What is City Pop Music? Origins, Evolution and Notable Artists

by Patria
city pop music

City pop music is a genre that emerged in Japan in the late 1970s and became popular throughout the 1980s. It is a fusion genre that combines elements of pop, jazz, funk, and disco, creating a unique sound that is often characterized by its catchy melodies, smooth vocals, and sophisticated production. In this article, we will delve into the origins of city pop, its defining characteristics, notable artists and songs, and its impact on the music scene.

Origins of City Pop

City pop originated in urban areas of Japan, particularly Tokyo, during a period of economic prosperity and cultural change. It was influenced by Western music styles such as American pop, funk, and disco, as well as Japanese pop music of the time. The genre’s name reflects its urban roots and its association with the bustling city life.

One of the key factors contributing to the rise of city pop was the advancement of music production technology, which allowed for a more polished and sophisticated sound. This, combined with the creativity of Japanese musicians and producers, led to the creation of a distinct musical style that captured the spirit of the era.

See Also: Art Pop Music

Evolution of City Pop

While city pop reached its peak popularity in the 1980s, the genre has experienced a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to the internet and social media. Platforms like YouTube and Spotify have made it easier for fans to discover and share city pop music, leading to a global renaissance of interest in the genre.

Contemporary artists such as Macross 82-99, Yumi Matsutoya, and Miki Matsubara have helped to introduce city pop to a new generation of listeners, while veteran artists continue to release new music and perform live concerts. The influence of city pop can also be heard in the work of modern producers and musicians who draw inspiration from its nostalgic sound and aesthetic.

Characteristics of City Pop

City pop is characterized by several musical elements that set it apart from other genres:

Catchy Melodies: City pop songs often feature infectious melodies that are easy to sing along to. These melodies are typically accompanied by lush arrangements and intricate instrumentation.

Smooth Vocals: City pop vocalists are known for their smooth and soulful delivery. They often employ techniques such as falsetto and vocal harmonies to create a rich and engaging sound.

Fusion of Genres: One of the defining features of city pop is its fusion of different musical styles. It incorporates elements of pop, jazz, funk, disco, and sometimes even rock, creating a dynamic and eclectic sound.

Sophisticated Production: City pop is known for its high-quality production values. Producers often use advanced studio techniques and equipment to create a polished and professional sound.

Lyricism: City pop lyrics often reflect themes of love, romance, city life, and youth culture. They can be introspective and contemplative, capturing the mood and atmosphere of urban living.

Notable Artists and Songs

Several artists and songs have played a significant role in shaping the city pop genre:

Tatsuro Yamashita: Known as the “King of City Pop,” Tatsuro Yamashita is a highly influential artist whose smooth vocals and catchy melodies have defined the genre. His album “For You” is a classic example of city pop music.

Mariya Takeuchi: Mariya Takeuchi gained international fame with her hit song “Plastic Love,” which has since become an anthem for city pop enthusiasts worldwide. Her soulful voice and infectious grooves epitomize the genre.

Anri: Anri is another prominent city pop artist known for her soulful vocals and funky rhythms. Songs like “Last Summer Whisper” showcase her talent for blending pop and jazz elements.

Toshiki Kadomatsu: Toshiki Kadomatsu’s smooth guitar riffs and funky basslines have made him a favorite among city pop fans. His album “After 5 Clash” is a classic example of his signature sound.

Junko Ohashi: Junko Ohashi’s soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics have earned her a place in city pop history. Songs like “Telephone Number” and “Dancin'” are beloved by fans for their infectious energy.

See Also: Bedroom Pop Music

Impact of City Pop

City pop had a significant impact on the Japanese music scene and beyond. Its catchy melodies, sophisticated production, and fusion of genres influenced a new generation of musicians and producers. The genre’s popularity also spread globally, with city pop songs gaining traction on streaming platforms and social media.

Furthermore, city pop’s revival in recent years has led to a renewed interest in its classic albums and artists. Many contemporary musicians cite city pop as a major influence on their work, leading to a resurgence of the genre’s signature sound in modern music.


City pop is a genre that continues to captivate audiences with its infectious melodies, smooth vocals, and sophisticated production. Its fusion of pop, jazz, funk, and disco elements creates a dynamic and vibrant musical experience that resonates with listeners around the world. As the genre continues to evolve and inspire new generations of musicians, its legacy as a cultural phenomenon remains firmly intact.

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