A student with a passion for game development and all things Japan.
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I'll be honest right now: I've wanted to write about this subject for a long time, but I've also been scared to. While I'm very passionate about this subject, I don't think I'm as passionate as some others on the subject, and I'm not sure if I'll do it full justice, so you were expecting a full breakdown on why No Title is a great song, or the breakdown of one of Eve's music videos, then this is not article for you(though I could probably do that last one). This is just me talking about I a medium I love, as I mostly do on this blog.
Also, as a disclaimer, I am using Romaji English for titles that don't translate to English well, because my keyboard doesn't have a Japanese type setting(and even then, I don't know Japanese), and it will make things easier to understand for people who are not weeb as s**t like me.
So, what is J-Pop you are asking? Well, think of it like K-Pop, but in Japanese, however, J-Pop from what I know tends to encompass all Japanese music that isn't traditional here in the west. As such I wouldn't be surprised if people associate the term "J-pop" with Rock music, like how people pair African Music with distinctive styles of "Highlife", "Hiplife" and "Afrobeats".
So you probably wondering, how did I get into this kinda of music? A lot of people would say anime or maybe JRPG among other pop culture phenoms. Me? As with most things in my life it was Kamen Rider.
.I remember listening to Kamen Rider Gaim's theme, Just Live More by Gaim no Kaze. It's very energetic, giving the feeling of non-stop action through the song thanks to the guitars.
Kamen Rider also introduced me to insert songs. These are songs that usually play in the middle of battle, and these are usually made to fit certain characters or rider systems.
For example in Kamen Rider Kiva, Kamen Rider Ixa actually gets 4 songs. One of these is Fight for Justice, sung by the main user of the Ixa system, Nago Keisuke, talking about he wants to show he is the best user of the Ixa system. Also just to get this out of the way, in the Japan they usually credit the song in the name of the character, with the actor's name usually reversed for CV usage.
The second of these is called This Love Never Ends, sung by the main user in 1986, Kurenai Otoya, talking about how he will fight for his never-ending love. The 3rd is also sung by Nago Keisuke and is called Don't Lose Yourself, talking about the battle within himself when he uses Ixa's final form. called Ixa Rising. The last one is by the band TETRA-FANG, called Individual System, telling the story of Ixa, the white soldier that is waiting for fate.
Once I got into anime, my liking for J-Pop rose. One of my favorite ending themes in anime was Shiawase no Arika or Whereabouts of Happiness by Local Connect. The song just flows very nicely and the lyrics are very meaningful. An opening that I like is Melissa from Porno Graffiti. This is the intro to Full Metal Alchemist 2003, and it's a really nice song. Even with songs that are not considered J-Pop, I'm a sucker for things with acoustic guitars.
The moment I began getting more into mainstream J-Pop was when I listened to Kataomoi or One Sided Love by Aimer. I watched a Kingdom Hearts OC ending with a the song, looking for the anime it was from.
There was no anime. It was an original song. An amazing, unique, beautiful song. The flow of the music is so nice, it just carried me away with it's soothing instruments, and Aimer's beautiful voice.
Now I'm not to just talk about J-Pop and why it's a big thing to me, I also want to get people into the genre. But if you like anime or tokusatsu, I think it would help if you looked up some of your favorite opening songs, insert songs and ending songs to start off with. If you want me to individually recommend songs that are nice to listen to, I would say wait until the end, I'll put some down there. However, I think it's important that we get to know a few artists because they have distinctive styles for their music and music videos.
Just as a quick aside, while most of the link here go to YouTube, there are few Amazon links for the albums. Read more about those here.
Let's start off with everyone's favourite Kamen Rider Band.
Old men with a HELL of a lot of style, don't you think? These 4 have been the official band for the Kamen Rider Series since 2000. Originally consisting of Terasawa Koichī, Miyawaki "Joe" Satoshi, Nomura Yoshio and Watanabe Cher(Not pictured), the band was the official Kamen Rider band until 2007, with Ricky(the man with the sunglasses and pink streak in his hair) join the band in 2006 after Kamen Rider Blade. I can't really recommend an album, but I would recommend songs from them such as Elements and Next New World to really get a feel for the rock style they have, it's very dynamic and flowing, especially in the lead guitars.
I think that 2019 was a break-out year for Gen Hoshino. He started off by releasing Pop Virus in 2018, which lead into the song getting into Death Stranding! Awesome, even if I'm not really into Kojima's games. He released Same Thing in October of 2019, and I recommend that single on the sole reason that the title song for that album is in English, and was written by Gen Hoshino himself, and the song features the Australian band Superorganism. I would also recommend listening to Sarashi-mono, as that song is pretty relatable in my opinion, and Gen also mentioned that the songs in this single contain some thoughts about his career so far, and you can feel it in all of the songs in my opinion. For an Album recommendation, I would say Pop Virus, or Yellow Dancer, as these contain some of his best work, such as IDEA, an awesome song about loving life.
A lot of people may be familler with the Vocaloid Band REOL(and we will get to Vocaloid recommendations soon, trust me), but I'm more familler with her workings as a solo artist. For an album recommendation, I will plug her upcoming 2020 album, HYPE MODE. Reol's songs lately tend to be inspired off Buddhism, or Zen Buddhism, the version of Buddhism that Japan tends to pratrice, so if you like her songs, go and look for the lyrics online. I personally recommend Utena and Phanto(me), especially since Phanto(me) ties a lot into spirits.Also I recommend Saisaki, it's a fun song, and I made a scene based off it.
Eve is known as an Utaite, or as I like to say a indie artist who has worked with a lot good animation studios such as WIT STUDIO, the people behind attack on Titan. Eve's songs tend to be theory heavy, which is good for his fandom, as people can guess the feelings and emotions going into the song. I reccomend Outsider in order to get a feel for his style of music and for his music videos are animated by Mah, who's art style is very, very rough. For an album recommendation, I would say his latest album, Otogi, and his upcoming 2020 album, smile.
He is probably the one of biggest artist in Japan right now. Kenshi started out as a voclad producer under the name "Hachi". I'll be honest, I'm not super into Vocaloid music, because the synthetic voice is a bit ear grading to me, but I do like Donut Hole, as that song talks about a girl who has lost her memory, and can't remember her true name. I'll get into some more Vocaloid recommendations later on.
Kenshi is probably most known for doing the first opening to My Hero Academia. known as Peace Sign, but his music varies in styles. Even his older music has some synth in his voice, and backing track music is more focused on a flowing simple beat shown in songs as MAD HEAD LOVE and vivi. However as you get to soon as you get to Shunrai and Eine Kleine, the synth is gone, and there is a lot more complexity in the beat.
For an album recommendation, I would recommend Bremen or Bootleg, as both have some amazing songs on them, such as Flowerwall and Unbelievers for Bremen, and Hien and Nighthawks for Bootleg.
Probably the J-Pop artist I have known for the longest time thanks to Kingdom Hearts, the game that also put on the path that I am on now. Utada's music in the past was very western inspired I must I say, but it makes sense as she was brought up in New York, so the songs are catchy and flowing. However for Kingdom Hearts. Simple and Clean(Hikari) is more of a slow ballad than anything else, as it was Remixed by PlanitB and later, PUNPEE. Outside of Kingdom Hearts, she has released a Album called Hatsukoi. This is my Album recommendation, as all the songs there are pretty varied and it has Anata on it and that is one of my all time favorite songs. That is something you listen to with the one you love the most
Other Artists I recommend but don't listen to as much as the ones above
Vocaloid and Solo song Recommendations
My 2 top tips
That's all I have to say for this subject. I hope that this.. I'll be honest, over-extensive look into one of the mediums I love, and a piece of entertainment that inspires me, has inspired you to try something new.
All Images used(C) Their respective owners