1.Prologue: Pop songs evoke a time and place
Pop music is always reflective of the times in which it was produced. Listen to pop music from any era and you can get a sense of the zeitgeist and an insight into its ethos.
When I’m preparing and eating breakfast, I like to play CDs by era, depending on my mood. If I’m feeling lighthearted and cheery, I’ll put on a compilation of 60s music. If I need something to get me motivated for the day ahead, I’ll put on a compilation of 70s music.
When I’m preparing dinner, I often like to pop a compilation of love songs into the CD player to create a relaxed mood. I find the food turns out better that way.
I especially like the “A Very Special Christmas" compilation series, which were produced to benefit the Special Olympics. The CDs feature Keith Haring cover art. (There have been a total of eight volumes so far in this popular series, but my favorites are volumes 1 and 2.)
●Recommended pop music compilations
60’s PREMIUM BEST
The Monkees, Ritchie Valens, Ben E. King, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, and others
70’s PREMIUM BEST
Chicago, Fleetwood Mac, Christopher Cross, Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers, Michael Franks, and others
80’s PREMIUM BEST
Duran Duran, Elvis Costello, David Lee Roth, The Beach Boys, Grover Washington Jr. Chic, Chaka Khan, and others
90’s PREMIUM BEST
Cher, Simply Red, Radiohead, Mr. Big, Keith Sweat, Eric Benét, and other
Music of the Millennium
Queen, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Oasis, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and others
Music of the Millennium Vol. 2
Jimi Hendrix, U2, Pink Floyd, Sting, Elton John, Bob Marley, Prince, Tina Turner, James Brown, and others
Music of the Millennium Vol. 3
Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Tears for Fears, Sade, Peter Gabriel, Police, Madonna, Sheryl Crow, and others
100 Love Songs
Elton John, The Rubettes, The Righteous Brothers, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, Diana Ross, Dusty Springfield, Charlene, Louie Armstrong, and others
Korega Yougaku da! BEST LOVE BALLAD
10CC, Minnie Ripperton, Swing Out Sister, Blessid Union of Souls, Elton John, Boston, Heart, Extreme, Abba, Diana Ross, and others
70’s DISCO HITS
Boys Town Gang, Van McCoy and Soul City Symphony, Stylistics, Dschinghis Khan, Arabesque, Santa Esmeralda, Shocking Blue, Average White Band, Oriental Express, and others
A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS
Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Bob Seeger, Bryan Adams, Run D.M.C., and others
A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS 2
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Luther Vandross, Frank Sinatra, Boyz II Men, Sinead O’Connor, Randy Travis, and others
2.Rock music compilations are all about subgenres
Rock is a genre that truly encompasses a large number of subgenres.
Subgenres of rock that developed out of the blues tradition include a wide range of styles, including hard rock and heavy metal.
The content of the lyrics strongly reflect the times—or rather, discomfort, rage, or opposition toward it—and sometimes I like to spend my afternoon tea break flipping through some CD inserts and reading the lyrics. I find it helps me come up with ideas.
If there’s a particular band you think you might be into, I also recommend dipping your toe into their discography by getting a hold of a “best of" CD.
For those who are into pop, heavier rock might just seem like a lot of noise, but try leaving your preconceptions at the door—there’s a wide range of bands producing sounds of all kinds.
●Recommended rock/blues compilations
Korega Yougaku da! Best Rock
The Who, The Band, Free, Three Dog Night, Rod Stewart, Peter Frampton, The Allman Brothers Band, and others
Korega Yougaku da! Best Hard Rock
Rainbow, Kiss, Dio, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen, Anthrax, Megadeth, Poison, and others
Rock Spirit The Golden Age: 1967-1984
Queen, Deep Purple, T. Rex, Santana, America, Eagles, and others
U2, Sum 41, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, and others
Southern Rock: Gold
Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Elvin Bishop, Wet Willie, Little Feat, and other
Classic Rock: Gold
Steppenwolf, Santana, The Police, Bad Company, Foreigner, and others
Rhythm, Country & Blues
Vince Gill, Gladys Knight, Al Green, Aaron Neville, Little Richard, Trisha Yearwood, Allen Toussaint
3.AOR compilations for the road
AOR is a genre that I feel like is predominantly popular in Japan. AOR is short for “adult-oriented rock", and is a type of music that became big in the 1980s.
The musicianship in AOR is first rate, with a lot of overlap with the jazz fusion/crossover genre. AOR by Japanese musicians was also a huge thing in Japan.
I make sure to never go out for a drive without having an AOR compilation with me. AOR compilations produced in Japan usually have an overarching listening situation or theme in mind, which are usually spot-on.
In the past, I’d burn CDs onto CD-Rs and bring a bunch of them with me onto the car. I remember one day, the summer heat got to my discs—after which the ride got pretty “jumpy".
These days I copy over several compilations’ worth of data to a USB drive, and let it play on shuffle.
Japan exclusive AOR compilations also make great souvenirs for foreign tourists who are looking to take home a memento of Tokyo.
●Recommended AOR compilations
Melodies –The Best of AOR–
Air Supply, Ambrosia, Lee Ritenour, Greg Guidry, Paul Davis, Earth, Wind & Fire, Christopher Cross, Donald Fagen, and others
Melodies –The Midnight AOR–
Leslie Smith, Alexander O’Neal, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers, S.O.S. Band, Cherrelle, Tony Sciuto, Peter Allen, and others
Melodies –The Urban AOR–
Boz Scaggs, Al Johnson, Shakatak, Bobby Coldwell, Finis Henderson, Michael McDonald, George Benson, and others
AOR CITY Seasons
Boz Scaggs, Airplay, TOTO, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, Barry Manilow, J. D. Souther, Jim Messina, Earth, Wind & Fire, and others
AOR AGE presents GEMS & RARITIES
Al Jarreau, Ramsey Lewis & Nancy Wilson, Cecilio & Kapono, Robbie Dupree, and others
TOKYO AOR mixed by DJ Osshy
Boz Scaggs, TOTO, Airplay, Earth, Wind & Fire, Eric Carmen, and others
ROPPONGI AOR mixed by DJ Osshy
Donald Fagen, Anita Baker, Tom Johnston, Robbie Dupree, Phil Collins, and others
SHONAN AOR mixed by DJ Osshy
Air Supply, Boz Scaggs, Christopher Cross, Darryl Hall & John Oates, Alan Parsons Project, Ray Parker Jr., Nick DeCaro, and others
4.New Jack Swing is as fresh as ever
There are a lot of great Japan exclusive black music compilations that are worth a listen.
These days the companies that produce these compilations are able to bring together music across record companies and labels to make quality compilations that are available for a reasonable price.
These compilations are especially great for those who are just getting into the genre, as artist albums on their own can be powerful, emotional journeys that are more complex than straightforward pop or rock. These collections are an easy way to expose yourself to a variety of artists and styles, and are great CDs to have as the soundtrack to your daily routine.
And if you’re looking for something more uplifting to have playing in the background as you go about your business, DJ Kaori’s mix CDs—which have their fair share of haters—are certainly very well marketed.
●Recommended Black Music compilations
Korega Yougaku da! Best Motown/Soul
Marvin Gaye, Temptations, Diana Ross, Jackson 5, James Brown, Edwin Starr, The Spinners, Barry White, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and others
Korega Yougaku da! Best Disco
Abba, Cameo, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Rick James, Village People, and others
Korega Yougaku da! Best R&B
Ashanti, Erykah Badu, K-Ci & JoJo, Kelis, Nelly, Boyz II Men, and others
Korega Yougaku da! Best Hip Hop
Nelly, Eve, Nas, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, Eric B. & Rakim, and others
Death Row Greatest Hits
Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Tupac, and others
New Jack Swing -30th Anniversary Mix-
Ralph Tresvant, Teddy Riley, Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown, Boyz II Men, and others
BLENDA meets HipHop: Bitter Chocolate
Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, and others
DJ KAORI’S PARTY HITS
Ellie Goulding, Max Martin, Tove Lo, Savan Kotecha, Ilya Salmanzadeh, and others
DJ KAORI’S DEF JAM MIX
Montell Jordan, Thirdstory, Kelly Price, Allen Anthony, Case, Ja Rule, and others
I Love R&B Premium
Erykah Badu, J. T. Taylor, Eternal, Immature, Smooth Silk, Blackstreet, Eve, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, and others
I Love R&B Premium Ballads
Chanté Moore, Brian McKnight, IV Xample, Ebony Foster, Boyz II Men, Johnny Gill, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, and others
I Love Hip Hop Vol. 1
Dr. Octagon, GZA, Killah Priest, Common, Lost Boyz, Cosmic Slop Shop, Black Eyed Peas, and others
I Love Hip Hop Vol. 2
Eve, Ja Rule, Ludacris, Common, LL Cool J, Eminem, DMX, Public Enemy, and others
5.Epilogue: Western music to Japanese ears
A good amount of pop and rock music compilations produced in the U.S. or U.K. are curated around a theme or a decade, but compilations produced in Japan are often made based on a certain keyword in the title or melody.
This trend reflects the fact that for many Japanese listeners, Western music is not about the lyrical content but about the melody. The music becomes a de facto soundtrack.
This also explains why for a long time, Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You" was included on wedding-themed compilations.
GEAR & BUSINESS #007
Pop and Rock Compilations for Japanese Listeners Interested in Western Music