Lists, Music

The 20 Best J-Pop Songs of 2016


With a year full of screaming idol groups, serious tag-along with EDM elements and a bunch of kawaii-realness, I have listed a 25-track review on some of the best singles of the year! Don’t worry to the December babies, as your entries will have a chance for next year… or will you? (Nah, I’m just kidding, of course you’ll get the opportunity… or will you?) ALSO, there is no particular order, although in alphabetical structure, just plain inclusions of some moments. So, without further-ado, here we gooooooooo…



Aimer — Ninelie

Starting of the list is J-Pop’s most intriguing young artist, the anonymous Aimer. Yes, she is anonymous because she barely shows her face on her atmospheric cover arts and promotional shots, but to re-assure that statement… she is indeed a girl, and is human. But in contrast, her music is quite ethereal rock-based with elements of experimental dream-like sounds, which shows evidently in the pop-inspired anthem “Ninelie”.

Aira Mitsuki— Detective A

I don’t know what she’s been doing with her musical career for a while now, having released her comeback single “Lightsaver” last year to a mild surprise, but what I do is that Japan’s electro princess Aira Mitsuki is still making some awesome tunes! Check out “Detective A”, one of two digital singles that were released this year to showcase her return. The uptempo drum beats and stylish dubstep breakdown (now let’s not forget those overdosed autotune vocals) all hit the right spot.

Aoi Teshima — Asu e no Tegami

Aoi Teshima’s February single “Asu e no Tegami” is a warm and brilliant composition filled with gentle piano riffs, poetic songwriting and a beautiful vocal performance by the singer. As a fan of J-Pop, it’s not the brightest or strongest release of the year, but it definitely is the most cohesive pop ballad to arise in the country throughout the 365 days, and it reaching number one obviously sprinkled a bit of curiosity and thinking for the fellow J-Pop consumers.

Bump of Chicken — Aria

Ahhhhhh, Bump of Chicken… an extremely bizarre name for a bunch of Japanese pop-rockers that have surfed a commercial high with their conceptual records and mixture of sounds. With that said (check out the amazingly dope hit “Parade”), their single “Aria” really had me sold upon its release; it’s a funky pop driven track that brings reminiscence of their powerful instrumentation and riffs that first strived through their earlier career.

E-girls — Pink Champagne

One of Japan’s most recognizable girl groups out now (mind that field, AKB48 and sister groups), “Pink Champagne” literally took me to a new high (or completely drunk on their music, either one). The single was another entry for their concepts of “E.G. Cool”, and its slick synths, catchy hooks, solid chorus and extremely well-performed vocals shook me from start to finish… it just HAD to be on this list! Hopefully the girls do something like this in the future.

FEMM — Countdown

On the other hand, FEMM are Japan’s most… ehhh, different group out? To good measures though. Their debut record consisted of strong EDM rhythms that latched onto elements of Westernized urban and dance styles, and further showcased on their most recent music. But in June 2016, the mannequin duo (please… just research them) released their double A-side single “Neon Twilight” / “Countdown”. Whilst the former was a pleasant dance song, “Countdown” really work well with a more 80’s inspired R&B/electronic beat.


Garnidelia — Yakusoku (Promise Code)

Garnidelia are a duo consisting of female vocalist and songwriter Maria, and producer and arranger Tofu. They’re yet to drop their second studio album in December, titled Violet Cry, but to keep those bopping Anime fans happy and full with Kawaii-ness and glee, they promoted the record with the rock anthem “Yakusoku (Promise Code)”, which showcases their signature sound and instrumentations… oh, and check out their new flash and stylish image. Pretty slick I must say.

Gen Hoshino — Koi

One thing you can count of with Gen Hoshino’s music is that, from the cuff, he is a simple, non-over-the-top singer. He produces some pretty nice and straightforward music, and especially works with his number one hit “Koi”, a clucky and funky guitar-driven anthem that also gives bonus complementation towards his vocals.

Generations from Exile Tribe — Pierrot

That damn Exile Tribe just love to dip their fingers into the depths of intoxicating EDM, don’t they. Even their sub-group, the slick Generations, wanna push out some hits with their thrilling blends of dance moves, stylish looks and catchy sounds. If you wanna get hypnotized by all these gorgeous qualities, then check out Pierrot; an extremely infectious electro house number that will ceases you in delight… or just make you wanna take a string of moves on the dance floor (any one is fine with me.)

Haruka Chisuga — Ai no Uta (Words of Love)

A delicate house song infused with agile synths and rhythms, Haruka’s single “Ai no Uta (Words of Love)“ is something quite magical. It’s not your ordinary dance anthem; in fact, it’s actually quite an intriguing and mystical one, especially with its feather-light production and delivery on the singer’s behalf. I tell you, both Japanese and English song fanatics, if you’re looking for something to light your spirits and transcend you into a different land, I would recommend this anthem here.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu — Sai & Co

Of course, no list would be complete without the wacky, over-the-top and J-Pop princess that can’t live without a touch (or carton) of Kawaii-aesthetics… KYARY PAMYU PAMYU! This wacky pop diva released her retrospect release KPP Best, with the single “Sai & Co”, an insanely cute electronic number that brought not only life, but insane colours, creepy as hell cartoons and the usual messed-up costumes that only a genius would come up with.

Namie Amuro — Fighter

Even though this Japanese songstress has been bringing out some of the most polished and dopest pop entries in recent Japanese music, Namie Amuro sure cemented her international appeal with the single “Fighter”, a powerhouse full of EDM synths and hooky moments during the chorus. Bow down to yet another single from one of the longest surviving pop stars in Japanese history!

Namie Amuro — Mint

Oh look, another Namie Amuro song… on this list… but why? Well um… because it’s a great song? “Mint” was the second single released by the singer this year, and only just makes her discography look even shiner and polished than her previous work. Its an exhilarating pop-rock anthem that hits those strong dance roots she was once known for, and she empowers it well with some stylish attitude, fierceness and… them signature high boots! Get em’ girl!

Negoto — Asymmetry

These four talented woman have focused on blending some rhythmic rock entries that have managed to surface quite well on several Japanese music charts in recent years. Their first single in a year, “Asymmetry”, really packed a punch; it serves as a complete crossover of 80s-inspired dance, their signature rock instrumentation, and a bit of floor-on-the-floor beats, blended with Aoyama’s girly and soft vocal range.

Perfume — Next Stage With You

Perfume have become one of the biggest Japanese acts to grace the music scene around the world, performing in arenas throughout Europe and North America! With their work still being moulded by Capsule member Yasutaka Nakata, there’s no surprise their singles, including the agile “Flash” and English hit “Spending All My Time”, have been massive moments in their career. But check out their promo track “Next Stage With You”, an incredibly bright poppy track that circulates a rhythm of disco-influenced structure and memorable hooks.

REOL — YoiYoi Koron

One of Japan’s most recent artists are REOL, a three-member unit that is composed of a talented singer, a swish composer and a savvy creative director. Essentially, this is a masterpiece ready to happen; check out “YoiYoi Koron” as an example. It’s an extremely fast EDM track that boasts a wide range of vocal abilities by singer Reol, and a captivating blend of traditional Japanese instruments with thumping beats and stellar visuals.

Seiko Matsuda — Bara no Yoni Saite Sakura no Yoni Chitte

Way before the time and ages of Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamasaki and definitely before AKB48, there was only one supreme idol singer: Seiko Matsuda. The eternal J-Pop goddess released her single “Bara no Yoni Saite Sakura no Yoni Chitte”, and showed all these divas whom the real deal is. It’s a blend of your typical pop ballad with a bit of traditional Enka styles, but it comes to show that her presence and vocals hasn’t lost their way since her debut.

ShuuKaRen — Universe

One of the most surprising (well, kinda) moments for the LDH family was the sub-division of sisters Karen and Shuuka Fujii, to create the groups ShuuKaRen (the name right? I know…). In October, they offered their first serving “Universe”, a club anthem that also boasted the tracks “Tricky” and “Take-a-Shot”, both awesome starters to the sisters. Even though I found them quite boring at first, spinning them around a few more sold me not long after.

Unison Square Garden — Sugar Song and Bitter Step

A funky guitar? A simple drum beat? A slick rhythm with some quirky vocal abilities? Well, that basically makes up the track “Sugar Song and Bitter Step”. Japanese band Unison Square Garden sure belted out yet another smash hit with this single, which showcases a very simple and elegant delivery, whilst still managing to work with the current trend of J-Pop music.

Utada Hikaru feat. Sheena Ringo — Nijikan Dake no Vacance

The only collaborative single listed here, “Nijikan Dake no Vacance” showcases an uptempo riff to Utada Hikaru’s October 2016 album Fantome, which was unofficially dubbed as her comeback record (even though she kept popping in with singles here and there). The groovy pop track, shared with vocalist Shiina Ringo, demonstrate the singer’s musical and lyrical growth since her days as a small petite musician, and now represents herself as a powerful veteran figure of Japanese music history.

Honorable Mentions

  • Babymetal — Karate
  • CTS — Waviness
  • E-girls — Dance With Me Now!
  • E-girls — Cowgiri Rhapsody
  • Happiness — Ordinary Girls
  • Miliyah — Future Lover
  • Namie Amuro — Hero
  • ShuuKaRen — Tricky
  • Utada Hikaru — Michi
  • Yuko Shuzuhana — Cradle of Eternity
  • Yuri!!! On Ice feat. W.Hatano — You Only Live Once


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