Yellow Magic Orchestra was a hugely influential techno kayō (techno pop) supergroup founded in 1978, consisting of core members Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. They helped pioneer Synth-Pop, modern J-Pop, Techno and House Music, while also influencing the development of City Pop. The band was the first to use the influential Roland TR-808 drum machine in 1980, and one of the first to use Sampling: their 1981 album Technodelic was one of the first albums to be primarily composed of samples (alongside David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts the same year). YMO have been called the Japanese equivalent of Kraftwerk, while their influence within their home country has been likened to The Beatles.
Core members Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto had worked together off and on throughout the 1970s, and each had worked with early electronic instruments. However, it was Sakamoto's introduction to Kraftwerk, as well as a desire to make music that didn't ape Western musicians, that pushed them to create their own band. Shortly after Hosono's 1978 exotica-tinged album Paraiso (credited to Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band, which featured Sakamoto and Takahashi contributing as session musicians), they decided to use the name Yellow Magic Orchestra, parodying the faddish fascination with black magic in Japan at the time. Their debut album was intended to parody Western stereotypes of Asia (and its offensive fascination with "orientalism" going on at that time) while also exploring Asianness and the potential that came from mixing western electronic and funk sounds with traditional Japanese compositional techniques, blending Sakamoto's classical training with Hosono & Takahashi's pop expertise.
Intended mostly as a joke, the album was a surprise hit, prompting the band to go on tour. One of these live performances was seen by an American A&M Records executive, and by the end of 1978 they had an international record deal, prompting the three to shift from solo careers and session work to a popstar lifestyle as YMOnote .
Over the next few years, YMO was the most popular band in Japan, and was regularly charting in America and Europe (despite their distribution being much spottier in those regions), with sold-out tours in all three areas. For 1979's Solid State Survivor, the band brought English lyricist Chris Mosdell to write English lyrics, producing the song "Behind the Mask", which would later become a hit for Michael Jackson and Eric Claptonnote . Both it and the follow-up, ×∞Multiplies, were on the Oricon charts at the same time for seven weeks, a record that still stands. The band's music became a major influence on early Techno and Hip-Hop pioneers, with Sakamoto's solo piece (and YMO live staple) "Riot in Lagos" seen as both the Trope Maker for electro and one of the first songs to have a "techno" beat. After sampling "Firecracker" for his song "Death Mix," Afrika Bambaataa jokingly claimed YMO "invented Hip Hop." The band's work also had an inevitable effect on Japanese Pop Music itself, in particular influencing the development of City Pop through their eclectic blend of styles. Their later albums shot straight to the top of the Oricon charts, and their 1983 single "Kimi ni, mune kyun." was the highest charting Synth-Pop song in Japanese history at #2 — a record the song held until synth-pop idol group Perfume released "love the world" in 2008.
After making the concert film Propaganda, YMO "spread out" in 1984: although they shifted back to solo careers, the members would frequently perform with each other. They briefly reunited to record Technodon under the name of Not YMO (or "YMO" with an X through it) in the early 90s (as Alfa Records still owned the name Yellow Magic Orchestra at the time), and occasionally performed live as Human Audio Sponge. They officially reunited in 2007 as HASYMO, first for a Kirin beer commercial and single "RYDEEN 79/07," and then live at the Live Earth, Kyoto event on July 7, 2007. The band officially reverted to the name YMO in 2009 and released the single The City of Light / Tokyo Town Pages that same year. No new recordings took place since then, though the band members continued their touring schedules, up until Sakamoto was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. After Sakamoto recovered, the band continued to live on as an on-again, off-again live act, performing YMO material both together and as part of solo shows (under the sole condition that they only be billed as YMO if all three are present). The band would ultimately come to a close with Takahashi's passing in 2023. Sakamoto himself would pass away two months later after his nearly decade-long battle with cancer.
Not to be confused with Electric Light Orchestra.
- Yellow Magic Orchestra (Album) (1978)
- Solid State Survivor (1979)
- ×∞Multiplies /増殖note (1980)
- BGM (1981)
- Technodelic (1981)
- Naughty Boys (1983)
- Service (1983)
- Technodon (1993)note
- YMO Best Selection (1982)
- Sealed (1984)
- Y.M.O. History (1987)
- Kyoretsu Na Rhythm (1991)
- Technobible (1992)
- YMO Go Home! (1999)
- UC YMO: Ultimate Collection of Yellow Magic Orchestra (2003)
- YMO (2011)
- Neue Tanz (2018)note
- Public Pressure (1980)note
- After Service (1984)note
- Technodon Live (1993)note
- Live at the Budokan 1980 (1993)
- Live At Kinokuniya Hall 1978 (1993)
- Winter Live 1981 (1995)
- World Tour 1980 (1996)
- Live At The Greek Theatre 1979 (1997)
- One More YMO (2000)
- Euymo — Yellow Magic Orchestra Live in London + Gijon 2008 (2008)
- LONDONYMO — Yellow Magic Orchestra Live in London 15/6 08 (2008)
- Gijonymo — Yellow Magic Orchestra Live in Gijon 19/6 08 (2008)
- No Nukes 2012 (2015)
- Naughty Boys Instrumental (1983)
- Hi-tech/No Crime (Yellow Magic Orchestra Reconstructed) (1993)
- YMO Remixes Technopolis 2000-00 (2000)
Non-Album Singles and Miscellaneous Releases:
- "Kageki na Shukujo" / "See-Through" (1983)note
- YMO Versus The Human League (1993)note
- "Rescue / RYDEEN 79/07" (2007)
- "The City of Light" / "Tokyo Town Pages" (2009)
- "Good Morning, Good Night" (2009)
This band provides examples of:
- Alternate Album Cover:
- The original Japanese release of the band's self-titled debut features an album cover of a Circus cabinet and various other pieces of western upper-middle-class paraphernalia against a metallic blue backdrop, with the artwork spanning all across the LP sleeve. The remixed western release, meanwhile, features an android woman in a mock-Oriental outfit (who also appears as a mannequin in the "Computer Game/Firecracker" video) against a blue background, with a photo of the band on the back. These different covers are still simultaneously in use to differentiate between releases of the Japanese mix and releases of the US mix.
- The US release of ×∞Multiplies removes the red border around the cover image, while the European release simply redoes the border's text, repositioning the band name and album title while removing the kanji and "Yellow Magic Special" tag. For CD releases, both the Japanese and US versions use the borderless version of the album cover, making it difficult to tell them apart without looking at the tracklist on the back. The 1999 remaster would eventually restore the original cover art, border and all, for the Japanese version.
- The Japanese cassette release of Service removes the large black circle as well as the text denoting the band name and album title (which is instead listed in a generic label below the illustration), leaving behind the unedited painting of a head in profile.
- The original release of Technodelic sported cover art of three Polaroids of the individual band members in Kabuki makeup, all laid against an off-white background. The European release swapped out the cover with one featuring a stock photo of a woman in Maoist China against a red background; this cover was later incorporated into Japanese reissues, becoming standardized worldwide and consequently eclipsing the original cover in recognition. Since 2003, CD reissues include both covers on different sides of the liner notes pamphlet, allowing one to flip it around and insert it back in based on which cover they prefer. The "Polaroid" cover would eventually be reinstated as the canonical one in 2019, via the 40th anniversary remaster.
- European CDs and reissues of Technodon omit the polarized effect on the album art's text.
- The Collector's Vinyl Editions of the band's discography in 2019 feature heavily pixelated versions of the original album art, causing them to resemble indistinct masses of squares. The Standard Vinyl Editions, by comparison, use the unaltered artwork.
- Anaphora: "Be A Superman" starts with an anaphora spoken by William S. Burroughs. The lyrics sung by Yukihiro Takahashi all begin by "I don't wanna..." yet are interspersed by a female voice repeating the song's title.Be a man!
Be a human animal.
Be a superman!
Be a superman...
I don't wanna sleep now
I don't wanna wake up
I don't wanna work now
I don't wanna make love
- Animated Music Video: Technically speaking, the video for "Computer Game (Theme from the Circus) / Firecracker" is one, with the first section featuring an animated recreation of an arcade game and the second section being a more abstract collection of animations based around mock-Orientalist imagery.
- The Band Minus the Face: Averted. Although the members will frequently play YMO songs at their own concerts, they only advertise as YMO if all three core members are present. Hosono and Takahashi have also performed as a duo under the name Sketch Show; the two were even credited as such, when they appeared on some of Sakamoto's albums.
- Bilingual Bonus: Their song titles are printed in both Japanese and English, such as "東風" (Tong Poo; "East wind".) Several song titles gain more context from their Japanese names: particularly, "Loom" becomes "来たるべきもの" (Kitaru beki mono; "What should come"); and "Seoul Music" becomes "京城音楽" (Keijou ongaku) which means the same thing, but refers to Keijou, the Japanese name for Seoul when the Japanese occupied it.
- Book Ends: Their debut album opens, following a Miniscule Rocking intro, with a cover of "Firecracker" by '50s exotica artist Martin Denny. Their final album closes with a cover of "Pocketful of Rainbows" by '50s rock icon Elvis Presley (though the song itself first came out in 1960).
- Canon Immigrant: The US version of the band's first album was very quickly accepted into their back-catalog, to the point where it was the only version available on CD until 1992 (and the only version available in the US at all). Reissues still prioritize the US mix, and the band would adopt the US logo for Solid State Survivor, ×∞Multiplies, and Public Pressure. While the band themselves never gave any official word on the matter, all of the above quietly implied that the US mix is the de-facto canonical one.
- Changed for the Video: Done slightly for the music video for "Tong Poo", which in addition to using the US mix features a wind-blowing sound throughout its runtime (playing off of the song title meaning "Eastern Wind"), heavily increases the amount of reverb on the song, and has Yukihiro Takahashi's drum part come in much earlier than on either the Japanese or American versions.
- Chiptune: Trope Makers in their self-titled debut album. The first side featured the two-part piece "Computer Game", in which the band recreated classic arcade game sounds with their own synthesizers. The effect is indistinguishable from the real thing.
- Clumsy Copyright Censorship: When the band reunited in 1992, they learned that they couldn't actually call themselves Yellow Magic Orchestra due to the name being trademarked by their former label, Alfa Records. Consequently, they decided to bill themselves as... Not YMO. Represented by "YMO" crossed out by a large X. This stuck throughout the brief one-year reunion, and after spending the 2000's as Human Audio Sponge (HAS), then HASYMO, the band would eventually switch back to "Yellow Magic Orchestra" in 2009 after regaining the rights to the name.
- Comically Missing the Point: "Pure Jam" from Technodelic is about a man who is appalled by the "shapelessly square" "ugliest piece of bread [he's] ever eaten" that's "wrapped in a foil like substance". It's actually a small packet of jam, which he's told insistently by various people over the course of the song.
- Compilation Rerelease: The 2003 reissues of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Naughty Boys. Both are expanded into double-CD/double-LP packages, the former including the Japanese and American mixes and the latter including the vocal and instrumental versions. The 40th anniversary reissues would revert back to keeping the two versions of both albums separate for the most part, though Naughty Boys and Naughty Boys Instrumental would stay together as a double-disc package on the SACD release.
- Cover Version: Almost to the point of Pop-Cultural Osmosis in the case of "Firecracker" (Martin Denny) and "Pocketful of Rainbows" (Elvis Presley). There's also "Tighten Up"note (Archie Bell & The Drells) and "Day Tripper" (The Beatles). For a given definition of "cover," several of their songs are also rearranged versions of tracks from Ryuichi Sakamoto's solo career.
- Digital Destruction: The 1992 Restless Records CD reissues of the band's catalog feature noticeably poor print work with oversaturated colors, thanks to the label using cheap Xerox printers to make the CD inserts. This is most prominently illustrated by Solid State Survivor, where most of the detail is lost.
- Distinct Double Album: While YMO never put out a proper double-album in their studio discographynote , they've had a few other releases that abide by this trope.
- Both their self-titled debut and Naughty Boys came in two different versions back in the day: the former had different mixes for the Japanese and American markets, while the latter had a second instrumental version released concurrently with the original. For the band's 2003 remastering campaign, the two different versions of each album were collected as double-CD packages, one for each rendition.
- The 1984 retrospective compilation Sealed was originally released as a four-LP Boxed Set. Each of the first three discs corresponds to each of the band's three members and contains YMO songs that they wrote, while the fourth disc focuses on full-band compositions. The CD release meanwhile squeezes the album onto two discs (albeit dropping some songs due to space constraints): one for the Ryuichi Sakamoto & YMO songs and another for the Haruomi Hosono & Yukihiro Takahashi songs.
- Faker Holic, the 1991 expanded edition of the band's first live album, features one CD containing performances from London & Paris and a second CD containing performances from New York City.
- Dual-Meaning Chorus: "Is it me/Is it you/Behind this mask/I ask"
- Dragon Lady: The title character of "La Femme Chinoise", who is called "the mistress of the Orient".
- Early-Bird Cameo: The first incarnation of YMO, before they were known as YMO, was as the Yellow Magic Band on Haruomi Hosono's 1978 solo album Paraiso. The trio would first start recording under the YMO name just months after the album's release, and while Paraiso isn't officially considered part of the YMO catalog, the presence of all three members and the billing of the Yellow Magic Band as backing musicians results in the album being treated as a de-facto YMO work.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The band's first album was intended as a parody of Western Orientalism (e.g. "Firecracker", "La Femme Chinoise"). This aspect got all but disregarded on future albums.
- Fake Radio Show Album: ×∞Multiplies is depicted as a radio broadcast by Snakeman Show, with the comedy troupe providing a DJ-style intro and various radio skits interspersed between YMO's songs. The last of these skits outright takes the form of a group of DJs arguing about the state of modern music at the time of the album's 1980 release.
- Frankenslation: Since Solid State Survivor was not originally released in the US, the US version of ×∞Multiplies dispensed with the Japanese-language comedy routine tracks and padded the record out with songs from Solid State Survivor. The European version went further, by adding additional songs from their debut album. The 1992 international CD release of the album, meanwhile, is mostly based on the Japanese version, but throws in the non-album single "Kageki na Shukujo" and cuts from Naughty Boys Instrumental as bonus tracks due to both having not been part of the concurrent reissue campaign.
- Genre-Busting: The band made their own style of Synth-Pop, J-Pop, Chiptune, New Wave and lots more.
- Genre Mashup: One of the members described their music and its mix of influences as the equivalent of a Bento box.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: The lyrics in "Nanga Def" are entirely in Wolof.
- Gratuitous French: "La Femme Chinoise" and "Ballet" feature spoken-word passages in French; the rest of the lyrics are in English
- Gratuitous German: "Neue Tanz" (New Dance).
- Gratuitous Italian: "Kimi Ni Mune Kyun" has a spoken-word interlude in Italian, in an otherwise Japanese-language song.
- Gratuitous Russian: Appears at the end of "Mass".
- Greatest Hits Album: The band saw no shortage of compilations following their first dissolution, with the total number of them just barely beating out the number of actual studio albums they released. Among others...
- Sealed, released immediately after the band "spread out" in 1984, is a Distinct Quadruple Album, with each of the first three discs based around songs by each of the three band members. The fourth disc, meanwhile, is dedicated to songs that the band wrote collaboratively.
- Kyoretsu Na Rhythm was a US-oriented compilation made as a prelude to Restless Records' releases of the band's first round of remasters. The compilation later saw an expanded release in Japan the following year.
- UC YMO: Ultimate Collection of Yellow Magic Orchestra was a retrospective two-CD compilation put out in 2003 to commemorate the reissues of the 1999 remasters in Japan, Europe, and Canada. In addition to the band's best-known songs, the album also features a number of rarities, most of which were never released on CD until then.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The band indulged in this regularly with their LP releases throughout the 1980s.
- The Japanese version of ×∞Multiplies uses a front shot of the band collage on side one and a rear shot on side two.
- The Japanese releases of BGM and Technodelic denote each side as "Face ⌊•" and "Face ⌊••".
- Naughty Boys and Naughty Boys Instrumental differentiate each side with different oceanic photographs: a shot of seagulls in the sky on side one and a shot of waves on a beach on side two.
- The Japanese release of Service includes a black-on-red pattern of circles on side A and a yellow-on-blue pattern of ovals on side B.
- In the Style of:
- "Nice Age" is an audible pastiche of David Bowie, specifically the synth-driven and experimental art rock of his then-recent "Berlin Trilogy."
- "Cue" was directly inspired by Ultravox's "Passionate Reply" (the B-side to "Vienna"), and was written as an homage to the band's style.
- "Mass" is a noticeable homage to Kraftwerk, who both then and now have been frequently described as YMO's trans-Eurasian equivalent (and vice-versa).
- Japan Takes Over the World: Their first US tour was advertised as "See Japanese people play all those synthesizers they're building." Ironically, any synth anorak worth his salt can tell that the bulk of the synths they used back then were made in the US.
- Japanese Tourist: Referenced in their cover of "Tighten Up."
- Also on the cover of the "UC YMO" compilation, where the three are shown sightseeing in cartoon form.
- Lighter and Softer: Naughty Boys is this relative to the previous album, the minimalist and downbeat Technodelic.
- Long-Runners: All three members of YMO have performed almost continuously for almost 40 years, though not always with each other...
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Rap Phenomena" is a pretty badass techno-rap song about... unified field theory.
- "Taiso" is Japanese for "calisthenics", which are broadcast daily in Japan. The English lyrics refer to them earnestly (aside from the line "and before you know it, you'll be twitching!"), but the Japanese lyrics that are also sung refer to dislocation of limbs and convulsions as a result of all the stretching.
- "Behind The Mask" is an upbeat, spacey tune with lyrics about emotional isolation and depersonalization.There is nothing in your eyes
That marks where you cried
All is blank, all is blind
Dead inside, the inner mind
- "Kimi Ni Mune Kyun", on the face of it an upbeat love song, is actually about starting an affair with someone.
- New Sound Album: Pretty much every one after their debut:
- Solid State Survivor (a shift to a combination of Post-Punk/New Wave Music and Synth-Pop)
- ×∞Multiplies (becoming Genre Roulette, with an increased use of live vocals)
- BGM (solidification of their style, increasing amount of avant-garde elements, and an absence of covers of other artists' songs)
- Technodelic (introduction of samplers and more minimal arrangements, essentially BGM turned up to eleven)
- Naughty Boys (a leap into radio-friendly pop with a post-disco trimming)
- Service (a further leap to adult contemporary)
- Technodon (a shift into then contemporary genres like acid, ambient techno and world music, as they were unable to use samplers)
- By the time the 2000s came, their sound shifted more towards glitch, drawing from both Sakamoto's contemporary solo output and Hosono & Takahashi's collaborations as Sketch Show.
- The Not-Remix:
- The US version of Yellow Magic Orchestra, remixed by acclaimed audio engineer Al Schmitt, features a punchier equalization and added reverb. "Tong Poo" also has a new vocal part performed by Minako Yoshida, featuring lyrics by Chris Mosdell, "Bridge over Troubled Music" was given an additional electric piano solo during the intro, and the inter-track transitions on side two are altered. Notably, the band seems to have accepted this version of the album as the canonical one, prioritizing it over the Japanese one in most reissue campaigns.
- Early CD releases of BGM (including the 1992 Restless CD, which to this day is still the only US CD release of the album) featured a slightly altered mix on the track "Happy End", in which the metallic sound that appears in the second half of the song comes in cold rather than gradually fading in. The original LP mix of the song would not appear on CD until the 1999 remasters of the band's back-catalog, and since then it has been standard across formats.
- N-Word Privileges: The "Yellow" in "Yellow Magic Orchestra" refers to the anti-Asian slur; the incorporation of it into the ethnically Japanese band's name is thus intended to add onto their initial goal of parodying western Orientalism.
- Ode to Intoxication: "Radio Junk".
- Performance Video: Most of the band's early videos mix performance footage of the band with other material related to the subject matter of the parent albums. "Tong Poo" for instance includes footage of Centipede, Gypsy Juggler, Circus, Asteroids, and Space Invaders (the latter and Circus are parodied in the "Computer Game" tracks on the same album), as well as abstract animations drawn directly onto the film strips, while still making the band's performance the main point of focus.
- Piss-Take Rap: "Rap Phenomena" with mind screwy lyrics about unified field theory.
- Pop-Star Composer: All three members in their later careers; Sakamoto especially achieved fame in the west for his film scores, to the point where he's better-known there for his soundtrack work than for his work with YMO.
- Putting on the Reich: The band started out taking some aesthetic elements of Maoist China, complete with performing in Mao suits. Takahashi occasionally wore a Mao cap on YMO's foreign tour in 1979. The second cover of Technodelic is also a pretty clear evocation of Maoist imagery (the original cover meanwhile is more thoroughly based in kabuki theater).
- "Propaganda" is heavy on fascist imagery, including red armbands.
- Rearrange the Song:
- Some of the band's songs came from Ryuichi Sakamoto's solo catalogue and were adjusted accordingly, most notably "Thousand Knives" (originally the opener to Sakamoto's debut solo album of the same name) and "The End of Asia" (the closing track to the same album). Similarly, "Cosmic Surfin'" is a rearrangement of the closing track from Haruomi Hosono's prior solo album Pacific.
- The band has, due to their now-nebulous nature, re-arranged many of their own works as YMO, their YMO works as solo artists, and YMO songs as YMO, mainly for live performances. The "Rydeen 79/07" single — in which the raucous techno song became a lush, ambient piece with off-kilter live drums and a xylophone replacing the synth lead — was the only time they officially did it to their own work as YMO on a record.
- Re-Cut: The original CD release of After Service was in a heavily truncated formnote that cut down the 82-and-a-half minute live album to just 71 minutes (due in part to the CD format's nascent nature at the time). Alfa would later try to rectify this in 1992 with the release of Complete Service, an expanded double-CD version of the album (with mixing by Brian Eno no less) that contained even more content than the double-LP release of After Service (carrying 24 tracks compared to the previous 19 and clocking in at just under two hours), but the original 1984 double-LP configuration wouldn't see a proper double-CD release until 1998, after which it would become standard for later reissues on the format.
- Red and Black Totalitarianism: The Concert Film Propaganda features the band parodying both fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, donning black military uniforms with red shirts and armbands. A parody of the Nazi flag with silhouettes of the band in place of a swastika also prominently appears in the film's sets.
- Salaryman: During the band's performance on Soul Train, an actor dressed as one of these can be spotted in the audience.
- Self-Deprecation: The "Kimi Ni Mune Kyun" video pokes fun at how completely unlike a boy band they are and how unsuited they are to singing (what sounds like) a Silly Love Song.
- Self-Titled Album: Their debut, self-titled because it was intended as a one-off project. Little did they know how big they'd become...
- The song titles on side B of their debut album are titles from Jean-Luc Godard films.
- The line "she's coming up like a flower" in "Nice Age" is quoted from Paul McCartney's "Coming Up".
- The A&M mix of "Tighten Up (Japanese Gentlemen Stand Up Please!)" namedrops David Bowie, Elton John, Mick Jagger, and Elvis Presley as various examples of artists who "do the Tighten Up." Note that none of the artists mentioned actually covered "Tighten Up".
- The music video for "Taiso" recalls that of "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads, featuring the band members performing in suits in a White Void Room among various chroma-key backdrops.
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Computer Game (Theme from the Circus)" and "Computer Game (Theme from the Invader)", while not sequenced directly next to each other on Yellow Magic Orchestra, nonetheless exist as a conjoined pair in the sense that they both attempt to mimic the sound of playing Circus and Space Invaders in the same room at the same time, with each song being heard from the perspective of the respective arcade cabinet. Likewise, "Acrobat" (exclusive to the Japanese mix) reprises both tracks and acts as a book end for the album.
- Sixth Ranger: Longtime producer and collaborator Hideki Matsutake, who frequently performed as part of the band's live ensemble and is largely credited with "computer programming" on their albums, is usually thought of as the fourth member of YMO.
- Special Guest: Technodon has two:
- Sampling: One of the Trope Codifiers. Some sampling was used on 1980's BGM, but 1981's Technodelic, was nearly entirely created out of samples.
- Ska: Attempted an electronic version with "Multiplies."
- Spelling Song: "Technopolis" features a repeated passage where Ryuichi Sakamoto spells the song title through a vocoder.
- Spell My Name With An S: The band's debut album credited Haruomi Hosono as Harry Hosono, the anglicized version of his name that he sometimes used professionally at the time. Later releases would stick to using his Japanese name.
- Spiritual Antithesis: Ryuichi Sakamoto himself described YMO as this to Kraftwerk in hindsight, noting the disparity between Kraftwerk's statuesque image and icy sound and YMO's more dynamic, classically-inclined direction (which reviewers in their time characterized as "fun-loving and breezy") and oftentimes comedic presentation. Additionally, while YMO did shift towards a colder and more avant-garde approach (barring the J-pop duology in 1983) and Kraftwerk to a more accessible, techno-fueled direction, their approaches still retained the artistic cores of their previous material, meaning they didn't exactly become each other over time.
- Step Up to the Microphone: The two English lyricists each get a little bit of attention. Their first, Chris Mosdell, speak-sings a good portion of "Citizens of Science"; their second, Peter Barakan, can be heard on "Pure Jam" (as one of the people interjecting via walkie-talkie).
- Stylistic Suck: The video for "Kimi Ni Mune Kyun" consists of the three members of the band doing what can only be described as doing the barest minimum token effort to appear like a boy band via the medium of extremely bored dorky dad dancing.
- Surreal Music Video: "Computer Game (Theme from the Circus) / Firecracker" features a video consisting primarily of abstract animations themed around the song's mock-Oriental angle.
- Synth-Pop: Trope Codifier. There is some debate by music critics whether they or Kraftwerk are the Trope Makers.
- Textless Album Cover: Played with on Technodon. The text "SLIPPING INTO MADNESS IS GOOD FOR THE SAKE OF COMPARISON," is emblazoned on the cover, but on the original CD release it requires a polarized lens to be read, otherwise leaving it an indistinct mass of lines. The European release and later reissues across formats feature the text in an unprocessed, readable form.
- Title Confusion: "Firecracker" was the group's biggest hit in both the US and UK, but mistitled in slightly different ways in both:
- In the US, an edited version of "Firecracker" was released as a single, but somehow the details for the wrong track were listed on the center label, so it was issued was "Computer Game (Theme from the Circus)". As the error extended to the writing credits, Martin Denny went unlisted as well.
- The UK got a different edit of "Firecracker" with a 22-second extract from "Computer Game (Theme from The Invaders)" added as an intro, and this time both songs were correctly listed on the single, but somehow the "Firecracker" title still got ignored and "Computer Game" was wrongly assumed to be the title of the entire piece. Many sources (including the Official Charts Company website) continue to perpetuate this error, even 40 years later.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: Often described as a trans-Eurasian counterpart to Kraftwerk, as both of them were early pioneering Synth-Pop groups from former Axis Powers nations who achieved international success and acclaim, were at their most famous within the same period (1978-1983), and left behind a lasting legacy as major influences on Hip-Hop and later Electronic Music. Bonus points go to Kraftwerk and YMO for dabbling in parodies of authoritarianism in their public image and live performances, with Kraftwerk featuring mock-Stalinist imagery and YMO both mock-Maoist and mock-fascist imagery (note that neither band supports any of these ideologies).
- Visual Pun: The artwork for ×∞Multiplies, features a seemingly endless crowd made up of duplicates of the band, standing on a baseball field.
- Vocal Tag Team: All three members sing their own songs, which is fine since the group doesn't exactly have an outstanding lead singer.
- White Void Room: Most of the "Taiso" video is set in one.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Averted, thanks to English lyrics written by regular collaborators Chris Mosdell and Peter Barakan. The words do get pretty abstract and stream-of-consciousness (see "Music Plans" on the BGM album or "Key" on Technodelic), but they rarely degrade into total gibberish.