The adoration for the 80’s has been a recurrent theme nowadays throughout all sorts of media, from the recent sci-fi noir blockbuster, Blade Runner, tv shows, such as Stranger Things, to fashion and, of course, music. The 80s pop culture is truly living on today. With the recent technological revolution, it easy for artists to access our past and create their own world based on it. In this sense, one of the most frequented time-traveled eras, especially by musicians, is Japanese 80s pop culture. It is hard not to be inspired by what was known as the Golden era of J-pop, where idol girls and boys were embodying a perfect mix of pure vocals and dance talent.This era was also the nascence of synth-pop and the digitalization of music, where artists used elements, such as MIDI, polyphonic synthesizers, and dance beats.
There is one trend that still thrives till this day in terms of music style, which also became a buzzword nowadays to describe a feeling of sophistication and nostalgia, much how back then it was used to feature the “cosmopolitan” life of some people that made the most of the post-war economy of Japan. The trend which has been recently revived by the indie music scene is called city pop. The genre is used to refer to all sorts of elements from soft, fancy boogie disco and synthesized pop sounds. All in all, the term featured the mainstream urban songs Japanese artists were creating in the main cities.
Nowadays, city-pop, much like other old genres has been molded into today’s styles creating brand new music, such as chillwave, vaporwave, and future funk. Artists that brought to life these genres include MACROSS 82-99, Desired, Yung Bae, HOME, MACINTOSH PLUS, Flamingosis and Toro y Moi who not only create an ode to the 80s but also use it as an inspiration for aesthetics.These new genres were born from the pure adoration of that era, where artists like Watanabe from Boogie Idol say that “It’s kind of like imagining, ‘What if this world still existed?’ I don’t really enjoy thinking about the future.” After all, who would not want to reimagine listening to nostalgic boogie tunes while sitting at the beach in Okinawa or riding an old automobile in a neon-lighted Tokyo.
Other artists use the 80s Japanese influence to mix with pre-existing music styles. This can be seen in indie rock artists, such as Mac Demarco, who has sampled Shigeo Sekito’s song “the word II” to create one of his most famous tunes, “Chamber of Reflection“. The artist has referred many times in interviews about his admiration towards Japanese artists, such as the famous pianist and film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has also played in a band called Yellow Magic Orchestra, the pioneers of synth-pop back in the days. Electronic and pop musicians are seen to not leave this opportunity either. Grimes, Porter Robinson, and Honne were all vocal about their vast lists of Japanese inspirations and connection to the concept.