A month after the first reveal/performance of I’ll be there, my opinions still stand. I barely has anything else to add to that, and given how it remains on my ‘like’ status since then, i don’t think it’ll make it to my ‘love’ status. Not a bad thing by all means, but it probably won’t stay in my playlist as long as Arashi’s previous singles or even its B-sides.
Upon first listen, the title track is an obvious standout with its theatrical composition and surging arrangement. I said it runs rather flat, but compared to the coupling tracks, it certainly has the biggest chorus and richest production. The other three songs are cooler and more subdued which create a counter-effect for I’ll be there; the swing jazz piece ended up sounding really loud and rowdy.
In the full 4-minute-10-second track, the transitions remain seamless and the vocals powerfully on point. We get another round of solo lines in the second verse, just with different order. I thought the parts distribution for the first verse is perfect, but we barely heard Jun’s voice in there, so it’s nice to have him open the second verse. I like both lineups, although Aiba’s voice goes too thin in the second pre-chorus against the crescendoing instruments.
As usual, the 51th single is sold in two editions: limited and regular. The former comes with one coupling and the PV plus Making of footage, the latter is packaged with two additional tracks, one of which has Sakurap in it.
As the only LE’s coupling, i expected Round and Round to offer an opposite sound to I’ll be there. It’s a midtempo jam that’s a lot calmer than the title track but also the chirpiest B-side. The various background cheers (whooo, hey!, yeah yeah yeah~) alone already inject a fun feeling, but together with the other bouncy elements, everything molds into an irresistible head-bop. Not the group’s jauntiest tune since the verses are rather dark, yet a jolly dance number nonetheless. I’m digging the dulled ‘We will rock you’-esque beat and totally didn’t expect a beat drop and a tonal change between the pre-chorus and chorus. I was confused at first, but the more i looped it, the more it grew on me. I’m also loving the layered vocals and distinct harmonies. Melody-wise, i thought a Sakurap would fit in the middle eight.
But Mr. Sakurai lends his deep throaty rapping in Unknown instead. Let’s discuss the title first, shall we? What’s with that? When i first read the tracklist, i seriously thought the title has yet to be decided, but no — “unknown” IS the title. I’m not sure if it falls under electronic music, because although the beats are synthesized and the loops dizzying, it feels more like a sleek R&B song. I’m not too fond of the speak-sung verses either, but the vocals are delish. Nino’s low range is my new favorite thing, Aiba sounds ethereal, Ohno…he just hardly disappoints. I also like Jun’s voice a lot better in his lower range, but even as he hits the mid-high notes, it doesn’t come off too nasally. Lastly, the resident rapper. His raps are pretty much a hit-and-miss, and this one’s another miss for me. Everyone is gushing about it but i just can’t enjoy it. It’s too low and rough, and the rhythm ain’t my cup of tea too.
In their round-table talk of the I’ll be There, Aiba and Sho pointed how atypical these songs are, but the moment Treasure of life starts playing, it immediately invalidates the argument. While i don’t think the couplings in this single are that fresh, this particular one is Arashi’s signature sound through and through. Packed with soaring music, uplifting lyrics, and gentle delivery, you can easily picture a rainbow appearing on the horizon as you listen through it. Its melody may not be that memorable given the number of such songs under their repertoire, but it’s non-ballad nature definitely makes it tuneful and loopable. Especially with those vocals.
The best part about this single is possibly the members’ vocal quality. I’ve likened their voices to fine wine before yet still found myself pleasantly surprised at how good they sound individually and together, with every new release. Among the five, i felt like ShoJun’s singing doesn’t improve that much; however, Jun’s more rounded and less nasally delivery in the last few years pleases my ears greatly. As for Sho, i barely have issues with his rapping voice, though his singing can fall a bit flat. Therefore, i’m happy to note the range of emotions he’s conveying in recent years. And theirs are the highlights of Treasure of life — their back-to-back lines at the outset and then the bridge. Especially when Jun is in charge of the belting…
…before Ohno or Nino follows it up with subdued high notes. I said ‘or’ here since i cannot discern whose voice it is. The beginning sounds like Nino but the end sounds like Ohno. Likewise, i’m also unsure who belts “higher~!” in the final chorus of I’ll be there. I mean, if Ohmiya themselves are confused (and may need to consult the recording team), can we be 100% sure with our guesses?
Next: the covers and PV. I feel like skipping dissecting them since they’re not really noteworthy, despite being on the ‘good’ side. The jacket covers are pretty much identical, just taken from a different angle. It’s Kaze framed by Yama. Except for the stiff standing pose and sullen expression, i actually like it — the giant frame, set, outfits, earthy colors, font…
This noblemen concept/theme is also used in the PV, though it reminds me of Face Down — the suit-up version. Both videos use classic sofas as props and offset the smoldering sofa scenes with lighthearted freestyle moments. Here we get the latter in the form of photographers-models photoshoots, wherein each member acts out both roles. See the top image for some of their goofy poses. The outtakes included in the Making of are even more fun, especially during Nino’s turn. This guy sure is creative with the posing! Haha. This aspect alone adds energy to the filming and makes the Making of less boring to watch. Besides, it’s nice to see Arashi doing their own thing: Aiba and his Kizoku Tantei script, Sho and his stack of newspapers, Jun and his ‘precious’ laptop, Nino and his game, Ohno and his…randomness? Though the main takeout from this footage is probably the smartphone model each of them is currently using. LOL.
Apart from the color palette that’s too monochrome or sepia, the overall production quality looks good. The single as a whole gets a thumbs up from me too. There isn’t any song that i dislike, which is always a plus point, though i once again am drawn to the B-sides more than the title track.