“Missing” J-pop Acts : Where are they now?

5/ Stephanie


The Armenian-Japanese singer known for singing up to 5 octaves worked her way up to the charts thanks to many of her songs being featured as drama or anime openings. Even though her songs never got too high on Oricon  (she peaked with “Kimi ga Iru Kagiri“, her 1st single, at the 39th spot on the Oricon chart), her eponymous album ‘Stephanie’ released in 2008 was a very solid pop-rock album whose some of its tracks definitively figure on the soundtrack of my school days.

A shame its follow-up ‘Colors of my Voice’ in 2009 hasn’t been able to back up this achievement (“Kizuna” is the only really worthy track) and ended being very lackluster… Maybe that’s why she didn’t release anything in Japan ever since (besides a few digital singles)

As of late, she’s been included in the Armenian “super group” ‘Genealogy’ who represented Armenia in Eurovision back in 2015.

6/ Ayuse Kozue


Ayuze Kozue has been an instant crush with her smash hit “Boyfriend” in 2005. Defining her musical style as R&B – ‘Rhythm and Beauty’, her first album ‘A♥K’ which came out in 2007 was a refreshing poppy-chill ass record.

She built up a pretty solid discography the following years with some notable great tunes (“unpretty good”, “Un-controllable”, “ONE”…) up until the turning of the 2010’s when her songs kinda shifted into some sloppish r&b quite afar from the usual the poppyness of her early tracks (coincidentally it happened around the same time the r&b soloists era kinda died out).
Her latest release has been ‘GIRLZ’, a duet-EP with Tanaka Alice in 2014 with no promo whatsoever, along with stuff going on with NERDHEAD, but no single or album in sight ever since…
On a totally unrelated note, it looks like she also took dance classes regarding her ridiculously great skills on that video posted on her instagram :


7/ Karia Nomoto


I became literally obsessed with this woman ever since I saw her MV for “Adieu (wa Kanashii Kotoba)”.
At that time I didn’t know exactly what shibuya-kei was but I’ve been completely astonished by the “polished-ness” of the scenery, the 60s aesthetic, her clothing, the music… I’ve never been that hypnotized by the whole direction of a video, which was, along with the album this song is drawn from (‘Karly’), directed by Konishii Yasuharu. Still to this day this whole era embodies perfection for me. (if you are interested I made a little review of this album+its package on my tumblr)

Karia has been fairly active throughout the whole 2000s’ with her first EP ‘The Girl from R.E.A.D.Y.M.A.D.E’ in 2002, and 2 albums, ‘Karly‘ and ‘DANCE MUSIC‘ released respectively in 2004 and 2007. Her song “Chocola ni Muchuu” has also been featured as “Sugar² Rune” opening in 2005. In 2012 she formed esu-efu, a short-term unit with vocaloid producer Captain Mirai.
Since 2014 she’s an eyewear designer and seems to have set aside her music career. Even though Karia is used to wear several hats (she’s been at the same time a DJ, model, actress, and singer for many years) she looks to be pretty involved with her new occupation and I’m afraid her comeback on the music scene (especially as Konishii Yasuharu’s newfound muse) will never happen – along with shibuya-kei, I guess.


8/ PlayZ

playz_20791Okay these guys are my special personal favorite because they are the embodiment of the warmest memories of my gyaru-phase which I still fondly remembers up to this day.
Gyaru was probably one the last ‘total art’ kind of subcultures : from fashion, to music & dance (ParaPara), along with movies and mangas (“Gals”, “Peach Girl”), “gyaru-ism” was a whole lifestyle. Thus, many of its leading figures thought it was a very obvious thing to apply for all of these fields on the same time (some of the most famous gyarus have been casted in movies, MVs, and/or did a singing career).

Composed of Men’s Egg magazine hottest gyaru-o models of the time (Ayumu Satou, Yukihide Sawamoto, Oishi Kazuaki, Katsumi, Yu-ki Inagaki), PlayZ is a boy band following this pattern with cringy kind hearted r&b inspired ballads. The fact that their first MV “Again” got more than 1 million views on Youtube tells a lot about their popularity (or maybe a bunch of them are from fellow gyaru nostalgics like me~)

I don’t know what I love the most about this MV: the bad singing? the hedgehog haircuts? (it was hot stuff at the time) the cheesy lyrics? the cheap ass scenery? the CG snowflakes??
Yukihide’s pants that are obviously too big??

Again” is the promotional track of their EP ‘Love on the Street’ released in 2009, followed 2 months later by another one entitled ‘P.S I Love you’. The same year in 2010 they did a featuring with NoriTae (a gyaru singing duet) and…nothing happened ever after. I guess the natural fading of gyaru culture decided the fate of this band which probably wasn’t supposed to stay for too long to begin with.

I miss the light-spirited playful tackiness of gyaru-ism, and how carefree it all was. Otherwise PlayZ and their female counterparts (NoriTae, Yumachi & Tanaka Aina, etc …and why not even include Tsubasa Masuwaka’s act ‘Milky Bunny’?) would have never happened. What makes me feel so nostalgic about this era is that it was at a time where acts didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and were just trying to have some fun. What bothers me little bit about today’s scenes right now is that people seem take themselves too seriously, pretending to be delivering deep political statements just because they’re wearing some type of clothes, which is quite perplexing… On the other hand, gyaru was all about having fun, affirming its own identity but in a funny rebellious way rather than the kinda “snowflake” way.


We all have artists who shaped up undying memories within us, during special moment of our life ( hard times, summer vacations, tunes we used to listen to on repeat on our way to school), or just because they remind us of the endearing memory of how we got introduced into J-music thanks to “this.one.song.”

I really hope this article aroused memories of artists who are now “gone, or has a special place in your heart so that you may share what makes you feel nostalgic about J-music. Feel free to share them in the comment section!

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