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Music variety (or lack thereof) in Frontier


Saruta
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Hello,

I have watched SDFM and some of MF including movies. (Zero and Plus - hopefully very soon; not M7 though, too long.)

What surprises me is the relative lack of music variety. Now, in SDFM this actually makes sense in-universe. Cute pop is exactly what is needed to keep the suddenly-uprooted people from going totally mad; Minmay was at the right place in the right time to blossom as a star, and one presumes the more various musicians are somewhere in the background, most of them getting slaughtered in Episode 27. But what about MF? Why does the universe revolve around two singers doing slightly different varieties of generic pop, complete with its obligatory restrictions?

Don't get me wrong - this is not criticism of Sheryl and Ranka, or of May'n and Megumi Nakajima, they do what they do really well. At first I blamed Yoko Kanno but some research showed that she basically does what the creators tell her, and (like the singers) does it well. So the general style was likely selected by Kawamori.

If it was Yuki Kajiura I suspect she would tell Kawamori that if you do a song with a Valkyrie chorus you get musical Valkyrie references in; she would then try to sound vaguely Wagnerian, perhaps. But it was not Yuki for a reason, Kawamori wants what HE wants, not the sort of disctinct composer "mark" that Yuki leaves wherever she is invited. And for his purposes Yoko Kanno is best. (NOTE: this is not intended as a Kanno vs Kajiura battle, they just create *different* things).

My question is why he wants it. Cashing in on the oldtime fans, who are used to the Minmay "naive pop" style (and perhaps hated M7 for its absence)? Agreed, that settles Ranka, but why not have Sheryl more deep/operatic or something? (I don't mean "academic", I had someone like Tarja Turunen in mind).

Of course "tastes differ" and all - I just feel the world of Macross Frontier, in general, seems to suffer from a lack of musical variety?..

Wait - a "fridge brilliance" idea I just got when getting ready to send this post. The idea is that Ranka and, to a degree, Sheryl can share emotions with a race that is very alien to humanity. Might be logical to assume that only simple (and strong) emotions, not subtle shades, can be shared across such an enormously deep divide. And the music that corresponds to simple strong emotions is, in fact, pop (except the aggressive emotions, but no one really wants to make Vajra even more aggressive, thus a Metal Fairy might not suit Grace's intentions). So the situation is STILL making sense inworld, as it was in SDFM? As in, there are various musicians, but Sheryl and Ranka's styles match their purpose, to the point that Sheryl might actually have been manipulated to pick her style?

Edited by Saruta
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There's 2 ways to look at it:

1) the producers (not necessarily limited to Kawamori-san) chose the musical style that would make the most money. In that regard, they were highly successful.

2) each Macross series has its own musical theme. SDFM (DYRL/FB2012) is the 80's idol. M7 (7Gin, D7) is rock. M0 is opera. M+ is techno. MF (TMF) is 00's idol (with the twist of 1 singer "just starting out" and the other "older and experienced").

One could say that MF copped out and didn't go for a new musical style. On the other hand, given all the other references in it to the preceding Macross series, the musical theme itself could just be another reference. That, or a mix of #1: if it ain't broke, don't fix it (in money making terms).

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Just to add (probably reinforce), the scope of these shows is quite limited. We are only seeing a fraction of what is going on in that universe. Does it limit what kind of music we hear? Of course. But if they threw in other musical styles into the world of each series, there wouldn't be enough money for the actual show.

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You miss the very obvious fact that Kawamori is a long-time, self acknowledged idol fan. Idol music is his type of music. He used to go to Seiko Matsuda concerts in the 80s, and has been sighted at AKB48 concerts in the 2000s.

As a result, those shows that he is most heavily involved in AND has the most creative freedom in tend to feature idol singers. For Macross Frontier he wanted a form of 'Future idol' (as opposed to 'Techno idol' from Plus, since that has already been realised in actual reality thanks to Hatsune Miku) - basically what idols could sound like in the not-to distant future. And that is, imo, pretty much what Kanno gave him.

It is also what the viewers wanted, if the record sales are any indication.

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perhaps Yuki Kajiura is not the best reference to use to make your point. I love her work in Noir, Madlax, KnK, but if someone where to make a compilation album with songs from these three titles, the uninformed listener would easily think that all the songs came from one anime. In MF, if the BGM are considered as part of that musical body of work, i find there is actually more variety.

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Well, Kajiura's more recent work includes Sword Art Online and Madoka, and her variety does increase significantly - in a way I do like, absorbing influences that are relevant. However I did find out that variety between *different* works of Yoko Kanno is just huge (not what I expected from hearing her in Frontier). Kajiura also seems to be toying with the idol idea with her Kalafina project, but it's probably a deconstruction of sorts? The expected picture-perfect looks and variety of costumes, coupled with the kind of music not usually sighted in those quarters? Or am I missing something here?

And thanks for all the explanations - now it all makes sense, between "Macross generation themes" and "Kawamori's personal liking for idols" (this was the part I missed - I knew of his work on AKB0048 but I just assumed it was a money-making exercise like the entire AKB48 megaproject, I was not aware he was an ascended fan!)

I still would love to hear what Yuki would come up with if given a valkyrie theme. She probably won't ever be called into the Macross universe, but Macross does not have a monopoly (though a valkyrie reference in any anime is likely to be seen as a Macross shout-out). Yes, I did get a bit disappointed with the title song of Sayonara no Tsubasa where the theme of mythological, not robotic, valkyries appears thrown in at the last moment and does not get any musical reference (it does get animated reference). But then again, inworld, the song is written on a prison wall by an ill young singer who probably heard Wagner's piece exactly once in music school, heard the teacher explaining the background in all of five minutes, and that was all she ever knew about the subject?

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The music of Macross Frontier sounds exactly like what a director would choose if his taste in music hasn't changed in 20 years. Kawamori doesn't strike me as the kind of person that spends any effort challenging his own musical tastes; I can't see him listening to any new music unless it already reminds him of the sound he enjoyed decades ago. This is not to single Kawamori out as unique; in all fairness most people are like this. It's almost a law of nature that humans lose the ability to adapt as they grow older.

That being said, no one has mentioned that music - for any dramatic production of any kind - is used extensively to set tone, mood and provide context. The many Macross animated series - with the exception of Macross Plus and Macross Zero - all try to achieve a specific style that incorporates themes like popular culture, the female idol, war, epic drama of operatic scope, youth, community, etc. As a result of those dramatic requirements the music in the show itself will be chosen by necessity. A certain feeling is meant to be evoked by the show and the music is a big part of that presentation. Change the music and it might not achieve the emotion meant to be conveyed to the audience. Of course if the music is too familiar and played out - regardless if the tone is right - the audience won't feel emotion at all because they are bored. This is just a creative reality that typically drives the necessity to adapt. See my first point above for why that doesn't always happen :)

Edited by Mr March
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You miss the very obvious fact that Kawamori is a long-time, self acknowledged idol fan. Idol music is his type of music. He used to go to Seiko Matsuda concerts in the 80s, and has been sighted at AKB48 concerts in the 2000s.

But the BIG question is... WHAT DOES HE THINK OF MOMOIRO CLOVER Z...?

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For Macross Frontier he wanted a form of 'Future idol'

So that's it? Given how fast the music industry adapts trends, it kinda became the "future is now", in that respect.

(For those not in the know: I live in Japan. When MF came out, it was pretty good and unique. Now, I can't stand listening to it. Why? It sounds like so many other pop songs on the radio...)

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And thanks for all the explanations - now it all makes sense, between "Macross generation themes" and "Kawamori's personal liking for idols" (this was the part I missed - I knew of his work on AKB0048 but I just assumed it was a money-making exercise like the entire AKB48 megaproject, I was not aware he was an ascended fan!)

I'm not sure where Tochiro got his information from, but IIRC in Kawamori's own words in his book, he didn't know that much more about AKB48 than your average person on the street (in Japan) before that AKB0048 anime project came up, and went to their concerts for research purposes only once the project was greenlit with him as director. It didn't seem like he was an AKB48 fan at all.

Edited by Renato
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sketchley: I would think that the "future idol" idea was more about visuals than music. And as far as I know, that future is not now yet. When a singer starts doing yuri shows with her own holographic avatar in Japan, please do tell me as I want to watch that video!

Megumi Nakajima, of all people, would be able to do it very easily, because her own Vocaloid already exists, complete with loads of 3D models.

As an aside, I'm a newbie on the Forum and it's realy cool to encounter someone actually in Japan - I'm about as far from Japan as physically possoble while remainin on Earth, namely in Ireland. I do wonder if you have seen any of the cast live (the answer is probably yes, judging by the general hardcore feeling I get here!)

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Name of game is j-pop, idol pop in particular. Frontier limits itself largerly within the constraints of mainstream pop music but what it does within those limits is pretty bloody amazing and damn varied.

In fact the variety of songs provided by Ranka and Sheryl thriumphs that provided in any other Macross title easily. Sharon Apple has more ecclectic Kanno compositions but even her electro-pop doesn't really cover wider ground than Sheryl's does on Universal Bunny CD.

Ranka was essentially the 80s idol girl and her music reflects that. Seikan Hikou is incredibly 90s J-Pop song, for example. In contrast Sheryl's music is much more modern and contemporary pop music, fitting the way she was conceived as modern day pop diva. Either way the girls have great number of songs from slow ballads to CM songs to RnB to Perfume-esque electropop. In particular Ranka's song profile is very varied. Koi no Dogfight is Kanno's take on Perfumesque electro-pop while Anata no Oto could be classic Macca composition from 60s with its largerly acoustic arrangement, catchy melodies and horn sections. Seikan Hikou in turn is as mentioned before extremely retro pop song harkening back to j-pop sound of 90s and even has a winking reference to Smoke on the Blue Water to drive the retro spirit home. Niji Iro Kuma Kuma is utterly zany, atypical as hell mahou shoujo song combining vaudeville feel and musicals. Houkago Overflow could've fit GitS:SAC with different lyrics and vocals while Aimo is THE essential Kanno composition on the soundtrack, the mystical lullaby with haunting melody. Add on top of that number of golden piano ballads, catchy and often ridiculous CM tunes, old school Macross covers and classic Maaya Sakamoto song on the run in form of Songbird and the music given to greenhead has pretty amazing range on level far beyond most "real" idols. Just see Morning Musume, AKB48, Berrytz etc. just how much richer the selection Frontier offers in comparison to most of the subgenre.

This all while touching only one side of the coin (with Sheryl too Iteza is nothing like Yousei which is nothing like Diamond Crevasse which is nothing like pink monsoon which is nothing like Kindan no Elixir etc. - speaking of Kindan no Elixir, the prog rocky keyboard parts and chord progressions always amuse me in a goodd way) and leaving aside duets.

Really, I think Macross Frontier's vocal song covers the full range offered by female vocalist pop music incredibly well and whether or not one likes the music presented (I think nearly all of it is fantastic) denying its *range* is utter non-sequitur. Original Macross with its strict 80s idol pop and 7 with its buttrock are far more uniform in character and sound.

also lol at Yuki frakking Kajiura who has been self-plagiarizing herself for 10+ years. Kalafina, FictionJunction etc. have ridiculously little variety in them and same goes for most of her soundtracks. Frontier's music has far more variety - and I am Kajiura fan to boot.

In short I think you are grumbling about "limitations" of pop music in general. Frontier does incredible range of stuff within the constraints of this no-namer and if you don't like pop music...well really, tough luck. Not much to be done. If you seriously expect Can's Taco Mago's or Swans from pop singers (or better yet, Ornette Coleman or Arvo Pärt's tintinnabulis) you're doing it way wrong. Given most "innovations" within music are mostly skin deep and to astonishingly, overwhelmingly large degree it's all the "same crap" you must have hard time finding enjoyable music. Then again you do seem to see Kajiura's stuff as particularly original or something and toy with idea of Kalafina being a "deconstruction" of pop music despite being very much straightforward pop, well...

As someone who listens a lot to music from wide variety of genres from black metal to fluffy pop, from free jazz farting to classical I don't really have many genres I downright dislike (not that "pop music" is genre in the first place). What makes a good pop song is very different from what makes a good frame for jazz improvisation and what makes Death Grips great samplers. I think Frontier is full of great, well composed and arranged pop songs and I enjoy them for what they are, just like I enjoy Pharaoh Sanders's Karma as succesful endeavour to build on foundation laid down by John Coltrane instead of worrying about how all this material stays within confines of their "genres".

That and there's nohing wrong with sticking to same old, as AC/DC shows. What matters is the execution.

Edited by Xard
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There were TWO main idols in Frontier... that's double the other ones. Plus BGM music was so good.

Yeah, and the two have very differrent songs and styles overall which means the series has quite bit variety on its on.

Frontier's BGM was certainly good, but Kanno was aiming a bit more to general epic SF featre style than I cared for. I prefer her more melodramatic, classically influenced material on Escaflowne and Aquarion.

Though what we got fit Frontier to a tee and it's great shame there's so much unreleased BGM around. The jazzy, saxophone-centric rendition of Alto's theme, for example.

In the end Macross franchise is about pop music as comes through well Misa's famous final line in DYRL. If one can't like pop music there's not much to be done about it. Excluding Zero which gives very little role for music in general all of its entries are strictly pop and I don't think that will ever change (inb4 someone comes and tries to make nonsense separation between 7's rock and pop music despite rock being the dominating form of popular music in second half of 20th century)

re::0048 Kawamori was not AKB48 fan before the project and knew them only very generally.

Edited by Xard
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OK, I am not here for Kajiura wars (I do seem to value her somewhat more highly than many other commenters, entirely a matter of taste). And I got the rest already, thanks :)

Yes, the limitations I see are pretty much generic to pop/idol music and between Kawamori's taste and the series' positioning (with its apparent double aim at a younger general anime audience plus diehard original Macross fans) it was inevitable, and moreover within these general limitations the range is quite rich and VERY much improved compared to SDSM. And my specific Valkyrie complaint was probably because the entire thing was already overloaded at that point (just realized that the mythology nod might really be a late addition - and it is no more than a nod). AND I should just go listen to Escaflowne OST if I want some "anime music" that has little to do with pop for a change (and it's even the same composer; am listening to it now).

And thus I end up impressed with the amounts of expertise around here :) Thanks!

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I agree with most of Xard's observations. I should also point out that the creators did a great job differentiating Ranka and Sheryl's pop styles, while still making them sound unique enough to compete in the real world chart. It would have been relatively easy to make Ranka sound like a typical idol singer, but her music sounds nothing like AKB48 or most other idol acts of the past few years. Same with Sheryl -- she appears based less on Japanese pop acts and more on Lady Gaga style Western "divas".

(inb4 someone comes and tries to make nonsense separation between 7's rock and pop music despite rock being the dominating form of popular music in second half of 20th century)

What nonsense? It's addressed even in the actual show, what with the Jamming Birds, etc. It doesn't matter that rock was dominant; Japan's music scene had its own set of idiosyncrasies. Bands from the 90s like B'z, GAO, Pink Sapphire, TUBE, even Southern All Stars (who had been around for decades already), are all rather strictly pop music acts with a rock band set-up on the surface. M7 does a good job differentiating the Fire Bomber sound not only from the other many, many bands and music styles that appear in the show, but also from the popular music of the time in Japan.

Hello,

I have watched SDFM and some of MF including movies. (Zero and Plus - hopefully very soon; not M7 though, too long.)

<_<

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<_<

Seconded.

Of all the Macross series, M7 is the most diverse. Sure, it's ABOUT a rock band, but there are plenty of other musical acts that appear in the series, and, especially, as background music.

Ie: the first CD album of the series, "Macross 7 Music Selection From Galaxy Network Chart": even though Fire Bomber is the headline act, 6 other bands are billed on the cover.

http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/B0016JD6YQ/ref=cm_ciu_pdp_images_0?ie=UTF8&index=0&isremote=0

Edited by sketchley
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I really disagree with labeling the jpop songs in MF as "generic". I don't know how how much jpop the OP listens to but even as far as other anime music goes, the songs are pretty complex and have far more vocal range than most of what's out there, especially sheryl/may'n's tracks

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Okay, okay, you got me now! *ducks*

As I understood from the comments here, M7 does show a significant variety of music inworld... directly resulting in M7 being so long. MF gets to the point in a reasonable amount of time... but then it does not have the time (let alone budget) to do more than two disticnt styles within the general "idol/pop" designation. You probably can't have both.

What does surprise me now is that *Kawamori* created Escaflowne, with its extremely different approach to music. I was not aware of that (while I was quite aware of Yoko Kanno doing the music for it).

P.S. I'm not a kid and that's the problem, when I was one, popping 50 episodes in a day would ont be a problem, except I did not have 50 episodes to pop. But I did splice together a fandub of a 2 hour film in a 24 hour uninterrupted sitting (that was just the audio processing, the speaking itself was recorded in several sessions before that, and it was a full dub with 6 voices and effects to make characters different).

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