J-Pop (Japanese pop) artists such as Arashi, Morning Musume and Hikaru Utada can be heard no matter where you are. All over the world, people listen to Japanese pop music, also known as J-Pop.
Not only is it a worldwide phenomenon and accounts for 10% of global revenue. It ranges across many different styles and moods, many of them being quite cute! Let’s take a closer look at the history of J-Pop and talk about some artists and groups you should know about!
The origins of what we now call J-Pop begin in the 1960s, during the development of Kayōkyoku (歌謡曲). Kayōkyoku means “Lyrical singing music” and refers to the fusion of Japanese musical compositions with their Western music counterparts.
It took a while until it became the more popular genre. One singer, Kyu Sakamoto, is credited for starting the J-Pop boom in Japan. In 1963 he released “Sukiyaki” which also reached no.1 on American music charts too.
Following this, city-pop and electro-pop started dominating the charts in Japan. In the 1990s J-Pop became more and more popular in Japan, and artists such as Namie Amuro, Arashi, and Morning Musume brought more band and dance-oriented songs.
Between the 1990s and now J-Pop was heavily influenced by the “bubblegum rock” music genre which was popular in the west in the 1970s. But nowadays – especially with the rise of Vocaloid singers and Vtubers – you can hear a lot of experimental musical elements in J-Pop songs. It is also relatively common for Korean pop (K-Pop) music artists to create Japanese versions of their songs because many young Japanese people are big fans of K-Pop.
While K-Pop and J-Pop are both very popular, one of the main historical differences between the two genres is that J-Pop didn’t aim to target international audiences, so it wasn’t as easy to access J-Pop music outside the country.
However recently Spotify and Apple Music have started streaming artists mentioned in this article! So if you have some time, why not search these artists up and listen to them? You will surely enjoy their songs!
Hikaru Utada is a Japanese-American singer/songwriter. She is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in the J-Pop industry. Utada is known for her soulful voice which was featured in video games such as Kingdom Hearts and Evangelion. She has produced and released eight studio albums, five in Japanese and three in English.
Recommended songs to listen to by Hikaru Utada: “First Love”, “Prisoner of Love”, “Flavor of Life”.
Namie Amuro is a solo artist who still has a great influence on J-Pop and and adoring fanbase, despite her 2018 retirement. Many listeners cherish her for breaking the youthful stereotype of J-Pop and experimenting with different music styles. She has released 12 studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Namie Amuro: “Baby Don’t Cry”, “Love Story”, “Do Me More”.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is an actress, model and singer . She is famous for her eclectic style and music. Kyary draws most of her inspiration from kawaii and decora Japanese fashion subcultures. She has released four studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: “Pon Pon Pon”, “Ninja Re Bang Bang”, “Kira Kira Killer”.
Eve is a singer/songwriter and Vocaloid producer who is famous for his cute singing voice. In addition to his solo work, he is also the co-lead singer of the Japanese Indie band “Einie”. He has produced and released five studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Eve: “Raison d’etre”,”Dramaturgy”, “Nonsense Bungaku”.
Ayumi Hamasaki is a singer/songwriter and former actress. Because of her long-lasting success, the Japanese media have dubbed her the”Empress of Japanese Pop Music”. Her fans see her as a trendsetter and experimenter in the J-Pop music genre. She has produced and released 17 studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Ayumi Hamasaki: “Seasons”, “Flower”, “Poker Face”.
Yuuri is a singer/songwriter, J-Pop artist and YouTuber. He is popular because of his good looks and mellow voice. Although his solo debut was in 2021 his song “Dry Flower” broke chart records in Japan. “Dry Flower” exceeded 400 million streams within 44 weeks of charting – no other solo artist had achieved that until Yuuri. He has released one studio album.
Recommended songs to listen to by Yuuri: “Dried Flower”, “Peter Pan”, “Betelgeuse”.
Aimer is a singer/songwriter with an enchanting and captivating voice. However, because she doesn’t usually appear in music videos or live performances, her nickname is “The Voice with No Face.” Aimer has sung songs for various anime shows such as Bleach, Fate/Stay Night, and Kimetsu no Yaiba. She has produced and released eight studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Aimer: “Kataomoi”, “Re: pray”, “Kimi Wo Matsu”.
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Fujii Kaze is a singer/songwriter who is also YouTube Music’s first Japanese Artist On The Rise. He is famous for his unique lyrics and catchy melodies. In some of his songs, he sings in the Okayama dialect reflecting his close roots to his home prefecture. He has released two studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Fujii Kaze: “Matsuri”, “Nan-nan”, “Kaerou”
Gen Hoshino is a singer/songwriter and actor. His music has an eclectic and experimental style. His songs appear in many OSTs (original soundtracks) for Japanese dramas – most notably “We Married As A Job”. He has produced and released five studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Gen Hoshino: “Ain’t Nobody Know”, “Idea”, “Koi”
Yorushika is composed of N-buna, a Vocaloid music producer, and Suis, a female vocalist. They are known for mixing and combining emotional and upbeat themes in their music and having heavy lyrical content. Although Yorushika have never shown their faces in music videos or concerts. They have produced and released three studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Yorushika: “Spring Thief”, “Nautilus”, “Replicant”
Yoasobi is composed of Vocaloid producer Ayase, and singer-songwriter Ikura. The concept of their music is releasing songs based on short stories written online. They are known for combining a mix of pop and darkness in their songs. They have produced and released 3 extended plays.
Recommended songs to listen to by Yoasobi: “Yoru Ni Kakeru”, “Halzion”, “Tabun”.
AKB48 is a girl group that has 48 members. They are the fifth best-selling girl group worldwide. The AKB in the group name stands for Akihabara where their main performance theater is. Their music is known for having upbeat and catchy melodies and lyrics. They have released nine studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by AKB48: “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie”, “Heavy Rotation”, “Aitakatta”.
Morning Musume is a girl group with 45 members. They are well known for their “graduation system” where their member lineup has been changing since 1997. Their music is upbeat and experimental. They have released 16 studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Morning Musume: “I wish”, “The Peace!”, “Brainstorming”.
Radwimps is a Jpop-Jrock group consisting of four members. They are best known for their OST contributions to the anime movies “Your Name” and “Weathering With You”. Their music style is a mix of pop and alternative rock. They have produced and released 11 studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Radwimps: “Nandemonaiya”, “Sparkle”, “Stick Figure”.
Arashi is a boy group of J-Pop artists consisting of five members. Their members are also popular actors in some of the most popular Japanese dramas such as Hana Yori Dango, Maou, and Kazoku Game. They are the best-selling boy band in all of Asia. They have released 17 studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Arashi: “One Love”, “Endless Game”, “Face Down”.
Official HigeDandism is a pop band consisting of four members. They are best known for producing an OST for the hit anime SPYxFAMILY. Their music style mixes pop, rock, funk, jazz, and hip-hop. They have produced and released four studio albums.
Recommended songs to listen to by Official HigeDandism: “Pretender”, “Yesterday”, “Cry Baby”.
That was quite a list! So which of these J-Pop artists are your favorite? Do you have anymore that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below!
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