When we hear about the land of the rising sun - Japan, some common features spontaneously spring to our minds. For starters, Japan has been outstanding for developing the most happening and mind-boggling gadgets. It has an exciting anime industry which has been an integral part of our childhood. Japan also reminds us of the sublime landscapes that are well poised in the cloying Studio Ghibli films.
But did you know that Japanese are very fond of pop music as well? Does this generation recognise the glorious "City Pop" era of the 70's or 80's? Do they know that besides K-Pop, there is this captivating genre that originated from Japan? Did they even know that the famous song "Plastic Love" belonged to this genre?
Let's take you on a nostalgic tour of the underrated classic region of Japanese-Pop, or J-Pop, that once reigned over people's hearts and is now coming back to life.
Back in the 70's, Japan's economy was at its peak of success and the wave of technological development drove its people to be more west-oriented. Their musical taste was also influenced by the western world.
This can be easily recognised from the "The Beatles fever" that existed in Japan in the late 60's. Afterwards, the Japanese found more interest in fusion music, which means that trendy songs back then were an amalgamation of soft rock, rhythm & blues, jazz, adult rock, and more, incorporated with electronic beats.
We will not be wrong to categorize the 70's and 80's era as the "disco era" since the ambience of those songs will definitely make you groove.
The legend who introduced the retro J-Pop genre to the world is called Tatsuro Yamashita. This incredibly talented singer, songwriter and record producer has proved his prowess by serving people his artistic creations.
Yamashita's wife is another amazing individual in the Japanese music industry who produced one of the most hyped songs of this century - Plastic Love. She is none other than Mariya Takieuchi - the City Pop queen who has been popular in Japan from the very beginning of her career.
Mariya, in her 40 years of music career, has been nothing but extraordinary. Her song "Plastic Love" was a global hit back then but recently this song has reached 54 millions views on youtube, proving true the surging hype of ambient Japanese music among Millennials and Gen Z.
"Plastic Love" is about a heartbroken girl who is lost in the quest of searching for true love amidst the fancy and glowing city lights. She searched for love yet the fear of commitment in a wrong relationship exists beneath.
Needless to say, this addictive song is an ode to reality which gained adoration from millions of youngsters all around the world. Furthermore, this vintage J-Pop genre has recently been trending in the USA, UK and many other countries because language is not a barrier when it comes to music.
"Stay With Me" is another popular song from 1979 by a singer named Miki Matsubara. Through an Indonesian singer's cover of this song, "Stay With Me" regained popularity among non-Japanese listeners after 40 years of its release. Great songs never age and neither do they have any borders.
Along with "Plastic Love" and "Stay With Me" other highly recommended City Pop songs are "Flyday Chinatown" by Yasuha, "Fantasy" by Meiko Nakahara, "Glass No Sogen" by Momoko Kikuchi, "Ride No Time" by Tatsuro Yamashita, "Refrain By Yurie" Kokubu and the list continues.
The suave and urbane vibes of these songs will not fail to take you on a nostalgia ride to make you reminisce about the golden time.
Music is originally an integral part of Japanese culture. "Min'yō" or traditional Japanese folk music has provided Japanese people with a peace of mind. These songs are a fair reflection of their daily lives, occupations - farmers' songs, fishermen's songs, etc. - songs about religion and nature mingled with soothing rhythms of wind, strings and percussion.
Like folk songs which reflect the ancient culture of Japan, City Pop songs reflect the country's emerging change. When Japan faced the tech boom, the infrastructure of many industries, along with music, had revolutionized.
However, the Japanese music industry, from the very beginning, has swayed their way towards success and it generated a generous amount of revenue which contributed to their economy. In fact, the Japanese music industry holds second position after the US in the global music market, according to the IFPI Global Music Report 2019.
The usage of instruments in City Pop songs matured from acoustic guitars to bass and more. The use of techno beats also increased over time. The mashup of different musical styles from different cultures have been well observed as well in City Pop songs, like hints of jazz in the fusion of Latin and Carribean music.
The lyrics in City Pop songs are inspired by the continuously evolving Japanese urban lifestyle. The way these songs highlighted the concept of urban love, cosmopolitan lifestyle, Tokyo nightlife and vivid culture into the lyrics was embraced by millions.
In recent times, the J-Pop industry has been commercialized and we can not listen to the songs produced at this time without paying.
The popularity of the new J-Pop among global listeners is particularly low for this reason. Furthermore, the voguish K-Pop industry is overshadowing them with their vivid projects, reaching billions of audiences worldwide.
However, the recent surge in interest towards the vintage J-Pop genre proves that good music attains popularity sooner or later.