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.
KinKi Kids – Jetcoaster Romance
Released April 22, 1998
KinKi Kids’ name may sound provocative to Western ears, but the “Kinki” actually refers to the region in Japan that these two performers hail from. The duo made their official debut in 1997, and have since gone on to hold the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive number one singles since debut. Perched between V6 and Arashi in the Johnny’s Entertainment timeline, the guys have always occupied a space and sound of their own.
I’m not a fan of every KinKi Kids song, but I’ve always loved Koichi and Tsuyoshi’s voices and admire how steadfastly they’ve clung to their own musical identity over the years. With that said, many of my favorite KinKi Kids songs come from their first few albums. And for me, that era is best encapsulated by Jetcoaster Romance – a perfect pop song.
We’re taking a bit of a break from the 90’s techno sounds today. Jetcoaster Romance has a warmer, more nostalgic appeal. It boasts an old-school sunshine pop sound rooted in the 60’s, though a song like this could have been recorded and released anytime since then without feeling out of place. The ebullient instrumental, with its nudges of brass and insistent strings section, is pure bliss. Its general style was popular before I was even born, yet conjures such a sense of wistful comfort. I can close my eyes and just get lost in it.
This gorgeous production offers the perfect springboard for the duo’s equally-warm vocals. Their performance feels like an aural embrace, rich and compelling and smooth as butter. The melody glides with an effortless tug, hitting all the right beats as it surges to a flourishing finale. I just adore this.