Melodies from Japan and AAPI Artists Vol. 4
Updated: Jul 27
When you hear the words “Japanese idol,” you probably think of attractive young women in frilly, ribbony costumes singing and dancing to a crowd of passionate and adoring fans. Groups like AKB48 field hundreds of idols, performing every day at their theatre in Akihabara.
Idols are definitely appealing, as they are attractive women who charm viewers with their looks, personalities, and dances, but unfortunately, I am a man who cares about music quality anness above all else, and idols just weren’t my style.
I was personally interested in the different kinds of bands that were similar to idols but had more unique music, and after reaching out to my Japanese friends, I got some great ones. This may be the first blog post where I was actually unfamiliar with today’s featured artists before this month, but after hours and hours of copious listening (sometimes unhappily), I’ve dug up a few bands who I guarantee will have styles you’ve never heard before.
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Image from BABYMETAL's Facebook page. Su-metal (left) and Moametal (right)
Stop reading right now and watch this performance, which will for sure be the most interesting thing you’ve viewed today.
BABYMETAL might be one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. Formerly a trio, the band is composed of Su-metal (Suzuka Nakamoto) and Moametal (Moa Kikuchi). With their intense metal riffs, bombastic live stages, and a mixture of cute and cool dance choreography, BABYMETAL snatched their heavy diamond-studded guitar and smashed society’s expectations of what an “idol” should be. This is no gimmick either—their music is well-produced, the main singer maintains her voice despite heavy dancing, and they fully commit to their brand and image of a metal idol band.
you need hype music to get you through long days at work.
you want to dive into unfamiliar music territory.
you respect bands that really don’t care if they don’t follow what other bands do.
Image from Perfume’s Facebook page. From left to right, Ayano Omoto, Yuka Kashino, and Ayaka Nishiwaki
This trio of women has been producing pop music and memorable dances since their debut in 2000! While at first cultivating a more traditional, cutesy idol image, their music has matured into an electro-pop, synth-heavy music, with hints of bubblegum pop and house as well. Their dance is mostly focused on simple, easy to mimic dances that definitely would’ve trended on social media if it existed in the 2000s.
I actually went back and listened to their most famous hits from almost every year since 2002, and it’s honestly amazing how they manage to always successfully adjust things just a tad year after year to keep up with the times, but still remain distinctly Perfume. Can’t say that for some bands (*cough COLDPLAY *cough).
you like synth and electric beats to dance to.
you want to listen to throwback music styles from the 2000s.
you like quirky music videos with dances that will stay in your head.
Perfume is on YouTube and Spotify. You can start with the song that made them famous, Polyrhythm (2008), or the very catchy Chocolate Disco (2008) then move onto their more modern songs like Future Pop (2019), which is more dubsteppy.
No AAPI artist this time because I genuinely spent so much time researching idols for the past few weeks that I think I need to just release it all here.
Three out of four of the following idol groups are all modern groups that have exciting dance choreography, well-produced music videos, and fantastic fashion sense. They also tend to eschew the kawaii fashion and dance styles in favor of modern styles that have a more worldwide appeal. Listen and let me know which ones you’re into!
GENERATIONS from Exile Tribe - All male group
JO1 - All male group
NiziU - If you’re a Kpop fan, this is the same agency as the Korean worldwide superstars Twice.
Arashi - All male group formed in 1999 for the older generations!
There’s SO many idol bands out there, and I would recommend giving mainstream bands like AKB48 or Nogizaka46 a shot too! Personally, as an avid Korean idol fan, I can only enjoy idol music if I’m personally invested in the members, so if you’re interested in diving into the fun world of Japanese idols, be prepared to spend hours, uh, researching on which members you personally empathize with! Have a great July everybody!