J-pop, natively also known simply as pops, is a musical genre that entered the musical mainstream of Japan in 1990s. Modern J pop has its roots in traditional Japanese music, but significantly in 1960s pop and rock music, such as The Beatles.
Eventually, J pop replaced “kayokyoku” (Lyric Singing Music) in the Japanese music scene. The term was coined by the Japanese media to distinguish Japanese music from foreign music, and now refers to most Japanese popular music.
There are two ways to look at the state of Japanese pop music over the past 12 months. On one hand, 2016 was a golden year for looking back and celebrating artists that exemplify the traditional power structures so many tech companies are trying to disrupt, highlighted by J-pop titan Hikaru Utada’s comeback (She speaks English) and the drama-cum-mourning around the soon-to-disband outfit SMAP.
You can’t find either of their albums on streaming services, and only snippets elsewhere online for that matter. In these cases, labels and talent agencies held all the power. Same as it ever was.
On the other hand, there has been a new wave of Japanese artists aware of (or lucky enough to benefit from) how younger listeners are drawn to music today. Early 20-somethings and teenagers aren’t rushing out to buy CDs —
They can’t afford to drop ¥3,000 too frequently — and they aren’t fixated on sound alone. Rather, they gravitate toward video-sharing sites such as YouTube and MixChannel, where users just like them can create their own dances and silly clips set to the music they like. Online, the listener holds the power.
AKB 48 itself went back to being a for-fans-only entity in 2016, but the now-it’s-your-turn vibe the group mastered on “Koisuru Fortune Cookie” graced some of this year’s biggest songs.
“Perfect Human” for one, but kung-fu-inspired choreography helped turn electro-pop trio Perfume’s “Flash” into its most viewed clip on YouTube, with nearly 23 million views … and many fan attempts at their moves in its wake. It extended to nondance productions as well.
Of course, just like everywhere else in the world, Japan’s pop scene is deeply fragmented, and online hits only tell part of the story. Plenty didn’t change either.
By the way, do you know “Nodo Jinan the World”?
Sometimes, ‘Nodo Jiman the World!’ was broadcast on Japanese television. (Nodojiman means person proud of their voice). In this Japanese TV program foreigners compete with each other singing Japanese pop songs in Japanese. For example, 15 people representing 11 countries took part in the competition.
◉ Sheena Melwani (Canada) ♪ Love Love Love ♪
◉ Aubrey Madison (America) ♪ Mikazuki ♪
◉ Nina Mikkelsen (Norway) ♪ Endress Story ♪
◉ Julia Bernard (Poland) ♪ secret base ♪
◉ Chris Miyai (Brazil) ♪ kitto dokokae ♪
◉ Fatimah Zahratunnisa (Indonesia) ♪ minna sora no shita ♪
◉ Yami Tabby (Spain) ♪ Asu e no tobira ♪
◉ Diana Garnet (America) ♪ sobakasu ♪
◉ Lin Yu Chun (Taiwan) ♪ Yuki no hana ♪
◉ Paul Ballard (UK) ♪ Konayuki ♪
The program has been very popular since it began on NTV back in 2011. It even launched the singing career of Chris Hart from America after he won the championship in the spring round of 2012.
Since then he has released an album and will be appearing in this year’s Kohaku— an annual music program shown on New Year’s Eve with the most popular music artists of the year. It is considered a great honor.
Is this the birth of a new star? It will be interesting to see what will happen next.
Here therefore, are 5 of the weirdest, for – your viewing pleasure / disappointment / shock .
① Numa Numa: Remixed by a Japanese dude (Maeken)
Heh. Remember that awesome Numa Numa song? Sorry to have reminded you then. Maeken, a popular comedian at the time, did this amazing cover as a schoolgirl with a crush on their teacher. If you can’t tell who the dude is (and I totally understand – the dancing gyaru look equally like queens), it’s the one at the front.
② Aitakatta by AKB48
I’ve picked this (“Aitakatta “)because AKB48 is the largest pop group in Japan and one of the highest grossing pop acts in the world: $200 million in sales in 2011 alone (compare this to Justin Bieber at around $100 million in 2010 and you get an idea of how popular they are). Consisting of 64 girls from early teens to mid–20s, the group was originally formed from around 8,000 hopeful applicants, whittled down to 24, and has been growing ever since (replacing members as they “graduate”).
③ PONPONPON by Kyari Pamyu Pamyu
PONPONPON. Well, that makes sense. A more recent title that seem to be deliberately playing on our love of weirdness. The title may seem weird enough, but wait until you see the actual video. As one YouTuber commenter puts it:
“this is what you see if you could take the entire country of Japan and grind it into a fine powder, and snort it all in one go.”
Spot on, I can confirm. A few highlights:
- fat blokes in pink dress with mesh faces
- wireframe turtle in the window; actually, loads of weird crap in the window
- oversized green plastic ducks dancing a konga
- Kraft macaroni and cheese product placement
- acid trip visuals
Shame the song is so horrendously un-catchy.
You know what, every one of this girls videos is just freaky, and not in a good Lady GaGa kind of way.
Vegeta-rhythm…I love the fact that they went to trouble of recreating a supermarket shelf in 2/3rd size to make the kids look bigger.
⑤ Night of Fire
World, meet the craze known as Para Para, a catchy mix of happy hardcore and trance set to talentless girls who dance with their hands alone, sometimes looking disturbingly like an air hostess giving safety instruction.
A few years ago, you could still see high school drop outs standing in front of train stations practising this , so definately something to look out for if you’re ever over there. Popular because anyone can do it; have a go! Night of Fire.
You’ll also find a lot of these kinds of songs.
I hope you’re amused. I did challenge you to find a weirder Japanese music video, right?