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Old 11-01-2018, 07:15 AM
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Default Famicom's pop culture contemporary - City Pop!

It's bubbled up a few times on this forum in other threads, namely this one and this one I made after being hammered by YouTube's recommendation algorithms, but as far as I can tell, Talking Time does not have a dedicated City Pop thread. Let's fix that!

City Pop was a musical style popular in Japan in the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s. A cultural effect of the same bubble economy that spawned our beloved retro video games, city pop was music for the new urban future. Smooth, jazzy and a little bit funky, most city pop feels highly produced. It could just as easily fade into the background over a store PA system as it could score an intimate night. A lot of people might have been listening to city pop while they bought their first Famicom.

Fast forward a bit to a few years ago. City pop is very uncool if it is considered at all. Certainly very few people outside of Japan had it on their mind. Enter vaporwave and the Youtube recommendation algorithm. Early vaporwave artists aped samples from city pop as they built their synthy soundscapes plastered with Windows 95 ephemera. Vaporwave peaked, more [ a e s t h e t i c ] than artistically viable, but something of it remained. Whether it be some branch of Content ID recognizing the sampled sounds from vaporwave Youtube uploads or one of the many alternate explanations based on music theory or meddling YouTube employees, a lot of people who listened to vaporwave started seeing city pop recommendations show up in their YouTube recommendations.

I first noticed Takako Mamiya's Love Trip. An incessant square of muted pinks, blues and grays topped by a pretty Japanese lady in office attire perched on a stool followed me everywhere on the platform. Eventually I gave in and listened - to the whole album(!) - and I had to learn more.

A lot of people had similar experiences, but with Mariya Takeuchi's single Plastic Love. Less daunting than an entire album, Takeuchi's Plastic Love is a nearly 8-minute ode to filling that void in your heart with something ephemeral to help you make it through the day. It's a wonderful song and its ubiquity on YouTube has served as a gateway to a whole new generation of city pop fans.

There's a lot to listen to, and too many artists for me to cover in a single post. I'll embed a few of my favorite city pop songs and albums below, including those I talked about in the post. What else do you like? What have you found?

Warning, listening to these may warp your YouTube recommendations forever.

-

Mariya Takeuchi's Plastic Love. The face and beat that launched a new wave of fans. Definitely the best song from the album.



Junko Ohashi's Telephone Number. Extra zesty. Awoooo~ 56709



Taeko Ohnuki's Sunshower. Probably my favorite city pop album, Taeko is the queen of the genre. One of the early pioneers of the sound, she both precedes and outlasts it.



Takako Mamiya's Love Trip. Takako's only solo album, she disappeared from public life after its release. Many people believe she retired from show business after becoming pregnant. Takako where are you. We'll always have that stool. And that weird cactus. And the problematic lamp just out of frame on the album cover.

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Old 11-01-2018, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by ThornGhost View Post
Warning, listening to these may warp your YouTube recommendations forever.
good.

No joke, this is one of my favourite genres of music but I never thought to look up if it had an actual name besides [this era of Japanese pop music]. Thank you!

Incidentally, this is like a top five GOAT album for me:

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Old 11-01-2018, 11:51 AM
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I'm familiar with this sound mainly from the fact that it saturated a certain subset of 80s/90s anime. Listening to these makes me feel like I've popped in an Urusei Yatsura or Ranma 1/2 image album. Maybe some Dirty Pair though that was jazzed up a bit more. Anyway, you get the idea, the whole genre stirs up this weird just-a-bit-off nostalgia for me.
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Old 11-01-2018, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Kirin View Post
I'm familiar with this sound mainly from the fact that it saturated a certain subset of 80s/90s anime. Listening to these makes me feel like I've popped in an Urusei Yatsura or Ranma 1/2 image album. Maybe some Dirty Pair though that was jazzed up a bit more. Anyway, you get the idea, the whole genre stirs up this weird just-a-bit-off nostalgia for me.
Same!
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Old 11-01-2018, 04:50 PM
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I'm familiar with this sound mainly from the fact that it saturated a certain subset of 80s/90s anime. Listening to these makes me feel like I've popped in an Urusei Yatsura or Ranma 1/2 image album. Maybe some Dirty Pair though that was jazzed up a bit more. Anyway, you get the idea, the whole genre stirs up this weird just-a-bit-off nostalgia for me.
Yeah, that's right on the money. It also reminds me less of the Nintendo and more of the Super Nintendo, for whatever reason. Or perhaps even more Sega Genesis.

Some of it reminds me a bit of Christopher Cross. City Pop may not be Yacht Rock but it's Yacht Rock adjacent. Also reminds me of Sade. A bit of Kool & the Gang too.
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Old 11-01-2018, 09:31 PM
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Nice suggestions everyone

I like these a bunch:

Yuko Kanai - Hashire Usagi


Noriko Hidaka - Minami no Kaze Natsu no Shoujo


Noriko Hidaka - Hitomi no knife


The versions on iTunes sound way better on those first two. The last one ain't on iTunes but it can be found pretty easy.
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Old 11-03-2018, 02:26 PM
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City Pop may not be Yacht Rock but it's Yacht Rock adjacent.
I mean Kamakiriad is basically the gap-bridger between the two I'd say
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Old 11-03-2018, 04:44 PM
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Yeah!!! I love this genre as well and discovered via youtube recos that probably stemmed from all the synthwave stuff I listen to. There are some great streaming stations on YT now too. Just a week or two ago, me and Bride of Drac played some panel de pon while listening to one. It's good, cheesy stuff.

And a wise man once said that cheese is the most honest ingredient.
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Old 11-04-2018, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Kirin View Post
I'm familiar with this sound mainly from the fact that it saturated a certain subset of 80s/90s anime. Listening to these makes me feel like I've popped in an Urusei Yatsura or Ranma 1/2 image album. Maybe some Dirty Pair though that was jazzed up a bit more. Anyway, you get the idea, the whole genre stirs up this weird just-a-bit-off nostalgia for me.
Indeed, I tend to think of anime when I listen to city pop tunes. Casiopea and T-Square are what I associate more with Japanese games of yesteryear.

At any rate:

Tomoko Aran - I'm In Love (one of the smoother tracks on the album, which does go places)

Last edited by Poster; 11-05-2018 at 05:31 PM. Reason: How do I used tags? I dunno lol
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Old 11-05-2018, 09:14 AM
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We probably shouldn't go any further in this thread without talking about Tatsuro Yamashita. I'll let Wikipedia do the explaining as for why:

"He is considered a pioneer of city pop music, along with Haruomi Hosono. Yamashita produced numerous city pop music during the 1970s–1980s, and was considered the "king" of city pop. His wife and collaborator Mariya Takeuchi is also known for city pop music."

Plastic Love, which is probably the most well-known City Pop song outside of Japan? Produced by Yamashita. In fact, he was a primary collaborator and producer for his wife. Listen to the whole "Variety" album (which I personally don't care much for apart from Plastic Love) and its his voice, not Takeuchi's, that's the first voice you hear.

In short, listen to these if you like this stuff.



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Old 11-05-2018, 12:03 PM
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Thank you for these gifts.
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Old 11-05-2018, 07:03 PM
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Some of it reminds me a bit of Christopher Cross. City Pop may not be Yacht Rock but it's Yacht Rock adjacent.
Yeah, I thought of that, too. Since ThornGhost seems to be an expert (at least on City Pop) are there any key differences (aside from the obvious language ones) between the two? I'm suddenly kind of interested in the cultural aspects that caused the rise of the two genres and how they may differ from country to country. BTW, I'm not even really a Yacht Rock fan but I suddenly want to read a book about the history of Yacht Rock. I feel it ties heavily into what the 80's was as a whole, economically and culturally. Hopefully there's also a chapter about fondue. That was a yuppie thing, right? (My parents definitely aren't yuppies, but I think they had some yuppie tastes when I was a kid. My first favourite musician was Huey Lewis).
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Old 11-07-2018, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Unusual View Post
Yeah, I thought of that, too. Since ThornGhost seems to be an expert (at least on City Pop) are there any key differences (aside from the obvious language ones) between the two? I'm suddenly kind of interested in the cultural aspects that caused the rise of the two genres and how they may differ from country to country. BTW, I'm not even really a Yacht Rock fan but I suddenly want to read a book about the history of Yacht Rock. I feel it ties heavily into what the 80's was as a whole, economically and culturally. Hopefully there's also a chapter about fondue. That was a yuppie thing, right? (My parents definitely aren't yuppies, but I think they had some yuppie tastes when I was a kid. My first favourite musician was Huey Lewis).
I'm not musically educated so I don't know the technical aspects. But it seems like City Pop is, as it sounds by the name, more poppy, different beats, chord progression, a little more "bubblegum", then Yacht Rock.








I'm not sure Huey Lewis is yuppie music, in the sense that everything pop in the 80s was yuppie music, so I don't think it's specifically yuppie. The 80s were...well, they were a thing. (There's an argument that could be made, I suppose, that pop music is always "yuppie".)
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Old 11-07-2018, 07:43 AM
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Also, for any interested and with Spotify, someone made a City Pop playlist that's ~800 songs. I haven't checked it out yet but I'm about to dive in and see what's what.
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Old 11-07-2018, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Unusual View Post
Since ThornGhost seems to be an expert (at least on City Pop) are there any key differences (aside from the obvious language ones) between the two? I'm suddenly kind of interested in the cultural aspects that caused the rise of the two genres and how they may differ from country to country.
Unfortunately I'm just kind of a minor fan of the genre, no expert here. I'm leaving it all in my posts, really.

Everything I've read about City Pop ties it into the economic conditions that preceded the "Bubble Economy" starting in the mid 80s; namely increased industrialization and rebuilding efforts that came after end the of World War II.

I think there's probably a strong case that western music had an influence on City Pop (jazz fusion and adult contemporary, two clear precursors, certainly didn't start in Japan), but it was that combined with Japanese-centric cultural and economic elements that formed the basis of the genre. I'd love for somebody to dig into that more, though.

I find it somewhat lovely that City Pop often has this wistful, trans-Atlantic nostalgia for American culture of the 50s and 60s while City Pop's current popularity in America has the same-but-reversed nostalgia for Japan of the 80s. Is there a word for taking a weird comfort in the by-gone pop culture of a different country that you didn't experience? Maybe there should be.

Last edited by ThornGhost; 11-07-2018 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 11-07-2018, 09:51 AM
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I find it somewhat lovely that City Pop often has this wistful, trans-Atlantic nostalgia for American culture of the 50s and 60s while City Pop's currently popularity in America has the same-but-reversed nostalgia for Japan of the 80s. Is there a word for taking a weird comfort in the by-gone pop culture of a different country that you didn't experience? Maybe there should be.
I was thinking the exact same thing. When I listen to City Pop, I'm awash in this strange kind of time-traveling joy. "Oh, to be alive in Japan in 1982!"

I bet the Germans have a word for this, like every other thing.
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