Thursday, October 2, 2014

3 Idol Groups I Respect but Just Don't Get

What's harder: loving a group everybody hates or hating a group everybody loves?

Personally, I find the latter to be more challenging. I'll always be the first to acknowledge that my taste in music is bizarre and dorky, but I love listening to my bizarre and dorky music. I like a few idol groups that aren't warmly received for my own personal reasons, just like everyone has their own personal favorites. If other people don't get why, then I understand. But then there's the flip side. A lot of music is exploration: searching for other artists and figuring out what appeals to you personally. There's a lot of trial-and-error involved. For every great band you find, you could have muddle through ten mediocre bands before finding that one. There are some idol groups I've listened to once then never thought of again. Then there's Perfume. One guide to finding good music is to go off public opinion. If an artist has a huge fanbase and critical acclaim, then their music is usually at least worth checking out.

Sometimes however, I find a group that everyone loves. Writers sing praises of their music and style, so I should like them too, right? Their description on paper sounds right up my alley. But then I listen to them. And I hate them. Ever watch an Academy Award-nominated movie and thought to yourself, "This is a load of pretentious fluff." Apply that to music. While I don't outright hate any idol groups, there are a handful I actively avoid listening to. Then there are the groups in that weird category: I should like them, but I don't. I've read the reviews, I've watched the music videos, I've listened to the music, but something about this group isn't doing it for me. Meanwhile, said group keeps releasing material everyone loves, while I sit back scratching my head trying to understand the appeal. When said group gets massively popular, that complicates matters even further. It's like being given a pineapple, told that it's the most delicious pineapple ever, then taking a bite and tasting an absolutely disgusting pineapple. Where's the disconnect? Why can't I just be like everyone else and enjoy this pineapple?

The idol industry has its fair share of pineapples for me. Three groups in particular, all groups that are beloved online, I just can't get into. I can respect them as groups and acknowledge their quality of music, but at the end of the day, I don't get the appeal. And I suppose I don't have to. This is my blog after all. However, I also feel like objectively, I should appreciate these three groups more. Reviewing music is hard because so much of the review is my own opinion. I can go over objective elements like how on-key the singers are, but at the end of the day, it's mostly just my opinion. And nobody else has my exact same opinions. If they did, that would be creepy. I know that there are people who don't like Perfume, despite their wide fanbase and amazing music. But that's my opinion obviously, so I guess when I put Perfume into my perspective, disliking a few popular idol groups seems a little less sacrilegious. That being said, I do ask that you keep an open mind from her on out. Heck, you can even tell me if there are any idol groups you respect but also don't get at all!

So without further ado, these three idol groups are respected. Loved. Adored. Except by me. Let's get started.

Babymetal


Why I Respect Them:

They took on a genre of music that could have backfired spectacularly. When I first read about Babymetal, I thought, "Weird, but good luck to them!" Then they got popular. Then they got "internationally recognized and performing at Canadian metal festivals" popular. I thought they'd be one of those niche idol groups that has a small but devoted fanbase. I mean, they were a subunit of Sakura freaking Gakuen. How many fans does that group have anyways? Instead, Babymetal generated quite a buzz online and even with Western people with no affiliation to J-pop. Personally, I had no idea how metal and idol music could come together; they're practically on two different ends of the music spectrum. Even BiS never turned into a fully metal idol group. But surprisingly, Babymetal does a pretty good job of balancing the idol and metal aspects of their group image. The girls are adorable, Suzuka has a fantastic voice, and for girls that never even heard of metal before being in Babymetal, they rock it pretty well onstage. Ijime, Dame, Zettai is actually one of my favorite songs. They also get some cool music videos!

Why I Just Don't Get Them: 

I don't like metal.

Why don't I? Because I am a huge wimp. I like my music melodic and aurally pleasing. Metal is just not. Or maybe it is, but I don't want to dig deep enough to find out. I just don't like how abrasive metal is. There's so much screaming and yelling; the vocalist in me cries a little inside for the vocal chords of metal singers. I sound like an old lady talking about metal music, but the genre of music does not appeal to me. I think with the rise of idol metal, I've grown to dislike metal even more than I used to. Because before, I could at least ignore the genre and stay in my la-la land where metal is like an urban legend. Now whenever I go on idol news website, it's "Check out this idol metal group with a slightly different concept from Babymetal!" When I found out that Pure Idol Heart would be covering mostly metal idols, I definitely wasn't jumping for joy. I do hold a bit of a grudge towards Babymetal because of the number of "metal" idol groups that followed in their wake. I wish that BiS could have been the group that inspired other unconventional idol groups. I think BiS had a much more diverse and interesting range of music. All these metal idol groups sound like copies of each other. It's all screaming but by idols. Like an elementary school birthday party in hell.

So because of my own personal bias against metal, I really cannot understand Babymetal's appeal. I can understand even more how they picked up so many international fans. Well... I take that back. Babymetal is weird and niche-y enough to stand out; much like Kyarypamyupamyu's Pon Pon Pon stood out in 2011. Babymetal is the current "shiny new weird Japanese thing." Actually, I was surprised that so many Western fans liked metal. I guess that's my inner senile old lady emerging again. I think Babymetal has some good songs like Ijime, Dame, Zettai, Megitsune, and even Headbanger!!! but most of their stuff is too loud and dark for me. I've read so much praise for their debut album, but I honestly found most of the songs on it to be pretty bad. I think it's just because I'm not a fan of the genre, but it's like french fries. I do not like french fries. Yet everyone around me loves french fries and eats them. Their consumption and enjoyment of french fires may not personally affect, but it does annoy me a teensy tiny bit. And I think the final reason I don't get Babymetal is because of my love for BiS. Babymetal seems like the textbook "unconventional group" people refer to, but I think BiS fits that title much better. And that's all I'll say on that subject.

Dempagumi.inc


Why I Respect Them:

No matter how much I can't stand anything else about Dempagumi.inc, their music videos are the bomb. Did anyone see that Chururi Chururi ra music video? That was awesome. I had to watch it one mute, but it was still awesome! DenDen Passion, W.W.D., and W.W.D. II also have freaking awesome music videos. As you may have noticed, a big part of why I respect Dempagumi.inc is their visuals. Their production team gets so creative with their outfits. They come up with some of the weirdest but coolest visual concepts! It's kind of like what Momoiro Clover Z does, but more stylish and not stagnating to boring. Even musically, I can kind of appreciate what Dempagumi.inc does. Again, drawing comparisons to MomoClo, Dempagumi.inc pushes boundaries on idol music, delivering some energetic and crazy songs. The sheer enthusiasm in some of their songs is admirable. And I like that the girls themselves are former otaku and draw on that to connect with their fans. The girls themselves seem like nice people who love what they do, which is fantastic.

Why I Just Don't Get Them:

I'm not totally against... unusual singers. I listen to Momoiro Clover Z. I listen to Oomori Seiko. Even BiS could get a little shrill in some songs. But for some reason, Dempagumi.inc is where I draw the line. I'm gonna be honest, literally the only reason I can't get into Dempagumi.inc is because of the vocals. I always knew this in my heart, but I truly realized that when I listened to BiS' cover of DenDen Passion. For the record, I hate the original DenDen Passion. Arrangement wise, I think it's awesome, but I cannot stand the vocals in that song. While the BiS cover wasn't my favorite cover of theirs, I still liked it much better than the original version. Why? Because the members of BiS didn't sing DenDen Passion like they'd inhaled a tank full of helium. I don't know how much of the vocals in Dempagumi.inc are faked to fit in with the denpa-style music (which utilizes off-key vocals like Tsunku utilizes brass). There's at least one member of the group that has a decent voice, but it's overshadowed by the shrieky vocals of everyone else. That girl with the brown hair has an especially horrid voice. She's adorable, but every time she sings, I can feel my bones rattling.

It's so frustrating, because I feel like I should like Dempagumi.inc. Every idol blog I read sings high praises of them, and I'm over here scratching my head trying to understand the appeal. I read a glowing review of their World Wide Dempa album, so I though "Hey, maybe I haven't given Dempagumi.inc a proper chance!" Then I listened to the album and pretty much couldn't stand any of the songs on it save for one or two. And freaking Hyadain produced a few Dempagumi.inc songs; that guy's production is so delightfully crazy. If Hyadain can't get me to like a Dempagumi.inc song, I give up. I give up on trying to like this group. I've come to the acceptance that Dempagumi.inc will just be one of those idol groups that will never appeal to me out of personal taste. How people can enjoy six girls who sound like they're screaming half the time in their songs will be forever a mystery to me. Maybe some people don't mind. But Dempagumi.inc is my breaking point when it comes to off-key vocals. I can take Togawa Jun, Goto Mariko, Oomori Seiko, but not Dempagumi.inc. I wish I could since their songs are fantastic, but I cannot condition my brain to like those squeaky voices.

Especia


Why I Respect Them:

"But Nia!" someone with great memory protests. "You listed Ya・Me・Te! in your top 50 idol songs!" Yes, I did. I still love that song, and I actually have Especia's Gusto album in my song library. I can see why Especia is such a well-liked idol group. Like with Babymetal and Dempagumi.inc, Especia's has a very strong concept. It's very unique. I suppose that's not the best word to describe their concept since so much of Especia's style relies on paying homage to idol groups from the 80s. But that's such a distinct choice, and they stand out in comparison to contemporary idol groups on the market. I'm actually surprised Especia isn't as popular as Babymetal and Dempagumi.inc. Maybe they're slowly getting more popular! I've read glowing reviews of their releases, so I think they have strong potential to be a well-respected but niche-y idol group, kind of like Tokyo Girls' Style. In fact, Especia's sound is very similar to TGS. So they've got that going for themselves, which is nice. I'm a huge fan of Tokyo Girls' Style, so what is the disconnect with Especia? Well...

Why I Just Don't Get Them:

It's not only Especia I don't get. It's vaporwave.

What is vaporwave? It's... a music genre... I know that. I think TV Tropes describes vaporwave best:

"All right, so you know those generic lounge tunes you hear in a dentist's waiting room or when you call an office and they put you on hold? Now imagine that, but slowed down."

There ya go. Real talk though, vaporwave emerged in the early 2010s and garnered more attention online than offline. Main characteristics of vaporwave are the 80s music style and the distinctive aesthetic usually consisting of dated computer models, glitch art, and Greek sculptures. According to Wikipedia, vaporwave is supposed to be this New Wave cyberpunk genre that satirizes consumer culture by ironically imitating it. And apparently it's also kind of dystopian cyberpunk? I love cyberpunk almost as much as I love dieselpunk so I can kind of see why vaporwave got so popular. The genre makes a lot of references to Japanese culture too (i.e. putting Japanese characters on album art) so Especia adopting the vaporwave style of music fits like a Power Glove. That being said, I still don't get the appeal of vaporwave. The themes behind vaporwave sound ridiculously pretentious. And the most of the vaporwave music I've listened to sounds very dull and repetitive. Like the way TV Tropes put it: lounge tunes in the waiting room of the dentist's office.

Like with Babymetal, genre is the main reason why I can't totally get into Especia. That and their music is long. Maybe not impractically long, but with the slow tempos and lounge-y sounds, their music sounds a lot longer than it actually is. Most of their songs are five minutes at the least, with one of the songs off their Gusto album being eight minutes long. Not impossible to listen to, but a challenge to review. I can't review any of their stuff, because it all sounds the same to me. Music has to hold my attention, and while I've tried really hard to get into Especia, their music simply fails to do that. Every time I listen to Especia, their music sort of fades to the back of my mind, like background music. I think Especia is more for people who grew up in the 1980s, the decade they base their entire concept around. I wasn't even alive during the 80s, so I don't have the life experience to get that generational appeal. Aesthetically, I do think Especia's a cool group, but I lack the nostalgia needed to really enjoy this group. Make an idol group based around the early 2000s, then I might have something to go on.

2 comments:

  1. uhh, dislikes babymetal because they get highlight tht BiS doesnt??
    fking bias idiot

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    Replies
    1. And also because I don't like metal? Or the impact that Babymetal left on other idol groups? And many other reasons that don't boil down to "BiS wasn't as popular and I think that's unfair!!!"

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