32 minutes | Jun 15, 2021

40 Years Later, Japanese City Pop is Still Crashing the Charts (with Cat Zhang)

If you listen to a lot of music on YouTube, you may have been recommended a video. The thumbnail image is a striking black-and-white photo of a Japanese singer named Mariya Takeuchi. The song, “Plastic Love,” is a lush disco track with deep groove, impeccable string and horn arrangements, and a slow-burn vocal performance from Takeuchi. When the song was released in 1984, it sold 10,000 copies. Today, it’s racked up over 65 million views since its posting in 2017.  

How did the relatively obscure genre of Japanese City Pop, an amalgam of American soul and funk and Japanese songcraft from the 1970s and 80s, become the sound of the moment? For Pitchfork’s Cat Zhang, City Pop’s heart-on-its-sleeve emotions and slick production resonates with the nostalgic leanings of much contemporary pop. Sampled by artists like Tyler the Creator and inspiring original material from bands around the globe, City Pop has much to tell us about cultural exchange, technology, and the enduring universal power of slap bass. 

Songs Discussed:

Miki Matsubara - Stay With Me

Mariya Takeuchi - Plastic Love

Makoto Matsushita - Business Man Pt 1

Tatsuro Yamashita - Marry-go-round

Anri - Good Bye Boogie Dance

Boredoms - Which Dooyoo Like

Toshiko Yonekawa - Sōran Bushi

Takeo Yamashita - Touch of Japanese Tone

Mai Yamane - Tasogare

Young Nudy ft Playboi Carti’s - Pissy Pamper

Tatsuro Yamashita - Fragile

Tyler The Creator - GONE, GONE / THANK YOU 9

Sunset Rollercoaster - Burgundy Red

Check out Cat’s article The Endless Life Cycle of Japanese City Pop on Pitchfork

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