Niko Batallones dives into Japanese pop music, in all its fascinating, impenetrable glory.
Week 1: The Introductory Course
We kick off the series with a potted history of J-pop as we know it, from its origins to its technicolor stripes today. We trace its evolution, its many movements, and attempt to explain why it’s different from the music of their Korean neighbors.
Week 2: The Essentials Course
We list down five essential J-pop artists – in the sense that they’re perfectly good starting points. These acts have waved the Japanese flag across the world, from the legendary Utada Hikaru and L’Arc-en-Ciel to the quirky Pizzicato Five.
Week 3: The Idols Course
We trace the history of the Japanese idol – the musical act that dominates the country’s music scene, if only because of its sheer scale. From the early days of Momoe Yamaguchi to the dominance of AKB48, we explore how it reflects Japanese society.
Week 4: The Soloists Course
In contrast with the Japanese idols, solo artists have pushed the boundaries of J-pop with a keener sense of artistry – and more guts to assert that. We go from icon Ayumi Hamasaki to pop-rock virtuoso Yumi.
Week 5: The J-Rock Course
The history of J-pop and the growth of Japanese rock bands have always been intertwined. We look at the bands that have shaped the genre, from visual kei pioneers X Japan to current flag-wavers One Ok Rock.
[Written by Niko Batallones. Researched by Niko Batallones and Shalla Yu. Art direction by Niko Batallones. With thanks to Adette Razon, James Habitan, Saturn de los Angeles, and especially to Icka Alcantara.]