J-Pop is a form of Japanese pop music. The word J-Pop was coined by a FM radio station, J-WAVE and indicate musics different from folk music. It was once called New Music.
Many of the popular seiyuu also sing J-Pop singles or as part of a cast group.
Definition of J-Pop
J-Pop (an acronym for Japanese Popular music) is a generic term that describes many different genres of current musical styles such as pop, rock, dance, rap and soul. In Japan, the term J-Pop is used to distinguish this modern style of music from others such as Classical or Enka, which is a traditionally styled Japanese ballad. One may hear terms such as J-Rock, Visual Kei and J-Rap but these terms fall under the modern "Japanese Popular" umbrella and are used to denote that the music is not of a "Pop" style.
Almost at the same time that J-Pop became in widespread use, J-ROCK was coined but it did not become popular. In the Nagoya area, the term Z-Pop is used on songs that are popular in that area. Some Enka songs like those sung by Miyuki Nakajima and Anzenchitai, overlap both categories and may or may not be included in this categories. It is typical to see music stores in Japan segement the music in J-Pop, Enka, Classical and English/World sectional categories.
J-Pop's earliest roots are from Jazz music that became popular in the early Showa period. Jazz re-introduced many of the musical instruments that were previously only used to perform classical music and military marching music to bars and clubs and introduced "fun" to Japan's music scene. "Ongaku Kissa" (音楽喫茶) lit. music cafe, where musicians performed live music became popular. During World War II, Jazz music would temporarily stop being performed under pressure from the Imperial Army. After the war, the Far East Network (commonly referred to as "FEN") operated by the US Army, which had established military bases in Japan starting with the Occupation of Japan, introduced Boogie woogie, Mambo, Blues, and Country music and these styles of music were performed by Japanese musicians to American troops stationed in Japan. Songs like Sizuko Kasaoki's "Tokyo Boogie Woogie" (1948), Eri Chiemi's "Tennesse Waltz" (1951), Misora Hibari's "Omatsuri Mambo", and Izumi Yukimura's "Omoide no Waltz" became popular. Foreign music performers like JATP and Louis Armstrong visited Japan and performed and the year 1952 was called "The Year of the Jazz Boom". However, these new styles were not easy to learn for amateur musicians who tried to make money by performing for American troops. Many of the amateur musicians learned Country music as it was the simplest to perform. They would, however, be in a fortunate position to learn the new wave of music, R&B or more commonly Rock and roll.
The Rock and roll craze began in the 1956 with a country music group, Kosaka Kazuya and Wagon Masters releasing the album Heartbreak Hotel, originally performed by Elvis Presley. It would reach its peak in 1959 with the movie focusing on performances of Japanese Rock and Rollers. The downfall of Rock and Roll in the US was also followed by its downfall in Japan as many groups played music that was nothing more than a copy of American Rock and Roll. Many perfomers turned to merging traditional Japanese pop music with Rock and Roll, with mixed results. The only successful musician to leave any impression to future generations was Kyu Sakamoto with "Ue wo muite arukou" (lit. Let's look up and walk) or Sukiyaki. Other performers decided instead of making new music, to use the music of popular American songs and translate the lyrics into Japanese, hence the birth of "Cover Pop". Also, many of the "Jazz kissa" would start to disappear as radio and TV provided every household with performances of real musicians. They would steadily decline and until technology and a innovator gave them a new life as karaoke. "Cover Pop" became a benchmark of American music in Japan for a few years, only to encounter the Beatles.
In the 1970s to mid 1980s, instead of simple songs usually accompanied with only a guitar, emphasis on more complex musical arrangements became more wide spread and these songs were called New Music. Instead of songs with social messages, themes were about love and personal events. Takuro Yoshida and Yosui Inoue are known as such artists.
In the 1980s, City Pops came to describe music popular in and themed about major cities, especially Tokyo. City Pops is based on very fuzzy ideas and many songs can be considered City Pops as well as New Music. As soon as this term became popular, Wasei Pops, lit. Japan-made Pops, became a common word to describe both City Pops and a part of New Music. By 1990s, J-Pop became the common word to describe most popular songs.
J-Pop music is an integral part of Japanese popular culture. It is used everywhere, anime, commercials, movies, radio shows, TV shows, and video games. Some news shows on TV even run a J-Pop song during its end credit roll. It is often played over loud speakers in a shop.
J-Pop songs are released at a very rapid, frantic pace that even some Japanese question whether it is reducing qualities of these songs. In anime and shows on TV especially drama, J-Pop songs are often changed every season, as many as four times a year. As most have both opening and ending songs, when a show runs for a year, it has eight songs that would be credited with being a part of the show. While this does not seem like much, Buffy the Vampire Slayer which run for 7 seasons, 1997 to 2003, has only 30 songs released in its two albums released in the USA. An anime series that runs for the same length could have 56 full songs that would be paired with at least one song to be released as a single and it would only fill a 30 minutes on TV.
This pace makes for quickly revolving faces of J-Pop. Many artists will only release an album and several singles before fading back into an anonymity. It is very difficult to maintain popularity even for several years and being popular for a decade is considered an outstanding success. Groups like B'z, Southern All Stars, and TUBE had been popular for over 15 years and they are considered an phenomenal success.
J-Pop includes most of musics sold in Japan and as such, it often includes most of genres which are often considered separate genres in other countries.
Famous J-Pop performers
(names displayed first name, family name and alphabetized by family name)
- [email protected] (http://www.jpop.com/)
- JPOP Central (http://www.jpopmusic.com/)
- J-Fan Jpop (http://www.j-fan.com/jpop/)
- momascene* J-pop in North America (http://www.momascene.com)