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Old 2014.08.27, 07:03 PM   #1
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Question Japan's Attitude on Ringo, 2014

Back when Ringo was first dabbling in big band and jazz music, you had these kinds of musical subversions: "Rinne Highlight" had lyrics from Susanna Hoffs, "Aisaika no Choushoku" was possibly about the repressed rage of a cheated housewife, and not to mention the tongue-in-cheek broadway versions of "Sid to Hakuchuumu" and "Yattsuke Shigoto". Later, with Heisei Fuuzoku, the ironies and critique became more nuanced, portraying exploited and untrustworthy characters in songs like "Sakuran" and "Karisome Otome". Her works had all the defiance and tragedy that can be found in both Enka and hard rock music then.

Now, her work has been skewed more towards overtly sentimental subject matter, even embracing patriotic themes in songs like NIPPON. This is very different from her "Fuck off, G-men, fuck off, しね" days. Even her orchestral works such as HF and SG were at least somewhat subversive or contained elements of social critique in their lyrical character studies. I was hopeful with the announcement of Gyakuyunyuu that we'd finally hear her sing songs like "Cappuccino" and "Private" in the stripped-down rock styles of years prior in all the glory of Ringo's matured voice. With Gyakuyunyuu, I held my breath for what could have been the quintessential feminist accomplishment of Ringo's entire career: a collection of songs written throughout her whole career as a virtuoso singer-songwriter, encompassing the narratives of her as a young woman, a mother, songs written from male perspectives, songs criticizing traditional mores. Gyakuyunyuu could have exhibited Ringo in all her shape-shifting forms, but instead we got her singing falsetto on bubblegum renditions of teenybopper tracks that were less syruppy ten years ago.

I don't want to be someone who bemoans SR's recent works in terms of it not being "rock" enough... I love her broadway and jazz stuff nearly as much. But even with her previous work, there was some element of tension. Artistic achievement is found in the negotiation of harmonies and dissonances. Ideological and conceptually, SR's recent work is extremely safe in all regards. It's all still amazing in its own way (as far as composition or whatever), even I don't find it intellectually stimulating or satisfying. I was impressed with her recent works for Sayuri Ishikawa and Youko Maki, but not much else. The question I am getting at with all this is: how does the music world of Japan view SR nowadays? I'm interested in perspectives in both mainstream and alternative music outlets here. As a white American male, it's very difficult for me to judge the artistic merit of her work, despite having been a huge fan of hers since 2005. My Japanese is limited, and the perspectives of Japanese people on her work is invaluable to me.
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Old 2014.08.27, 07:16 PM   #2
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I'm also curious about this. The few foreign exchange students I had talked to didn't know who she was. I feel that with Japan's fickle musical tastes Shiina could easily be left behind for the newer younger artists. Though I personally believe she still has a lot of material left in her
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Old 2014.08.27, 08:33 PM   #3
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Gyakuyunyu Kowankyoku sold like 40000 copies, so I guess she still pleases her fans.

No way she is sinking into obscurity as she still gets a lot of exposure thanks to songs like Irohanihoheto and Nippon. My friend who is a big fan of J-drama immediately recognized Irohanihoheto even though he is not a fan of Ringo.

As for the music itself, it is still great pop music. I don't think Japanese music fans would think radically different. Besides, how many people really sink their teeth into analyzing lyrics?
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Old 2014.08.28, 06:11 AM   #4
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So here's what I can say:

Most people in Japan know of her, but they know mostly about Honnou. Iroha is also very recongizable. A lot of people say "Ah... Shiina Ringo huh?" so it's a bit embarassing. I have come across 3 types of people: People who know he primarily from her recent output and describe her as 'shibui' (refined elegance perhaps), people who know he from honnou and thinks she's weird, or people who are fans of her. All the people I have met in person share the same opinion of her as me: her early materials is markedly different from her current output, but her jazzy stuff is just as good if not better. I have met people who are Tokyo Jihen fans more than solo fans, people who like me love KZK the most but still like Jihen.
The funny thing is, everyone EXCEPT Shiina fans seem to like NIPPON, so there's that.

As for mainstream press, she seems more favorable nowadays, but after reading about her mgazine appearences, it seems like Rockon Japan still supports her. They are giving her just as much cover appearences/featuers as when she was a truly "rock" artist.
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Old 2014.08.28, 06:25 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by TurtleFu View Post
So here's what I can say:

Most people in Japan know of her, but they know mostly about Honnou. Iroha is also very recongizable. A lot of people say "Ah... Shiina Ringo huh?" so it's a bit embarassing. I have come across 3 types of people: People who know he primarily from her recent output and describe her as 'shibui' (refined elegance perhaps), people who know he from honnou and thinks she's weird, or people who are fans of her. All the people I have met in person share the same opinion of her as me: her early materials is markedly different from her current output, but her jazzy stuff is just as good if not better. I have met people who are Tokyo Jihen fans more than solo fans, people who like me love KZK the most but still like Jihen.
The funny thing is, everyone EXCEPT Shiina fans seem to like NIPPON, so there's that.

As for mainstream press, she seems more favorable nowadays, but after reading about her mgazine appearences, it seems like Rockon Japan still supports her. They are giving her just as much cover appearences/featuers as when she was a truly "rock" artist.
This is reassuring, and relatively congruent with my own understanding of her... I once brought her up to my Japanese professor in an assignment and maybe mentioned her once in conversation with her, but she didn't even react. She was a big fan of jazz too, Sarah Vaughn in particular. I think Ringo is a lot like Bjork in so far as no matter what she does, the rock scene should always recognize the depth of her work and appreciate her idiosyncrasies.
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Old 2014.08.28, 06:54 AM   #6
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I'll sign off on most people in Japan knowing the song "Honnou". I have an older friend in Japan; she's in her 40's and she knows of Ringo. She likes a few of her songs. She sent me an audio clip once of her sister singing "Honnou" at karaoke.
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Old 2014.08.28, 10:31 AM   #7
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Ah here are a couple other things:
Even for a Japanese person, singing her snogs in Karaoke is incredibly hard, to the point where they don't even use furigana for some of the kanji because the words are so unfamiliar...My friends were very impressed when I did Tsumi to Batsu.
However, she's still considered "popular", nobody was really suprrised when I tld them how hard it was to get tickets to her show. Everyone knows about her, but I have only met a couple of die-hard fans. I met an Asai Kenichi fan her knew of her and had some of her music, a fan of that kawaii-guro style that liked her alongside Goto Mariko/Togawa Jun. One of my really good friends is a big Japanese rock fan, Yura Yura Teikoku, Blankey Jet City, Number Girl, etc. so he of course likes Shiina as well. He saw her Ultra C tour live.
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Old 2014.08.28, 11:54 PM   #8
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I feel like, for at least young people in Japan, they know about her but don't really like..want to talk about her, maybe? While I was in Japan I met a college student who I talked about music with, I told her I liked Shiina Ringo, and her reaction was just something like "uh huh". Like the knew who she was but had nothing to say. It felt like she'd heard of her but didn't really know what was up with her, what she was doing now, or just didn't care It seems like boy bands are the biggest thing right now, people are more concerned with the attractiveness of the singers than about lyrical complexity
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Old 2014.08.29, 08:55 AM   #9
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I honestly don't see Ringo as any different from some random artist in America. Some people like her, some people know of her but don't listen to her, or some people don't like her at all. She had her hey day and a decent amount of the population knows about her as a result. She's not hugely popular as some high-selling pop artists, but she has her casual and die-hard fans. You can tell just by watching any of her live shows that her fan base varies a lot. You'll see older and younger generations, both male and female.
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Old 2014.08.29, 02:13 PM   #10
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No way mate, Shiina Ringo is a household name much like Ayumi Hamasaki and Utada Hikaru. Unless by "some random artist" you mean big names like Rihanna, Bruno Mars or Radiohead.
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