If 33 1/3 Did Jpop and Kpop…
… What album would you want to read about? Or for that matter, what album would you want to write about?
For those who don’t know, each volume in the 33 1/3 series of books has an author write about one album in whatever way they wish. More often than not it’s a critical history of how the album was composed, but there’s also fiction and essays of a more wide-ranging manner. I’ve only read maybe a dozen of them, but among my personal favorites are Nicholas Rombes on the first Ramones album, Christopher R Weingarten’s majestically historical take on Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, and Nick Attfeld’s wryly appreciative take on Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me.
If there’s any book I’d recommend without hesitation, though, it’d be Carl Wilson’s Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste. Instead of being a traditional appreciation of the artist and her work, Wilson tackles the issue of why he hates Celine Dion so much. It’s a great introduction to Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and how that ties into the way we think of music. Anyone who wants to write seriously about music – including Jpop and Kpop – would benefit greatly from considering the issues Wilson raises, and can certainly learn a great deal about music writing from Wilson’s effortless prose.
Anyway, the 33 1/3 people just closed a round of open proposals for new books and shared the list of what was suggested to them. It’s an interesting list, and there’s some albums there that I’d love to see get the 33 1/3 treatment – those by X, particularly, and Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers. And of course, there’s albums not listed that I think deserve book length scrutiny, such as Pussy Galore’s Dial ‘M’ For Motherfucker and Sunn O)))’s 00 Void. But one of the welcome surprises was seeing that among the proposals was one for a Jpop album and one for Cpop. The Jpop album is Hamasaki Ayumi’s I Am… and the Cpop is Faye Wong’s Anxiety.
I don’t know what the chances are of either of these proposals making it to print – though really, I’d think an album from Big Bang or 2NE1 or even SNSD would stand a better chance, given the current global domination of the hallyu. But in personal conversations I’ve often used 33 1/3 as an example of the level of writing I’d love to see Jpop and Kpop get from writers, and I’ve even blue-skied with friends about what Japanese albums would make great 33 1/3 books. Seeing Ayu’s album mixed in with Fugazi and U2 and Neil Young (how come nobody wanted to write about Trans or Arc, by the way?) has me daydreaming of possibilities again.
So here’s my short list of what Jpop and Kpop 33 1/3′s I’d want to read about…
SweetS’ eponymous debut EP. It’s become the most important album in my life, the music is beautiful, the themes provocative – and if I was writing it, I’d examine all the PVs as well. But as an album, I think it bears study on its own terms, especially with the way it plays with the notions of lolicon in such an aggressively postmodern manner… and with such an obvious candy-flavored motif.
Morning Musume’s Ikimasshoi!. I know Third Love Paradise was when the group exploded into superstars, but I think it’d be interesting to see how they reacted in the wake of that sudden stunning success and what the introduction of fourth and fifth gens did for the group. And yeah, a part of me would also want to see if somebody can detect the seeds of the group’s decline in this album as well…
Bennie K’s Japana-rhythm. It feels like a magnificent concept album and has a cohesiveness that leaves me breathless still. I’d love a straightforward historical take on how it was composed and recorded.
Amuro Namie’s PLAY. This cemented her comeback as an artist and, like Japana-rhtyhm, strikes me as a flawless album whose history I’d want to read about.
I’m still new enough to Kpop not to have any particular favorites I’d desperately want to see handled as a 33 1/3. That said, books about After School’s Virgin and Brown Eyed Girls’ Sound G. would certainly catch my attention.
So now I’ll again ask you, IM readers: what Jpop or Kpop albums would you want to see get a 33 1/3-styled treatment, and why?