My initial reaction upon learning that the upcoming album is titled LOVE was “huh? ;-/”
Well, maybe 99% of all songs composed in world talk one thing or another about love; it isn’t too big of a deal, yet… idk, ‘love’ seems too broad, generic, and a bit humdrum. Nevertheless, I initially thought ‘Popcorn’ was cheesy – which then turned out to be (one of) my favorite album(s) – so prove me wrong again, Arashi!
Out of 16 tracks included in the record, only two of which are pre-released singles — three in total since Calling/Breathless is double A-side. Which got me thinking, why so few? given that the last three years, four~five singles are included in each album. It might be because they’re so busy with individual projects/group activities outside releasing singles. It’s also worth noting that this twelfth studio album comes from thirty-year-olds Arashi. How much that milestone affects the oeuvre, I wonder…
In terms of production, the teaser of P.A.R.A.D.O.X got me wary. That sounds so unlike Arashi I was afraid the direction would mirror that of Beautiful World, whose overall sound wasn’t my cup of tea. I am however happy to announce that LOVE is filled with familiar tunes. Even when a track does sound a bit out of the box, few bars of melody I-swear-I’ve-heard-before-in-either-Arashi’s-songs-or-concerts are incorporated into the song. Like that instruments section in CONFUSION’s bridge.
If Popcorn was opened and closed with super jaunty songs, LOVE throws in typical Arashi’s ballads. So banal yet never fails to enchant me. Ai wo utauo is the grandiose kind, replete with orchestra-esque accompaniment and backed by choir from mid-song onwards. And who’d expect there’s rap part here? The longest Sakurap I’ve heard perhaps since Movin’ on or Sora takaku, for good measure. Wasn’t impressed by it upon first listen but when its part is in echo towards the end, boy it is epic. Tell me it ain’t sweepingly chills-inducing. Tears, on the other hand, is more swingy it lets you have Arashi sing you to sleep. It isn’t that slow yet is subdued enough to serve as a good dose of sleeping pill. Whilst its pleasing melody reminds me of that of Sirius.
Upping the beat a notch, we have Sayonara no ato de. The quintessential coupling song in my book. With such tempo and tone, it gives off a youthful pensive feeling that should a video be made for this, the image that comes to mind is something similar to Everything’s PV – long shots in the open, gazing away into the horizon, lost in thought. Besides imaginary PV, its chorus in particular also a reminiscent of Everything.
Counting out the solos, that’s all of the slower songs in the album. The rest is either dark or dance tracks. Three pre-released songs namely Calling, Breathless, and Endless game make up for the first category – still love ‘em to date! – while the other five fall under the second category. Let’s start off with the one that’s gonna be performed at Music Station this Friday, P.A.R.A.D.O.X.
Excited?? I am. Partly because I’m agog to see the touted “sexy na Arashi” full dance routine choreographed by famous American choreographer. As if Arashi has never performed sexy dance before (Shake it! anyone?). Tbh, based on what’s shown in the full PV, the dance steps in the chorus are quite risible, but I’ll hold my horses till the live performance; let’s see what he brings to the table.
The song itself is alluring once you get past how foreign it sounds. I was this close to calling it the Arashi song with a PV that I dislike in a very long time… yet, when lined up against other uptempo songs, it is actually the better one. I like the ‘ethnic’ rhythm and solo lines/the verses — Aiba opens the song! — not so much of the shrill notes, or abrupt transition from the bridge. Like Intergalactic, it takes a while to warm up to it before it’ll inevitably grow on you.
Then there are fluffy, pumped tracks aptly sung as concert’s openers or during encore. The verses of CONFUSION and all parts of Rock tonight, that is. It’d be downright lively when the latter’s sung in the upcoming concert tour; the man-boys would be frenzied, us putting our hands high up in the air to the stomping beat, jumping through and through. It got nice hook (“Make it make it make it make it loud loud loud loud…”
which I gloriously misheard as ‘love’). Then comes the lalalalalalalala~ part during which i was so ready to shout one! two! three! four! before they shift back to the final chorus. Oh, what it sounds like? Sakura sake.
You might’ve noticed by now that I allude to a bunch of older songs here. It wasn’t intentional but the album really evokes nostalgic, at times retro, feeling as I’m looping it. Amongst those with retro vibe in it are Ohno’s-Sho’s solos, Starlight kiss and FUNKY. The last two are soo disco/party-appropriate. FUNKY hooks me from the get-go, it’s hands down my favorite track here — you can’t not shake your body to the beat. Look forward to it being performed in the concert the most.
With this, let me close this lengthy post with the members’ solos. I’ve heard enough of their previous solos to notice how each member has distinct style, preference, or tried-and-true formula. So so-and-so that i could guess (correctly) whose solo it is within seconds of the prelude: Ohno– soulful, power (semi-)ballads; Sho– pop/hip hop/anything with rap lines mixed in; Aiba– peppy, feel-good themes; Nino– simple, lighthearted tunes with sentimental lyrics; Jun– quirky selections. XD
Hit the floor: Nobody would counter Ohno as the strongest vocalist in the group; that said, the sound produced for any group songs is nowhere near the quality heard in his solos. As if he channels his vocal cords 150% and manages to bring his delish vocal to a higher level still. It’s good not to hear yet another vapid number which regardless of the tempo can always be performed with intricate yet flawless dance moves. It’s better than last year’s Two by a mile, but i guess i still like Hung up on better. I disfavor the autotuned parts though; Ohno’s voice needs no enhancement whatsoever!
sugar and salt: I’m not familiar with Sho’s older solos, meaning the ones sung in his early to mid 20’s, but i feel like he goes back to his roots with this song. It’s one of the solos whose rapping is incorporated into the song well — it does sound like it is part and parcel of the song. Not as dynamic as Hip pop boogie or as ‘dirty’ as T.A.B.O.O, but it brings out the best of his mid to low register, the range befits his vocal best.
20825nichi me no kyoku: I thought nothing can top Niji, then Nino penned Sore wa yappari kimi deshita. So if you like (let me copy the title here) 1992*4##111, eat this up; the arrangement and feel is alike. Trust our brat to come up with straightforward titles. This song, dedicated to his mom, affirms that he’s a big ol’ softie (inside) despite his snarky exterior. The melody is rather lackluster, i wish it’d be more dramatic (seconded by Nino himself), but it’s the thought that counts… ‘nuf said.
Yozora e no tegami: I looove Aiba’s breezy voice, the it factor which enables me to enjoy his solos more that i thought i would. This one is no exception. It has such a pretty melody delivered with wistful tone though i sense a hint of hopefulness. Aiba’s voice is a bit thin to reach the higher notes, but nicely complements the song. Like how he sang Namida no nagareboshi with a guitar in hand, Yozora e no tegami could very well be performed in similar fashion. Love love love this song/solo.
Dance in the dark: The jazzy feel reminds me of IU’s Red shoes. “Doo doo wap doo doo wap” vs. “Ooma loompa doom dubi duba doom”. Such song gives him lots of room to put on a show (live), but I am simply happy to note this as Jun’s better solos. Still ain’t to my liking, but i could at least bear listening to it throughout the minutes, and that says a lot.
A totally random burning question: anybody knows why Japanese artists tend to release single/album on Wednesdays? Is it a magic day or something?