Thursday, October 25, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 2

Hello everybody! I wanted to post this on the heels of the first episode because it's more along the lines of what I'm hoping the podcast will be. Just me talking about music like the giant nerd I am. From here on I'm aiming for weekly updates.

In this episode I give a quick history of origins of male idol groups in Japan in the 1960s and their evolution in the 1970s with a big focus on Johnny's & Associates.


And I have to apologize for crying at the end. I tried for like 10 minutes to make it through talking about Saijou Hideki without crying and every time as soon as I'd read the one line I'd just start tearing up. I couldn't not talk about Hideki, you know?

Here is the list of songs played:

1. "Happy People" by the Four Leaves

2. "Ringo Oiwake" by Misora Hibari

3. "Boku no Tebukuro Yaburiteru" by the Johnnys

4. "Makkana Jacket" by the Tigers

5. "Hito wa" by the Tigers

6. "Namida no Orufe" by the Four Leaves

7. "Otoko no ko Onna no ko" by Go Hiromi

8. "Honoo" by Saijou Hideki

Recap and review of the Tigers 1st film

Recap and review of the Tigers 2nd film

Recap and review of the Tigers 3rd film

The "Happy People" video has been taken down but here is another of the Four Leaves' Kouhaku Utagasen performances so you can get a taste:

And, a bonus, here's a video of Hideki singing Honoo on TV. He was a truly gifted performer.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Filmi Girl's Idol Cast Episode 1

Hello all,

Please enjoy episode 1 of a new podcast I've been working on. This first episode is an introduction to male idol groups and what makes them different from Western boy bands.

Starting in episode 2 I'll be working through a history of the genre and then I'm hoping to have people on to discuss their favorite groups and maybe do record reviews and that kind of thing.

If you'd like to come on to gush about your favorites, please feel free to get in touch! Just keep in mind this is a fan war neutral zone.

The songs played are:

1. "Married to the Music" by SHINee

2. "WISH" by Arashi

3. "Zutto Love" by A.B.C-Z

4. "2!3!" by BTS

5. "Ai Ga Tomaru Made Wa" by SMAP

6. "Flower Road" by Big Bang

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

BTS Love Yourself Tour: Amsterdam, Netherlands, October 13, 2018.

BTS left America after the overwhelming hysteria of their final concert dates in the major media market of New York City topped with the Citifield show in front of 40,000 and then touched down in London only to find that the hysteria had followed them, much to the bafflement of the Europe.

I followed the hysteria on Twitter and Facebook with a sinking heart as I prepared to leave for Amsterdam myself. Two of their most passionate dancers--Jungkook and Jimin--injured themselves almost immediately upon setting foot in the UK and the voyeuristic photos and videos of Jungkook’s pain and distress during the London shows whipped around the BTS fandom like a brush fire. Jimin sat out of at least one performance schedule entirely, for which I am thankful.

Meanwhile the hashtags and Facebook groups exploded with bickering. There was the mess made over the fan project where the organizers claimed that the messages from Big Hit had gone into their spam folders and that’s why there would be nothing done for Jimin’s birthday. There was the fight over ARMY camping out in front of the venues despite explicitly being told not to by the event staff culminating in a mini-stampede at 5 in the morning on the day of the show when word spread that the unofficial numbering system they’d been using wouldn’t be honored. Police and an ambulance were called in to deal with the injured.

“We don’t come to concerts to make friends,” said one of the Amsterdam campers.

That’s not exactly the message that BTS puts across in their music and it put a huge cloud over everything.

In the shows I attended in Seoul and Hamilton, women had passed around stickers and treats and had communed over our love of BTS. I spoke in Japanese, English, and broken Korean to BTS fans from all over the world.

In Amsterdam, there was a cultural gap I couldn’t cross. The gap between idol fan and pop music fan.

On October 13, 2018, the same day that I saw BTS perform at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, H.O.T. reunited for their first concert in 17 years at Seoul Olympic Stadium.

(Listen to those women do the fan chants!! Incredible!! I really wish I was there.)

I’d been following along with H.O.T. on Instagram and the atmosphere seemed magical. 40,000 fans filling the stadium with their love and their voices for the idols they’d never forgotten. H.O.T. themselves seemed overwhelmed with the emotion of it all, five men who must have felt like the world had forgotten about them.

But a true idol fan never forgets. The love may lie dormant for a year--or 17--but all it takes is a spark to reignite the flame. And then out come the white balloons and the fan chants.

I couldn’t help but contrast the atmosphere at Ziggo Dome with that of Seoul Olympic Stadium half a world away:

H.O.T. had an idol concert for an idol audience.

BTS had an idol concert for a boy band audience.

There were a small minority of idol fans in attendance and the tension between the two was made explicitly clear when I was tapped on the shoulder during the hype medley--during “FIRE”--and told to sit down. Sit down. DURING “FIRE”?!! I mean, what? (I didn’t sit.)

There were also the stone cold silences during sing along parts and the lack of response from the crowd to moments that should have generated big cheers like Jungkook making a big return with the shoot dance during “So What”. I lost my mind as he hopped down the walkway on one foot--keeping his injured foot elevated--but the wave of cheers I expected, the cheers I heard in Hamilton, weren’t there.

And there there was the lack of Army Bombs in the audience. Neither of the women to either side of me had one and looking around before the concert started I’d say maybe half the crowd had an Army Bomb and was using it. When Taehyung said “I purple you” during the ending ment and all the Army Bombs in the venue turned purple, it should have been magical but the moment passed almost unnoticed.

I say this not to drag Amsterdam--since there were an overwhelming number of non-Dutch people in attendance, myself included--but because I wasn’t expecting it. Maybe I should have.

As BTS has boomed in popularity in markets that are not traditional K-Pop idol group markets, inevitably there will be fans who don’t know that there is a difference between how to act at a K-Pop concert and how to act at a normal boy band or pop music concert. That the light stick isn’t just an expensive souvenir but an integral part of creating atmosphere. That you don’t buy a ticket to sit back and enjoy the performance but to participate in it. That we are building a moment with the other fans, building a moment with the group, a moment in time that is bigger than each of us individually, that we can carry in our memories as one night we shared something special.

There is nothing wrong with attending a pop concert or sitting back and watching a pop concert. I just don’t particularly feel the need to travel halfway around the world to do it. Not like an idol concert.

Again, I’m not saying this to drag Amsterdam or BTS, who put on a great show. There may not have been the warmth and connection with the crowd of other idol shows I’ve been to but BTS are nothing if not professional entertainers and they rolled with the atmosphere, having fun on stage despite the awkward silences.

Jimin had recovered from his muscle strain enough to return to dancing--even if he had to modify his choreography to avoid all the floor moves. And Jungkook, my dear Jungkook, looked smiley and happy despite his injured foot. He sat for the group choreography but he had clearly figured out how to modify the moves so he could join in on his chair and it was beyond cute.

The highlight of the entire evening, though, was Jungkook’s solo song, “Euphoria.” For that alone I’m glad that was in the audience. The choreographed version I’d seen before was beautiful but to hear Jungkook sing the song seated, just him and his voice filling the venue, so in the moment. It was magic.

(Even now I tear up watching it…)

When he takes out his earpiece and just looks so happy to hear everybody singing along… that is what makes an idol concert. That moment felt like home.

I don’t know when I’ll see BTS again. I’m tempted to visit my friend in Hong Kong for the 4 day extravaganza in March but I’m also waiting to see what may be announced for South America, as I have friends there as well. And, of course, I’m almost certainly going to try and make it to Seoul for the final shows of the tour.

I love BTS and talking about BTS but I’m not going to lie, it will be a relief when BTS leaves the English-language media markets--and the markets that the English language media focuses on--and returns to the relative normalcy of the K-pop specialty press and East Asian media coverage. I would rather a million Japanese talk shows where BTS eats unusual foods and plays silly games in broken Japanese than have to deal one more faux-deep interview featuring an English language reporter making the incredible “discovery” that South Korea exists and there are people there who do things like make music in Korean.

There’s a reason I checked out of American (and English language) pop culture years and years ago…

Bye-bye, Amsterdam!! I'll return for a football game or something soon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

G.C.F. in Newark: A Day in the life of Jeon Jungkook

As a long time idol group watcher, I not only love attending idol group concerts and watching idol group concert DVDs but I also love the behind-the-scenes concert films and consider them an essential part of the tour materials. (Again, there is a reason my Japanese vocabulary is so heavy on stagecraft terms. What do you mean “lighting” is not an everyday word?) I love the films where we see the concert grow from the planning stages with setlists on dry erase boards through rehearsal room footage and ending the day it begins. I love the films where we follow the group members as they run around backstage and underneath the arena, shedding costume pieces and being trailed by hair and make-up staff. I love the films where we get talking head interviews with the members in the green room in various states of undress as the director quizzes them on what this tour, like, means, really.

I have seen a lot of these types of behind-the-scenes films and they all have their own special charms.

But until BTS’s Jeon Jungkook uploaded his “G.C.F. in Newark” I had never before seen a behind-the-scenes concert film from a member’s point-of-view.

“G.C.F. in Newark” is a stylized “day in the life,” conveying what it feels like for Jungkook to experience one of these North American concert dates. The 16 minute film was compiled by Jungkook from both video he shot himself during BTS’s stays in Hamilton, Ontario and Newark, New Jersey, as well as concert footage filmed by a staff member. Jungkook chose to use a “VCR” filter to emulate the washed out feel of old magnetic tape, you can almost feel the comforting buzz of tape hiss in the background. It tells us that the film isn’t meant to be a straight documentary, Jungkook is going to try and capture the feel and mood of his day for us.

The first timestamp we see is 3:30 a.m. on 9/29. The camera gives us Jungkook’s point of view from his hotel room bed. He’s presumably just about to fall asleep, perhaps he just came up with the idea for the film and is excited to get a start on it. The room is empty, devoid of personality. Some belongings are thrown around. As Jungkook lays down in bed, the camera flashes to the ceiling and then we cut away.

It’s 11:25 a.m. and Jungkook catches the elevator down to the waiting car with Taehyung.

It’s 12:08 p.m. and Jungkook is making nutella and banana toast at the venue.

It’s 12:17 p.m. and Jungkook is eating breakfast with his sleepy-eyed and bleary bandmates.

It’s 1:27 p.m. and Jungkook is on stage with his bandmates running through some songs to check sound levels.

It’s 1:51 p.m. and Jungkook catches Yoongi over by the coffee machine.

It’s 2:42 p.m. and Jungkook is on stage performing for the few hundred fans who won access to “sound check.” Their screams are like a wall of noise.

It’s 5:34 p.m. and Jungkook is milling around in the green room with his bandmates waiting to go out on stage.

It’s 7:14 p.m. and Jungkook is on stage.

It’s 8:53 p.m. and Jungkook is back in the green room. The concert is over.

It’s 9:25 p.m. and Jungkook is back in the car, heading back to the hotel. The work day is over.

It’s 9:57 p.m. and Jungkook hangs up his track jacket in the closet. The film is over.

What struck me the most about the film was just how much it captured of what Jungkook sees and hears every day when he’s on tour. A brief shot of him playing with the shadows made by the stage lights. The sun through the car window. The endless, nondescript hallways. The familiar clothes and mannerisms of his bandmates. The silence of the early morning breakfast table and the good natured joking that fills the spaces between the members throughout the day.

As the youngest member of BTS, Jungkook has followed behind his hyungs for years and it’s always touching to see how he films them. The two he’s closest in age with--Taehyung and Jimin--also appear to be the two he hangs around with and teases the most. Through Jungkook’s lens we see the same quiet Jimin watching Taehyung play video games explode on stage during “Fire”. The same Taehyung who starts the day trying to spread some sunshine to a sleepy bucket-hatted Jungkook is drained and quiet on the return trip back to the hotel, escaping to the relative calm fantasy world of his game.

Dorky Hoseok in his dad hat becomes J-Hope in leather pants and returns to being Hoseok.

RM appears in the background, busy with some other work and enjoying himself on stage.

Yoongi is only seen in the green room; Jungkook affectionately catching his vocal mannerisms and smiles and saving them for us.

Jin flits in and out. Playful when the camera catches him.

And at the heart of everything is Jungkook himself. This is what he wants to show us. The beauty of his friends and of the things he sees everyday. The quiet of his life contrasted with the wall of noise during the brief moments where he meets the fans. The rush of performing and the emptiness it can leave behind. The way the stage lights shine so brightly in the dark.

Again, as a long time idol group watcher, I found Jungkook’s choice of footage of the fans really interesting. It reminded me a little of the Tigers’ film Hi London (which I wrote about here). The wall of indistinguishable faces and noise. What are they connecting with? Are they connecting? Can they even hear Jungkook? Are they listening?

Earlier this year I attended 5 A.B.C-Z concerts in Japan. I have been attending A.B.C-Z concerts for years and (because I’m a foreigner and I’m quite tall) the members occasionally pick me out of the crowd and wave hello. Their audiences are small enough that they must be full of familiar faces for A.B.C-Z.

BTS is on a whole different level. I did catch RM’s eye at the Sunday show in Hamilton and got a smile for the goofy dance I was doing to “Anpanman” but it’s not the same thing at all. If BTS did once have that intimacy with their audiences in Korea--and perhaps they still do--it was completely missing from “G.F.C. in Newark.” And maybe that’s one reason Jungkook wanted to put the film out. The language barrier, the culture barrier, he can’t cross them for the fans who attend one concert every 18 months in Newark, New Jersey. Maybe this film is Jungkook reaching out, picking us out of the crowd and waving hello. He sees us. Do we see him?

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