Unlocking the Reason Why Anime Music Sounds Like ’80s Pop

by Patria
Neon Genesis Evangelion

Anime music, with its vibrant and catchy melodies, has often been compared to ’80s pop music. This comparison is not just coincidental but rooted in a deep-seated connection between the two genres. Both anime music and ’80s pop share characteristics that make them similarly appealing to a wide audience. In this article, we will explore the various elements that contribute to the ’80s pop sound in anime music, including the historical influences, musical structure, production techniques, and cultural impact. By understanding these factors, we can appreciate the intricate relationship between anime music and ’80s pop.

I. Historical Influences

The Rise of J-Pop in the 1980s

The 1980s were a pivotal decade for Japanese pop music, commonly referred to as J-pop. During this era, Western pop music had a significant influence on the Japanese music industry. The advent of MTV and the global reach of American and European pop music meant that Japanese artists and producers were exposed to the latest trends and sounds from the West. This period saw the emergence of iconic Japanese pop stars like Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori, who embraced and integrated Western pop elements into their music.

Technological Advancements

The 1980s were marked by significant technological advancements in music production. The introduction of synthesizers, drum machines, and digital recording techniques revolutionized the music industry. These technologies allowed for the creation of new sounds and textures that became characteristic of ’80s pop music. Japanese producers were quick to adopt these technologies, incorporating them into J-pop and, subsequently, anime music.

Anime Boom of the 1980s and 1990s

The late 1980s and early 1990s were a golden age for anime, with numerous iconic series being produced. Shows like “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “Sailor Moon,” and “Dragon Ball Z” featured soundtracks heavily influenced by the pop music of the time. The use of pop music in anime was a strategic move to appeal to a broader audience and to enhance the emotional impact of the shows. As a result, the music from these anime series often mirrored the popular music trends of the era.

II. Musical Structure and Elements

Melody and Harmony

One of the defining characteristics of ’80s pop music is its strong emphasis on melody and harmony. Catchy, memorable melodies and rich harmonic progressions are hallmarks of this genre. Anime music often employs similar melodic and harmonic structures, making it instantly recognizable and appealing. The use of major keys, soaring vocal lines, and lush chord progressions create a sense of nostalgia and familiarity for listeners who grew up with ’80s pop.


The instrumentation in ’80s pop music typically includes synthesizers, electric guitars, bass guitars, and drum machines. These instruments create a distinctive sound that is both modern and timeless. Anime music producers frequently utilize the same instruments, blending them with traditional orchestral elements to create a unique soundscape. The combination of electronic and acoustic instruments gives anime music its characteristic ’80s pop vibe.

Rhythm and Tempo

’80s pop music is known for its energetic and danceable rhythms. The use of upbeat tempos and syncopated rhythms creates a sense of movement and excitement. Anime music often mirrors this rhythmic style, incorporating driving beats and infectious grooves. The use of programmed drums and electronic percussion adds to the overall ’80s feel, making anime music both lively and engaging.

III. Production Techniques

Synthesizers and Electronic Sounds

The widespread use of synthesizers in ’80s pop music cannot be overstated. Synthesizers allowed musicians to experiment with new sounds and textures, creating a futuristic and polished sound. Anime music producers have embraced this technology, using synthesizers to craft intricate and atmospheric soundscapes. The use of electronic sounds in anime music is a direct nod to the ’80s pop aesthetic, adding a layer of depth and complexity to the music.

Vocal Production

The vocal production techniques used in ’80s pop music, such as reverb, delay, and vocal layering, have a significant impact on the overall sound. These techniques create a sense of space and richness in the vocal tracks. Anime music often employs similar vocal production techniques, resulting in a polished and professional sound. The use of harmony vocals and vocal effects enhances the emotional impact of the music, drawing listeners into the world of the anime.

Mixing and Mastering

The mixing and mastering processes play a crucial role in shaping the sound of both ’80s pop and anime music. The goal is to achieve a balanced and cohesive sound where all elements are clearly defined and work together harmoniously. The techniques used in ’80s pop music, such as equalization, compression, and stereo imaging, are also applied in anime music production. The result is a clean and dynamic sound that resonates with listeners.

IV. Cultural Impact

Nostalgia and Sentimentality

Nostalgia is a powerful force that influences our perception of music. The ’80s are often remembered as a time of innovation and creativity in pop music. Anime music that incorporates ’80s pop elements evokes a sense of nostalgia for listeners who grew up during that era. This sentimentality creates an emotional connection between the music and the audience, making anime music particularly appealing to a broad demographic.

Globalization of Pop Culture

The globalization of pop culture has played a significant role in the crossover between ’80s pop and anime music. As Western pop music gained popularity worldwide, its influence spread to other countries, including Japan. The blending of Western and Japanese musical styles resulted in a unique fusion that defines anime music today. This cross-cultural exchange has enriched both genres, creating a diverse and vibrant musical landscape.

Anime as a Cultural Export

Anime has become a major cultural export for Japan, with a global fanbase that continues to grow. The music associated with anime plays a crucial role in its international appeal. By incorporating ’80s pop elements, anime music resonates with audiences around the world, transcending language and cultural barriers. The universal appeal of ’80s pop music enhances the accessibility and popularity of anime, contributing to its global success.

V. Case Studies of Iconic Anime Music

“Neon Genesis Evangelion”

“Neon Genesis Evangelion” is a landmark anime series that features a soundtrack heavily influenced by ’80s pop music. The opening theme, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis,” combines powerful vocals with energetic instrumentation, creating a sense of urgency and excitement. The use of synthesizers and electric guitars in the soundtrack mirrors the sound of ’80s pop, making it instantly recognizable and memorable.

“Sailor Moon”

“Sailor Moon” is another iconic anime series with a soundtrack that draws inspiration from ’80s pop music. The opening theme, “Moonlight Densetsu,” features catchy melodies and upbeat rhythms characteristic of ’80s pop. The use of electronic instrumentation and polished production techniques enhances the nostalgic feel of the music, making it a beloved classic among fans.

“Macross” Series

The “Macross” series, known for its emphasis on music and idol culture, features soundtracks that are deeply rooted in ’80s pop aesthetics. The songs performed by the fictional idols in the series often incorporate synthesizers, electric guitars, and lush harmonies, creating a sound that is both futuristic and reminiscent of ’80s pop. The success of the “Macross” music has contributed to the enduring popularity of the series.

See Also: What is Chamber Pop Music: Evolution, Artists and More


The connection between anime music and ’80s pop music is undeniable. From the historical influences of J-pop in the 1980s to the musical structure, production techniques, and cultural impact, anime music has drawn heavily from the ’80s pop genre. This fusion creates a unique and appealing sound that resonates with audiences worldwide. By understanding the elements that contribute to this sound, we can appreciate the artistry and creativity that define anime music. As anime continues to evolve and gain popularity, the legacy of ’80s pop music will undoubtedly continue to influence and inspire the soundtracks of the future.

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