If you were to map my musical DNA, a sizable portion would be indebted to 90’s J-pop. To me, this is a truly magical time in music, but it’s rarely discussed or shared outside of Japan.
Being an aficionado of certain sounds within this era, I’ve tracked down hundreds of highlights over the years. And I think it’s time to share my carefully curated playlists with the world.
With this in mind, we have a new ongoing Bias List feature – The 90’s J-Pop Roadmap.
I’ll be writing about (and rating!) a number of singles from Japan’s 90’s pop boom, constructing a timeline of the era piece-by-piece.
Whether you’re familiar with these artists or not, I invite you to go on this journey with me and discover new classics you may have never heard before.
The roadmap in full
Released July 29, 1996
Daisuke Asakura was a busy man in 1996. His attention was split between multiple acts, including his pairing with Takanori Nishikawa for the launch of T.M.Revolution. Another band – the often-experimental Iceman – was launched in the spring of that year with debut single Dark Half (Touch Your Darkness). Alongside vocalist Michihiro Kuroda and guitarist/co-composer Kenichi Ito, Asakura expanded his bombastic techno sound into new frontiers.
You’ve got to love the “high-tech” computers at the start of this music video! The low-budget sci-fi nature of the visuals is super charming, and really compliments this song. Dark Half feels like a statement of intent. Its anthemic, slow-burn intro builds anticipation. You just know a mammoth dance beat is about to drop, and the track doesn’t disappoint.
Dark Half’s verse moves at a frantic pace, driven by a galloping beat, icy synths and plenty of electric guitar. There is very little empty space here, and that may feel a bit exhausting upon first listen. But, Kuroda’s confident, powerful voice makes for a reliable guide across the track’s various textures. The chorus is all kinds of fantastic, with the sort of fist-pumping melody Asakura was rattling off in his sleep at this point.
At almost five minutes, Dark Half is perhaps a tad overlong, but there’s not a dull moment. It’s not quite my favorite Iceman song, but I think it’s a really great place to start.