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You’ve heard of k-pop, but have you ever heard of J-rock? This genre never really exploded in global popularity the same way k-pop did, but it’s been around for a lot longer.
Once you start listening to J-rock, it’s hard to stop. I’ll let you in on the basics of J-rock, and what J-rock bands you should listen to first.
What Is J-Rock?
J-rock is short for “Japanese rock.” The genre dates back to the ’60s and has been continually evolving. At first, J-rock was heavily influenced by British and American rock bands, but now, the genre has become one-of-a-kind.
The visual kei movement sprung out of the J-rock genre in the 80s. Some J-rock bands began to embrace visual kei, which lead them to sport androgynous, flashy clothing, wild hairstyles, and flamboyant makeup. Although the prevalence of the visual kei movement has died down over the years, it still leaves a huge impression on the j-rock community and also lives on as a subculture.
The Best J-Rock Bands to Start With
Now that you’ve had a briefing on J-rock, it’s time to get into the music. These are some of the most popular J-rock bands around, making them the perfect entry into the genre.
1. One Ok Rock
I can credit my love of J-rock to One Ok Rock. After listening to “The Clock Strikes,” I got hooked. The amazing instrumentals coupled with the Takahiro Moriuchi’s raw vocals makes this song incredibly addicting.
One Ok Rock formed in 2005, and still makes new music. In terms of sound, One Ok Rock is a mix between alternative, emo, and pop-rock. Just about any listener can start bobbing their head to their songs.
Babymetal has a very different take on J-rock—they combine cuteness with hardcore metal music. The band originally consisted of three main members: Su-metal, Moametal, and Yuimetal. Although Yuimetal left the band in 2018, the band still has an unwavering fanbase.
The young women dress in a gothic Lolita style, as they dance and sing in a way that completely contradicts the metal genre. If you never thought that a rock song called “Gimme Chocolate” exists, Babymetal’s here to prove you wrong.
3. Dir En Grey
Dir En Grey made their debut in 1997, and still remains prevalent in the world of J-rock. They used to fully embrace the visual kei style, but has since toned it down in their newer music videos.
“The Final” is one of Dir En Grey’s most popular songs. It might’ve been released over ten years ago, but that doesn’t change the passion you can hear in the song’s instrumentals and vocals. Dir En Grey’s videos always incorporate elements of horror, making them all the more interesting to watch.
4. The Gazette
You might recognize The Gazette’s sound from the popular anime Black Butler. The Gazette provided the song for the show’s opening, called “Shiver.”
As you can tell from their hair, heavy eyeliner, and bold outfits in one of their newer videos, the band still rocks visual kei (even if it is a more subtle form). With or without the visual kei, The Gazette is still a J-rock staple.
5. X Japan
X Japan is credited as one of the pioneers of visual kei. The band came out in 1982 and set the standards for J-rock. They originally sported crazy makeup, huge hair, and an absurd amount of leather, but they’ve, unfortunately, toned it down in recent times. Either way, they definitely know how to put on a show.
Despite X Japan’s popularity, they had a rocky past. In the late 90s, one member took his own life, while another jointed a cult. The band has since reunited, coming together to create more great music.
“L’arc en ciel” translates to “The Rainbow” in French. The band may have a lighthearted name, but it definitely doesn’t reflect their intense rock and roll sound.
L’Arc-En-Ciel made their debut in 1991 as a visual kei band. Since then, the band has drifted away from the movement. Although L’Arc-En-Ciel hasn’t released any new music since 2016, they still frequently go on tour.
Are You Hooked on J-Rock Yet?
J-rock is unique—it sounds nothing like American or British rock, and that’s why it’s so fun to listen to. Take the time to put on your headset, and rock out to J-rock!