Hey, J-Pop Fans, Are You Gonna Destroy Western Culture?
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and her translator onstage in Islington, London.
Everyone's working themselves to death and no one can stop taking photos. All your kids heroes' are karaoke singers and all your heroes touch kids. Psy's getting mobbed on Crossrail and Bowie's just released his own pre-emptive eulogy. We've had a decade of foreign war, triple-dip recessions, the Big Tasty, thigh gaps, we don't and can't make anything for ourselves any more and all our fish are cashing in their chips. Woolworths is still here but the site has no store finder, the Asian-Pacific has more millionaires than America and the drones are on their way. TV's getting crueller and people wank ceaselessly.
Experts are saying the West is dead. The 21st century is the Asian Century, so you best learn how to use chopsticks and sleep in capsule hotels or run the risk of getting culturally, economically and politically blindsided, you complacent Western prick.
But is it, though? Is it really? It was playing on my mind a bit the other night, so I decided to ask some kids queuing outside a J-Pop gig in Islington if the next 87 years or so belong to people who can pronounce the word "szechuan".
Alexander and Gin
VICE: Why do you prefer J-Pop to Western music?
Gin: it’s just a massive cultural difference. All Western songs are really serious. They're always love songs and break-up songs and then the urban songs that are really aggressive.
The century ahead is being hailed as the Asian Century. Do you think that's true?
Gin: I think Eastern culture has a much stronger identity than Western culture, mainly because people in the East are a lot more proud of their culture. And heritage, too. They have a lot to show for it.
Do you think culture in the West will eventually die out and be replaced by Eastern culture?
Alex: Probably. I mean you’ve already got people like Kyary Pamyu coming here and loads of people are going to see her.
Yeah, the Islington Academy looks rammed tonight.
Alexander and Jessica
Do you think that we’re on the cusp of the Asian Century?
Alexander: I don’t know really. I haven’t heard of that!
It’s the idea that Asian countries will become the dominant global power; politically, economically and culturally.
Jessica: I can see things here getting more Korean, definitely.
Alexander: A lot of visual kei artists are coming over here. So I hope so.
Are you nervous about North Korea?
No. Not really. I’ve been to North Korea. I went to Pyongyang.
Did get a chance to sample its live music circuit?
They've got their own version of K-Pop, but they’re way behind. They’re really traditional as well. The clothes and the fashion are all a bit boring. I had to cover up from head to toe when I was there.
They sound like a bunch of killjoys. So that’d be a part of Eastern culture you wouldn’t want to import?
No, not at all.
Do you think 50 years from now everyone in London will dress like J-Pop fans?
Alexander: I’m ever hopeful.
Lucy and Bryony
The century ahead is being referred to as the Asian Century. Do you think Eastern culture will consign Western culture to history's scrapheap?
Bryony: I think K-Pop is definitely taking over. You can see J-Pop’s bubbling up, too.
Is that something you want to happen? For Western pop music to die and be replaced?
Lucy: Yes, I’d like to see more Japanese artists and clothing brands all over the place. It’d brighten the place up.
But does it really need brightening up? What is that you hate so much about Western culture?
Bryony: One thing that annoys me is the way female artists are sort of... sexified. It’s all about the body, even if they’ve got a beautiful voice it doesn’t matter. You don’t see that so much in J-Pop. It’s all about fun and the music.
Would you start listening to Rihanna if she went through a Lolita phase?
Lucy: I think she’d look great in Lolita, I just can’t imagine it.
Do you worry about North Korea?
Bryony: I'm worried in a I’m-going-to-push-it-to-the-back-of-my-brain-and-not-think-about-it kind of way.
Do you think if we adopted the Japanese work culture we could karoshi ourselves out of recession?
Lucy: I read somewhere that people in Tokyo work an average of 60 hours a week. I don’t see the point of it, really. I think we need more jobs rather than jobs with ridiculous hours.
Sarah, Heather and Nicole
Give it to me straight: Do you think this century will be known to future civilisations as the Asian Century?
Sarah: Yeah, I think so. There are lots of them and I think people are a bit bored with the West.
Would you be happy to see Eastern culture stage a coup on Western culture?
Nicole: Yeah, I’d like it. As long as it’s not the wrong people that get into it. As long as chavs aren’t into it.
Jasmine and Jennifer
Western culture out, Eastern culture in – yes?
Jennifer: Yeah, I mean Psy got to number one here and everyone knows he's amazing.
Do you think that Psy is the first cultural icon of the Asian Century?
Jasmine: Yes, definitely. The thing people don't realise about Psy is his music isn’t even that Eastern. It’s more of a Western sound but he’s definitely paving the way for other Eastern bands.
Would you describe him as a media-friendly Kim Jong-un?
No! Definitely not! He’s from the other Korea and he doesn’t have nuclear weapons.
Are you worried about North Korea, then?
The tests are getting closer to South Korea, which is pretty bad. I’m slightly worried.
Do you think they’d be more approachable on the world's diplomatic stage if they produced the next Psy?
No, I think they’d be more approachable if they had freedom.
Jamie, Connor and Sarah
My dudes, apparently the East isn't just rattling its sabres at the West. Apparently it's coming. We're talking globo-culture coup d'etat. You down?
What is that you hate so much about Western culture? Rock and roll? Skateboards? Cheeseburgers?
Sarah: I think in Japan they have different ideas about what’s cool and stuff. This kind of music is really sweet. The costumes are really cute.
Jamie: I think that Western music is very commercial and it’s not really about music. Japanese music is very melodical. It’s still very much about raw talent.
Yeah, just like The Daintees or Lead Belly. Are you looking forward to growing up in the Asian Century?
Sarah: I think so, I’ve been into Japanese culture for a very long time. I’ve seen it grow. I’ve seen people getting into Harijuku fashion and people getting into J-Pop.
Do you think that 50 years from now everyone will dress like you guys?
Connor: I hope so.
What about North Korea, the elephant in the room, how worried are you about them?
Sarah: I think their bark is worse than their bite.
Well I hope for all our sake's you're right.
Follow Matthew on Twitter:@matthewfrancey
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