When you think of female J-pop groups, you probably immediately picture large groups of cute, perfectly synchronized singers similar to AKB 48. But J-pop is a wide and ever-changing genre, with particular diversity among groups with smaller lineups. Today, I’m going to introduce some of the most interesting and unique J-pop girl groups with 4 members!
The Best J-Pop Girl Groups with 4 Members
Momoiro Clover Z
Momoiro Clover Z is probably the most famous and well-known group on this list. They have a vibrant, eclectic style that sets them apart from other idol groups. If you like music that is equally catchy and entertaining to watch, this is the group for you! Momoiro Clover Z puts strong emphasis on theatrics, acrobatics, and audience interaction.
If you need something energetic and entertaining to pump you up, check out “Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo” (Let’s Go! Thief Girls) from their first album Battle and Romance. Looking for something unapologetically happy? Try “Z Densetsu Owarinaki Kakumei” (Z Legend: Never-ending Revolution).
And did you know they even collaborated with the iconic metal rock band KISS in 2015 for a special song, “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” (The World is Mine for Dreaming), and a performance at the Tokyo Dome?
What makes Momoiro Clover Z special is their impact on J-pop and the Japanese music industry in general. They consistently blend various genres, styles, and theatrical elements into their music, breathing fresh life into a genre that typically leans on “cute” as a crutch.
Additionally, their collaboration with KISS showed how successful a cross-cultural, cross-genre, and cross-generational collaboration could be.
My Favorite Momoiro Clover Z Song is “Nippon Egao Hyakkei” (One Hundred Smiles of Japan). The lyrics and energy are insanely happy, especially considering it was released a little more than a year after the March 11th earthquake in Fukushima, Japan. Its long-lasting popularity is apparent in its recent revival as a viral TikTok dance.
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Wa-Suta, short for “The World Standard” is an idol group that mixes happy, upbeat electronic dance-pop music with a healthy dash of both traditional and modern Japanese culture, which comes through in both the sound of their music and the overall visuals.
If you enjoy music that is both clever and cute “Mashed Art” from 2022’s Wareware wa Nekodearu (We Are Cats) fits the bill. The music video is a work of art unto itself and should not be missed. If you need something cheer you up when you’ve been feeling down though, Grapefruit Moon is easy to listen to and very relatable.
Music and dancing aside, the particular charm of this group is enhanced by their efforts to move beyond the borders of Japan. Almost all of their music videos include English subtitles, and every member is studying a different foreign language.
Additionally, they have performed in nine different foreign countries, including Hong Kong, France, and Mongolia. Wa-Suta has had a unique impact on the J-pop genre by proving it is possible to create a sound that is unequivocally rooted in Japanese traditions and progressive in nature.
My Favorite Wa-Suta Song is “Yomibito Shirazu no Seishun Uta” (A Youthful Song by an Unknown Poet). While the original version features a fifth member who has since graduated from the group, the 2022 version on their newest album really captures their feelings of hope and support for their friend and teammate. It is extremely moving and should not be missed.
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While they may have started out as a more traditional idol group, PassCode is anything but ordinary. Their music is a unique blend of typical idol-style music with a heavy dose of electronic, rock and metal influences, often bouncing between these with amazing ease. Songs and performances often include screaming, excellent vocal work, and intense, energetic dance routines.
“ONE STEP BEYOND” perfectly showcases the group’s range and encapsulates its style. It has a little bit of everything that makes this group special. Need something for a workout or to spice up a boring commute? “SPARK IGNITION” is just the song to do it.
PassCode is a female J-pop group that really pushes the envelope when it comes to style, which can be seen in their visual aesthetics both in terms of costume and stage setup. They are edgy, dynamic, and constantly evolving, which means listening to them is always an experience in and of itself. Even live versions of their older songs show their growth as performers and masters of their craft.
My Favorite PassCode Song is “SIREN” from their 2022 REVERBERATE EP. The song has a great energy that will pump you up and fill you with a “do your best” spirit. I recommend listening to it in the morning or during a workout.
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Let’s take a moment to step back in time to Japan in the mid-1980s.There was a large feeling of positivity and youthful joy, partially fueled by the bubble economy that would later pop… but let’s not go there. Instead, let’s focus on a unique little group called Saint Four, a short-lived but highly unique J-pop group that was part of the burgeoning idol movement.
Saint Four’s music evokes a strong sense of nostalgia. The gimmick is admittedly a bit cheesy – they are dressed like Power Rangers and have “Heroine Titles” for each of their names – but you can’t argue with the happiness and joy brought forth in their performances. In particular, their first album THE AUDITION has a few iconic pieces, namely “Fushigi Tokyo Cinderella” (Tokyo’s Mysterious Cinderella).
While Saint Four may not have broken entirely new ground in the Japanese music industry, their influence, including acrobatics and color-coded costumes, are all a major part of J-pop as we know it today. So if you’re feeling a bit nostalgic or just want to take a trip down memory lane, this is a great place to start.
My Favorite Saint Four Song is “Taiyou wo Dakishimero” (Let’s Hug the Sun) from their second album of the same name. It has a great beat and sounds like it could be the theme of Saint Seiya or some other classic anime. It makes me nostalgic for some of the best parts of the late 80s and early 90s, namely cartoons, bright colored clothes, and unapologetically energetic music.
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If you’re looking for music that has stood the test of time, look no further than MAX. This girl group has been influencing the J-pop scene with aspects of Eurobeat, R&B, Hip-Hop, and even EDM since 1995!
1999’s MAXIMUM COLLECTION is a good place for newcomers to the group, because it includes the best of their early work, including “TORA TORA TORA” and “Give Me a Shake.” The catchy beats and wordplay in these tunes are uniquely MAX. “Tocata” is also a special cover with a lyric rewrite that promotes unity and togetherness, which has made it especially popular among the Japanese LGBTQ+ community.
What I find most interesting about this group is how they have let each other grow and mature without breaking up. They’ve gotten married, had kids, and taken on solo projects, all of which has expanded their skills and experiences. This knowledge and fresh perspective is then brought to the group as a whole. Compared to other groups, their almost 30-year unchanged lineup is unheard of and actually very refreshing. It gives a strong sense that they really enjoy working with each other.
My Favorite MAX Song is “Do Shot” from their 2021 single of the same name. Listening to the song and watching the video, it is refreshing to see modern, fun J-pop music that isn’t performed by cute, little girls. These are mature women who are experienced, and that energy shines through in both their lyrics and performance.
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TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE
Tokyo Girls’ Style (once a give girl group until Konishi Ayano retired) is an idol group that has a fresh and contemporary approach to J-pop idol music and culture. They are instantly recognizable due to their more mature, modern fashion style and more refined vocals.
Their earlier songs, like “Koudou no Himitsu” (Secret of the Heartbeat) and “We Will Win” have a more typical idol sound to them, although they are extremely charming and sweet in their own right. Later songs though, like “Hello, Goodbye” from their latest album really show a maturity and deepness that is more relatable.
Overall, Tokyo Girls’ Style is not special for their music. They are special because they do not pretend like they haven’t grown up. Their music has grown with them, and as audience members, we can grow with them too.
My Favorite TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE Song is “water lily” from 2017’s single of the same name. I find it is great in the background while studying because of its upbeat but consistent rhythm. The music video is also pretty cool.
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If you’re looking for something way off the beaten path, Atarashii Gakkou! could be the group for you. Their concept is “to stick out with individuality and freedom from an intolerant society where only exemplary guys are valued,” and they do just that.
Their first single “Dokubana” showcases both their overall singing talent and disdain for convention. It dares to say things that a “nice” girl wouldn’t say. “OTONA BLUE” follows a similar style. Their music is great when you are in a rebellious mood and can’t say what you are really feeling.
If you looked up those songs (or maybe some others) you might have noticed they always wear a Showa-era school girl uniform – long skirts, high socks, and all. They do not allow themselves to be physically objectified, even though their music is provocative. They are purposely changing the narrative of what it means to be an Asian woman in this day and age. Their chaotic energy and impactful message makes them absolutely irresistible.
My Favorite Atarashii Gakkou! Song is “JANAINDAYO” (Isn’t That Right?). It has great energy and, like much of their other music, is brutally honest. It really makes them one of the most interesting additions to this list of J-pop girl groups with 4 members.
The newest group on this list, WONDER∞WANDER , also known as Won-Wan, is an idol group / vocal dance unit that has become popular on TikTok and other social media platforms. This group was formely a 5 member group, but once Hina departed in mid-2023, it became a 4 girl J-pop band. Below, check out this short video of Merei Wonwan:
The catchphrase of WONDER∞WANDER – “Are you an artist? No, we are idols.” – is a misdirection, as they actively seek to be more than the label that has been put on them.
Their first single “TSUMARANAI” (Boring) has a great beat and says things you would normally not expect from an idol group. If you’re looking for something with more energy and a bit of an electronic pop sound, “WON∞WAN” is the song for you.
Being such a new group with a limited discography, it’s hard to say what their lasting impact will be just yet. All I know is that I’m excited to see what they release next.
My Favorite WONDER∞WANDER Song is “brilliant blue.” On the surface, it sounds like a typical idol song, but there is something in the lyrics and dance that give it more refinement. The music video is also visually appealing with the transitions and use of light to convey feeling.
This article was written by Mikaela and edited by Michael.