The 1990s was a great time for music all over the world, and for many people, this decade produced some fantastic songs that hold a lot of fond memories for many adults today. Timeless classics and smash hits alike are now essentials in karaoke bars, and people often find there is a smile on their face when they hear an old song which reminds them of great times, whether it be driving with the radio on, watching their favorite TV show, or listening to music with their friends.
Have you ever heard or even rediscovered an old Japanese song and found that it made you feel nostalgic for the years before the turn of the century? If so, chances are that you actually grew up with some of the Japanese singles that were popular abroad as well as in Japan! Here are 7 great Japanese songs that you might remember from the 1990s for their appearance in Japanese anime shows or their international fame.
The song was released in 1993 by Pizzicato Five (formerly known as Pizzicato V), a Japanese band which originated in Tokyo, Japan and consisted of members Yasuharu Konishi, Keitaro Takanami, and Maki Nomiya. In the Philippines, this single was used as a theme song for the anime series Ranma 1/2 (which was shown locally) and became a number 1 hit during the ’90s.
Many Filipino people fondly remember this song as a reminder of the anime show, and people worldwide still listen to this great song today. Although Pizzicato Five disbanded in 2001, their music is still well-known and nobody can argue that Sweet Soul Revue is a classic.
Released in 1992 by singer and songwriter Mawatari Matsuko, this song was used as an opening theme for the anime series Yuyu Hakusho, or Ghost Fighter. This song really feels like it’s from the 1990s with its upbeat tune, and it is another popular choice for karaoke goers.
Mawatari Matsuko went on to produce many more popular songs such as Sayonara ByeBye (1993), Daydream Generation (1993), and MONKEY BITES (2013).
Japanese-American Utada Hikaru is the favorite of many people who learned Japanese when they were younger, as her songs are readily available on YouTube and she sings in both Japanese and English. Automatic, also called Time Will Tell, is an R&B single by this popular singer which was released in 1998 and is praised as one of the best Japanese singles ever released.
The same song gave Utada Hikaru a way to stardom in Japan, and other popular hits of hers include First Love (1999), Heart Station (2008), and Fight the Blues (2008).
This 1995 single by dance-oriented Japanese pop band Globe was not only a big hit in its own country but also became popular outside of Japan. The album, which includes Feel Like Dance, sold over four million copies in Japan. Globe consists of members Tetsuya Komuro, Marc Panther, and Keiko, and the band is still active today.
This funky tune has a mix of English rapping and female Japanese vocals, which made it an instant hit.
Popularized by Kyoto-born singer and songwriter Bonnie Pink in 1997, It’s Gonna Rain! is a pop-rock single that was used in anime series Rouroni Kenshin or Samurai X as a fifth ending theme song. Lots of people still listen to this single today to remember the fond memories of the ’90s.
Known for being the opening theme song of the anime Sailor Moon for four seasons, Moonlight Densetsu was released in 1992 by DALI and Misae Takamatsu. There is no way you can listen to this song without remembering the magic of Sailor Moon and 1990s anime!
This single by Japanese pop singer Yoko Takahashi in 1995, A Cruel Angel’s Thesis or Zankoku na Tenshi no Teze in Japanese became the theme song of the Japanese version of the science-fiction anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Many people sing this at karaoke so even if you have never seen the anime, you are sure to have heard this song if you go to karaoke in Japan often enough!
History of J-Pop
Japanese Pop Music, usually known as J-Pop, has a long history, much longer than many people might think! The origins can be found way back in the Showa Period when Jazz Music was popular in Japan, and many Jazz musicians came onto the scene.
Over the decades J-Pop changed and diversified, broadly following international music trends. After the Second World War, American influences of Boogie-woogie and Blues genres were taken on by Japanese artists, and rock and roll took off in the 1950’s and carried on through the ‘swinging sixties’.
The 1970’s and 1980’s saw the emergence of what in Japan was termed ‘New Music’. This consisted of more electronic and experimental sounds, utilising many different instruments and having deeper messages involving social movements and politics.
The 1990’s saw the emergence of the more recognizable pop and dance culture, with rhythm and blues (R and B), electronic, and bubble-pop genres emerging later on.
Nowadays, Japanese Popular Music is hugely popular and is increasingly gaining influence and respect worldwide. This wasn’t always the case, however. Throughout most of the 20th Century, Japanese music was not widely listened to.
However, nowadays Japan is second largest music market in the world, and exerts tremendous influence over musical trends, attracting worldwide audiences. Who in the world isn’t familiar with Sony Music Entertainment, one of the biggest record companies in the world, and Yamaha, the largest manufacturer of Musical instruments in the world?
The J-Pop genre has dominated both Asian and worldwide music markets, and been an influence for popular international artists including Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, and David Bowie. It is not uncommon for you to see artists talking about ‘kawaii’ in their songs and wearing Harajuku styles and fashions on their music tours!
From being a distant and rather isolated country which kept itself to itself, Japan has slowly transformed into a worldwide musical nation, with artists known by many in the western world. This has to be respected, for a country to maintain its own style whilst at the same time reaching out and attracting foreign fans!
The Future of J-Pop
Many observers are looking to Japan to predict the future of worldwide music. Japan is pioneering (for better or worse) a very commerically driven type of artist now, with authentic rock bands fading in place of hugely successful and promoted ‘groups’, with many members and often directed by brands such as Lotte.
It should not be forgotten, however, that Japan has and has always had a thriving indie and underground scene which continues to gain attention and be enjoyed by Japanese and international music lovers! However, maybe for the timeless classics mentioned above, it doesn’t matter where they come from or how they operate. It is just a great nostalgia trip!
Hopefully, by listening to these songs from many people’s favorite decade, you took a pleasant stroll down memory lane! What about you? What Japanese songs would you include in your “best songs from the ’90s” list? Do you remember them for being on the radio non-stop, or are they tunes from the theme songs of your favorite anime show? Whatever the reason, it’s fun to re-visit songs you may have forgotten all about and go back to the ’90s for a while!