I’m one of those kinds of people that kind of like to find things a little off the beaten path. Since getting into the world of Idols, i’ve found hunting out indie, and lesser known (at least to American Audiences) major label artists to be very interesting. One of the reasons I love the music from Japan is that it’s so unique, and with so much variety.
With that said, I just want to use this time to introduce some of the groups that I really am hooked on lately, that most American audiences (especially those that don’t follow Idols) don’t know about. There’s a lot of hidden gems out there that I think deserve attention!
Negicco have been around for long time, but it seems they’re essentially unknown to even most J-Pop fans in the USA. Their music is really well produced and ranges from classic J-Pop sounds, all the way to Trance and Electro-ish stuff along the lines of Perfume. On my first trip to Japan I made it a point to pick up some of their CD’s. Most idol fans in Japan seem to know of them, but I’m really shocked they’re not bigger than they are right now. I think they’re still considered “Indie” even after all these years. They have a best of album that I totally recommend getting!
Tokyo Girls’ Style
Tokyo Girls’ Style has a very unique sound from their contemporaries. The Music in their songs are obviously produced by someone very oldschool with Jazz/funk/RnB roots. I’d compare it almost to Earth Wind & Fire, or something. very 70’s with glossy up-to-date production. They’re also one of the few Idol groups that really rely on live-vocals during their live Performances. They have a large cult following in Japan, but despite being on super label Avex their sales have been mediocre. I recommend listening to any of their albums all the way through, it’s really so well done, and a great cure for anyone that’s grown tired of music “all sounding the same”.
BABYMETAL is something to behold. They’re actually a sub-group from a large idol group called “Sakura Gakuin”, however I feel they’ve developed a following that is quickly surpassing the group their based in. I’m sort of a reformed Metalhead from my younger days, and my love for Metal never really died, and THIS really brings a tear to my eye. The music is really well done, totally legit Metal with cute themes… somehow it really ends up being one of the most epic things in the entire Universe. These girls are rising quick to stardom, and I, for one welcome our new Kawaii Metal Overlords.
Momoiro Clover Z
I almost don’t want to include Momoiro Clover Z on this list because they really don’t need my help here, as they’re quickly becoming the epitome of what Idol groups are capable of. Their live performances are as crazy and energetic as their songs. Also, their live-vocal prowess really stands out among their peers. They’re an unstoppable force that stays pure to their Idol sound. You won’t hear radio friendly pop from them, however epic idol rock operas are common for them. If you don’t know these girls, then you fail at life.
wait…. what? really… YES. Now, you might be wondering why I put uber-wellknown Morning Musume on here… well, the answer is quite simple. Many J-Pop fans back in the day remember their hay-day but then they kind of fell from popularity due to popular members leaving, mediocre songs, and lackluster media coverage. However I’m hear to let everyone know that Sayashi Riho has emerged just in time for Tsunku’s Morning Musume to be officially Badass again. I’m a reborn Momusu fan, and YOU should be too. They’re have a solid string of really awesome music right now, so now is the time to jump back on board with this fresh crew.
BiS (Brand New Idol Society)
I was turned onto this group early on in their indie career, so i’ve kind of follow them since their early days. Basically what BiS is, is an Idol group doing Alt-Rock/Heavy Rock with a anti/post-idol image. They’re kind of punk Idols, however if you watch any of their live shows online you’ll see they still operate in very standard idol ways. Their music is alt-rock for idol fans, so it comes off as very fresh. The production is very well done, and they’ve even been signed to Avex now, and that hasn’t seemed to shake their momentum. They’re known for very controversial music videos (such as nude-suits), and other taboo-for-idol things.
Fairies is Japan’s answer to K-Pop. Not that Japan hasn’t tried similar concepts before, no one really did it right. Basically what you have here is what you get if you cross Morning Musume with SNSD. I’ve shown this group to K-Pop fans that are anti J-Pop, and it’s been approved by K-Pop fans. I feel they also have some of the most badass dance choreography in Japan right now, and they’re very strong with it. The music is very club-dance electro at it’s best. I recommend checking out the rest of their music if you like this contemporary sound.
Denpagumi Inc. really captures that Akihabara Idol vibe and packages it in a tidy package. Their music can range from frantic dance numbers, to nice cute ballads. They definitely know their audience and are targeting them. I can’t really resist their charm. They have a very large following.
Lyrical School(Formally known as Tengal6)
Tengal6 is Idol-rap, it’s funky-fresh and reminds me of 80’s rap like Grand-master flash. It’s cute, and hella gangter to the max. They recently changed labels and changed their name from Tengal6 to Lyrical School. I recommend hunting down all their tracks because it’s awesome!
PASSPO☆ are a group I can’t gush enough about. They’ve got a rock Flight Attendant theme, and it’s so upbeat and energetic! Their dance and singing is very powerful and never fails to make me feel like I’m flying. Don’t hesitate to Fly the friendly skies with PASSPO☆!!!
These girls are pretty new to the scene, and they ROCK. Party Rockets have kind of a speed-metal Idol pop thing going that sounds really fresh, and is really catchy! They don’t have much stuff out yet, but I encourage you to hunt them down!
They have a very polished sound, and it’s that kind of “right out of a Anime OST” feel. If you’re into Anime songs, you should check them out. Very upbeat and hard to resist!
Bump.y are produced by the same folks that bring you K-Poppers Kara! Their recent singles have been really solid with amazing hooks and melodies. Give them a listen, and you might just get hooked!
Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku
Ebichu (as they’re commonly referred to as) are a great Idol group along the same vain as Momoiro Clover Z. They have a wide range of styles in their songs, ranging from idolpop, electro, to almost metal. they’re really young, and their youthful exuberance really is hard to say no to.
Dorothy Little Happy
Dorothy Little Happy are comparable to Tokyo Girls Style in that their sound is very retro-mature. very 70’s but closer to disco than the funkyness of TGS. They’ve got an indie vibe, although being on a major label. They’ve yet to have a big hit, but they’re the kind that you just want to cheer for!!
LinQ has an excellent hyper techno-ish sound. very Driving and powerful, and it’s not hard to see why they’ve got such a solid following right now!
KGY40Jr. are a underground idol group that are working really hard to break into the scene. They’re already getting some solid followers, and I think they’re headed for greatness! I can’t wait until they have a full music video someday!
Prizmmy☆ have an anime tie-in, and are on Avex, however I feel their music really warrants a serious listen because it’s really good! The production is solid, and their dancing is really strong for being so young!
In a sense Dream5 is an Avex idol group with a very expensive sound. The entire thing just screams money, and it really shines in the music production. The songs are really well done, but I feel due to Avex’s poor marketing, they’re not getting nearly the attention they could get. The sound is very oldschool J-Pop (think early 2000’s) done well.
Sea☆A have a very cool sound, and it just feels good to listen to them! they’ve already entered the Anime Song scene, and that really suits them. If you love Anime Music check it out.
It’s kind of hard to imagine that at one point Idoling!!! was any threat to AKB48, but at one point they were kind of in competition with each other. They have a really solid sound, with excellent music produciton. If you already like AKB48 you’ll probably dig Idoling!!!, and I recommend their TV show (it’s hillarious).
I have to admit that I don’t know much about i☆Ris, however I love their sound, and I’m sure you will too!
Sakura Gakuin Science Club
As the name suggests, this group is a sub-group of Sakura Gakuin, and they’re hot off the presses! I love their indie-disco-ish sound! look forward to them!!
There’s alot of hype about Cheeky Parade, and it’s obviously worth it! I’d compare them to Passpo sound-wise, with their pseudo-rock sound. Very Poppy, ultra catchy, and I can’t wait to hear more!
SUPER☆GiRLS haven’t really gotten any traction here in the states among non-idol listeners, however I’ve shown them to lots of people, and people seem to love them. Their sound is very polished, and they’ve garnered a large following in the last year or so.
Tochi Otome 25
I’m still pretty new to them, but I’ve liked everything I’ve heard so far, and from videos i’ve watched their live performance is very solid. I’ll be monitoring their progress over the coming months.
Why? well because it’s really solid stuff. on the indie side of things, but it’s another group I’ll be keeping my eye on, and you should check them out!
I was exposed to Izukoneko through my friends at Marginal Rec. and she’s really impressed me with her singing ability and charisma. I really hope she continues to shine, and rises higher as she goes. Her sound is very experimental, and progressive. It’s artistic idol music that could rival the big names. I have an Izukoneko sticker on my laptop, and so should you!! Say Nya Nya Nya!
I know little about Dancing Dolls, however I like this, and I’ll be researching more about them ASAP.
I hope you’ve found some new artists to listen to! I may add more to this list in the future, but for now enjoy these!