Once again, it’s heading to the end of the year, end of the decade actually, so you know what that means; another Top Ten Picks set of lists! I am continuing last year’s tradition into the new year. No set order, just the nifty music I’ve come across for the year.
I caution that this is not a ‘best’ list, just songs that were released this year that I wanted to share. For one reason or another, these artists and songs ended up with more staying power then the rest. Thus landing them on this list. Here’s hoping you find some new music for your own end of the year party!
Without further ado, here’s my top ten picks for JPop – Male Artists in 2019.
AAA – Bad Love
Is is cheating to use a Co-Ed group? Especially to start of the ‘male’ Jpop list? Not in my world considering that the group is currently five members, with only Misako Uno holding down the feminine side. AAA was actually quite the bind earlier this year, leader Urata Naoya actually went on hiatus due to a public intoxication scandal. Thus I was worried the group would continue to focus on individual tracks, verses group… and I was pleasantly surprised.
The group took a moment to release some individual material, and came back strong with “Bad Love”. Having dropped in September, I immediately fell in love! The group’s vocals only continue to age like fine wine, especially with the more sleek and mature theming. If AAA continues in this direction with it’s releases, they’ll won’t need to worry much about maintaining their fanbase. At least they’ll have me singing up a storm in the crowd.
向井太一 (Mukai Taichi) – I Like It
The name of this track, encompasses what I think and feel about this song. I like it, baby, I like it. Having stumbled across this track in May, I was immediately impressed with Taichi’s vocal color and range. Very distinct, but incredibly pleasent to the ear. I found myself re-listening frequently and knew it had to make it on the list.
Mukai Taichi has made a name for himself in my world very quickly, having released a new album and a lot of material this year. I have him on my radar as being a rising star not only in Japan, but with the right promo and direction, globally. For sure a man to keep your eye on, and ears open to.
m-flo – EKTO
Don’t disown me yet, as yes, I am aware m-flo is another co-ed unit. Having Verbal, Teru Takahashi and LiSA, once again the numbers tip in the scale of having more male then female representation. Also, I seriously couldn’t not feature this track. I remember when it came out, I literally laid on the floor close to an hour just hitting repeat.
M-flo will always be some of the most brilliant minds in music, and once again ‘EKTO” proves this. From the powerful ballad delivered by LISA, to that district rapping from Verbal, and Teru bringing it all together with mixing and composition; there’s no flaws in this song. I’ve rarely felt the need to dance, but also cry a bit in one song. It’s a weird, but wonderful feeling.
88 Rising ft. Joji & GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE – Need Is Your Love
This song I can honestly place in my ‘dark horse’ category. I was not impressed with GENE’s releases the majority of the year. Yes, the songs were ‘good’ but not good enough to make it on my list, you feel me? So I was more then shocked to hear that GENE were doing a collaboration
(it’s been years for them) and it was with… 88 Rising? Joji?
You can picture my surprise. I went in with low expectations, but like many tracks on this list; instant ear worm. Joji has great taste and collaborators and bridges the gap between Ryuto and Ryota incredibly well. I have never been so mad that a song wasn’t as karoke like I am about this one. I know all the words and everything! Having GENE do something that wasn’t a complete LDH in-house production, gave them a breath of fresh air to their rather consistent, but ‘eh’ output this year. LDH take some notes; send GENE in this direction and I guarantee it’ll only be a win-win situation for us all! It certainly got me back into the group.
SUPER★DRAGON – Don’t Let Me Down
Not a dark horse, but certainly a pleasent surprise mid-year. “Don’t Let Me Down” is off the group’s 3rd album. Originally, I didn’t think it would pass onto my list considering “Warning” their earlier release was also contending for a spot, but… “Don’t Let Me Down” has that ‘it’ factor.
The near seamless transitions from main and lead vocalists, to rapping, to instrumentals are wonderful. Admittedly, not quite perfect at the first listen, since the effects can be quite jarring. It does invite repeats, having you try and catch all the different instrumentals, transitions, and lyrical meanings on top of it. I won’t be joining the group’s fanclub any time soon, in fact I’m not sure how this group came to my attention, but they have me curious. This year’s releases from them certainly didn’t let me down.
Hiroomi Tosaka – BLUE SAPPHIRE
Old habits die hard friends. I really do try and not make this a male LDH artists list each year. However, some tracks tend to jump out more. Or in this case, seriously grow on you. When Omi first released this track, I was pretty damn indifferent to it’s release in all honesty. LDH’s crazy output as a company this year gave me major burn-out.
That is until I saw the Conan film this song was tied in with. I have such pleasent connection of cramming into a packed movie theatre with my two host sisters, wearing my own 100% real blue sapphire, and jamming out to this at the end. The track is connected to such a previous moment, and my host sister and I were replaying it like crazy on our road trips. It does hook you the more you listen. I mean, also hearing Omi sing it live at JSB’s concert a few months later, maybe or may not have been a big boost too…
BALLISTIK BOYZ from EXILE TRIBE – PASION
… Can you tell I’m nervously sweating up a storm here? I’ll keep it brief and re-direct people to my earlier impressions of the group’s debut. “PASION” I believe is their strongest song, and I can’t help but dance to it whenever it comes on
(including at my job to the bewilderment of my co-workers).
SIRUP – PRAYER
Ya’ll can thank me later for blessing your ears with a voice smoother then silk. I have heaped my praises several times throughout the year in my adoration of soloist R&B artist SIRUP. It should come as no surprise that he would make the list. In fact I had three of his tracks up for a spot!
While “Prayer”, is not my most played track by him; I feel that it best embodies the quality of what makes SIRUP, well, SIRUP. His delivery is distinct, switching from smooth as silk to staccato moments that slide in and out on demand. Again, up their with Taichi
(collab plz), he is on the keep your eyes on and ears open; once he picks up even more steam there will be no stopping him.
FANTASTICS from EXILE TRIBE – Dear Destiny
This is a group that honestly, I was anticipating would not make my list this year. I made a point to hype this group and write up a storm for them. They truly are talented and deserve it all, especially now that they have settled into a genre that suits them. Because being honest, their debut and follow up ‘Flying Fish’ were… rough at best. Not terrible, but clearly the group was still searching for their own identity.
I didn’t write the group off per-say, but I did keep my expectations low when they announced “Dear Destiny”. I was completely blown away not only by the direction change, very distinct from the rest of EXILE TRIBE, but how damn good this ballad is. Ballads have a very hard time growing on me, because if I can’t dance to it, it’s usually not on repeat. “Dear Destiny” was just the right combo killer of; vocal stability, found identity, and just… they hit the jackpot. I was worried that this was all we would get, but “Time Camera” which fought for a spot and lost, ending up being an excellant follow up. I’m looking forward to FANTASTICS next release, and upcoming album!
松下優也 (Matsushita Yuya) – Midnight Party
Oof. We are rewinding back to January, with the song that I immediately knew ‘this will be on the end of the year list’. Matsushita Yuya is no stranger to solo material, but ever since he made X4, I thought those days were over. Yet, in all his fantastic vocal capacity, Yuya has blessed my ears once again. This song also managed to survive and outlast many other contenders. Slick, sleek, mature, and just enough English innuendos will do that you know.
Yet, 2019 is both a blessing and curse in regards to Yuya Matsushita. “Midnight Party” still slaps nearly a year later, and showcases a king returning to his throne. In his ascent though, some things had to conclude. Created by Yuya, his group X4, which he’s also a member of, announced earlier this year their final tour, and that they will be disbanding in March 2020. Ouch. Hopefully, Yuya manages to distract us from that with more solo material when it comes time.
With that, I’m going to call this list a wrap! See you in the coming days for more Top Ten Picks of 2019! Don’t be shy in dropping your own picks in the comments below!