J-pop is an abbreviation of Japanese pop. It refers to Japanese popular musicians, and was coined by the Japanese media, to distinguish Japanese musicians from foreign musicians.

Japanese musical trends

Jazz roots

J-pop can be traced to jazz music which became popular during the early Shōwa period (1926–1988). Jazz introduced 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—who were occupying Japan at the time—and the Far East Network 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), Chiemi Eri's "Tennessee Waltz" (1951), Hibari Misora'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.Fact|date=October 2007 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. Some performers attempted to merge traditional Japanese pop music with rock-and-roll. One of few musicians to be successful in this effort was Kyu Sakamoto with the song "Ue wo Muite Arukō" (lit. "Let's Look Up and Walk"), known in other parts of the world as "Sukiyaki". The song was the first Japanese song to reach #1 in the United States (four weeks in "Cashbox Magazine" and three weeks in "Billboard" magazine) in its native language in America and also to receive a "Gold Record" for selling one million copies.cite web |url=http://nippop.com/artist/artist_id-117/artist_name-kyu_sakamoto/ |title=Kyu Sakamoto |accessdate=2008-06-29 |publisher=nippop.com] Other performers learned to play the music and translate the lyrics of popular American songs, resulting in the birth of "cover pop." However, the popularity of these acts faded as radio and television gave every household the opportunity to watch the original musicians perform.

New Music

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the emphasis shifted from simple songs with a single guitar accompaniment (known originally as "folk") to more complex musical arrangements known as New MusicFact|date=July 2008. Instead of social messages, the songs focused on more personal messages, such as love. Takuro Yoshida and Yosui Inoue are two notable New Music artists. Early 70's produced other popular singer/songwriters, as Miyuki Nakajima and Yumi Matsutoya, who are both notable by the variety of sounds they produce.

In the 1980s, the term City Pop was used to describe a type of popular music that had 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. J-pop became the common term to describe most popular songs. Rockers like Eikichi Yazawa, a singer who remained popular for decades with a rabidly loyal fan following, loosely fell into this category, along with more mainstream female pop idols such as the "Dance Queens" Yoko Oginome and her successor, singer/songwriter Chisato Moritaka.

Hikaru Genji, the highly influential rollerskating boy band, also became popular during this time, with some of its members growing up to fame on their own. 70's group Southern All Stars, which remains very popular in the present days, and Checkers were also some of the most well known bands in this period. In 1980, rocker Eikichi Yazawa, seeking worldwide success, signed a contract with the Warner Pioneer record company and moved to the West Coast of the United States. He recorded the albums "Yazawa," "It's Just Rock n' Roll," and "Flash in Japan," all of which were released worldwide, but were not very commercially successful.

The 1980s were dominated by idol singers such as Miho Nakayama, Akina Nakamori, Chisato Moritaka, Minako Honda and Shizuka Kudo. Mega-idol Seiko Matsuda, extremely popular through the 1980s, saw a bit more success with English-only songs released on her 1991 album "Eternal", and was hounded by U.S. tabloids for having a relationship with then red-hot Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block, who sang the duet "The Right Combination" with Seiko Matsuda. Seiko used to hold the record for most consecutive number 1 singles for a female artist in Japan (currently 25). That record was recently shattered by the singer Ayumi Hamasaki (currently 30, 18 of which are consecutive).

Still in the 80's, a new trend would emerge in Japanese rock music: the visual kei a movement notable by male bands who wore make up and extravagant hair styles and androgynous costumes. The most well successful representants are X-Japan and Buck-Tick. Not a visual kei band, but also very influencial was band Boowy, whose members included singer Kyosuke Himuro and guitarrist Hotei Tomoyasu.

The late 1980s, saw the emergence of Chage and Aska, a male singer/songwriter duo consisting of Chage (Shuji Shibata) and Ryo Aska (Shigeaki Miyazaki). They released a string of consecutive hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s. 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. This period also saw the rise of the female duo Wink. Wink debuted in 1988, surpassing the popularity of the then most popular female duo, BaBe. Also, the famous j-pop idols CoCo made their hit debut with the 1989 single EQUALロマンス (Equal Romansu, or Equal Romance) for the hit anime series らんま1/2 (Ranma 1/2).


In the 1990s, the music scene can be split up into different parts. 1990-1993 was dominated by the "Being" artists (Zard, Wands, Deen). The period between 1994 and 1997 was dominated by dance/techno acts from the "TK (Tetsuya Komuro) family", like Namie Amuro, Globe, Kimula Kaela and TRF. Namie Amuro came from the "Okinawan Actors School", which also revealed MAX (The Super Monkeys) and Speed. Pop group Every Little Thing also rose to success in the late 1990s after their debut album sold over 2,000,000 copiesFact|date=July 2008.

The boy band SMAP, one of the biggest representants of the Johnny & Associates "talent producer" hit the J-pop scene in a major way in the 1990s through a combination of TV "Talent" shows and singles, with one of its singers, Takuya Kimura, becoming a popular actor in later years known commonly as "Kimutaku". By the late 1990s an all-female band, Morning Musume, produced by Tsunku, former leader of band Sharanq became wildly popular, with a string of releases that were sales hits before even being released. The group's popularity gave origin to the Hello!Project, a female version of the Johnny & Associates. Following the pattern set a decade before by the 1980s all-female Onyanko Club, Morning Musume spawned several splinter bands whose members continue to be popular. Another 90's female groups, Speed sold millions of records with their pop-techno sounds.

In despite of the domination of "boy" and "girl" groups produced by talent agencies and pop and dance/techno singers, mostly signed under Avex and produced by Tetsuya Komuro, the 90's saw the popularity of rock bands, such as Glay, Luna Sea, Shazna and L'Arc~en~Ciel, most of them related to the visual kei movement. Glay became specially successful, with a massive exposure in the media that compared to that of the most popular pop singers.cite web |url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/1998/int/980309/the_arts.music.the_day_t10.html#| title=The Day the Phones Died|accessdate=2008-05-23 ] The band played a concert to a record audience of 200,000 people in 1999.cite web |url=http://www.barks.jp/news/?id=1000001075| title=Barks|accessdate=2008-05-23| language=Japanese] Rock duo B'z, rock band Mr. Children and singer Masaharu Fukuyama were also big names that rose in that period.

Unlike the 80's and mid 90's, which saw the popularity of many female "idols", in the late 90's and early 21st cenury the most prominent female acts were singer/songwriters. Utada Hikaru,Ayumi Hamasaki,Mai Kuraki, and Shiina Ringo are some female chart toppers who write their own songs. Utada Hikaru's first album, First Love, sold 7,650,000 copies making it the best-selling debut album and best-selling album ever in Oricon history.cite web | url=http://www.oricon.co.jp/news/confidence/24700/ | title=トレンディドラマとともに訪れた90年代のミリオンセールス時代 (The million sale age of the 90s as well as trendy dramas) | accessdate=2007-10-08 | language=Japanese] B'z 'The Best Pleasure' became second best selling album at 5,129,000 copies, Glay's 'Review -The Best of Glay' the third best selling album at 4,876,000 copies.

Although the 90's produced many million seller "phenomena" it was a veteran band, Southern All Stars, that topped 2000's yearly chart with their Single CD "Tsunami" recorded 2,934,965 sales. [cite web | url=http://www.oricon.co.jp/news/music/25386/ | title=サザン、今夏52作目のニューシングル発売決定! (Southern All Stars, new single sale decision this summer of the 52nd work!) | accessdate=2007-06-30 | language=Japanese] .

The twenty-first century

During the mid-2000s, Rhythm and blues and Hip hop music influences in Japanese music started to gain attention in popular mainstream music. Hip-hop/rock bands such as Orange Range and Ketsumeishi have been at the top of the Oricon charts, along with more established artists such as Spitz, Mr. Children, B'z, Southern All Stars and Glay. Orange Range's 'Musiq' album sold over 2.5 million copies, making it the number one album for the year 2007. The group Exile is another example of the popularity of R&B and Hip Hop, with several million seller albums.The singer Ken Hirai managed to come out on top of the yearly album chart in 2006 with the release of '10th Anniversary Complete Single Collection '95-'05 Utabaka' selling over 2,000,000 copies [cite web | url=http://magazine.music.yahoo.co.jp/pow/20060615_001/ | title=Yahoo!ミュージック - ミュージックマガジン - 平井堅- (Yahoo! music - music magazine - Ken Hirai-) | accessdate=2007-10-08 | language=Japanese] .

Johnny & Associates produced boy bands have also been very popular. Smap's cover of the song "Sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana" sold more than two million copies, being the # 1 single in the 2003 Oricon Yearly Chart. Other "Johnny's" famous acts are Arashi, Kat-Tun, Tackey & Tsubasa and News. While singers Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki still top the charts, newcomers such as Ayaka and Koda Kumi also enjoy popularity with some of their albums selling million copies. Some singers who are not classified as "J-pop" have also achieved commercial success. Japanese tenor singer Masafumi Akikawa's 'Sen no kaze ni natte' single became a smash hit in 2007, managing to sell over one million copies [cite web | url=http://www.oricon.co.jp/news/music/47398/ | title=秋川雅史、ミリオン達成表彰式 (Masafumi Akikawa, million selling achievement awards ceremony) | accessdate=2007-10-05 | language=Japanese] . American-born enka singer Jero also reached popularity in 2008, being the first black enka singer in Japan. [ [http://www.daily.co.jp/gossip/2008/02/01/0000821046.shtml Daily Sports Online] jp icon February 1, 2008]

In 2007Japanese rock group Mr. Children passed 50 million sales in albums and singles sold, making them the second highest selling artist of all time in Japan since the origin of Oricon, just behind B'z, who appears as #1 with more than 75 million copies sold. [cite web | url=http://www.oricon.co.jp/news/rankmusic/43071/ | title=ミスチル、シングル&アルバム総売上枚数5,000万枚突破 (Mr.Children, single and an album break through 50,000,000 total sales!) | accessdate=2007-06-30 | language=Japanese] and Japanese pop singer Utada Hikaru sold 10 million digital ringtones and songs, making her the first artist ever to have this many digital sales in one year. [cite web | url=http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20071004-00000001-lisn-musi | title=宇多田ヒカル、07年度DL販売総数1,000万DL突破&新曲タイアップも決定 (Utada Hikaru, breaks through 10 million sales for fiscal year 2007) | accessdate=2007-10-05 | language=Japanese] In regard to concerts and tours, Mr. Children's 'Home' arena and stadium tour managed to have the most attended at 550,000 fans [cite web | url=http://www.nikkansports.com/entertainment/p-et-tp0-20070910-253998.html | title=ミスチル6万7000人と大合唱 (Misuchiru 67,000 person chorus) | accessdate=2007-10-08 | language=Japanese] , with Jpop singer Namie Amuro having the longest lasting tour for the year at 65 dates. [cite web | url=http://www.avexnet.or.jp/amuro/tour07.html | title=Amuro Namie 'Play' Tour 2007 | accessdate=2007-10-08 | language=Japanese]

Impact on popular culture

J-pop is an integral part of Japanese popular culture, being found in anime, commercials, movies, TV shows, and video games and other forms of J-ENT. Some television news programs even run a J-pop song during their end credits.

In anime and television shows, particularly dramas, opening and closing songs are changed up to four times per year. As most programs have both opening and closing songs it is possible for one show to use 8 tracks in a single season.

Over the past decade, J-pop has continually gained fans worldwide through video games and anime. Many video game fans import games from Japan well before they are released in their respective countries. The theme songs and soundtracks from these games can be a gateway to further interest in J-pop and other genres of Japanese music. One example of this can be found in the games "Kingdom Hearts" and "Kingdom Hearts II", in which popular J-pop singer Utada Hikaru performs the main theme songs. Her song "Easy Breezy" was also used to promote the Nintendo DS. The Ouendan Series and Band Brothers for DS both feature a lot of J-Pop songs. In the case of anime, shows are normally sold in the West with their original soundtracks untouched, affording more direct exposure. Some shows aired on television in the United States, for example, have seen their themes go so far as to become commercially available as ringtones through mainstream vendors in that country.

ee also

* Oricon
* Bubblegum Pop
* J-ska
* J-rock
* K-pop
* Idol
* Music of Japan
* List of J-pop artists


External links

* [http://www.oricon.co.jp/ Oricon.co.jp]
* [http://www.riaj.or.jp/e/index.html Recording Industry of Japan]
* [http://www.nt2099.com/J-ENT/ nt - 2099] Media and Entertainment
* [http://www.jpopasia.com/ JpopAsia]
* [http://musicjapanplus.jp/artistdb/ JpopMusician Database]
* [http://japan4music.com/ Japan4Music – Musicians in Japan]

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