Sunday, January 20, 2013

How I Got into Perfume


You know what I've noticed about a lot of the idol blogs I follow? They always have that one true group that they follow. Their "number one" you might call it. This is the one group that a blogger will give an arm and a leg for to see live, the group they will always stick by through both thick and thin. Chiima has Morning Musume, Kira has Dream5, Jess has Momoiro Clover Z, you get what I mean. And naturally, if you so much as look at the top of my blog's page, you can deduce that my number one group is Perfume. Because I clearly haven't stressed that enough for all the time I've been blogging! In all seriousness though, without Perfume I probably never would have discovered J-pop and subsequently I never would have started blogging. Perfume has been a huge part of how my taste in music has been shaped over time and even how I am as a person today. So for a group that has had such influence over me, I feel like I've sort of glossed over my history with Perfume. Sure, I constantly slip them into a lot of my posts and I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm a huge fan of the group but I never really talk about how I reached that point. Not really, at least. It's not like I just woke up one morning and said "I'm gonna follow Perfume!" There was a time where I didn't even know the group existed! And I'm going to take you, dear reader, through the story of my slow but sure discovery of how I got into Perfume. It's a melodramatic, sappy and cliched story but it's my story and I'm going to tell it whether you like it or not! So take my metaphorical hand and travel back in time with me to an era of which I knew nothing of A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka!

It all started back in the beginning of sixth grade. The year was 2007 and I had just made the transition from the ridiculous elementary school to the equally ridiculous middle school. In hindsight, it wasn't that big of a deal but back then in my eleven-year old mind it was one step closer to becoming older and wiser! You know that age where you feel inclined to show the whole world that you've aged mentally and matured away from that silly and immature elementary school you? That happened to me in middle school and I found myself growing out of a lot of the things I enjoyed in elementary school. Suddenly my Barbies weren't as fun to play with, The Magic Treehouse Books were too juvenile to read, the Disney Channel shows I watched had somehow turned to shit, and biggest of all I grew out of the kids music I'd listened to so frequently when I was younger. Actually, pop music in general just stopped appealing to me and unfortunately that was all I could find on the radio because my little mind hadn't expanded enough to seek other genres.

Today, I'm still not sure if that happened subconsciously or by my own choice but either way there I was, a gangly little sixth grader with no idea of what to do with herself. I didn't want to be immature!Nia I wanted to be cool!Nia. Somewhere along my journey to reinvention of myself, I figured if I wanted to be a new person, I needed to have new, cooler and edgier interests! So I spent most of August spazzing around trying to do that with little to no progress; I was still that same, gangly little sixth grader. Then September came. I was using the family computer when I thought to myself "What is the weirdest and most out-there genre of music I can think of?" I remembered when I was younger I'd watched Sailor Moon but all I could remember about it was how weird it was with all the bright lights, strange animation, and ridiculously short skirts. I then remembered what country it originated from.

And that was when everything changed.

Five years later, I still can't figure out how my mind connected its thoughts to Japanese music. Maybe it was my growing disinterest/disgust with the English music I heard constantly. Maybe it was a rekindled interest I'd been suppressing. I think it may have been boredom; one minute I was just sitting at the family computer and then I just thought about it. Somehow my thought process led me to type in "Japanese pop songs" on Youtube, curious but very, very skeptical I'd find anything of interest. I'd always thought of Japan as this really weird country that made about as much sense to me as Wonderland did to Alice. The bits I'd seen of Japanese music were also very, very weird to me but then again, I hadn't seen much. It was the most out-there genre of music I could think of and I honestly didn't expect to find anything that would interest me in it. But obviously. I came across a list of top 10 J-pop songs (a list which I unfortunately can't find now probably due to copyright claims) and it had all the weirdness I expected it to have. In hindsight, I think there might have been a Mini Moni song on the list but it's been so long now that I can't remember.

But it was this strange variety of all these different genres of music: hard rock, cutesy idol pop, rap, it was quite the culture shock for me! I almost stopped watching it but thank god I stuck it out because I reached number one and that was the first taste I ever got of Perfume. The song in the video was Chocolate Disco, but I didn't know that at the time; I didn't even know what I was looking at it. But I loved it. It was literally like nothing else I had ever seen in my very short life. The lights, the catchiness of the song, the dance, the techno, I was completely and totally entranced. I can't remember my specific reaction other than thinking it was the three girls in the PV were the coolest people in the world. I didn't even know their names or what they were saying but the way they danced and looked so happy and innocent and their equally happy techno music just drew me in because I'd never seen something like it before. Girl groups in the US had dissolved with the Spice Girls so to see another one was not only nostalgic but the music felt cool and edgy compared to all the stale pop music I'd been listening to.

Unfortunately, there was no information on the video about what the song was or who they were. For the next few months, I fervently tried to find more about this mysterious trio of girls. The main problem was that I shared a computer with my family so my access to the Internet was limited and I'd been brought up believing the Internet was full of viruses around every corner. As much as I wanted to dig deeper into these girls, I was scared of what I'd find and I especially didn't want my parents to know that their daughter was doing something as weird as searching for Japanese music. So I just sort of put my fascination aside and focused on school and other things that were going on in my life. But not matter how hard I tried not to let it bother me, I still wanted to hear that full song. I knew it was weird to have such an obsession with a group after one song but it was just so intriguing and after relentlessly trying to find them, I went back to the original top 10 list. Now this was around the time the Baby Cruising Love/Macaroni single was released.

Someone had asked for a full list of the songs and the owner replied, allowing me to finally figure out the group I was watching was called Perfume and the song was called Chocolate Disco. Afterward, I was easily able to find the song and hearing the entire thing only made me love it more. At first it felt a little weird hearing Japanese in a song but the more I listened to it... I just really loved how happy and catchy and fun it was. It was so different from what I'd ever heard before and I felt kind of cool for hearing a song that none of my friends had ever heard of. Something I always tend to do when I discover a new song is that I repeat it over and over again for several days or several weeks; with Chocolate Disco I was replaying that song for several months. It wasn't until April that I started looking into Perfume past that song and even then finding information was hard with such a vague name like Perfume. Often I came up with more results about various Japanese perfumes than the group I was looking for. And their Wikipedia article back then stunk too. But I did find enough about them that I just started binge listening; oh my god, did I binge on them.

I remember replaying the hell out of anything and everything I could find by Perfume. It was like I had discovered this new drug that I couldn't get enough of! I listened to their indies, I listened to their major label stuff, I listened to Complete Best and most importantly, I listened to GAME. Now something you have to understand is at the time I started really listening to Perfume, I was barely twelve years old; I didn't know squat about the Internet or downloads or anything of that nature. I barely even knew how to work Youtube! I had to work my ass off to try and find and their music but in a strange, it was kind of a fun little quest to embark on. Each new Perfume song I found was like finding a little Easter egg filled with chocolate and I found myself loving every new song I found by them. The hardest songs for me to find were the songs from GAME since the album had only been out for a month or so but eventually I was able to find all the songs on the tracklisting.

To this day, GAME is my favorite Perfume album and probably just one my favorite albums in general and over time my love for the album has only grown even more. The release of GAME was also the time when Perfume's Wikipedia page was massively updated with so much more information than before! It was around this time that not only did I just start listening to Perfume's music but I also began to look into the group's history. I found out that Perfume had been around for years and only now were they finally starting to have success in Japan. Before GAME and Polyrhythm, this amazing group had really struggled to sell and find revenues, even performing in bowling alleys to promote their singles. Finding all that out made me root for Perfume even more; I wanted them to be the most famous and successful group in Japan. I wanted everyone to love them to make up for all the years where they'd perform in CD shops with five people in the audience. When they hit number 1 with Love the world, I was ecstatic beyond reason; finally, all the years Perfume had remained in obscurity paid off!

I won't go into the full history of Perfume but I will say it was pretty much what made me a huge fan of the group. And if you don't like Perfume, see if looking into that history will at least give you an appreciation of all the hard work the girls have put forth to get where they are today. When I first read that it had taken six years for Perfume to become successful, I was shocked. I couldn't believe that they had stuck so long to pursuing their dreams, even when they seemed so far away. Perfume taught me that yes, if you follow your dreams and work hard enough, they can come true and ever since then, I've really looked up to them for never giving up on their dreams. That's one of the reasons why I love their song Dream Fighter so much; it's a hopeful, uplifting song about chasing your dreams no matter how far-off and impossible they may seem. It was an inspiration to me back in seventh grade and over time, Dream Fighter has become my favorite A-side the girls have released. Dream Fighter also stands out as pretty much the point where I realized that I loved this group and I wanted to hear more of them.

Now I usually say that I've been a fan of the group since 2007 but even I admit, that's kind of stretching it a little bit. I discovered the group in 2007 but I didn't start becoming an active fan of Perfume until 2009. 2008 was the year I was tentatively looking into them with limited access to the Internet and proper resources to look up a Japanese girl group. So what happened in 2009 that fully transformed me into a Perfume fan? Well... I got my own computer. Yes, my birthday present/incentive to get straight A's that year was a laptop and by golly, I was gonna get straight A's! For me, a laptop meant more independence and my own hardware to browse and store data without sharing it with anyone else! So seventh grade ended and with straight A's on my report card, I received the promised laptop in June of 2009! Ironically it short circuited the summer before my sophomore year but that's a completely off-topic (but very hilarious) story.

With a computer of my own, I really learned how to navigate around the Internet and as a result, I learned more and more about Perfume. I began to figure out when they were releasing stuff, what concerts they were doing in the future, what they were up to next... and then I hit a wall. With all this newfound love for Perfume an my eagerness to support them, I wanted to buy their upcoming ⊿ album, especially after I'd listened to the amazing album that is GAME. So on the day ⊿ came out, I went onto iTunes and I scoured that store searching in vain for the album and for Perfume. To my dismay, I couldn't find anything. What I didn't know at the time due to my lack of knowledge about how the J-pop music industry worked was that Perfume wasn't available to international markets, only Japan. The idea that I couldn't buy music because I didn't live in that country was a new concept for me, and it made me both angry and sad. I wanted to support Perfume so much and their music was right in front of me yet at the same time it was so far away. And so with this dismaying knowledge brought to light in front of me, I was subsequently introduced to the wonderful world of piracy. Or downloading to put it more nicely.

When I first discovered downloadable Perfume content, I was hesitant. It felt like stealing to download their music (and it was) and I felt like I wasn't a real fan if I didn't support them by buying their music. But I couldn't buy the physical copies of the ⊿ album and it wasn't looking like they'd release material internationally on iTunes anytime soon. So I was left with quite a moral dilemma: download Perfume's music and further appreciate them and listen to them more or. It was several months before I finally caved in and decided to download Perfume music. And so around early 2010 I downloaded my first Perfume album, GAME, and then I downloaded ⊿. I still felt uneasy about doing it but over time, I gradually felt more comfortable with downloading Perfume material. But nothing felt better than actually buying Perfume's music on iTunes; I was overjoyed when it was announced that Perfume's music would be available internationally on iTunes. This year I was even able to purchase physical copies of JPN and the Global Compilation album! I was excited beyond words when the albums came in the mail and even more excited that I was finally able to give a little something back to Perfume after all the years that I'd looked up to them so much and how much they'd affected my life.

Around 2011 was when I started branching out to other people about my love of Perfume. I've always been a very private person when it comes to my musical tastes because I hate that feeling of showing something I love to someone and then they don't feel the same way I do. I get this pit in my stomach and I feel so bad for wasting their time on something they show little to no interest in and also disappointed. Naturally, that happened a lot with Perfume. I didn't throw Perfume at a lot of people but often I would bring them up and say something like "Hey, have you heard of this group called Perfume? You should check them out!" The person would then never check Perfume out and if they did, they hardly ever showed interest in them again. It was disheartening that I couldn't find anyone else who appreciated Perfume as much as I did so I started looking to online forums for other fans. And what do you know? Perfume had an entire forum filled to the top with Perfume fans! It was amazing to read the opinions of so many people who felt that same love for Perfume that I did.

I joined the Perfume City forum in late 2011 and although, I felt a little awkward for the first few months in the forum as a newb, I'm very happy I joined. We discuss Perfume-related everything from lyrics to PVs to other strange topics and it's such a relief to find people to share Perfume opinions with. Sure, sometimes the fandom gets split down the middle but overall the Perfume fandom is a great fandom and everyone gets a long pretty well. In 2013, I was able to do something else that really made me happening: I finally was able to join the PTA, which is the Perfume fan club. Before 2013, the PTA had been exclusive to Japanese residents only but finally the club has opened its gates to international members, and I had never felt so excited. I'd always wanted to join the PTA but couldn't because I was a foreigner and registering for it was nigh impossible. But now I've registered and I'm counting the days until the international fan club opens up!

Now in 2011, I was getting into idol music along with diligently following Perfume and as I got into idol music, I started getting into idol blogs too. As I found all these new blogs I started thinking "I wonder if any of these bloggers like Perfume..." And then I found out that nope, not many bloggers that frequently updated wrote about Perfume. Sure, I found a few blogs that mentioned Perfume and even had a small post here and there about them but not a blog that really wrote about Perfume. Then I thought "Why don't I write about Perfume?" It seemed to make sense; I love the group and I wanted to show some form of my love and respect for them so why not a blog in which I could review and just praise Perfume in general? And that is how Nia's Wonderland was formed. Of course, there were a few other elements into the formation of my little blog but Perfume was one of the key aspects; hell, my first post on this blog was My Top 20 Perfume Songs. Since then, I've strived to write about Perfume news, review their singles and albums, and just write Perfume-related posts because I love doing it.

I love writing about them almost as much as I love their music, their stage presence, and everything about them. Perfume has helped shaped who I am as a person and has taught me so many values and I really look up to them. I think that's one of the reasons why I bring up Perfume so much on my blog. I know it seems like I gush about them at any opportunity I get but honestly, my blog is the one way I can showcase Perfume to the world. It's easier for me to write about how great Perfume is than to go up to people and personally ask them to look into Perfume (although I sometimes show friends Perfume music but not very often). All I can do is hope that maybe one day, someone who reads my blog will get curious about this group I constantly praise and look at their music and develop the same appreciation and respect I have for Perfume. And if I can get even just one person interested in Perfume, just one person to become a fan of their music... I'd be the happiest girl in the world. I feel like whenever you grow attached to an artist, so much that you want them to be successful. I know I won't always like everything Perfume does but as a fan, I'll do everything I can to support them and I'll stand by them until the day they disband.

So in short, an 11-year old girl found Perfume on Youtube and they subsequently changed her life. The end!

11 comments:

  1. Well you certainly made me listen to it. All three of them are sweet girls with a great history ! (But I might have a little weakness for Nocchi...)

    As for the music, it's definitely cute.. But it's not the kind of music I obsess over. At least not yet, who knows?
    But I LOVE most of the MV's ^^

    Love your blog, although you're a little tough on Momosu sometimes :P <3 (I'm probably just biased)

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    1. I did? Yay! It's okay, I think all Perfume fans have somewhat of a member bias ranging from slight to major. I'd be lying if I said, I didn't have a small bias toward Kashiyuka...

      Yeah, a majority of Perfume's music is pretty cute but every now and then they pull out a darker and harder song (like edge, Fake It, GAME, or Butterfly!

      Thanks! I really don't mean to be tough on Momusu! I've actually like the musical direction they've been taking since One Two Three a lot! I'm just really harsh on their PVs...

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    2. Hmm I haven't heard those yet. I have kind of stayed on the A-sides of the singles ! I really liked VOICE, One Room Disco, Laser Beam, Spice and Dream Fighter !

      I have yet to listen to Spring of life, Spending all my time and Mirai no Museum.

      As for the B-sides and the Album songs.. which do you recommend?

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    3. Spring of Life is really good; the other 2 songs have pretty split opinions. Personally, I don't like SAMT and I don't really care for Mirai no Museum but there are fans who like those songs.

      As for B-sides and album songs, I'd recommend the entire GAME album. It's Perfume's best. Some of my favorite B-sides are Seventh Heaven, wonder2, edge (and the ⊿-mix), 575, Fake It, Glitter, Hurly Burly and Point! Other album songs that I would recommend are Perfect Star Perfect Style, Night Flight, I still love U, The best thing, My Color and... that's all I can think of right now! I'm really hoping that Perfume releases another album this year!

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    4. Aand I have officially been hooked. Spring of life, Fake it, Seventh heaven and Secret Secret all ROCK !

      Off to listen to the rest now ~

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  2. Hahaha, it's great that I stumbled upon this blog since Dcember 2012, and what a wonderful read it is. I feel I've been overly delayed with my Perfume fandom (known them since February 2008, listened to Dream Fighter and Electro World a bit in December 2008, hiatus the next month for K-pop and back in July 2012 after spontaneously buying a local press of JPN), but I feel no regrets whatsoever for returning back to them.

    I haven't been much of a fan for most idol bands (maybe a bit of AKB48? However I'm natively for TVXQ and SNSD) so I usually skip straight to the Perfume articles XD.

    You're lucky enough to have found PCity and download sites earlier than me and I'm curious of your collection, that is if you have any albums. If you do, would you mind posting them up sometime?

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you like my Perfume posts! It's okay, everyone gets into Perfume in their own time! I'm just happy that you *are* a Perfume fan! They're an amazing group with great music and the girls' personalities are wonderful.

      I love PCity; it's a great gathering place for Perfume fans! With the DL sites it's funny how most of the sites and links I used are dead now... oh, how the times have changed. I remember in 2011 I had to re-download ⊿ and it was so much harder than it used to be!

      I really don't have a huge Perfume collection: I have the JPN album, Perfume Global Compilation, the Electro World single... and that's it! I'm saving up to buy GAME for my birthday though; if there's any album I'd like to have, it's that one!

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  3. Hey, Nia! I've been reading your blog for less than a month; and I really like it! I came across this just a few weeks after I became a fan of AKB!

    Since I've read you really like Perfume, I want to give them a shot; so can you give me a list of Perfume songs that you would recommend for me? I've only heard Spring of Life; and it was awesome(the PV, the song itself, and LIGHT. UP. DRESSES.)!

    Please... and thanks!

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    1. Hi, Anon! Welcome to the Wonderland then!

      Me liking Perfume is a bit of an understatement but yes, they're absolutely amazing! And Spring of Life isn't even one of their best songs! But those light-up dresses A;EWIHAGHA;WG they're amazing! Perfume has so many other great and amazing songs I could probably list *all* of them... but here are a some that I really like!

      From the Complete Best Era: Electro World, Computer City, Perfect Star Perfect Style, wonder2

      From the GAME Era: everything, the GAME Era is Perfume's best in terms of music

      From the ⊿ Era: Dream Fighter, love the world, edge (⊿-mix), One Room Disco, The best thing, Night Flight, I still love U

      From the JPN Era: Fushizen na Girl, Natural ni Koishite, 575, Nee, Fake It, Laser Beam, Spice, Glitter

      Misc: Seventh Heaven, Hurly Burly, Point

      Some of their best PVs are Electro World, Macaroni, love the world, One Room Disco, Fushizen na Girl, Natural ni Koishite, Voice, Nee, Laser Beam, and Spice!

      And if you really wanna get into Perfume, I highly recommend watching any of their lives. They're quite a spectacle to watch and really show you how skilled the girls of Perfume are! I hope that helps and I hope you like Perfume!

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    2. Every fan has their number one group :) Indeed you are right about that especially since mine is Wonder Girls.

      I absolutely loved this post and finding out how you got into your favourite group! :) Some of my favourite Perfume songs are 575, Polyrhythm (which got me into them), Natural ni Koishite and Spice. My favourite member is Kashiyuka, do you possibly have a favourite among the three or do you love them all? (I may have missed that in the description!)

      "Actually, pop music in general just stopped appealing to me" Same for me especially the R&B and Hip-hop. Everything in my opinion just changed for the worse.

      I finally finished the post about YouTube idols in response to yours but I changed it to be more about YouTubers who do dance covers. Hope you check it out here: http://nynyonlinex.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/whats-your-purpose-as-a-youtube-dancer/

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    3. Thank you! Those are some awesome Perfume songs, especially 575 and Polyrhythym (LOVE those songs). I wouldn't say I have a favorite member but if there was a gun to my head and I had to decide... I'd have to go with Kashiyuka.

      I feel like my negative views towards English/European pop music have lessened over time as I haven't listened to much but yeah, it's not my cup of tea either. I'll take Kyarypamyupamyu over Nicki Minaj any day!

      Sweet! I'm not very familiar with the Youtube dance community so it should be a very enlightening read for me!

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