Glow Staff |December 18 2021
December 18 2021
In a year when Japanese music was dominated by hip hop, TikTok, pandemic recovery and increasing international success, these were among the finest, most engrossing and boundary-pushing tunes.
An electrifying year for devotees of Japanese music, 2021 has seen musicians step away from the pandemic and towards an extent of artistic normality. Artists have emerged with new projects at the ready, some boasting bold new shifts, others consolidating past brilliance; some have capitalised on new TikTok trends, while others have set off to forge their own movements entirely.
2021, again, witnessed the rise of Japanese hip hop. Adding further fuel to a justified blaze of hype, not only has hip hop in Japan grown even more diverse and popular, but it’s been given greater exposure to international audiences. The establishment of Spotify’s +81 Connect playlist, complete with specially-curated beats and soundtrack tunes from some of the country’s biggest names, has surely made the genre more accessible than ever before.
And Japanese hip hop isn’t just compelling because it is so on-trend. It also manages upkeep an astonishingly high degree of creativity, freshness and unpredictability across the board. Within our list are unhinged hip hop bangers (MANON, JJJ), tunes of intricate, convoluted mayhem (Dos Monos, SMTK) and works with a strong indie identity (Mom), but the boundaries between them all are thoroughly blurred. The best of Japanese hip hop appears to buck convention and take influences from wherever it likes, and is all the more thrilling because of it.
So far as individual artists were concerned, most impressive in 2021 was the growth of tamanaramen. Starting the year renowned for a particular kind of dreamy, hazy, whispered R&B, she saw out 2021 topping off our list with the magnificent, ecstatic “The light behind my eyelids”. Combining relentless techno and industrial swagger with her signature post-cloud-rap sound, it was, as far as we were concerned, peerless.
As per last year, the rest of our list is an eclectic mix that flits between phenomenal new returns from established legends, huge pop stompers, experimental ditties and exhilarating dance belters. Many of the songs featured in the past year’s Best New Japanese Music playlist (if you haven’t subscribed already, do so here), but here are our absolute favourites – The Glow’s 26 best Japanese singles of 2021.
Author: Glow Staff
Artist Tags: Haru Nemuri, Honjitsu Kyuuen, Ryuichi Samejima, Tamanaramen, NTsKi, SMTK, Cwondo, Mom, Ichiko Aoba, Yasei Collective, Y ohtrixpointnever, Meitei, MALIYA, D.A.N., Dos Monos, MANON, Kaho Nakamura, Ken Ishii, JJJ, Hirono Nishiyama, VIDEOTAPEMUSIC, uami, yuri, Takuro Okada, Quruli