For more photos from Tune in Tokyo, check out Timothy Norris' photo gallery “New Year's Eve 2009 Downtown Crawl.”
New Year's Eve, we made our way to Little Tokyo for Tune in Tokyo's party at Second Street Jazz. Though we were impressed by the mix of club regulars and local party-hoppers and completely taken by some of the cosplay at the event (Shogun Vader, ftw), what made the biggest impression was the mad rush to the dance floor that occurred each and every time a Lady Gaga song made its way from the DJ system through the PA.
In any other situation, this wouldn't seem odd. Lady Gaga is the breakout pop performer of the end of the '00s and the normal reaction to hearing “Bad Romance” these days is to scream, grab a friends hand and run to the floor. But, Tune in Tokyo isn't a typical club and, with its focus on J-pop and J-rock, it's a little odd to see that the biggest songs of the night came from a New Yorker. Or, is it?
“A lot of J-pop and J-rock fans were drawn to Japanese music because they were looking for something provocative, and different,” says Greg Hignight, DJ and founder of Tune in Tokyo. “U.S. mainstream pop has been too safe, for too long, and you can see Lady Gaga challenging that. I believe the same thing makes her appealing to fans of Japanese music.”
For the L.A. scene, Lady Gaga is a cross between the performance style of visual kei, a theatrical form of Japanese rock, and the production style of Japanese pop.
“Lady Gaga bears a lot of similarities to J-Rock, in particular, with her glam visuals, ambiguous sexuality, and dramatics,” says Hignight. “There's also a pervasive, unapologetic pop sensibility in her music, common to what we see from Japan.”
Between the hair bows and Aladdin Sane make-up, it's fitting that Lady Gaga would attract young people who idolize Japanese iconoclasts like Mana, and her slick dance-pop sound easily appeals to fans of J-pop artists like Perfume and Capsule. Yet, she does this without blatantly referencing Tokyo youth culture, as Gwen Stefani did years earlier. What will be interesting, though, is to see if 2010 brings forth any distinct Gaga-influences in J-pop.