Chart Toppers

When people look for new songs, there are a few channels they will often turn to.

1. Prominent music awards to look for good songs from the award recipients and finalists

2. Recommendations from friends

3. Charts

The third option would apply most specifically to the new songs and latest releases, making it an optimal choice to seek out the best in mainstream fare. That said, however, mainstream fare is just that, mainstream. If you are not a fan of the most famous artistes out there, charts may not help you much. This is especially because most charts track album/single sales, and the bestselling pieces may not always be the best pieces, at least when it comes to something so subjective as music appreciation.

But of course, just as there are many different types of music, there are also many different types of charts. Some music charts only track a particular genre of music. There is even an indie music chart for indie and unsigned artistes. Which brings me to something of a digression but it has been a long-standing question with me.

How is indie a genre? To me, the only thing that isn’t indie is mainstream, and you wouldn’t call “mainstream” a genre. Wikipedia tells me that indie, which is short for independent, is mainly used to describe music that is independently produced, but it can also be used to describe a genre such as indie rock, and such music will then not necessarily be independently produced. This sounds to me like a “government-affiliated private organisation”. The government provides private organisations for the people. In the same vein, commercial record labels produce “indie” music for people who like to be different.

But of course, I have no experience or knowledge of indie music, and when people tell me they are an indie fan I just think they probably like music that are not popular.

Now that I think about it, I wonder which crowd I do belong in. When I view the Oricon charts, usually a smattering of songs on the list are ones that I love, and a fair number are not. For instance, I do find AKB48 much overrated, especially after listening to their newest single, Uza, which was rather unpleasant to my ears. On the other hand, UVERworld, my favourite band as mentioned in a previous entry, has been in second place for most of their singles. And yet there are other bands I know, such as Flow, which are never seen on Oricon at all. And I do feel that things like Magi’s character song (at #22 spot) could give way to some of these people.

I guess it has always been certain that there are two kinds of artistes who make it to the charts, the idol-appeal ones and the talented kinds. Of course, as time goes by there is an increasing need to merge both categories, but there are still people who obviously fall into one or the other classification. I suppose it is healthy to listen to a little bit of both. Although we would argue that the talented singers are the true pride of the industry, there have been idol singers who after years of experience became great singers in their own right. Commercial pop music may be “trashy” and “pandering to those with no taste”, but one shouldn’t dismiss everyone in the category indiscriminately. That would be snobbish behaviour and if you find that a certain idol really catches your eye, well, there’s no need to haul out a quality control checklist to justify liking them. Music is an instinctive and emotional reaction (or even if just the aesthetic beauty of the musician). Life is too short for one to be a stiff-necked perfectionist!

And if you know more about chart toppers, you will have more conversational material with people you just meet. Or at the very least, you can speak with more knowledge of the pros and cons of commercial music, then segue into your preferred style of the less known hits.

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One thought on “Chart Toppers

  1. Mm indeed the term “indie” seems vague. To compare with gaming, “indie” games don’t even have to be relatively unknown. Things like Minecraft are classified as indie, yet that’s more popular and widely known than many “mainstream” games.

    Though perhaps it’s about money more than recognition. In gaming indie games are expected to be really cheap, and because they’ve smaller independent teams they are also really cheap to create. The opposite are “AAA” games, the kind of things like Call of Duty that cost exorbitant amounts to make and in turn are sold at a premium, and expect to make exorbitant amounts of money.

    I imagine music may be similar. Compare well-financed music videos, advertising, wardrobes, concert turn-outs etc. An indie artist is theoretically independent and thus can’t finance extravagant stuff like that themselves. Even if they’re signed to a label, they still may not be granted much spending money, advertising, or exposure, and may not make much money.

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