Thursday, January 31, 2013

For Mii-chan

Dearest Mii-chan,

They told you that you broke the rules.  There are hundreds upon hundreds of men and finger-wagging mothers who are now making it clear you that you broke the rules.  You yourself feel that you broke the rules so thoroughly that you stripped your outside bare, if only to match your pain inside.

You feel broken.  You feel like you betrayed them.  And that is EXACTLY what they wanted.

You have suffered enough.  You, and Sasshi, and Tomo, and Sayaka, and Yuttan, and so many others before you, have suffered enough.

I am sorry that you are forced to live behind a mask.

I am sorry that you are marketed as a wife for so many who do not truly appreciate who you are.

I am sorry that you are treated like property.

I am sorry that you have no rights.

I am sorry that your existence is treated like a plaything.

I am sorry that it is okay for people to say they support you and then turn around and burn your photos to thunderous applause.

I am sorry that you have been made a slave.

Your life, your spirit, your beauty, your body, your vision, your truth, is worth so much more than the venom of fake fans.

One of my favorite singers here in the states, India.Arie, sang something beautiful:

You are not your hair,
You are not this skin,
You are not their expectations,
You are not your hair,
You are not this skin,
You are a soul that lives within.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Group you need to meet: Silent Siren

(l-r, Ainyan, Hinachuu, Suu, Yukarun)

So, I've figured out my new year blogging resolution: when I find something awesome, I need to post about it right then and NOT HOG IT ALL TO MY BAD SELF!

I was scrolling through the new releases section on CDJapan last year because reasons, and I came across a mini-album release by a group with an interesting name: Silent Siren.  When I looked their newest indie single up on YouTube, I was quite impressed, as I am equally so with their second major release: stella☆.

Silent Siren (SaiSai) is a 4-member girl band.  The two founding members, Suu and Hinachu, are CUTiE magazine models, and they came up with the idea for the band during photoshoots.  Originally, their friends Aina and Yana joined the group, but Yana dropped out in July, after the release of their second indie single, and was replaced by Yukarun.  Yukarun had approximately no keyboard experience beyond school music classes, but has been studying night and day to catch up with the rest of the group.

I'm rather fascinated by Silent Siren.  While they are definitely a legitimate band, they also seem like they could fit in with the idol scene.  In a way, they remind me more of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu than SCANDAL, if only in the sense that they are a group of stylish model girls with tons of charisma, and they have a very wota-friendly (*twitch*) vibe to them.

It is possible in the future, that they could become media/advertisement darlings (also like Kyary, and also Perfume) simply because of their modeling roots.  While the rah-rah-solidarity-fist part of me wants to pooh-pooh that possibility and root for them to become stylish, independent girl power icons, the part of me that wants to bump fists with Taku "Jpop SUCKS" Takahashi thinks it could be great if they became widely known in Japan's consumer culture.

There are two reasons I think consumer media exposure for these girls would be great.  First of all, it would help chip away at the idol group hegemony in popular culture.  Specifically, the more popular ***48 (and a certain ex-48) idols are some of the highest-earning celebrities in Japan, partly because of all their endorsement/CM deals.  But their exposure does not bring attention to innovation in music.  It brings attention to pretty girls, some of whom just so happen to have a modicum of talent.

Which brings me to the second reason I would love to see SaiSai reach SCANDAL levels of popularity: reinforcing women's presence in non-idol music. I love my idols as much as the next person, and there is a lot of real creativity and innovation coming out of the idol world these days in the form of fun themes (e.g. Steamgirls, PASSPO), genre-bending (BABYMETAL, Naaboudoufu@Nana), and aural time-travel (SanMyu, Nogizaka46).  However, we all know the members don't have a hand in the creation of their performance material, and that's not good for establishing an authentic female presence in the music industry.

While I've still not heard word on whether SaiSai writes their own songs, they still formed on their own, play their instruments on their own, and are genuinely, openly invested in what they do. I like to think of SaiSai as being part of a new movement in the music industry.  Thinkers like them, and like BiS, AeLL, SCANDAL, exist†trace, Ono Erena and Ieiri Leo are creating a new niche for female musicians.  Whether they are naturally talented, or just have a really great vision for something they would like to make happen, the fact that they are out and doing it is great for the music industry and for re-inventing female space in Japanese popular culture.

So without further delay, meet the members of Silent Siren:

Yamauchi Aina (Ainyan)

DOB: 7-3-1988
Birthplace: Kanagawa
Harajuku Kawaii Style model
Bass player

Umemura Hinako (Hinachuu)

DOB: 3-13-1991
Birthplace: Tokyo
CUTiE exclusive model
Leader, drummer

Yoshida Sumire (Suu)

DOB: 12-28-1992
Birthplace: Fukushima
CUTiE exclusive model
Vocals, guitar

Kurosaka Yukako (Yukarun)

DOB: 6-6-1989
Birthplace: Saitama
Ray exclusive model

You can also check out their Kawaii Girl Japan interview from last summer here.

CDJapan links (their newest single comes out on 2/20):

Silent Siren

Silent Siren

Check out the PVs for their two major singles and *gasp* THEIR B-SIDES *heart* below.  My personal favorite is the b-side to "stella☆:" "Filter (フィルター)":

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Introducing: SanMyu!

Yaaaaaay!  A new group to follow, you guys!!!

SanMyu is a 9-member group.  The members all got their start on NicoNico Douga, and formed in July of last year after a viewer voting project selected the final members out of 18 candidates.  They made their debut at a charity event for those affected by the Tohoku tsunami.  They are the first idols to debut with the Sun Music Group in 21 years, and the very first idol group.  It is because of this, and the tragic history of the Sun Music idol whose song they are covering, which makes this group one I'm excited to watch.

SanMyu's debut single "Kuchibiru Network," is a cover of 80s idol Okada Yukiko's final single.  Okada was a bright star in her time.  Called "Yukko" by her fans, Okada had a bright smile and an even brighter future (and was also a dead ringer for Tsugunaga Momoko: yeah I know, anachronism and all that jazz).  She was an ambitious girl, and from a very young age, she auditioned for everything she possibly could to kickstart the career she wanted in TV and music.  After winning a talent competition called Star Tanjou!, she debuted in 1983 with the single "First Date."  Her music was well-received by both critics and the general public, and she went on to win several awards and appear in two movies.

"Kuchibiru Network" was released two months before her suicide at age 18 in 1986.

The cause of Okada's suicide is still unknown, but her memory lives on in a very big way.  I think it is quite significant that this group was chosen to cover her last single, and that's why I'm really excited to pay attention to them.  Beyond the history, "Kuchibiru Network" was created by a star-studded pair: "eternal idol" and singer/songwriter Matsuda Seiko, and brilliant neo-geo amazeballs god of all things instrumental Sakamoto Ryuichi, who is known for creating some of the most beautiful and moving pieces of music known to humankind. (Don't believe me?  Go watch Babel or buy the soundtrack, or listen to his album "Chasm."  Most incredible album in the universe.)

These girls were given a huge privilege with their debut, but I think they do quite nicely with it.  Their debut short-version PV was recently released on Pony Canyon's YouTube channel, and the single will drop on 1/23.

CDJapan link: Kuchibiru Network [Regular Edition] / Sanmyu