March 12th, 2005


Love jam

Pop and porn have always been on a continuum with each other; sex, after all, is a major and perfectly legitimate element in most pop culture. The I Love Music forum currently has a thread going entitled Top Howevermany Transparent Sex Barely-Even-Euphemisms in Pop Music in case you need reminding of that fact. One of the many tragedies of the current Michael Jackson trial in California is the fact that, however it turns out, Michael will be culturally emasculated; he will never again be able to hiss and yelp out the sexual innuendos that once powered his music. Considering that he's a true genius of pop, and that the true genius of pop is sex, this will truly be a loss to the world, and a victory only for the new puritans -- the same people who reacted so violently to his sister Janet's "wardrobe malfunction" and made it part of their pre-election "culture wars" last year.

In Japan, a culture much less hung up about sex than the US, the continuum between porno and pop flows with much less turbulence. Culture stores like Book Off, Tsutaya and Village Vanguard shelve their stock with a smooth, unanxious transition from the "pure" to the "impure", the sexless to the sexy. Although there have recently been concerns in Japan about the too-easy availability of porn products to children, it's generally accepted that sex is part of the normal commercial landscape and doesn't do much harm. I'd say that, just as America's attitude has a lot to do with Christianity, Japan's is the result of their combination of a detachment religion (Buddhism) with a fertility and nature religion (Shinto).

Let's jam a bit further on this riff. When Avex recording artist Ai Otsuka released her Love Jam album last year, it was accompanied by a major poster campaign showing Ai's faced spattered suggestively with globs of jam. We don't need to call a semiologist to decode the sexual meaning of the Love Jam campaign, but just in case we missed it, porn site 100% Douga has Photoshopped the fig leaf (or should we say "the jam jar"?) of metaphor away entirely, reminding us that the fruit from which we make jam is nothing more than an attractive, glossy distribution system cunningly devised by strawberry plants to spread their DNA. They have quite a bit to teach us about pop marketing, those strawberries.