Perfume has their sights set on America, which is awesome, because that has worked out so well for other Asians who’ve made the attempt.
Oh wait, no, they’ve all flopped harder than if Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dewayne Wade combined to form a flopping All-Star team.
The catalyst for the group’s management company, Amuse, to break Perfume away from previous label Tokuma Japan Communications and sign up with the world’s largest major came last spring, when “Polyrhythm,” the group’s signature single, was used on the soundtrack for the Pixar movie “Cars 2.” The three young women and their staff attended the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles — and were astounded by the reception they received.
“As we were walking the red carpet, some American fans were screaming ‘Perfume! Perfume!’ ” recalls A-chan, with her eyes wide; she speaks the most in interviews and while there’s no officially acknowledged leader, she’s clearly the driving force. “I was like, ‘Why do you even know who we are?!’ One man — a large, older guy — gave me his bandana, which he said he’d worn constantly for eight years, and a DVD he’d made about his undying love for us. We’d never released anything outside of Japan and we were signed to a domestic label, so those fans could only have known us through the Internet.”
1) Holy shit, that dude creeps me the fuck out.
2) It amazes me how ignorant Japanese artists are towards their international fanbase. It’s like their companies purposely keeps them completely unaware of any following outside of Japan.
3) Why does going international have to mean wasting time in America?
Ah yes, God bless the Internet. While preparing for this interview, I sent a message over Twitter to canvass Perfume’s fans for questions. An avalanche of responses came from all over the world — the United States, Europe, Brazil, Indonesia and so on. The Internet has helped spread Perfume’s fragrance far and wide — but the trio themselves say they had no idea of their impact.
It’s as if Japanese companies purposely don’t want to be popular internationally or something. Their draconian regulation and poor marketing acumen make it so that even if fans wanted to love them, they have to put in extra work to do so.
Probably the dumbest thing ever.
The artists themselves are blind, deaf, and dumb to all of this, apparently. Needless to say, it probably works out perfectly for the company.
“I don’t intend to change the essential creative part of Perfume,” he says, noting that although he would like to eventually use overseas producers, he has no intention of sending Nakata packing. “I don’t want them to lose their Japan-ness.”
Consider the Koreans. K-pop as a genre has become a talking point in Japan and in the West, thanks largely to a concerted effort to adapt to target cultures. Working with international producers and singing in Japanese here and English over there, groups such as Kara, Girls’ Generation and Big Bang have managed to integrate and sell records — but does this mean they don’t sound Korean anymore?
A-chan doesn’t think so.
In Japanese, they’re okay, but in English? Absolutely they lose sight of everything they worked to accomplish.
Korean artists coming to America trash everything that made them successful, and then they try to adapt to American trends even more than they already have. The result is try-hard American pop music that quickly becomes a reality check for them because now that they sound exactly like American pop music, and are thus compared on the same scale, the true talent level gets exposed (this is where comparing themselves to America’s best ends up going badly, because they aren’t even the best in Korea/Japan).
All of this worked out so well for BoA, Se7en, Wonder Girls, and Jin Akanishi, so why not Perfume, right? Yeah…
Perhaps the most blatant example of what I’m talking about is Utada Hikaru, who completely imploded her Japanese style and came out with this abortion of a video:
Sweet. Your career just jumped off the Empire State Building.
“The Korean language sounds really cool, and K-pop artists do that thing where they repeat one word over and over, which is really appealing,” she says. “I think the Japanese language has that sort of appeal, too. It has a particular sound, a cuteness and a femininity. So I hope that people can hear us as part of a wider Asian sound.”
I think she just inadvertently trolled K-pop by pointing out that one-word trend.
“I’d love to play a concert overseas,” muses Nocchi, the ice-cool one, who speaks the least during the interview. “I think our music is really cool, but we also take great pride in our live performance, so I’d love people to see our show, and I’d love for us to be able to meet those fans at the concert venue.”
This isn’t just a pipe dream; it’s actually on the cards. After five years of domestic chart domination, in February Perfume finally took its first steps toward going global, signing to Universal Japan and making its 2011 album “JPN” and recent single “Spring of Life” available on the iTunes Store in 50 countries around the world.
An overseas push requires an investment of time and resources — an investment that few Japanese agencies have so far been willing to make. Putting the songs on the global iTunes Store is a step in the right direction, but if it isn’t followed by another step, Perfume’s overseas ramble could be cut short.
I understand the Asian obsession with conquering the American market (“ZOMG WE CONQUERED AMERICAZ”), but I don’t get why they fail to realize that it’s an exercise in futility as things currently stand, and forcing foreign pop music onto Americans isn’t going to do anything to change that.
Perfume don’t need to force themselves on America directly. The road to international relevance for them has already been mapped out by Korean groups, as the way to branch out is through the Internet.
People internationally already know of Perfume, so just think how many more would know if their dumbass company would stop pulling down every performance, audio track, music video, and anything associated with them from YouTube, Dailymotion, and other sites.
With access, a fanbase naturally expands, and yes, that includes America.
To me, the biggest failure of Japanese companies in the marketing of their own groups is the complete rejection of the Internet as a means of cheap international exposure, and until that changes, they’ll continue to stifle the popularity of their own groups and have nobody to blame for it but their own incompetence.