Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

This is something I’ve always been kind of curious about. Dozens of j-pop and j-rock stars are catapulted into successful careers because of songs they provided for various anime (as well as video games and live-action adaptations for anime). Gundam SEED propelled Nami Tamaki into international stardom, and she was one of the first Japanese artists to attend a convention in the US, along with T.M. Revolution, at the Pacific Media Expo in 2004. Similarly, SEED Destiny debuted Hitomi Takahashi. Fullmetal Alchemist certainly did not hurt Nana Kitade, and NANA pushed Mika Nakashima to the top of the Oricon charts along with Yuna Ito. Even well established artists benefit greatly from contributing to anime. I’m sure many people went and looked up Nightmare and Maximum the Hormone for the first time after their respective stints for Death Note, and artists like L’Arc~en~Ciel continue headline anime theme songs even after being around for more than fifteen years.

It’s obviously a mutually beneficial relationship. An opening theme by a popular artist can draw people in that might not otherwise be interested, as loosely related as the themes sometimes are. Honestly, despite being a Gundam fan, I was initially drawn to Gundam 00 because L’Arc~en~Ciel’s single for it, “daybreak’s bell” is absolutely gorgeous. And SOUL EATER drew me in from the very beginning thanks in part to the sheer awesomeness of it’s opening theme, “resonance,” by T.M. Revolution. In turn, flocks of loving fans pick up the corresponding singles, often rushing them to the top of various charts. As well, many people are introduced to artists for the first time and subsequently hunt down other songs by them. For an emerging artist, that kind of attention is invaluable.

Really, how else are people exposed to new music? Word of mouth? The radio? I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend much time in cars anymore. A majority of my commute to work is by train. At school, my primary mode of transportation is either walking or the bus. Though gas prices have slumped in recent weeks, I imagine that many people are still spending less times in their cars. Besides, even when I am in a car, I’m usually listening to music I already know is good. Visual advertisements are less potent for music because they obviously can’t share the actual song with you. I don’t watch music channels. Tools like Pandora and last.fm are nice, but I don’t know how many people actively search for new music. Most of the time, I think it’s something that just happens. I’m too lazy to bother, in any case, and thus, my primary source of new music, aside from anime, is word of mouth — recommendations via friends.

This doesn’t bode well for my collection of English-language music, or even worse, for my American music. For some reason, most of the songs I have in English are of Canadian or British origin. Or even of Korean and Japanese origin, though I put Engrish music in its own special category. I do not own any American CDs. As soundtracks don’t really count, the only English-language CD I own is “Gravity” by Our Lady Peace, a Canadian band. How hilariously unpatriotic! Though some might argue that the States just don’t have very many good artists, I’m inclined to think that there are plenty, but most of them are just too indie to be noticed. So.

Question: why don’t more American artists provide music for television shows, whether cartoon or otherwise? Why don’t more producers of shows encourage them to?

Most daytime television shows have gimmicky theme songs. Sometimes they’re memorable. Sometimes not. Sometimes they change by season. Sometimes not. Usually though, they’re pretty cheap sounding. I find most cartoon themes to be somewhat better — things like the Powerpuff Girls are hard to forget, and I really like the theme for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Invader ZIM was good too. But why not use commercial artists? Even just for insert songs and promotion. They Might Be Giants recorded a song about Courage the Cowardly Dog and another for Dexter’s Laboratory for Cartoon Network, and there used to be random commercials/promos on CN that were basically music videos with rehashed footage from various cartoons. I really loved those things and would have liked to look up more music by many of them, especially as many of them weren’t mainstream artists. (In particular, I wish I could have found more music by Soul Coughing, who contributed music for a video involving the Flintstones, but those were the days before p2p and it was exceedingly difficult to find anything by nobodies in stores.)

Why don’t they do this anymore? Those kinds of promotional shorts have long since disappeared, and even though Puffy provided the music for Teen Titans and their own (horrible) show, Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi, I’ve yet to see an American artist do this sort of thing. The only reason I can think of for this is cost ’cause, sure, maybe expecting Linkin Park to do a theme song for Avatar: The Last Airbender is a little farfetched, but why not the offstream, indie artists? Like I said, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. If a video promo or a theme song isn’t doable, then why not an insert song? It really puzzles me.

Another thing I don’t get is why there aren’t more songs in movies that are actually written for the movie. Insert songs in films are generally picked from existing titles and only contribute to the general mood — the lyrics don’t fit. Even songs that end up on tribute albums, such as “Music from and Inspired by Spider-Man,” for the most part, fail to really connect to the movie itself. They’re just random pop and rock songs slapped on an album with Spider-Man’s picture. T.M. Revolution also wrote a tribute to Spider-Man, “Web of Night” — why do those lyrics seem so much more relevant to the film than, say, the lyrics to Stone Sour’s “Bother,” which appears on the aforementioned album?

Though some anime and game themes will have been taken from existing tracks (lol, “Fly me to the Moon”), and many of them don’t directly relate to the series (try connecting Utada Hikaru’s “Simple and Clean” to Kingdom Hearts. TRY IT. I DARE YOU), most theme songs are singles that don’t release until after their debut on the show, and there are a significant number of songs that were indeed written for the show. T.M. Revolution in particular is very good about this (I know, I’ve mentioned him like a dozen times already, right?), and artists like Maximum the Hormone (if you listen to the entirety of the second Death Note ending, “Zetsubou Billy,” they specifically mention Kira, etc) and Mika Nakashima (even if she didn’t write the lyrics) are worth mentioning as well.

So yeah. I don’t get it. Do you?

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  1. Alexius on August 24, 2008 10:11 pm

    I completely agree. It’s an interesting question to ponder, really. The music industry is obviously in a stage of desperation at the moment, differing recording companies using different methods and scrounging for new ways to advertise their artists and records. With the tremendous amount of popularity that TV shows are receiving lately (it’s interesting, isn’t it? But I suppose that’s what happens with a dying movie industry and more and more digital and HD channels being scrounged up by consumers with brand-new big HD screens) you’d think artists would take this particular approach, but alas. Maybe we should e-mail some recording company CEOs links to some anime OPs/EDs. XD And yes, I love almost all of the OPs, EDs, and insert songs from Gundam 00, even though I didn’t like the show as much as “Ash Like Snow” (which I absolutely adore) and “daybreak’s bell”.

  2. phantomwitch on August 24, 2008 11:11 pm

    Here’s your problem- you’re expecting music from the wrong television shows. You need to watch primetime. In the ad campaigns for House on Fox, and for the ABC fall lineup, I heard interesting music that I later checked out. Also, in the shows on ABC: Ugly Betty (coindicdentally, it had a song written for it and one used that fit perfectly: The Beauty in Ugly by Jason Mraz and Big Girls by Mika) has had interesting music spotlighted in many episodes. Grey’s Anatomy constantly brings up unknown music to play in the background. And, as much as I hate to admit that I’ve seen even one episode of it, The Hills has just added a black popup bar, that gives the artist and song playing in the background during episodes.

    So- check out primetime, and you’ll see that the beneficial trade of music continues. Just not as prominently as intros.

  3. Kiriska on August 24, 2008 11:59 pm

    Hmm, that’s interesting. I never knew that. I suppose you’re right then — I’m expecting it from the wrong sort of shows. I guess the population of those old enough to seek out and buy music don’t usually watch cartoons like I do. Damn.

  4. Alexius on August 25, 2008 10:17 am

    Phantomwitch does bring up a good point, but it still doesn’t address whether or not many of these insert songs or themes songs are really applicable to the show. They sometimes are, like she pointed out, but I find that with many anime series and films where songs are written for them tend to be far more conforming to those particular anime.

    I am, however, surprised to know about those particular primetime shows. I don't want many primetime shows, so I was completely oblivious from much of that, >.<. What I'd really like to see, though, are more intros and ending themes from different Western artists. They're the songs that one most "tune into" while watching a show.