“One for all and all for you.”
Ten full months since the first listen back in November, BRAVE officially hit the stores.
This is probably the longest we ever waited for a new single to drop — or for a new song, even. A lot of things happened in the intervening times so the waiting time didn’t feel that long. It’s also released ahead of the Rugby World Cup it’s used as the image song for, ’cause if it were following PawaPara‘s schedule, it could’ve been pushed back a couple more months.
I however wasn’t too excited about this release. First off, the one-year gap has naturally dampened my fondness for the song. Secondly, two live performances tell me what the song and choreo sounds and looks like, respectively, that my curiosity level was on the low side. Thirdly, the absence of b-sides (similar to To be free in 2010) means there was nothing ‘new’ to look forward to. Fourthly, the jacket covers aren’t my cup of tea; the black-gold outfits are quite nice, but the black/pink background with the huge block letter of the title looks tacky, honestly.
The title and covers’ color combination may have something to do with the rugby world, since the nickname for Japan’s national rugby team is Brave Blossoms. It’s just my assumption, though it could explain “Brave” as the title and sakura’s pink in the covers.
And they do make up for the lack of content with novel features. BRAVE is sold in three editions, one of the LEs giving us Blu-ray quality of the PV and Making of. The total length of the footage is 54 minutes, which turns out consisting of 1 group PV, 5 ‘hidden’ individual ones, and the usual 20-minute-ish Making of. Not to mention the code allowing FC members to ballot for the Special Shooting of 5×20 concert held on an additional day at Tokyo Dome on 23 December 2019 which will feature 100 cameras plus drones. Now this makes me excited and curious because it sounds so fancy and hi-tech, but i guess only those who win the ballot will know since sharing any info about it on social media, blog, etc is strictly prohibited…
If anything, this strategy proves effective in boosting the single-track single’s sales to reach 667,000 copies in the opening week, making it Arashi’s highest first-week sales since I seek/Daylight in 2016 as well as their 46th consecutive no.1 single since Pikanchi Double in 2004.
That being said, i’m happy to finally hear the full version of Brave and get the clean, HQ audio track of that, even if i may have gotten used to the abridged version. I’ve broken down my thoughts on the song then, so i won’t repeat them here. All in all, the composition stays the same in the second verse to chorus with small tweaks like the lack of extension going to the chorus and skipping the post-chorus hook to enter the bridge. The Sakurap is not foreign as Sho doesn’t alter the pitch or tone during live performances. The solo vocals in the second verse are on point, i especially relish in Aiba’s gruff as his “we’re the one” line dips into the lower register. I really like the second chorus too, maybe even more than the first chorus as the lyrics roll off the tongue more easily.
The instrumental track highlights screech grungy guitars dominating the track, which can be overwhelming on its own that the poppy chorus actually offsets some of the harshness. It also reveals a short shamisen part in the first half of the bridge, which i wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
PV-wise, there’s really nothing to write home about. It’s classic Arashi’s music video with simple dome-shaped set and individual shots. It’s kinda Your eyes meets Tsunagu, only way too dark for my liking. Is rugby such a somber sport? I probably had my hopes too high for this Blu-ray release that the end result disappointed me so, when i don’t think most of their PVs are that noteworthy to have a Blu-ray treatment. (I totally wished 5×20 were in Blu-ray though.) However, the aesthetic of the solo shots is indeed pretty, especially Aiba’s walking-into-the-mist sequence.
Another letdown is the choreo. I really liked Best Artist’s version, but for whatever reason, they stuck with The Music Day’s modifications instead. (Throwback to Fukkatsu Love, where i preferred the PV’s choreo much better to the live version.) The updated routine is too simple, while giving room for better more stable singing, and too empty despite the pumping beats, especially during the guitar-riff break. The solo dance is a weird choice, especially since the other three, or four, are just walking back slowly. It doesn’t help that Ohno toned down his dancing that even Jun complained about it at the round-table talk, or that the moves ain’t memorable. The lackluster choreo definitely lends to my not enjoying The Music Day then Shiyagare’s stages as much as Best Artist’s.
The second chorus’ is much better as they match the rhythm and the flow of the song; on the flip side, i doubt they’ll ever perform it live.
There are some interesting moments in the Making of, such as Jun’s fixation on “i do what i wanna do” line like he did with Zero-G’s “so tell me what you want” and Take off!!!!!’s “are you ready? Everybody~” (Nino: “He likes English.”) or the fact that Sho actually had an undercut during filming (!!) yet somebody wasn’t brave enough to let it show. Which i think is a huge missed opportunity, given how Brave keeps being promoted as manly macho song, because who doesn’t think undercut Sakurai is hot?
But yeah, that’s not to say i wasn’t pleased with this single; it just left some to be desired. Having one music release is better than having none at all, as this is the second year we’ll go without new studio album from them. And my perspective about BRAVE has changed since last year: from could-be the fourth single of 2018 to the first and maybe the only single of 2019, which could also be the last few singles from group before they go on hiatus.
My only wish is for BRAVE not to be their last.