When I first started this blog, I swore to myself that I wouldn't be one of those J-pop blogs that falls off the face of the planet indefinitely...
There are a number of reasons why I stopped writing on this blog. And yes, one of the big ones is that I am very, very busy. I know that's the excuse every blog uses, but it's a perfectly valid excuse. I would love to spend my days waxing poetic about J-pop, but I barely have time to juggle everything else going on in my life. I can't remember the last time I had a free weekend, let alone a free evening.
That makes it sound like I'm old and miserable and drowning in obligations, but that's far from the truth. I'd rather not go into specifics, but I'm very happy with everything I'm doing right now. I'm still writing, even if not on this blog. I wish the Wonderland fit into that equation, but it unfortunately just doesn't.
But being busy isn't the only reason. I didn't want to leave whoever still pops around here hanging forever. If you've stuck around this long, you deserve an explanation. And I need to properly write my swan song.
So buckle up, because we're gonna talk about my feelings. And I have quite a few feelings.
First and foremost: I don't feel as connected to idol music as I did when I was a teenager.
The older I'm getting, the more I'm acutely aware that the idol industry is not marketed towards me. Idols are for middle-aged Japanese men. Wotas. Like let's be real here. Wotas are the demographic that spends the most money on idols, and that bothers me more than it used to. Even back when I was writing, that wota demographic was always the elephant in the room. And I'm not trying to indicate that anyone who falls inside or outside that demographic should be ashamed for following idols. But for me personally, I can't ignore the wota demographic and all the unfortunate implications that come with it.
Like the no dating rule. Back when I was writing on here, that pissed me off, and it still pisses me off. Contractual obligations be damned, that rule needs to die. No person should be expected to put their romantic life on hold at the expense of their career. Clearly the rule doesn't work either because these dating scandals keep happening.
One of the big arguments for the no dating rule (or not really an argument but an opinion) is that wotas expect their idols to stay, "pure." Not pure for themselves, oh no, pure for the very market that takes this weird possession of their entertainment personas. And god forbid an idol do anything, like dating, to break that persona, lest some wota decides to drop all support of her work at best or go to a handshake event and stab her at worst. Am I being too harsh? I'm not trying to take this big social justice stand against a market that's been around since the eighties (and probably earlier), but on a personal level, it bothers me. And this has always been a personal blog.
I guess what bothers me more specifically is I feel like the companies that produce these idol groups actively feed into the creepiness of the wota demographic then act like it's all good, clean fun. Am I making sense? I feel like I'm not. Still, I know how I feel even if I can't quite articulate how. All I can say is there was a point where I looked back at the idol industry and didn't like what I was seeing.
That leads me to another reason I stopped writing on this blog. I don't feel like a credible source to discuss J-pop critically. I feel as an English-speaking American who doesn't know much about Japanese culture, I sometimes came from a more judgmental position than I should have. Maybe everything I just said about wotas and idol management squicking me out is purely because of cultural differences (although I very strongly doubt it).
Furthermore, I don't feel like I can write critically about music. I am very prone to my own opinions, as evidenced by my reviews. If I were to start writing about J-pop again, I'd want to review more the production side of the music. But I don't know enough about music production to do so, and I don't have the commitment to learn. Something else I always struggled with when writing reviews was not being able to understand the lyrics, which is such a huge component of why I enjoy a song. And yes, I could read translations, but like any language, there are concepts that just don't translate linguistically or culturally from Japanese.
Some of my reviews now (like the ones where I talk about Sayashi Riho and especially the Beckii Cruel stuff) also come off as meaner and more immature than when I wrote them. Hell, some of the posts on this blog make me outright cringe. But I'm keeping these posts up. Taking them down wouldn't be fair to you guys.
I don't regret the years I spent writing on the Wonderland. This blog, if anything, shows me how much I've grown as a writer and a critical thinker. Without writing so much on this blog, I probably wouldn't have discovered how much I enjoy writing. I even work now as a writing tutor! Getting older is the only way I've been able to see how much my writing style has evolved, but everyone has a starting point. Some people write about their favorite TV shows; I wrote about my favorite Japanese pop songs. My mixed feeling towards the Japanese music industry and my more harshly worded blog posts aren't a source of embarrassment for me. Everyone grows, and this blog helped me grow.
On a lighter note, my music taste has just gotten a lot broader. I actually listen to some K-pop girl groups! I like Orange Caramel, Red Velvet, and f(x). And a few 9 Muses songs. A lot of the acts I followed on this blog have either gone inactive or lost my interest. But if anyone's wondering what J-pop artists I still listen to...
Artists I'm Still Following
No duh, I'll be following Perfume until they disband. Which I'm starting to worry might be sooner than I expect. The girls (and I guess they're more women than girls at this point...) have been Perfume for fifteen years...
I also didn't like Cosmic Explorer as much as I liked Level3. The moment I saw the tracklist, I feared a JPN album would happen again, and what do you know, I was right. If the rest of the songs on Cosmic Explorer had been as awesome as the title track, I might have liked it more. Cosmic Explorer needed more new material and lacked a cohesive feel. Although I loved the space explorer visuals they used for the tour. Tokyo Girl grew on me, and If You Wanna... ugh. Not their best. I did like Everyday.
And a side note, who cited me on Wikipedia?
Perfume is my ride-or-die artist, but Seiko is undoubtably my favorite J-pop act right now. I liked Tokyo Black Hole but I loved Kitixxxgaia. The sheer rate that Seiko keeps pumping out songs at this level of quality blows my mind.
Tokyo Girls' Style
I'm not following TGS quite as hard as I used to, and I am sad that Konishi Ayano's no longer a member of the group. But I've loved seeing them grow out of their idol roots, and I hope they continue releasing music. They're a neat little group, and they never got the recognition I thought they deserved. So be it.
She released an album! Togawa Jun might be one of my favorite performers of all time. I love her singing, her mannerisms, her vocal style, if I could become a singer, I'd take a lot of cues from Togawa Jun. She could release an album of frog impressions, and I would eat it up.
I'm still more into her old stuff than new i.e. Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana is one of my favorite albums of all time. But I enjoyed her most recent cover album and loved her duet with Utada Hikaru on Fantome. Speaking of, I almost put Utada on this list, but I'm only just starting to get into her. I really enjoyed Fantome.
Suiyoubi no Campanella
Their latest album Superman is super freaking good.
I almost didn't put them on here, but I liked their latest single. Mabataki Shinai Doll no You Na Watashi is also one of my favorite songs ever. (not) Nuclear Love (or affection) is also a popping mini-album, and you should give it a listen if you've got a sec. Having their stuff on Spotify also helps. I'm so happy some Japanese labels are getting on the international accessibility train! Now if only Shiina Ringo can get on board...
A lot of the J-pop artists I still listen to have gone inactive such as Curumi Chronicle, MEG, and Immi. And every now and then I find one cool song by a random artist (like this song). When J-pop is good, it's super freaking good. So even if I'm no longer blogging about it, I can guarantee I'm still listening.
Artists that Have Lost My Interest
I'm just lumping all the groups in H!P together. I don't recognize most of the performers in H!P now. Morning Musume, I recognize like 3 people. And C-ute and by extension Buono! are gone. I wish all the best to the new groups, but I don't have it in me to keep up with them.
Again, lumping all the groups together because there are even more of them now? When did that happen? And now there are more Nogizaka46 style groups? And they're more popular than the older groups? At this rate, there are actually going to be forty-eight 48 groups. The thing I said about not recognizing anyone in H!P applies times ten.
But!!! I liked High Tension! Not enough to get me back into the group, but it's a fun song.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
I'd say there was a final nail in the coffin for Kyary, but there are like ten nails and all them have to do with her music.
And Natsume Mito? Heard one song. Not interested. Next.
I just didn't expect them to come back? Now they're back, and I've been too lazy to see what the hell they're up to. Even then, the only original member left is Pour Lui. And I heard she got suspended due to a very dumb but infuriating scandal that will make me go on a rant about unrealistic body standards if I get into it.
Momoiro Clover Z
Apparently they're still together? I'm too old for this.
There are just better rock acts with hipster aesthetics I can listen to.
Wherever my life takes me, I'll bring J-pop with me. If I hadn't listened to J-pop so intently, my music taste would be vastly different. I probably wouldn't be anywhere near into techno as I am without Perfume! I still listen to my favorite songs, and I still feel that surge of joy I felt when I was a teenager. I don't feel like the person I was when I wrote on this blog, but I do feel a nostalgia for it.
Thank you to everyone who followed the Wonderland when it was active and the confused readers who stumbled in after I'd stopped writing. I wish you all the best.