Friday, 1 February 2013

Who knew some simple Autotune could result in such nonense? - A quick look at the constant debate between J-Pop and K-Pop

These are just opinions and speculations - my personal views. Don't take them to heart, no harm is intended.
When J-Pop and K-Pop collide...that's right, Momoko and Seungri perform Momochi! Yurushite Nyan ♡ Taisou
I've heard more claims that J-Pop is trying to be K-Pop than I have the other way around and this is half the result of K-Pop anti-fans freaking out and half the result of K-Pop fans getting pissy. I don't feel either are justified, mind you. Being worried that J-Pop might sound like K-Pop might make sense if you just don't like the common style apparent in K-Pop, but, then, you should really say that it's because you don't like the genre K-Pop tends to deal in, not that you don't like K-Pop - a lot of the time, that sounds kind of bigoted. As for the K-Pop fans getting pissy...of course, not all K-Pop fans are like this, but, really, get over yourself. That sounds harsh, but, more often than not, these people seem to be angry Koreaboos who won't accept anything other than the belief that Korea is the home of perfection.
 It seems that the most common thing that has people throwing hissy-fits is the use of autotune. Yes, this is common in K-Pop and, yes, it's probably true that some artists started using it in their songs as a result of the Halyu wave. But, really, it's like everyone thinks that South Korea owns autotune or something.
But, really, let's consider the facts. Autotune wasn't common in K-Pop until 2008 or 2009 when it was popularised by artists like BIGBANG and, in their final years of relevance, SS501, yet people do seem to conveniently ignore that. Okay, granted, it was used prior to that but it wasn't something that could be associated with mainstream K-Pop. Most of the newer K-Pop fans joined their fandoms after the big autotune booms, though, and after SS501 lost relevance, so these details don't really come to light that often. Obviously, there were tons of fans before but, it can't be denied, in the last 2 years, K-Pop has hit it bigger than it ever has before.

 However, autotune has been present in J-Pop for much longer. Think about it, Perfume, who have been around since 2000, made their major debut in 2005 and, with a discography featuring robo-voice tracks galore, they've done extrememly well. Furthermore, several artists have thrown some occasional autotune at their songs. KAT-TUN's '12 o'clock', a pretty autotune heavy song, was released in 2008 as part of their 3rd album. This was before the K-Pop wave really hit off in Japan and the only artists with much relevance were Tohoshinki (or TVXQ, but they're still THSK in this case) and BoA. Of course, SS501 were fairly popular at this time, too, as I'm sure other artists were, but BIGBANG were the real catalyst in the Hanryuu chain reaction, and they didn't break Japan until 2009. Okay, that's not true, they did release an album in 2008 but that was all in English and I don't remember their being too many autotuned tracks (though, there are some). In the same year, though, Yamashita Tomohisa released 'MOLA' as part of NEWS' 3rd album, and, really, that song is extremely autotune-heavy. Actually, though it's not as true for the KAT-TUN track, if MOLA was released now, it would be a song quickly accused of having ripped off K-Pop. At the very beginning of 2009, GACKT released GHOST, which also features a lot of autotune, mainly to achieve a robotic feel. This song could never be classed as K-Pop, granted, but it's a prime example of autotune being used to create a specific image rather than to just copy Korea.

Changmin and Junno sit and look like each other, Ueda looks intrigued, Yoshie looks distraught and Maru looks he really needs to move his head cause he's getting totally in the way of Kame which just isn't on

A lot of the occasions on which I've heard people making these accusations involved Morning Musume and KAT-TUN, actually. Morning Musume have recently started applying a lot of autotune to their songs and, sure, maybe it was inspired by the Halyu wave but that doesn't mean much. Tsunku's clearly picked up on an aspect of today's music scene that is considered trendy by most listeners and, as a result, has decided to make songs using some of those elements. However, he's not copying anyone. It's pretty obvious that these elements have been taken and experimented with in order to make something that will be popular but also still sound like Morning Musume. And he succeeded. I'm sorry, but, what K-Pop group could you see singing Wakuteka Take a chance? Or Help Me!!? These two songs, the latter especially, have a uniquely MoMusu feel to them and I don't think another H!P group could even get that same feeling across. Actually, to be honest, even since 2009 (maybe earlier, I'm too lazy to look into it), MoMusu have been using autotune. Just listen to 'SONGS' from their 9th album. It hardly sounds like a K-Pop song, does it? Though, the other accusation for MoMusu is normally that they sound like VOCALOIDs. This also pisses me off because VOCALOIDs aren't autotuned. They're synthesised voices comprised of every syllable in the Japanese language being spoken by some seiyuu (or GACKT) that can then be edited according to pitch and tempo. Not the same at all. And it doesn't even sound the same. You do get autotuning that makes a person sound kind of VOCALOIDy but that's not the way MoMusu's autotune tends to sound.

Now, as for KAT-TUN, people only started pointing the finger with the release of 'Going!' and I feel that some of that was purely 5-nin hate. Some people honestly prefer KAT-TUN as a 6nin group, to the extent that they dislike 5-nin, and vice versa, and I respect that, but hating on the current group just isn't on. I don't remember there being much fuss with all the autotune in their previous single (and Jin's last, may I add), so, what's the problem? As for other people, I think it was more of a surprise than anything else. Some people dislike autotune and that's fine, some people wanted KAT-TUN to stay rocky, but others were just surprised. KAT-TUN hadn't really released any auotune-heavy singles prior to 20010 but they had released a good few songs like that as B-Sides and album tracks - take for example, LIPS' B-side 'MESSAGE FOR YOU', the afore-mentioned 12 o'clock, RESCUE's B-Side '7 DAYS BATTLE', the album track 'WATER DANCE'. It wasn't as recent a phenomenon as some people made out.

THE D-MOTION was  really autotune heavy

 One track that some people really got at (though, it wasn't a huge deal in the end) was 'RIGHT NOW' from their 5th album. I admit, it does sound a bit closer to K-Pop than other KAT-TUN songs (just a bit), but it was also produced by Steven Lee, who produces quite a lot of songs for K-Pop artists. He's American, but he's ethnically Korean, too. By god, how dare a Korean-American, who has worked in the K-Pop scene, create anything that sounds remotely like K-Pop! Besides, one of the first songs he produced was 'Never Again' from KAT-TUN's first album. He's also produced a bunch of other KAT-TUN songs, Kis-My-Ft2 songs and even a song for the Hello! Project duo, W (Double You). As for K-Pop, he's responsible for many SS501 songs, all but one track of HyunJoong's solo discography and even some SHINee songs. So, really, who cares if something he made sounds kind of like K-Pop?

It's SL Once Again!
Or so goes that song by Kim Hyun Joong

But, all that nonsense aside, autotune was initially an American creation. And, yes, before the Halyuu wave, I had a thing against autotune, though it was extremely brief. And, what was my problem? I thought autotune made things sound too Americanised. Not even that they were ripping American pop music off, though. Just that it sounded kind of like American pop music. I now realise that was a load of bollocks and thoroughly regret being such an arse. Actually, at that time, I had this idea that Western pop music was basically the devil. I'm a lot more tolerant now, though, I wouldn't say there are many artists I properly like, music-wise. Though, I have to say, I've developed a fondness for a few of Nicki Minaj's songs, thanks to my sister being obsessed with her. Actually, Nicki herself is hilarious, so, whatever. I actually think she's pretty cool in her own way. I'm not going to spend my life thinking she's a freak for dressing the way she does because 1) I love some of her outfits and 2) a lot of her outfits are inspired by J-Fashion trends, which I happen to love. Nicki Minaj actually uses a lot of autotune in some of her songs but she still just sounds like Nicki Minaj. It goes to show that autotune can be used and you can still sound like your own artist.

When I first got into K-Pop, though, I always thought it sounded Americanised because of the autotune as well. Again, that's something I quickly got past. Why? Because it doesn't make sense. Besides, K-Pop draws obvious influence from both Western and Japanese pop music. Actually, that's a well-known fact, even among K-Pop fans. Obviously, it has its own specifically Korean twists
 on it, in the same way that 'Western music' is a really loose term (for the record, I'm referring to American and British pop music, but, it is possible that Europop plays its part, too - it certainly seems to in J-Pop). It goes without saying that music from different countries will have a different sound. A different country means different people with a different cultural upbringing which, in turn, produces different tastes. I feel that's a given. As such, to say that music from different countries sounds exactly the same because of a voice filter is ridiculous. Actually, it's pretty ignorant, in my opinion, seeing as the holding of this view would require you to completely ignore the cultural influences on a country's music.

But, more than anything, this idea that J-Pop sounding Korean, or vice versa, tends to be a direct result of racist attitudes. Of course, some people just don't like the style of music most commonly associated with Japanese and Korean pop music, some people just don't like pop music, but many people seem to believe that the song is purely bad for sounding like it's from the wrong country. I think that's a disgusting way to think, actually.

Don't get me wrong, though, the point of this point is to prove that K-Pop is not a uniquely Korean thing (obviously), that autotune has reared its face in J-Pop plenty of times before, and not to prove that Korea is clearly copying Japan. Because it's not. Autotune is a global thing, quite clearly. Autotune does not make something sound like it's from a specific country. That's not how music works. No country is musically superior to another, so, please, anyone who thinks that, get off your fucking highhorse already~

When a fangirl meets her idols - Ai-chan & 2NE1 Edition

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