Unless you’re Vee, the only reason you write about Ayumi Hamasaki anymore is to cut her down. This isn’t completely unprecedented; disappointment is a naturally occurring phenomenon that strikes about 85% of your favorite recording artists annually. It could be one song, one album, or one entire half of their musical output, but you’ve seen it, you’ve heard it, you’ve felt it. Disappointment is not to be confused with “moved on” or its present tense, “moving on”: the act or process of no longer having emotional investment in a particular recording artist/band. That is, one genuinely no longer cares whether or not the work by a recording artist is “good” as judged by a predisposed expectation based on past work to emotional response ratio.
This is one of your favorite pictures of Ayumi Hamasaki. This is Ayumi Hamasaki almost at the peak of her fame, standing in front of her best-selling singles and albums, the stuff that has become her enduring legacy, the wonderfully damned records that will be used to define every new release since and every old release prior (with the exception of I am…). It is the artist at the top of her career, the defining era she will ride out years and years passed its expiration date until it curdles, the bitterness only as sweet as your enduring faith. She is Empress of Pop. The Product before the products. Confident, assertive, fearless.
Your favorite thing about Ayumi is not what she does, but what she did; not who she has become, but who she was. But your past tense love affairs are as good as your memories, and by any stretch of the imagination, it is always 2003 and the term “idol” still means something important to you, something fundamental. It isn’t nostalgia and it isn’t a form of demented celebration. It is not an indictment against her new marketing tactics, her new albums, or her new haircut. It is OK to like and dislike in the present tense, to no longer love unconditionally, but conflictingly; or to no longer love at all. Rest assured, this does not make you a “hater,” a very lazy word that seeks to end conversation and block rational discussion. As the proverbial reality show contestant is “not here to make friends,” you are not here to “be hatin’.”*
Nicole expressed her own doubts and questioned the shelf life of an artist in her article “Fresh Meat” (a great post which sums up a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately with the release of m.o.v.e.’s new album – remember when they were move?); I think the shelf life of an artist is as long as you personally keep them there. As recorded music replaced the sanctum of social entertainment, music has become a personal, often selfish endeavor, used for one’s own self-satisfaction. This is not changing anytime soon, but you can. You can change or trade opinions, and styles, and baseball cards. So can your favorite artists. And when the time so happens, you will no longer feel personally offended, or even care. And that is OK.
* Unless you are here to “be hatin’,” in which case, you have not properly moved on. Do not pass Go, do not turn to the Internet.
As always, lovely. I loved Nicole’s article, too, and have so, so much to say. Remarkably, it isn’t mostly about J-Pop, though. Ayumi inhabits a bubble that I tend to dissect under a microscope, because her case, especially in the context of the Japanese music machine, is a very complicated one, and one which I can’t really hope to fully understand without some more research under my belt.
Fresh Meat is the order of the day, indeed. I just find it very sad and downright pathetic when music “journalists” live to hash out half-baked assumptions that have been run through the Telephone Game of word on the street by at least ten other hip, “with-it” music journalists instead of actually taking the time to try and appreciate something.
Basically, between working what feels like 8 days a week, I’m trying to figure out a way to effectively shout “OBJECTION!” at the American music criticism community in general. That’s right, America, you’re on notice.
I love Ayu, no matter what. Even if she’s not putting out music that I personally like, I’m not going to just abandon her. She’s an influential artist, and I’m not about to neglect that fact.