New & Noteworthy J-pop of the Week (April 2, 2023)

New and Noteworthy J-popIn connection with my desire to fully keep up with the J-pop industry, I’m planning to do a weekly round-up of any new releases that have caught my ear. Some of these may have been covered on the blog already, but my hope is that this will become a one-stop shop for anyone interested in what’s new in J-pop.

With that in mind, here’s where you come in: I’m one person with one set of musical preferences, so please embed any other new J-pop tracks you’ve enjoyed in the comments so we can get a fuller spectrum each week.

*And just like I do with my reviews, I’ll wait until full versions of songs are available before posting them in this round-up. This will mostly apply to Johnny’s groups, who still limit the majority of their YouTube uploads to shorter, edited versions.

2023 Index: Feb 1 – Feb 18 // Feb 19 – 25 // Feb 26 – Mar 3 // Mar 4 – Mar 10 // Mar 11 – Mar 18 // Mar 19 – Mar 25

THIS WEEK: March 26 – April 1

Ayumu Imazu – Don’t Mind Me (ft. Sota Hanamura)

We had a few of these groovy indie-dance tracks this week. None knocked my socks off, but this is probably the strongest.

EBiDAN – Zenryaku, Michi no ue yori

This is… something? At least it’s entertaining and it’s fun to see these groups come together. I just wish it was more of a song.

Exile Atsushi – You Own My Heart

This is slightly more upbeat than Atsushi’s usual fare. It’s nice, if a bit snoozy. I like the retro synth arrangement.

Hinatazaka46 – One Choice

I hope their coupling songs are much stronger, because I found this a bit dull and by-the-numbers.

MATZ – Dawn (ft. Aile The Shota)

This is pretty groovy.

MAZZEL – Mission

Uh… it’s decent but pretty generic. I’m not sure what sets them apart from every other boy group out there.

ReN – Holding Out For A Hero (b-side of the week!)

Yes, my favorite “b-side” of the week is a cover of a famous western pop song. As The Rampage proved last year, “Japanese hyperpop versions of 80’s anthems” is a winning formula!

Takanori Nishikawa – Never Say Never

I’ll check out anything Takanori Nishikawa (aka: T.M.Revolution) does. He’s one of my biggest musical idols. This new single is solid but I don’t find it as interesting as most of the songs he’s released in the past few years.

Vaundy – Tokimeki (single of the week!)

Vaundy’s one of those names I hear all the time and never understand what the big fuss is about.
Well… Tokimeki might end up being my entry point. I really like the energy. The video’s a blast, too.

(edit: aaannd… I guess this song is actually two years old. But, the video was uploaded to YouTube this week!)

Yuya Tegoshi – Comfort Zone

The ex-News vocalist is back with his latest solo work. It’s decent but not a patch on the highlights from his days with the group.

Zipang Opera – Fuurin Kazan (Album)

I was really impressed by the pre-release tracks from this project – especially the propulsive Steer The Ship. I’m not as into the album as a whole, but there are a few standout tracks. Blazy Blaze (that title makes me chuckle) is probably the standout from the new material.

≠ME – Tenshi wa Doko e

This song is kind of awesome when it’s barreling forward at full speed. Some of the vocals are a bit rough, but I appreciate the brisk pace and intense instrumental.

This week’s old favorite:

Hey! Say! JUMP – Over The Top (2017)

I didn’t want to post another JUMP song so soon, but Johnny’s finally made Over The Top available on YouTube and it’s one of my absolute favorite songs by the group. That choreography — coupled with the instrumental’s sliding string section — at 1:24 has to be one of their most iconic moments.


12 thoughts on “New & Noteworthy J-pop of the Week (April 2, 2023)

  1. Thanks, Nick.
    Anything with Aile the Shota immediately piques my interest. I must listen.
    I’ll have check out REN’s version of Holding Out. Have you heard Adam Lambert’s version? I’m usually indifferent about the song, but he made it shine.

    This came out too early to make the 2023 list and I missed it in 2022, but this has spotless Chaka Khan/Crusaders vibes.


  2. Oooh, I really like that song by Vaundy. I was on a Pizzicato Five kick recently, and this slots right in with that retro sound I love.


  3. As far as older tunes, I was sad to hear this morning of the passing of Ryuichi Sakamoto. I’ve been revisiting some of his classics with Yellow Magic Orchestra and solo work. This tune is so forward-thinking for 1980, and could easily appear on some of my favorite albums from that period (i.e. Brian Eno, Talking Heads, the Blade Runner OST).

    And from 1979:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really intrigued by Does Not Equal Me. I’ll have to do a deep dive into their music. Here are some new and old releases I’ve come across. I had written an intro to each one, but my computer went wacky, so I’ll just drop them here.

    MIRAISAGASHI seems to be a brand new group.


  5. (One choice *is* Hinatazaka’s a-side, lol) They’re probably gonna have 2-4 more MVs for each of the generations so a few more chances at something to impress

    Thoughts on the new Yoasobi?

    I like that they’re leaning into tougher sounds between this and Blessing, but Monster is still the strongest “dark” song they’ve done, the guitars are way overcompressed here. Would love more Ayase-style songs where he leans into straight electropop like Ghost City Tokyo, Cinema, Harujion, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t love everything from Vaundy but 裸の勇者 is definitely my favourite single! I used to listen to tokimeki quite a lot too


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