30th November 2023 – (Tokyo) NHK, the public broadcaster in Japan, announced the lineup for its highly anticipated annual New Year’s Eve musical show, “Kohaku Uta Gassen.” Notably, this year’s program will not feature acts represented by Smile-Up, the talent agency formerly known as Johnny & Associates. This marks the first time in 44 years that performers from the agency will be absent from the prestigious music show.
Smile-Up is still facing the aftermath of the revelations surrounding founder Johnny Kitagawa’s alleged sexual assault and child abuse, which spanned several decades. Due to these circumstances, NHK made the decision to exclude the agency’s acts from this year’s program, which is set to air on 31st December at 7.20pm from NHK Hall in Tokyo.
As a result of Smile-Up’s absence, the 74th edition of “Kohaku Uta Gassen” offers a broader representation of Japan’s music scene and its connection to the global stage. Embracing this year’s theme of “Borderless,” two notable first-time participants hail from South Korea: Stray Kids and Seventeen. They will join returning group Le Sserafim and the debut trio Misamo, consisting of three Japanese members from the popular group Twice.
The show also highlights the emerging presence of J-pop in the international music landscape. Among the debut domestic acts are the unique quartet Atarashii Gakko!, currently touring the United States and set to appear on American late-night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and singer Ado, who previously performed as the character Uta from “One Piece Film Red” and now takes the spotlight as herself.
Numerous artists known for their music featured in anime productions will also grace the stage. This includes rock band 10-Feet, known for their work on the soundtrack for the film “The First Slam Dunk,” singer-songwriter Tatsuya Kitani with the theme from “Jujutsu Kaisen,” and the wolf-headed group Man With A Mission, who collaborated with millet, a returning “Kohaku” performer, on the theme for “Demon Slayer.” However, the most globally recognized act is the returning duo Yoasobi, whose hit song “Idol” has become a defining J-pop creation of 2023.
Among the first-time Japanese performers are the lively rockers Mrs. Green Apple, the mixed-media pop group Strawberry Prince, and 1970s idol Ran Ito. The lineup also includes returning names such as Perfume, NiziU, and Gen Hoshino.
The absence of any Johnny & Associates groups is particularly noteworthy, as acts from this powerhouse agency have been a staple at “Kohaku Uta Gassen” for many years. In the previous year’s edition, a total of six Johnny & Associates groups performed on the show.
In a separate announcement, the agency revealed that Snow Man, an all-male nine-member group responsible for Japan’s best-selling single of the year, will hold a special live show streamed via YouTube on New Year’s Eve.
“Kohaku Uta Gassen” originated as a radio program in 1951 before transitioning to television two years later. The show traditionally divides female and male performers into red and white teams, respectively, competing in a musical battle. The audience and judges declare the winning team, and the show culminates with the ringing in of the new year.