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An American Teen Discovers Japanese Pop

An American teen discovers Japanese pop music in her year in Japan.

Being knowledgeable about pop music -- the creators of it and their musical creations alike -- is one way to maintain popularity among friends. That's especially important for someone in his/her mid-teens like myself. Nevertheless, that is only half of why I love popular music, and more recently Japanese popular music.

I have loved music right from the moment I discovered it. That was when I was just eleven years old, living in America (where I was born and raised by parents who are originally from Taiwan). My favorite singer then was Mariah Carey, and I still like her today. She has the ability to reach out to different people of different ages with her music and maintain her popularity in the music industry.

My love for music soon grew and I developed an affection for all forms of entertainment. I became interested in movies and started watching more TV, paying attention to the actors and actresses. Still, music is my favorite form of entertainment because it is so diverse. I like a variety of musical forms including R & B, rock, hard rock, alternative rock, slow rock, rap, dance and others.

Ever since I became taken over by music and entertainment, I began spending money on anything I could find on my favorite actors and singers. CDs, picture albums, magazines ... you name it. I am still an avid collector of entertainment memorabilia.

When I first found out that my dad would take up a job with the National Institute for Resources and Environment in Tsukuba, Japan, I thought, "No, I don't want to go! I'll miss all of my favorite TV shows and newly released movies, along with all of the great American music here." Still, we had to move.

I was thirteen years old when we moved to Japan and we were there for about a year before returning to America, so I'm fourteen now. During that time, I came to appreciate Japanese music and entertainment. It all began one night when I was watching a TV show.

A few days after we arrived in Narita International Airport, we went to visit the school where I would be enrolled. After that, we went home to enjoy dinner and watch TV. Later, everyone else got tired and went to bed. But I stayed up alone, continuing to watch; Japanese TV was such a new experience for me. Surfing through the channels, I finally came upon something that attracted my attention. As I later found out, the program was called "Yoru no Hit Parade." I don't remember all of the artists that appeared on the show. However, I can recall exactly the song that got me hooked on Japanese music. It was "Stop the Music," originally performed by Amuro Namie. The show features singers who cover other artists' material, so I still had yet to see Amuro Namie. Later, I saw Amuro on TV and became enchanted with her. Before I knew it, Amuro Namie became my favorite singer and she remains so to this day, although I have returned to the United States with my family.

Amuro Namie's (or as her name would be written in the English form, Namie Amuro) music is like most other singers in Japanese pop (JPOP). Her producer, Komuro Tetsuya, is also the producer of other JPOP musicians such as globe, Kahala Tomomi, and Suzuki Ami. He has also produced a track for the soundtrack of America's Speed 2: Cruise Control. So the style is pretty much alike. Most JPOP singers have a Eurodance mixed with Backstreet Boys/N' Sync feel to their music. This, to me, was like getting the best of European and American music.

The longer I stayed in Japan, however, the more I loved the music. Some of my favorite musicians include Max, globe, My Little Lover, Mr. Children, Kinki Kids and many others. Japan's music is different from the alternative rock and heavy metal of the US. I think that if I had to make a choice, I would say that I like Japanese pop music a little more than American music. There is a definitive style that really appeals to me. Their pop is filled with a bit more rhythm and conveys a livelier feeling to the listener. Of course, there are always the sadder songs they sing--like Sarah Mclachlan's songs, you can feel their pain as you listen to the lyrics--for instance, such songs as Utada Hikaru's "First Love." Even if you didn't understand the language, the vibes and feel of the sounds hit your soul.

American singers like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys sing out a mellower tune with less dance to them than JPOP. There's also something about JPOP that makes you feel happy. However, the two music cultures aren't completely different; in both the US and Japan, the teen scene is taking over the industry.

While living in Japan, a Taiwanese friend of mine (also a girl who's around fourteen) told me that Japan's popular music is quite a bit more popular in Taiwan than American music. Taiwanese magazines and newspapers feature articles about Amuro Namie and other Japanese artists--and their CDs sell very well, too.

Not being able to understand Japanese completely made it hard for me at times. I wasn't able to get as much information on Japanese music in English as I would have liked. Fortunately, there is quite a bit of information on the Internet about Japanese pop music, although most of it is in the Japanese language. Some of the English-language sites I like best are PLEASE INSERT URLs

I am really glad I came to Japan and discovered so many stars. My biggest dream would be to meet all of my favorite celebrities. But realistically, that would not be possible. What would make me happy is to meet just two: Mariah Carey and--you guessed it--Amuro Namie.

Lansia Wann is a high school student from Salt Lake City, Utah. She enjoys writing, drawing, chatting, surfing the internet, and most of all, entertainment. Lansia is an ambitious teenager who hopes to someday find a career in the entertainment industry. Her homepage URL is: http://come.to/daphkraw4d.


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