For the past six years, Ian Martin of The Japan Times has written a column for the newspaper’s music section, “Strange Boutique.” His column has proven to be insightful, and at times controversial. In his final piece, Martin decided to look back on the last few decades of Japanese music, and the trends that shape it. As has been said before, trends are cyclical, and Japanese music is no different. What has been shown time and time again though is that there is a hunger for artistry.
Martin begins his piece by giving a lay of the land from the 80s to the turn of the millennium.
Of Japanese pop music, Martin says “the frilly, juvenile pop of the 80s gave way to the more consciously grown-up dance music and album-oriented-rock-influenced JPop groups of the 90s, which in turn gave way to the R&B-influenced sounds of solo artists such as Utada Hikaru at the turn of the millennium.”
He continues, discussing indie music, saying, “trends in indie music have proven harder to track as the scene has become more diverse. At the turn of the millennium, the style-conscious cut-and-paste indie pop known as Shibuya-kei was giving way to a generation of bands drawing on 90s alt-rock under the influence of new stars such as Quruli, Number Girl, and Shiina Ringo.”
He then goes into the new millennium, discussing the likes of Perfume, AKB48, and Suiyoubi no Campanella, along with the revivals of city pop and Utada Hikaru.
Read Ian Martin’s thought provoking finale of “Strange Boutique” here.