I was just talking about this with a bunch of my friends, when I made a Friendsgiving playlist of our favorite nostalgia songs (lotsa m-flo loves, Utada Hikaru, and weaboo anime anthems).
I think the shift happened gradually and with a few major factors
- The death of forums as a medium, and social media going to new heights
I remember JPM had such bustling activity for artists, and musicians who had any sort of following here would have their own individual forums.
Jpop as a whole was so active, that I could spend my entire day on a BoA forum (BoAjjang lol) that was my internet playground as a teen (despite most of the people there being....lol).
But with social media it seems like all of those discussions now happen in the streams of instagram comments, FB threads, etc.
- A decline in a golden age or renaissance of anime/gaming for westerners
There is story after story of people in my generation who were introduced to jpop through an anime or game theme song.
There were these huge songs like Simple & Clean, Real Emotion/1000 no kotoba, Fukai Mori, or bands like FLOW who had huge followings simply because of a good theme song.
This seemed to be a time when popular anime was hyperfocused, so everyone was watching or checking out Naruto, Inuyasha, Full Metal Alchemist, Code Geass, and popular RPGs like Kingdom Hearts/Final Fantasy.
But in recent years, you have companies like SquareEnix who are clinging on for life/rising from the ashes and big themes just being more spread out/dilluted.
Maybe its because things are so much more accessible now with lots more options....? or maybe I'm just out of touch with anime?
- A shift in the musical landscape
I think a big driving force for the JPM community specifically were the J-pop "divas" at the time.
But with the other factors listed...by the time it was.....2009/2010 I could feel a big change.
Perhaps it was simply growing up, but I just felt like these pillars for the JPM community were changing.
Utada Hikaru retiring.
Koda Kumi's music just devolving and being swallowed by the whole "European producer with mediocre demos"/EDM everything/chasing trends and becoming a parody of herself.
BoA gradually getting worse and then never truly bouncing back from her US debut. (Honestly I think her jpop career is just now starting to get interesting again. The new songs from her last album were promising....the album was just a singles collection that was all over the place unfortunately).
I don't listen to Ayu but I've heard of major complaints too.
I feel like of the big "divas" that really kept the forum chugging along in its prime, only Namie stayed consistent
These artists weren't as huge for the forum as a whole, but definitely increased my disengagement with Jpop over the years:
BENI had a promising Universal debut and then COVERS took over her career.
Crystal Kay having label troubles and a subpar final album with them, before switching over (Vivid was a great album though, one of her best).
The m-Flo loves project was absolutely amazing. Astromantic and COSMICOLOR had great featurings and was a gateway into exploring new artists that fit right into my tastes. But right as the project ended my interest in m-flo disappeared with it.
With the bustling activity and energy of the old JPM, I also heard from lots of new artists at the time, which such a fun variety too.
One day I could learn of Kaori Natori, the next day SweetS, and then Nobuchika Eri (whose debut is one of my favorite albums of all time).
I think right now Japan is still in their EDM phase which I never latched onto. As someone who grew up with and loves r&b, most of the 2000s were exciting jpop times. (I was also a teenager who liked everything that I didn't immediately hate).
These days I can only manage to keep up with aritsts I used to be huge fans of.
Between Hikki, Namie, BoA, Koda Kumi, BENI, and Crystal Kay...there isn't....a ton of excitement.
And every now and then I'll hear something new that I'll thoroughly enjoy, but (luckily) its never on a fandom driven level like the early 2000s.
(Recently it's been exploring producer artists like Towa Tei, Cornelius, etc and then random old school jpop like Minako Yoshida)