as Japanese music was now a part of my life.  That particular DVD of hers was of her annual tour and it was performed at a stadium outside of Tokyo (with a seating capacity of ~55,000 people) packed full of people waiting to see her.  I had no idea who she was and the thought that thousands (more like millions) of people on the other side of the planet knew about her made me very intrigued.  Once she came out to sing, I was in love.  She was the equivalent of a Britney Spears type star, but over in Japan.  There were pyrotechnics, dancers, elaborate costumes, and amazing music.  Ever since that day, I have been a lover of music from all over the world (mostly Asian – the market there is beyond HUGE) because I knew that (literally) the world was open to me and no longer was I just confined to music discovery in the main English speaking countries.  The radio was no longer a tool to discover music anymore, because I knew I had a world to discover.  For those of you also thinking, “Who the heck is Ayumi Hamasaki?”  Trust me, we’ll get into that – for starters, she is the best selling female artist of all time in Japan.

My intention with this series is to open your minds to discovering music from Asia because there is literally ANYTHING you can think of, and the market is ginormous.  Think of every artist in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom and double it.  There is so much you’re missing!  My other intention is to get rid of the stigma that goes along with Asian music, particularly Japanese pop (J-Pop).  There are so many people who think that it’s incredibly poppy baby pop with abnormally high vocals…  Well this is true with some bands/artists in Japan, most of the music there is far from that.  There are so many incredibly talented vocalists in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, etc, that to say an entire continent of music is ONE very particular genre is incredibly ignorant.  If someone summed up pop music in the United States by saying EVERYTHING sounds like Nicki Minaj, well, they would just be wrong.  Also, I want to make this clear, I am doing a series particularly on pop music in Asia…there are MANY OTHER GENRES IN ASIA.  Heavy metal is very popular in Asia, as is folk, punk, electronic, etc.  I want to focus specifically on pop music in Asia, but please note that there are obviously other genres to be explored on that continent, as with any area of the world.  Northern Europe may be known for metal, but there are many other genres there.  I know I may sound like a broken record, but I have talked to too many people about music in Asia only to find that they think everything sounds like AKB48.  Many facepalms have ensued.

In summary, I am very excited to share with you many of my favourite acts and songs in Asia spanning from different countries and different genres within pop music.  Pop has so many subgenres, and there are many different acts that span from electro-industrial to metal to rap…all within POP!  I will show you groups, duos, and individual acts that I think will entice you to give Asian music a shot.  Asian music isn’t all just high pitched vocaloids or 17 year-old girls.  That certainly exists, it is not the entire market or the majority of what makes up popular music in Japan.  Many of the ‘girl groups’ in Asia are far more advanced than you think and excellent vocalists who dance, and sing live unlike many American pop stars.  So stay tuned for lots and lots of Asian music goodness!  If you enjoy pop music and need something new, then I hope you find it here!

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