Feature

The Top 50 J-Pop Songs of 2021: 10-1

Top 50 J-Pop Songs of 2021

My Top J-Pop Songs countdown continues in its expanded format! We’ve got fifty of the best (mostly idol) tracks Japan had to offer, with many great choices relegated to the honorable mentions. Because I don’t write about all of these songs the way I do for K-pop, this is always a fun countdown to compile.

It was a lop-sided year for J-pop idoldom, with some agencies (Johnny’s) totally owning my playlists and others (LDH) having a more modest string of releases. You’ll see a couple names pop up often, which won’t be too surprising for long-time readers.

As always, I’ll warn that this list tends to be even more biased and focused than my K-pop list. I simply don’t listen to every single J-pop release in the way that I do for K-pop. But song for song, I think I actually prefer these 50 tracks to the 50 Korean releases I wrote about last week. Hopefully you’ll find some new favorites!

SONGS 50-31
SONGS 30-11

2021 YEAR-END MASTERPOST


10. King & Prince – Beating Hearts


Following the disco-funk trend, King & Prince elevate the genre with the punchy Beating Hearts. The song feels like an extravaganza — generous with melody and exuberant brass. It’s also home to my favorite English-language word salad of the year. Just take a look at these amazing highlights:

“Ah, kindle to the kingdom!
Gonna be loved!”

“Baby, why!? can you feel my sexy sugar?
Enemy comes, yeah”

(full review)


9. Miyavi – New Gravity

Miyavi climbs into the top ten by doing what he does best: offering a blistering rock track powered by layers of distorted guitar and a beat that moves at breakneck speed. New Gravity‘s chorus is perfectly realized, flooding out with anthemic intensity. (full review)


8. Daichi Miura – Backwards

I’ve been waiting years for Daichi Miura to return with a sound that followed his epic 2018 single Be Myself. Backwards isn’t quite as good (few things are), but its hypnotic synth loops and stretched melodies make for a deliriously satisfying effort. (full review)


7. Snow Man – Grandeur

Snow Man turned up the intensity for the clobbering Grandeur. Its hooks move a mile a minute, pushed along by an intense dance beat that incorporates elements of electro swing and abrasive EDM breakdowns. Initially, it was a bit much for me. But, that towering chorus has only proven more addictive with age. (full review)


6. Fantastics – Stop For Nothing

As you’ve probably gathered through the years, I’m a huge fan of energetic “you can do it!” pop tracks. Fantastics wrap their motivational message in a hard-hitting dance-funk instrumental, culminating in a blistering guitar solo that sends the track off on a high. (full review)


5. King & Prince – 恋降る月夜に君想ふ (On The Moonlit Night, When You Fall In Love)

King & Prince’s music went through many iterations this year, but my favorite track hearkens back to their stellar debut Cinderella Girl. On The Moonlit Night, When You Fall In Love is pure idol cheese, bolstered by a fantastic melody that twists and turns with a sense of fairy tale magic. Just try to lodge that chorus from your brain. (full review)


4. Kami Wa Saikoro Wo Furanai – Meguru Meguru


I’m cheating a little bit with this one since it has no official music video. But, the (region-blocked) lyric video could almost qualify, and the song was a CM for TikTok (of all things!). Whatever the case, Meguru Meguru is absolute magic. It’s the exact sort of surging power pop I live for, propelled by a gorgeous melody that makes it feel like the whole world is at your fingertips. (full review)


3. Snow Man – Snow World

First released way back in January 2020, Snow World gained a music video this September to promote the release of the group’s first full album.

If Snow Man starred in a TV sitcom (they should) and it had an opening theme song (it would), Snow World would be the perfect fit. Its throwback pop-rock instrumental echoes classic tunes by groups like The Monkees, but the bounding energy is all Snow Man. Its insistent shot of positivity is the ‘drop everything and dance’ moment in a movie musical, where the whole town suddenly reveals a surprising knack for picking up disco fingers and run-in-place choreography.

I mean, is there anything better than that chorus? It just blooms and blooms and blooms until you’re smiling ear to ear.


2. Naniwa Danshi – Ubu Love

There’s a certain magic that sets Japanese idol pop apart. You either love or hate it, but once a song like Ubu Love has you in its grip there’s no looking back.

Achingly melodic, the track swoops and soars (when it’s not poking and chuckling), fueled by an earnest performance that totally sells the goofy razzle dazzle on display. Johnny’s groups excel at delivering this distinct brand of fizzy headrush, and Ubu Love stands as an incredibly effective example. Pair it with drama Kieta Hatsukoi for maximum appeal.

I can’t wait to see what Naniwa Danshi come up with throughout the remainder of their debut year. (full review)


1. JO1 – Born To Be Wild

For the second year in a row, J-pop is responsible for my favorite song of 2021. Born To Be Wild is such a rush. I almost feel guilty picking it as my top choice since it’s essentially a K-pop track (composed by Korean writers) performed in Japanese. But, the song is too good to ignore.

Born To Be Wild is a conveyor belt of highlights. Even its predictable second-verse drop-out manages to charm (and longtime readers will know how much I complain about second-verse drop-outs!). But, it’s the ultra-rhythmic opening vocal hook that steals the show. This composition feels so alive and potent, racing forward with a confident sense of purpose.

Of course, Born To Be Wild‘s powerful chorus is no slouch either. After a breathless build, the track swerves into a two-part hook. It moves from brisk and breezy to compelling and dominant. Like my favorite K-pop single of the year, Born To Be Wild takes you on an amusement park ride without leaving a moment to catch your breath. By the time everything comes together for its show-stopping climax, the song has already cemented its legendary status. (full review)

22 thoughts on “The Top 50 J-Pop Songs of 2021: 10-1

  1. Pingback: The Top 50 J-Pop Songs of 2021: 30-11 | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. Pingback: Best of 2021 Masterpost | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  3. Born to be Wild deserves. And i don’t know if you know, but they opened their concert with BTBW and it was so iconic. (they released playlist of their concert on Spotify).

    Btw, i wish you would review their digital singles or b-sides tol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My top j-pop songs of the year-
    10. New Gravity- Miyavi
    9. Beautiful World- Tomohisa Yamashita
    8. No.1- DISH//
    7. Butter- Nariaki Obukuro
    6. Drop- 美波
    5. Paradox- Exile
    4. Strip- w-inds.
    3. Colorful- The Olympics Theme
    2. Runaway- Dios
    1. しわあわせ- Vaundy

    Like

  5. I am going over my list draft, and we have quite a few differences amusingly! A little surprised not to see EXILE’s Paradox, Hikaru Utada’s One Last Kiss, and KAMIYADO’s Caramel Sweet, three songs this year I enjoyed that I thought you might too. Oh well.

    Anyways, I am so in love with the King & Prince lyrics, it is so… interesting. No complaints about Stop for Nothing being this high though!

    Like

  6. My JP SOTY would have to be Stop for Nothing. Granted it only has one more song as competition, but it is a great song. If it was Korean it would’ve likely craxked my top 3. Born To Be Wild is great as well.

    Like

  7. My top 10 J-pop singles from dec 2020 to now
    (Dots dignify that I like the next song more, the more dots, the more gap)

    10. Exile – Paradox
    .
    .
    9. Fantastics – Drive Me Crazy
    .
    8. Nissy – Say Yes
    .
    7. Daichi Miura – Backwards
    .
    .
    .
    .
    6. Kitayama Hiromitsu – Before It Becomes Ash
    .
    .
    5. Fantastics – Stop for Nothing
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    4. Miyavi – New Gravity
    3. Sakurazaka46 – Dead End
    .
    2. JO1 – Born To Be Wild
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    1. Yurina Hirate – Dance no Riyuu

    Like

  8. It’s so frustrating that 4 out of these 10 songs are not available on Spotify… the limited accessibility of the songs on streaming platforms is the one thing that is keeping me from diving further into J-Pop :/

    Like

  9. Pingback: The Top 50 J-Pop Songs of 2021: 10-1 | Beatsway

  10. Pingback: Song Review: The Rampage – Ray Of Light | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  11. Pingback: Tune Evaluation: The Rampage – Ray Of Gentle -

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.