"J-MELO" is an English-language program about Japanese music that airs on NHK World and is broadcast to 140 countries all over the world (in Japan, it is broadcast on BS Premium). The program began airing in October of 2005 and will be airing its 400th show on November 9. In response to messages from viewers all over the world, Tsunku♂ wrote writing a song in commemoration of the event. From this, the song, "What is LOVE?" sung by J-MELO semi-regulars Morning Musume. was born.
On October 2, a press conference was held at the NHK building. The press conference was attended by the host, May.J, as well as Dave Spector, who has been involved in the program since its beginning. Also present were two parties involved in the commemorative song, Tsunku♂ and Morning Musume.'s leader Sayumi Michishige.
The press conference began with a funky joke from Dave Spector: "Won't Funassyi be coming?" May J., who has hosted the show since 2008, said, "I'm really happy that the show is able to reach the milestone of its 400th episode. I hope that the program can continue to transmit wonderful Japanese music and become a bridge to the rest of the world." About the memorable experience of performing "Kaze ni Naritai," with THE BOOM's Kazufumi Miyazawa, she said, "On the segment Club J-MELO, hearing him sing 'Shimauta' had a big impact on me, and I thought I should also do a cover of that song."
May J. has also been able to directly communicate with foreign viewers of the program through things like overseas fan meetings. Talking about how not only Japanese anime, but also Japanese music receives enthusiastic support from overseas, May J. said, "No matter which county I go to, there are people everywhere who love Japan. Such as people who like Japanese anime and from that grew to like Japanese music. Whenever I talked to people, they seemed really happy while talking to me. I thought, 'People really love Japanese music.'"
In relation to the decision to title the program "J-MELO," Dave Spector said, "Because of NHK World, my English has improved." Since the program is entirely in English, learning English is an appeal for some viewers. The name is a mixture of "Japan," "Melody," and the world "Mellow" (meaning "relaxed"). Spector explained, "We couldn't take up too much room in the TV listings." Spector also commented, "If I'm truthful, I didn't think that Japanese music would gain so much popularity through 'J-MELO.'" Additionally, Spector said, "Sometimes I do the program with May J., but I get nervous doing it in English. Generally I make puns. But today, because Tsunku♂ is here, I'm not allowed to make puns…so, of course, I couldn't call Funassyi."
Tsunku♂ wrote the song to commemorate the 400th episode with the theme of "What does it mean to live?" and "What is love?" He met Nobuyuki Harada, the chief producer of "J-MELO," though a social networking site and was told, "The worldwide popularity of Morning Musume. is different from other idol groups." About "What is LOVE?" a collaboration between Tsunku♂, Morning Musume., "J-MELO," and viewers, Harada commented, "Even though it was completed in a short amount of time, it's a powerful, energetic song."
Harada, having seen the way Morning Musume. captured the hearts of French fans at "Japan Expo" in Paris, went backstage following the show and immediately propositioned the group about becoming semi-regulars on the program. Morning Musume.'s Sayumi Michishige said, "I'm very happy to have received all the messages from fans all over the world, that Tsunku♂ wrote this song for Morning Musume., and that we will be able to perform it on the beloved program 'J-MELO.' I'm excited to be able to become one with everyone in the world through this song." When asked by Harada how Morning Musume. feels about the support they are receiving from all over the world, Michishige cutely answered, "We've been able to go to lots of different places, and every time, people say, 'Kawaii!!' ('You're cute!!'). I realized that the perception of my cuteness is the same all over the world."
About the popularity of Japanese anime and music in other countries, Tsunku♂ coolly analyzed, "In some countries, there really is just a niche. There are people who love Japan, but they exist in a small niche. It seems like they enjoy being on the edge." About the conflict between trying to market Japanese products to this niche market or try to gain mainstream popularity, Tsunku♂ said with confidence about Morning Musume., "I think that Morning Musume. can launch themselves out to the whole world. I feel like they can succeed outside of just a niche market." Expressing her happiness about the support they have received from fans overseas, Michishige said, "Even though our languages and cultures are different, I think it's wonderful that fans in other countries can enjoy Morning Musume.'s songs and we can feel a sense of unity. The current Morning Musume. hasn't been able to do many performances overseas, but we'll do our best to be able to perform in many places as the new Morning Musume."
"What is LOVE?" performed by Morning Musume., will be used as the ending theme for the program from October to December. About the possibility of releasing the song as a single, or creating an English version, Tsunku♂ said, "We do plan to release the song in some form. We didn't plan on creating an English version, but now that I'm asked about it, maybe I will create one," making the audience laugh.
The 400th episode of "J-MELO," which will feature live footage of Morning Musume.'s performances, will be available on NHK World TV (and will also be available on smartphone applications within Japan) on November 3. It will also be aired on BS Premium on November 9.