J Rock and The Visual Kei Movement
Music is a funny old thing – when you consider the huge number of countries in the world today and the many, many millions of people who inhabit them, it’s really incredible to try and visualize the spectrum of sounds, influences, and musical characteristics we have at our fingertips to listen to and to explore to our hearts content.
It’s probably fairly safe (no offense intended) to say that most modern “popular” music has a very distinct, recognizable sound that gets rinsed, lathered, and repeated over the airwaves of pretty much every country in the advanced modern world. The music industry has created a formula that generates guaranteed revenue and can be rotated from artist to artist. As a result, you’re probably not going to hear a great deal of variety out there…unless your turn off the radio!
There is an entire musical world out there, free from formulas and conventions. We’re talking jazz, blues, rock – you name it. Every genre has its own superstars who are touring, gigging, and loving life to the max. J rock, which stands for Japanese rock, is one such genre.
Now it’s quite obvious that rock music coming from the land of the rising sun is going to have its own unique flavor. To be fair, this could be said for music coming out of any country, but when you listen closely to widely produced western music, you’ll probably see lots of similarities, but J rock doesn’t inspire comparisons to any of that music. No, this music is Japanese – it sounds Japanese, and it’s just…well…original!
Not only does J rock feature musical scales and ambience that give it a very distinct feel, it also includes the “visual kei” movement which, if we’re going to try and describe it in western terms, is very close in nature to the glam rock movement of the 80’s. Being Japanese though, the attention to detail is way more intense than simply putting on a wig and sporting lycra. The aesthetic element of visual kei is taken very seriously, and the clothing, makeup, and even the symmetry of the face are all taken into consideration when creating the perfect stage outfit. Imagine Kiss but with more emphasis on appearance and even more of a “cult” following.
If you want to hear some great examples of Japanese rock, listen to the album “Dahlia” by X-Japan or “The Blue Hearts” by the band the Blue Hearts. Both provide stellar examples of perhaps the golden era of Japanese rock music. These two bands helped form the movement of not only J rock as a whole, but also the visual kei element, both of which are flourishing to this day. This genre is a unique beast and really warrants your attention if you’re a music lover. Grab some earphones and start exploring!