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.
TRF – Boy Meets Girl
Released June 22, 1994
One name looms large over 90’s J-pop: Tetsuya Komuro. Starting his career in groups Speedway and the highly influential TM Network, Komuro grew into the kind of super producer who defines a decade. He’s often credited for bringing dance music into the J-pop mainstream, and that’s no more apparent than on his work with TRF (aka: Tetsuya Komuro Rave Factory). This colorful collective is a 90’s mainstay, releasing a series of iconic singles that are still loved and referenced today. Fronted by the beguiling Yu-Ki, TRF covered a surprisingly robust collection of genres within their dancefloor-ready sound.
Boy Meets Girl is one of the group’s enduring classics, and about as joyful and sunny as pop music gets. It’s almost hymnal in its energy, repeating a limited series of robust melodies to create a hypnotic landscape that’s hard not to get swept up in. And given that pop music is essentially my religion, this is an approach I can wholeheartedly get behind.
Build around chanted loops, Boy Meets Girl opens with a brief vocal before revealing its synth-driven beat. This is the kind of instrumental that’s in constant build, refusing to resolve into a sense of calm. But, there’s no tension here. It’s all release – five minutes of joyful catharsis. Yu-Ki’s vocals have never sounded better than on the chorus, which teases upward for a sneaky finale that gives the track instant character. Footfalls of percussion take us into the verse as a bright synth line becomes the aural equivalent of a warm sunrise.
This song is never rushed, taking its time to luxuriate in its gorgeous soundscape. And though the chorus repeats more often than in most pop tracks, it’s never unwelcome. Boy Meets Girl is Komuro at his full earworm power, and an instant mood-lifter any time it plays.