Japanese Pop Music

Here are a few of my favorite Japanese pop music singers:

Ichikawa Yui

A favorite pin-up girl, she also sang titles including Ame (Rain), KIRA-KIRA (Sparkle), Ai wa Katsu (Love Conquers All), and Orange. She's got a very pleasant voice, but personally, I think the sound technicians did too much with reverb and other tricks on a couple of her songs, reducing the punch. I hope she returns to the recording studio, but she seems to be focusing on a budding acting career.

Otsuka Ai

In her more bouncy songs like Sakuranbo (Cherries), Frienger, Peach, and Smily, Ai's voice is high-pitched and infectious... In other songs like Amaenbo, Kingyo Hanabi (Goldfish Fireworks) and Planetarium, she shows off a more subdued and solid performance.

Koda Kumi

Another major fashion model turned singer, Koda Kumi knows how to rock. Her slickly produced videos and music numbers are strong and aggressive while still showing her softer side to good effect. She did the opening number, Real Emotion (What Can I Do for You?), for the videogame Final Fantasy X-2, among many other chart-toppers. Be sure to find Juicy, Aishou, Cutie Honey, Love across the Ocean, and No Regret.

Amuro Namie

Namie styled herself as the "queen of hip pop" in Wo-Wa, complete with dancing entourage and tattoos. It's hard to square this image with her roller-skates, Pink Panther tie-ins, and other video props. If she is going to put in so much English lyric, she should probably practice some English diction and pronunciation, but she's got a good sense of rhythm and artistic range to the songs.

She teamed up with Vidal Sassoon for a couple themed videos. New Look with a strong 1960s Americana vibe, and Rock Steady playing a street-queen-turned-rockstar in the 1970s.


YUI drops her family name for her music releases. She's a great guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and she obviously gets into the feeling of the song in each of her simply-arranged videos. She's also branching into acting in some dramas.

Look for her renditions of Tomorrow's Way, Life, Cherry, Tokyo, My Generation, and Jam. She has put out two versions of Love and Truth, vocal and instrumental.

Some other Favorites

Suzuki Ami has done a lot of high-style, high production videos with catchy vocals and a good beat.

I have a love-hate relationship with Tommy6 (she changed her stage name from february6 to heavenly6, so I just call her Tommy6). On the one hand, she's cute in a Japanese/American way, the songs are wacky and the videos are low-budget mindless fun. On the other hand, she goes way overboard with her ditzy drunk persona. At least I hope it's a persona.

Candy-Pop Bands

If Otsuka Ai isn't giggly and bouncy enough for you, there are quite a few younger girls to take her place on the candy stage. Perfume is billed as "futuristic" electronica but it all seems straight from the 80s. Fun meaningless songs anyway. Toutou is a new duet with a completely addictive first video, Hoshi Uranai no Uta (the Astrology Song). In it, they share some secrets about all of their family, friends and teachers, pondering what is in store for themselves in the future. A long-standing revolving troupe of eight to twelve girls forms Morning Musume, and their slick productions are all arranged for several voices in the round or layered richly, and elaborate costumes and dances for the members.

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