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Midway through 2022, J-pop finds itself stuck between old ways and new possibilities.

This is especially clear when looking at albums that were released in the past six months. The CD format — traditionally the go-to way of delivering music to consumers in Japan, albeit one that’s becoming increasingly antiquated in the age of streaming and social media — remains strong. Even though the industry still clings to the golden days of strong CD sales, this year’s best so far have stood out by crafting something that goes beyond the typical album release.

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