In the past couple of weeks, Kokoro and I have been going through a throwback phase, listening to all kinds of music from our childhood or teenage years.
Every time we listen to these playlists however, we love to notice how different mainstream music was for us depending on whether we grew up in Canada or Japan.
Sure, the biggest hits are pretty much famous worldwide, so we can recall, let’s say the popularity of the Backstreet Boys in the 90s or Beyoncé in the 00s/10s, or even ‘Despacito’ more recently.
But! Every now and then, I’m so surprised when I hear Kokoro tell me she has never heard of a certain artist or song that I would hear on a daily basis. Say, for example, NSYNC or Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, and on and on.
These are all household names that you would’ve seen or at least heard on more than one occasion if you grew up from the 90s onwards in North America or Europe. Even if you hate music and refuse to listen to any of it, chances are pretty high you would’ve heard some of their songs on the radio, in the car, at the mall, or from that one neighbour who blasted his music way too loudly.
Bye Bye Bye? Genie in a bottle? Cry me a river? Just typing out the titles makes me hum it out as the melody starts playing in my head…
Kokoro however assures me that even though she may have listened to these songs at some point or another in her life, they were never so famous or overplayed in Japan. Of course, the opposite also applies. Very few Japanese artists were broadcast in Canada, so we were barely exposed to any of the top songs that she grew up with. At least I had heard some songs from Namie Amuro and Hikaru Utada…it’s a long story.
Nowadays, it’s obviously completely different and you can just hop on Spotify, download a list of the top 50 songs in Japan, or Canada, or several other countries, on top of being able to do your own searches. It’s even a great way to help me learn Japanese, but I digress!
Going back to the throwbacks we’ve been enjoying, obviously the 90s and early 2000s were a time before streaming platforms like Spotify or even YouTube existed, so music was consumed and experienced very differently – not to mention it wasn’t as accessible as it is now!
Unlike now where there are thousands of playlists for every music genre in any language you prefer, back then we were usually at the mercy of radio stations or TV channels, so it’s only normal that we weren’t as exposed to the industry as we are today.
We could have the same discussion about the different TV shows, movies, or cartoons we watched while growing up. It’s always such a wonderful experience for us to talk about and learn about how different our lives were in our own corners of the world. Plus, it gives us a chance to relive those fond memories, while also allowing the other person to discover new things, whether it’s music or something else!