The best JRock of 2021

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It’s been another big year for JRock. There have been plenty of disappointing moments, with world tours cancelled or postponed by some of the nation’s biggest acts — but there have also been some fantastic releases by some of our favourite bands.

Covering absolutely everything that happened in 2021 would be impossible, but we can still provide some highlights to help you start the new year with the best of the best from the world of JRock.

Here are our picks for the music that defined 2021 for lovers of JRock around the world.

Album of the Year: Unseen World by Band-Maid

January started off in the best way possible – with a full new album by Band-Maid. Unseen World hit with a lot of hype and excitement, and it didn’t disappoint. Band-Maid is one of our favourite bands on JRock scene and their sound is only getting better over the years. Unseen World features the fantastic After Life, as well as plenty of other bangers.

Music Video of the Year: I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Shintenchi Kaibyaku Shudan ZIGZAG

It is difficult to express how fun this music video is. It takes the only slightest hints from the Aerosmith original, which featured plenty of footage from Armageddon, before taking it into a strange new direction.

But if it were just weird for the sake of weird it wouldn’t be on this list. This is a great cover of a song that is incredibly difficult to cover. Emulating Steven Tyler’s vocals is nearly impossible — but the singer here pulls it off so well I had to listen to it three times to make sure it wasn’t the original.

The video is a great representation of a group of artists having fun, which is glorious to see at a time when people need a bit more fun. Space lobsters shooting laser-beams alongside the musicians’ performances is a great contrast, and I think we could all do with a bit more of that in our lives.  

Song of the Year: Never End by Elfriede

This band was a new discovery for me this year and I’m really glad JPU Records are bringing their music to the west. You will want to check out Never End, which highlights the talent on display here. Ryo Yamabuki pulls out a fantastic solo on guitar while Mikuru delivers great fun on the vocals. The song feels like a band just on the cusp of a great career, which makes it exciting to take in — it feels like we’re there “at the beginning”, as things are just getting started.

Elfriede might not draw directly from Scandal’s sound, but they certainly have been influenced by the group. They have a great pop-rock energy and I can’t wait to see what else they manage to do as they settle into their sound. This is a band that has a great future ahead of it, so get excited for them now.

Who to Watch in 2022: MINA

If you’ve been following our JRock coverage for a while now, you might recognise the work of MINA. Her former band, Girlfriend, put out my song of the year for 2020, and a big part of that track’s appeal was the incredible bass playing by MINA.

The group broke up in April 2021, but that has only given this young woman a chance to branch out into other instruments. Her TikTok is filled with covers of intricate bass solos and songs from all different genres, and her YouTube sees her playing every instrument under the sun to bring us some delightful covers of anime covers and funk classics.

With 2022 around the corner, I would be surprised if we don’t see MINA head into the studio for a solo project. She is a young woman of just 21, bursting with talent and joy in what she does.

MINA is one of the most exciting faces in JRock right now and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in the next year.

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