“What’s that? Turn it up!”

There is always that song, or that group, that gets your feet tapping. Everyone knows it when they hear it. But no matter how moving a composition can be, it is bound by the musical expectations of the listener and the composer.

As a westerner, you'd be forgiven for being lost in the gauntlet of heart-racing, upbeat technopop music of J-POP idol groups. Often times, tracks are a jarringly high-tempo and unexpected mishmash of stylings. But they're also popular.

Here are four fascinating J-POP idol groups that will make your head and ears whirl.


Perhaps you’ve heard of the above-average number of centenarians in Okinawa. Indeed, the southern chain of islands is home to the longest life-expectancy in the world. Much less known, however, is how hard these seniors can shred.

If you need convincing, check out the granny rock group KBG84. The average age of the bandmates is 84, a tongue-in-cheek reference to AKB48 and the numerous 48-member idol groups. Given the significance of their age, the group has a hierarchy with seniority going to the grayer members.

The group is also surprisingly joyful. Listeners readily admit that it’s hard not to smile watching KBG84’s upbeat videos shot on sunny Kohama island. These islanders are painfully adorable, and their songs are catchy. They also rely heavily on shimauta, island folk music, stylings. Anyone who has patronized an Okinawan restaurant will immediately recognize several jamisen licks. Pass the Awamori.

Virtual Currency Girls

Never underestimate the Japanese ability to jump on the bandwagon.

The Virtual Currency Girls idol group debuted during the cryptocurrency craze of 2017 and 2018. Dawning Mexican wrestling masks and maid outfits, the eight-member group promotes cryptocurrencies. Singing promises of "mooning," a term for reaching excessive valuations, each idol dawns the mask of their favorite currency.

That said, the group’s choreographed dance routines offer much more than pep. The band weaves valuable investment lessons into their lyrics. "How about that new ICO [cryptocurrency], they never contacted me again," the group warns of Ponzi exit scams. "Calm down, baby! Tranquilo! The market is not so simple," the idols remind listeners not to over-invest. Tireless in their duty, on their Twitter feed the group parses out more advice as well as bullish sentiment.

Despite the group’s jarring appearance and hyper-driven synth tracks, the Virtual Currency Girls provide an essential public service. Many young people were awestruck by the 2017/2018 crypto bubble, and, believe it or not, many were young, otaku (geeky) males lacking a background in trade and finance. The idol group serves the role of the big sister, reminding young men to “play it cool” amid a massive cryptocurrency hype cycle.

Sadly to say, they may not have survived the current “crypto winter” of low coin evaluations. The last tweet from their Twitter handle was dated February 2019. Sadly, it seems, they never made it to the moon.


You know what goes together, young Japanese girls and death metal.

BABYMETAL is a confounding example of such a phantasmagoria. Although “kawaii (cute)” and “metal” are hardly ever uttered in the same breath, the ensemble’s music is inexplicably compelling.

Yet, this J-Metal band couldn’t care less. With hell-spawned thrashers such as “Gimme Chocolate,” and the unadulterated extremeness of “Babymetal Death,” the idol group contorts ear holes and implodes minds. On tracks like “↑↓←→BBAB,” they unapologetically appeal to those who can only be assumed to be their target demographic: otaku males.

As a westerner, it isn't very easy to grapple with the band's staying power. At an average age of 12, the group formed in 2010. Nevertheless, with the first Asian album to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart, how could any talent agency or producer foresee the breakout success of such a group?

The answer may be fantasy. Looking like characters from an emo fan fiction, the group represents a reality few people actually embody. They are tween heroines of a gothic serial. They are the musical sublimation of a horror video game. And they are undeniably entertaining.

Kiyoshi Ryujin 25

A wedding-themed pop group, that’s a little old-fashioned. How can we make things a bit more Mormon?

Well, Ryujin Kiyoshi had an answer. In 2015 he formed Kiyoshi Ryujin 25, an idol group consisting of the frontman and his “six wives.”

At the time, Ryujin was a famous performer. In 2004, at the age of fifteen, he began recording demos. In 2009, he debuted his single “Mourning Sun” which gained notoriety as the theme song of an AU commercial.

Like any other swinging dude, Ryujin was practically batting them off. His natural next step was to wed a harem and produce catchy J-POP singles, several of which were matrimonially themed. It made sense: if you’ve experienced six weddings throughout your prime, there is little time to think about anything else.

With the timeless lyrics, "Yo! Yo! Lecher! Lecher!" of Mr.PLAY BOY…♡ , and the “Any day! Anyway! Anyone! Any night! Anytime!” of Will♡You♡Marry♡Me?, Ryujin rose to lascivious heights.

But he flew too close to the sun. If you listen to the band's lyrics, Ryujin's playboy lifestyle seemed unsustainable from its infancy. And, indeed, listeners missed the humor. Only a single year after forming, the group disbanded.

Hard times for poor Ryujin. That’s a lot of alimony.

Guilty Pleasure

Idol groups are of the same cultural bedrock material as Japanese manga or anime. For westerners, such groups may seem like guilty pleasure music. Regardless, idol groups don’t just tell a story. Via their flashy costumes and original backstories, they are a story.

These musical acts are a nicely wrapped, completely packaged, entertainment experiences. And what’s wrong with that?

So, download an album, adorn an overpriced T-shirt, and paint your face. You’re about to experience a genki, high-tempo, roller coaster ride at 140 BPM.

By - Luke Mahoney.