Real business machines, j-pop groups feed the music industry in Japan. Boys and girls bands invade the Japanese media to the delight of their millions of fans.
These artists are managed by super talent agencies that have the power to turn them into multitasking stars (singers, dancers, actors, models).
AKB48, Morning Musume, Arashi... Who are these Japanese music groups causing hysteria and scandal in the archipelago and even internationally? Here is our top 15 J-pop groups not to be missed.
1. Morning Musume 💁♀️
Born in 1997, from a Japanese TV contest show, Morning Musume is at the origin of the success of the fresh and innocent young idols of the late 90s. This teenage girls band is managed by Tsunku, the creator of the Hello project which also included the female groups C-ute and Berryz Koubo. Since their formation, Morning Musume counts at least 40 starlets, replaced regularly as soon as they reach their twenties. The new members are chosen by the fans. Morning Musume knows a great success as from 1999 with the hit Love Machine and explodes the sales with its first Best Of in the 2000s. More than twenty years after their debut, the group is still very much popular in Japan.
2. AKB48 💕
Considered as the biggest Japanese girls band, AKB48 reunites today no less than 86 singers with a sexy schoolgirl look and divided into 5 teams. Formed in 2005, the ever-changing J-pop group has made a name for itself by being close to its audience. The national idols of AKB48 are based in the Akihabara district, and they even have their own theater where a team performs each night. With 160 million of profit in 2020, 4 times more than our dear Lady Gaga, this group is breaking all records. If AKB48 is a real phenomenon in Japan, it is probably partly thanks to its fans, mainly men, who support their favorite idols at any cost ;-)
3. Nogizaka 46 👩🎤
Created in 2011 by Yasushi Akimoto, the rival group of AKB48 is composed of 36 girls. Their name Nogizaka46 refers to the place of their last audition at Sony Music Japan and sounds like a challenge to their opponents. Like their opponents, these idols perform in commercials, TV shows, music videos and other marketing events. Their popularity keeps growing and they collect first positions in the charts. Are you ready for the battle Nogizaka 46 vs AKB48?
4. Sakura Gakuin 🎒
This group, created in 2010, is composed of 8 (very) young girls aged from 12 to 16 years old. The concept? Reproduce school life through a group of young singers who dance in uniform. Sakura Gakuin is also composed of many sub-groups following the theme of after-school clubs, very popular in Japan. For example, the famous trio Babymetal was formed in the Heavy Music Club. At the end of high school, the girls graduate and leave the group. Yeah, that's the rule!
5. Babymetal 🍼
Combine the explosiveness of metal with the candor of three adorable Japanese idols, and the result is a unique genre: kawai metal. Babymetal is a band formed in 2010 by three young girls nicknamed Su-metal, Moametal and Yuimetal. A surprising mix of J-pop and heavy metal, the group became known thanks to its single Doki Doki Morning. Three years later, Babymetal and its Gothic Lolita, make a big hit in Japan and throughout the world. Who would have ever thought that this trio of starlets would perform at the Heavy Montreal Festival next to Metallica and Iron Maiden?!
6. Scandal 🎸
Made up of 4 young women, this J-pop group with rock influences was formed in 2006. Haruna on vocals, Tomomi on bass, Mami on guitar and Rina on drums. They met at a singing school in Osaka and have been together ever since. Their career began when they were noticed by the independent label Kitty Records while performing a street concert. Thirteen years after their first album, the group is still going strong in Japan and has a large international fan base.
7. E-girls 👱♀️
E-girls for "Exile Girls Unit" represents the female version of the boy band Exile, managed by the agency LDH. Born in 2011 from the merging of the idols of Dream and Flower and Happiness, from the label Avex trax, E-girls only became an official group in 2017. Right from the start, their single Celebration was a bestseller. A year later, their track Follow me joined the Top 3 of the Oricon (Japanese statistics company). In 2013, their first studio album reached #1 in weekly sales. Ever since, the group has been collecting records.
8. Band-Maid 👯♀
Band-Maid is a Japanese female rock band embodied by five young women with a maid's look: Saiki, Miku, Kanami, Akane and Misa. It all started when singer Miku, a former Maid Café hostess, decided to form a band in 2013. The result? A fusion of rock and maid kawai style. With a genre oscillating between hard rock, J-pop and heavy metal, Band-Maid performs both in Japan and abroad. In addition, the artists have announced a forthcoming tour in the US in 2022.
9. Perfume 🧴
Perfume is a story of 3 friends: Nocchi, Kashiyuka and A-chan who decide to realize their dream by forming a J-pop group. Their style? A mixture of electro and J-pop straight out of the video game universe. The group started in the early 2000s, but their career took a real turn in 2008, when they were noticed for an ecological campaign of NHK. After that, their music became very successful in Japan and all over the world.
10. BiSH 😻
BiSH is a female punk rock band that currently consists of 6 girls with funny names Aina the End, Momoko Gumi Company, Cent Chihiro Chittiii, Hashiyasume Atsuko, Lingling and Ayuni D. The successor band of BiS was formed in 2015 by producer Watanabe Junnosuk. During this event, the idols were fully revealed to the public after reaching 4,444 followers on Twitter. BiSH is a mix of acidic voices in a dark and alternative world.
11. Arashi 🌬
Arashi is a Japanese boys band that exists since 1999. Signed by the famous agency Johnny & Associates, this boy band is the most popular one in Japan. Mixing J-pop and R&B, Arashi knew glory from its beginnings but it did not last. In 2007, the 5 johnny's returned in force with their single Love So Sweet. Like a perfect storm, Arashi swept the 10 million albums sold in 2016 and remains in the top 10 sales in 2020. After 20 years in the business and many albums to their credit, the members decide to take a break in 2020.
12. AAA 💁
"Triple A", which is how the name is pronounced for "Attack all around" is a J-pop group that appeared in 2005. Originally formed by 5 men and 3 women, this mixed group is, even after 17 years of career, still very famous in Japan. It must be said that their singles have been in the top 10 many many times. AAA's success is such that they participated in NHK Kōhaku Kōhaku Uta Gassen, Japan's most watched New Year's program, seven times. In 2020, the five members decided to embark on a solo career.
13. Frederic 😄
This slightly frosty j-rock band formed in 2009 and became famous in 2014 with oddloop, their first release. Composed of the Mihara twin brothers, guitarist Ryuji Akagashira and drummer Takeshi Takahashi the band mixes musical influences to create a unique universe. We like their original music tinged with humor and their funny videos.
14. Wanima 🥝
This punk rock band has the talent to make us feel good with their rhythmic tracks. The 3 artists Kenta, Ko-shin and Fuji offer a supercharged cocktail of J-punk and ska. It's no surprise that their track answer is featured on the Weider in Jelly energy drink commercial. Formed in 2010, the trio is collecting chart toppers and played the One Piece: Stampede soundtrack in 2019.
15. The Oral Cigarettes 🚀
This alternative rock band created in 2010, counts 4 boys represented by the label A-Sketch since 2012. They are known for their song Kyōran Hey Kids! which marks the opening track of the anime Noragami Aragoto. The group regularly ignites the stage while standing out for their live performances and dark lyrics. Moreover, their latest album reached the number one spot in the Oricon charts.
Whether you're into rock, metal or electro, you're bound to find the j-pop band that will have your head spinning 🍑 for the whole day in this Top 15. We already picture you dancing on the cheerful choreographies of these Japanese boys bands ;-)