Time To Rock Your Balls Off

Time To Rock Your Balls Off

Japanese pop, rather Jpop, is pigeonholed as cute, ear saccharine. That might not exactly be fair. But there’s no arguing, sometimes Jpop needs more guitars. More awesome hair. Sometimes it needs more metal.

Sometimes Jpop needs more Marty Friedman. Marty Friedman (above, centre) is a great, great guitarist who is perhaps best known for his ten year tenture in Megadeath, playing on albums like Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction.

While in Megadeath, Friedman toured Japan throughout the 1990s and fell in love with the pop of the era, namely Namie Amuro and Ayumi Hamasaki. “In Jpop, there’s a lot of hetauma,” Friedman said in a TV interview back in 2010. “I love hetauma.” Hetauma means that something might look crude or poor at first glance, but it is actually much deeper.

Friedman became so entranced with Jpop that 90 percent of the music he was listening to was Japanese pop. After ten years in Megadeath, he left the band, looking for something different and saying that Megadeath did one type of sound (and did it well), but it was like eating sushi everyday. That something different was Japan (where he really could eat sushi everyday).

In 2003, Friedman moved to Shinjuku, where he’s resided since. He’s collaborated with some of the country’s biggest popstars, such as Pokémon queen Shoko Nakagawa. While in Tokyo, he’s also contributed songs to Japanese games such Konami’s Guitar Freaks and DrumMania games as well as a (shitty) Sonic game–Friedman’s work was top flight.

Next month, as website Anime News Network pointed out, Friedman is releasing his second Tokyo Jukebox album, which features his guitar arrangements of Jpop tunes like AKB48’s Aitakatta (sample here) and Toire no Kamisama (sample here). Note: Toire no Kamisama isn’t traditional sugary girl group Jpop, and follows in tradition of the talented female Japanese singer songwriters of the early 1970s. Friedman’s first Tokyo Jukebox featured his take on SMAP, among other Japanese artists.

Friedman isn’t the first Western rocker to record his versions of Japanese pop. In 2009, Andrew W.K. released a Gundam Rock album (sample here ), which is all kinds of badass.

Marty Friedman’s Tokyo Jukebox 2 will be released on September 14 in Japan, just in time for the Tokyo Game Show. Check it out.

Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome–game related and beyond.
(Top photo: Jim Cooper, Wally Santana, Koji Sasahara, Lionel Cironneau | AP)


  • I don’t really listen to Jpop, but from what I’ve heard, I don’t really agree with the whole ‘actually deeper than it sounds’ thing. If its anything like Kpop…. *shudder*

    • Nope, vastly different! Go check out L’Arc~en~Ciel for a straight pop-rock feel, UVERworld for something a bit rock-hiphop, or The Back Horn for something a good deal harder and heavier than L’Arc.

    • Don’t worry, its the guitarist from megadeth, at worst it’ll be like having your balls rubbed gently with gravel

  • You guys need to listen to more of the following Japanese bands: Boris, The Boredoms, Melt Banana, Yura Yura Teikoku, Vampillia, King Brothers, Acid Mothers Temple, etc, for a truly mind blowing Japanese noise rock extravaganza.

  • After living in Japan for six months, i’m so fucking sick of J-pop. It’s really, really terrible music. The videos are overly cute to the point where it’s sickening, and the Engrish is so bad I want to vomit.

    K-pop has merit, because at it’s core there is some good music. Plus the artists are, you know, sexy, because they aren’t acting like 14 year olds.

  • OH! And Yellow Magic Orchestra. Click on my name and I’ve recently made a post on my blog that features a YMO film clip. These guys probably had more influence on Japanese video game music of the 80s and 90s than anyone else.

  • You guys should check out a band called Toe. It’s not J-pop but its the best Japanese band I’ve ever heard.

  • I couldn’t get through the article without cringing at every mention of “MegaDeath”. It’s MegaDeth, without the second A. Just a hint.

    And my experience with J-Pop is limited to themes from a few video games and anime series… The first time I listened to A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (From Neon Genesis Evangelion) I pissed myself laughing. Probably sums up my experiences with J-Pop.

    • I stopped reading at the second “Megadeath”. One can be excused as a typo, two or more is inexcusable and shows he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Funny how Megadeath just looks and reads plain wrong. No wonder Dave Mustaine decided to drop the A, MEGADETH sounds so much more metal.

    You’d better fix the typos in the article before Mustaine shows up to kick your ass all the way to heaven (he’s a reformed Christian these days). Trust me, you don’t want that, he can be scarier than Jim Wallace.

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