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.
T.M.Revolution – High Pressure
Released July 1, 1997
T.M.Revolution — aka: Takanori Nishikawa, aka: Takanori Makes Revolution – is one of J-pop’s most colorful characters. With his bobbed hair, flamboyant outfits, and hurricane-force vocals, he certainly makes an impression. He also happens to be one of my favorite performers of all time. And, High Pressure is almost certainly my favorite J-pop song of the 90’s.
Pairing with super-producer Daisuke Asakura, T.M.Revolution expertly weaves together rock and dance, filtered through a glam image and powered by an ultra-theatrical performance style. He’s like an anime character come to life, in the absolute best way possible. You’re going to be reading about him a lot as part of this feature.
High Pressure is a behemoth. From its pumping, guitar-fueled dance beat to that whopper of a chorus, this is an anthem with a capital “A.” Nishikawa wouldn’t have it any other way, and as usual he performs the hell out of the track. Like most anthems worth their title, High Pressure opens with its chorus, eliciting a sense of triumphant energy as that iconic vocal offers a punky growl to contrast brilliantly with the polished instrumental. This refrain has a thrilling structure — all punchy, exclamation point hooks before drifting into a more gently-phrased response. And I don’t think you’ve truly experienced this song until you’ve seen an army concert-goers echo that fun, arms-above-the-head choreography.
Meanwhile, the verses are mostly rhythmic, performed in staccato to give the track maximum drive. It all climaxes in the expected electric guitar solo before the production pulls back to lend greater impact to the final chorus. This is pop music at its most maximalist, and if you were to create a shortlist of songs that best represent my taste as a music fan, High Pressure would have no problem finding a spot.