Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reader's Question: Translating Kpop in Japan

This is a reader request that has been brought to my attention. The question is: How do you feel about Korean artists not creating original material for their Japanese debut? I've mostly ignored this issue and tried to pretend Japanese remakes don't exist, but I guess I have to zoom in on the problem to answer this properly.

I'm sure everyone is aware of the hallyu wave in Japan. More and more kpop groups are entering Japan for more global exposure and profit. One problem with this is the lack of original material geared toward their Japanese fans. I don't understand why they're not making new material! It makes them appear lazy, especially rookie groups that are barely established in South Korea.

Not only is the awkwardly Japanese translated songs bothersome, but the translation on their music videos are very weak. I don't know which is worse: when a group dubs over an old video in Japanese or when they dumb down the video for Japanese audiences. Let me pull out some examples for you guys.

I'll start with a group that I like a lot: B2ST/Beast! For their video for "Shock", they basically used the same video they had in Korea and changed the lyrics to Japanese. SNSD's new song "The Boyz" does the same thing as well where they used the same video and change the singing to Japanese. They also did another annoying thing which is reviving an old song from their beginning like SHINee's "Replay". B2ST is better than that, but I honestly think they need to keep working in South Korea before venturing a spot in Japan.

Speaking of SHINee, let's talk about the tragedy that is "Lucifer". Now this song actually made me like the group a little. At least enough to commend them on their sharp choreography and catchiness of the song enough to buy the album. I watched and listened to the song a lot! But when I saw the remake for it, I just shook my head and dismissed it. The lyrics are very awkward and the video isn't anything special. I think they changed the choreography too and those outfits...gah!

T-ara is another group I like. Strangely, the switch from Korean to Japanese doesn't sound too awkward, but the video switch were not the best choices. The original music video was already cute with a hint of sexy, but translating it for Japanese audience was very dumbed down. It feels like a joke watching them goof around with random toys and lollipops with cat ears when they could've kept the cute and sexy video they had before. Japan can be cute and sexy too and the group wouldn't have to get punished for their racy scenes either!

It saddens me to say that Rainbow did alright. Their switch from Korean to Japanese lyrically and visually were passable. Sure, this is just using old material, but that's what the topic is about. They didn't dumb down their video or change their original choreography. They took advantage of the censors by exposing some stomach which they got in trouble for in their homeland.

I'm mostly disappointed that YG Entertainment has fallen victim to this lazy procedure. 2NE1 has recently entered Japan territory and came with no original tracks. Their appearance has become increasingly ridiculous and their music video remakes are a lot weaker than the original like Japan can't handle it. My disappointment lies with their past work with SE7EN and Big Bang. They both started with original material...a whole album even.

DBSK and Rain also have made original material and have been successful in doing so. They didn't dumb their videos down and kept their image consistent between Japan and South Korea. It is possible to do things right and fresh in Japan with success. On a side note, if you're gonna perform live in Japan...learn your lyrics. You don't look good if you're switching from Japanese to Korean (or even English).


Ophelia said...

I think you've answered the question quite well. My own opinion was close to your own, but you exposed me to some extra groups that I hadn't noticed before. It's really sad that they can't do more for themselves.

Anonymous said...

As far as the Bo peep Bo peep video, the reason it was changed has a lot to do with how aidoru are percieved in Japan. You can't hang on a guy like the girl was doing in that video if you're an aidoru. They're supposed to be chaste angels who happen to look really good in bikinis. I don't know enough about Korean pop to comment further. - Maki