Like many places around the world, Japanese music fans have drifted to YouTube to listen to their favorite songs and musicians. And, just as it has played out elsewhere, a new field of bedroom-based performers covering pop songs using an assortment of acoustic instruments and other household items has boomed on the video sharing platform.
It isn’t a totally new proposition - Japan’s own video-sharing platform Niconico was doing something similar, albeit in many different styles - yet the rise of YouTube has fostered a very specific vibe: an intimate, visiting-friends type feel where you keep waiting for someone to offer you a cup of coffee.
Fans of J-Pop looking for different takes on their favorite songs would do well to explore this corner of the Internet. To help you out, we’ve put together a guide to some of the bigger channels and artists for you to explore.
The biggest name in the J-Pop covers game, Goose house, have gone from a YouTube-only project to releasing CDs with original material and appearing on Japanese television. The outfit started in 2010, transforming high-energy numbers from the likes of Perfume and Sekai No Owari into pensive, stripped-down acoustic numbers. Similar to American projects doing the same thing with Western pop, part of the appeal with Goose house lies in seeing how they rearrange a familiar tune, discovering a new side to something one thought they already had figured out. Check out their recent cover of Perfume’s “Tokyo Girl” below.
The dominant style of J-Pop cover, from teens pointing phones in their face, to the millions-of-subscribers channels, is the pure vocal treatment. People want to hear impressive voices tackling well-known songs, and an artist such as Lefty Hand Cream excels at meeting this need. With a microphone hiding her face, she delivers absorbing versions of numbers by idol groups and rockers in equal measures. She bring a lightness and flutter to her covers, adding a great twist to each. Watch her cover a RADWIMPS song from last year’s hit film Your Name below.
The Home Sessions project combines both major elements of the YouTube cover scene - pop reworked acoustically mixed with unique vocal approaches to said numbers - but adds a twist by having a rotating cast of performers come in every week, with a few familiar faces anchoring the channel. It leads to a wide variety of cover songs, with a healthy amount of non-Japanese tunes and an always-compelling watch. Check out a cover of Lorde’s “Green Light” below.
Hiding your face as a way to highlight your voice is a common visual theme in Japan's YouTube cover community - a preference for anonymity helps too - and Konamiruku does it really well. The camera catches the neck of his acoustic guitar and his hands moving across it, but his head remains mostly out of sight. It is designed to highlight his stripped down approach to J-Pop, in particular rock (dude loves the Back Number and RADWIMPS). He creates intricate versions of dizzying numbers using just a guitar and his voice bound to charm. Listen to a cover of Sekai No Owari below.
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