November 24, 2009
Posted by ander025 at November 24, 2009 2:30 PM
“Open Your File, Open Your Mind” by James Stanlaw takes a glance at gender roles and briefly outlines the development of pop music in Japan at the start of his piece. Predominantly, however, his analysis focuses on women singers and songwriters—specifically their maturity from mere idols to professionals within time. The area of conjecture that I found most intriguing was Stanlaw’s reasons for why Japanese women use English in their lyrics.
Stanlaw argues that women songwriters use “English to avoid some of the linguistic restrictions placed upon women by the Japanese language” (Stanlaw 89). He relevantly points out the different speech and literary registers there are for gender in Japan both presently and historically (Stanlaw 98), but less relevant to his assertion are his examples. Case in point, Yūming’s song, “Dandelion,” is analyzed for its use of “dandelion” instead of the Japanese, “tanpopo” (Stanlaw 91). In this example, the metaphor is the same regardless of which language is used, but using English for the key word raises it to a level of sophistication as opposed to the Japanese which would make is sound “like a folksong” (Stanlaw 91).
Similarly, in “Dareka ga Anata o Sagashite Iru,” (also by Yūming) the English is said to “create not only a feeling of modernity and electronic wizardry but also a mood of apprehension and intangible fear” through its “alien—that is, non-Japanese—words” (Stanlaw 93). The song, being one about computers, a love virus, and a relationship inherently requires loan-words for its technological vocabulary, but Stanlaw points out that the judicious juxtaposition (“of ‘dry’ impersonal technology with the ‘wet’ human emotions of love and jealousy”) works well (Stanlaw 94).
Lastly, Stanlaw cites Dream Come True’s song, “Sankyū.” “Sankyū,” the word, is the Japanese pronunciation of the English “thank you” (Stanlaw 95). In Stanlaw’s analysis, he points out how the “loanword rather than the Japanese domo or arigatou makes the situation, [a breakup,] seem less tragic than it is” (Stanlaw 95). If the Japanese were used, the emotions it engendered would be different.
From these examples, Stanlaw sought to illustrate how “it may be easier for a Japanese woman to express strong personal emotions using English rather than Japanese” (Stanlaw 96). The impression I get, however, is simply that astute use of English vocabulary managed to convey what otherwise would have taken more, and different, words in Japanese. Additionally, English lends itself to the idea of modernity in Japan, which creates a veneer of refinement, or stylishness, when used in song lyrics. I think, at this point in time, should songwriters in Japan refrain from using English, they would appear out-dated to listeners, or as belonging to such genres as enka.
Open Your File, Open Your Mind
In this article, it talks about how young OL would change their clothes after work and go to the bar have fun wearing sexy clothes. It is interesting how they change their looks so much after the work. This is more close to what we have now, I think, because it sound more like our life about how we go out to have fun after the school or after the work. It is also interesting how the OL they dress up to look sexy, but they don't want to pick up the men, they just want to look nice and have the men look at them. The idol at the 1970's, most of the girl idol are supposed to look innocent and cute, and also 'sexy'. For example, Seiko Matsuda the song that she sings, the sound is cute, but words have some underlying meaning that is having to do with sex. Personally, I think that Princess Princess was a really cool group that was popular when I was a kid, but they kind of get old fast. They did a really really good job on the music and sales. They each get a diamond necklace from their manager, which go with the song that they sing about diamond is a woman's best friend that made number 1 hit on the chart.
Yuki, she is like a special idol because she don't want to be cute. She didn't think herself was like the other idol at the time with the 'cute' kind of look. She want to be more like herself, she really have her own personality, compare to the other girls at the time. The way that she sing her song was completely different from the other idols. Her idea is that woman is stronger than men, and women should take care of the men because the men are actually very naïve. The thing that she say and she think, nowadays we just prove, so she is really intelligent and wise woman.
Miki Imai she is a very shy celebrity who doesn't want to be famous. She doesn't like to take photos so her early albums were all in black and white. Her song Under a Full Moon is a really popular song and make her popular for over 6 year. She is kind of old, not really old, just 30, but her music is still listen by teenage girls and older women too. Her song is popular across the generation show that Japanese women also want to listen to song not just about pop and cute stuff, but also sophisticated song about sense of self.
This weeks music revealed itself as being deeper and more interesting than I imagined it would be. From the reading I already knew about the band Shonen Knife, whose interesting metaphysical songs played continuously after I received their album 'Lets Knife', and was thus interested to learn more about their contemporaries. I found it odd how the record companies groomed young girls just to have them fail after just a couple of years. The Nekko club was also just a little strange and I wonder about its pervading effects of Japanese culture. One of the lines from the clubs theme song “please don't take my sailor suit” is also used in the opening theme song for an anime called 'Lucky Star'. The line had always stood out in the song and had me wondering about its origins. Now that I know where it comes from I am all the more amused, but also interested as to know how such a perverted thing can be can be sang by 12 to 17 year old girls on a television program. This combined with the short lived fame the singer may enjoy as an idol makes the whole thing a little distasteful. But as the years progress the singers and bands started taking more control of their music, resulting in singers like Seiko Matsuda. As for the songs we listed to in class I was really impressed by the band 'Judy and Mary'. In the reading I didn't think much of the band, but upon hearing them I definitely perked up. There deep sound was edgy and a little punk. 'Judy and Mary' is a band I will be looking into. In this week I also heard a lot that sounded a lot like 'The pillows'. It was interesting to see where they got some of their musical influences, and I will probably look at 'Triceratops' more down the road.
At first glance, James Stanlaw’s article open your file, open your mind is about how woman in Japan, after years of repression, have taken off their office suits or uniforms to become non-touchable, interactive eye candy at some of the hottest night clubs in Japan. My first thoughts on reading these opening words, was why did someone write and entire article on Japanese women’s dress code in the 80’s? In actuality it is about the changing face of the female media icon, mostly in Japanese pop music, with English as the tool of freedom.
Where female pop artists in Japan once were taken from a young age, and groomed to be idols, till they were seven-teen, where after they were brought before the public for the first time. Where as now, female artists are making it on their own, and using their talents and own personal touches to win the crowds over. I was surprised to learn that Japan had one point groomed their female artists for stardom, as if they were being taught how to take over a family business, or become the head of the family clan. But one thought that came to mind was not nearly as flattering. What happens if they don’t make it in the big time?
Now, one might wonder why English would be a tool of freedom, I sure as heck would. As it would seem, there are some emotional terms and phrases in the Japanese language that have less flattering interpretations and meanings. So using English words to express their emotions in song, feels more liberating. The artists use of English words, or entire lyrics, rids the expression of emotion of the negatives that would otherwise be there with the use of Japanese. It also adds an essence of class to the song, and makes it more distinct from things that could otherwise label it as a folk song. Artists using foreign languages in their songs is no alien concept, American artists have been doing it for a few decades now. Anyone remember “Mr. Robato”?
Now if no one minds, I’m signing out. Little thing Marran せんせい calls carcass day is tomorrow.
The article “Open Your Life, Open Your Mind” talks about how female singers and songwriters influenced and inserted fresh blood to the Japanese music development. A very interesting phenomenon is that female singers and songwriters often use English words or English loanwords in songs. The author provided several possible reasons. I agree most with the point of view that English or English loanwords offer an alternative way for women to express something difficult to say in “pure” Japanese. From my own experience, English is one of the most useful languages in the world, and considered as the official language among many countries, thus many countries put English into the formal educational program. For example, in China, we start to learn English from even Grade two in the elementary school. As a result, English can be easily understood by a large number of people. We Chinese also often use English to say something which may cause embarrass, because we think that if we don’t use our mother language to say it, it won’t be embarrassed. From my perspective, it’s a very strange thing according to inner emotion and cognition which is worth to doing further study concerning psychology and culture study.
The article “A Karaoke Perspective on International Relations” is very short and doesn’t say much. However, I have a lot to talk about the difference of Karaoke between Asian and Western countries. As the author mentioned, Asian people consider karaoke as an important way of enhancing relationship and communication rather than a chance to show talent given to not very gifted people for Western countries. That’s exact true. I believe this difference is mainly due to cultural elements. Asian people, such as Chinese and Japanese are more implicit, and have more complicated net of relationship. Just as the culture of treating people meals, Karaoke is another important way to communicate. In the chamber, you and your friends don’t need to keep talking and talking, and to be afraid of having nothing to say to each other, singing can instead of talking to express what you want to say. And go to Karaoke is more popular among young people, especially the students, because in Asian countries, Karaoke is affordable for students. They share the fee and simply consider karaoke as a way to get together and have fun. I can say, Karaoke is one of the most important things in students’ lives. That’s why when we Asian students come to study in US, we find it sometimes very boring and have nothing to play for fun. Another difference is that in Asian country, Karaoke has a lot of chambers from size mini to super large for group of different amount of people. However, in Western countries, Karaoke is all in open space. What if we just want to sing for ourselves?
After reading James Stanlaw's "Open Your File, Open Your Mind", we can see the changes of Japanese music continue into a new age. From enka to jazz, from jazz to rock and now rock to pop music, or kayokyoku. In this age, we are able to see the changes in the culture which lead to improvements in terms of equality. Stanlaw points out how these days Office Ladies are able to flourish and express themselves by going to clubs as Juliana Girls, scantily clad women dancing to pop music at clubs. Despite their new conduct, they seem to be immune to the actions of the guys that they attract. Stanlaw believes that this is their method of revenge for how male supiriors treat them at home and at work. True to tradition, the Juliana Girls' dancing is routed in the myth of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. When angered, she hid in a cave, leaving the world in darkness. Saru Gaku's erotic dance coexed Amaterasu into returning light to the world.
This new age of pop has started a trend of women idol singers and bands such as Seiko Matsuda, PRicess Princess and Judy and Mary Band. These music groups were able to start their careers independantly, without male involvement.
Considering that a woman's career was not guranteed, even with the support of a record company, a few decades earlier, that was a major improvement.
Pink Lady is a prime example on how the singers could only follow the male dominated record companies, appearing on late night shows with little or no clothing, singing in a cutrsy-coy way about underage sex and male fantasies. A generation of music later, the Japanese music industry is debuts groups that are more credible and realistic.
I found this week’s reading and artist selection to be more interesting because for the first time this semester, we read about and listened to a Japanese artist that I had actually heard of before: Judy and Mary. I’ll admit, however, that although I had heard of this band, my knowledge of their music was still pretty limited. I was first introduced to the band through an anime series, which used one of their songs as its opening theme, and after that, I had heard just a couple more songs from Judy and Mary. I didn’t really know much about them, much less Yuki’s stance on contemporary femininity or her contribution in helping shape the role of women in Japanese music.
Reading the Stanlaw chapter, it was interesting to me how female Japanese artists’ attitudes seemed to change so drastically. First, there were idol singers whose cute and innocent images were mostly created by record labels. That soon evolved into some kind of rebellion, as female artists broke out of the strict mold that record labels created. Their music and lyrics were no longer restricted to “girl meets boy and lives happily ever after” (79), and instead, there was more depth and singers had more say in what they sang about. This evolution reinforced in my mind the idea that the Japanese are very reactive to their current situation, at least in the popular culture arena. For instance, having been a “closed nation” for some time, they later rebelled against that by embracing Western things such as music. Then, as previous readings illustrated, Western music began to decline in popularity, letting domestic bands rise in popularity. I believe the changing role of female artists in Japan is a good example of this trend.
Another point that really interested me in the reading was the growing use of English in Japanese songs. To summarize Stanlaw’s points, English was used to convey Western images, make something less serious, allow for more poetic or expressive devices, and “circumvent some of the sociolinguistic limitations of Japanese” (99). It’s strange to think that singing in a different language could do all of these things. Perhaps I’m just not used to it as it’s not very common for American bands to use foreign language loanwords to get around any restrictions of the English language. Stanlaw also makes a point that using English gave female artists more power. With the option of using words from a whole other language, these artists weren’t as restricted in what they could sing about. I imagine that male artists were also granted this power as they were allowed to use English as well. However, I think what made the use of English more empowering to women was that in Japanese society, they were often more restricted in certain areas of life than men were. By giving women the choice of using English, and ultimately another avenue of expressing themselves, it helped them gain more power and helped change their roles in music.
This article Open Your File, Open Your Mind (along with the buying intimacy) makes much more sense to me (because they have much more relevance, and having grown up with this type of generation). I thought it was interesting how the author chose to start the paper off by talking about office ladies (by day) and then young semi promiscuous women (by night). I can really see a change happening within the Japanese community with regards to, what it means to be a woman. I wouldn't go as far as to say that they are liberated because they still have to dress up “sexy” to feel good (when I say that, I mean that for the women to have a good time, they have to dress up in something that will catch the attention of men [even if they don't necessarily want it] so they can feel good about themselves. In my opinion that is just an instant gratification and they won’t feel any better the morning after because it’s still based on looks, which (I think) Is something still controlled by men). This is no different than the idols of the past that had to dress up very sexy, and appealing to the other audience while teaching the same sex how to look, while they have to maintain their purity. It is a double-edged standard. To be sexy, yet pure. I think Miki Imai is one of the artists to use her celebrity to teach young people (mainly young women) to be themselves.
On another note it is very interesting how the Japanese women used to use hiragana while the men used Chinese words and katakana. I do think this makes for some interesting literature (that I have read “the tales of Genji” and the author mentions). From this standpoint I wonder if men ever used hiragana to write songs about men, but from a women’s perspective. I am also assuming that it could be done the other way around.
This article was a pretty interesting read, since it shows how women are taking more control of their image. Like some other people, I didn’t quite understand how the opening of the article would relate much to music, other than that the women go dancing after changing their clothes. But I think that it just shows how changes in society, in terms of women becoming less repressed, are not simply isolated in one aspect. I think that it’s refreshing when female artists and songwriters have become more and more involved with their own music and image.
It was also interesting to read about how the insertion of English can be seen as a tool for freedom of expression. Sometimes, Asian pop music has English words or phrases that don’t really make sense- but I suppose that it is in the song for a reason, and maybe something else was trying to be expressed that couldn’t in the first language. Or another possibility could be that English is present to give the song some type of prestige or a kind of unique quality. I never would have guessed that English would be such an important tool that would help Japanese women find more freedom.
I had never heard of any of the artists that the article mentions but I liked reading about Yuki. Even though she has idol status, I like that she wants to set herself apart from all of the other girly-cute idols. It’s important that young women and girls know that it’s okay to be themselves and that men are not as powerful and great as they think they are. Even though songs that follow the certain model of “happily ever after” (79) can be very popular and successful, it’s necessary to have songs that have more depth.
Open your File, Open your Mind
I liked this article by James Stanlaw. Although his arguments for why the use of English did not make any sense to me, I still found them very interesting. For example, though this may be uninformed of me, I didn’t really understand what limitations the Japanese language had on [Japanese] women. Especially since the article says that the time when the use of English in songs was becoming popular was also the time when women were liberating themselves (in regards to music anyway) from their handlers. The only one of his explanations that made sense to me was in his analysis of Dreams Come True’s “Sankyuu.” He writes, “If she were to use the word ‘arigatou’ instead, things would sound much more serious” (Stanlaw 95). I agree with this because of the general consensus that the Japanese language is much more formal than English.
As far as the usage of English goes, I am interested in knowing how Japanese listeners distinguished between “English” and “katakana” in songs. I mean, sure, to the untrained ear, “Makudonarudo” sounds very different from “McDonald’s” but putting myself in the shoes of a native Japanese who knows little to no English--how do I know if Yuuming is singing [in English] “dandelion” and not its katakana form, “dandiraion"? Or maybe it all just sounds like English anyway? Because, for example, as a native English listener, I was not able to pick up when ELT sang “faasuto fuudo” which is the “Japanese” of “fast food” (in their song “Dear My Friend”), but when she sings “Best of my friend” it sounds close enough to English that my brain registers it as English. And how does Stanlaw know that “had tanpopo…been used instead, the song would sound more like a folksong…” (Stanlaw 91)? I did like her clever innovation in her song “Open Your File, Open Your Mind” though.
(On a side note, it would also be interesting to find out why she chose dandelions to represent love, because in many English-speaking countries, dandelions are considered weeds. Perhaps the Japanese don’t consider them to be [weeds]?)
Open your file, open your mind
Women have always been viewed as the secondary figure under the men. However, it seems that throughout the past centuries, women’s history have dramatically transformed itself and now, it seems to be that women are becoming more equal to men or getting around there. In James Stanlow’s article, “Open Your File, Open Your Mind” focuses on the Japanese female musical artists that have written a new voice for women and “how women can view themselves and behave” (76). Stanlow described that for girls to go into the music industry, they had to go through the production company system where the girls are trained to become potential stars. When she turns seventeen, the company would then help sponsor her debut and first performance to the public; so I guess that’s how many female stars are found.
The examples that Stanlow provided enabled us to look back at some of the popular female music artists during the century. One in particular is Miki Imai – who is “popular among teenage women even though it is not geared towards them” (85). According to Stanlow, Imai is one of Japan’s most popular female singers among women up to the age of 30 (84). Her songs are expressed in a wide range of emotions and use simple jazzy rhythms and piano keynotes. Her voice is very soothing which is easy to understand and listen to. Today, there are many Japanese female pop stars in the music industry that are taking their songs a step further; expressing their emotions and changing the pop industry. For instance, Hikaru Utada. Lovely voice and stylistic, her songs are sung in both English and Japanese and are popular among any age. It’s very RnB and hip hop that attracts this generation.
An interesting point that Stanlow stated on was about the office ladies in the beginning of the article. He called them the “Juliana girls” – ‘they tease the starry-eyed men looking at them on the dance floor or up on stage, and they savor their sexual power” (75). I thought this was interesting because we can see that this models the relationships between men and women. To some sense, it seems that the office ladies at work have to obey the rules laid down by men and when they go to the Juliana nightclub, they are transformed into deities and all the men are under their control. So it’s more like a gender superiority shift, I think. Then again, I think nightclubs are a place where women can escape to this world where they are not under then men and where they are admired. However, it can be agreed that the Japanese female musical artists are still expanding their transformation and finding a “new voice” while encountering the everyday life obstacles and gender roles.
This week I’d like to talk about the Japanese singer Cocco. Cocco was born in Okinawa, Japan. Her self titled record was debuted in 1996, and released her debut single titled, Kanutodaun. In November of the same year she released another single which sold more than 250,00 copies and was a huge hit in Japan. Cocco recorded three more studio albums and announced her retirement in the music business before releasing Sanguroozu on April 18, 2001. Cocco seems to be one of the more enigmatic figures on the Japanese popular music scene, and she gains her attention for her dark music and lyrics. However she juxtaposes a girly voice with emotionally complex, sometimes disquieting subject matter, with a very eccentric and fragile personality.
While listening to some of her songs and watching her videos on you tube, she seems to write her music to express her emotions and her style ranges from grunge rock to more melancholy “soul searching” if you will, emotional songs. I find her to be a very talented artist because she possesses the ability to sing such varying genres of music, and yet she is still a very respected artist. This I believe is due to the fact that she sings her songs based on what emotion she is feeling at the time. She doesn’t seem to keep with any one emotion from song to song. Conversely, I find in a lot of cases with American artists that if you are “grunge rock” that you sing “grunge rock” songs. However, based on my lack of grunge rock or metal music knowledge I cannot fully attest to that statement, but from what I have heard, there is little variation in style of music within one band. I am not a fan of grunge or heavy metal, but I did find a few songs that are more on the melancholy side that I really like. To be specific, I found the song "Dugong no Mieru Oka", I was unable to find any translation for this song, but it did evoke a feeling of sadness but also being at peace with something. It's a very good song and if you are not into the song that was played in class, I would recommend looking this song up on you tube.
Sorry, I didn't know when we were supposed to post this.
While reading about the (slightly creepifying) description of how female singers were generally discovered and trained, Misora Hibari came to mind. While she sang a different kind of song than other singers and wasn’t trained in the same kind of sex appeal later women were, the form of starting at childhood reminded me of her.
I thought it was interesting that the author describes Yuki as basically the opposite of Hibari and other Enka singers, who focus on songs that position women as being generally wistful and mourning their helpless situation (though of course men sing Enka songs). While I think Americans would find it notable that Enka is a genre which can be performed by either men or women interchangeably, I find it interesting that the articles we’ve read haven’t really noted that this is exemplary, only that it occurs.
While in America many women in some alternative rock genres and others are able to become more popular on the internet much more quickly than they could based solely on live performances, I imagine this doesn’t work as well in Japan, as other essays explain that broadband service has lagged behind the US and more internet usage is based through costly cell phone usage. Incidentally, I think there are tools more available now than even a few years ago that make marketing to citizens of other countries much easier, and I’m interested to see how many unremarkable Seiko-like careers spawn in America’s future and if they at least gain underground followings.
I’ve always been interested in why English is used in Japanese songs (beyond being used when there’s no Japanese word for terms), so that part of the article was intriguing. It makes sense that English words would change the context of a song, such as the example of making a breakup seem less serious, but I wonder how different genres using English in their songs work. If English removes a layer of Japaneseness-sensitivity for women singers, does it more easily critique society when used in folk songs?
Overall it’s pretty interesting that Yuki and other women who sing choose to be reactive against restrictive culture and yet wear kimonos and are photographed in styles that are reflective of that restrictive history. The article warns against comparing feminism in one country with another’s, but I would be interested in an argument that examines this as a way of showing the mobility that women have in Japan’s social structure, if they choose to use it, or perhaps as a way of even reacting against restrictive culture by showing that they can appeal to both aesthetics separate from any meaning they may carry. The appeal to both aesthetics may just be a bit of a sellout tactic, but there’s room for argument if the situation is as the article presents it.
Very interesting info !Perfect just what I was looking for!