“When are you going to grow out of that J-Pop stuff?”
This has a frequent question from my wife Tara, who I’ve known since 2004 and have been married to since 2010. The question doesn’t seem to come up very often anymore, for which I am thankful, but the last few times it occurred was when I bought home the latest releases from my usual favorite acts (Morning Musume, SCANDAL, Koda Kumi, etc.). I think the last time the question was posed to me was when I mentioned pre-ordering Morning Musume’s new single “Help Me!”, in which case, I replied with all honestly, “We are talking about my favorite band here – what do I have to do, tattoo their logo on my fucking arm to make it official?” That usually shuts her up.
I might not have shown it much on this blog – 2012 was a crazy year for me with everything from my first published book project to two different bands (one a general flop, the other current one off to a good start at first, only to… well, I’ll get into that in an entirely different column but as of 4.6.13 it’s not my problem anymore and I’ve moved on to other musical projects already) to some medical issues with both my mother and myself to deal with – but for the most part, my love of J-Pop in general and Morning Musume and SCANDAL in particular was alive and well and occupying good amounts of airtime on the hour a week I get for my program The Groove Music Life Radio Show (9PM Eastern Friday nights on ROK Out Radio, BTW)
There’s at least one good reason why I don’t see myself growing out of J-Pop at any point… there isn’t too much music out there outside of punk/alternative/indie rock that I easily associate with most of the high points of my adult life.
I had similar questions asked of me by many of my peers who looked down with severe disdain at the punk rock that I loved. “Black Flag? Isn’t that a bug spray?” was one of the milder insults. Why wasn’t my record collection dominated by the same dinosaur rock acts they were playing tapes of as background music while they were illicitly drinking booze and smoking cigarettes and joints? A lot of those same losers owned guitars and dreamed of being rock stars. Most of them boasted of their bands but either didn’t make it out of their basement or only had a couple of keg-party or church bazaar shows to their name before things fell apart for them. These guys didn’t even like the “Top 40” cover bands that were getting most of the gigs at the time… mostly out of sheer jealousy.
To more casual observers like my wife, the forthcoming events involving Morning Musume in general and my favorite member of that group for the past ten years, Reina Tanaka, might be excuse to start up the “When are you going to stop listening to that crap?” nonsense again. This would definitely be the wrong time for me to stop and I don’t think there ever is going to be a wrong time with a group that I’ve been so emotionally invested in. Right now, for me at least, but I’m sure for other longtime Morning Musume and H!P fans, it’s an exciting time for me as a fan. I’m looking forward to receiving my copies of Reina’s final single with the band this week, and am already anticipating the first Lovendo? CD next month, very pleased with the fact that Reina is going to continue to make music for the forseeable future, unlike some of her previously departed members that have exited before her in recent weeks. (Ai Takahashi’s recent announcement of requiring surgery to remove nodules on her vocal cords coupled with the fact that she hasn’t made any music since leaving the band makes for a rather odd disconnect… it’s just as shame that her and fellow departed 5th-gen MoMusu Risa Niigaki have been taking non-musical career paths, despite their vocal talents.) Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to see how the band itself will be after Reina’s departure. Reina’s penultimate single and new member Sakura Oda’s first, “Help Me!”, have already started to dissipate any concerns… Sakura already has a hell of a voice as far as I’m concerned, and given that ten years ago, Reina was already showing some mad vocal skills on her first single with Morning Musume (“Shabondama”), that’s a good sign.
Anyway, I apologize for the semi-casual and somewhat rambly nature of this first “return” blog post. I intend to be on here a lot more often in the coming days, weeks, months… being in a band that went in a direction that it wasn’t supposed to go in took up a good deal of my free time, and my musical evangelization was being focused through my radio show almost exclusively over the past several months. The radio show will continue, and I’ll still continue to purse music, only in a different manner than I had in 2012 and early 2013. As of now, things are going to be the way I want them to go. Life is short, and I’ve been dormant in some aspects long enough.