Monday, February 21, 2011

Reader's Question: What makes it difficult for Asian musicians to crossover to America?

This is the second part of the previous question of who I think would be successful.

If you haven't noticed, Asian Americans aren't greatly represented in the media, so that already makes it difficult for Asians to make a mark in the entertainment industry, especially without doing any sort of martial arts. Even though the country has a small percentage of Asians, they still need to be represented in all walks of life like any other minority that makes up this vast melting pot.

It was mentioned in a previous post that most Americans aren't willing to open their ears to music that is not English and for those who listen to foreign music, in this case Asian music, majority of it is in the artists' native tongue. Some may throw in bits and pieces of English words or phrases and there are even some groups that sing completely in English. Unfortunately, even if the artist does perform in English, they may not know how to converse with it very well.

With communication, there is also the difference of how musicians carry themselves when interviewed. American musicians know what to give their listeners, because they are American and know what their fans expect, but for Asian musician to be interviewed here is quite difficult. Interviewers want to pry into personal details, joke with them a little (sometimes in a bit of a perverse way), and be casual and loose with them. It's a little more formal and PG when it comes to interviews in Asia. Sometimes it can be a little touchy like KinKi Kids' show and other variety shows that don't take things as seriously, but still maintain some sort of polite manner about themselves.

Now I think it's time to target specific genres to get this next point across, which is appearance. As much as I wanted to mention wonderful jrock/visual kei bands like Alice Nine., D, and born, I knew realistically they would have tons of problems crossing over with both language and appearance.

Unfortunately, parts of the world are built on superficial standards and, in this case, the U.S. and Japan have different physical criteria for our rockers. Sure, we're not a stranger to men wearing make up from the extreme like the legendary KISS to a little less like Black Veil Brides to the bare minimum with just eyeliner like Green Day, but these men with make up still maintain themselves as manly men. In the world of visual kei, it varies from artistic to androgynous. So, some of the musicians sacrifice their masculinity to an extent to portray a certain persona of themselves like Yuuki (Lycaon), Rame (Vidoll), and Kyo (Dir en grey). Sadly, some Americans associate this gender bending trend with homosexuality and drag, but it's far from it. This theory is hard to explain to those who don't understand Japanese culture and their assumptions are immediately made when someone sees a male musician rocking out in feminine or flashy attire, especially if fanservice is involved.

Androgyny is also an unfortunate factor for our pretty boys of pop from Japan and Korea. Fans enjoy cuteness, playful flirting between group members, and occasional dress up of jpop idols like the Johnny's boys and sometimes kpop idols. They are used to the ideas of yaoi and their fans welcome that sort of "fantasy" interaction like jrock. But, of course, in America, our male pop artists have to maintain a clean cut image, but still give us a strong masculine vibe that fans learn to crave. In Japan and Korea, they also have to primp themselves, but have more of boyish and somewhat manly quality about themselves. In some ways maybe a cute, young face and a manly built. Crazy thing is that these countries demand more talent from these pop idols compared to America. They must train rigorously with vocals and choreography, sometimes at a young age. A lot of them dabble in acting and/or modelling. As for America, dancing is a plus to the entertainment value, especially in live performances, and give an advantage to pop stars and groups. They mainly focus on selling their music and getting endorsement deals instead of a side acting career.

What this all boils down to is us, the listeners, being open minded to new ideas and sounds. If we can accept different sounds and appearances within ourselves (i.e. Madonna and Marilyn Manson), then we can do the same for other performers from around the world. Music is always evolving and being introduced to new sounds and sights from other countries can benefit us all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think part of it is also Asians and Asian-Americans not really spreading the word. The music and TV shows are things we tend to keep in our own circles. Some of my friends and family members would find it so odd that a non-Asian friend would watch doramas and listening to Asian music (I've had a relatives ask, "Does she want to be Asian?" before).

The language barrier is a big issue. Even if a star knows English, like Rain, people end up focusing on his accent.