Pretty startling revelation, right? I mean, wow, I bet you guys didn't know the Wonderland covered such unique, thought-provoking ideas! Maybe my next insight will be that humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide! Enough of being Captain Obvious, I think everyone over the age of ten who follows idols know that they are manufactured. They are a product tailored and altered to cater to a specific audience and make lots and lots of money. Of course, that doesn't mean idols can't be creative. Groups like BiS and Momoiro Clover Z show just how far you can stretch the "idol" image. At the end of the day though, both are just as manufactured as AKB48. However, idols themselves have contributed to the creative process that goes into producing an idol's image and music. Idols like Sashihara Rino and Kitahara Rie have dabbled in the production departments of idols, and there are even a few idol groups (like Tokyo Girls' Style and BiS) who have written lyrics to their music.
But at the end of the day an idol is not an artist. No matter how good their music, how interesting their music videos, an idol does not have the same creative freedom an artist does. Unlike an artist, an idol is created usually by a company with a certain idea or gimmick, whereas an artist creates their own image and writes their own music. An artist attracts an audience; an idol is made for an audience. I could go on all day about the differences between idols and artists, but that is a subject I wish not to delve deeply into. All I'm trying to say is idols are manufactured and despite this knowledge, I still love listening to them. I think choosing not to listen to a group or a singer because they don't write or produce their own music is a silly reason not to follow them. In my opinion, as long as the music is good I don't care if a group of elves wrote it. I know not everyone shares that sentiment, and that's completely okay, but I long ago got over the fact that idols are manufactured. That doesn't hinder my love for idol music one bit.
Besides, idol music is what led me into J-pop in general. I started with Perfume, moved into idol music, and finally branched outward to J-pop artists who aren't idols. Since then, I've really been trying to explore all the facets of the mainstream J-pop industry. I know that the market is a little oversaturated with idols right now, but I've still found some really cool artists that I like. What I really love about J-pop is that it seems very... diverse. Like yeah, there's mainstream pop, but then you've got rock, indie, Shibuya-kei, technopop, dance, a variety of different genres that do pretty well. I'm not trying to say the J-pop industry is better than other nation's music industries; it's just different. And that's why J-pop has always appealed to me. Anyways, over the past few years, I've started to get into J-pop artists that aren't idols. I've noticed that I listen to a lot of female J-pop artists... in fact, that's mostly what I listen to in J-pop. It's kind of weird because my English-language music is much more balanced in gender. I mean, I listen to Yellow Magic Orchestra and a little bit of Luna Sea and Flow, but other than that, I can't think of any other male J-pop artists I listen to, not actively at least.
Even then, all my favorite J-pop artists are female, save for one. I guess because I like to listen to music I can sing along to? Even then, that doesn't make sense as I can't sing for shit in Japanese. I really can't explain it; maybe it's just a subconscious bias toward female J-pop artists? That being said, I just wanted to drop a few of my favorite non-idol artists in J-pop into the Wonderland! I know, I know, it's not what I usually do; just relax and your regular programming will return shortly! I don't have a lot of J-pop artists I really like yet, but the handful I do listen to, I really listen to. These are artists where I have at least ten, sometimes twenty songs on my iPod by them. But for this, I just listed three songs I like from each of them under this post. Unfortunately, I was only restricted to the music videos on Jpopsuki.tv so I wasn't able to include all my favorite songs... Still, here are my favorite artists!
...I'd have sparkles or fanfare or something here if this wasn't a written post... uh... APPLAUSE! TO THE LIST!
I will say Oomori Seiko took some time to grow on me. Frankly when I first heard her voice, I couldn't stand it. She sounded like she was screaming/wailing the lyrics, how else was I supposed to react!? But unlike some singers, I think Oomori Seiko's singing style is intentional. As someone who likes nice, on-key, clear vocals, this has always been a style that's hard for me to get used to. However, through what may be desensitization, it can grow on me, if the music is strong enough. For Oomori Seiko, her music is! Her debut album, Mahou Ga Tsukaenai Nara Shinitai, is one of those albums that needs more than one listen for me to form a proper opinion of it. Oomori Seiko's debut album very slowly grew on me with each listen, and as of now, it's one of my favorite albums of 2013. Part of Seiko's appeal for me is that she's an indie artist, one of my favorite genres of music in general. She just has a very nice blend of sweet, quirky songs combined with a distinct, if rather odd voice to go with them. What I also like about Oomori Seiko is that she's a huge fan of idols, including Hello! Project. So much that her upcoming second album features a cover of a Tanpopo song! I always find it really cool when artists are into other artists, especially idols. It makes them... relatable in a weird kind of way? Needless to say, I am looking very much forward to Zettai Shoujo, which actually releases in a couple weeks! The album cover looks cool (not quite as cool as Seiko's homage to Shiina Ringo cover though) so I'm hoping the music in it is equally cool!
Despite the fact that Aira Mitsuki just went on hiatus, I still decided she deserved a spot on the list! It saddens me deeply that Aira Mitsuki has gone on hiatus, and I hope she doesn't go on the Saori@destiny path of retirement. She's just such a cool artist; surely she's still got a few more songs and albums left in her! Yeah, I discovered Aira Mitsuki around the same time as Saori@destiny. Much to my chagrin, Saori@destiny had already retired; luckily Mitsuki was releasing one more album before her hiatus! That was I'll Be Back, and hopefully she will be back. I really love Aira Mitsuki's image and how she's billed as "Technopop Icon Aira Mitsuki." The title fits well for her. There's something very futuristic about her music, and not just because it's technopop. Like I could legitimately see this being played in the future; or a sci-fi version of the future. Maybe Star Trek? Hell, if Kyarypamyupamyu can play in Star Trek, Aira Mitsuki fits perfectly! Visually she always has really striking imagery, from the Barbie doll look of Plastic to the mystical flying train on I'll Be Back. I think part of why I really like Aira Mitsuki is based on how sheer awesome her single and album imagery are. Of course, her music is equally awesome. I especially love the lyrics to her songs; even in the translations, the wording and concepts are so interesting and introspective. Aira Mitsuki's songs cover so many ideas from emotion to space travel to technology to so many other well-explored ideas. I really do hope she will be back; I need more of her interesting music!
- Galaxy Boy
- Sayonara Technopolis
- Plastic Doll
She's probably the youngest artist on the list, being only nineteen years old. Technically, she's young enough to be an idol! However, Hanae is a singer-songwriter, currently with only six singles under her belt since her debut in 2011. Despite the fact that she hasn't released much, the songs she has graced the world with are delightful. I first discovered Hanae quite by accident, when I more-or-less found her PV for Boyz & Girlz. I really loved the breezy, whimsical nature of the song and the PV was really cute. Unfortunately, I can't find a lot of information about Hanae, just her releases. Even her Generasia page isn't regularly updated. It's a shame because she's released some really good music. Her music actually reminds me a lot of Kimbra's, but maybe a little more raw. What I really love about Hanae's music is that each song has this very quirky, slightly offbeat sound still nested in pop. She has a very high-pitched, smooth voice that really gives a lot of life to her music. Not to mention her music videos are absolutely adorable. A little a weird at times, but still really cute. If Kyarypamyupamyu toned her PVs down, they'd look like Hanae's. I find Hanae to be very charming and charismatic, with cute pop music and a light and breezy sound. My only complaint about Hanae is that she's kind of obscure, and accessing a lot of her content can be difficult. Still, if you can find her material, I'd check her out! She's releasing her first album, Jikkai Quiz, on Wednesday, and I can gladly say I am looking forward to it!
- Kamisama Hajimemashita
- Boyz & Girlz
- Koi wa Shinsei Roma
I'm a fan of Perfume and Kyarypamyupamyu, of course I'm a fan of Capsule! Or should I say CAPSULE? After all, that is technically how their name is spelled now. Eh, typing in all caps makes me feel like I'm yelling at my readers so Capsule it is! Funny enough, I was a fan of Perfume before becoming a fan of Capsule. Even now, I'm still not as huge a fan of Capsule as Perfume; then again, it is Perfume... I am very slowly getting into Capsule, but I'm finding that the farther back I go, the more of their stuff I'm liking. What I like about Capsule is how much they've changed and evolved since their early days. There's so many different styles of music their discography encompasses. It's a little underwhelming trying to browse through all of it! But I am slowly wading my way through both the old and new of Capsule and absorbing all their different sounds. As much as I love Perfume, I think Capsule is where Nakata's musical talents really shine. After all, Capsule is like his pet project where he can experiment in whatever styles he wants. With Perfume, he's restricted more to their general sound. Listening to Capsule made me realize just how far his composition abilities extend. He's written some really cool stuff in Capsule, and the voice of Koshijima Toshiko just helps enhance his music. Yeah, I really love Toshiko's voice; it's so clear and works well with Nakata's music. One of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of Control is because of the lack of Toshiko. Still, Capsule is such a cool group, and definitely one to check out if you want to hear the more experiment side of Nakata's music.
- Retro Memory
- Sugarless Girl
- World of Fantasy
- Groove Tube
- Tsugou no ii Karada
I figured I ought to save the first for last... if that makes sense. Mizuki Nana was the first J-pop artist I ever started listening to that wasn't an idol group. Most of the artists on this list I started listening to when I was around fifteen or sixteen. I started listening to Mizuki Nana when I was thirteen. Thirteen. The only other J-pop act I listened to before that was Perfume. The largest number of songs by one artist in my iTunes library is also Mizuki Nana: I have eighty-six of her songs on my iPod. To say I adore this artist is a mass understatement. Mizuki Nana is not only my favorite J-pop singer, she is one of my favorite singers in general. I waxed poetic about her voice in my editorial about lip-syncing and for good reason; this woman's voice is mind-blowing. Before watching her concerts on Youtube, I didn't even know it was possible to sound so clear and so strong, but she does. She's one of the most consistent performers I've seen, and she has such a wonderful range and she's so expressive and I think Mizuki Nana is the reason I'm so nitpicky about vocals in idol music. It's not your fault, Sayashi Riho, it's only because of Mizuki Nana I constantly pick at your strained vocals. Not only does Mizuki Nana have a great voice, she has equally great songs that show how great her voice can be. She can sound cute, serious, epic, sweet, sad, and her songs always match the tone she's trying to convey. Her songs often feature epic orchestras or adorable pop jingles, but most of the time Mizuki Nana's songs work perfectly.
- Heaven Knows
So, any of you guys have a few favorite non-idol artists? Because if you guys like any on this list we should totally talk about them. Just saying.