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.
Pool Bit Boys – Ao No Kiseki
Released November 17, 1999
Bias List favorites Pool Bit Boys may not have a ton of material within their discography, but I could write about it forever. Their music is the perfect blend of so many elements that made 90’s J-pop so appealing to me: techno-rock backdrops that never lean too far in either direction, compelling vocals and hooks for days.
Ao No Kiseki (Trail of Blue) was the group’s last “real” music video (final single Cross In The Night was promoted with one of those behind-the-scenes clip montages), and has always felt like a culminating work. It throws many of the duo’s hallmarks into a blender and refines them, offering a more subdued – but still potent – product.
Unlike songs like Sunshine, which hit right out of the gate, Ao No Kiseki benefits from time. It has a more pensive air, though the instrumentation is no less grand and dramatic than previous singles. The use of keys is especially appealing, giving the track a percussive skeleton that gives it great drive and matches the staccato nature of the verses. Although I wouldn’t call this track a “ballad,” especially within the today’s pop music confines, it has a very ballad-like structure and execution. There’s a lot of heart pulsing through every segment, and the overwrought instrumentation does a great job conveying that. As Pool Bit Boys’ reign was drawing to a close, this feels like a critical piece of their musical finale.