Decade in Review | Best Jazz, Funk and R&B songs of the decade

Seiyuu often venture to pop music or explore the trendiest of music genres to keep up with what is “in” in Japan however, there are music genres that never get old and no matter what is the pop trend out there, it is their maturity and laidback vibe that make songs in these genres shine and stand the test of time.

We’re talking about Jazz, Funk and R&B. Jazz and Funk have slowly become a trend by the late 10s but R&B has been an on-and-off trend in the last couple of years. There are several seiyuu that explored these music genres even when those weren’t a trend, some of those even made it their staple sound or dabbled in it to add some flair or showcase versatility in their repertoire.

Thanks to that we have a wide variety of songs to choose from, most of those of top quality as a whole (vocals and instrumentals).

Below we take a look at those Jazz, Funk and R&B tunes that are still playing in our head, making us sing and or dance along to them or just simply sit back and relax while taking in the classy and relaxing soundscapes crafted for our enjoyment.

Once again, this list feature the songs by chronological order. No ranking was made on those. Some artists might be featured more than once due to our team not wanting to sacrifice songs that really need to be heard, therefore, as an exception, we feature 13 tracks instead of 10.

Daisuke Ono “Ride On Funky Night”

Who remembers this gem? Before all male seiyuu were tackling disco and funk music, Daisuke Ono was already doing it, even if a bit clumsily and, at times, with really cheesy concepts attached to those songs. Ride On Funky Night was featured in that said single that everyone knows but, at the same, no one knows. We are talking about 2011’s DELIGHT.

Ride On Funky Night was OnoD’s first proper experience with funk and disco music and it proved to be quite entertaining, leading to, years later, him embracing the genres and make a career almost exclusively focused on those.

Toshiyuki Toyonaga ゅめのめと (Yume no meto)

ゅめのめと (Yume no meto)’s funky guitar riffs and groovy bass line still linger after all these years. The song, released in 2014 on MUSIC OF THE ENTERTAINMENT, is one of the must listen tracks we feature on this decade-end article. The laidback vibe, the way the bass pulls us in to the groove, the sweet vibe and the fancy performance by Toyonaga make it one of the best jazz/funk songs released in this decade.

Mamoru Miyano “BLACK OR WHITE”

Mamoru Miyano is no stranger to performing R&B and Jazz songs. He is also no stranger to having a mature aura around himself as a performer, something that helps fleshing out alluring jazz and R&B tracks.

BLACK OR WHITE, from Mamoru’s 2016 How Close You Are, makes this list for its unique mature vibe and suggestive performance that make it impossible not to be drawn into it.

Soma Saito “Stand Alone”

Soma Saito‘s debut single, Fish Story (2017), features one of the moodiest jazz tracks released by a male seiyuu.

Stand Alone is one of those tracks that takes the listener to a jazz bar soundscape, puts a glass of whiskey in your hand and takes you to the best seats in house facing the dimly lit stage as the contrabass reverbs inside of the venue, and the singer makes eye contact with you. This is such a relaxing and classy soundscape that is able to wash away stress.

Tetsuya Kakihara “Last Lady”

Up until 2018, Tetsuya Kakihara was not known as a singer that could tackle R&B and funk. Everything changed with the release of I for U in 2018. From that point on, Last Lady always comes into discussion whenever talking about good R&B songs performed by male seiyuu.

Last Lady takes things slow while featuring one of the most alluring instrumentals and seductive performances we’ve had a pleasure to listen to during this decade.

Kensho Ono “Rain Dance”

Kensho Ono‘s Take the TOP was one of the best albums of 2018. It featured a wide variety of songs ranging from rock to pop, dance, R&B and funk. In particular, Rain Dance stood out for the fancy take on funk music.

This is a song that could have easily been performed by acid-jazz master, Jamiroquai. Funky guitar riffs and a mesmerizing bass line are the perfect greeting cards for a song that will often go unnoticed in such an album filled with great tunes.

QUELL “Angel’s Ladder”

Since their debut, QUELL (Shunsuke Takeuchi, Koutaro Nishiyama, Shugo Nakamura and Sho Nogami) have been releasing unique songs exploring a wide variety of music genres to create their dreamy and crystal clear sound.

Angel’s Ladder came as a surprise in 2018. This single brought to the table funk and R&B and created one of the most iconic soundscapes among 2D units. The funky brass melody,  the groovy bass line, the 90s hip-hop beat and the stunning performance by the quartet still has us groove along to it.

Yuma Uchida “Stardust”

Yuma Uchida made his solo debut in 2018 and, in the same year, for his 2nd single Before Dawn, he featured a song that would steer him to a music genre that is now a big part of his image as a solo artist: R&B.

R&B is usually a music genre closely connected to sexy concepts and the exploration of themes such as romance (forbidden or not) and sex (explicit depictions or through innuendos/double-entendre lyrics). Uchida’s first take on the genre was actually totally safe and kid-friendly but still had the flair and alluring vibe that is attractive and synonym to the music genre.

Uchida showed his chops for the music genre with Stardust, song that introduced dreamy, washy synths, a slow paced beat with classic triplets on top of a textbook 90s R&B formula. A memorable R&B track by an artist that is solidifying his stance as one of the best R&B performers among male seiyuu.

Makoto Furukawa “Miserable Masquerade”

If there has been a seiyuu that completely embraced Jazz is Makoto Furukawa. When his solo debut was announced in 2018, many speculated whether he’d be a rock or pop artist. When the label behind him was Lantis, things got clearer. It could only be rock or pop-rock.

Surprise, surprise.

Makoto Furukawa was to present himself as a solo artist with a true jazz sound.

And what a surprise it was because both of his singles released in this decade could be featured here. We chose Miserable Masquerade for how chaotic as a jazz track it is, embracing bebop melodies and delivering one of the classiest as well as most energetic tracks of that year.

Miyu Irino “IF YOU WANNA”

After returning from his 2-year hiatus to study musical acting, Miyu Irino returned with FREEDOM in 2018. This single is part of 3-release take on Irino’s theme of “chasing the dream” that started with with 2016’s DARE TO DREAM, passed through FREEDOM in 2018 and wrapped up with Live Your Dream in 2019.

FREEDOM features the funk/disco track IF YOU WANNA, a take on Motown’s 70s funk music. Groovy bass lines, funky guitar riffs, simple drums, classic synth melodies and a chorus we pitch vocals that take us back in time were more than enough to make this one of the best jazz/funk/R&B tracks of the decade.

Daisuke Ono “SHAKE IT!!”

Daisuke Ono has been a staple in funk and disco music since 2013. We’ve already mentioned him in this top but it is impossible to write about best Jazz/Funk/R&B songs without adding this recent tune.

Coincidentally to OnoD’s shift to a mature image around 2015 – that finally had him acting not like a womanizer all the time (for reference music videos of Kiss Kiss Kiss, DELIGHT, and more) but like the gentleman that he is known among his peers -, came a series of fun and classy funk and disco releases.

Most recently, OnoD impressed us with SHAKE IT!! a sound, tasteful take on funk that mixes the playfulness of disco music with the underlying alluring vibe that funk brings to the table. Top that with OnoD in top vocal form and you have his best funk/disco track.

Miyu Irino “Monet”

Miyu Irino gets another entry on this chart for how flawlessly he tackled Bossa Nova and Funk for the track Monet, featured on Live Your Dream released in 2019.

The song takes us to a beautiful, tropical soundscape. The melodic acoustic guitar riffs, the latin percussion, classy brass and Irino’s gentle vocals make this track a must entry. The first seconds are enough to put you on the groove, enjoying the carefully crafted song in the best way you know (dancing or singing along or both – we are the kind to jam on our seat). A tasteful take on a genre that finds almost no expression among male seiyuu music, putting Miyu Irino on a league of his own.

Mamoru Miyano “Never Friends”

It is well known that Mamoru Miyano was one of the first seiyuu venturing through R&B, he made his debut in 2007 and he was already tackling the genre back then. Over this decade however, Mamo had quite a few takes on the genre – most incredibly well executed as previously mentioned -, but none like this one.

Never Friends, song featured on 2019’s ENCORE, is a gem in itself. Remember what we mentioned about R&B on Yuma Uchida’s feature above? Well, Never Friends is the mature take on the genre. The song takes pride in its double-entendre lyrics and the romantic and dreamy soundscape – thanks to the mix of R&B with tropical electronica elements – created around those. Miyano’s performance added a gentleness to this song that we didn’t knew would end up working so well.

Organized by release date, here are the Best Jazz, Funk and R&B songs of the decade (2010-2019):

  • 2011| Daisuke Ono “Ride on Funky Night”
  • 2014| Toshiyuki Toyonaga ゅめのめと
  • 2016| Mamoru Miyano “BLACK OR WHITE”
  • 2017| Soma Saito “Stand Alone”
  • 2018| Tetsuya Kakihara “Last Lady”
  • 2018| Kensho Ono “Rain Dance”
  • 2018| QUELL “Angel’s Ladder”
  • 2018| Yuma Uchida “Stardust”
  • 2019| Makoto Furukawa “Miserable Masquerade”
  • 2018| Miyu Irino “IF YOU WANNA”
  • 2019| Daisuke Ono “SHAKE IT!!”
  • 2019| Miyu Irino “Monet”
  • 2019| Mamoru Miyano “Never Friends”

This is an original THTFHQ article. Decade in Review is an OP-ED series, meaning that all opinions expressed are of their authors only. All content featured on it is copyrighted to its rightful owners. Copy and paste and full translations of these articles is strictly forbidden.

We’d like to know your favorites so leave us a comment!

Vanessa Silva
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).





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