I don’t know about you, but when I think of Japanese music, anime intros are usually the following thought. That, or—for some unknown reason—J-Rock, which is weird because I’ve never been into rock music. And if you’re a fan of rock music thinking I’m going to recommend a rock band somewhere in this article, I’ll save you some reading time and let you know now that there will be none.
Listen, I’ve done a lot of unspeakable things in this life, but listening to rock will never be one of them.
Just kidding. You listen to whatever you listen to and continue to be great. I’m not judging.
For the longest, I have been on a search to find Japanese music that didn’t sound like it could be another anime intro (you know that soft singing at first and then the hardcore electric guitar gradually makes its way in), or that it wasn’t one of BTS’s songs from their Japanese albums. It was a lengthy and at times difficult journey—my searching skill sucks obviously—but guys, I did it (shoutout to Spotify, I was using Apple Music before), I’ve discovered quality Japanese music that I would like to share with you.
Below are 5 super-duper cool artists, in no particular order, that you should probably add onto your library.
One of the things I specifically was looking for in terms of sounds was chill hip-hop beats with soft raps over them, and Maco Marets’s discography presented me with just that. His mellow voice pairs nicely with the gentle beats—a recipe for a feel good mood.
When I listen to Maco Marets, I’d like to imagine that I am laying in a hammock on a breezy and dazed afternoon, with sunlight filtering through the trees to reach me. You see my vision? Listen to him and you’ll know what I mean.
My top 5 songs from Maco Marets:
“Who You Are” ft. Misa Yoneyama
This deep and velvety voiced goddess recruited me into her fandom in no time. iri is a pop and R&B songwriter and singer with an underlying hip-hop influence. Her delivery style has quite a uniqueness that keeps you engaged throughout the whole experience. You know how with some songs, after listening for a bit, you kind of get an idea of where or how the song will go? Well, with iri, she doesn’t make it predictable—and that’s what makes her special. Seriously though, her voice is as smooth as lukewarm butter. I want it to embrace me as I fall asleep, or her. Below are a list of her earlier songs, as Youtube didn’t have any of her newer songs—which are all fanfuckingtastic. Her discography is equivalent to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Top 5 songs from iri:
SUSHIBOYS is a hip-hop/rap trio, three MC’s going by the names of Farmhouse, Evidence, and Santena. Their music is high-energy and ebullient—dullness is not a concept known to them. They make Japanese rap sounds badass.
Top 5 songs from SUSHIBOYS:
“Shopping Cart Racer”
This delightful voice will temporarily lift you up while stripping away and disburdening you from your worries. I don’t know how AAAMYYY does it, but she does it folks, and she does it for the electronic (not EDM) community. While listening to her, I found myself head bobbing to every single song—the “next” button was not utilized because I absolutely enjoyed each and every song. When analyzing the structure of her songs, the approach can seem simple and a bit primitive—but that isn’t to criticize her sound at all. Sometimes, less is more, and AAAMYYY uses that to her advantage.
Within her discography, you will come across a wide variety of instrumentations: bass, guitar, drums, electronics, piano, etc., all harmoniously put together supplementing her majestic-sounding voice. Her music is soothing, comforting, and timeless. Oh and most importantly, groovy. Her albums BODY (2019) and MARABOROSI WEEKEND (2018) will not disappoint, and both are available on Spotify and Apple Music.
My top 5 songs from AAAMYYY:
“Over My Dead Body”
“BLUEV” ft. Ryohu
I first discovered Jua on one of Spotify’s playlists Tokyo Rising, and it was his song Bands. The song starts with him rapping in English then he seamlessly switched to Japanese, and for some reason, I was like wow, that was kind of hot. While listening, I decided to look him up to and gasped at what I discovered: a light complexion guy with western facial features, so naturally I was intrigued and curious about his background. I found his Instagram, saw a freestyle video posted on his page and thought he was like, super cool. I listened to a couple more songs of his and decided to message him on Instagram letting him know I appreciate his music, and to my surprise, he actually replied back. OMG. I respectfully asked him would it be okay for me to ask him a little bit about his background and he said “yeah of course :)”. What a nice dude.
Anyway, Jua said he’s mixed with Japanese, French, and Cameroonian. He was born in Hawaii but moved to Tokyo shortly after. Then from Tokyo, he moved to Kyoto, and from there, he made another move to Aurillac, France—where he spent his high school days. And currently, he resides in Tokyo. He also said his dad is a rapper, which through him is what I’d assume sparked Jua’s interest in music. But anyway, enough about him, my favorite part about his music is the chill component it encompasses—the cool nonchalance in the delivery of his rap, and of course, the switch between Japanese and English. You should definitely check him out.
Top 5 songs from Jua:
“When Love Turns to Hate”
“Far From Home”
This concludes my list of recommendations. As always, I hope you check it out and let us know on Twitter @GeekGalsCo which song has made its place in your heart.
Or if you have any recommendations of your own, don’t be stingy and do share with us below in the comments. Good music is meant to be listened together.
You can also check out Jordyn’s recommendations for South Korean music artists to listen to.