Japan is the second-biggest music market after the U.S although it boasts a more experimental music scene. J-pop, or known simply as pops, first became popular in Japan in the 1990s. The term was originally coined to distinguish the genre from foreign music. Let’s look at some of the biggest names in J-pop.
J-pop’s biggest stars
Owing to the size of the domestic market, artists are less concerned with appealing to Western tastes. Many musicians forge careers based on the Japanese idea of “kawaii” — the quality of sounding and looking cute. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu rose to fame with her surrealist spin on baby doll fashion — massive hair bows, candy-cane tops — and simple, ringtone-like melodies coupled with childish lyrics: “I want to ride a merry-go-round….you make me happy.” She began her career in 2010 and has since released three albums, two of which have reached number one in Japan. Her biggest hit to date is called Family Party, check out the video below.
The J-pop sound may lean toward adorable; songs are often quick, high-pitched, and carry a sing-a-long quality but there’s often a naughty undertone. AKB48 — the country’s highest-selling musical act and the world’s largest pop group, includes 48 singers! They have a penchant for dressing as schoolgirls and dropping suggestive lyrics, all the while performing synchronised dance routines in huge settings. The group were founded in 2005 and scored their first number one with River, you can watch the video below.
Among AKB48’s rivals is the all-girl group Nogizaka46, which, as you might expect, consists of 46 starlets. Among their feel-good singles? If You Notice A Crush and Come on Shampoo. Formed in 2011, the group enjoyed their latest number one single in summer 2017 with the song Nigemizu. You can watch the video below.
What about the guys? Five-piece boy band Arashi was founded in 1999 and released their debut album, which went to number one, two years later. The group continue to enjoy success today and scored two number one singles in 2017. Their latest album is due for release in autumn 2017. You can listen to some of their greatest hits below.
Seven-member Sandaime J Soul Brothers are a versatile group and willing to play across rock, R&B, hip-hop and dance. Founded in 2010 they have released six studio albums and had a number one hit earlier this year with Happy. From picture-perfect pretty boys to edgy guys with grit, there’s someone for everyone to admire. Just don’t try their dance moves at home!
J-pop has influenced the Eurovision Song Contest too! In 2015 Jamie-Lee, a singer inspired by J-pop, won The Voice of Germany before going on to represent her country in the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm in 2016. You can watch her song, Ghost, below. Which J-pop star to you think would make a good addition to the Eurovision Asia Song Contest?