12 Feb Japanese City Pop – A Quick Introduction To Tokyo’s 80s Soundtrack
The late 70s and early 80s were the decades that Japanese City Pop was at its peak. The chill, retro, R&B, funk, chill music showed just how prosperous Japan was during that time. The economy was strong, real estate was booming, and life in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka was grand.
One of the big stars during those times was Mariya Takeuchi and her 1984 hit “Plastic Love.” While the song was a big hit in the 80s, it wasn’t noticed until 2018.
So what is City Pop? If you’re a fan of anime and Japanese video games, your connection to this music runs even deeper than you know.
Music journalist Yutaka Kimura, who has published a number of books on City Pop and its associated artists, defines the genre as “urban pop music for those with urban lifestyles,” in his book “Disc Collection: Japanese City Pop,” citing the band Happy End as “ground zero” for the movement.
City Pop can sound like anything from soft, album-oriented rock to sophisticated boogie disco, yet the term is often used in a narrow sense in Japan.
City Pop was also important in the development of future funk and vaporware, as well as showing Japan’s diverse and deep music. These sample-heavy Internet genres soon rose to prominence, offering a hyper-commercialized take on 80s pop as fantastical and escapist as they were critical of the empty promises of capitalism. For these online communities, old city pop records would serve as a massive visual and sonic touchstone.
Interested in diving deeper into the Japanese City Pop genre, but unsure where to start? Then listen to this mix compiled by KiDG
Also, check out these recommended albums below:
For You was a titanic achievement for Tatsuro Yamashita and a work of breathtaking musical genius, the ultimate distillation of the funk, disco, and pop sensibilities he’d been honing since his time as part of Sugar Babe. Every song on this album is an instant classic.
Miki Matsubara was a formidable singer and songwriter, but she equally widely known for her work in anime. She is perhaps the ultimate example of a City Pop star who did double-time as an anime idol. (The vocals to that rockin’ opening to Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory? That was her too.)
Pacific Breeze is an expertly compiled collection of choice cuts that range from silky smooth grooves to everything in between. Long-revered by crate diggers and adventurous music heads, this music has never been released outside of Japan until now. Including key artists like Taeko Ohnuki and Minako Yoshida, as well as cult favorites Hitomi Tohyama and Hiroshi Sato. The long-awaited release also features newly commissioned cover painting by Tokyo-based artist Hiroshi Nagai, whose iconic images of resort living have graced the covers of many classic City Pop albums of the 1980s.
This compilation presents 12 of the most memorable and sought-after songs of the era recorded by female artists. The music is a reflection of the unbridled optimism, technological achievement, excess and exuberance of Bubble-era Japan. More than catchy melodies and funky baselines, these are reflections of a time when Japan was the center, and future of the world.