If you were to map my musical DNA, a sizable portion would be indebted to 90’s J-pop. To me, this is a truly magical time in music, but it’s rarely discussed or shared outside of Japan.
Being an aficionado of certain sounds within this era, I’ve tracked down hundreds of highlights over the years. And I think it’s time to share my carefully curated playlists with the world.
With this in mind, we have a new ongoing Bias List feature – The 90’s J-Pop Roadmap.
I’ll be writing about (and rating!) a number of singles from Japan’s 90’s pop boom, constructing a timeline of the era piece-by-piece.
Whether you’re familiar with these artists or not, I invite you to go on this journey with me and discover new classics you may have never heard before.
Every Little Thing – Future World
Released October 23, 1996
In the mid-to-late 90’s, a certain group configuration was very popular. Take one big-voiced female vocalist and pair them with a male guitarist/keyboardist. Then, unleash the synth-dance-rock goodness. There were tons of these acts, and I love them all. But standing at the top of the pack is Every Little Thing, who actually began as a trio. Their music has been the most enduring and consistent of all these groups, and has made them one of J-pop’s premier acts.
Though they’re still active today, Every Little Thing were absolutely flawless during the 90’s. Hit after influential hit stemmed from a series of solid albums, anchored by the incredible songwriting of keyboardist Mitsuru Igarashi, who unfortunately left the group after their third album. Future World is Every Little Thing’s second single, and my personal favorite.
Kicking off with an icy synth line and throbbing bass, the track is soon joined by a familiar guitar backbone. Then, we have the crystalline vocals of Kaori Mochida – one of the coolest J-pop girls of the 90’s. Future World’s verse moves at a clip, playing with the tempo of Mochida’s phrasing as the dueling refrains interact in a variety of rhythms. But the real star of Future World is its effusive chorus. Just listen to how that melody swoops in, bolstered by a commanding synth stab that gives it irresistible oomph. It’s a commanding moment, essentially grabbing the listener by the collar and pulling them deeper into the song.
As we go on, we get the requisite (and awesome) guitar solo, followed by that iconic synth riff that takes us into the final pre-chorus. It’s such a galvanizing sound that still sounds fresh today.