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Unlike "J-pop" singers such as Southern All Stars' Keisuke Kuwata, the singers of the kay?kyoku genre do not use stylized pronunciations based on the English language, but prefer traditional Japanese. There are exceptions, such as in singer Momoe Yamaguchi's song "Rock 'n' Roll Widow".
The term kay?kyoku originally referred to Western classical "lied" in Japan. However, NHK radio began to use the term as another name of ry?k?ka around 1927, and this took hold in the late 10's of the Showa Era. (1935 - 1944). However, many songs popular during this era became lost due to the association with painful memories involving World War II.
Kayokyoku, though associated with ry?k?ka, also refers to a specific musical genre unique from ry?k?ka. For example, Kenji Yamamoto (?) said that the popular genre of Showa 20s (1945 - 1954) was ry?k?ka and the popular genre of Showa 30s (1955 - 1964) was kay?kyoku.
In Showa 30s, Frank Nagai, inspired by jazz, sang new songs called "Mood Kay?" (). During the Japanese post-war economic miracle, Mood Kay? music became one of the most popular genres in Japan. "Mood Kay?" was influenced by Latin and jazz music. On the other hand, in Showa 30s, modern enka began to be formed and rock and roll began to have an influence on Japanese popular singers such as Kyu Sakamoto.
In 1949, 12-year-old Hibari Misora made her recording debut with song "Kappa Boogie Woogie". In the 1950s, Misora, Chiemi Eri and Izumi Yukimura were called "Sannin Musume" (lit. "Three Girls"). Hachiro Kasuga, Michiya Mihashi and Hideo Murata were called "Three crows". In the early 1960s, Kyu Sakamoto and The Peanuts became famous. Shinichi Mori debuted in 1966. Linda Yamamoto also debuted in 1966. In the late 1960, Group Sounds became famous. Teruhiko Saigo, Yukio Hashi and Kazuo Funaki were called "Gosanke" in the 1960s. Keiko Fuji debuted in 1969 and the music genre like her songs was called enka, which was like Japanese traditional music. In 1969, Japanese child singer Osamu Minagawa made the Japanese Oricon weekly number-one single "Kuroneko no Tango" at the age of only six, establishing the still-standing youngest record to top the Oricon single charts.
During the 1950s and 60s, many Kay?kyoku groups and singers gained experience performing on US military bases in Japan. Around the same time, Yakuza manager Kazuo Taoka reorganized the concert touring industry by treating the performers as professionals.
Kay?kyoku from this period is sometimes also believed to have had its roots with Chinese immigrant jazz musicians who had fled Shanghai during the communist takeover, and were collaborating with the American soldiers who were occupying Japan at that time. In 1949, when the communists took over Mainland China and established the People's Republic of China, one of the first actions taken by the government was to denounce popular music as decadent and replace it with Chinese revolutionary music. Although a number of Shanghainese musicians fled to the British colony of Hong Kong, a few musicians instead settled in Japan, where they became members of the Far East Network and collaborated with the American soldiers to introduce a variety of new genres to the Japanese public.
In the 1970s, Hiromi Go (who belonged to Johnny & Associates at that time), Hideki Saijo and Goro Noguchi were called "New Gosanke". Saori Minami, Mari Amachi and Rumiko Koyanagi were called "Shin Sannin Musume" (lit. "New Three Girls"). Akiko Wada, who came from "Jazz Cafe", also became popular. Momoe Yamaguchi, Junko Sakurada and Masako Mori were called "Hana no Ch?san Torio" (lit. "Flower Junior High School Three Grade Trio"). Y? Aku became one of the most famous lyricists of kay?kyoku. He wrote Finger 5's 1973 song "Kojin Jugy?" and female duo Pink Lady's 1976 debut song "Pepper Keibu."
In the 1980s, many female idols such as Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori became popular. Johnny's male solo singer Masahiko Kond? also became popular and his song "Orokamono" won the 29th Japan Record Awards Grand Prix Award in 1987. The music genre kay?kyoku is regarded as a base of another genre "J-pop". In the 1980s, a part of Japanese idol was independent from kay?kyoku and associated with Japanese rock musicians. Late 80s' popular band Onyanko Club was a band of borderline era between "kay?kyoku" and "J-pop". Although Japanese kay?kyoku-style music after Hikaru Genji and Dreams Come True was called "J-pop", several people claimed that "J-pop" was a subgenre of kay?kyoku music.
In the 1980s, remained kay?kyoku music except Japanese idol's music became regarded as enka. After Hibari Misora died in 1989, the genre called kay?kyoku mostly vanished and several kay?kyoku singers became regarded as enka singers, even if their sound did not change. However, Shinichi Mori and Kiyoshi Maekawa considered themselves to be not enka singers but kay?kyoku singers. Maekawa claimed that an example of true enka singers was Sabur? Kitajima, who could use a lot of kobushi (a kind of vocalism) for singing. As the result, the music of the genre caused some confusion. For example, Kiyoshi Maekawa's song "Himawari", produced by pop singer Masaharu Fukuyama, was regarded as enka for no special reason. When Junko Akimoto became popular in 2008, however, she was said to be a modern example of kay?kyoku singers.