Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A disgrace to music, sport and integrity...

Perhaps my biggest rant with Japan is the so called music that saturates the media over here. As my fiancee will wearily attest, I like nothing more than complaining about the talentless cardboard cutouts that mime formulaic pop dross whilst pretending to be serious performers.

Unfortunately for me (and my wife to be), one of the worst examples of this kind of music - the shockingly mundane News - are somehow tied in with Japanese Women's Volleyball. I love volleyball. I love watching it, playing it, thinking about it, everything. But I really hate having to put up with News.

I believe that the reason News are the "special guests" of the volleyball team is that their recording company probably owns the station that broadcasts the games, so it's a forced tie-in. So at the start of every game there's the inevitable mimed performance of their below-par latest single, and at every time-out the cameras cut to the stands where two members of the group make superficial comments and try to play up to the audience (only two members, for in an obviously cynical business decision by their company, it's been decided that the two most popular members will do all the talking, and the other six will sit back and not say a word).

Why does this bother me? Well, firstly because I like music that has been created and laboured over by those who perform it. And secondly because the presence of News at an international volleyball tournament, as special guests no less, is an insult to the players and managers, who have sacrificed years of their lives to reach a physical and mental plateau. Theirs is a world of intense training, dedication and responsibility. As for News, they were hand picked with the sole intention of making money from young girls for the fat man upstairs. They don't have to get up at 5am and train all day, all the time being shouted at and driven to the point of exhaustion, ever fearful that they might lose their place in the national team. They don't have to put themselves on the line everytime they are in the public eye. And most importantly, News and the vast majority of the other J pop groups are not performing from within. When they perform, they have no control. They are told what to do and how to do it. The volleyball players have to work as a team and perform as individuals. If you make a mistake, it's your fault. You and your team will suffer. Any possible element of risk with News is removed, as they mime their songs and are given strict instructions on where to stand and exactly what to do.

However, this attempt to eliminate risk has been dealt a blow, as a few days ago two members of News were arrested for being drunk and disorderly in a park, along with the regular volleyball TV reporter. Not surprisingly, there was no mention of this last night when Japan crashed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Olympic champions China. The reporter had been replaced, and the missing two members were hardly missed (they are from the six that never talk).

My chagrin was irreversibly rubbed when one of the Japanese players, Ai Otomo, having made a series of service errors, costing Japan valuable points, was presented as the tragic villainess, and treated to a series of inconsiderate TV interviews and an immediate press conference. Ok, she made some mistakes, but she's doing her best (something that seems to be a national mantra in Japan). Instead of criticizing a young athlete for testing her mettle and feeling the pressure, it would be better to consider the purpose of cut-out pop groups, and what right they have to be given elevated status above the sportsmen and women of Japan.


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