10 of J-Pop’s Biggest Artists – Albums, Sales, and Best Songs!

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J-Pop is Japan’s high-wattage and incredibly diverse pop music.

Though it has been eclipsed by the rise of K-pop in recent years, this formidable music genre is the commercial driver of the Japanese music industry.

If you haven’t listened to this uniquely Japanese contemporary music, get your air pods and Spotify account to check out 10 of J-Pop’s biggest artists, profiled below.

10 of J-Pop’s biggest artists – albums, sales, and best songs!

If you want to immerse yourself in the cultural force that is J-Pop, the ten artists are some of the music genre’s biggest sellers.

1. Hikaru Utada (宇多田 ヒカル), Utada

NameHikaru Utada
Date of birth (Age)1/19/83 (40)
Label(s)/managementEMI Music Japan
No. albums11 studio albums
3 compilation albums
11 video albums
Album sales 50 million
Social mediawww.instagram.com/kuma_power/

Hikaru Utada, who usually goes by the name Utada, is one of J-Pop’s biggest artists.

Japanese-American by birth and born in the USA in the 1980s, Utada has risen to become one of Japan’s most influential artists

Utada has more than 24 albums under her belt and is known for Japanese-language hits such as, 

  • Movin’ On Without You
  • Automatic
  • Time Will Tell

Her debut 1999 album, First Love, which was released when she was just 15 is Japan’s best-selling album of all time.

2. Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ)

NameAyumi Hamasaki 
Date of birth (Age)10/2/78 (44)
Label(s)/managementNippon Columbia
Avex Trax
No. albums18 studio albums
5 compilation albums
26 remix albums
4 live albums
Album sales 60 million
Social mediawww.instagram.com/a.you/?hl=en

Ayumi Hamasaki is a J-Pop powerhouse who is still riding high after three decades in the game!

Raised by a single mom in Fukuoka in humble circumstances, Hamasaki rose to become an artist that generated up to 40% of her record label’s gross revenue.

Ayumi’s influence goes beyond music. The ‘Empress of J-Pop’ has influenced fashion and popular culture trends across Asia and continues to dominate the industry.

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Some of her biggest hits include:

  • Poker Face
  • Dearest 
  • Moments
  • Love Song

Hamasaki’s achievements in J-Pop include having 10 albums top the Oricon Albums chart in Japan and having at least 2 singles top the charts each year since 2010. 

3. Chris Hart (クリス・ハート)

NameChris Hart
Date of birth (Age)8/25/84 (38)
NationalityJapanese (prev U.S.)
Label(s)/managementUniversal Sigma
No. albums8 studio albums
Album sales 1 million+
Social mediawww.facebook.com/heartsongjapan/

Chris Hart is an American who was born and raised in Palo Alto, California.

After being exposed to the Japanese people, language, and culture, he decided that he wanted to live in Japan.

He majored in music and Japanese and emigrated, becoming a Japanese citizen in 2017. 

While starting out in Japan, Hart continued his music career by contributing vocals to J-Rock bands and writing lyrics in Japanese.

He performed independently as a wedding singer. In 2012 Hart came to the attention of record producers and was signed. 

His best-known single and debut ‘I LOVE YOU’ charted at number 7 in the weekly charts in 2014. His best-selling album HEART SONG sold more than 250,000 copies. 

4. AKB48

No. of members 72 active members,
10 trainee members,
4 graduate members
Universal Music Japan
Be Cool!/King
Gold Avex Stone Music
Genie Music
No. albums9 studio albums32 stage albums
Album sales 6 million
Social mediawww.instagram.com/akb48/

AKB48 is Japan’s biggest J-Pop group in more ways than one.

This live performance girl band, named after the Akihabara area of Tokyo where they perform, consists of over seventy members who perform and record live. 

The line-up of this J-Pop girl group is constantly rotating with new women auditioning and training to join, and older women ‘graduating’ out of the band.

Notable AKB48 members include Sakura Miyawaki, Yūko Ōshima, and Mayu Watanabe. 

With prolific performance comes prolific sales and the group has sold more than 60 million copies of its 41 albums.

Hits include:

  • Koi Suru Fortune Cookie
  • Heavy Rotation
  • Hisashiburi no Lip gloss

5. Gen Hoshino (星野 源)

NameGen Hoshino
Date of birth (Age)1/28/81 (42)
Label(s)/managementSpeedstar Records
Daisyworld Discs
No. albums5 studio albums
5 video albums
Album sales 850,000
Social mediawww.instagram.com/iamgenhoshino/

Gen Hoshino is a male J-Pop singer-songwriter who started his career as the lead guitarist and marimba player in the J-Rock band Sakerock, where he played marimba and guitar.

He went on to pursue a solo career and so far has released ten albums. 

Hit albums from Gen Hoshino include:

  • Baka no Uta (2010)
  • Episode (2011)
  • Stranger (2013)

6. Sandaime J Soul Brothers (三代目)

NameSandaime J Soul Brothers
No. of members Seven members:
Ryuji Imaichi
Hiroomi Tosaka
Kenjiro Yamashida
Takanori Iwata
Naoki Kobayashi
Label(s)/managementRhythm Zone
No. albums8 studio albums
2 compilation albums
Album sales 11.15 million
Social mediawww.instagram.com/jsb3_7official/

Sandaime J Soul Brothers are one of Japan’s biggest J-Pop boy bands.

The group has been going strong since the 1990s and was reformed in 2010 to great acclaim. 

The group’s commercial success was sealed in 2014 with the release of the award-winning single R.Y.U.S.E.I. Later studio album Planet Seven sold over 871,000 copies in Japan.

The group is in their mid to late thirties and starting families but shows no sign of slowing down. Their latest album Best Brothers was released in 2021.

7. Aimer (エメ)

Date of birth (Age)7/9/90 (32)
Label(s)/managementSACRA MUSIC
No. albums8 studio albums
3 compilation albums
3 mini albums
Album sales 300,000
Social mediatwitter.com/Aimer_and_staff

Aimer is a J-Pop artist who is well known for supplying vocals for popular anime shows.

Despite rarely showing her face or performing live, she has had six best-selling studio albums with more than 300,000 album sales to date. 

Aimer was raised in a musical family and plays piano and guitar. Her husky vocals are extremely distinctive and often called ‘the voice without a face’.

Smash hits by Amer include: 

  • Midnight Sun
  • Penny Rain
  • Dawn

8. Fujii Kaze (藤井 風)

NameFujii Kaze
Date of birth (Age)6/14/97 (25)
Label(s)/managementUniversal Sigma
HEHN Records
No. albums2 studio albums
2 cover albums
5 EPs
Album sales 7.65 million
Social mediawww.instagram.com/fujiikaze/

Japanese singer-songwriter Fujii Kaze is a rising J-Pop star who has been performing music since he was 12 years old.

Fuljii was discovered on YouTube where his covers of western hits earned his channel more than 30 million views.

Help Ever Hurt Never, his first album was released in 2020 and went to number one on the Billboard Japan Hot Albums chart.

Since then he has released a further three albums and is thought to have sold more than 7 million to date.

Many of the themes in his music and videos have covered religious concepts like grace, which some J-Pop fans have found unusual. 

Hits from Fujii Kaze include:

  • Grace
  • Ignite
  • Nan-nan

9. Ai Carina Uemura (植村 愛 カリーナ)

NameAi Carina Uemura 
Date of birth (Age)2/11/81 (41)
Def Jam Japan
Universal Sigma
EMI Music Japan
No. albums12 studio albums
1 live albums
7 compilation albums
10 video albums
4 EPs
Album sales 5 million+
Social mediawww.instagram.com/officialai/

Ai Carina Uemura known as  Ai (NOT Artificial Intelligence) is a J-Pop singer and dancer who performs with more of an R&B style.

She is Japanese American and was raised in Japan from the age of four. 

Her musical career started with short-lived membership in the Japanese girl-group SX4. Later she was a dancer for artists that included Janet Jackson and Mary J Blige.

She signed with BMG in 2000 and only achieved mainstream success after her third album, Ai in 2004. J-Pop hits by AI include: 

  • Cry Just Cry
  • Watch Out!
  • Thank U

10. Toshinobu Kubota (久保田 利伸)

NameToshinobu Kubota
Date of birth (Age)7/24/62 (60)
Label(s)/managementSony Music Entertainment Japan
Mastersix Foundation
No. albums20 studio albums
Album sales 6 million+

Toshinobu “Toshi” Kubota is the granddaddy of J-Pop and at 60 years old with a career spanning 4 decades, he is still going strong! 

Not only is Kubota an award-winning solo artist, but he also is one of J-Pop’s biggest songwriters and has written hits for singers including Misia, and Kyōko Koizumi.

His musical style and repertoire span R&B, funk, soul, and pop. 

Classics from Toshinobu Kubota include:

  • La La La Love Song
  • Love Rain
  • Candy Rain

In Conclusion

Despite being pop music, J-Pop draws from and interprets so many other music genres that there is always going to be a J-Pop hit that’s a crowd-pleaser.

This music is so entwined with Japanese culture that you’ll see its influence in Japanese film, fashion, gaming, and even food. So, if you want to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, give J-Pop a try!

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