The Acceptance of J-Pop in Singapore
In 2006, Arashi, one of the best-known J-pop group in Asia held their first concert in Taiwan.
Their popularity in Asia is tremendous. Including Arashi, J-pop groups are popular in East and
Southeast Asian countries. What made J-pop popular in those countries? Singapore, where the
sales of Japanese recordings have increased by more than ten times from 1999 to 2002, shows a
good example.As discussed in the class, „cuteness‟ is an important factor of „Japan‟s Gross
National Cool.‟ For instance, one main reason of the popularity of Hello Kitty in the foreign
countries is its „cuteness.‟ There is a characteristic of cuteness of Hello Kitty. The place where
the eyes and nose are is the same as human babies. When girls see Hello Kitty‟s face, their
mother instinct is stimulated and they cannot help loving it.
This can be applied to J-pop. Taking Arashi as an example, people notice they are not manly.
They sing in a girly voice, and their faces and makeup bear „cuteness.‟ Other singer groups of
Johnny & Associates, Inc consist of many singers who have feminine qualities; KAT-TUN, Hey!
Say! Jump, Kanjani Eight, and NYC boys, for instance. Members of these groups tend to be
very young, and all have sweet voices and cute faces. The average age of the members of NYC
boys is 16. These „cuteness‟ factors seem to stimulate the mother instinct, the same as Hello
Kitty does. Other female singers or singer groups bear „cuteness,‟ too. The singer Ai Otsuka, for
example, sings in a cute voice, and her promotion videos are girly. AKB48, a group consisting of
approximately 48 girls, is popular because they do not look professional and their „look‟ is
accessible to everyone. Indeed, the ideology behind this group could be described as „cute girls
in my neighborhood‟.
What is common between Hello Kitty and J-pop group is that their „cuteness‟ is something that
stimulates people‟s mother instinct. Both Hello Kitty and those idol groups above look innocent
and immature. People feel the need to protect them.
Also, young girls love Hello Kitty because they have a desire to stay immature. So they want to
possess cute things like Hello Kitty. This can be applied to J-pop. By listen to the songs which
bear „cuteness‟, they can feel they are still young, cute and innocent.
As Disney is turning happiness into commodity, many J-pop singers or groups are turning
„cuteness‟ into commodity. People cannot buy „cuteness,‟ but they can buy their CDs and
DVDs, and they consequently buy „cuteness.‟ Also, as mentioned in the class that „people who
have bought Prius cars look earth-friendly,‟ people can show themselves as cute by possessing
cute things. In the same logic, people can show themselves as cute by listening to cute J-pop
songs and sing them at karaoke boxes.
I have considered „cuteness‟ of J-pop so far. However, the popularity of J-pop differs between
Asian countries and America. That seems to be partly because what kind of things consumers
want differs according to their cultures. In general, Asian people tend to like cute things; on the
other hand, American people tend to like cool things rather than cute things. That is probably
one of the reason why J-pop is popular in Asia but not in the United States. However, there are
more reasons why J-pop is popular in Asia. I would like to take Singapore as an example,
because it is one of the biggest J-pop markets in Asia. According to Ng, author of Japanese
Popular Music in Singapore and the Hybridization of Asian Music, the sales of Japanese
recordings have increased by more than ten times from 1999 to 2002 in Singapore. This shows
that J-pop is becoming more and more popular in Singapore.
Chinese Cover Version
A large number of Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) cover versions of J-pop songs made by
Taiwanese and Hong Kong artists also help popularize J-pop in Chinese communities in Asia. It
is cheaper and easier for Taiwanese and Hong Kong artists to buy the copyrights of Japanese
songs than to write their own. Chage & Aska, Nakajima Miyuki and Southern All Stars have
Chinese cover versions.
The mass media and communication industry are the main forces behind the J-pop boom.
Singapore TV began to show more Japanese dramas after 1995. From 1995 to 2001, on average,
more than 10 Japanese dramas were screened on Singapore television a year. Soundtracks of
Japanese drama usually sell well.
Here are other reasons that Ng thinks the reasons Singapore audience tend to enjoy J-pop. First,
they find Japanese icons to appear charming. Second, J-pop provides a viable alternative to
American pop or Chinese pop. J-pop has many varieties, including Euro-beat, R & B, rap, soft
rock, hip-hop, etc. The sound quality is superb and the packaging is attractive. Titles are usually
in English. Third, there are more than 10 thousand Singaporeans learning Japanese.
The recent popularity of J-pop is based on many factors, including history, Japanese drama and
anime, piracy, Chinese cover versions and mass media. I think the biggest factor is „cuteness.‟
Asian people like „cute‟ things and they act like immature cute girls; whereas American people
like „cool‟ things and act in a cool way. Many American musicians regard sex,drug and alcohol
as cool and they use those words in their lyrics very frequently, which is far from „cuteness.‟ So
what Asian and American people pursue in culture seems different. This would be a reason why
American people are not very attracted by Japanese „cute‟ pop musicians, although they have a
high popularity in Asian countries.
Ng, Benjamin Wai-ming.” Japanese Popular Music in Singapore and the Hybridization of Asian
Music.” Asian Music, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Autumn, 2002 -- Winter, 2003), pp. 1-18.JSTOR.Web.23
“Karayukisan no kobeya.” Web. 23 Apr. 2010.<http://www.karayukisan.jp/no9/index.html>
Entry contributed by Sanami Takasaki
1. What is J pop?
2. Why is J-pop not as popular in the United States while it is popular in Asian countries?
3. What are at least 2 examples of j pop in US culture today?
4. Why was J pop widely accepted in Singapore over American Pop culture?(3 reasons)