City Pop / Shibuya-kei / Contemporary J-Pop K-Pop / Japanese K-Pop

Introducing Korean City Pop (Yerin Baek, Brave Girls, dosii, Night Tempo, Yubin, YUKIKA, Mariya Takeuchi, and Tatsuro Yamashita) | J-Pop, K-Pop

There is no denying the fact that Japan and South Korea have strong relations in terms of cultural exchange. The youth in South Koreans consume anime and games created in Japan, and young Japanese people immerse themselves in Korean pop music. The strength of their relations can also be observed by looking at the similarities in architecture, fashion, illustrations, and makeup.

In recent years, a genre of Japanese music known as city pop, represented by the couple Tatsuro Yamashita and Mariya Takeuchi, has been gaining attention outside of Japan (including in North America and Southeast Asia). South Korea, with its deep cultural ties to Japan, cannot be an exception. In this article, we introduce Korean city pop―Japanese-inspired South Korean music.

Although usually city pop is loosely defined as sort of 1980’s Japanese music, we characterize this as follows. “City pop is a Japanese or Japanese-inspired genre of music that (1) has swelling melodies, (2) has a groove, especially in the bass, (3) features reverb on the drums, (4) uses artificial synthesizer sounds, and (5) is supported by sax solos and brass backing.”

The following article explains those characteristics and gives examples.

1. Yubin “Lady”

The music and the background remind us of the vibrant Tokyo before the burst of Japan’s economic bubble. The sequined costumes with large shoulder pads and oversized translucent glasses are also reminiscent of that era. Before switching to a solo career, Yubin was a member of Wonder Girls, an idol group that is produced by J. Y. Park at JYP Entertainment. This is the song that Rio (currently a member of NiziU) covered in the audition show “Nizi Project.”


The song, which honors Yubin’s “Lady,” is sung by Japanese solo singer Yukika Teramoto, aka YUKIKA, who has been active in Korea with her city pop concept. She moved her base of activities to Korea when she starred as an actress in the Korean drama THE IDOLM@STER.KR based on the Japanese game THE IDOLM@STER.


Appendix A. PRODUCE48 “1000%”

YUKIKA’s debut single. The theme of its music video is a time leap from 1989 Japan to present-day South Korea. The arrangement, composition, and lyrics by OREO (who created the audition song “1000%” for PRODUCE48, which gave birth to IZ*ONE).

4. MIYU “My Type

5. MIYU “Plastic Love

Miyu Takeuchi, a.k.a. MIYU, participated in the audition program PRODUCE48 when she was a member of AKB48. But she was not selected as a member of IZ*ONE. She then quit AKB48 and moved to South Korea to join a South Korean agency. Then, after releasing “My Type” produced by Yoon Jong Shin, she went freelance. She is currently working as a self-produced singer, performing covers of city pop songs, such as “Plastic Love” by Mariya Takeuchi.

The following articles are about PRODUCE48 and IZ*ONE. Take a look if you like!

6. Yerin Baek “Square”

7. Yerin Baek “Maybe It’s Not Our Fault”

These are songs written and sung by Yerin Baek, who is (at least about to become) one of the leading female vocalists in South Korea. Their reverb effects give them a melancholic, nostalgic flavor of East Asia. Before her solo career, she was in a duo called 15&. She occasionally performs a cover of Toshinobu Kubota’s “La La La Love Song” in Japanese.

8. dosii “lovememore”

A mellow, slow pop song by Korean duo dosii. The song’s mood and images remind us of a humid East Asian region that is slightly different from Japan.

9. Mariya Takeuchi “Plastic Love (Night Tempo 100% Pure Remastered)”

Appendix B. Mariya Takeuchi “Plastic Love”

This remix, which elevates Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” to a city pop anthem, was created by Night Tempo, a Korean DJ fluent in Japanese.

10. Tatsuro Yamashita “Kiss kara Hajimaru Mystery (Night Tempo Edit)”

This is the Night Tempo edit version of a song by Tatsuro Yamashita, a key figure in city pop and spouse of Mariya Takeuchi. The arrangement gives its a fresh sound that is easy to get into for people unfamiliar with the 1980’s J-pop.

11. Brave Girls “We Ride (Night Tempo Edit)”

12. Brave Girls “We Ride”

You might also like the Night Tempo Edit version of an 80’s-like song by K-pop girl group Brave Girls. Brave Girls is a group that became so popular after Korean civilians discovered their live performance in front of Korean soldiers who were completely enthusiastic about them. 


This is a song by TWICE, consisting of five Koreans, three Japanese, and one Taiwanese. The echoes on the drums, the intonation of the melody, and the soprano sax solo are all reminiscent of city pop.

The following articles are about Twice. Take a look!

Each of the videos introduced above has a large number of views, and there are many comments in English, which Koreans do not usually use. This means that the music has been widely accepted by not only Koreans but also people from countries other than South Korea. We hope that groovy songs influenced by city pop will be created in various countries, and that international exchange will be promoted through them.

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