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[Album] J-Pop: An Introduction (and discussion)
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OmagnusPrime
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Old Mar 2, 2006, 05:08 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 10:08 PM 1 #1 of 609
J-Pop: An Introduction (and discussion)

So you like that song that appears on your favourite anime, or perhaps the RPG you can't help but love, perhaps you've discovered J-Pop by luck and chance, or maybe you've not heard any and you want to dip your toe in the water. Whichever way it is you've come by this wonderful genre of music, you have and you want to know more. Wellyou've come to the right place. It can all be quite confusing, from which artists to check out to where to get hold of it. As a result, I decided to make collate this information for anyone just getting into J-Pop as well as anyone looking to develop and expand their current J-Pop collection.

This is also a place to discuss J-Pop, so feel free to pitch your questions and requests here, as well as just making general discussion on the topic.

Note: This first post is long, but you don't have to read all of it. The small text contains a lot of optional reading about artists, be sure to read the normal size sections though.

Note 2: As mentioned at the bottom of this post, this information is now a couple of years out of date, some of the acts have disbanded, there's a number of new people on the scene, etc, etc. Apologies.

So starting from the beginning...

What is J-Pop?
J-Pop relates to the mainstream pop music originating in Japan. While it does include the more sweet and bubbly range of pop artists it also encompases a whole lot more beside, often drawing in influences from a wide range of areas, including R&B, Hip-Hop and rock. Anyone who think's it's all anime-voiced people singing crazy ditties has only been exposed to a small range of what's available.

Where to start?
As mentioned above, the music itself often pulls in from many areas, and even cultures, to offer a sometimes surprising range of music and choice to anyone willing to listen. Like anything, some artists and bands are better known than others and for westerners you are likely to have only heard of a few of the most well-known. That shouldn't put you off taking a chance on those you've not heard of though as there's some fantastic talent to be discovered if you stray a little from the beaten path. However, before you start exploring the multitude of artists available you need somewhere to start. This though will depend on you current experience of J-Pop:

The Complete Newbie
For those who have heard little or no J-Pop before, starting off can be quite intimidating and it can be all too easy to just stick with the well-known artists, especially since these are most often the easiest to get hold of. While I'd encourage anyone to explore further, they do make for a good starting point. So who are these well-known artists? You are likely to have heard the names of the big three, Ayumi Hamasaki, BoA and Utada Hikaru, however there's one other group to consider: Morning Musume. This hyper-active all-girl group are hugely popular in Japan and also make for a good introduction to the scene. If you don't like these, there's plenty of other artists to listen to, but these artists are generally a good introduction to the genre.
Recommended Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki, BoA, Morning Musume and Utada Hikaru

The Beginner
This is someone who has heard a few artists, most likely the big three, but are still new to the genre and looking to discover what else is out there. The next step is to explore some of the more general artists that are more popular in Japan, if not elsewhere.
Recommended Artists: Aya Matsuura, Do As Infinity, dream, Every Little Thing, hitomi, Koda Kumi and The Brilliant Green

Other Beginners
Perhaps you've sampled a little of the more popular Japanese artists as well as some of the wider known artists and still looking for something to grab your interest. For you it may be worth sampling some of the lesser-known gems that can be found in the J-Pop vault.
Recommended Artists: Garnet Crow, m-flo, Maaya Sakamoto, melody, Namie Amuro and Shiina Ringo

Remember, these are just general recommendations to get an idea of the genre for anyone looking to get a feel for what J-Pop has to offer. These simple recommendations aren't a reflection of how good or popular these artists are, and they aren't a definitive collection, but they will give you a good place to start. Be sure to check out the next section and see if there are any artists that sound like your cup of tea, or to find out if these ones sound like your sort of thing.

What artists are out there?
There are obviously a huge number of artists in total from across the years and it's not possible to cover all of them, at least in any great detail. What we present here is a breakdown of the genres you'll find in J-Pop and the artists you find in them. For the most part, and where possible, a description of the artist will be given giving you some idea of their history, current status, style and sound. The genres they are organised into are: Alt Rock, Anime/TV, Bubblegum Pop, Traditional Japanese, Mainstream Pop and R&B/Hip-Hop.

- Alt Rock
> B'z:
B'z is a simple duo featuring vocalist Kohshi Inaba and guitarist Tak Matsumoto. B'z released their first single and album in August '88, so they have well over fifteen years of music behind them. After their debut single Dakara Sono Te wo Hanashite release, the single Taiyo no Komachi Angel got them to the top spot, and nearly all (if not all) their following singles and albums reaching #1 also. Their fourth full album, RISKY, not only scored #1 on the Oricon charts, but stayed in chart rankings for 132 weeks, which is over two and a half years. B'z was again recognized later when they won the Japan Gold Disk Artist of the Year Award of '99. Their achievements are astonishing, and not easily replicated by your average musician. Their sound still retains a somewhat retro feel but is never short on variety, and with so many songs (they have released 13 albums to date), there is likely to be at least one song to appeal. (On a side note: while still a group, both members of B'z also have solo works). [www.bz-vermillion.com]

> Do As Infinty:
Do As Infinity (DAI) is a three-piece group consisting of composer Dai Nagao, guitarist Ryo Owatari and vocalist Tomiko Van. Do As Infinity is named after composer and creator Dai, who no longer has an active role in the public face of the group, despite originally appearing at public events and in their promotional videos alongside Tomiko and Ryo. He only occassionally makes appearances at their concerts. In September 1999 they debuted with Tangerine Dream holding a free concert at Shibuya. Success soon followed, and they have since released five albums as well as a number of singles. They have also performed some songs in the anime Inuyahsa. Their unique mix of samples and electric guitar solos, accompanied with acoustic guitars, alongside Tomiko's unique style of singing gives them their own distinct sound. A solid group always ready to deliver, and worthy of anyone's attention. [www.d-a-i.com]

> Every Little Thing:
Every Little Thing (ELT) first appeared on the scene in 1996 with debut single Feel My Heart. Their debut album, everlasting, followed in '97 and sold over 2 million copies throughout Japan. Regularly appearing inside the top 10 of the Oricon chart, and on occassion hitting the top spot with singles like Time Goes By, Forever Yours and Over and Over. Originally a three-piece group consisting of Mitsuru Igarashi (composer and keyboardist), Ichiro Ito (guitarist) and Kaori Mochida (vocals), in March 2000 creater and composer Igarashi Mitsuru left after releasing three albums. This left Ichiro on composing duty and Kaori writing the lyrics. After releasing 4Force the two found their feet with Many Pieces, widely regarded as their best work to date. They have recently released another album, commonplace and continue to showcase top notch music with superb vocals. Kaori's voice has been compared to that of ZARD's Izumi Sakai, and has a sweet yet powerful quality that really shines through on a lot of their later tracks. While many thought the departure of Igarashi was the end of ELT, Itou and Mochida have proven they are more than capable of putting out a good tune. [www.avexnet.or.jp/elt]

> Go!Go!7188:
Go!Go!7188 is a three-piece rock group consisting of Yuu (Nakashima Yumi), Akko (Hamada Akiko) and Taakii. Yuu handles composition, vocals and guitar, Akko does lyrics, bass and backing vocals, and Taakii handles the drums. The two girls, Yuu and Akko, grew up together in Kagoshima and originally played covers and messed about, until Yuu started composing songs. Later Taakii joined the group and they finally debuted in 2000 with the album Dasoku Houkou. This was followed by a four singles over five months letting people know that Go!Go! was a group here to stay. Originally gaining something of a cult following, it wasn't until 2003, when they released their third album Tategami, that they finally hit the top 10 of the Oricon charts, making it to #5 (a full 10 places above their previous best). To date they have released three albums, as well as a cover album and live tour album. They draw in a number of different influences into their music style and are known for variety, even in the single song. Yuu's powerful vocals work well, lending an extensive range, as well as a decent quality, to the music. For those interested in the group, it's also worth noting that Akko released a solo album, Kirari, in 2003.
[www.breast.co.jp/gogo7188]

> hitomi:
hitomi is a model/actress turned singer, which is one of the many things she shares in common with fellow popstar Ayumi Hamasaki. As well as their backgrounds, they both write their songs and they share a rather quirky 'nasal' quality to the voice. However, hitomi started her music career a few years before Ayu after meeting producer Tetsuya Komuro in 1993. Her debut single, Let's Play Winter, the following year. Though she failed to score any real hits for a number of years hitomi persevered. Her fifth album, thermal plastic, regarded as some of her best work, gained reasonable popularity, though was over-shadowed by then new J-Pop superstars Mai Kuraki, Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki. Her sixth album, Love Life, in 2000 changed all that scoring #3 on the Oricon charts. She has released 10 albums to date, including recent release Traveller, with her latest albums all securing good sales and seeing her popularity increase. hitomi has a rather consistent sound, with a nice rock feel to her trakcs, and her music is likely to fall into the 'either you love or hate' category. [www.avexnet.or.jp/hitomi]

> Nanase Aikawa:
Nanase Aikawa debuted in 1995 with the single Yumemiru Shoujo Ja Irarenai. Her debut album, Red, followed in 1996 and was a big hit, seeing her named "the brightest star" in female rock. She has worked with producer Tetsuro Oda for the majority of her career, though during 2000-01 Hotei Tomoyasu was on producing duty. Her work with Tetsuro has a more American rock feel to it, while with Hotei her songs tend to be a little more speedy and upbeat. Nananse produced her own mini-album, The Last Quarter, in 2001, which had a distinct ballad overtone. She has returned in 2004 from a three year hiatus to release her 8th album, 7 seven. She has remained a constant source of quality rock with a slight pop edge, and though some may argue she belong fully in the J-Rock category, her pop-idol status and ability to work outside the rock confines would say otherwise. You could do a lot worse than to check out her music. [www.avexnet.or.jp/nanase]

> Shiina Ringo:
Shiina Ringo is not your average popstar. Unlike most 'stars' she prefers to keep her private life away from public scrutiny, avoiding such things as publicity stunts and interviews. Shiina Ringo first appeared on the Japanese music scene in 1998 with her debut single Kofukuron, with a debut album in '99 gaining much praise from critics throughout Asia. Her second and third albums have met with similar success. Shiina's music ranges from heavy guitar-screeching rock to traditional Japanese music with a jazzy twist to bluesy melodic pop, making her somewhat difficult to place, but more than entertaining to listen to. [www.toshiba-emi.co.jp/ringo/st.htm]

> The Brilliant Green:
The Brilliant Green, otherwise known as BuriGuri or TBG, are widely considered one of Japan's premier alt-rock bands. Hailing from Kyoto, this three-person group is made up of bassist (and 'Leader') Shunsaku Okuda, guitarist Ryo Matsui and vocalist Tomoko 'Tommy' Kawase. Formed in 1995, the group signed with Sony in '97 releasing a number of singles and earning mild success. In 1998, There Will Be Love There was used as the theme for television drama Love Again propelling them to fame. Their eponymous debut album secured their popularity selling a million copies in two days. They have since released three more albums, though since 2001 each member has been persuing solo projects, most notably Tomoko's Tommy february/heavenly6. Their unique blend of tunes has earned them a spot in Time Magazine's 10 Best Bands in Planet Earth (along with Radiohead, U2, and the like) and their style is certainly different to most other Japanese bands. A heavy Western influence can be felt in their music, most obvious in the songs sung primarily in English, and with their musical style incorporating everything from Brit-rock to American alt-rock, which all adds to their distinct rock sound. While there has been no new material for a while, and it remains to be seen if there will be any more, this is one band you won't regret checking out, especially if you like your music with more of a rock edge to it. [www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/thebrilliantgreen]

> Tommy heavenly6:
Tommy heavenly6 is the darker side of Tomoko Kawase's alter-ego solo project. The Tommy heavenly6 side was brought to life in 2003 to balance out the sweet and light-hearted february6. With heavenly6 Tomoko, vocalist for The Brilliant Green, favours a more grunge rock inspired sound, though to date has only released two singles under the moniker, Wait till I can dream and Hey my friend. The singles have been met with reasonable success and an album is hotly anticipated, especially given the lighter side, Tommy february6, has recently released her second. [www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/Tommyheavenly6]

> Yaida Hitomi:
Yaida has often been compared to Shiina Ringo due to her dedication to both music as well as singing, writing and composing her own songs. She is also able to play most of the instruments she composes for, and after a stint on the indie scene finally made her debut in 2000 with B'coz I Love You. Her debut album stormed the Oricon charts earning her quick success, and she has since released three more albums of what she calls "heart rock". While her voice isn't quite as quirky as Shiina's it certainly has power and decent range that can impress in the variety of songs she pens. [www.aozorarecords.com/yaiko/]

> Other artists in this genre: Mr. Children


- Anime/TV
> Maaya Sakamoto:
Maaya Sakamoto got her break at the age of 15 when she secured the part of Hitomi Kanzaki in the anime series Vision of Escaflowne. While her voice acting may not have been anything note-worthy, it was her vocals on Escaflowne's opening song, Yakusoku wa Iranai, that really got her noticed. She has had a number of parts in various anime shows, and even voiced characters in the odd computer game (inluding Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball and the Japanese version of Kingdom Hearts). Her debut album, Grapefruit, was released in 1997 and, to date, she since released seven more albums, as well as a number of compilations and singles. The majority of Maaya's work is anime related and she has performed many themes and insert songs for shows, often working with Japanese composer Yoko Kanno (including work on almost all of her solo albums and singles). During '98 and '99 Maaya released a couple of albums with Chieko Higuchi as part of a duo called Whoops, though Maaya's participation in the group is often overlooked. Maaya voice has a sweet quality to it that's best demonstrated in her more light-hearted songs, but there's an underlying quality that's hard to deny. [www.jvcmusic.co.jp/maaya]

> Tamaki Nami:
Tamaki Nami should be no stranger to our anime fans, rising to stardom with Believe, the song used in the Japanese animation, Gundam Seed, which got her into the limelight in no time. The term "stardom" is not used lightly in the first sentence, Tamaki Nami was one of the winners of the 18th Annual Japan Gold Disk Award's New Artist of the Year. She definitely has a bright future ahead of her as she is still very young, being born on 1988. She is also backed by Sony, meaning she obviously has seemingly unlimited funding. Sony sent her, along with other Sony artists such as TM Revolution, to perform at several anime conventions this year. Tamaki Nami's songs are generally very upbeat and is supported with a strong dance choreography as can be seen from her promotional videos. [www.tamakinami.com]

> Other artists in this genre: Bon-Bon Blanco, Chihiro Yonekura, Horie Yui, Masami Okui, Megumi Hayashibara, Melocure, Mikuni Shimokawa


- Bubblegum Pop
> Aya Matsuura:
Aya Matsuura, or Ayaya as she's often called, was originally a hopefully auditioning in 2000 for a spot in Morning Musume. She made it to the final, but didn't win. However, she was spotted by producer Tsunku, creator of Morning Musume and Hello! Project. She was signed as a solo artist to be part of Hello! Project and debuted in 2001 with the single dokki dokki! LOVE mail. Her debut album, First Kiss, followed in 2002 after a number of single releases and saw her quickly become a favourite amongst H!P fans. To date she has released three albums and continues to earn respectable placings on the Oricon chart, though so far she has never made it to the top spot. Maintaining that sweet and bubbly feel that is evident in all Hello! Project artists, Ayaya is a solid example of solo talent for those who go for this particular flavour of J-Pop (which is certainly not without its fans). [www.helloproject.com/matsuuraaya]

> dream:
In 2000 the Avex label organised a huge talent contest, called 'avex dream 2000', with the aim of finding the right girls for a new group. The result was dream, a three-piece group consisting of Mai Matsumuro, Kana Tachibana and Yu Hasebe. The group debuted on January 1st 2000 with the single Movin' on, which made it into the Oricon top 15 with a mature image and non-cheesy eurobeats. Their next few singles all ended up in the same territory, failing to break the top 10 until sixth single, My will, made it to #6 at the end of 2000 (though their next single peaked at #36). Things were considered more or less over for the group when Mai, who wrote most of their song lyrics, decided to leave the group in 2002. Avex decided to hold more auditions for a replacement, but ended up with 6 new girls, though many saw this as an attempt to emmulate the success of top girl-group Morning Musume. The new 8-girl group "re-debuted" in 2003 with MUSIC IS MY THING, which sounded more or less like the old dream. They are still searching for major success, and their "re-debut" album Identity -prologue- is decent enough, if lacking a little in those stand-out tracks. [www.avexnet.or.jp/dream]

> Hello! Project:
The Hello! Project, often shortened to H!P, is the name for a collection of groups and artists all produced by Tsunku, an ex-member of Sharan Q. While there are a few core groups and solo artists that form H!P's line-up they are often combined and put into various other combination groups, such as Gomattou, ZYX and Romans. Morning Musume is the main group of project, with a number of MoMusu ex-members forming the majority of the solo-artists in H!P. From these groups there are often sub-groups formed, and even yearly shuffles (since 2000) where all the members are put into three different groups that have to compete for the highest chart position. The current line up is: Morning Musume, Tanpopo, Pucchimoni, Minimoni, Country Musume ni Konno to Fujimoto, Melon Kinenbi, Coconuts Musume, Miki Fujimoto, Aya Matsuura, Maki Goto, Yuko Nakazawa, Yuki Maeda, Atsuko Inaba, Kei Yasuda, Natsumi Abe, Gomattou, ZYX, Romans, Aa!, Erika Miyoshi, Berryz Koubou, W, Eco-moni, Biyuuden and Nochiaru Natsumi. While there is a range of music and styles covered by the H!P artists, all remain more-or-less firmly in the bubblegum pop category. Morning Musume is a good starting point, but each artist and group offers their own style. [www.zetima.co.jp]

> Morning Musume:
Morning Musume, or MoMusu, are the lead group of the Hello! Project. Beginning back in 1997 they quickly became, and remain, one of Japan's top all girl groups (though not entirely for their singing). They originally started as a 5-piece group, however, before their second single was released three more members were added. This began a serious of additions and 'graduations' which have seen members come and go, some remaining in Hello! Project to work on other projects. They have had a number of hits and to date have released 5 albums as Morning Musume. However, MoMusu members often take part in so-called sub-groups, such as Morning Musume Sakura Gumi and Otome Gumi, Minimoni and Tanpopo, which release their own singles and albums. Currently the group is in a state of change with two members graduating this summer, and two more set to graduate next year, though the number of members generally remains around the 10-14 mark. Very much a bubblegum pop group, you won't necessarily find deep and meaningful music here, but that's not to say you won't find some very good tunes, some that can't help but put a smile on your face. [www.helloproject.com]

> Maki Goto:
Maki Goto joined Morning Musume when she was just 13 and became almost an instant favourite helping them to #1 with the song Love Machine. She soon established herself as a talented singer and dancer and took the lead on a large number of Morning Musume tracks. In 2002 she graduated from Morning Musume to persue a solo career and has since released two albums, as well as a number of singles. While she has had some success her albums have failed to live up to some of the fan expectation, though her loyal fanbase remains. Check out Morning Musume, and if you like their stuff then perhaps give Maki's albums a listen. [www.helloproject.com/gotomaki]

> Natsumi Abe:
Natsumi Abe was one of the original members of Morning Musume. She was a longtime favourite as part of Morning Musume and often took the lead in their songs, on occassion singing the entire lead vocal with the other girls acting as backing singers. So when, in 2004, she graduated from the group it was no surprise that she was to persue a solo career. To date she has released one album and a couple of singles, which has been reasonably successful. It remains to be seen how much she will grow beyond Morning Musume, and it is probably best to check out their work before looking into Natsumi's solo stuff. [www.helloproject.com/abe]

> Tommy february6:
Tommy february6 is the original alter-ego of The Brilliant Green's vocalist Tomoko Kawase. Tomoko began developing the character of february6 before BuriGuri's 4th album release, and the name is inspired by her own birthday. Tommy february6's style and sound is almost as far from that of The Brilliant Green as possible, supplying a synth-laden retro 80's sound and with a large amount of American cheerleader attitude (highlighted by her promotional videos). To date she has released two albums under the name, the eponymous Tommy february6 and, more recently, Tommy Airline. The sweet and light-hearted sound earns her a place in the bubblegum pop genre (and also resulted in the creation of Tommy heavenly6), but don't be fooled, the quality of these songs is up there with anything BuriGuri have released. [www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/Tommyfebruary6]

> w-inds:
w-inds are a three piece all male group consisting of Keita, Ryohei and Ryuichi. The former is vocalist of the group while the other two provide dancing and any chorus singing (make of this what you will). The group debuted in 2001 with the single Forever Memories and have since released three albums, as well as a collection of singles. w-inds have a reasonable following (though a significant proportion of this may be female) and depsite not being part of the infamous Johnny's Family they have gained decent sales, even becoming one of the winners of the Japan Gold Disk New Artist of the Year in 2002. They produce the sort of cheery, upbeat music you'd expect to find in the bubblegum pop genre. [www.w-inds.tv]

> Other artists in this genre: Bishojo Club 21, SweetS


- Traditional Japanese
> RIKKI:
RIKKI started performing at a young age, winning the Grand Prix Japan Folksong National Competition at 15 years old (the youngest winner in the competition's history). To date she has released 7 albums and a mini album, though her most famous work is the single Suteki da ne, which was featured in Final Fantasy X. She has also collaborated with respected Japanese musicians Kazufumi Miyazawa and Joe Hisaishi (Hisaishi composes the music for Miyazaki's anime films, including Spirited Away). RIKKI specialises in a Japanese music style called 'shimauta', songs which have different factors to them. The main one of these factors, or styles, is the 'blues' factor. It is considered necessary to have a very high and special skill in order to sing 'shimauta', something RIKKI does with seeming ease. [www.office-rikki.com]

> Other artists in this genre: Fuyumi Sakamoto, Naotaro Moriyama


- Mainstream Pop
> aiko:
aiko, full name Aiko Yanai, began her music career early, forming her own band while still in school. However, when aiko graduated the group disbanded and aiko went her own way. She attended music school in Osaka, and while there showed a talent for music winning first prize in a teen music festival. Later aiko was spotted by a producer and in 1997 she debuted with the single Atashi. To date she has released 5 albums, most recently Akatsuki no Love Letter. The slightly child-like quality to her vocals lends itself well to the upbeat and cheery tracks she commonly puts out, though no doubt you'll find the odd ballad lurking in her collection. [aiko.can-d.com]

> angela:
angela is a two-piece group consisting of atsuko and Katsu. The former is responsible for yrics, songwriting and vocals, while the latter songwriting, arrangements, keyboards, guitar and DJing. The band started producing music as early as '99 and in 2000 a live road-show gained them a few fans. It wasn't until 2002 when they finally signed a producer that they really got started, releasing their debut single, Ashita he no brilliant road, theme song to the anime Uchu no Stellvia, the following year. To date they have released a number of singles and one album, Sora no Koe, with the majority of their releases featured in various anime shows. [style-market.com/angela]

> Arashi
Arashi is a group from the Johnny's agency, and is composed of Ohno Satoshi, Sakurai Sho, Aiba Masaki, Ninomiya Kazunari, and Matsumoto Jun. They debuted in 1999 with the song ARASHI which was the theme to the World Volleyball Cup 1999, and which hit #1 on the Oricon charts. All of the members appear in leading roles in popular dramas such as Stand Up!!, Yoiko no Mikata, and Yankii Boukou ni Kaeru as well as plays, commercials and musicals. They have so far released four albums and twelve singles (and are preparing to release their thirteenth one later this August), all of which have hit the top ten, if not #1 of the Oricon charts. Their energetic dancing, enthusiasm in the programs they host (D no Arashi, etc) and character more than makes up for the average vocal talent that comes with a boy-band label. [www.j-storm.co.jp]

> Aya Ueto:
Aya Ueto first got her break in 1997 when she was awarded a special prize as part of a Japanese National Beauty contest. She originally appearing in a number of commercials before moving on to acting, her music career didn't get going until '99 when she formed Z-1 with Mami Nejiki, Mai Fujiya and Manami Nishiwaki. Unfortunately the group didn't last long and they split after releasing only five singles. Two years after the split Aya signed to the Pony Canyon record label and released her debut single, Pureness, in 2002. She has since released two albums, with the Message, her second album, released fairly recently. Given her origins in modelling and acting her vocal ability shows surprising quality and depth. Combine this with some catchy and vibrant pop tunes, with the odd ballad-esque song thrown in for good luck, and you've got some decent upbeat music. [www.uetoaya.tv/index1.html]

> Ayumi Hamasaki:
Ayumi Hamasaki continues to be one of the biggest earners in Japanese entertainment, despite being discovered by chance (at a karaoke night). Love ~Destiny~ was the first of many hits and saw her reach #1 in April 1999. Since then nearly every single has landed in the top three helping to set her status as a successful singer-songwriter in stone. Ayu has a large collection of albums available, including some remix albums that provide a slightly more dance experience for those so inclined (Ayu has a wide series of remix albums: eurobeat, trance, acoustic orchestra and just plain remixes). Her nasally and slightly odd-sounding voice is not to everyone's liking, but you need to experience Ayu for yourself to decide. Her large fanbase and regularly strong sales would suggest that she's something worth listening to. [www.avexnet.or.jp/ayu]

> BoA:
BoA is a singer-dancer with a slight R&B edge to her music. Actually from Korea, BoA was discovered at 11 as part of nationwide auditions to find a star. In 2000, at the tender age of 13, she released her debut single ID;Peace B, which demonstrated surprising talent for someone so young. Securing great popularity in Korea, she has also managed reasonable success in the Japanese market. Part of the reason for this is due to having been taught both Japanese and English. This is also the reason for some of her songs having a large number of alternate version (various language and remix combinations). BoA has released a number of albums in both Korea and Japan, remaining popular with a mixture infectious upbeat work and sweeping ballads. The lyrics may not stand up to much scrutiny, but many believe BoA is a worthy pop princess. [www.avexnet.or.jp/boa/]

> Bonnie Pink:
Bonnie Pink, real name Kaori Asada, first appeared on the scene in 1995, though her debut album, Blue Jam failed to gain her much notices. After meeting Cardigans' producer Tore Johansson, with whom she recorded her next two albums, she released Heaven's Kitchen two years later, an album which gained her good sales and recognition. To date she has released eight albums, as well as a couple of 'Best of's and a remix album, and has sung the ending theme for Japanese animation Rurouni Kenshin. Bonnie Pink is another of the multi-talented females doing it for themselves; not only a song-writer, she often takes part in the composing process and has proved to have something of a knack for it. Her style is somewhat softer than that of someone like Shiina Ringo, but her skill is no less evident. She also has a talent for singing in both English and Japanese with reasonable skill, and her lyrics prove moving whether you understand them or not. [www.bonniepink.jp]

> Chage & Aska:
Chage & Aska, as the name implies, is a two-man group who sing a variety of songs. Anybody that's been around the Japanese music scene in the last 20 years or so should have heard of them, as they've been making music since 1979. They were the first to win the Japan Gold Disk Artist of the Year Award two years in succession during '92 and '93. Anybody familiar with Ghibli Studios should recognize at least one of their songs, On Your Mark, which had its promotional video directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki. With a long history and impressive back-catalogue of music there is likely to be a few songs from their collection that you will like. Give them a listen, you won't regret it. [www.chage-aska.net]

> Chara:
Chara started writing songs as young as 4 years-old forming bands and going solo all before she was 20. In 1990 she signed to Sony releasing her debut single, Heaven, in '91. Since then she has released a eight albums, as well as a few compilation and collaboration albums. Chara has been sighted as the influence for many other independant and multi-talented female artists, such as Shiina Ringo and Bonnie Pink. The first thing you are likely to notice is her unusual voice, which has a unique sound that is both odd, sweet, gentle and ultimately uplifting. Defining her music can also be somewhat tricky, Chara often incorporating a number of different styles into her sound, producing stuff from light-hearted pop to more dark and stirring pieces. Her voice may put some off, but make no mistake this is a talented artist worthy of a listen. [www.digi-chara.com]

> Changin' My Life:
Changin' My Life was a three-piece group consisting of myco, Tanabe Shintarou and Henmi Noritaka. The group debuted in 2001 with the single Luv.Remix. After releasing their second album, Caravan, and after just six single releases the group split in 2003. The lead vocalist, myco, has since gone solo. Though they never met with resounding success the strong voice of myco leant itself well to the group's music, producing some high quality pop. If you find yourself enjoying CML's work, then be sure to check out myco's solo efforts, which follow in a similar style. [Note: Since disbanding the official site has been removed]

> day after tomorrow:
A three-piece group, day after tomorrow consists of a female vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist, with the latter two taking charge of the songwriting. The vocalist herself, misono, is actually the sister of Koda Kumi of FFX-2 fame. Having formed in the early months in 2002, and with their first single in August of that year, the band has been producing songs extremely fast. With one live tour under their belt already, as well as two mini-albums, two full albums, and nine singles, all within three years' time. The group was one of the winners of last year's Japan Gold Disk New Artist of the Year Award proving that the they are definitely one to watch for. The band has uplifting songs as well as strong ballads, and having a keyboardist instead of a bassist or drummer, as is typical in other groups, also helps give the group a unique sound. [dat-net.jp]

> Dreams Come True:
Dreams Come True, sometimes referred to as DCT or Dorikamu, was formed in 1988 and comprises of Nakamura Masato (arranger, producer, bassist and overall mastermind behind the group), Yoshida Miwa (lead vocalist, songwriter and frontwoman) and Nishikawa Takahiro (keyboardist), though Nishikawa left the group. DCT is a popular Japanese group who have had a large number of hits and records to their name. In the Oricon chart they have had 21 top five singles, 10 of which reached #1, as well as 10 #1 albums. Their second album, Love Goes On, spent over 4 years on the charts, while their fifth, The Swinging Star, was the first album in Japanese history to sell more than 3 million copies. Never resting on their laurels they combine styles and influence from various genres including pop, R&B, jazz, funk, disco, soul, rock, and even classical. With an impressive 19 albums released to date, as well as many singles, Dreams Come True continue to produce well-selling pop music. While this doesn't guarantee they'll be to everone's taste, it certainly implies they are worth checking out. [www.dctgarden.com]

> Fayray:
Fayray, like Utada Hikaru, was raised in America as a child where she was influenced by both her parents and the music of the time (the 80's). She made her unofficial debut in 1999 with the album Craving, with her first official single, My Eyes, following in 2000. Understatement would appear to be a common theme with Fayray as, unlike Utada, she isn't particularly well-known outside Japan. Understated also describes her style, attitude and music, the latter of which focuses on the piano (an instrument she began learning at the age 4). Her soft tone and impressive lyrical skill is complemented by the delightfully sweet and occassionally stirring music she composes. Though she regularly turns out superb ballads, Fayray is not shy of the occassional upbeat song (or even remix), demonstrating a skill for songwriting across a wide range. An oft overlooked gem, Fayray is certainly one to please those who desire a more jazz-inspired laid back feel to their music. [www.fayray.net]

> Gackt:
A former member of J-Rock group Malice Mizer, Gackt announced he was going solo in January 1999, much to the shock of the group's fans. His debut single, Mizerable, did enough to appease worries from fans, and with the release of his first full album, MARS, he wasn't short of a followers. To date he has released four albums, and recently single and acoustic collections. While many expected a style similar to that of his ex-band, Gackt showcased his own unique take on songwriting. He also has a unique style when it comes to public appearance and performances; one of his quirks is that he maintains he was born in 1540 (and there's something about being a vampire, but we'll ignore that). He has a large following, no doubt for good reason. [www.crownrecord.co.jp/gackt.htm]

> GARNET CROW:
GARNET CROW is a four-piece band, consisting of a vocalist, two keyboardists and a guitarist. This brings a very unique sound to the band as the instrumental line-up is not what you'd find in most other bands out there. Their first mini-album was a hit in the indie scene, which quickly caused GIZA to sign them up on their label. The band has performed several songs for the Japanese animation, Detective Conan. They have, to date, released 15 singles and 4 albums. Nakamura Yuri's vocals are deeper than most other female vocalists in the Japanese music scene, which also adds a touch of uniqueness to this group. So if you've had enough of high-pitched voices, why not give GARNET CROW a listen. [www.garnetcrow.com]

> hiro:
Ex-SPEED member, Shimabukuro Hiroko, has been singing under the name "hiro" since SPEED dissolved a couple years back. It is no wonder that her solo debut single AS TIME GOES BY topped the Oricon charts at the #2 position, being that she was one of the two main vocalists in SPEED. Her two full albums to date, BRILLIANT and Naked and True, both secured a spot at #2 on Oricon as well. If you look in terms of CD sales, hiro is definitely the more popular amongst the four SPEED members. This was also shown by Avex chosing to send her to perform in the United States at Sakura-con. Her songs range from soothing ballads to quick, catchy songs with excellent dance choreography. hiro has also recently released an eponymous album of jazz songs under the moniker CoCo d'Or. [www.avexnet.or.jp/hiro]

> I WiSH / Ai Kawashima:
Ai Kawashima is an ambitious girl. She set about making a name for herself and achieving a number of personal goals, including playing in a number of Toyko concert halls. After gaining some publicity she managed to get a debut single released, making it into the Oricon top 20. In 2003 I WiSH debuted with the single Asu e no Tobira, used as the theme for the TV show Ainori. It seemingly came from nowhere to hit #1 on the Oricon chart and remained in chart rankings for over sixty weeks. Information on I WiSH was pretty scarce and the singer remained a mystery until Ai revealed she was behind the act, which also features "nao" on piano/keyboards. This hit song earned the group the recognition of being one of 2004's Japan Gold Disk New Artist of the Year Award winners. The song also was named as one of 2004's Song of the Year winners. While Ai has released a number of singles under her own name, she also continues to work under the I WiSH name (which apparently comes from "Ai's wish"). With the significant sales of a debut single and these awards under I WiSH's name, it should be obvious proof that their songs are one of a kind. [www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/IWiSH]

> Ken Hirai:
Ken Hirai was spotted at a SMEJ audition in '92 where he became and award winner. In 1995 he debuted with the single, Precious Junk, which was the theme to a TV Drama earning it some moderate success. 1998 was a real turning point is his career when, with his 7th single Love Love Love, Ken went from singing what he had to sing, to what he really wanted to sing. The next single, LAKuEN, did well in the Oricon charts and earned him a fair amount of attention. To date he has released 5 albums and a recent 'concept album', Ken's Bar, an album of covers done in Ken's own style. His music incorporates influences from a soulful gospel sound, based on 70's soul, to contemporary R&B, jazz, funk, and hip-hop. Having won over a score of fans all across Asia (his 4th album gaining through losing, released in 2001, reached 1.5 million sales all over Asia) there's likely to be something about this talented composer you'll like. [www.kenhirai.net]

> KinKi Kids
This pop duo is formed by two brothers, Domoto Tsuyoshi and Koichi and is a part of the Johnny's Agency. They debuted in 1997 with the single, Garasu no Shounen and their album A album. They were both released at the same time and both scored #1 on the Oricon charts. Since this bright beginning, they have released seven albums and nineteen singles, with each of their singles hitting #1 on the Oricon charts. The two members of the group, Tsuyoshi and Koichi are known for having the most consistent vocal quality in Johnny's. They are also both accomplished actors in dramas and musicals like Moto Kare and SHOCK, as well as hosting programs like Domoto Kyoudai. When you add dancing, catchy songs and guitar playing to the equation you not likely to go too wrong with the KinKi Kids. [www.fujiint.co.jp/DOMOTO]

> Mai Kuraki:
Mai Kuraki is, without a doubt, GIZA studio's most well-known artist. Her first single, at the age of 16, was Baby I like, which was released in America in '99. She later released Love, Day After Tomorrow in December of that year for her Japanese debut. So far four of her full albums have been one of the nominees for the Japan Gold Disk Pop Album of the Year award. It certainly won't be a surprise if her single collection, Wish You The Best, is nominated for 2005's award. All of her singles have been in the top 3 of Oricon and all of her albums have been #1 bestsellers. Several of her singles have been used as theme songs for the Japanese animation, Detective Conan. Mai Kuraki has also worked with a variety of people on other projects, such as Chinese singer Stefanie Sun Yan Zi and guitarist Tak Matsumoto from B'z. Mai has a variety of songs, from calm, elegant ballads to faster, upbeat R&B songs. [www.mai-kuraki.com]

> melody.:
melody. was born and raised in Hawaii, though she has a lot of family in Okinawa. She started vocal training, piano playing and hip-hop and jazz dance from an early age. Her break was in 1998 when she started modeling at 16. It wasn't until 2003 that she finally made her debut in the music charts, with the single Dreamin' Away. She has since release a few more singles as well as her debut album Sincerely. Her American influenced upbringing is evident in her music, not least of all the songs are entirely in English (her recent single Believe Me was released in both Japanese and English versions). However, melody.'s light and airy voice complements both the upbeat and ballad numbers, making for easy and rather enjoyable listening. [www.mel.tv/pc]

> Mika Nakashima:
Mika Nakashima has only been around for a couple of years, but in that time she's made quite a name for herself. She debuted in 2001 with the single STARS, chosen as the theme to TV drama KIZUDARAKE NO LOVE SONG. Her second single, CRESCENT MOON, was limited to 100,000 copies, which all sold on the first day. Her first album, TRUE, was released in 2002 and went straight to #1, selling a million copies within the first three weeks of release. A mini-album released shortly after, celebrating a year since her debut single release, also made it to the top spot for two-weeks straight. It was no great surprise when, in 2002, she received The Japan Gold Disc 'New Artist of the Year' Award, the All Japan Request 'Best New Artist of the Year' Award and the 44th Japanese Record 'New Artist of the Year' Award. She has since released a second album and continues to win people over with a powerful, sensuous voice and collection of quality pop songs. Her second album, LOVE, is a jazz album showing the range and quality in her voice. [www.mikanakashima.com]

> move:
move is a three-piece group made up by Yuri on vocals, T-Kimura on keyboards, and Motsu providing any 'rap' elements. They debuted in 1997 with Rock It Down, and to date have released nine albums. During their time on the music scene move's style has varied greatly from Eurobeats to rock (with something of an Evanescence-esque feel) to techno and Latin. This leads to a rather odd collection of albums and singles with some fans who love one style but hate another, though they never seem to be short of the appreciative sort. Given the varied nature of their music you are likely to find an album to suit your tastes, just don't expect the others to. [www.electropica.com]

> Rina Aiuchi:
Rina Aiuchi may well grab attention for her looks, but she also grabs a fair amount for her music and vocal talent. She started singing and taking piano lessons at the age of 5 setting her on the path of a music career, one that sees her writing her own lyrics. Debuting in 2000 with the single Close To Your Heart she has, to date, released 3 albums, as well as a remix collection and singles collection. While perhaps not quite reaching the popularity of Utada Hikaru and Mai Kuraki, two artists she's occassionally compared with, her releases have done reasonably well in the Oricon chart. Her cute and somewhat anime-esque voice belie a rather impressive vocal talent that she exhibits in the competent pop she has become know for. While comparisons can certainly be drawn with Hikki and Mai, Rina offers her own take on the slightly R&B influenced pop song (oh and, of course, the odd ballad). [rina-aiuchi.com]

> Ruppina:
Ruppina is a relatively new group, centred around female vocalist Kudou Mai from Hokkaido. Ruppina's first mini-album, Ruppina, was able to hit the #10 position on Oricon charts when it debuted in 2003. They have had two songs featured in the Japanese animation ONE PIECE, and various other songs have been used for Japanese dramas. Despite this Ruppina is still one of the more lesser-known groups in Japan. Since their debut they have released as second mini-album, Ruppina II, and their debut album is expected sometime in the near future. Kudou Mai herself is responsible for all the song's lyrics, either in entirely or helping co-write them. Ruppina's ballads are excellent, and Kudou Mai's voice and pronounciation of the lyrics are both soft and soothing. [www.ruppina.com]

> Saegusa Yuuka IN db:
Saegusa Yuuka IN db is actually a four-person band, although the name may imply a solo effort. The band's first three singles were all featured in the Japanese animation Tenshi na Konamaiki, but that failed to bring about much publicity. The band's hit single, however, came in October of last year. Their 6th single, Kimi to Yakusoku Shita Yasashii Ano Basho Made, was used in the Japanese animation Detective Conan and was able to crack into Oricon's #8 spot. The band's popularity has been increasing steadily since, and they've just recently set up a fanclub named "qp". Saegusa Yuuka IN db has solid ballads and a nice amount of fast and upbeat songs, though they're not geared towards dancing. So if you've had enough of dancing-based fast songs, these may provide a welcome change. [www.uka-saegusa.com]

> SMAP:
SMAP (Sports Music Assemble People) is an all male group consisting of Nakai Masahiro, Kimura Takuya (Kimutaku for short), Katori Shingo, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Inagaki Goro. Originally a six-piece, former member Mori Katsuyuki left in '95 to persue a motorcycle racing career. SMAP are members of the ubiquitous Johnny's Jimusho (Johnny & Associates) talent agency, and somewhat responsible for it's rise to fame, with the members appearing in commercials and TV dramas, as well as releasing numerous singles and albums. As a music group they debuted in '91 with the single Can't Stop!!-LOVING- and have since released numerous other singles and albums. Their records typically sell well and singles like Gambarimasho and Celery have been huge sellers. Despite some minor slumps in popularity they continue to remain in the public focus, thanks mainly to TV show SMAPxSMAP. Their songs have that upbeat pop feel that is so common in the Japanese music scene, and given large sales you'd have to assume that they're not bad either. [www.jvcmusic.co.jp/-/Discographylist/A002763.html]

> SPEED:
SPEED is your typical female pop group consisting of four members: Takako, Hiroko, Eriko and Hitoe. When SPEED was formed they scored the record for the lowest average age for a group (14 and a half years old). SPEED's two primary vocalists are Eriko Imai and Hiroko Shimabukuro. Since debuting in 1996 with Body & Soul, they've won multiple Japan Gold Disk Awards such as New Artist of the Year, Pop Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. However, the group disbanded in early 2000, much to the displeasure of their fans, with each of the members persuing solo projects (most notably hiro). They did get together temporarily in 2003, releasing some new works as part of the "Save the Children" charity project. SPEED's songs are typically fast and upbeat, incorporating a little bit of a hip-hop feel, and they have also been known to do the odd ballad on occassion. [www.avexnet.or.jp/speed - Note: As SPEED's members have gone their separate ways, their official site is no longer active. It has a few comments and links to each of the members' solo projects.]

> Utada Hikaru:
Utada Hikaru was born and raised in the US by parents in the music industry, and where she gained the nickname Hikki. She originally released material in America as part of family group, U3 (later cubic U), going on to release a solo US album under the stage name Cubic U. Thanks to producer Akira Miyake, now her producer, Hikki decided to make a go at the Japanese market, first performing at the Music Talks concert in 1998. Later on that year her Japanese debut single, Automatic, was released, shortly followed by her debut album First Love. She is perhaps best known to western audiences for her song Simple & Clean (originally Hikari in Japan), which appeared on the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack. Having released four Japanese albums she now has a US debut album, Exodus, released under the name Utada. Her music is somewhat influenced by the R&B she experienced while living in America, but she's not afraid to knock out the odd ballad now and again. [www.toshiba-emi.co.jp/hikki]

> ZARD:
ZARD are renowned in Japan, having produced some amazing songs since their debut in 1991. Their debut single Good-bye My Loneliness broke into the top 10 on the singles charts on Oricon, securing #9. Their next major hit came in January of 1993 when their 6th single, Makenaide, brought ZARD to the top at #1 and has since sold over 1.5 million copies. This quickly earned ZARD recognition at the Golden Disk Awards of '94. Another note is that ZARD's vocalist, Izumi Sakai, personally writes the lyrics to every single song she sings. ZARD has also performed several songs that have been chosen as Japanese animation themes such as Detective Conan and Slam Dunk. Since their debut in '91, ZARD has released 37 singles and 15 albums. Izumi Sakai's vocals makes ZARD's songs unmatched in the Japanese music scene. If you like listening to ballads, ZARD is where it's at. [www.wezard.net]

> ZONE:
ZONE is a four-person all-female band originating from Hokkaido. Debuting in '99, their first major hit came in the form of fourth single secret base~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~, a song that had been picked for a Japanese drama and which managed to hit the #2 spot on Oricon. Not only this, but it stayed in the rankings for over half a year. They have released three albums Z, O and N (so chances are E will be next), and their talents were recognized when they became one of the winners of Japan Gold Disk New Artist of the Year of 2002. However, fans met with disappointing news late last year when Takayo, the leader of the band, decided to leave to pursue her dreams. She was replaced with Tomoka, one of the two original cut from ZONE to scale the band size from six to four. ZONE's songs are typically ballads and happy, upbeat songs, though there is a definite alt-rock slant to their music and image, most evident in rock tunes such as Akashi. [www.sonymusic.co.jp/Music/Info/ZONE]

> Other artists in this genre: Ayaka Hirahara, Asuka Hayashi, Chihiro Onitsuka, Da Pump, Double, Globe, LISA, Makiyo, myco, Otsuka Ai, T.M.Revolution, V6, YeLLOW GENERATION


- R&B/Hip-Hop
> Crystal Kay:
Crystal Kay is the daughter of an American father and Korean mother, born and raised in Yokohama. She first sang some songs for TV CF, thanks in no small part to her mother's contacts, at the age of 6. This young start got her noticed early on and by 1998 she had signed to Epic Records at only 12 years old. The following year she debuted with the single Eternal Memories. To date she has released six albums, her third reaching #2 on the Oricon charts, and has collaborated with the likes of m-flo. Like a number of Japanese artists Crystal can speak both English and Japanese, the former making a regular appearance in her songs which exhibit a distinctly western influenced R&B sound. [www.c-kay.com]

> Koda Kumi:
Koda Kumi made her debut in late 2000, but it wasn't until 2002 that a her debut album, affection, made its way onto the scene. Though she enjoyed a brief spot in the limelight when she dueted with BoA on a track in aid of peace and the events of 9/11 (the meaning of peace), she has only recently started to gain some more wide-spread popularity, thanks chiefly to appearing on the soundtrack of Final Fantasy X-2 and some rather 'revealing' outfits. To date she has released three albums and a number of singles. Her style is definitely more that of the R&B flavour, though, like Hikki, she isn't afraid to tackle the odd ballad. [www.avexnet.or.jp/koda/]

> m-flo:
m-flo first burst onto the scene in '99, making it into the Oricon top 10 with their debut single the tripod e.p. Originally a three piece group consisting of Taku on turntables, Verbal supplying the rapping and some of the vocals, and Lisa as the main vocalist. They released a number of albums together until 2002, when Lisa left to persue a solo career. Taku and Verbal have continued to work as m-flo collaborating with a large number of artists, most recently resulting in a string of 'm-flo loves ...' collaborations with artists such as BoA, melody. and CHEMISTRY. Their R&B/Hip-Hop style is done surprising well with Verbal able to mix English and Japanese with impressive results. [m-flo.com]

> Misia:
Misia first appeared in 1998 after being spotted at an audition in '97. She started voice training at the age of 15. As a child she was introduced to gospel and R&B music, these genres having the greatest influence over her own career. One of her claims to fame is the ability to cover 5 octaves when singing, something she puts to good use in her songs. To date she has released 12 albums, and though her popularity isn't as huge as some others, she commands a decent following. While it's common to find Misia described as an R&B artist her music has a more soulful, even bluesy, quality to it, something her voice complements well. If you're looking for something on the softer edge of R&B then Misia, with an impressive back catalogue of music, could very well be for you. [www.rhythmedia.co.jp/misia]

> Namie Amuro:
Namie Amuro originally started out as part of a group of ex-students of the Okinawa Actors School. The group, originally called Super Monkey's, went through several line-up and name changes with leader Namie eventually appearing as an obvious candidate for a solo career (the others in the group, who subsequently formed MAX, were reduced to little more than dancers). She debuted as a solo artist in 1995 with the single Body Feels EXIT and success shortly followed. Her debut album, Sweet 19 blues, sold 3.7 million copies and broke a number of records at the time. By 19 she was hugely popular, though a large part of this success was due to her being under the wing of Avex producer Komuro Tetsuya, a hugely influential figure in 90's J-Pop. A break from the music scene towards the end of the 90's saw her popularity wane, though when her mother was murdered in '99 she almost quit entirely. After releasing Toi et moi, ending theme for a Pokémon movie (though it's believed she did not want to do this), she teamed up with American producer Dallas Austin to fully develop the R&B vibe that had been evident in a number of her previous tracks. While her most recent material is focused more on this R&B feel, her earlier work covers a variety of styles, most typically upbeat dance, though she is also capable of putting out a fine ballad. [www.avexnet.or.jp/amuro]

> Other artists in this genre: Chemistry, Emi Hinouchi, Heartsdales


Where to get your J-Pop fix
By now you should have some idea of who you want to track down a give a listen. Perhaps you're already a fan of a certain artist and want to know how to go about obtaining more of their stuff. Well there's two ways in which you can obtain the music you are after: buy or download. Obviously if you are just starting out importing a load of CDs from Japan might not be the most sensible thing to do, but equally these are artists reliant on sales like anyone else, and if you end up becoming a fan why not splash out on a CD or two.

Buying J-Pop
There are a number of places from which you can import various Japanese good, but be careful there are some sites out there selling bootlegs and other such dodgy copies. Here are a few of the top places to buy those all-important J-Pop purchases (don't worry, they all offer some form of English-based shopping):
> Amazon.co.jp
> CDJapan
> HMV.co.jp
> YesAsia.com

Downloading J-Pop
When it comes to downloading J-Pop you have a few options, namely direct downloads, peer-to-peer apps, IRC and FTPs. It may not always be possible to get hold of the artist you're after and some degree of patience is needed in some cases. However, seek and you shall probably find and perseverance will often pay off.

Bittorrent:
> JPOPSUKI - One of the few J-Pop trackers left going.

Other P2P Apps:
The two peer-to-peer programs that people will suggest you use would be Soulseek and WinMX. If you've had any experience with Napster, KaZaa, eDonkey, and any of those other P2P sharing systems you should feel right at home.

IRC:
Another option is by IRC ('Internet Relay Chat' for those who have never heard the term before, which should be very few people). There are several J-Pop channels out there, though the one to check out would be EFnet's #jpopextreme channel. To join that channel you'll need to type /join #jpopextreme spamless.

DC++:
DC++ is another file sharing system in along the lines of KaZaA and IRC. For the GFF DC Hub info thread click here.
> ayumihamasakisekai.no-ip.org - Probably the best J-Pop DC++ Hub available, with a reasonable amount of people on it at any one time.

Streaming J-Pop
An alternate way to check out J-Pop is to listen to it via streaming radio, or to watch streaming video. Winamp provides some channels for you to access Japanese music through, as well as the following stations:
> j-fan.com/radio
> kawaii-radio.net

What next?
Remember J-Pop is just part of the Japanese music scene. Both J-Rock and J-Rap are significant areas of music to be explored (if you're into that sort of thing). As well as the remainder of the J-Music scene, there's also other Asian countries, namely China and Korea, putting out similar pop music, commonly called C-Pop and K-Pop respectively. These in themselves would probably warrant another sizeable thread, as such there's too much to go into here, however, don't let that stop you checking them out.

Any other questions?
As well as presenting this information, this thread will also allow you to pose questions about J-Pop. Hopefully someone who knows the answer will pop up soon enough. I can't promise there'll always be someone with the right knowledge about, but if you never ask you'll never know. Also, if you're after specific recommendations to do with a certain artist, or comparison between a couple, etc, post them here and, again, hopefully someone with the relevant answers will appear to reply.

A few last things...
This thread is not for the discussion of whether or not you like J-Pop, I appreciate there are plenty of people out there who don't. However, there are those who do and this thread is for them to find out more about the genre and to share their knowledge with others. Also, the list of artists is not definitive, so please don't just launch into a complaint if your favourite isn't there, just let me know and I'll get onto adding them.

Thanks to: Many thanks to Hiro and Vempyre who helped out in the compilation of all this information. Also thanks to Halfelven.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a J-Pop expert and if you spot a mistake or a link out of date, etc, or just want help make this guide better and add to it then drop me a PM. Please don't bitch about things in the thread. The aim is to help people wanting to know a little more about J-Pop.

Note: Remaking this thread, I know some of the information is out of date now and I may look at updating it, but my apologies in advance.

Jam it back in, in the dark.

Last edited by OmagnusPrime; Sep 17, 2006 at 04:35 AM.
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Old Mar 2, 2006, 05:46 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 04:46 PM #2 of 609
I hope I'm not the only one surprised that Koda Kumi's finally gone off the deep end; she's released her "week 0" single.



Well, Get It On is actually just a song that you can download onto your cell phone via mu-mo. The song itself is the full version of Introduction to the second session from BEST~second session~. I really like it. It's a heckuva lot better than KAMEN feat.Tatsuya Ishii.

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Old Mar 2, 2006, 05:50 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 10:50 PM #3 of 609
I'm not that surprised, they've been finding any excuse to put out more and more stuff from her at the moment (good old avex).

On a side note, my new arrivals are Mizrock (Miz's third album, though only really her second Japanese album) and ADULT the new Tokyo Jihen album. Both are rather good, but ADULT is fan-bloody-tastic. Really great stuff from them again, I continue to love Shiina Ringo.

I'd also recommend checking out Yaiko's (Yaida Hitomi) new PV for her new single. It made me chuckle that's for sure.

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Old Mar 2, 2006, 06:27 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 06:27 PM #4 of 609
Yay J-POP discussion is back I love Ayumi Hamasaki's new CD (miss)understood. Criminal is by far the best song on there.

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Old Mar 2, 2006, 09:19 PM #5 of 609
I'm a newbie for JPop but I love my JRock with Go! Go! 7188 topping the cake and Shiina Ringo and Tokyo Jihen deserving honourable mentions.

Would Puffy fall under JRock? I would like to find out more about them although I haven't started looking into them yet.

Also, does anyone know the title of the song that is currently on the "hitomi" page? I'm guessing "Love Angel" looking at the new featured album? Also, is this hitomi as in Hitomi Shimatani? I checked her only because I liked "Falco", the opening theme for the Law of Ueki.

I don't know much about SweetS other than they did "Earthship", the second ending for The Law of Ueki.

I believe Masami Okui's "Poison" from her Rebirth album deserves honourable mention for being a rocking song, literally.

I was speaking idiomatically.
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Old Mar 2, 2006, 09:29 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 08:29 PM #6 of 609
Originally Posted by Summonmaster
Also, is this hitomi as in Hitomi Shimatani? I checked her only because I liked "Falco", the opening theme for the Law of Ueki.
Nope. hitomi's someone else entirely. Funny you should mention Hitomi Shimatani, though; my first song of hers was also Falco and I've been something of a semi-fan ever since.

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Old Mar 2, 2006, 09:48 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 06:48 PM #7 of 609
I'm glad to see this thread back up.

The latest J-Pop album I've listened to was ayumi hamasaki's "(miss)understood." Also, I was surprised with the 12 singles that Koda Kumi released within a short period of time. Some were memorable, while others were a bit dull.

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Old Mar 2, 2006, 09:53 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 08:53 PM #8 of 609
Originally Posted by Rydia
Also, I was surprised with the 12 singles that Koda Kumi released within a short period of time. Some were memorable, while others were a bit dull.
I thought the songs were, at first, pretty good. They kinda petered out at the end, though. Imasugu Hoshii wasn't to my liking and KAMEN feat.Tatsuya Ishii put me to sleep.

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Old Mar 2, 2006, 09:54 PM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 09:54 PM #9 of 609
Originally Posted by Rydia
I'm glad to see this thread back up.

The latest J-Pop album I've listened to was ayumi hamasaki's "(miss)understood." Also, I was surprised with the 12 singles that Koda Kumi released within a short period of time. Some were memorable, while others were a bit dull.
I dunno if you listen to Sweetbox... but I really don't think Sweetbox's version of Bold and Delicious will live up to Ayumi's.

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Old Mar 3, 2006, 12:15 AM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 11:15 PM #10 of 609
Great to see the J-pop thread return in all it's glory.

I've been listening to The Brilliant Green a lot lately. Although I've recently gotten into groups like NEWS, Chihiro Yonekura, Flow, and Zone. This stuff is just awesome to listen to.

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Old Mar 3, 2006, 12:20 AM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 10:20 PM #11 of 609
What, Sweetbox did a version of Bold and Delicious? There's no way it'll compare. I'm not even that much of an Ayumi fan, but when the single came out, I couldn't help but listen over and over ^^;

Recently, I've been doing some backtracking into some lesser known/older J-pop, so I haven't been keeping up with newer stuff. I've been listening to a lot of Sukima Switch and Monkey Majik (the latter singer the theme song to the drama "Saiyuuki"). Although, I must say, the new Morning Musume album "Rainbow 7" is bordering on too much. I swear, "Rainbow Pink" is so sugary sweet I have diabetes now.

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Old Mar 3, 2006, 12:37 AM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 11:37 PM #12 of 609
Originally Posted by Rollins
What, Sweetbox did a version of Bold and Delicious? There's no way it'll compare. I'm not even that much of an Ayumi fan, but when the single came out, I couldn't help but listen over and over ^^;
Ayu actually covered Sweetbox. Bold & Delicious, Ladies Night, In The Corner, Pride, Beautiful Day, and rainy day are actually originally Sweetbox songs.

Quote:
One of the biggest stars in Japan, Ayumi Hamsaki, listend last year to Sweetbox' GREATEST HITS album and loved the music! When she also listend to the demos of the new Sweetbox album she loved them even more and chose 6 tracks for her own new album which was released on 1st Jan 2006: 1. Bold & Delicious 2. Ladies Night 3. In The Corner 4. Pride 5. Beautiful Day 6 Rainy Day AYU wrote her own lyrics to GEO's compositions and her producer Max Matsura gave them his own interpretation of songs. Hopefully you like the tracks a s well as we do!!


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Old Mar 3, 2006, 12:41 AM Local time: Mar 2, 2006, 10:41 PM #13 of 609
Ah really? Looks like I need to learn more about Sweetbox. Thanks for the info.

Bah, just throws more fire into my opinion that Ayu needs to go >_> Bad enough that she's been throwing tons of remixes of her own songs out there for years but now she's doing it with other people's ;_;

I was speaking idiomatically.


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Old Mar 3, 2006, 03:28 AM #14 of 609
Oh come on now Rollins, Ayu hasn't put out any remix albums for a while now. Besides, what's wrong with remixes? They usually provide a different take on the song and add a different flavor to it.

Anyway Jade's..."special" to say the least. Her ayu covers are precious gems, and by precious gems, I mean craptacular. Seriously, her songs sound totally underproduced, and her lyrics are ridiculous.

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Old Mar 3, 2006, 03:35 AM Local time: Mar 3, 2006, 08:35 AM #15 of 609
Interesting comment about Ayu and Sweetbox. Can anyone reference the songs Ayu's supposed to have covered of Sweetbox's as I've listen to a lot of Sweetbox music and couldn't name one obvious comparison.

Originally Posted by Chyna~Girl
Yay J-POP discussion is back I love Ayumi Hamasaki's new CD (miss)understood. Criminal is by far the best song on there.
I'd have to say Ladies Night is possibly my favourite at the moment, but I agree, criminal is very good.

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Old Mar 4, 2006, 06:06 AM Local time: Mar 4, 2006, 11:06 AM #16 of 609
Ah OK, I've just found the newly released Sweetbox album. I'll try to get my hands on it and give it a listen. Even so, does anyone have any actual proof Ayu borrowed their music?

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Old Mar 4, 2006, 11:07 AM Local time: Mar 4, 2006, 10:07 AM #17 of 609
Originally Posted by OmagnusPrime
Ah OK, I've just found the newly released Sweetbox album. I'll try to get my hands on it and give it a listen. Even so, does anyone have any actual proof Ayu borrowed their music?
The song credits for (miss)understood should tell a lot.

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Old Mar 4, 2006, 12:16 PM Local time: Mar 4, 2006, 05:16 PM #18 of 609
Ah yes, of course, silly me. That just says that GEO arranged the music, not that Ayu's songs are covers of Sweetbox tracks. It's possible, is it not, that Sweetbox then went on to use the music themselves and got Jade to sing new lyrics.

Anyways, giving them both a listen I really don't like the Sweetbox versions, they sound a bit cheap and nasty.

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Old Mar 4, 2006, 12:23 PM Local time: Mar 5, 2006, 01:23 AM #19 of 609
HAHA! Jade sucks. I can't believe they even let her do the US version of "Real Emotion".

Can someone YSI Jihen's ADULT?

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Old Mar 4, 2006, 12:28 PM Local time: Mar 4, 2006, 11:28 AM #20 of 609
Originally Posted by OmagnusPrime
Ah yes, of course, silly me. That just says that GEO arranged the music, not that Ayu's songs are covers of Sweetbox tracks. It's possible, is it not, that Sweetbox then went on to use the music themselves and got Jade to sing new lyrics.
I got suspicious when Bold & Delicious and Pride both had GEO credited for the music.

Besides, Sweetbox's site still has the news about Ayu covering them up on their site. I'll re-quote...

Quote:
One of the biggest stars in Japan, Ayumi Hamsaki, listend last year to Sweetbox' GREATEST HITS album and loved the music! When she also listend to the demos of the new Sweetbox album she loved them even more and chose 6 tracks for her own new album which was released on 1st Jan 2006: 1. Bold & Delicious 2. Ladies Night 3. In The Corner 4. Pride 5. Beautiful Day 6 Rainy Day AYU wrote her own lyrics to GEO's compositions and her producer Max Matsura gave them his own interpretation of songs. Hopefully you like the tracks a s well as we do!!


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Old Mar 4, 2006, 12:54 PM Local time: Mar 4, 2006, 03:54 PM #21 of 609
Happy to see that this thread is still good to go !!!
OmagnusPrime, I'd like to ask you a simple question: Did you have to type this huge introductions all over again ?

Well, I'm here today to make a contribution to the download area for Jpop fans. My favorite site for downloading Jpop via bit torrent is JpopSuki Tracker.
This is my main site for downloading Jpop (and the other genres)

I was speaking idiomatically.
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Old Mar 4, 2006, 01:19 PM Local time: Mar 4, 2006, 06:19 PM #22 of 609
Originally Posted by soulsteelgray
Besides, Sweetbox's site still has the news about Ayu covering them up on their site. I'll re-quote...
Ah OK. I'm sorry, I didn't appreciate that that was a quote from Sweetbox's site. Thank you very much for the information.

Yuna: No, I didn't have to re-type it, I had the sense to make a backup of it ages ago. I do keep meaning to do a revision of it, but that's going to take a fair amount of work and life is pretty busy for me these days.

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Old Mar 5, 2006, 08:58 PM Local time: Mar 6, 2006, 09:58 AM #23 of 609
And a revision would include additional artists and stuff... that would make it into one long huge-ass post.


And OP's pretty busy preparing for his Japan trip. XD

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Old Mar 5, 2006, 10:30 PM #24 of 609
OP is going to Japan? He's going to be in Heaven.

Make sure you go to many Book Offs and Book Markets. They have shelves of used CD singles for 105Y. That's under $1. I got like 3 or 4 of Utada's singles and a The Brilliant Green single for that price, a Bivattchee single for 400Y, and a HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR for 200Y.

It's good stuff. Albums are as low as 750Y too. The conversion rate when I was there was 114Y = $1.

If you begin to buy stuff, you'll never stop.

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Old Mar 6, 2006, 03:37 AM Local time: Mar 6, 2006, 08:37 AM #25 of 609
Yes I am going to Japan. One of the things I want to do, provided the dates coincide, which I believe they do, is make it to one of the a-nation 2006 days. That would rock so damned hard seeing a load of great acts (Ayu, Otsuka Ai, ELT, Van Tomiko, BoA... all most likely to be there ^^). So that's top of my current agenda.

I should imagine I'll also make it along to an H!P concert (or two), especially given the person I'm meeting out there and staying with is a huge H!P fan too.

But yes, I should imagine I'll be buying one or two things. And Ultima, you need to remember that I'm coming from the UK so it gets even better £1 = Y204 (at the moment).

It would be fair to say I'm very much looking forward to it. Three weeks of greatness. ^______________^

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