Bonus Post #68- Music: The Blue Exorcist Closer Experience Part 2: Context and Bias

headphones

Hello all, and welcome to Part 2 of my Blue Exorcist Closer 1 post! This one will be more of a quick discussion about bias, context, and music, so it won’t have any spoilers. So sit back and I hope you enjoy!

(the song in question)

I would like to first emphasize that despite making a multiple part post based on it, “Take Off” Isn’t my favorite song or anything. It’s a good song, but I don’t want to make it seem like I’m head over heels for it just because I’m talking about it a lot. I do like talking about it, but it is more because of what it represents, and the larger discussion that surrounds it.

I ended Part 1 with a question that I have been pondering for quite some time. Do people only like certain things because of their association with other media? Applying it to my specific example, do I only like “Take Off” because it was the first closing theme to a show that I enjoyed? Maybe so. I mean, I’m certainly not a K-Pop or Boy Band fan (as I explicitly stated in the first part), and I’ve had zero desire to even try to listen to anything else by 2am. But when “Take Off” was in the show with a very well-directed closer, I was into it, even after some initial distaste. It’s pretty clear that the key variable causing me to like this song was its placement in the show, so perhaps my enjoyment of the track is solely tied to Blue Exorcist.

It may not seem like such a bad thing on the surface to only like a song because it was in another piece of media, but the idea has always felt wrong to me. I enjoy the idea of having my own opinion on music, and trying to connect with it on a personal level. I love dissecting songs and discussing the reasons why I like or dislike them. I also love supporting songs and artists based on their own merits rather than recognition. Enjoying songs like “Take Off” due to their usage in shows (this of course also extends to movies, video games, etc.) sort of feels like I have been tricked into liking them, or that my opinion of them is in some way disingenuous.

This made me immediately question a lot of the music I listen to, and there are more examples of this for me beyond Blue Exorcist. If someone were to show me something like, say, the Angel Beats Opening and Closing songs before I knew what the show was, I’m not sure if I would be as into it. I’d probably say it’s a bit cool, and then forget about it in favor of other music. Does this mean that I am just an Angel Beats “fanboy”, and only like the music due to such a bias?

A Business Perspective (From Someone Who Was Briefly a College Business Major)

Looking at it from a business perspective (in other words, ignoring artistic and creative factors for deciding songs), songs are put into these themes with the hope of having the song sell more. It advertises the artists providing the songs, providing a publicity that is certainly better than nothing. For example, there’s no way I ever would have heard of Ultra Tower if it wasn’t for “Kibou no Uta” being in Food Wars, but now I’m a full-fledged fan of their work. I even imported a physical copy of the EP that the song was on. I also bought the single and eventually the album containing Food Wars’ first closing theme, “Spice” by Tokyo Karan Koron (I ranted about how great these two artists are in previous posts). I’m certain that I’m not the only one who bought them after hearing their songs on the show.

ergo proxy

Likewise, someone may want to watch a show more because one of their favorite artists is a part of it (if they somehow hear that a show is using the song), or someone may get into a show more because of its awesome themes. For example, Ergo Proxy is a show that has been on my radar for a while now. While I still have not been able to watch it, my desire to get into it certainly went up when I found out that Radiohead’s quintessential “Paranoid Android” was used for the closer (big thanks to Dominic Cuthbert of Little Anime Blog for informing me of that!). I’m quite curious to see how Ergo Proxy uses the song for its ending theme, especially since “Paranoid Android” is a lengthy song with multiple distinct parts to it that they can pick from to use as closer material. I also feel that if they decided to use Radiohead’s music, then there is a good chance that their music influenced Ergo Proxy in some way, which means there is an even greater chance that I will enjoy this show.

When well utilized, adding well known or popular songs to media also strengthens it. Want a good and bad example of this? Look no further than Suicide Squad. The good example would be the above trailer that used the much beloved “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The song is used in a pretty cool way, and it certainly worked to generate loads of hype for the film. The bad example would be most of the song inserts in the movie itself, where they tried way too hard to recreate that magic from the trailer and ended up making large chunks of the movie a mess of licensed music.

So yes, it’s clear that different forms of media often work together in order to increase the appeal of both parties. It’s arguably one of the main reasons why popular songs are included in movie soundtracks, and why there have been many stories of bands making it big because their song was used in that commercial or that show or that movie. Combining them can certainly make for big business.

With that said, what’s the deal? Am I just being tricked into liking these songs? Do I only enjoy “Take Off”, “My Soul, Your Beats!” and a bunch of other songs because of bias?

Well, no. Obviously not. But, let me explain.

My Thoughts

I was really hoping to find a big study or scientific theory that went along with what I’m talking about. The best thing I could find involves the Context Effect, which basically states that one’s environment can affect how one perceives things. It’s great for purposes such as marketing, as one would want to present a product or service in the best context to get more people interested. As mentioned before, smart usage of inserted music can be great business for both parties involved, and can make for some brilliant marketing campaigns.

But doesn’t that sound really impersonal and cold hearted? Like these companies are just playing with our preferences to sell more copies of things? It does to me, but again, this is just from a business perspective. I believe that (in most cases), there is also a desire to make something of worth and give it artistic merit. I have yet to become overly cynical to the point where I assume all media is just to make an empty profit.

I feel like there is a non-cynical way to look at this situation, and explain why people like me get into music after hearing it in a show. Let’s look back at the idea of “context”. It’s true that I would not have liked “Take Off” had I not seen Blue Exorcist, but perhaps my liking of the song is not solely due to some scheme to sell more copies by including it in the show. Perhaps it’s simply because I needed to hear the song in a different context, and Blue Exorcist provided that opportunity. When I first heard the song, I thought it was a bit ridiculous and instantly wrote it off as just another mediocre K or J Pop Boy Band song. However, as the episodes went by, I stopped associating the song as such. Because I would hear it in the context of the show, the song started to lose its negative Boy Band stigma in my mind. This allowed me to recognize the cool chord progression, instrumentation, and catchy melodies. It encouraged me to stop writing off the song due to preconceived notions, and highlighted its strengths through the closer’s direction. It showcased the song in a way that better resonated with me, which is not only a testament to how well directed the closer was, but it was also certainly good marketing.

Looking back on it, I haven’t liked every song from anime that I enjoyed, and I can list legitimate reasons for liking and disliking certain songs. I mean sheesh, that’s pretty much what I have been doing this entire time with these musical bonus posts. I still ultimately decide my liking of the song, it’s just that the song is presented in a new context to help me see it from a different angle, much like getting into a band you initially didn’t care much for after seeing them live. I’m sure there are people who only like songs because they recognize it from that one movie or show (this can even extend to just liking what is popular), but I feel that as long as you are able to judge the music for yourself based on your tastes (while hopefully keeping an open mind), you do not have to fall into that category. And it’s not like I’m condemning people that don’t really analyze what they listen to or what they themselves like. Look, you’re free to enjoy the music you like for whatever reason, I just personally like having my own opinion on things and taking a deeper look into what I listen to (and I sincerely hope that does not come across as elitist, as I really don’t want to be considered as such). I definitely realize that many people do not take buying and listening to music as seriously as others, which is cool.

Conclusion

So after all of that, what are my main takeaways from all of this? Well,

  1. “Take Off” an enjoyable pop song despite some awkward moments.
  2. Blue Exorcist certainly had some amazing themes. There’s obviously “Take Off”, but let’s not forget greats like “Core Pride” and the wonderful electronica that is “Wired Life”.
  3. Listening to music in different contexts gives greater opportunity to appreciate it more.

And finally,

  1. As long as you retain a sense of judgement and/or understand what you enjoy in music, it’s not bad to like a song because it was featured as part of another piece of media, and doing such isn’t just you being biased.

Yes, there is a business side to things, and I am sure that 2am’s label approved their song to be included so that it would sell more copies, but you the viewer are fully capable of using your discernment to see if you like it or not. I apologize if those points aren’t revolutionary or mind blowing (or even completely coherent), but I personally found a lot of comfort in them. And just like “Take Off”, sometimes the surface level stuff does the trick just fine. So yeah, like what you like, keep an open mind, and uh… Get ready for the Take Off…. (nailed it)…

Thanks for reading!

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