So we’re going do it a little different this year. Instead of doing the standard K-pop countdown first, we’re going to swing over the ocean a little bit and count down my favourite J-pop songs of the year first instead. Now you might also notice that the number of tracks in the countdown has gone down this year. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that I just didn’t listen to that much j-pop this year. Not because I didn’t particularly enjoy the music (I did) but mostly because 2022 was a year where my music tastes drastically changed, causing my listening habits to follow suit. Similarly, the K-pop countdown will also be shorter this year as a result.But in many ways, these shorter countdowns will allow me to highlight the tracks that I really loved throughout the year and as such, stand as a shorter yet overall stronger collection of songs.
In regards to J-pop, I think that 2022 was pretty decent. I don’t think there were any revolutionary, life altering singles in the vein of Run, Laughter or even Stop for Nothing but all in all there were some real gems this year. My top 10 especially is incredibly strong, with equally potent highlights peppered all throughout the top 30.
NEWS – Sanjuushi
OWV – You
Black Iris – Head Shot
&Team – Under the skin
Superfly – Dynamite (younger me would have LOVED this)
Hinatazaka46 – Tsuki to Hoshi ga Odoru Midnight
JO1 – SuperCali
Special Mention: Miyavi – Futurism
A thrilling, balls to the walls single from Japan’s premier guitarist, Futurism stands as one of the years most exhilarating releases, featuring some goosebump inducing riffs, a bounding pre-chorus that is sure to excite, and a climax that stands as one of 2022’s most explosive musical moments. Had this firecracker of a single been given the music video treatment, it could have very easily found a place near the upper echelons of the list.
31. OCTPATH – Like
A dance track that pulls just as much from the Korean market as it does from its native Japan, Like fuses its funky K-pop esque production with a central hook that melodically harkens back to the best of J-pop. It’s nothing particularly new but its bright single mindedness and excellent chorus do wonders.
30. SKE48 – Zettai Inspiration
When going into any song from the 4X franchise of Japanese girl groups, you pretty much know what you’re in for. But if that’s your thing, it’s pretty much a joy every time. Zettai Inspiration stands as an excellent conduit for SKE48’s large roster with its thrilling dance-pop production and massive hook that conveys a sense of buoyant energy with just the right amount of underlying melancholy.
29. My First Story – Dreaming of you
Though its scuzzy verses may heavily contrast its gorgeous central refrain, Dreaming of you stands as My First Story’s strongest effort in years, combining its two disparate elements into one incredibly satisfying whole that climaxes into one of the years strongest hooks.
28. 8LOOM – Forever or Never
Though a fictional boy group created for the purpose of a tv show, 8LOOM actually released a surprisingly strong slate of music. Forever or Never stands as my favourite of the bunch, harnessing a classic propulsive dance pop sound that’s right up my alley without skimping on the melody.
SennaRin – Saihate
I’m not quite as big of a Hiroyuki Sawano buff as many others but there’s no denying the fact that the man can craft a killer track. Saihate serves as the ending for the latest season of Bleach and is just as musically thrilling as the show it’s set to soundtrack.
26. Morisaki Win – Live in the Moment
The kind of loose, undiluted funk that just hits all the right spots, Live in the Moment stands as an absolute win for Morisaki Win’s burgeoning discography. The production is incredibly groovy, recalling elements Nissy’s seminal Eternal Live (an extremely high compliment) whilst still standing on its own thanks to Win’s charismatic performance.
25 – WARPs UP – Hero
Though I’ve always preferred WARPs excellent debut Rock Tonight to their material as WARPs UP, Hero stands as an incredibly fun single that truly opens up for its excellent chorus.
24. &Team – Scent of You
If you’re going to take inspiration from a track, you can’t really go wrong with EXO’s legendary Growl. And while Scent of You may essentially be a retread of that track (literally not complaining I could take 1000’s of these before I get tired), there’s no denying the strength of the underlying beat and nimble rhythm that the boys trace to give us one of the years most satisfying performances.
23. Nissy – Trippin (review)
While Nissy’s long awaited ‘Hocus Pocus 3’ didn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, lead single Trippin stood as a rambunctious slavo that indulged in the excess the give us an overstuffed listening experience that miraculously works when it should crash and burn. It’s one hell of a great time.
22. Sakuraza46 – Masatsukeisu
Sakurazaka46 continue their chokehold on my year end lists with the addictive dance pop of Masatsukeisu. The production here is just so great, light on its feet whilst still bounding forward with an undeniable sense of urgency. The exact qualities that make the girls music so damn great.
21. INI – We Are
Amongst an otherwise rather disappointing discography, we have the utter majesty of We Are. The chorus here is what dreams are made of, opening with its strongest melody before transitioning into an equally potent post chorus that perfectly conveys the melancholic optimism of the tracks production. INI would do well to go down this route further.
20. JO1 – Move The Soul
Fresh off the heels of last years legendary Born to Be Wild, JO1 were quick to revisit that sound with the exhilarating dance pop of Move The Soul. This is utter pop bombast, moving at a breakneck pace before exploding for its dynamite chorus that just radiates with an undeniable sense of urgency. And dont even get me started on the perfectly calibrated dance break! This is the exact sound JO1 excel at.
19. NEWS – Loser
After the departure of frontman Yuya Tegoshi, I was unsure if we would ever get anthemic NEWS ever again given just how well he had fit that particular sound. Enter Loser, which reignites that massive, larger than sound that the group had built their name on in thrilling fashion. Its chorus stands as a rallying cry, one that reminds me exactly why I fell in love with this group.
18. Sakurazaka46 – Samidare Yo
Sakurazaka46 have always been my favourite of all the large girl groups thanks to their laser focused song craft ,immaculate production and always interesting conceptual shifts. They tackle both upbeat dance pop and more sentimental fare with equal gusto, a quality that makes their discography endlessly explorable. And with songs like Samidare Yo it seems as though they’ll continue to further their grip at the top of my J-pop girl group bias list. The melody here is just gorgeous, covering numerous refrains beautifully without ever losing its golden touch. The gorgeously shot music video also goes a long way in selling the sentiment.
17. Sexy Zone – Trust Me, Trust You
In a surprising move, Sexy Zone harkened back to the synth laden RnB of the mid 2000’s to deliver yet another slam dank entry into their near flawless singles run. Trust Me, Trust You hits so many of my musical sweet spots without ever forgetting the importance of a strong chorus, one pulses with utter majesty before an expertly placed rap break sends it off in style.
16. Queendom – Chitty Chitty Bam Bam
An opening to one of the most absurdly plotted reverse isekai’s in recent memory, Chitty Chitty Bam Bam‘s Italo disco inspired production stood as a thrilling musical backdrop to one of the years most addictive tracks. Without a single moment to breathe during the tracks runtime, Chitty Chitty Bam Bam is an undeniable bag of goodies with its irresistibly catchy chorus, expertly placed rap break and thrilling electric guitar led climax. What a great time.
15. Takuya Kimura – i’ll be there
For those of us who like our music to be a little of the top sometimes, i’ll be there stands as pure musical catnip to our ears. It’s completely allergic to the idea of restraint, bounding forward and revelling in its sense of over the top majesty and carrying the kind of anthemic energy that’s bound to get you up. A real rallying cry for the ages.
14. Miyavi & Kang Daniel – Hush Hush
Though Hush Hush has been kicking around for a little over a year now as part of Miyavi’s excellent 2021 record “Imaginary”, 2022 was the year where it got the promotion it deserved. Initially an eyebrow raising collaboration, it quickly became apparent just how great of a complement an airy voice in the vein of Kang Daniel was to a certain rhythmic sound that Miyavi occasionally dabbles in. And Hush Hush stands as the peak of that particular sound. What could have come across as simply a collection of disparate riffs is held together by a wonderfully rhythmic backbone and equally addictive vocal performance that’s sure to keep this track on endless rotation.
13. NIK – La Vida Loca
A song so could that it could have essentially served as a ONEUS or SF9 comeback, NIK out Kpopped their Korean contemporaries with the thrilling latin inspired dance pop of La Vida Loca. From the strumming guitar through line to the absolute showstopper of a chorus, this is the kind of track I spent most the year looking for in Korea. An absolute thrill ride from start to finish and one that K-pop fans are sure to fall head over heels for.
12. Miyavi – Strike it Out
Ever since 2020’s rousing Bang!, Miyavi’s been a near mainstay in both my rotational playlists and my end of year countdowns. In my mind, the man can do no wrong and in 2022, his crowning moment came in the form of the exhilarating Strike it Out. There’s always so much passion in this mans performance, one that comes through perfectly in during the chorus which resounds with a sense of desperation thats expertly countered by the triumphant nature of the tracks central riff. A contrast that remains one of my favourites of the year.
11. Ado – New Genesis
A song that absolutely blew up in Japan and took Ado to even greater heights, New Genesis is a perfect example of how to expertly manage a sense of propulsion in your track. From its synth assisted verses to its absolutely massive chorus, there’s just so much to love about a track that worked as the perfect soundtrack to the latest One Piece movie.
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