1) Yes, they still make plenty of videos where barefoot girls sing shrill ballads in the great outdoors.
2) No matter whether the video tries to sell the band as a “real” band — complete with two guitars, a bassist, a drummer, multiple rappers — all you can ever hear in the mix of a J-pop song is an early ’90s digital synth pad. There’s not even a keyboardist in the group, and some Korg monstrosity is just blazing across the chorus.
From watching the career trajectory of these young punk and “hip hop” bands like 175R, Orange Range, Ketsu Meshi, and High and Mighty Color, I can safely state:
As time approaches infinity, all popular Japanese music becomes J-pop.
Try to go subcultural and the jimusho gently steers your ship back on course and overrides every production point with that huge ’90s synth sound.
3) Digiki made a great point the other day: Why is there no mainstream Japanese hip hop production with experimental or minimal beats? Most everyone assumes that this current wave of thug-life Japanese acts is just “imitating” American hip hop, but if that were true, there should be some Timbaland or Neptunes rip-offs where things sound pleasantly weird. Instead everything sounds like a mix between Groovebox versions of mid ’90s West Coast and that omnipresent J-pop digital synth sound. SDP’s last batch of singles were legitimately minimal and fresh, but the ideas of the pioneers and innovators do not seem to be trickling down.
4) There’s a relatively new Minmi video where she is performing at a summer matsuri (festival) that seems to suggest to her audience, hey, R&B is just a new version of traditional Shinto dance culture. Both politics and art in Japan tend to legitimize themselves through association with or subservience to tradition, rather than attempting to be a better practical application of philosophical ideals.
For example, critics championed punk as being more rock’n’roll than ’70s prog rock and disco, and everybody hates it when artists like E.L.O. (or even Paul van Dyk) try to claim that their respective genres are the “New Classical.” This goes back to the “soft appeal”: You can either sell music as being better or more progressive than what came before, or you can try to prove that it is “just as good” or the “new version” of a past format. This latter approach stabilizes society instead of challenging past structures or offering new directions, and there is something unilaterally unsexy about a stable society.