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The Strange World of J-Pop

May 8, 2015

If you’ve got teenagers, you’re probably familiar with the bright and shiny pop music of acts like Katy Perry and One Direction. Things are a lot more sugary in Japanese pop music, or “J-Pop.”

Puffy AmiYumi

Puffy AmiYumi J-PopThis Tokyo duo, singers Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, are one of the few Japanese music acts to enjoy some success in the U.S. They first earned attention in the late 1990s, when rapper Sean Combs – aka Puff Daddy – objected to their name, which back then was just Puffy. The duo added in their first names to avoid a lawsuit. In the years that followed, the duo earned their own Cartoon Network show called Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, spawned a few Nintendo games and served as goodwill ambassadors to the U.S. But what’s their music like? It’s all over the place. Many of their albums contain jazz songs and ‘60s-style rock in addition to more straightforward pop tunes.

AKB48

This band isn’t a group, it’s an army. When this girl group debuted in 2005, there were 48 singers in the band. They’ve now get 148 members and their own theater in Tokyo where they perform regularly—because it’s easier for fans to come to them, then for them to tour. One of the most successful acts in Japanese history, AKB48 has sold 30 million records and $128 million worth of merchandise in 2013 alone. They also hold multiple Guinness Book of World Records titles including “Largest Pop Group” and “Most Number of TV Ads Aired in 24 Hours.” In 2012, when AKB48 had 90 members, each one started in 90 different commercials for Wonda Coffee that all aired on the same day.

Momoiro Clover Z

This girl group released their first album in 2008 but they’re better known for their crazy live shows. Momoiro Clover Z’s members perform gymnastics, ballet, and stunts on stage. Despite their intensely choreographed performances, they also sing live instead of relying on lip-synching, a rarity for pop stars in any country. Much like Puffy AmiYumi, their music also borrows from various different genres. Their albums feature everything from punk and pop music to heavy metal and indie rock, which has earned the group a very diverse following. In the past year, Momoiro Clover Z recorded a song with KISS and opened for Lady Gaga.

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puffy ami yumi made the Teen Titans theme song

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