I try to approach music in a way that avoids categorizing songs as “guilty pleasures” or as things to be self-conscious about. If you like the way something sounds, that should be more than enough. Letting ideas of what’s “cool” or “authentic” dictate what you like is ridiculous – like what you like. That said…one of the reasons Make Believe Melodies probably won’t publish a “best songs of 2012” list is because said countdown would be full of J-Pop songs if I was being honest with myself and a lot of folks just aren’t down with that. I get it, and that’s cool, but J-Pop was really adventerous this year and some of the most overexposed artists in Japan right now released some really great stuff. I just don’t want to engage with the eye rolls that would follow putting, say, AKB48 in a personal top ten (that’s what the Tumblr is for!).
Nami Tamaki’s “Paradise” would almost certainly be in my hypothetical top 20, and she’s a pretty good example of what J-Pop has been up to in 2012. She’s far from a marquee name at this point in her career – the clip for “Paradise” has about 1/100th the total number views of “Gangnam Style” – but that means she now exists in a weird area where her sound can be experimented with while still getting the backing of a label. “Paradise” imagines what a J-Pop song produced by Gold Panda might sound like – it’s all skittery electronics clashing with Tamaki’s bouncy voice. It remains a bit of a jarring listen even after dozens of spins – J-Pop can sound like this??? and still have a totally swoon-worthy chorus. Forget who this comes from and maybe you’ll just hear a well-produced song.