Posted in Music, Review

To my homies: Are You ready to be Happy?

It’s official: Don’t you get it is Arashi’s crack PV. As well as Making-of. It’s their best in recent years, if not ever.

Forget my recurring wish for them to shoot another storylined clip; this kind of freewheeling concept is beyond enough to make me overjoyed and turn me into a grinning fool throughout the entire 36 minutes and 20 seconds Limited Edition’s video. The end product may seem immature for a male group in their mid-30s; however, those ditzy dynamics are what i love the most about these dorks, and when that’s what we get from start to finish, i can’t find a flaw in it.


Oh well, i do have a niggling or two about it still, but overall it’s everything i’ve wanted in an Arashi’s PV: something worth rewatching for the umpteenth times. Combining the good things of their previous oeuvres (We can make it!’s style, Kitto daijoubu’s direction, Wild at heart’s verve, Troublemaker’s randomness), the result feels fresh even if the idea isn’t. Simply put, Don’t you get it PV is Happiness 2.0, only wackier. The older they get, the sillier they become. Didn’t think that’s even possible, but no complaints! 😂

While it’s only recently since the last guest appearance in their music video, it’s been ages since there’s a she between them, although the more prominent guest is Jintan the idgaf dog. Haha. Till now i still don’t get their purpose; it’s obvious that all five members of Arashi are trying to catch her attention yet somehow held back by their communal pet, but the plot is quite haphazard sans cohesive resolution. So the man-boys are too caught up fooling around with one another they completely forget about the lady, and in the end Jintan stops playing cool and going after the female dog? I wonder if Jintan’s unresponsiveness was intentional though; him ignoring everyone and everything certainly made for pretty hilarious cuts, but that also called for several forced tugs and triggered flees.

In retrospect, last week’s Music Station performance truly was the manifestation of the PV — Ohno was unusually high, Jun was tapping into his inner dork — whereas the Making-of is a pure extension of the PV. Sure, there are behind-the-scenes stuff, but since nearly every happening was impromptu, the Making-of looks like a collection of raw footage of the filming, including those that didn’t make it to the final cut. Which means extra doses of goofiness and ludicrousness, as well as Sho laughing at Ohno’s faces and Ohmiya’s antics (besides looking incredibly fine <3). Oh, i said the choreo was 50% hip work, didn’t i? I stand corrected — it’s probably around 80%, guys!

It’s a thoroughly fun Making-of even with minimal talking. I wish they included BTS of the jacket cover or booklet photo shoots as well.

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Lead song and Pre-released singles

Now that i’ve listened to Are You Happy?, i get why Don’t you get it is selected as the promotional song, albeit placed as the last track of the LE. It’s the album’s ultimate peppy number, alongside I seek. Although not the group’s jauntiest tune, it pumps you up with heady composition and electrifying vocals. The transitions are seamless, each verse and chorus is arranged with slight variety that it sounds far from repetitive. Energy is set on a high level since the first note and it never lets up till the last beat, even during the dance break interlude or “don’t you worry” coda. It could benefit from having a dedicated rap section, but two one-line raps in the chorus sort of compensate for it.

Counting RE’s bonus track, there are a total of 17 tracks in the fivesome’s 15th studio album, consisting of 4 previously released singles, 5 solos, and 8 new songs (5 of which are personally selected and supervised by the members). Speaking of the singles, i for once thought all of them fit the record’s theme very well: Ai wo sakebe is an endearing ode to any bride; Fukkatsu LOVE is melancholically heartwarming; I seek is delightfully cheeky; Daylight is still giving me all the feels.


Solos and Member-produced songs

Are You Happy? sets off with DRIVE, which true to its name lends itself to a great road trip song. A chill tune that totally makes you want to go on “the best drive all night” to the outskirts of town in an open car, one hand out of the window catching the wind. I frankly didn’t expect such a breezy track from Jun, given his penchant for offbeat production. But then he also dishes out an equally laid-back number for his solo. Baby blue offers a sweet summery tune, his most easy listening solo. It’s non-offensive, which also means quite plain and stripped-down for his league. Not in a bad way, though.

Seishun boogie is an oddball, much like its producer, Aiba. It has a queer intro, catchy refrain, and crazily-fast lines before the final chorus. “Haa, mou ikkai!” What a way to command your attention! I’m simply fascinated by their unison delivery despite the speed. While a danceable rhythm, the instruments conjure up a skit setting in my head, especially during the festive taiko drum break. The distinct retro style also brings to mind the likes of Masquerade, which makes it a misplaced pick — Seishun boogie should’ve really belonged to Japonism.

But of course it matches the frothiness of his solo, Amore. The solemn beginning misleads us to think it’s a romantic ballad when Aiba chooses yet another over-the-top piece for thrice in a row now. Upping the tempo further, Amore houses head-bopping beats, sing-along hook, and earworm chorus — a jolly jam that’s so Aiba, bawdy lyrics notwithstanding.

“Agattenno? Moriagattenno?
Amore, Amigo, Saa odori odore
Agattenno? Moriagattenno?
Amore, Amigo, Aishiatte ikouze, baby!”

Another misunderstanding surfaces around Nino’s solo, Mata kyou to onaji asu ga kuru. I am one of many who assumed he wrote it primarily due to the fact that his name was credited as the first (of two) lyricist, when in fact he simply fine-tuned some sentences and nuances. The clarification didn’t affect how i view the song, but ain’t it commendable of him to not take credit for other’s work? That it doesn’t conform to the happy theme was tipped off before, and its plaintive and vulnerable undertone is perceivable through his rather strained singing despite the song’s non-ballad nature. The brat claimed to have the song arranged in a way to be a danceable solo, and i wonder how he’s gonna accomplish it since it isn’t a dance number per se. I’m not even sure what to say since the composition and tempo are kinda all over the place. There are quiet and loud moments, drawled and rapid-fire delivery, mysterious and lively rhythm, hints of dubstep in the chorus…

WONDER-LOVE isn’t too far off in terms of vibe and complexity. It’s an EDM which is also arranged with interesting instrumentation and varying mood. The beginning up to the pre-chorus are upbeat, but then the beat drops and it turns dreamy for the refrain… err, Nino?

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The ray of sunshine, however, is presented by the resident rapper. His solo, Sunshine, is a mixture of Fly on Friday and Summer splash!, the more mellifluous version, that is. It’s a nice follow-up from Hey yeah!, a feel-good jam bursting with positivity that shall buoy the listeners up, the perfect little boost to the start of your day. “Koko kara hajimeyou~ Good morning, everyone~” I feel this song type brings out the best of his vocal. Win/Win.

“Good day, it’s up to you, konna fuu ni aruiteku
Good day, it’s up to you, aozora no mukou e
Good day, it’s up to you, zutto zutto aruiteku
Good day, it’s up to you, yeah~”

Similar quality is found in the song Sho produced and wrote the rap lyrics for, To my homies. If he greeted us a la plane captain in Take off !!!!!, here he gets more personal and calls us: “Hey, what’s up? Are you there? How’s life? *chuckle* Just wondering how’s everything going.” Gyahh~~ He got me right then and there. Am i the only one who finds it not cringey at all? He sounds sincere! That aside, To my homies essentially is the group version of Hey yeah!, which is possibly what he was referring to in Pawapara‘s secret talk wherein he asked whether his groupmates prefer rap-rap or melodic-rap. The opinions were divided then, and To my homies turns out unlike their previous group rap songs in that it is pretty much a casual melodious rap song. And i gotta say i really adore Nino’s rapping voice.

Next, we have Ohno self-proclaiming himself as a Bad boy in a full-on techno fashion. It’s a club banger for sure, but halfway through the first listen i couldn’t help laughing at its absurdity. I mean, Ohno is the farthest thing from a bad boy, so when he sings nothing but “I’m a berry butt bad boi” for the chorus, i just can’t take his word for it. (His English pronunciation is so epic that at some point i completely misheard it as “papoi”. Heh.) As a result, i dare not hang my hope too high for a sinful concert performance — it’s Ohno we’re talking about, after all.

Well, i didn’t hate it. I could finish listening to it till the end, but Ohno and autotune isn’t a combination i appreciate. His voice is barely recognizable during the heavily robotic parts. To be fair, the bridge is rousing and his high notes are awesome, alas it does little to elevate its position in my solo ranking. His drops from the top of my list last year all the way to the bottom this year.

Therefore, i couldn’t be happier to hear that Miles away is literally miles away from Bad boy. Music-wise, it’s the most straightforward in Are You Happy?, the kind which reminds you of western pop-rock from a couple decades ago. Regardless, it’s a beautiful song with lovely solo parts and amazing harmonies like nothing you’ve heard before in their repertoire. Everyone’s voice sound so velvety i can only swoon at the goodness. What’s better, Ohno took charge in deciding who sings what, and thanks to his experiments, we get to hear Aiba and Sho’s falsettos, which are so rare it’s hard to discern their tones. A true gem!

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Wrapping up

Tonally, Ups and downs isn’t that different from DRIVE, only equipped with stronger beats and tighter rhythm. Lyrically, it’s inked with Arashi’s signature uplifting messages, this time to keep pushing through the ups and downs of life (good or bad, it’s my life / sour or sweet, it’s your life), to not give up despite countless tries and tears, cuz “the path from tears to joy is a one-way road”.

TWO TO TANGO is listed as a bonus track, and i get why — it sounds unlike the other tracks, which melodically fall under light and warm territory. Drum-driven TWO TO TANGO, on the other hand, is much darker in tone it’s jarring to put it alongside the rest. A haunting piece with head-scratching transitions. Aiba’s brief rap comes as a surprise, but it goes as fast as it comes. The Sakurap though! It’s devilishly fierce and badass — easily my favorite part of the song.

Even though i only mentioned Seishun boogie as the one with retro sound, i did get the vibe from other songs as well. Is it the trend to go with more vintage elements nowadays? As usual, some melodies also ring familiar. Don’t you get it gives a nod to Uptown funk, the foot-tapping outro in Mata kyou to onaji asu ga kuru sounds like a Perfume tune, Bad boy could pass off as a BIGBANG — or G-Dragon — single, and i swear f(x) had a song like WONDER-LOVE, to name a few.

That said, as promised, Are You Happy? provides a wide range of feel-good music selections for its listeners. It may not be my favorite Arashi album, but i do love several songs to bits. Having To my homies after Miles away is such a bliss! What’s missing is a dedicated ballad (Daylight and Miles away are the closest picks though i won’t list them under it), so those who aren’t into ballads shall be pleased.

Are you happy?




I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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