International

6 Rising J-pop Acts, Plus Olivia Rodigo & More Play Billboard Japan & TikTok's 'Next Fire' Special

Awesome City Club
Billboard JAPAN / Masanori Naruse

Awesome City Club

Billboard Japan and TikTok’s weekly hybrid program Next Fire presented a four-hour special June 12, featuring performances by some of today’s hottest rising J-pop acts -- Awesome City Club, sui, Hitsujibungaku, Faky, Hentai Shinshi Club and Mom -- streamed live from Billboard Live Yokohama.

Since launching in October, Next Fire has focused on a different breaking act each month, based on Billboard Japan’s Japan Heatseekers Songs chart. The four-hour special showcased a variety of acts based on their presence on Billboard Japan’s charts and TikTok during the first half of 2021 and future potential.

The virtual event also featured videos of special performances by global hitmakers including Anne-Marie from the U.K., Aurora from Norway, and Olivia Rodrigo from the U.S., interspersed with throwback videos of past Next Fire concerts. Hosted by Next Fire regular Shuichiro -- a TikTok creator boasting over 2 million followers -- and Faky member Hina, the program garnered 214,642 views over the course of the evening.

Up-and-coming singer-songwriter sui kicked off the livestream with a performance on piano of his joyful love song “Kawaii kimi ga itooshii!” (which roughly means, “You’re cute and I love you!”). The unexpected rendition of his rock-flavored original version featured the 18-year-old’s soothing vocals over melodious piano in perfect harmony. The young musician then performed three numbers in succession before inviting his friend and music producer Atsu Mizuno onstage to deliver two of their respective collaborative tracks together. sui then played upright bass for the next number and banjo for the last song of his set -- an upbeat song he wrote while still in high school -- showcasing his versatility as a multi-instrumentalist as well as a writer of catchy pop songs.

Billboard JAPAN / Masanori Naruse
sui

The hip-hop trio Hentai Shinshi Club was up next, opening its set with two tracks off its brand-new album called Zurumuke that dropped this month. Featuring member Vigorman’s smooth vocals over Wilywnka’s gravelly bass raps, the trio — along with producer and track-maker GeG — hyped up viewers with a selection of popular tracks including “Boroboro” and “Good Memories.” The members seemed overcome with emotion during their first live show in about a year, which they signed off with their breakout hit “Yokaze” (“Night breeze”), featuring engaging lyrics about the anxieties and frustrations of being young.

Billboard JAPAN / Masanori Naruse
Hentai Shinshi Club

The third act to grace the Billboard Live Yokohama stage was Faky, a five-member girl group including Hina, one of the hosts of the evening. Kicking off with the catchy “99,” the alternative dance and vocal group performed a short but sweet set of four tracks including a medley of three energetic numbers showing off the band’s powerfully captivating dance moves. Before the last song in the set, “Darlin’,” Hentai Shinshi Club’s GeG joined the girls onstage to chat a bit about the track he produced, noting that his aim was to create a mellow love song that didn’t exist yet in Faky’s catalog. After sharing that the chill, emotional song is now one of their favorites, the members went on to express the bittersweet sensation of being in an ambiguous relationship through their polished vocals and seamless choreography.

Billboard JAPAN / Masanori Naruse
Faky

Next on the roster was the two-woman one-man rock band Hitsujibungaku, known for its distinctively airy female vocals backed by guitar-heavy alt-rock soundscapes. The band gripped viewers with its opening number, the grunge-infused “Highway,” and went on to perform a set showcasing its signature style featuring tight drumming by Hiroa Fukuda, melancholy bass lines by Yurika Kawanishi, and frontwoman Moeka Shiotsuka’s wispy main vocals and distorted guitar. After a leisurely break to address viewers, the threesome launched into the latter half of the set, performing the intense “Koinante” before segueing into their ethereal single called “1999,” then wrapped up with “Aimai de iiyo” off its latest album Powers.

Billboard JAPAN / Masanori Naruse
Hitsujibungaku

The livestream from Yokohama then took a break to highlight messages and pre-recorded performances by some of today’s hottest global artists. Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora was all smiles as she introduced herself in Japanese before performing her love song “Exist for Love” from 2010 and “Runaway” from 2015, the latter which is currently enjoying a resurgence thanks to TikTok. Next up was the 18-year-old Billboard chart-topper Olivia Rodrigo, who treated fans to two special performances recorded just for the event: a piano rendition of her breakout global hit “drivers license,” and a riveting version of “enough for you” on guitar. Wrapping up the segment was British singer-songwriter Anne-Marie, who elicited a torrent of delighted comments from viewers with her laid-back performances of her Ed Sheeran collab “2002” and new duet with Niall Horan called “Our Song.”

When the camera returned to Yokohama, rapper and track-maker Mom took the stage drenched in red light. Opening his set with an unreleased new track called “Mom’s Day Catch” as introduction, he went on to perform a seven-track set accompanied by rapper Hikaru Tanaka who served as DJ. The set list contained a selection showcasing his chill, melancholic style featuring introspective lyrics, such as the broody “Shokutaku” (“dinner table”) that he performed on electric guitar, the mellow “Taxi Driver,” and his latest release called “Kokoro ga kowaresou” (“I’m about to break down”). The young singer-songwriter informed fans that he’s currently working on new music, and closed his set with a folk-meets-ambient track about graduation called “Sotsugyou.”

Billboard JAPAN / Masanori Naruse
Mom

The headliner of the four-hour event was the breakout trio Awesome City Club, known for its contemporary city pop sound featuring sophisticated male-female vocals by atagi and Porin. The threesome set the tone of their performance for the evening with the smooth “Yogisha wa hashiru” off its latest album Grower, featuring member Morishii’s bluesy guitar riffs. Following up with the uptempo “ceremony” and a cello version of “Time Space,” the members delivered renditions of some familiar tracks tailored to the intimate atmosphere of the venue, which atagi noted was “special.” Addressing fans in-between songs, the group went on to perform its latest mid-tempo number “Matataki” backed by piano and cello, and wrapped up the evening with “Wasurena,” the wistful ballad that catapulted the trio into the mainstream this year.