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 September 16, 1996
Good ol’ Johnny’s Entertainment was a force in the 90’s, as it is now. With SMAP reigning supreme and Arashi waiting in the wings, 1995 marked the debut of V6. They’re currently the longest running Johnny’s group who still has all its original members and is still releasing music today. That’s over twenty-five years of hits!
V6’s first four singles were firmly within the Eurobeat genre, with each being an actual cover of a European song. As cheesy as this genre may sound, I hold its high-energy charms close to my heart. At this point, Johnny’s had long embraced cheese and theatricality, but none of its acts had gone so brazenly techno. Take Me Higher is the fourth of these Eurobeat singles, and a blistering shot of energy. It was tied to the popular Ultraman series, and sounds every bit as bombastic as an action movie fight scene.
Though I’m including the truncated youtube version of the music video, I’m also embedding the full (nearly six-minute) album version. This is one of those songs that I can never get enough of, and those six minutes fly by like the wind. The high-octane instrumental intro eats up over a minute on its own, though you’ll hardly notice with all those dramatic synths coming at you like bands of a hurricane.
As with many Johnny’s singles of this era, the entirety of Take Me Higher is performed in unison. But whereas past acts like the popular Hikaru Genji had more youthful-sounding voices, V6 imbue the track with a lower-toned – almost combative – energy. There’s an urgency to every element here, including that over-the-top electric guitar during the bridge. There’s no way you listen to this without moving your body. It’s the ultimate workout song, and not for those looking for background music!
**And for those who have already asked: no, not every track in this feature will be a 10/10! In fact, now that I’ve unveiled a few of them, I’m going to move onto some 9’s for the next few entries.