I’m a fan of anime and manga, although I don’t actually follow the zillions of comics or animated series and movies, because they’re instrumental in building bridges between Japan and the United States. I’ve spoken with eager young Caucasian anime fans in full cosplay (dressed in costumes playing the part of their favorite anime characters) who said they’re taking Japanese classes, and are planning on Japanese Studies in college, because they love anime so much.
That’s some powerful tug on the hearts and minds of our country’s future leaders.
And anime and manga are just the most visible signs of pop culture’s powerful effects, thanks to the many festivals and conventions across the US, and the popularity of anime programming on cable TV. Just take a look at video games, movies, and music, and Japan’s influence on America goes way beyond instant ramen and sushi happy hours. (Ramen shops are exploding in cities everywhere, but that’s another post….)
Curiously, though, J-pop, or Japanese pop music, hasn’t made too much of a dent in the American charts over the years.
Just last year, if you have kids you may have caught a catchy bit of bubblegum rock called “Sugar Rush” from the soundtrack of the Disney animated feature “Wreck-It Ralph” (notice how if it’s an American film we call it “animated feature” and if it’s Japanese we call it ”anime?”). The song plays over the end of the film, which will be released on DVD and Blue-Ray, etc. on March 5. You can see the super-sweet adorable video of the group singing it on YouTube above. Continue reading →
Scooter Braun, the management guru behind Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, today announced he’s signed Korean rap artist Park Jae-Sang, better-known as PSY, the dude with the huge viral video hit, “Gangnam Style” (see above).
The goofy, annoying techno-dance thumper with the horsey-straddling giddyup choreography is unavoidable — with more than 107 million views as of this writing, it’s become a meme with a life of its own. There’s a pretty fun (slightly less annoying) mashup of the song with bits by LMFAO, Far East Movement (featuring Dev), Offspring and Bloodhound Gang titled “Like a Bad White Guy Party Gangnam Style” (see below).
The song’s video was choreographed by PSY, whose name is a reference to “psycho” for his outsized personality. The “Gangnam” in the song refers to the high-toned part of Seoul, where he probably hangs out — Park is a star in Korea.
No doubt the song will now become a megahit with the backing of a US pop music label. There’s a general buzz around Korean pop music, or Kpop, these days, so PSY benefits from that spotlight. Continue reading →
Surfing YouTube videos can be like the early days of surfing the Internet. Following links to random Web pages is a leap of faith, a trust in kismet, that what you’re about to see is both somehow related to what you were seeking in the first place, and hopefully entertaining.
In the midst of one of my YouTube forays, following related videos then backing up and taking another path to other videos, I came across one of my favorite songs of all time, “Ue O Muite Arukou” by Kyu Sakamoto, the Japanese pop star who had a worldwide #1 hit with the song in 1963.
You probably know the song better by the name put on it by its American label, “Sukiyaki.” It’s been covered in English by a number of artists, most notably Taste of Honey in the ’80s and the Viet pop singer Trish Thuy Trang more recently. She sings both English and Japanese in her version. (See Sakamoto’s, Taste of Honey’s and Tran’s video versions below. They’re all available on YouTube.)
From there, I clicked to a cover version of the song by a hapa musician named Kina Grannis and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, cool, understated quality of her version of the song — which she sings in the original Japanese — as well as the scope and depth of her talent on other videos. Here’s the video:
Grannis is from Southern California, and won a songwriting contest sponsored by Doritos with the catchy song, “Message from Your Heart,” which was aired during the Super Bowl in February. The contest led to a deal with Interscope Records. Continue reading →