Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Many seiyu also sing J-Pop, either solo or as part of a cast.
Definition of J-Pop
J-Pop (derived from the acronym of "Japanese Popular music") is a generic term that encompasses many different Japanese musical genres including pop, rock, dance, rap and soul. In Japan, the term J-Pop is used to distinguish this modern style of music from Classical or Enka, a traditional Japanese form of ballad. One may hear terms such as J-Rock, Visual Kei and J-Rap but these terms all often fall under the modern "Japanese Popular" umbrella.
In the Nagoya area, the term Z-Pop is used for songs popular in that area. Some Enka songs, such as those sung by Miyuki Nakajima and Anzenchitai, variously fall into either Enka or J-Pop categories and may or may not be included in both. It is typical to see music stores in Japan divide music into J-Pop, Enka, Classical and English/World 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), became a very popular venue for live Jazz music. However, during World War II, Jazz music temporarily stopped being performed under pressure from the Imperial Army. After the war, beginning with the Occupation of Japan, the occupying US Soldiers of the Far East Network (commonly referred to as "FEN"), introduced Boogie woogie, Mambo, Blues, and Country music to Japan, 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 to perform and the year 1952 was called "The Year of the Jazz Boom". However, Jazz was not the easiest genre to learn, so many of Japanese amateur musicians learned Country music, as it was the simplest to learn and perform. However, this soon led to a proliferation of country-based, but more exciting forms of music, such as 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 a movie focusing on performances of Japanese Rock and Roll bands. 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. One of few successful musicians to leave any legacy 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 until technology and a innovator gave them a new life as karaoke. "Cover Pop" became typical of American music in Japan for a few years, only for Japan 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, the songs were about love and personal events. Takuro Yoshida and Yosui Inoue are notable such artists.
In the 1980s, City Pops came to describe music popular in and themed about major cities, especially Tokyo. The lines of what is City Pops are very blurred, and therefore 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 New Music. By the 1990s, J-Pop became the common word to describe most popular songs.
The late 1980s saw the emergence of one of Japan's most famous rock groups in history, Chage & Aska. A massively popular male singer/songwriter duo consisting of Chage (Shuji Shibata) and Ryo Aska (Shigeaki Miyazaki), they released a string of consecutive monster hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s, establishing themselves as Asia's most popular rock group. Ryo Aska is widely considered today to be one of Japan's greatest songwriters. However, with the advent of Japanese dance music pioneered by Namie Amuro and Tetsuya Komuro in the mid- to late-1990s, the popularity of rock groups like Chage & Aska has declined.
Impact on Popular culture
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 shops.
J-Pop songs are often played at a very rapid, frantic pace that many people argue reduces their quality greatly. In anime and shows on TV especially drama, J-Pop songs are changed every season, up to 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 on 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 it, with at least one song to be released as a single and it would only fill 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 anonymity. It is very difficult to stay prominent for longer than this, and sustaining popularity for a decade is considered outstanding. Groups like Chage & Aska, B'z, Southern All Stars, and TUBE had been popular for over 15 years and so are considered a phenomenal success.
J-Pop includes most of the music sold in Japan and often includes genres considered separate in other countries.
- JPOP Central
- J-Fan Jpop
- momascene* J-pop in North America
- Nippop - A wide range of Japanese artist profiles in English.
- AMGReviews - Has a growing collection of J-Pop reviews.
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