Originally posted on October 19th 2014
In the last years, Japanese Music gained a certain attention worldwide thanks to some artists that have been able to represent their own concepts in a unique and attractive way, stimulating the curiosity of the western markets and bringing them to take in consideration that Japan is still one of the biggest and innovative music markets out there; Not that this huge musical scene was unknown before (we could name lots of artists that gained international success in the past), but thanks to the exposure gave mainly by the Internet, we’ve seen the interest of the global audience rise towards the land of the rising sun.
The main reason behind all of this is obviously the influence of Japanese modern culture hidden in this phenomenon: While the western markets sadly tend to produce standardized acts and music, pretty much every act in Japan puts some personality in its concept, making it accessible but still a little bit unique at the same time. That’s why we think it’s worth to make a list and analyze the most influential Japanese artists of the last years and the impact they had on the global market, between appreciation, weird feelings, and will to discover this apparently far and hidden musical treasure.
Please note that this Top 5 has been listed taking in consideration today’s situation of Japanese music in the world and its most famous (mainly new) artists, created in order of popularity and cultural impact, and not in order of talent.
Let’s take a look!
5. Hatsune Miku- Vocaloid
More than a real singer or act, we’re talking about a cultural phenomenon that embraced the world like nothing else before.
Since the release of Hatsune Miku, the first add-on of the Character Vocal Series of the Vocaloid software, the world went completely nuts over the little girl with twin-tails and high-pitched voice, even in countries where Japanese music struggles to break through. The inspiration people got from this character and software has been enormous, with fans from all over the world creating music, real vocal covers and bands, anime, manga, cosplay, illustrations, and God knows what else, elevating Miku has one of the most famous icons of Japanese modern culture in the world; Plus, it’s and undeniable fact that many compositions created by young talented artists supported by Miku’s voice are noticeable and worth listening.
Hatsune Miku and Vocaloid have been able to spread various aspects of Japan’s modern culture to the world like nothing else before, a phenomenon that will be remembered for a long time.
Whenever you ask a Rock fan out there about a cool Japanese group to follow, most of the times the answer will be “X-Japan”.
Pioneers of J-rock and its sub-genre Visual Kei (one of the most appreciated overseas) this historical band not only gained immense popularity in their homeland during their mighty 32-years career, but also around the world thanks to the great music they’ve composed over the years and their influences tied to western sonorities. Despite being already famous overseas, X-Japan started to perform outside Japan only in 2008, with Worldwide Tours touching both well known countries and others that most Japanese bands have never seen, including several states of North America and Europe, and also Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, China, South Korea and more. Since their debut on the global stage X-Japan started to perform overseas more and more, seeing their popularity raise to the point where they’ve performed at the historical Madison Square Garden venue in New York: Definitely not something everyone can claim.
3. Ryuichi Sakamoto
The one and the only, his majesty Ryuichi Sakamoto.
As if being a member of an historical and internationally successful band like Yellow Magic Orchestra and a pioneer of electronic music wasn’t enough, Sakamoto is also one of the most known Japanese artists worldwide thanks to its brilliant solo career, its huge contribute to modern music, and for its unquestionable talent and endless musical culture that makes this man a real living legend. From being part of YMO to his solo career, Ryuichi Sakamoto is also a film score composer whose works granted him a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music for Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and an Oscar for Best Original Score for the movie The Last Emperor, other than a Grammy and a Golden Globe. His solo career isn’t less successful, including historical albums like Thousand Knives and B-2 Unit.
Sakamoto’s talent and innovation comes from his vast vision of music as form of art and in the execution of it, and as an expert of several music influences and genres, he has been and still is an artist of primary importance in the music we hear today.
2. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Oh, the bizarre, colorful and unique Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
Produced by well known and talented producer Yasutaka Nakata, Kyary’s first song and global hit PON PON PON had a huge impact on the western part of the world: Thanks to its catchiness, the utterly bizarre music video and her cute but kinda weird look, this girl and her producer have been able to showcase to the world the craziest and most sincere side of the Harajuku culture made of crazy gadgets, colorful clothes, rainbows, skulls, brains, floating eyes, candy bars and many other things the world outside Japan didn’t even know existed. It’s a voluntarily exasperation of one of the most visually extreme sub-cultures of Japan, saw at the eyes of the western market as “weird Japan”, and it’s been a successful move.
While PON PON PON played the part of the temporary phenomenon, Kyary managed to bring her music and career forward with valid music and visually great concepts, factors that granted her constant consideration from international headlines and also great success, with several sold out World Tours proving that she’s way more than a temporary icon that’s going to disappear from one day to another.
Funny, isn’t it? The youngest group of the list gets the first spot. And they fully deserve it.
These three little girls did something that’s probably way bigger than them: They broke through a difficult and “inhospitable” genre like Metal, brought a much needed breath of fresh air, introduced metalheads to Japanese idol music, and got even accepted by it: No other Japanese group in the past ever had such a global success and consideration inside a music niche. The secret of BABYMETAL’s success goes beyond the Gimme Choko!!! video: While this viral MV served as decoy, the huge amount of BABYMETAL’s fans around the world got hooked in by three factors, which are the passion and talent these three girls put on stage, Suzuka’s amazing singing, and the extremely skilled musicians playing live with them on stage. All of these factors have one thing in common, also the key behind this impressive global success: Talent.
If there’s one thing that every metal lovers around the world cares about when it comes to music, that’s talent: When you have that, you’ve conquered them, no matter if there are three little cuties from Japan or a brutal death metal singer in front of them. And with Suzuka’s impressive singing (for a 17 years old girl), Yui and Moa’s dance skills and viral excitement, and the Kami Band literally raising up hell on stage with high level performances, the stage and the audience are all for them. No matter how many stubborn metalheads will see them as heretics, until these little girls will tour and show their huge passion and talent to the world, real metal and music lovers will love them.
What are the artists you think deserve to be in this list? Be sure to leave a comment down here with your thoughts!