When I started dabbling in Asian-American
campus politics at UF
, I started learning all these fancy new words like "exotification
," which refers to the phenomenon where ethnically Asian people are perceived as exotic even if they have no connection at all to their ancestors' cultures. The "exotification" defense is often abused, in my opinion, but I recently discovered one instance where it shines through the clouds like an air blast.
I refer to Utada Hikaru's first potential U.S. hit single, "Easy Breezy."
When I noded Utada a couple of years ago, I was a huge fan. She was cute, she had a great voice, she had good producers and (usually) a good supporting band, and she made awesome albums (Distance foremost among them). She was the biggest musical commodity in Japan, and rightfully so.
Then, she returned to New York City where she had grown up, attended and dropped out of Columbia University, got married, disappeared for a while, and then re-emerged with a mediocre album, Deep River. It had some good songs, but it wasn't as inspiring as her older works, and Utada herself was starting to look a bit stranger.
Around that time, Island Records gave Utada a contract. Good times, I thought. She can make it big in the States because she's a good singer and she can write great songs. I was looking forward to her U.S. debut, even if it didn't seem to be forthcoming.
Well, this is it:
I still remember the ways that you touched me
Now I know that I don't mean anything to you
You're easy breezy and I'm Japanese-y
Soon you'll mean exactly nothing to me
My friend sends me the MP3
one day. I listen to it. The above lyrics play. I respond: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?
"Japanese-y?" Is this the best she can do? Unfortunately, it gets no better...
When you whistle you know that you hurt somebody
How do I breathe with all this pressure on me?
You came and went and left my house like I was just passing by
Konnichi wa, sayonara, it was nice to stop by
Would it amuse you if I told you that I...
Now, I'm frankly horrified that Utada would make her Debut to the Western World so tritely-worded. But it gets worse, because:
- Island seemingly didn't give Utada half the recording budget she got under Toshiba/EMI, and the backing tracks therefore sound like the sort of crap I make when I'm bored to raise money for E2.
- In the video, she inexplicably has gigantic eyeglasses and drives a sports car: neither detail is pertinent in any way to the topic of the song, and it just makes her look goofy.
- She still can't dance.
- Her hairstyle looks like one of those crested dinosaurs I used to read about in elementary school (cf. http://www.utada.com)
- The only thing she's marketing herself on is her past success in Japan.
For the foregoing reasons, I am not wagering any of my hard-earned yen
s on an Utada breakthrough in the American market. Unless, of course, kids' taste in music is really as bad as it's purported to be, in which case I gladly welcome our new Japanese overlord.