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, center) is a great, great guitarist who is perhaps best known for his ten year tenture in Megadeth, playing on albums like Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction.
While in Megadeth, 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 Megadeth, he left the band, looking for something different and saying that Megadeth 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.
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(Top photo: Jim Cooper, Wally Santana, Koji Sasahara, Lionel Cironneau | AP)