Where is the Japanese Wave?

By: Dorothy Finan  

Exemplified by superbrand and boyband BTS, Korean pop music (or K-pop) is continuing to ride the so-called "Korean Wave". American broadcast and digital media platforms are scrambling to fill their screens with the latest polished productions direct from South Korea. K-pop even proudly featured at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. But with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics steadily approaching, where exactly is the "Japanese Wave" of globally popular Japanese music? Iwabuchi (2002) argued that Japanese cultural products such as animation succeeded partly due to their "culturally odorless" nature- they didn't seem "Japanese" to overseas consumers. However, this presentation examines two types of pop performers in Japan and Korea respectively, both known as "idols", to argue that, Japanese popular music's downfall is actually its very 'cultural odor', its overtly branded "Japanese-ness" that relies on the "Weird Japan" brand established by cultural products of decades previous. This presentation follows existing comparisons of J-pop and K-pop (Jung and Hirata, 2012; Lie, 2012) in arguing that the economic trajectories of Japan and Korea, as well as the contrasting structures of each country's music industries are vital to understanding the absence of a "Japanese Wave", but additionally incorporates the examination of media discourses about each country's "brand" to argue that such discourses are an indispensable part of any political economy perspective.

Media Economics, Marketing, Globalization, Popular Culture
Media Business
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dorothy Finan

PhD Student, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

I am a first year PhD student at the University of Sheffield, UK, researching the history and sociocultural context of the portrayal of "adolesence" in Japanese idol pop music. I aim to analyse the production and consumption of popular music, as well as the discourses within the musical "products" themselves to better understand how representations of identity, particularly national and class identity, are reproduced within popular music.