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City Pop シティ・ポップ

City pop is a genre of music that originated in Japan in the late 1970s and peaked in popularity during the 1980s. It blends elements of pop, jazz, funk, and sometimes disco, creating a smooth and sophisticated sound. In January 2022, the trend of Japanese city pop was experiencing a significant resurgence, particularly among younger generations both in Japan and internationally.

Here are some trends and observations that were prevalent at that time:

  1. Online Revival: City pop experienced a revival on online platforms such as YouTube and streaming services. Many classic city pop songs were rediscovered and shared on social media, leading to a new wave of interest in the genre.
  2. International Appeal: City pop gained popularity beyond Japan’s borders, particularly among Western listeners who developed a taste for its nostalgic yet refreshing sound. This international appeal led to the emergence of dedicated fan communities and events outside Japan.
  3. Sampling in Contemporary Music: City pop’s influence extended to contemporary music, with artists around the world sampling city pop tracks in their own songs. This further contributed to the genre’s visibility and relevance in modern music.
  4. Reissues and Vinyl Revival: Record labels began reissuing classic city pop albums, both digitally and on vinyl, to cater to the growing demand from collectors and enthusiasts. This also contributed to the preservation and dissemination of city pop’s legacy.
  5. New Generation of Artists: Some contemporary Japanese artists started incorporating city pop elements into their music, blending traditional sounds with modern production techniques. This infusion of city pop aesthetics into new music helped keep the genre alive and evolving.
  6. Documentaries and Media Exposure: Documentaries and media coverage explored the history and impact of city pop, shedding light on its key artists, producers, and cultural significance. This exposure introduced the genre to new audiences and reinforced its status as a cultural phenomenon.
  7. Live Events and DJ Sets: Live events, DJ sets, and club nights dedicated to city pop emerged in various cities, providing platforms for fans to come together, dance, and celebrate the music.

Here are some iconic city pop songs that are widely celebrated for their catchy melodies, smooth vocals, and nostalgic vibes that are often regarded as some of the best examples of the genre:

  1. Plastic Love” by Mariya Takeuchi – This song gained immense popularity internationally after becoming a viral hit on YouTube. It’s often considered the quintessential city pop track, known for its infectious groove and memorable chorus.
  2. Stay with Me” by Miki Matsubara – Another city pop classic that enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Its catchy melody and Matsubara’s soulful vocals make it a standout in the genre.
  3. Summer Connection” by Tatsuro Yamashita – Tatsuro Yamashita is one of the most influential figures in city pop, and “Summer Connection” is a prime example of his smooth, sophisticated sound.
  4. Sparkle” by Meiko Nakahara – This song captures the essence of 80s city pop with its upbeat rhythm, funky bassline, and Nakahara’s charming vocals.
  5. Sailor Suit and Machine Gun” by Shigeru Matsuzaki – Known for its funky groove and catchy chorus, this song is a beloved classic in the city pop canon.
  6. Dress Down” by Kaoru Akimoto – A lesser-known gem, “Dress Down” showcases Akimoto’s ethereal vocals and the genre’s signature blend of pop and jazz influences.
  7. Memory Lane” by Yoshino Fujimal – This dreamy track features lush instrumentation and Fujimal’s soothing vocals, creating a nostalgic atmosphere that’s characteristic of city pop.

While there isn’t a strict set of chords that define city pop, there are some common chord progressions and voicings that are often used in this genre. Here are a few examples:

  1. Major 7th Chords: City pop often makes use of lush, jazzy chords like major 7th chords. These chords have a dreamy and sophisticated quality that fits well with the genre. For example, in the key of C major, the chords Cmaj7, Fmaj7, and Gmaj7 might be used frequently.
  2. Extended Chords: Beyond major and minor chords, city pop often incorporates extended chords like dominant 7ths, minor 7ths, and major 9ths. These chords add color and richness to the harmony. For instance, in the key of C major, you might encounter chords like Cmaj9, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj9, G7, Am7, and Bm7b5.
  3. Chromatic Movement: City pop songs sometimes feature chromatic chord movements, where chords move in half steps. This can create a sense of smoothness and sophistication. For example, a progression like Cmaj7 – C#m7 – Dmaj7 can be found in some city pop tunes.
  4. Modal Interchange: City pop often incorporates modal interchange, borrowing chords from parallel scales or modes. This adds harmonic interest and color to the music. For instance, borrowing chords from the parallel minor key is common. In C major, you might see chords like Cmaj7, Dm7, E7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7, Bm7b5, borrowing the E7 from the parallel C minor key.
  5. Suspended Chords: Suspended chords, such as Csus4 and Csus2, are occasionally used in city pop to add tension and release within chord progressions.

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