If i were to put the theme songs Arashi has sung for the members’ individual acting projects into groups, i guess Ohno’s would be my favorite. Except I seek, his has been the dark mysterious kind with prominent beats — Truth, Monster, Face down, Daremo shiranai — and Tsunagu is no different.
It is probably why i looked forward to this single more than the previous releases because Shinobi no Kuni looks quite epic, if comical, and certainly needs an equally strong song to close the movie. And from the teasers shown, Tsunagu fits the bill. I’m unable to watch it any time soon (i doubt it’ll be screened in my country) but i think the song matches the movie’s tone and period era.
The intro gives off a traditional country-ish vibe due to the shamisen while the long electric guitar strums provide the rock kick. The former element pulls back for most of the song’s run and leaps back to the forefront during the bridge. My favorite parts of the song. Tsunagu begins on a dark note which gets lighter until the chorus, where the strings are finally added in for dramatic effect. The melody isn’t haunting per se, albeit the rather heavy delivery. The verses are predominantly solos and a bit of duet, the vocals division is heard in the chorus’ second half and the looped “one day, one way, one time” middle 8.
Given the intense and fierce sound, i was expecting a cool PV with badass choreo, as well as thinking how awesome it’d be if Ohno choreographed the number. The accompanying music video has a simple concept, as usual, but i love the solo shots — the gorgeous CG ones and the ‘baking’ scenes. The flying sand/flour(?) effect is cool, although the making isn’t as flawless as the end result looks.
As for the choreo: yup, our leader did it! After my disappointment with his last creation in Two to tango (despite the sophisticated solo dance at the outset), i’m pleased with the sequence he came up for Tsunagu. It has his signature moves — the hand swivels, the body slithers, the light steps — and similar formations to his previous works — the circle dance break is a throwback to the half-circle one in Bittersweet, the closing-in-on-Sho’s pattern is also present in Two to tango. The other sections are pretty lowkey, but Ohno deliberately aimed to compose not too detailed or tight yet still impactful steps, so i guess it’s a mission accomplished?
‘Cause there’s some memorable moves like the ninja signals, show-your-bodyline pose on the final “kienaide love” (which i misheard as kienaide line, heh), and Juntoshi-coming-from-behind-Sho part (which is *-*). Not to mention Ohno’s ninja-style hand signs during the intro, which effectively made me forget about the “Hey! Are you ready~” shout that turns out to be Sho’s doing. It’s cute that he felt the need to clarify it in case anyone was curious to know what/who it was. Hee.
Onto the B-sides. As usual, LE has one (Oki ni mesu mama) while RE has a couple more (Reach for the sky ~ten made todoke~, Dakishimetai, Under the radar).
The season is transitioning to the warmer weather, so the coupling tracks are following suit, offering summery tunes. Oki ni mesu mama is the closest pick. The intro though; so retro it sounds like a radio show opening jingle or ads a couple decades ago. The more when the chorus is sung in falsetto. This keyboard-driven piece has a sunny composition and Drive-like feel to it. The verses are quite laidback, ending on one-liners like oh my gaawd~!*, which is amusing (and of course uttered by Jun). The rhythm gets bouncier from the pre-chorus and got me into the groove by the time the chorus rolls in again. Oki ni mesu mama is a happy and nice bop the more i listen to it.
*) other interesting lines are “God bless you” and “Goddess kimi!?”
Reach for the sky ~ten made todoke~ is used as the commercial background song for JAL, which is also the most familiar sounding track in the single. I keep saying that certain beat/melody sounds familiar or this song reminds me of that song, and while there’s nothing wrong with Reach for the sky being built around Arashi’s signature sound, the chorus in particular is almost a rehash of Bittersweet i guess no fan could miss the similarities. Problem is, the melody between the chorus and the rest of the song feels disjointed, the tempo is all over the place, and as a whole rather forgettable.
Dakishimetai is another vintage number, which according to Ohno resembles ONLY LOVE from 2003 How’s it going. It’s a chill song, a great company as you sunbathe under the sun. The tempo keeps dropping as we go down the tracklist, and Under the radar jolts you back to attention. If the previous B-sides are for lounging around, Under the radar can easily make it to your workout playlist. The fastest track with tightest, slightly synthesized, beats, it gets the adrenaline pumping from the first beat, only slowing down a bit right before the final chorus, before the gripping tune rushes back in and hits you with Sho’s ad-libs. Damn, how i love his vocals here.
It took days for me to get used to the B-sides. While there’s tracks i love and skip in the group’s repertoire, i wasn’t feeling any of Tsunagu’s (which hasn’t happened since Meikyuu Love Song back in 2011) that i barely listened to it, if not for this post. Under the radar has been the okayest track, and now that i have the single playing in the background as i’m writing this, Oki ni mesu mama is actually the catchiest.
The title track remains my top pick despite thinking it lacks the extra kick as a single. I like it but i don’t LOVE it. I don’t know, i think Arashi’s recent singles have been on the safe side, that even for a charged song like Tsunagu, it’s a hair shy away from going all-out with the production to make it a heady number, pulling back in the last moment to tone it down a bit. The chorus, for instance, has this upward trajectory which dips down in the last few notes, making it anticlimactic when it could end on the high note. *shrug*
Lastly, the jacket covers. Not a fan of the outfits, stance, or the expressions, but i’m digging the starry sky background and the way the writing for “tsunagu” is connected. Which, duh.