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.
Favorite Blue – True Gate
Released August 21, 1997
A couple of days ago, I wrote about Every Little Thing, and mentioned how there were many bands within this general framework during the 90’s. ELT ended up being the most enduring, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t equally great songs to be found elsewhere.
Favorite Blue emerged in 1996, and went on to release music all the way into 2000. Comprised of vocalist Maya Matsuzaki and keyboardist/guitarist Takashi Kimura, the duo specialized in the kind of high-energy dance music that was all the rage during these years. Many of their singles are great, but I’m quite partial to True Gate.
Much of this is due to the instrumental, which comes at you in waves. Just listen to those first twenty seconds! If that ascending, triumphant synth riff doesn’t get your pulse racing, you’re probably reading the wrong feature.
But truly, so many of these tracks I’m writing about have this high-energy synth-meets-guitar sound. What really makes True Gate pop is Matsuzaki’s performance. It’s incredibly rhythmic, nimbly gliding along that upbeat production but never drowning in it. And her touch on the chorus is so light, almost as if she’s plucking at the melody like a harp. It’s not a vocal style I’ve heard often elsewhere, and it makes True Gate a real standout.