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Japanese City Pop abroad : findings from an online music community survey



English City Pop is a loosely defined musical genre that first emerged in Japan in the late 1970s. Having undergone several recontextualizations and revivals in its country of origin, the genre has recently gained an international following among young Internet users. The most enthusiastic of City Pop’s new fans meet in social media groups and online forums; as of late 2020, a dozen fan communities on Facebook and Reddit have amassed a combined following of over 60,000 members. At first sight, the community make-up, the aesthetic themes and the listening practices prevalent among City Pop fans appear to share some similarities with other recently emerged Internet-mediated music genres such as Vaporwave or Lo-fi Hip Hop. Yet we know little about this community. Who are these fans? How do they engage with the music, and with each other? Given the contested definition of City Pop in Japan proper, how do foreign fans characterize City Pop? What does the music mean to them, and how do they engage with Japanese culture? As a first step towards answering these questions, we conducted an online survey among members of the largest Internet- based City Pop fan communities. In spite of their culturally and geographically diverse backgrounds, respondents (n = 575) share a clearly defined image of the genre that diverges in some aspects from common Japanese definitions of ‘City Pop’. Based on the results of the survey, we affirm that (1) the international City Pop community skews young and male but has strong transnational characteristics, (2) City Pop in this context is an Internet-based genre largely focused on online activities while allowing for a wide range of musical tastes and activities, and (3) the community overlaps with other international fandoms based on Japanese popular culture. Results also show that (4) City Pop is strongly identified with themes of nostalgia and escapism. Through City Pop’s reconceptualization as the soundtrack to an idealized 1980s Japan, these themes appear to find a more specific and clearly defined expression in this community than in adjacent Internet- based genres.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Institut de plurilinguisme
  • English
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  • RERO DOC 330193
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