Put on ‘Out of Time’ from Dawn FM and you will find yourself transported to a time gone by. You will see tall buildings pass you by while the Sanyo logo zooms in and out of a massive screen on a city street freshly coated with rain, horns blaring and people jetting past each other like their lives are getting away from them.
City pop (pronounced as ‘shhiti poppu’) originated in Japan in the 1970s and 1980s. The genre became popular in the 1980s during Tokyo’s economic boom. With the rise in economic status and consumerism, the genre became more and more preferred amongst the middle class & affluent crowd. The synth-pop sound and funky disco sound traveled from America to Japan and took a life of its own there. City pop has elements from funk, soul, disco and lounge. The genre is a hybrid of sorts that mixes and combines various genres and sounds into one super genre.
4.00 a.m. - Taeko Ohnuki
While City Pop by and large is a commentary on Japan’s economic development, it is still a borrowed concept, borrowed from the Americans to be precise, during the emergence of disco and dance music. The Japanese however have a knack of taking something and absolutely elevating it and that's what City pop is. While borrowed from their American counterparts, Japanese city pop is both modern and nostalgic at the same time if that's even possible.
Just Dance - HONNE
City pop songs were known for their catchy melodies and intricate musical arrangements. The music was often richly layered, featuring lush harmonies, complex chord progressions, and intricate instrumentation. The attention to detail in the production and arrangement of city pop tracks set them apart from other contemporary genres.
Hosono House - Haruomi Hosono
For what is considered pop music across the globe, the music landscape evolves and takes a form of its own everywhere. It becomes intertwined with cultural intricacies and pop culture movements that define the era and essence of music. City pop emerged as a fusion of various musical genres, including pop, rock, jazz, funk, and disco.
Last Summer Whisper - Anri
It incorporated elements from Western music, such as American and European pop, while infusing it with Japanese sensibilities. This genre fusion created a fresh and distinct sound that was unlike anything heard before in Japan.
Magic Ways - Tatsuro Yamatshia
Artists and Indie bands have been adopting city pop and similar synth sounds for a while now, some excelling in the same. Two Door Cinema Club, The Weeknd, Honne and Harry Styles (Harry’s House) are some of the more known artists to adopt the style, or revive it rather.
Out of Time - The Weeknd
A hugely Quincy Jones inspired sound, its evolution and globalization can be credited to sampling, exposure to Japanese culture and music via OTT platforms and the listener’s ever growing palette for new and exciting things.
In popular culture the city pop sound has also inspired various interesting album covers. Artists such as Honne and The Weeknd use cityscape Colors reminiscent of Tokyo’s city lights.
City pop remains relevant and continues to evolve with artists like The Weeknd being vocal about its cultural impact.
Midnight Pretenders - Tomoko Aran
Slowly seeping into heavily electronic mood music as well, City Pop is an era-defining aspect of the pop culture movement, it now has grown into not just a sound but also an aesthetic value add to anyone looking to depict big city vibes. It will be very interesting to see what becomes of the legacy of City pop.
Silent Screamer - Tatsuro Yamashita