I'm not really the kind of guy that needs to have music on 24 hours a day. In fact, having earbuds in at all tends to make me feel claustrophobic, like the music is *too close*, and it's shutting out the rest of what's going on around me. I listen to NPR during my commute, but finally knuckled down and burned 6 cds full of MP3s, since my car stereo can do that, and I actually got the 'decent stereo' option when I bought my car, with a sub in the back yadda yadda. So (here comes the gay) I have about 7 jpop albums all packed onto one CD, and have been happily belting out Utada Hikaru or Bonnie Pink with the windows rolled down while I get to and from work, rather than listening to Michelle Norris and Robert Seagul drone on about how depressing the economy is, etc etc.
Growing up, I listened to rap. I listened to rap before rap even had a tape section in the music stores. Yes, there was some variation in there. It wasn't completely N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton 24 hours a day, but they did have like 4 albums, and when Ice Cube broke off to go solo, he had about 5 or 6 of his own to add to the rotation. Ice-T, EPMD (and subsequently Redman when they got him on), and all sorts of Bay Area groups, too... Paris, East Palo Alto's Totally Insane to Vallejo's whole E-40, B-Legit and the Click, to S.F.'s Dre Dog (Andre Nikatina) and Young Cellski. Master P and the whole No Limit label... there was plenty of rap to go around.
Not all of it was angry black men hating upper middle class white people (i.e. me), there was the whole Tribe Called Quest "Buddy Buddy" thing going on with De La Soul on the sidelines, too, and Ice Cube's cousin Del (the Funkee Homosapien) used to work on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley at Leopold's. His earliest album was just stuff about missing the bus on the way to work, or having a deadbeat friend that used to sleep on his couch and eat all the cereal. Then he had a whole spinoff with Heiroglyphics and Souls of Mischief, and his stuff got a little darker, but for the most part I never really did the AC/DC or Metallica thing. I listened to rap.
And it wears you out a bit. I imagine Metal to have the same effect eventually. You can only be so old and have your music be someone screaming at you. Whether it's screaming about Niggas Fucking Bitches, or The Devil Raping Your Soul For Eternity, it just gets tiresome.
Part of getting older is realizing that a large portion of what you used to do with your friends was pretty ridiculous. I began growing up, and fell into a huge Bjork phase (the name Isobelle, which evetually changed to Ixobelle, is a reference to a Bjork song). At this point in my life, I used to listen to it "on the side". If I put on some icelandic woman oooh-ooh-ing in the car while we went to the liquor store to get 40s, my friends would have thrown the tape out the window and told me what a fag I was.
I didn't really have a good group of friends growing up. Happily, I can say now that I don't hang out with any of those people anymore.
What was liberating, though, was the ability to find something beautiful, and just enjoy it for its beauty. Bjork has an... extensive collection. Currently, on my mp3 drive, i have 318 songs in 17 folders, and this was just what I bothered to re-get after my previous drive took a crap on me. I remember at one point printing out a collection of the remixes of songs from her album Debut, and it was 9 pages long. I discovered her right as Napster was in full swing, and the internet was my oyster.
One crucial album of hers was her Gling Glo album, where she sings in icelandic while her late father accompanies her in a jazz trio. It's this... amazing... CD that she will never perform again because after her father died, she didn't want to dilute the recording of that session. And it's all in Icelandic, except for I think one song at the end (Ruby Ruby). I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, I just liked the sounds her mouth was making... it was the human voice as an instrument. I know the whole album inside out and can basically sing it all, purely phonetically.
From there I began to poke around with Japanese tracks. Around that time I had picked up some random job at an Anime shop, and we had all sorts of music on the shelves along with the videos. It was a similar experience to Gling Glo, where I had no idea what anyone was saying, but the sound of Japanese voices was so... compelling. I really don't know how to describe it. Utada Hikaru's album First Love became one of me new favorites, and the deal was sealed.
From a musical standpoint, I'm sure a lot of people will still turn up their noses. A lot of it is 'throw away' pop tracks with beep-boop beats in the background, and I'm sure if I was 100% fluent I'd be rolling my eyes at the cheesy lyrics, but I've stopped caring. I'm not trying to impress a bunch of douchebag "friends" anymore with how rad I am. When I put it on, it makes me happy. I also eat those little powdered donuts from the vending machine at work from time to time, because they FUCKING TASTE GOOD. I'm not going to deprive myself of something delicious because I'm worried what someone will think if they see me eating them.
I dunno. Where I grew up (Orinda, CA), it was all extremely... "like that". I'm happy to be free of that.
Yesterday, I went digging around on YouTube trying to find one track that was playing all over the radio while I lived in Japan. I couldn't remember the name of the song... I thought it was "Lucky" or something. I had a very rough semblance of the rythm in my head, but nothing else to go on, so I poked around until I found some site that listed Japan's top 20 singles per week, and began rummaging around until I found it... Smily by Otsuka Ai, number 5 on the charts for May 2005:
(1:32 only, if you want the full version, view it here)
If you were at a stop light, and saw a grown ass man bumping this shit with the volume turned to 11 and la la la laa-ing what are you going to think? Zomg, totally gay, right? I know! I think that's why I love it so much! ;)
Anyway, last night I began digging into korean youtubes as someone in trade made an offhand comment, and I figured what the hell, right? Korean guy bands are still a bit much for me. Hell, Asian guy bands in general. There's a magazine in Japan called "Men's Egg" that I always used to see in the convenience store that invariably had some guy on the cover with way too much mousse in his hair. I have a hard time taking them seriously.
I found a group called Girl's Generation, though, that uhhh....
It's uhh... Nine Korean girls... all of them impossibly hot, and uhh....
That was the first one I found. Then I wound up on "Gee"... which they apparently do in Korean:
AND in Japanese:
I can't decide which version I like better... probably the Japanese because I can understand most of it now, but the Korean is back to that "just the sound of their voices over the music" which was initially one of the big draws.
Catchy as all hell.
I love it.