Jpop Evolution


I am currently reading the book J-POP進化論―「ヨサホイ節」から「Automatic」へ (“The Evolution of J-Pop”), which chronicles the melodic changes in Japanese pop songs from the ’50s to today. I’m still stuck in a chapter about the differences between the traditional Japanese pentatonic scale, the Western octave, and the bluenotes of “Black” music, but I’ll let you know if discover something interesting. When talking about music, most Japanese tend to use the “do re mi” nomenclature for notes, which has been disorienting, but now when the bass player yells, “Play me a Fa,” I’ll know what he’s asking for (Also, for those at home taking notes, there is no “ti” sound in the old Japanese soundbank, so it’s “shi“.)

I was just eating my Friday night luxury Yoshinoya dinner and listening to the ’90s J-Pop selection on the restaurant speakers. Some people use the word “J-Pop” as a way to say “the Japanese mainstream music market,” but J-Pop is certainly its own genre and has its own body of rules and conventions. Once you know the J-Pop melodic range, rhythmic timing, and word choice, it’s easy to make up heartful J-Pop ballads on the spot, just like you can “do” hip hop or punk. I would be tempted to call the bands who break through with their own nontraditional and rule-breaking works — Puffy, Halcali, and the Shibuya-kei gang etc. — something other than “J-Pop”. It would be like calling the Beatles a “skiffle band.”

We’ll see what this books argues, but it seems to me that the collusion between artist management companies, record labels, and the television music programs keeps diversity in the industry very low. And subsequently, the closed-off production environment creates a musical form with very strict adherence to conventions.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
November 26, 2004

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

6 Responses

  1. porandojin Says:

    ti? do re mi fa sol la si do, do si la sol fa mi re do … there is an artificial language build on these sounds

  2. marxy Says:

    That is a crazy language.

    Is it “si” elsewhere in the world? Did Julie Andrews teach me an Anglo-version of the scale?

  3. marxy Says:

    Ah, thank you Wikipedia:

    Apparently, in East Asia and Continental Europe, “ti” is “si.”

  4. trevor Says:

    when i was working with cremeblush, satski would do the same thing. she would say it, and be writing it [in hiragana].
    at first it didn’t make any sense to me. but once i got it. it makes more sense to me really then E F G A B C D.
    do re mi fa sol la si do 「ど れ み ふぁ そ ら ち ど」
    its much more musicial i think. less technical. “play this sound” not, “play this note”.

  5. marxy Says:

    trevor: they are just the different ways of describing the same specific pitch. i don’t think it’s a difference between “note” and “sound.”

    nice hiragana usage.

  6. trevor Says:

    well, to me, “note” verse “sound” i guess is all conceptual.
    to me, “notes”, are not a universal language. “sounds” are.
    you can’t go anywhere in the world and say.. “ok, it goes, C, C, G, D, A, D, E.” but if you make the sound. everyone gets it.