Monday, 16 November 2009

I Am A Japanophile

I have to thank my sister's boyfriend for lending me his Final Fantasy X game. I was already into Animé, but it was this game that introduced me to Japanese music because it came with a "making of" DVD (and I love seeing how things are made). The first ever Japanese song I heard was a very beautiful, soothing song called "Suteki da ne" ("Isn't it wonderful?") and it was the theme song for FFX.

I've always been quite open musically, and I fell in love with the song instantly. I googled the lyrics and printed them off, and began to learn. I mean, how cool is it to sing in a different language? Not everyone can and it's a skill I'm proud to say I possess.

This is the song.

It didn't matter to me that I had no idea what she was singing. I loved the classical melody and it was all about the emotion, and it really made me realise. It's not just words that make a story, it's the way you say it, it's the passion you feel within.
I was eager to learn more, and discovered the song "Melodies of Life" from Final Fantasy 9, which is also sung in Japanese and English also.
The good thing about these songs is that they are quite slow, so for me it was a good starting point to learn the pronunciation and really get to grips with the language.

I learned these two songs in Japanese fluently and then Final Fantasy X-2 came out. There were two theme songs to this one - Real Emotion and 1000 Words - and both songs were sung by a very popular Japanese artist named Koda Kumi.
Real Emotion was the first fast-paced Japanese song I learned. A lot of people may well call me weird, but when I got home from school I just wanted to learn Japanese songs, rather than go hang out with schoolmates behind shops while they smoked (I was in a bit of a bizarre crowd, truth be told).

This was when I discovered YouTube, back in 2005. My friend Matthew is also a fan of "everything Japanese" and he introduced me to Japanese all girl pop group Morning Musume.

Thank goodness for YouTube because it's helped me stay in touch with my favourite Japanese artists, and I hated it when they were taking videos down due to copyright issues. I completely understand that of course, but at the same time these videos were allowing others to discover different things about different countries, and I was learning. Plus, it's exposure! Isn't that what every famous person wants, really? To be known? To be discovered? It's not like people were making money from uploading videos, let's face it. Or maybe I'm ignorant? As far as I'm aware, I couldn't see the harm.

The good thing about Japanese songs is that you get to learn some bits of the language from it, from where certain words pop up from time and time again.
I thank the site for their Japanese, Romaji and English translations for Morning Musume songs. And, too.

I soon became a Japanophile. (Please don't take that too literally, I just mean I became a bit addicted). I got so bored with the English music scene and Japanese music was a good distraction from it (until Mika came along, that is, but that's a different story).

I want to share some of my favourite Japanese music with you, and show you how different some of it is. I guess Koda Kumi is quite Americanised, but she writes a lot of her own songs, she's amazing live, has her own style...I do adore her quite a lot.
There are some Morning Musume songs that I like, and others not so much. It's difficult to describe this group, because the members keep changing. Members who want to leave graduate, and then they hold auditions for a new person, and everytime a new person (or persons) join, it becomes a new generation. The 4th generation was the "Golden Era".
Morning Musume are under this huge umbrella called "Hello! Project", and there are numerous groups next to MoMusu, like "Mini Moni" for example. They're a quartet aimed at the younger generation but I find them far too cute.
Gackt is mainly a rock guy, but he can sing pop too. I consider him the Japanese Mika in a way, especially in the live version of "Vanilla", because he's a guy who plays on his sexuality, and no-one actually even knows how old he really is. Not much is known about his personal life, as far as I'm aware.
Ayumi Hamasaki is another artist, but not one to get all her kit off. She's quite modest actually and has quite a strong voice. I don't like all of her songs, truth be told, but I adore her song "Voyage" and the video for it.

Anyway, I will stop waffling now and give you some videos to watch, if you are actually interested.

Here are some of my favourite live performances from Koda Kumi, because she's awesome. I want to see her live.


ECSTASY (I love this song)


These next videos contain some of Morning Musume's songs. You'll see the change in music, style, and member line-up.

LOVE MACHINE (3rd generation)

THE PEACE (4th generation)

SHABONDAMA (sixth generation)

ONNA NI SACHI ARE (8th generation)

This is the first song that includes two Chinese girls. Tsunku, the producer behind MoMusu, wanted to expand their popularity and so got "exchange students", if you like. This is currently the line up as of right now, but Kusumu Koharu is going to graduate soon. (The girl who is the first to sing in the above video)

And how about this: Koda Kumi auditioned to be in Morning Musume when she was 16, but she got rejected!


I would have shown you Voyage but there aren't any videos of it on YouTube, OR Imeem. It sucks, because it's really pretty. Anywho, moving on.

GACKT - Vanilla.
Now, I tore myself up over this song. Do I show you the official video where he looks like Cloud from a Final Fantasy game, or do I show you live footage of Gackt and his band performing very gay? I give you this video.

GACKT - Lu:Na...just to prove that he can be masculine. (Sort of).

The good thing about Japanese music is that you also learn about other foreign this male group DBSK who are Korean. They sang with Koda Kumi ("Last Angel") but I absolutely ADORE their song "Rising Sun" because it has various musical elements, plus I want to learn the dance.
DBSK are a very talented band, because they can sing pop, R'n'B, rock, and acapella. They're huge in Korea and rightly so.


I would just like to boast that when I was watching the latest Final Destination film, I was sandwiched between two guys and the song "Rising Sun" was in the background in one of the scenes. I got mega excited but don't think my two friends were that interested and probably thought I was weird. "ExcitedOverForeignMusicAndGushedAboutItToColleagues Failed Attempt Number 2"

BALLOONS (you probably won't recognise them, they look completely different. I barely recognised them myself when I first saw this video! I love how geeky they are. If I did a music video, THIS WOULD BE IT.)

Okay, so that's my love for Asian music over and done with. Sorry it was long and possibly boring, but if you've become a fan of one of these artists simply because of this blog, then yay.

Until next time...



The Anomalous N said...

Yay Japanese music! :D The first Japanese song I ever heard was 'Aoi Jiyuu, Shiroi Nozomi' from Fushigi Yuugi, back in 1995! *feels old*

Have you ever read the translation of Gackt's autobiography? It's really quite interesting (and IMO, there are some unintentionally hilarious moments, like the chapter on swimming XD).

It seems that I don't know any of the members of the current MoMusu generation XD; I know all the singles up to and including 'Happy Summer Wedding'... and then I lost track of them from there, aside from MiniMoni's first couple of singles and W's cover of The Peanuts' 'Koi no Vacance' (ha, turns out they also covered 'Koi no Fuga'! Well, it was thanks to them that I got into The Peanuts). It's kind of weird when I see their latest videos and don't recognise even one of them!

Also, I'd been wondering what the name of the boyband was for some time - I only remembered that there was one song which had death growling in it! XD ... OH, it was this one! How random LOL

Serena-Rose said...

Oh hai Nic! OMG Happy Summer Wedding was the fourth generation's first single LOL...I shall have to read Gackt's biography, he does seem to be an interesting character.

Yes! The one with death growling had the mozart theme to it and Boa was in it...called "Triangle" I believe. *hasn't looked at link, so will look now to see if I'm right* Yup!
DBSK are called Tohoshinki in Japan, and I think Changmin is absolutely adorable.