City Pop – The Genre to Lift Your Summer Spirit

Stella Roberts, Creative Director

I am no stranger to wasting hours upon hours on the internet, going down the infamous Youtube rabbit hole, click after click, an echo chamber of amusement to escape from a seemingly bland reality. Through my adventures, I’ve landed on a few gems, but nothing compares to a certain genre of music, city pop.

The sub-genre originated in 1970s Japan, stemming from the mainstream J-pop that found its footing in Japanese culture during the 1960s. City pop is a much more relaxed version of its forefather, taking influence from the music trends of the 1980s. It is known for its joyful melodies and lyrics, reflecting a nation in bliss, as this was a time of extreme economic growth for Japan. But the genre never broke out of its national reach during the height of its popularity, eventually losing what little relevancy it had over three decades.

Everything changed, though, in 2018 when the seven-minute track “Plastic Love” by Mariya Takeuchi garnered unprecedented attention on Youtube despite being released thirty-four years earlier. The sudden popularity marked the beginning of the genre’s revival, this time capturing the love of Western audiences. A tidal wave of enthusiasm rocked the Youtube underground music scene as playlist after playlist was uploaded, usually paired with aesthetically pleasing animated gifs that portray different aspects of modern Japanese culture. These playlists feature city-pop giants like Tatsuro Yamashita, Anri, and Takeuchi, who are regarded as musical legends in Japan today. The city pop genre has branched out further into other alternative music genres such as vaporwave and bedroom pop, which demonstrate a more modern-day influence.

Still, city pop is loved by many, and for good reason. The genre is the embodiment of a summer day, capturing the breezy, euphoric happiness of the season. It’s the perfect blend of the care-free essence of bubblegum pop and the sweeping, ballad-esque charm of the 80s. For those who feel that the current quarantine has put a damper on their summer fun, the energetic charisma of city pop will surely revive some of that lost joy.

Here is a list of songs from the genre that I recommend:

– “Plastic Love” – Mariya Takeuchi (Soundcloud, Youtube)

– “Windy Summer” – Anri (Soundcloud, Youtube, Spotify)

– “Sparkle” – Tatsuro Yamashita (Soundcloud, Youtube)

– “Flyday Chinatown” – Yasuha (Soundcloud, Youtube)

– “4:00 am” – Taeko Ohnuki (Soundcloud, Youtube, Spotify)