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Best of Japanese Bands: 90's version

The best bands Japan had to offer in the 90's.
Atomic Heart

An inspiring story from rags to riches, the members of Mr.Children started out in a punk band called The Walls, before changing their entire style and morphing into Mr.Children in 1989. Originally the definition of a struggling band as most of the members had to carry dead-end jobs, Mr.Children eventually stumbled into superstardom by 1994, and became the second most successful band of the decade with a remarkable total of over 13 million albums sold in that decade alone, with over 14 million singles sold during the 1990's as well. They are currently the second best-selling band of all time behind B'z.
Break Through

Holding the record for the best-selling Japanese artists for over a decade now with a whopping total of 100 million records sold, the hot streak of B'z laid primarily in the 1990's, when they sold an amazing total of over 26 million albums and over 18 million singles. Their sound is a blending of pop and hard rock elements that is still emulated heavily in the mainstream Japanese music circuit today, and the duo are widely considered to be two of the most influential and iconic figures in modern Japanese music history.
Pure Soul

Another major figure in 90's Japanese music, the prog-pop-power pop foursome Glay is a force that is still felt strongly today, although their commercial peak was undoubtedly experienced in the 90's, where they sold over 10 million albums and over 8 million singles. The group is considered to be one of the first acts to take the visual kei to commercial heights which have never been reached again since.

Although not nearly as successful as the previous three, Osakan fusion group Ulfuls were one of the most unique acts to grab Japanese mainstream attention of their day. With a style that blends elements of traditional rock 'n' roll, funk, soul, alternative rock and pop, Ulfuls are still one of the most charismatic and entertaining bands out, with frontman Tortoise Matsumoto being one of my personal favorite vocalists. The group's sales ran an impressive run during their 90's heyday of over 2 million albums and over 2 million singles.
5Chage and Aska

The faces of modern Japanese folk music, the duo of Chage and Aska endured some brief success during the late 1970's and 1980's, but didn't really break through to high superstardom until the late 1980's, with their first certified album being their 1989 album "Pride". Throughout their peak in the 1990's, the group sold over 6 million albums and over 7 million singles.

Often considered to be among the most influential female fronted rock groups in Japanese music history along with Rebecca, Lindberg's style, which was originally of a poppy new wave nature, would go on to cover elements of alternative and pop punk, and their influence was quickly felt in the mainstream circuit, especially among the likes of Judy and Mary.
Today is Another Day

Zard was the enigmatic project of vocalist Izumi Sakai that proved to be not only one of the biggest names in 90's Japanese music, but of all time, earning Zard a spot in the best selling Japanese artists of all time. During their run in the 90's, Zard sold over 14 million albums and over 8 million singles.
8Judy and Mary
Miracle Diving

Judy and Mary were certainly an interesting spectacle. Originally a fun pop punk group, Judy and Mary eventually evolved into a bizarre art-pop punk act with strong alternative overtones by 1996. Disbanded since 2001, the group sold over 4 million albums and over 5 million singles during their 90's run.

The kings of cool indie pop-rock, Spitz are probably one of the most humble bands to achieve massive success in Japan, often preferring to perform smaller, more intimate venues than huge arenas. Originally starting out as a quirky punk-inspired band, Spitz later adopted their now widely renowned light alternative sound by 1989. Although sales for the group were quite sluggy initially, they picked up gradually by 1993, and by the end of their 1990's golden streak, Spitz amassed a total of over 6 million albums and over 6 million singles sold.
10The Pillows
Please Mr. Lostman

Probably the lowest selling band on this list, The Pillows instead rely on having a reputation of concocting brilliant ditties that stem from all ends of the alternative spectrum. They later achieved worldwide cult success due to their involvement in the legendary anime OVA FLCL (which is my favorite anime series of all time, and I'm waiting on pins and needles for that goddamn sequel to come out).

No Japanese band has accomplished what L'arc-en-Ciel has in their illustrious 24 year career (when taking their hiatus from 2001 through 2003 in consideration). They have toured the world and have sold out also sold out the Madison Square Garden, becoming the first ever Japanese band to achieve that feat. I don't want to say the 90's were their heyday, since they are still selling loads of records, but during that time period, they sold an impressive total of over 7 million albums and over 9 million singles, and along with Glay, are credited to soaring the popularity of visual kei to massive heights.
12Luna Sea

One of the heads on the Mt. Rushmore of visual kei, Luna Sea inspired literally thousands of bands all across Japan, although their unique atmospheric sound has never been fully replicated. During their run in the 1990's, Luna Sea sold over four million albums and over 4 million singles.
13Sharan Q

To this day, the debate on what Sharan Q exactly were is still debated. Visual kei? Glam? A skillful, talented parody on the dramatics of both visual kei and glam? That is the question that will probably never fully be answered. During their 1990's mainstream parade, Sharan Q went on to sell over 5 million albums and over 7 million singles.
14Sophia (JPN)

Although usually considered to be a memory of the 90's and early 2000's, Sophia had quite the strong commercial run going. Formed in 1994, it took the group less than a year to go major, and they were also the first group to give visual kei the finger by departing from the gothy, punk nature of it and instead going in a totally light direction, which worked wonders in terms of sales and success. The success of Sophia could be thought to have influenced the decrease in visual aesthetics of giants like L'arc-en-Ciel and Luna Sea. During their 90's heyday, Sophia sold over 3 million albums and over 3 million singles.
15Shonen Knife
Rock Animals

Another band that doesn't have to rely on sales and arena tours to keep afloat, Shonen Knife have been a large figurehead in the underground Japanese alternative universe for well over three decades now. Although they've been around since 1981, it wasn't until around 1990 that they started to really blossom in vast popularity. Shonen Knife were also one of the first Japanese all-female groups to garner success overseas via MTV and through the admiration of Nirvana.
16X Japan

Of course, a 90's Japanese band list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the gods of visual kei themselves: X Japan. A wildly successful band since 1989, X reached their commercial peak with the release of their 1991 album "Jealousy", which sold over a million copies and boasted two gold singles and one platinum single.
Pop Tatari

A band that thrives entirely on underground word-of-mouth, Boredoms are considered to be icons in noise punk and, more specifically, in the Japanoise subgenre. While their later material had much more mellow ambient-like droney percussions and drowned out chants, it is their early material which they remain infamous for today, with one of their brightest-shining efforts being 1992's "Pop Tatari", which is unarguably one of the most bizarre and disturbing albums released on a major label (gotta love WB).
18Malice Mizer

Glamorous and elegant, Malice Mizer were responsible for giving a more theatrical face to visual kei, and their lavish costumes, songs and stage shows earned them one of the largest followings in the visual kei circuit, which continues today, 16 years after their initial disbandment. Although they have only one certified album, 1998's "Merveilles" (which was certified platinum), they did obtain five consecutive top 20 singles, and also sold out the iconic Budokan arena while they were independent in 2000.
Hide Your Face

hide is unquestionably the most influential, iconic and most beloved musician to ever grace the world of visual kei. Getting his first break as the charismatic guitarist of X Japan, he also embarked on a wildly successful solo career in 1993, which tragically ended in 1998 following a mysterious suicide that is still shadowed by numerous conspiracy theories today. His suicide left a major impact in Japan and the international music world as well, as dozens of copycat suicides were reported as a result, and his final original album, "Ja, Zoo" sold over a million copies as well, being his only album to do so.
20Feel So Bad

Although they only had a few scrapes with commercial success, Feel So Bad are absolutely one of the best and most unique heavy metal bands of their time period. Fronted by former idol Daria Kawashima, the group developed a large following for their sound that is both technical and melodically mainstream-friendly. Definitely one of the most underrated acts of the 1990's Japanese music boom.
Three Out Change!!

A group that certainly blossomed more in popularity than their initial run, Supercar's legacy is more posthumous, with their highest-charting release only reaching number 11, which was their 2002 album "Highvision". Nonetheless, Supercar's signature sound that blends elements of electropop and shoegaze remains a cult favorite to this day, especially in overseas fandoms.
22Denki Groove

Called the most revolutionary Japanese electronica group since Yellow Magic Orchestra, Denki Groove helped usher in a second wave of chaotic electronica to the Japanese masses throughout the 90's. Originally a rave-like act with elements borrowed from all over the electronic universe with a hip hop twist, Denki Groove later became a more serious act musically by 1996, although their twisted sense of humor remained in their promotional videos and photo shoots. By the end of the 1990's, Denki Groove sold a total amount of over 2 million albums and over 2 million singles.
23La'cryma Christi
Sculpture of Time

Arguably one of the most technically sound bands in the history of visual kei, La'cryma Christi managed to win over a strong following by 1997 with their signature sound that had elements of progressive rock, power pop, alternative and hard rock. They later become one of the most visible and popular visual bands in the late 90's Japanese mainstream circuit, along with Malice Mizer, Shazna and Fanatic Crisis.

Essentially the brainchild of iconic music producer Tetsuya Komuro, Globe went on to reach the top of the 1990's music ladder in Japan by 1996, having amazingly strong sales from the get go. Along with Komuro's other project TRF, Globe is credited for skyrocketing the popularity of electropop, and the group sold over 13 million albums and over 9 million singles over their 90's run.
25Super Junky Monkey
Screw Up

Mad and gifted with the abilities to completely trample over your senses like a run of the bulls, the all-female Japanese avant-garde metal band Super Junky Monkey are icons of a different sense. Not by sales, but by raw musical quirkiness and talent, with each member bringing something to the table that rounds out the common insanity of a Super Junky Monkey release. Signed to Sony Records in Japan and TriStar Music in the US, the group, like Boredoms, were absolutely one of the most unorthodox acts to attract mainstream attention, although they released only two albums internationally and two domestically before splitting following the tragic suicide of vocalist Mutsumi Fukuhara in 1999. However, the remaining members of Super Junky Monkey are known to have occasional reunion shows today, and their influence can be felt on groups like Midori and 385.
26Dreams Come True
Wonder 3

Unarguably one of the most successful pop acts during the 1990's in Japan and possibly in Asia as a whole, Dreams Come True became the young faces of the new Japanese pop wave, spearheaded by the razor sharp, on-key vocals of Miwa Yoshida. During their 90's heyday, Dreams Come True sold a remarkable total of over 17 million albums and over 8 million singles.
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