Just came back from a dinner with the extended family. Aside from finding out that one of my aunts was a (dare I say it) otaku who preaches to her daughters the wonders of Takahasi Rumiko (respectable move, by the way), her daughters also happen to watch K-On!!, which led me to run yet another marathon of that crack. Since my mind works in various ways I don’t even understand when at night, I wondered : “How does K-On portray ‘good music’?” Since everyone seems to love the HTT in K-On!, I figured that what K-On portrays mostly would be how it defines good music – by vocals, lyrics, titles, instruments, and fans.
It’s a common topic. Usually whenever a new K-On OP comes out, there’s hordes of internet denizens out there who decry its (usual) high pitched squeaks, as well as its overall feel, with some vehemently proclaiming their hate for the opening songs.While I do admit that Toyosaki Aki’s voice range is way too moe compared to the stronger voice of Yoko Hikasa, I don’t hate the songs itself. In fact, as proud of my status as a social outcast as I could be, I probably listen to the OPs every damn day. Speaking of the argument over the opening theme, what exactly is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music, anyway? How do you even define a song as being good or bad? Genre preference aside of course. (I can’t expect someone who loves rock music to suddenly like jazz, can I?)
First up, vocals. Vocals are of course, essential to most, if not all singles out there. From Adam Lambert’s giant vocal range to Maximum The Hormone’s screaming and shouting, vocals usually end up defining the song, if not the band or artist the song is played by. Thus , it would be justified to think that vocals are in fact, what makes a song good or bad. Good vocals = good band, if the equation stands. However, I don’t think it works that way. Vocals are after all, good or bad based on whether one likes it or not. There’s no rule to define whether someone truly sings badly, or whether someone’s singing is indeed good. Neither does this make the artist any more better or worse. Furthermore, using vocals to judge the worth of a song is an incredibly short-sighted measure. What about acoustic songs? What about those songs without lyrics? Or what about those with lyrics, but not sang as a song, but instead as background accompaniment? For instance, Starfucker (Yes, that is their name) released several songs without lyrics, one of which included Laadeedaa, which I like. It has no lyrics at all. So is it good or bad? We can’t tell if we use vocals as a yardstick.
K-On being an example. HTT is a fictional band, but nevertheless we treat it as an ‘actual one’, for the sake of testing this theory out. With people both liking and hating the OPs, there is one thing which links them together : they watch, and probably like the show (Why else would they listen to the music?) And that’s a wrap. Vocals don’t make good or bad music.
Ahh, lyrics. What does the vocalist deliver? Lyrics. Is it right to use lyrics to tell whether a song is good or bad? Aside from the fact that several songs don’t even have vocals, much less lyrics, lyrics are hard to judge. How do you compare the styling of Eminem to the crooning of Louis Armstrong? You can’t. At most, you can compare lyrics in a particular genre of music, for instance pop.
Even then you can’t compare lyrics to judge whether a song is better or not. One song sings about the horrors of war,while the other is just a nonsensical string of random lyrics. Yet I like the second one better , so does that make the first song any better than the second one? Lyrics may indeed bring that extra ‘oomph’ to the song, but I don’t feel they make much of a difference. I listen to Japanese songs I have no damn idea what the lyrics in them even mean, and I don’t give a damn. For instance, K-On ‘s OPs are full of optimistic, girly lyrics about fun-time , happiness, and everything that goes, but the EDs are often a direct contrast with this. Not to mention that rice-themed song in Episode 20.
Titles. Of course, these are what the listeners will remember the song by. Here comes the next question. How does the title affect the listener’s view on the song? How do you tell whether ‘Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued’ or ‘Whoa’ would be better? Both are the same genre, both performed by boy bands, and both in English and real. Having titles define good music is like having packaging define whatever is inside. But as I’ve learnt from products from China, this is both true and false. Some songs have great titles, and they do well on the charts, while some, well, just don’t really possess this trait.
K-On has all sorts of different titles, which give different feels for each song. I can’t understand the moonrunes , so I only roughly guess what the songs are about from their titles. Fuwa Fuwa Time and Chu Chu Lovely Muni Muni Mura Mura Purin Purin Boron Nururueroero give me different feelings, just so you know.
Instruments are a really stupid way to judge whether a song is good or bad. Now here’s where I move on the point, but hold on for a second. Instruments do not matter as much as the others, since we can have acoustic versions and whatnot, the lyrics and vocalists still stand a large part than instruments. However, instruments create the mood, but even when given that, there isn’t much grounds for comparison. Most bands and artists use guitars, drums and keyboards, and there really isn’t much else. Given that we are comparing bands within certain genres, there really isn’t much to say here. Random Hand plays a mix of hardcore rock with ska , and that doesn’t automatically declare them to be superior or inferior.
So after all this bullshit , what exactly is ‘good music’?
I can’t answer that question. There is , like I have said,no definition which effectively defines good music. However, given all this on what makes a song nowadays, I’m now going to completely scrap that and say that it’s all a matter of opinion and psyche.
Popular songs are characterized by listeners, fanbases and general awareness. Most people hear of these on the radio, through others and whatnot, and end up liking the song, thus calling the song a ‘good song’. In the end, it all boils down to instinct and impressions. Whether you like the song or not – that is what defines a good song. Fuck everything else.
What do you think makes a good song?
(P.S. This was not a thinly-veiled attempt to explain my sudden profound love for K-On.)