Ever wonder how Jrock went from being an underground movement to a rising, cultural explosion?
Have you ever wondered why Jrock has spread in the U.S.? It’s in a different language, for one thing. And before it caught on, Japanese music overall had a bum rap (for sounding like bad ’80s music with squeaky vocals). So why and how is Jrock’s popularity growing?
We’ve got three guesses: 1) Internet. 2) People. 3) The music.
In the beginning, the Internet was the final destination for most Americans looking up Jrock. You could read about artists, download shared songs (hey, let’s be honest), or buy a used album off auctions like eBay. You could join on-line groups devoted to single artists, or forums that talked about Jrock overall.
It was a weird time. For U.S. fans, Jrock’s presence was stronger on-line than in real life. Despite chatting with other fans on-line, most Americans felt solitary about Jrock. It didn’t relate to people in their life or real life in general. To the casual observer, Jrock was totally virtual.
But then, the Internet changed from final destination to journey. Instead of connecting users with dated, intangible information and people, it now offers real deals. You can register for Japanese culture conventions on-line. You can RSVP for a Jrock/Japanese culture meetup (http://www.meetup.com). And on-line stores like CDJapan (http://cdjapan.co.jp) stock fresh CDs in real time, with albums available for pre-order.
What does this have to do with Jrock’s growth in the U.S.? Well, the Internet and its evolution helped legitimize Jrock. As more authentic Jrock goods moved in the hands of real people–thanks to the Internet one way or another–Jrock became a very real thing. (To borrow a Billy Ocean line, it got out of their dreams and into their cars.)
Of course, people made it happen. Like anything trendy, Jrock’s popularity owes itself to word of mouth–and a grassroots movement. Dedicated fans formed underground companies, becoming music distributors. Fan-driven anime conventions welcomed Jrock panels. Computer programmers created up-to-date, comprehensive news sites. American roadies and engineers carted Jrock bands, equipment, and instruments to and from first concerts, with translators in tow. Indie and college radio DJs put Jrock on the air.
These people fueled artists and fans alike–creating fans by making Jrock accessible in the first place. Then, fans grew as the word spread. Pretty simple, isn’t it?
Finally, the biggest reason for Jrock’s surging popularity in the U.S. is–Jrock!
For all those people, Jrock is worth the trouble–worth learning Japanese, traveling to Japan, or enrolling in a study abroad program. It’s worth teaching in Japan, writing a book, or explaining yourself to puzzled friends. It’s worth cranking in the car, worth studying Perl, worth dressing up for–simply put, it’s worth it.
Sure, we could be biased, but Jrock is quality stuff. It fills a void with its dual histories (Japanese = East; rock = West), especially for people needing something to chew on and interpret. If you literally need something to interpret, it’s in Japanese–and when translated, it’s still wonderful, even more fascinating with poetic lyrics and integrity. And between a few hundred bands, there’s such a wide variety of styles and groups to choose from, with something for everyone.
That about sums things up. So if anyone ever asks why Jrock is becoming popular, why does anything become popular? 1) There’s a need. 2) There’s a way. 3) There’s a well-made product.
After brewing on the Internet, following Japanese animation into the U.S., and taking off with its relation to anime, Jrock is starting to enter real American lives. Its own unique qualities–and fans–ensure its impact will last, as it spreads and grows on its own.