Now we’re in the top 10! All of the songs in the top 15 or so are all fantastic so it was hard to rank these, but rank I shall.
10. Wakita Monari – EST! EST!! EST!!!
This isn’t the last Monari song on this list. Deciding which songs by Wakita Monari got on this list was incredibly difficult because, frankly, I could be happy putting her three singles from 2017 and her album all on this list and be satisfied. Wakita Monari, formerly of the group Especia, has been putting out the consistently best music since her debut single in 2016.
EST EST EST is a song that feels like it should be an oldie standard – the lyrics are superb (the “est” in the title is the emphasis of how strongly the feelings are – bluest, loneliest, etc.) in a way that makes me surprised that this hasn’t been done before. The entire thing is a laidback, jazzy track that’s not quite as strongly city pop as Monari’s other tracks. The arrangement is strong, with a lot of horns, keyboard and some prominent background vocals, but they all serve the jazzy feel. Est Est Est is the type of song that feels like an immediate classic, which is one thing that feels true with most of Monari’s music.
9. Philosophy no Dance – Dance Founder
I didn’t think a Philosophy no Dance song could live up to last year’s I’m After Time, and while I don’t know if Dance Founder does it comes close. It’s a fun, funky track from their newest album, The Founder, and it has a great funk flavor to it while also being a fun dance track. More than anything Dance Founder feels like a great song to see live. It’s upbeat and positive, which also features a pretty killer arrangement and some great vocals from the group. Dance Founder is an absurd amount of fun and is very catchy. While Philosophy no Dance had a pretty stellar 2017, it’s Dance Founder that feels like their best work from the year.
8. Oomori Seiko – Ryuusei Heaven
I’ve been pulling for Oomori Seiko for a while, so seeing her do well has been a joy. Picking a song from Seiko’s year is tough, mostly because her album kitixxxgaia is excellent – Dogma Magma is pretty brilliant. However, Ryuusei Heaven takes the cake for being the most emotional Jpop song of the year for me. A big pat of that is Seiko’s performance – she always performs her music with such raw emotion and pathos that it puts other vocalists to shame. This song also works just so well for me – it builds perfectly from a quiet, almost ethereal feel to the louder, rawer ending. This build is one of the best parts of the song for me, and one of those things that has made me push this song higher and higher on my list. I haven’t been able to get this song out of my head all year, it’s just so brilliant.
7. Wakita Monari – I’m With You
While I’m With You is a lighter song than Ryuusei Heaven, it’s no less well executed. I’m With You is pretty much my definition of a summer song – it’s breezy, well execute pop with a catchy melody and a beautiful instrumental. I’m With You has become the song I send people to introduce them to JPop and Monari because it’s one of those songs that I feel like most people will at least like, if not love like me. This song should be big, or at least bigger, because of how simultaneously fun and great her music is. Monari’s performance is fantastic in here as well. It’s not quite as directly 80s/90s inspired as some of her other music but it has a similar spirit – it’s fun, well crafted pop that I had on repeat this past summer. And this winter. And probably next summer.
6. Keyakizaka46 – Kaze ni Fukarete mo
The fact that Kaze ni Fukarete mo isn’t Keyakizaka46’s most notable track by a long shot says just how solid Keyakizaka46 has been musically for the past two years. They have amassed a repertoire of songs that would be any other group’s biggest hit, but for Keyakizaka it’s just another single. Kaze ni Fukarete Mo is a great stylized song with a big funk influence that is just consistently fun to listen to. I’ve listened to this song countless times and it still pumps me up to hear the vocalizations at the start. The chorus is killer, the instrumentation is big and brassy, and it’s easily one of the most fun pop songs of the year, from a group; with no shortage of quality pop music.