A Playlist of the Best City Pop Songs
City pop defines Japanese pop of the 1970s and 80s. This bold genre was influenced by western music, specifically jazz and funk. There has been somewhat of a revival of this music since the 2010s. Hits from the 70s/80s became frequently sampled for vaporwave producers. On top of that, TikTok has given some of these memorable city pop singles new life.
City pop is proven to be a majorly influential subsection of music because it continues to regain popularity in the modern music scene. As they grow older, these wonderful artists are sure to love seeing their songs resurge around the globe. This playlist shows just a small portion of what’s to discover within the world of city pop.
MARIYA TAKEUCHI — “PLASTIC LOVE”
This hit is one of the most recognizable in city pop. “Plastic Love” is an essential in the genre because it’s incredibly catchy and memorable. The song was released back in 1984, and Mariya Takeuchi’s beautiful voice earned her a resurgence in 2017 when an 8-minute remix of the song was uploaded to YouTube. Horns, guitar, bass, and drums all make for an extravagant, full sound. This song is the epitome of city pop with it’s danceable arrangement and Takeuchi’s effortless vocals.
“Plastic Love” was produced by Takeuchi and her husband, Tatsuro Yamashita, another well-known city pop artist. They created this timeless piece together, telling the story of a woman whose man got away. The song fades out with the hook “I’m just playing games / I know that’s plastic love / Dance to the plastic beat / Another morning comes”.
Connect with Mariya Takeuchi: Spotify
TAEKO ONUKI — “4:00A.M.”
Taeko Onuki’s “4:00A.M.” was released in 1978, earlier than most hits were in the years that defined city pop. This song starts out with an airy flute and resonant sax, which quickly leads into drumming and a brass ensemble’s sound. The instrumentation of this tune is enough to give a listener goosebumps. On top of the large assortment of instruments, there is a backing chorus that makes for a grandiose sound to complement Onuki’s lead vocals.
Connect with Taeko Onuki: Spotify | Twitter | Facebook | Website
ANRI — “I CAN’T STOP THE LONELINESS”
Immediately at a fast tempo, this hard-hitting city pop hit can’t be ignored. “I Can’t Stop The Loneliness” is one of the most danceable songs on this playlist. The low brass and bass give the song a strong foundation, allowing high brass and strings to shine in the highs. The bass guitar part is possibly the most exciting highlight of Anri’s single. So tightly structured, this track fits perfectly within the upbeat, jazzy side of city pop.
Connect with Anri: Spotify | Twitter | Facebook | Website
YASUHA — “FLYDAY CHINATOWN”
One of her earliest singles, Yasuha released “Flyday Chinatown” in 1981. This catchy tune shows off Yasuha’s strong voice and powerful instrumentals. The song starts off strong and loud. Eventually, the arrangement becomes more bare as arpeggiated synths let the vocals have a more exposed moment during the verses. As usual in city pop, the horns, percussion, and bassline are what make this song so remarkable. Multiple remixes have been made of this track in recent years, keeping Yasuha’s music alive.
Connect with Yasuha: Website
TASTURO YAMASHITA — “MAGIC WAYS”
Sung entirely in English, “Magic Ways” will give you chills with its beauty. Tatsuro Yamashita is a wonderful composer, releasing music since 1973. This song is Beach Boys-esque because of its lighthearted theme of love and swaying vocal harmonies. Yamashita’s precisely sung, glossy vocals carry this song through to the end. He is perfectly complemented by the instrumentals as he sings “And when you smile at me that way / Well, you can warm the coldest day / It’s magic”.
Connect with Tatsuro Yamashita: Spotify | Facebook
JUNKO YAGAMI — “BAY CITY”
Junko Yagami lends her unique voice to the song “Bay City”. It’s another memorable city pop track, with its sparkly synths, prominent bass, and background choral harmonies. Of course, horns are crucial for certain hits throughout the song. The hard-hitting drums are characteristic of the genre, as well. Everything you’d like to hear in a city pop hit is in “Bay City. Yagami is what pushes the song over the top with her amazing vocals.
Connect with Junko Yagami: Spotify | Twitter | Facebook | Website
MIKI MATSUBARA — “STAY WITH ME
This song is an earworm, to say the least. The pre-chorus leading into the chorus’s main line, “Stay with me”, will stick with you for hours after one listen. The song has a more relaxed tempo than some of the others on this playlist. However, that does not take away from how easily danceable this song can be. It’s perfect for if the night was coming to a close at a party. Unfortunately having passed away in 2001, Miki Matsubara left timeless hits behind with her legacy in city pop.
Connect with Miki Matsubara: Spotify | Instagram | Twitter
Contributor: Molly Crerand