City Pop

14th Moon cover

14th Moon

Yumi Zouma
Grey Skies cover

Grey Skies

Taeko Onuki
Cologne cover

Cologne

Kaoru Akimoto
Another Summer cover

Another Summer

Sugiyama Kiyotaka
Light'n Up cover

Light'n Up

Minako Yoshida
Sunshower cover

Sunshower

Taeko Onuki
First Light cover

First Light

Makoto Matsushita
Relief 72 Hours cover

Relief 72 Hours

Yurie Kokubu
Pacific cover

Pacific

Haruomi Hosono, Tatsuro Yamashita, Shigeru Suzuki

YouTube recommendations, Reddit, obsessive DJs, anime and TikTok all contributed to the recent rediscovery of late 70s to mid-80s City Pop in the West. A loosely defined Japanese genre, City Pop arose in the context of the emerging successful Japanese economy of the time and was associated with a particular upwardly mobile, cosmopolitan lifestyle, an idealised and stylised idea of urban sophistication, symbolised by new technology like the Sony Walkman, in-car FM radios and hi-fi sound systems. Musically, City Pop was influenced by disco, boogie, jazz funk and soft rock, and the best of the genre was characterised by superb songwriting, lush, opulent orchestration, complex arrangements, and production values as sleek and burnished as a brand new Mitsubishi.

In the ‘90s Japan experienced a ‘lost decade’ of economic hardship, and the positive, aspirational themes of City Pop fell out of favour. The recent Western rediscovery and reappraisal of the genre has revealed a catalogue of high quality, high-gloss pop, constructed from some of the very best parts of disco, AOR and jazz funk, repurposed into a distinctively Japanese musical concoction which is pristine, sleek, bittersweet, clever, highly accomplished and unashamedly pretty.

Harold Heath

14th Moon cover

14th Moon

Yumi Zouma
Grey Skies cover

Grey Skies

Taeko Onuki
Cologne cover

Cologne

Kaoru Akimoto
Another Summer cover

Another Summer

Sugiyama Kiyotaka
Sunshower cover

Sunshower

Taeko Onuki
First Light cover

First Light

Makoto Matsushita
Pacific cover

Pacific

Haruomi Hosono, Tatsuro Yamashita, Shigeru Suzuki