The defining story of J-pop in 2023 focused on the past. The reckoning with Johnny Kitagawa’s history of sexual assault and how his decades-old powerhouse talent agency, formerly known as Johnny & Associates, would move forward towered over the entertainment industry and the headlines. Nothing came close to matching it.
Yet the past 12 months gave us a new generation of artists who not only solidified their position as the country’s premier pop acts but revealed fresh mindsets. The image of J-pop as it existed in the 1990s and much of the 21st century — when a major agency like Johnny’s could flex its muscle and most companies were wary of the internet — has ended.
As a result, new possibilities for Japanese artists have emerged in overseas markets. In fact, here’s something I never thought I’d be able to write in a year-end wrap: International interest in Japanese artists is on the rise. In July, American data and research company Luminate shared its midyear report. It devoted an entire page to Japanese music, highlighting how quickly it’s growing globally.