City Pop

City pop is a predominantly Japanese genre which originally became popular with the blooming economy of the country during the 1970s-1980s, mostly having a relation with the everyday urban and luxury life of Japanese metropolitan areas. It often aimed at a more adult audience than J-Pop and had a more contemporary and Western sound than Kayōkyoku and Enka.

The notable precursors of the original city pop sound included はっぴいえんど [Happy End]'s warm blend of Folk and Pop Rock and kayōkyoku's more chilled-out Jazz vibes. These elements were taken in the mid-1970s for the genre's blueprint with Happy End's successor ティン・パン・アレー [Tin Pan Alley] and Sugar Babe. Adding to that was the presence of urban and romantic lyrical themes, clean production, longer structures, and more specifically, the upbeat grooves from Funk and Disco. This is when city pop began to develop itself, being diverse in nature by changing between upbeat and mellow styles. By the late 1970s there was also an increased influence of Jazz Fusion, Lounge and Exotica, with some tracks taking the form of instrumentals (occasionally covering up an entire album, an example being 角松敏生 [Toshiki Kadomatsu]'s Sea Is a Lady).

The second wave of city pop began when Yellow Magic Orchestra's Synthpop and Techno kayō became popular across the country in the late 1970s-early 1980s and caused the commercialization of synthesizers. Newer productions of the genre were more connected with the danceable sounds of Synth Funk and Boogie, which caused the construction of its trademark 'J-Funk' sound while still switching between pop and ballad formats. Meanwhile, the rise of idols in the country caused acts like 杏里 [Anri] and EPO to become well-known in the genre.

City pop declined in 1990 with the rise of asset prices in Japan and Shibuya-kei (which was more indie and DIY influenced but still based on the Japanese urban life) replaced its popularity. The genre then acquired a renowned interest later in the 2010s through strong internet coverage, as an underground revival surfaced with acts like idol group Especia and singer 一十三十一 [Hitomitoi] having major popularity.


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