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Journey Through Music An Introduction to the Modern Japanese Music Industry.
When you think of the Japanese music industry what do you think of? A lot of people in the United Sates have a clear image of a large group of overly cute girls, usually dressed in school uniforms, with shrill voices, and the same facial expressions. Though their may be many groups in Japan facited like this, it is not all Japan has to offer. With an abudence of genre's,artists, entertainment companies, and fashion trends Japan is quite unique.
What is your Favorite Japanese Genre
Unlike the rising music industry of Korea that showcases a seemingly singular genre of pop , Japan has an abundant variety of genre's. From sweet vocal melodies, traditional music, to metal, Japan has something for everyone.
J-pop is categorized as contemporary pop music with a lot of western influence. This category is great for anyone who loves the sweet sound of bubble gum pop. Most of the artists in this category are either soloists or in groups known as idol groups. These groups consist of good looking males and females, who set the trends for the young people in Japan. Theses groups range from virtually talentless with a great PR system, to those who have extreme talent but may go virtually unnoticed because they are from small entertainment groups, or may even be overshadowed by other groups from their own company. The solo artists make up many of the most talented singers, songwriters, and composers. These individuals are usually bolder then their idol group counterparts. The soloists, tend to take risks and usually become world renowned.
Enka is a popular genre of music throughout Japan and in many other parts of the world. It resembles traditional Japanese music, but after WWII a more modern take has been given to this genre.Enka is very emotional dealing with love, loss and human struggle.This style of music is based on a scale of 5 notes per octave. When listing to this music you really become entranced with its beauty. You can follow the story even with out understanding the language.
J-Rock vs Visual Kei
Now many people get confused when it comes to the difference between J-Rock and Visual Kei. J-Rock is much like American rock and heavy metal. J-rock has a lot of sub genres, like punk, emo, scremo, metal, and goth. Most of the time many fans, and new comers to the world of J-rock, confuse these with Visual Kei.
However, Visual Kei was started in 1989 by the world renowned X JAPAN and was also taken on by other groups such as Buck-Tick and D'erlanger. Visual Kei is synonyms with flamboyant costumes, hairstyles, and make up. Many times this fashion can be very androgynous, showing the biggest difference between J-rock and Visual Kei. Some people would argue that Visual Kei is a style and not a genre. However, it may have started as such, but the dramatic change came, when people from the J-rock world, placed visual kei in its own category, making it its own genre of music in Japan.
Variety of Artists
Finding an artist that you can connect with may be hard when you don't know where to begin. After looking through the genre's of music in Japan you may find yourself in front of a computer for hours, trying to find artists that fit the genre you like. Look no further, here are some artists from the most popular genre's in Japanese music, you are sure to find one that peaks your interest. After researching and surveying people, the artists listed below are one's that I have found to be popular in the US, and are not related in any way to my personal preference.
Weather your looking for a solo pop artist, a cutesy girl group or a unique male group these groups may fit your musical need.
For an abundance of male idol groups look no further then the most renowned male idol group management company Johnny's and Associates. Their male idol groups are known for their charismatic charm, variety of music, and forward fashion. If your looking to start out with the classics, try SMAP, although they are all in their forties, they were the pioneers of J-pop and they still put out decent music. If your looking for a group of unique voices and individual talent try KAT-TUN,the now five member group has had number one singles, and albums since their debut in 2005. They combine pop, rock and rap to give a unique sound to the JE company. Interested in young and fresh idol groups with many members to chose from, try Hey!Say!Jump they put out fresh pop songs, with chic images, or how about Kis-My-Ft2 this group combines acrobatics, and skating to showcase a fun and talented act. KAT-TUN Real Face : http://www.jukebo.com/kat-tun/music-clip,real-face,lsqv3.html
Looking for a girl group with cute looks, and the traditional Japanese girl group look, listen to AKB48,this group holds the world record for largest group in the world boasting 62 members in total and divided into four teams. Their sound is very pop, with plenty of hook songs. This group also has five sister groups and also boasts many sub units.AKB48 Flying Get: http://youtu.be/WdhMjzfg6-k
Not into flashy idol groups listen to Exile, they are a fourteen member group. Their music unlike that of idol groups is very mature. The group has two man vocalists, two vocalists that are also performers, and the rest of the group are performers. This group also has many members who have transitioned to acting.Exile Rising Sun: http://youtu.be/0rDGmAqv81U
Not a group person, listen to Utada Hikaru, born in New York, and raised in both New York and Japan. She has a soulful voice,that captures you in an instant. For those testing the water's try her English music, its easy to transition to an artists other language works, if you develop a bond with their music in your own language.Utada Hikaru Flavor of Life :http://youtu.be/3Ta0vEnki9E
For enka music try one of the most world renowned artists Jero he is a native to the US, he is half African American and half Japanese American. He is quite the unexpected artist, but having a back round in r&b and soul, Jero perfectly captures the essence of enka.Jero: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba9rKhVAz80&feature=fvwrel
Aki Yashiro is enka, she is one of the most well know, and successful female enka singers to date. She is the only female enka singer to have top 10 singles and albums on the Japanese Oricon music chart.Aki Yashiro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex4RxqoVHXE
If your looking for a classic rock look and sound look no further then Asian Kung Fu Generation. They started in 2006 and have worked there way up into achieving high status in the J-rock world. Their popularity has flourished in Japan and is skyrocketing in the United states.AKFG Haruka Kanata: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tX_xhuQrz0
Bump of Chicken I have never really understood their name, but whats in a name? BoC is a great band to listen to if you want to get away from the sound of heavy metal, or the a more robust rock sound. BoC's music is more on the lines of classic soft rock, their lyrics are also more tuned in with the different aspects of society today. Mind you its not Journey, its more along the line's of Boston or Chicago.BOC Karma: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTdcxQZcQAE
Acid Black Cherry this is highly up for debate from a variety of people that I talked with, and in surveys taken. ABC is the solo project of Jane Da Arc's vocalist Yasu. The sound for most of the music is genuinely rock music, their are a few songs with a good amount of pop influences, but for the most part its mostly rock. One reason as to why ABC may be thought of as visual kei is because Yasus dresses androgynously.ABC Jigsaw : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTdcxQZcQAE
In 2011 a great visual kei group got their major label start, ViViD a group formed in 2009. Picked up by PS Company and Epic Records this group is just beginning their Journey. If you want a fresh stat with a virtually new and rising group ViViD is for you. Their sound is punk rock, with large influences from both the rock and pop world. Their look is respectably toned down for a visual kei group. They are usually adorned with rebellious hair style's and fashion.ViViD Dear : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K5af9dIW4E
There are many artist's and genres' to explore in Japan. Don't fret the language barrier, music natural speaks to you even if you don't understand what is being spoke. So go out on a musical adventure and travel through all the different genre regions of Japan.