The most comprehensive list of J-Pop genres and information!
The Music Genres List site covers many of the most popular styles of j-pop music – also known as Japanese Pop, we hope this becomes the definitive list of any j-pop music genres on the Internet, send an email to add @ musicgenreslist dot com if you feel any popular j-pop music genres are missing and we’ll add to complete the genre list. Thank you!
Originally published on MIT.edu
As is the case in many non-Western countries, Western artists tend to maintain a constant position in the popular music of Japan. A glimpse at any current Japanese top 40 music chart reveals a mix of Western (and some European) and native Japanese artists. This mix is evident by looking at a current Japanese Top 40 Chart. However, this website deals exclusively with those genres of music that pertain to bands and artists with Japanese roots.
J-pop is probably the hardest genre of Japanese music to categorize or describe. As is the case for “pop music” in the United States, a great deal of different sounds tend to fall under this label. A lot of the bands tend to have a cutesy, “bubble-gum” pop sound while others tend to exhibit a more edgy dance, r&b, or funk sound. The teen idols of Japan are just as big (if not bigger) as the Britney Spears and Nsync’s of the U.S. The members of bands such as Morning Musume, Tanpopo, Luna Sea, and Da Pump are worshiped as pop culture icons. The love for these icons is so great that the death of certain Japanese pop and rock stars in recent years reportedly devestated some young fans so much that they took their own lives out of despair.
Not surprisingly, a band or artist’s image is often even more important than the music itself. Many music icons become the trend-setters for fashion with Japanese girls in particular attempting to emulate their particular styles.
J-Rock is another fairly broad genre encompassing a sound similar to the alternative/rock sound of the West. Most of the bands are guitar and/or drum driven. Similar to the music industry of the U.S. and Europe, many rock bands work their way up through the ranks of the “indies,” or lesser-known bands signed to Independent labels. If they gain a strong popularity among Japanese youth they are likely to get signed to a major label.
Visual Rock is a sub-genre of J-Rock that is as much about visuals as it is about sound. Visual Rock artists often wear vibrant costumes and sport bright, flamboyant hair and makeup, using their appearances and movements to play a role just as important as the music they create. Some of the male Visual Rock artists dress androgynously or in drag. Dir En Grey and Malice Mizer are popular Visual Rock bands. The line between being Visual Rock or just a part of the larger category of J-Rock is often sketchy, with the categorization of popular bands such as GLAY and L’Arc-en-Ciel up for debate (e.g., as one fan told me, “Well Glay sorta was Visual, but now they’re sorta not.”)
The past decade has seen a huge revolution in electronic music around the globe. Japan is no exception. Often blending with the other genres (particularly j-pop and j-rock), Japanese electronic music (sometimes referred to as J-Synth) has flourished both in Japan and abroad in recent years. Japanese artists such as Takako Minekawa, Fantastic Plastic Machine (aka Tomoyuki Tanaka), and Kahimi Karie are creating some of the most ground-breaking beats in the world today.
Although far less popular than J-pop, J-rock, or J-Synth (Electronica), ska music has a definite presence in Japan. Emerging about a decade ago with forerunner bands Ska-Flames and Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, the Japanese ska scene saw a huge popular surge in 1997 (mirroring the burst of popularity in the Unitd States) which quickly died out. However, many Japanese ska bands continue to persist despite a lack of mainstream support. The Determinations, The Side Burns, and Blue Beat Players are Japanase ska bands popular among fans of the genre.
Another less-mainstream genre, Japanese punk, has a significant underground following (as does punk music in the United States). The punk scene has existed in Japan about as long as it has in the U.S., dating back to the late 1970’s. And just as it has in the U.S. and Europe, the punk scene has gone through various reincarnations with different styles and tones emerging, disappearing, and re-emerging.
History of J-Pop
J-POP word began to be known all over the world since Japanese music industry became big enough to influence Japanese pop culture and young people. Music industry in Japan is now one of the biggest industries in the world and affecting the music scene in other countries. Along with the expansion of Japanese music industry, J-pop has been getting popular in some countries in Asia, Europe and U.S., since internet makes it easier to access any information at home. In fact, some J-pop musicians like Glay often tour around Asia, especially China, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea. As well as Japanese artists tour around Asia, some Japanese bands tour in Australia. For example, the bands like Softball, Beat crusaders, Zoobombs and Suns owl toured in Australia during the last couple of years.
J-pop has been built up in long history. The basics of J-pop are made up from Japanese traditional music and folk music. Japanese music scene has been developed by Japanese artists and influences from overseas artists, mainly from U.S. and U.K. It is interesting that we can find every genre of music we can think of, in the Japanese music scene if we look at the weekly music charts like Orikon.
The problem of J-pop music is that they are sometimes identical to the particular American songs. Maybe it cannot be helped to become similar to the music that they were inspired. However, Japan has been importing other cultures, adjusting to them, and then even adding them into a part of Japanese culture since the opening of a country to western countries in 19 century. Even now, Japanese people are doing the same things as before, importing new music from overseas and changing them into a part of J-pop. Once the new music is rooted in Japanese music scene, they are no longer imported music. They are made in Japanese, by Japanese and for Japanese. They all are changed into Japanese flavors.
When you listen to some J-pop songs, you may think oh, I have heard these songs before And then, you will realize that you have never listened to them and they have quite unique sounds somehow. The uniqueness could be an arrangement of the songs, voice of singers, language differences or all of them. All J-pop songs have uniqueness and familiarity in common. It means that they are similar to existent music, but they are different in any ways. Once you listen to J-pop, you will be able to understand its uniqueness. J-pop is worth listening to.
J-pop is an abbreviation of Japanese pop. It refers to Western-influenced Japanese popular music. The term J-pop was coined by J-Wave, an FM radio station, to denote what was once called “New Music.” The term is widely used in Japan to describe many different musical genres including pop, rock, dance, rap, and soul. In the Nagoya area the term Z-pop is used to describe songs popular in the region. J-rock, Visual Kei and J-rap are generally considered to fall under the J-pop umbrella as well. Singers of J-pop include both popular musicians and seiyū.
Japanese stores typically divide their music into 4 sections: J-pop, Enka (a traditional form of ballad), classical, and English/International. Some songs, such as those by Miyuki Nakajima and Anzenchitai, represent a fusion of Enka with J-pop.
J-pop can be traced to the jazz music which became popular during the early Shōwa period. Jazz reintroduced many musical instruments, previously used only to perform classical music and military marches, to bars and clubs. It also added an element of “fun” to the Japanese music scene. As a result “Ongaku Kissa” (音楽喫茶 – lit. music cafe) became a very popular venue for live jazz music.
Under pressure from the Imperial Army during World War II the performance of jazz music was temporarily halted. After the war ended the United States soldiers and the Far East Network – who were occupying Japan at the time – introduced a number of new musical styles to the country. Boogie-woogie, Mambo, Blues, and Country music were performed by Japanese musicians for the American troops. Songs like Shizuko Kasagi’s “Tokyo Boogie-Woogie” (1948), Eri Chiemi’s “Tennessee Waltz” (1951), Misora Hibari’s “Omatsuri Mambo”, and Izumi Yukimura’s “Omoide no Waltz” became popular. Foreign musicians and groups including JATP and Louis Armstrong visited Japan to perform. 1952 was declared the “Year of the Jazz Boom” but the genre itself demanded a high level of technical proficiency and was difficult to play. As a result many amateur Japanese musicians turned to country music which was far easier to learn and perform. This in turn led to a proliferation of country-based music.
In 1956 the rock-and-roll craze began thanks to a country music group known as Kosaka Kazuya and the Wagon Masters and their rendition of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel. The rock-and-roll movement would reach its peak in 1959 with the release of a movie featuring performances by a number of Japanese rock-and-roll bands. However, the demise of rock-and-roll in the United States was quickly followed by its downfall in Japan due to the fact that many groups were heavily influenced by their American counterparts. Some performers attempted to merge traditional Japanese pop music with rock-and-roll. One of few musicians to be successful in this effort was Sakamoto Kyū with the song “Ue wo Muite Arukō” (lit. “Let’s Look Up and Walk”), known in other parts of the world as “Sukiyaki”. Other performers decided instead to play the music and translate the lyrics of popular American songs resulting in the birth of “cover pop.” The popularity of these individuals faded though as radio and television gave every household the opportunity to watch real musicians perform. However the concept of karaoke and its subsequent popularity can arguably be attributed to the cover pop phenomenon.
During the period from the early 70s to the mid 80s the emphasis shifted from simple songs with a single guitar accompaniment to more complex musical arrangements known as New Music. Instead of social messages the songs focused on love and other personal events. Takuro Yoshida and Yosui Inoue are two notable New Music artists.
In the 80s the term City Pop came to describe a type of popular music with a big city theme. Tokyo in particular inspired many songs of this form. It is difficult to draw a distinction between City Pop and New Music and many songs fall under both categories. Wasei Pop (lit. Japan-made pop) quickly became a common word to describe both City Pop and New Music. By the 1990s, J-pop became the common term to describe most popular songs.
The late 1980s saw the emergence of one of Japan’s most famous rock groups of all time, Chage & Aska. A massively popular male singer/songwriter duo consisting of Chage (Shuji Shibata) and Ryo Aska (Shigeaki Miyazaki), they released a string of consecutive monster hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s, establishing themselves as Asia’s most popular rock group. Their “Asian Tour II / Mission Impossible” tour was the single largest concert tour ever put on by a Japanese group – the tickets for all 61 concerts in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan sold out on the first day. Ryo Aska is widely considered today to be one of Japan’s greatest songwriters. However, with the advent of the Japanese dance-pop music pioneered by Namie Amuro and Tetsuya Komuro in the mid- to late-1990s, the popularity of rock groups like Chage & Aska has declined.
R&B got popular in Japan in the late 90’s, when young singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru debuted with her 1st single Automatic/time will tell. Her 1st album, First Love sold around 7 500 000 copies, making it the best selling Japanese album of all time, and the best selling debut album ever in the country. While she sold millions with her R&B sounds, pop music was still popular in Japan with solo female singers such as Hamasaki Ayumi, Kuraki Mai and Ami Suzuki, and female pop groups like SPEED and Morning Musume sold millions of records with their pop-techno sounds.
Now in the early 00’s, R&B and Hip Hop influences in Japanese music are stronger than ever. J-Hiphop/rock bands such as ORANGE RANGE and Ketsumeishi are at the top of the Oricon charts, with some older pop/rock groups like Mr.Children, B’z and Southern All Stars. The current charts are mainly ruled by male only bands and solo male singers, female pop has declined a lot since the 90’s but pop singers like Hamasaki Ayumi and Otsuka Ai still get to #1 with most of their releases.