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776: Yoko Ono
775: Boredoms
772: Kurofunedan
768: Merzbow
766: Oshiripenpenz
765: YMCK
763: Shizuka Kudo
762: Mo’some Tonebender
761: Soil & “Pimp” Sessions
756: Tokyo Conflux 2008
754: Ed Woods
753: 8otto
751: Para
750: Fuji Rock Festival 2008
748: Katan Hiviya
745: Who the Bitch
742: Low IQ 01
740: Shake Forward!
738: iLL
736: Tobu Ongakusai
733: Yanokami
731: One Night in Naha
729: Shugo Tokumaru
727: Japan Nite
725: Getting out the vote
723: J-Melo
721: Electric Eel Shock
717: GO!GO!7188
715: Yura Yura Teikoku
712: Midori
710: Seigen Ono
708: Wrench
707: Shinichi Osawa
704: M-flo
701: Freesscape
699: Versailles
698: Fuji Rock Festival 2007
697: Uri Nakayama
695: UA
693: Shonen Knife
690: Kemuri
689: Ikochi
686: Best Japanese Albums
684: Monkey Majik
682: Shibusashirazu Orchestra
681: Jon Lynch and Juice magazine
677: DJ Kentaro
675: Sadistic Mikaela Band
673: Osaka Monaurail
672: Teriyaki Boyz featuring Kanye West
666: Oki
662: Amanojaku
659: Polysics
657: Oceanlane
655: Cornelius
651: Bomb Factory
642: Soul Flower Mononoke Summit
640: African JAG
637: Buffalo Daughter
635: Ryukyu Underground
633: Mazri no Matsuri
631: Mono
629: Coldfeet
628: Crystal Kay
625: J-pop goes def
623: Ken Yokoyama
621: Zazen Boys
619: Monday Michiru
613: PE’Z
611: Afrirampo
609: Sherbets
603: Double Famous
601: Meltone
599: Michiyo Yagi
597: Hifana
594: Guitar Wolf
592: Rip Slyme
590: Little Creatures
588: Bliss Out on Hougaku
586: Hoppy Kamiyama
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582: Mazri no Matsuri
580: Mari Natsuki
575: Towa Tei
573: The Beautiful Losers
571: Fantastic Plastic Machine
569: Nippop
567: Brahman
560: Shonen Knife
558: Nice Guy Jin
556: Toru Yonaha and Kinohachi
554: Hiromi Uehara
551: Nicotine
549: Ego-Wrappin'
545: Eastern Youth
538: Inside tracks
536: Outside the Box
534: Rainbow Warrior
529: Breaking the mold
527: Sadao China
524: The sound of cyberpunk
522: Ryuichi Sakamoto's Chasm
516: Ken Yokoyama
514: Jan Linton
512: Jazz messengers
509/10: Naoko Terai
507: Akiko Yano
504: Kotaro Oshio: Solo Strings
502: Refurbished rhythms
494: Resonance
492: cyber-swordsmen
490: Loop Junktion
488: Ryukyu Underground: Okinawan Odyssey
484: Gocoo: Reinventing taiko
481: Leonard Eto
479: Gaijin à Go-Go
477: Enemy music
475: Yoriko Ganeko with Chuei Yoshikawa
472: DJ Kaori
469: Yuki
467: Wrench
464: Young and swingin
462: Jazzy Live 2003 from Blue Breath
460: Shonen Knife
457/458: Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden
456: Yuka Kamebuchi & The Voices of Japan
454: Jude
452: Kokoo
451: BBQ Chickens
449: Man and the machinery
446: Crystal Kay
443: Lava
440: Jazz on Leave
437: Rip Slyme
434: Boom Boom Satellites
432: "Rambling" Steve Gardner
430: Dry & Heavy
428: The Birth of OE
426: Anmitsu
424: Happy Kamiyam
422: Shing02
420: Supercar
418: Ryuichi Sakamoto
416: Kick The Can Crew
414: King Brothers
412: Kazufumi Miyazawa
410: Japanese Independent Music
408: The Yoshida Brothers
406: Love Psychedelico
393: Mikidozan
391: Shelter 10th Anniversary
389: The beautiful losers
387: Junpei Shiina
383: Umekuichi
381: P'ez
379: Boredoms
377: Dai Sakakibara
375: Dreams Come True
373: eX-Girl
370: Pizzicato Five
368: Dub Squad
366: Buffalo Daughter
364: Phew Phew L!ve
362: Fumio Yasuda
360: Boom Boom Satellites
358: Kei Kobayashi
356: Cool Drive Makers
354: Bird
351: United Future Organization
349: Audio Active
347: Ondekoza
345: Misia
343: Brahman
341: Puffy
339: Ryukyu Festival 2000
337: Rappagariya
335: Lisa Ono
333: Air Jam 2000
331: Feed
327: Tenkoo Orchestra
325: Wrench
323: Sadao Watanabe
321: Dry & Heavy
319: Bonny Pink
317: Sakura Hills Disco 3000
315: Aco
313: Rovo
311: The Mad Capsule Markets
309: Coldfeet

Inside tracks

Composer of 1,000 J-pop songs Joey Carbone says the success of Lost In Translation may have finally paved the way for a J-pop hit in America.

Joey Carbone with J-pop group MAX

Few would be surprised to learn that the latest hit by MAX or SMAP wasn’t penned by the bands themselves. But how many would think that the song was written by an American?

For 20 years, American composer Joey Carbone has been penning songs for J-pop acts, providing the music for hits by SMAP, MAX and dozens of others. Close to Johnny Kitagawa, the legendary producer of boy bands like SMAP, Carbone has an insider’s perspective that comes from decades of working with Japan’s music industry.

But recently, Carbone says over coffee in Shibuya, it’s become hard to keep up with the rapid changes transforming Japan’s music business. “When I first started out in Japan, there was a system of never firing people, and never changing companies,” he says. “Since the Bubble burst, more people are getting let go from record companies—especially older guys—and a lot of people are moving around like crazy. As a foreigner, it’s very difficult for me to keep my finger on who’s where.”

First coming to Japan in 1985 when one of his songs won the grand prize at the Tokyo Music Festival, Carbone came to be represented by Taiyo Music, owned by “Tats” Nashima, at the time the most powerful person in the Japanese yougaku (Western music) scene and also, notes Carbone, the man who brought the Beatles over and got Paul McCartney out of jail when he was arrested for marijuana possession in 1980.

Carbone became infatuated not only with the country and its people, but with the distinctive flavor of Japanese music. “I grew up on Motown, the Beach Boys and Phil Spector stuff, so I was really taken with the melodic structure of Japanese pop,” he says. “It always seems to be very catchy and has a strong melodic sense, as opposed to American music which is very linear in nature.”

Notwithstanding J-pop’s increasingly Western flavor, the native New Yorker says he can still hear an undercurrent of kayoukyoku (Japanese ballads). “These days, Japanese record companies say they want Western music. But they don’t really mean that: They want a Western feeling, rhythmically, but when it comes down to the melody, they still want a really hook-y chorus that everyone can sing in karaoke.”

Despite the changes wrenching the music business and the increasing musicianship of Japanese artists, Carbone observes that the obsession with youth remains impervious to change. “The idol scene, which some people thought would go away, never seems to go away. When I go to a Japanese record company to promote a female artist, everyone is looking for someone 17, 18 years old.”

Bucking the trend are SMAP, who Carbone notes are as successful as ever even as its members push 30. “You see them on TV and they’re not thin, young boys anymore, they’re not what you would call idols. Shingo’s put on a little weight. He looks like a typical oyaji. But if you go to a concert you’ll see girls who may have aged along with him, but they’re still screaming like 15-year-olds.”

Central to the success of SMAP and countless boy bands over the past four decades has been Johnny Kitagawa, head of the powerful Johnny’s Jimusho agency. Carbone has worked closely with Kitagawa.

While granting that Kitagawa wields considerable influence, Carbone differs with some who say this has a stultifying effect on Japan’s entertainment industry. “I agree that his company is powerful, but if a TV show puts one of his acts on, it’s only going to be great for the ratings; if a magazine does an article on Johnny’s artists, it will sell magazines. I think they will all be happy to use Johnny’s talents.”

Carbone says Kitagawa’s genius lies in finding someone at a young age, and imagining what they might look like a few years later. “As a businessman, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Johnny because, in a sense, he’s more creative than his artists. His creativity is to put these acts together. If you listen to a SMAP album, the vocals might not be world-class, but you will notice that the songs are usually pretty good, and the production is first-class. So as a lover of pop music, when I look at the whole package, I’m nothing but impressed with what I hear and see.”

In Japan to market a batch of new songs, some of the rights for which have already been optioned by current J-pop darlings Boa and Yuki Koyanagi, Carbone is also working on a compilation album series, Japanese In America (JIA), to introduce expatriate Japanese and Japanese-American artists to audiences on both sides of the ocean.

So as an insider, what does he think of J-pop artists’ Quixotic attempts to crack the American market, which haven’t succeeded since the “Sukiyaki Song” became a surprise No. 1 in the early ’60s?

“The biggest problem has been the lack of singers who sing effectively with emotion in the English language. Out of all the artists I’ve heard, I think Utada Hikaru has the best chance because she grew up in New York and her English is fluent.”

Carbone also sees a darker reason for the lack of success. “I also feel there’s been some discrimination from America in accepting Asian artists. I think Japan has always been open to accepting any music, whether it’s reggae or French pop, but Americans only seem to be interested in black or white artists, or some English artists, maybe occasionally a Swedish or Australian pop act.”

He does, however, note some easing of prejudice. “There’s been increased interest in recent years with The Last Samurai, Lost In Translation and the big animation boom. I hope those walls come down.”

Joey Carbone is looking for singers who can sing in Japanese to introduce to Japanese record companies. He invites interested readers to contact him by email at:

credit: Joey Carbone