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5 Artists You Should Know: Japan

5 Artists You Should Know: Japan

Japan is the world’s second-largest recorded music market, according to IFPI data. Japan’s music market is unique because, even in the streaming era, over two-thirds of their music revenue derives from physical sales. Japan’s robust physical market will always be a staple in the culture. But now more than ever, Japanese artists are taking advantage of digital distribution to reach global audiences. For example, YOASOBI became the first group to reach No. 1 on Billboard Japan’s Hot 100 sales chart without a physical release. CVLTE is only a few years old and is seeing support on popular English-centric playlists. As the industry evolves, The Orchard is the first to find opportunities to progress with it. Below are five artists you should know from Japan: YOASOBI, CVLTE, Doul, YonYon and Natsuko Nisshoku. 


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YOASOBI 

Tokyo-based duo YOASOBI does storytelling in a unique way by basing their music on fictional novels or short stories. When describing their music to Paper Magazine, Ayase used one single word: connectors. Made up of composer Ayase and vocalist ikura, YOASOBI is a J-Pop duo at the top of their game. The duo’s first single “夜に駆ける(Yoru ni kakeru)” ranked  No.1 on the Billboard Japan Total Song chart in 2020 – the first song ever to reach No.1 without a physical release. In 2021 YOASOBI’s pop productions and melodies resonated with audiences well-beyond Japan. They reached an entirely new global audience by releasing their first-ever English EP E-Side. The record includes four English versions of previously released songs, as well as four completely new tracks. “We don’t want to change anything,” said ikura, “we just want to give the essence of YOASOBI to new fans in a new language.” 

Listen to E-Side

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CVLTE 

CVLTE (pronounced ‘Cult’) is a three-piece indie-alternative band serving as the new icon for Gen Z with their dark and cinematic worldview. Formed in 2018 in Hokkaido, the trio consists of vocalist Aviel, guitarist Takuya, and bassist Fuji. CVLTE incorporates elements from hyper-pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronica in their infectious music. In short, it’s impossible to nail them down into one genre and especially one market. CVLTE oscillates between Japanese and English lyrics and has found support on popular English-centric playlists, reaching fans in all pockets of the globe. 

Listen to HEDONIST

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Doul

18-year-old artist Doul finds inspiration from 80’s and 90’s grunge, electro-pop, and indie rock, citing Nirvana and Rihanna as two of her most influential artists. “I couldn’t get enough of videos with Kurt Cobain playing and singing on his acoustic guitar,” the J-pop star told Billboard, “So I was inspired to pick up a guitar and practiced playing chords.” Doul, who completely self-produces all her work, has had a tremendous year. In 2021, the Fukuoka-born artist was selected for multiple DSP development programs, such as Spotify RADAR Early Noise and YouTube Foundry. Over the past few months, Doul has received global spotlight not only through music but also through her fashion, as she was recently endorsed as a Nike Japan ambassador. In July 2021, Doul found fans worldwide with the release of her debut EP One Beyond. The lead single, “Howl,” ranked No 6 on Japan’s Spotify Viral chart. 

Listen to One BeyonD 

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YonYon

Fukuoka-based artist YonYon wears many hats: DJ, writer, producer, promoter, radio personality. Born in Seoul, YonYon can be seen as “the link” or “bridge” between South Korea and Japan’s music scene. By actively collaborating with and connecting these artists, YonYon created the Korea-Japan musician project ‘The Link’ and party band ‘Bridge.’ YonYon’s musical journey started as a CCM singer in church. While exploring the extensive CD market Japan has to offer, she discovered American Hip-Hop/R&B songs. YonYon’s music spans various musical genres, from Future Beats and Hip-hop to House and UK Bass. 

Listen to Bridge

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日食なつこ (Natsuko Nisshoku)

Natsuko Nisshoku’s pop melodies speak as conversations between her vocals and vivacious piano. Born in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Natsuko began learning piano at the age of 9. By 12, she was composing her own music and lyrics. Natsuko sparked her music career by performing in the Morioka-Northern East region of Japan and soon enough, Natsuko booked significant festivals such as “ROCK IN JAPAN FESTIVAL” and “FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL.” Natsuko Nisshoku’s most recent album, Anti-Freeze, is a “dramatic expansion of her usual style,” says Billboard. Anti-Freeze features collaborations with other noteworthy artists such as Hong Kong-based Blood Wine or Honey and Taiwan-based Ruby Fatale.  

Listen to 「音楽のすゝめ

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