The phrase “You’re overanalysing this” is one of the most annoying phrases a music journalist can hear, because analysing music is a key part of a music journalist’s job, and so embedded in that statement is the implication that the journalist’s job is useless. Putting aside the question of whether that is indeed the case (there are lots of useless jobs, and music journalists definitely have a strong case for a berth on the Golgafrincham B Ark), let’s just say that, true or not, it’s annoying. But at the risk of overanalysing the idea of overanalysis, I do sometimes wonder “What do you really mean by ‘You’re overanalysing this’?”
Because the same J-Pop and idol fans who are likely to accuse someone like me of overanalysing pop music are people who when I occasionally visit their web forums are engaged in discussions that provoke a very similar “You’re overanalysing this” reaction in me. In this sense, it seems to me that the phrase “You’re overanalysing this” really means something closer to “You’re analysing this in a way that I personally find troubling and/or alienating.”
I think in the case of J-Pop and especially idol music, it comes down to the base assumption that discussion works off. Fan discussions treat as a baseline the idea that idols are real human beings and that what is presented to you is real. They may know that it isn’t really real, but the discussion is carried out within the confines of the narrative. They analyse the lyrics and ask themselves, “What do these lyrics express about the singer’s personality, hopes, dreams, etc.?” in the same way that fans of a TV soap might discuss the characters and their lives. The discussion can get very detailed, picking up on all manner of little effects or elements of the music or other related products. It also irritates me in the same way Wikipedia articles on some anime annoy me, where they start speculating about inconsistencies in a show by saying, “It can be suggested that Character A did this unexplained and illogical thing because of Reason X” when I just want to bang my head against the table and scream, “NO, YOU IDIOT! Character A did this unexplained and illogical thing because the writer did a shitty job!” — the need to explain everything “in-narrative” is a habit of fan culture that draws a lot of brain power into creating tortured explanations for things that have really simple explanations when you step outside of the bubble.
The reason I get the reaction that these people are overanalysing it is I think because this base assumption that these are real people funnels the analysis into areas that I tend to see as irrelevant. My baseline for any discussion of J-Pop or idol music is that everything is artificial and the girls dancing at the front are in many ways the least important element of the whole process. It’s not quite that simple, and you can kind of see with the better artists like Kyary Pamyupamyu, Perfume, Momoiro Clover Z and others that there is some synthesis between the performer and the production, but basically, I tend to discuss it all in terms of the mechanics. To return to the TV show analogy, my approach would be like analysing a drama from the point of view of narrative structure (three acts, mid-point crisis, etc.), genre studies, that sort of thing. The people on screen are characters in a holistic product that has been designed by others, and the actors themselves are simply another aspect of the production. This probably takes a lot of the fun out of it for a lot for fans.
With J-Pop and idol music, these two positions are a bit confused because the character and the actor are the same person. A lot of fan discussion takes this as axiomatic, whereas I treat it more as an actor playing a version of themself (like, say, Jerry Seinfeld or something) while maintaining a separation between the person and the role. In any case, I think the key point isn’t so much that one side or the other is analysing something too much as that the two sides are analysing it using different sets of tools and based on different sets of assumptions. Were I less of a gentleman than I am, I would note at this point that my way is correct and better, but that would be mean, so I shan’t.