It’s May! The time where allergies shake off their rust and get up to kick you in the sinuses. Don’t worry though, because as you lay on your bed, face wet with allergy tears and clutching a wad of tissues, I’ll have some great tunes to snap you out of your funk.
This month’s focus will be on the great music trend of the '70s and '80s: City pop. Imagine neon signs, clamor and chatter in the streets, and the groovy, jazzy, and funky beats pumping out from the disco. This was the time where the Japanese economy was booming, and city pop was an optimistic vehicle of joy, until the stock market crashed and City Pop gradually faded away. These days, it’s surged in popularity, particularly thanks to Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love,” and the few remaining city pop vinyl out there have been eagerly hunted by collectors.
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And lastly, pop this City Pop Mix open and listen as you read!
Tatsuro Yamashita (山下 達郎): City Pop Pioneer
Image from Ride on Time album cover at Tatsuro Yamashita’s website
Starting off with a giant, Yamashita is one of Japan’s most commercially successful musicians, selling close to 9 million albums as of 2006, decades after he stopped creating albums as frequently. He’s got a killer voice and has a balance of funky and more blue songs in his repertoire, so he’ll fit any mood you’re in!
you like male singers who have high, yet powerful voices.
you want cruising-at-night music as you whizz down the streets.
you can’t stop imagining his long, luscious hair.
Yamashita has a ton of albums, but you can start with his album Ride on Time. Though it’s limited, you can also look up his other songs on YouTube or Amazon Music.
Anri (杏里): Worldwide City Pop Queen
Image from Anri album cover at Anri’s official website
Like any music industry, city pop was filled with artists who tended to sound the same after a while. But one 17-year-old girl from Kanagawa Prefecture took up her guitar and established herself as a titan in the industry. Eiko Kawashima, most commonly known as Anri, achieved international success, touring throughout the world and even performing at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. As one of the first successful city pop artists, her American R&B-influenced bouncy and jazzy tones paved the way for the city pop genre to make its breakthrough in the '80s. She’s still active today and released her latest album in 2018!
you enjoy American '70s and '80s R&B, funk, or jazz bands such as Earth, Wind & Fire.
you want a karaoke song everybody can groove to.
you want to hear the tunes that started the genre of city pop.
Like Yamashita Tatsuro, Anri has many, many albums that you can find online. I would recommend starting off with Boogie Woogie Wonderland, and after that, you can listen to this compilation from Spotify.
Indy Dang: Artistic
Image from Dang’s Instagram
Full disclaimer here: I actually do personally know Indy, but I promise you his songs and acapella covers are absolutely fantastic. Hailing from San Jose, California, Indy’s YouTube channel has gained 24.2k subscribers, with some acapella videos reaching more than 500k (!!) views. Along with covers, Indy has released two EPs, and when he’s not making music, he’s directing and editing film and his own music videos. Indy has a great knack for pop and his natural charisma will drag you into his world.
you enjoy listening to covers of popular movies like La La Land.
you love watching artistic and charming music videos.
you want to watch him dance in his boxers in his music video.
you want to support local artists!
For me, City Pop is a genre that reminds me of the good old days, and although I never lived in the '80s, the image of happy folks grooving on the dance floor makes the music a lot more enjoyable.
If you want to know more about City Pop’s fascinating history and influence, here’s a fantastic article by Vice Media for some follow-up reading. See you next month!