Sunday, March 04, 2007

Not so guilty (yet still a little) pleasures

I had been composing this post in my head during much of today - concerning two musical acts that I really like, even though I also feel like I should know better.

But then I did a little research...found some new respect for these guilty pleasures, so maybe I shouldn't act too embarrassed about admitting that I enjoy their work. Then again, sometimes it's wise to enjoy some things in secret.

Screw that - here's the results of my soul-searching:

Guilty Pleasure #1:
Seo Tae Ji

A mega-star in Korea, and one of the favorite musical acts of my brother-in-law. I received his 2-disc live album as a gift, and I think most of it's really pretty good; it rocks pretty hard and is excellent at the gym - usually the default music at the gym is 200 BPM techno versions of the same Chinese love-pop songs that have been playing everywhere for the past 5 years. So something loud and rocking certainly does the job for me.

The case against:

  • To put it nicely, his music owes a huge debt to Korn and Limp Bizkit

  • Has proved that a song protesting sexual assault can be put to very happy, upbeat music
  • Often poses as if he was a hardcore rapper (but not in a tongue in cheek way)
  • So popular in Korea it seems that he couldn't really be that cool for real

The case for (I got most of this info via a Wikipedia article, but it sorta is in line with what I've heard before from my Korean friends concerning this artist):

  • Apparently dropped out of high school since he thought the Korean education system exists to pollute the brains of the nation's youth
  • Apparently his lyrics (I don't understand and haven't bothered to look up any translations) often heavily criticize the Korean government and education system, to the point where some of his songs have been banned from TV.

  • Apparently he writes all his own music
  • Seems to have succeeded largely on his own, outside of the Korean music system
  • Has a song with the chorus about the "Fucked-up Music Business"
  • Has brought heavy rock music into the Korean conciousness and mainstream
Verdict: I think I can sorta-proudly listen to this; I just have to suck up my pride and admit I might have been small-minded about before. And just need to skip through the tracks where he tries to be rapper.

Guilty Pleasure #2: Ayumi Hamasaki

The case against:

  • Basically, she's the Japanese equivalent of Britney Spears (perhaps even a bigger success?)
    • So, perhaps her music is really targeted at 12-year olds?

  • If I tell anyone I know from Japan that I like her music, they are embarrassed for me.
  • I think she's the fantasy for japanophiles in the states that build up a fantasy of what Japanese culture is like based on the quirky-cool things that manage to get exported from it...of course, to put it kindly, that's just not a representative way of looking at Japan. Good company!

  • She doesn't write her own music
  • She obviously benefits from having a very good producer
  • Makes me wonder if she only got anywhere due to success on the casting couch

  • Obviously just the figurehead for a huge corporate music machine

  • Apparently has had a fair amount of surgery to create/maintain her face (which seems capable of only one expression, if her album covers are representative of anything)
  • Endorsed a series of sugary drinks in China, called "The 5th Season". I tried a bottle of one once, it was disgusting. Clearly Ayumi's fault.
The case for:

  • Apparently the most successful Japanese female artist ever
  • Instead of sticking to just the typical Asian album formula of "10 love ballads + 2 experimental songs (usually one with a hip-hop feel, and one with a rock edge to it)", her albums tend to be mostly upbeat, fast music with only 1 or 2 token ballads
  • Her songs nearly always feature electric guitars in the mix!
  • Has a really good producer who gets a club music sound + electric guitars for much of her songs. I think that's kind of original - I bet I'd like Chinese pop more if they tried to copy her style more...(but there's kind of a resistance to guitar-based music here)

  • Introduced to me by a good friend who normally only listened to death metal, but made an exception for her since she looked like his old girlfriend
Verdict: I should really know better, but I just can't help myself!!!

Admitting that I am a gushing fan would certainly destroy my "street cred". Oh yeah - what street cred? Guess it's fine...

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ayumi has written ALL her songs
that's over 100 song already, all written by her