Checkout the below listed latest and best top 10 best J Pop songs of all time 2017, Japanese culture is one of the most lucrative and beloved exports in the world. Japan’s food, film, fashion, and music have helped the country shape its image as the “coolest” nation in Asia, according to newspapers. Japanese pop music, or J-pop, now has hordes of fans across the globe, even among countries whose political relations with the island nation may be rife with tension. Although the most hardcore of fans might disagree with our choices, here are the top 10 best J-pop songs of all time.
- 10. A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (Takahashi Yoko)
- 9. PON PON PON (Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)
- 8. Keep the Faith (KAT-TUN)
- 7. Flying Get (AKB48)
- 6. First Love (Utada Hikaru)
- 5. Planetarium (Otsuka Ai)
- 4. Say Yes (Chage and Aska)
- 3. Seasons (Hamasaki Ayumi)
- 2. Can You Celebrate? (Amuro Namie)
- 1. Sekai ni Hitotsudake no Hana (SMAP)
Here we present the list of top 10 best J Pop songs of all time 2017.
10. A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (Takahashi Yoko)
Nothing could be more appropriate as an audio introduction to Japanese pop culture than the opening theme (OP) of an anime. Written in 1995 for the hit series Neon Genesis Evangelion or EVA, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” (Zankoku na Tenshi no Teeze) remains one of the most recognizable J-pop songs in Western culture. The song, sung by Takahashi Yoko, is fast-paced enough to suit the action in the anime, but is also strangely upbeat, considering the dark subject matter. With its distinctive intro and melody, this song topped the charts, won first place in 2011 from the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (JASRAC) for the sheer amount of money it has earned over the years, and remains a popular choice at karaoke. More impressive is that Oikawa Neko “only spent two hours” writing the lyrics, according to RocketNews24. Master this song and you will never be the wet blanket at karaoke night.
9. PON PON PON (Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)
Also taking place in 2011 was the debut of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Japan’s Lady Gaga, with “PON PON PON.” Pamyu revived the popularity of decora, one of Harajuku’s street fashion sub-styles, with her brightly colored outfits, over-sized accessories, and hyper-cute music videos. As the song title suggests, “PON PON PON” is more focused on being cute or “kawaii” and weird than conveying deep meaning. Even Pamyu’s stage name, the Japanese pronunciation of “Carrie” and the nonsensical Pamyu Pamyu, was chosen for its cute, foreign sound in contrast with her real name, Takemura Kiriko, notes Mecha Punch and RocketNews24. The song not only launched Pamyu’s career, it inspired other performers to cash in on the “weirdly cute” trend. Pamyu went on a world tour in 2016, according to her official website, and plans to release a new single in January 2017.
8. Keep the Faith (KAT-TUN)
Boy band KAT-TUN was formed in 2006 and named by drawing one letter from each of the surnames of its six members. Because the group was originally three separate units working under the same agency, KAT-TUN boasts the impressive feat of having performed at Japan’s famed Tokyo Dome shortly after formation. Many of the band’s songs have been featured in TV dramas such as One Pound Gospel, which is based on work by Rumiko Takahashi, creator of popular series Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha. “Keep the Faith” is a delightful blend of pretty boys, perfectly synchronized dance choreography, Japanese-flavored “Engrish.” Despite having only three members — Kamenashi Kazuya, Nakamaru Yuichi, and Ueda Tatsuya — remaining, KAT-TUN released an album to celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2016.
7. Flying Get (AKB48)
Similar to KAT-TUN, AKB48 is the epitome of a carefully manufactured pop idol group: its members are subject to rules such as a dating ban, according to The Atlantic, and they are under constant watch to preserve their cultivated public image. In 2013, member Minami Minegishi was forced to tape a public apology and demoted to backup status after being “caught coming out of an actor-entertainer’s house” by magazine reporters, according to Japan Times. Regardless, AKB48 has been a hit with fan boys since its debut in 2005, thanks to its roster of sweet young girls — 48 of them, in fact — and their cute schoolgirl costumes. The team boasts a handful of top-selling singles, of which “Flying Get” is a good example. The song itself may be unremarkable, but it makes a winning combination with the childlike voices and frilly dresses.
6. First Love (Utada Hikaru)
Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Utada Hikaru released a first album in English in 1998 before releasing First Love in Japanese in 1999. First Love is not only the best-selling Japanese album of all time according to Oricon, its title track remains a popular song for those experiencing a first love or going through a breakup. “First Love,” which showcases Utada’s distinct vocal quality and ability, sold “over 10 million copies worldwide” and inspired many copycats, as Kotaku reports. In a chilling parallel to Queen of J-pop Amuro Namie’s life 10 years earlier, girl-next-door Utada went on a hiatus from her career after becoming a mother and suffering the loss of her own mother in a tragic incident. In 2016, Utada “made a comeback to the entertainment world” by writing a theme song for NHK TV drama Toto Neechan, reports Japan Times.
5. Planetarium (Otsuka Ai)
Born in the historic city of Osaka, Otsuka Ai is a singer-songwriter that is as talented as the others in this list, yet comparatively lesser known outside of Japan. Otsuka is praised for writing all her songs, notes Billboard, including the single “Planetarium,” which ranked behind Otsuka’s “Sakuranbo” in terms of sales, but was featured in award-winning TV drama Hana Yori Dango. Like some of Otsuka’s other pieces, “Planetarium” includes a harmonious blend of Western and traditional Japanese instruments to complement the sweet, high notes of her voice. After a brief hiatus, Otsuka joined the new pop-rock band Rabbit in 2012 as the lead singer. The band released its debut album, Rabito, that year. As a solo artist, Otsuka released the album LOVE TRiCKY in 2015 and plans to release the album LOVE HONEY and single Watashi in 2017.
4. Say Yes (Chage and Aska)
Folk rock duo Chage and Aska’s best-selling single is, perhaps inexplicably, the pop song “Say Yes.” The band reached international markets after Hayao Miyazaki featured their song, “On Your Mark,” in Studio Ghibli’s short film of the same name as well as the feature film Whisper of the Heart (1995). Within Japan, however, “Say Yes” is one of the top 10 best-selling tracks ever, according to Oricon. The 1991 single was the theme of romantic drama 101 Kaime no Propose and is still commonly played as a proposal or wedding song. The pair went on hiatus from 2009 to 2013 to pursue solo careers. Chage released the album Another Love Song in August 2016, while Aska was arrested in November 2016 for the possession of illicit substances. To forget unfortunate recent developments, watch the “Say Yes” music video and enjoy the eighties Japanese fashion (baggy suits and sunglasses at night) and smooth, sweet vocals.
3. Seasons (Hamasaki Ayumi)
Sorrowful yet always with the hint of a hopeful note, Hamasaki Ayumi’s “Seasons” (2000) was written by the artist herself and is her best-selling single of all time. Hamasaki replaced Amuro Namie, then the Queen of J-pop, in the spotlight after Amuro was distracted from her music career by personal issues in the late nineties — TIME Magazine respectfully refers to Hamasaki as the Empress of J-pop, a title surpassing any “princess” or “queen.” Like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Hamasaki is regarded by fans and other performers as a fashion icon. Despite losing her hearing in one ear earlier in her career and going through a second divorce in 2016, Hamasaki continues to produce pop hits. She released her 17th album, M(A)DE IN JAPAN, in mid-2016 and performed at a series of New Year’s concerts at the end of the same year.
2. Can You Celebrate? (Amuro Namie)
Hamasaki’s predecessor, Amuro Namie, was Japan’s biggest pop star of the nineties. Sporting a dark tan and funky leather skirts and boots when other singers were pale-skinned and sang syrupy love songs, Amuro burst onto the music scene and changed it forever. “Can You Celebrate?” (1997) became the best-selling Japanese single of all time by a female artist, according to JpopAsia. Although Amuro’s fame waned after her early marriage, motherhood, and divorce, and it was a decade before she climbed back to the top, she paved the way for Hamasaki and later artists. In 2016, Amuro released “Hero,” which the NHK used as the theme for the broadcast of the 2016 Olympics. “Can You Celebrate?” is a beautiful, bittersweet ballad — one which you might have already heard somewhere, sometime.
1. Sekai ni Hitotsudake no Hana (SMAP)
Released in 2002, “Sekai ni Hitotsudake no Hana,” or “The One and Only Flower in the World,” ranks third place among Japan’s best-selling singles of all time, according to Oricon. The Recording Industry Association of Japan reports that SMAP’s “Sekai” and Utada’s “Colors” were the only singles to surpass a million copies in sales during the 2003 economic downturn. This is unsurprising: SMAP has been the biggest boy band in Japan since 1988, achieving success in music, books, TV, and film. Kimura Takuya (“Kimutaku”), one of the five members, is one of the highest-paid celebrities in Asia. “SMAP is a cultural institution,” writes PopMatters. “Sekai” is still a best seller as of 2016, according to Oricon, thanks to its optimism and brotherly love that make it “an unofficial anthem for peace and political idealism.”
Beyond these top 10, Japanese pop artists continue to produce chart-topping songs as Japanese culture grows in popularity worldwide. Fukuyama Masaharu, for example, is gaining recognition in the West and has received Oscars, Golden Globes, and other major awards for his music, some of which falls into the J-pop genre. If you don’t want to be out of the loop when it comes to good music and musicians, we encourage you to use this list as a springboard to launch yourself into the world of J-pop.