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  • ☂「CHAIN」Review

    Mar 2 2012, 19:47


    - CHAIN REVIEW -


    1. LOCK ON
    I’d already listened to this track 800 times prior to my copy of the album even showing up. Oops? I guess it goes without saying that this song is amazing. They all sound their best here but I believe the star is Maru (中丸雄一). Without him I don’t thing it could have been carried off quite as well. Also, it definitely should have been a single. To top it off the PV is the best in a while.


    2. ONE DAY
    Superb opening, T-UN are killing me with how perfect they sound and the chorus is fun, upbeat and has a general good feel to it. The “YOU, YOU, YOU” makes me smile each time I hear it. :3


    3. BIRTH
    Single 1 of 5: I wasn’t too keen on this the first time I heard it. I liked it but I didn’t find it particularly amazing – probably because of the quality of the earliest previews. Even so, I didn’t really start to like it until after a couple episodes of Yokai Ningen Bemu. Now I adore it! In terms of marketing, BIRTH was a sensible single choice; however, I very much prefer the B-side, STAR RIDER, to the title track. However, I don’t think STAR RIDER would have fit very well in BIRTH’s place on this album.


    4. ULTIMATE WHEELS
    Single 2 of 5: This song is perfection – I’ve lured so many people into the world of JE & KAT-TUN by sharing this song with them! Everyone sounds their best here, the lines are split fairly evenly and they’ve even managed to follow the typical pop formula without creating a bubblegum track that will be forgotten by 2014. Although, even now – a year on since the initial release – I still don’t feel the title fits. I understand the symbolism of the wheel, and that the song was being used to promote Suzuki's SOLIO, but it’s still somewhat silly. Was it a good single choice? Definitely.


    5. FINALE
    Well, fuck. Really, that’s all my mind could process on the first listen. The chorus sounds amazing and the rap completely sells this song. JUNNO (田口淳之介), SING LIKE THIS MORE OFTEN. PLEASE.


    6. STEP BY STEP
    I’ve loved this song since Maru first performed it. I think this is the type of the song he has been needing – something that really stands out. Answer and FILM both displayed his vocal talents well but what he has needed is something faster that grabs the listener’s attention, to make them sit up and pay attention, rather than something that just sounds pretty. He needs more appreciation.


    7. RUN FOR YOU
    Single 3 of 5: I’ve listened to this track more times than I’ve listened to any other KT song – and I’ve been a fan of them since Queen of Pirates (2008). It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s catchy, it’s strong, it has meaning – it’s KAT-TUN. This style suits them and they would have been stupid not to release it as a single.


    8. あの日のように
    From the very first note I had a good feeling about this song. Post-intro, this song is very 90s. I’m a complete sucker for 90s boy bands and hearing KT sing music like this totally knocks me out. Dear Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC – I believe you’ve just been beaten at your own game. The last minute of this song had the potential to go so wrong with so much happening at once – but the result is fantastic.


    9. ずっと
    Is that a heartbeat? Damn, Kame (亀梨和也) hasn't even opened his mouth yet and I’ve already been absorbed. But then he does and I’m not sure what to think. When I realised he was singing yet another ballad I was disappointed – he’s not as good with the high notes as he used to be. His voice is much coarser now than it was when he sung someday for somebody. I’m not a big fan of 愛しているから or SWEET, so I didn't have my hopes too high. But the start is absolutely incredible! However, the latter half of the song is not enticing me as much – and that note at 2:25 is disastrous. The lyrics are pretty but in a way it’s a little dull. I feel like this is the type of song that should be listened to alone on a quiet evening with a glass of rosé wine.


    10. SMILE FOR YOU
    On the first listen I wasn’t sure if this song was as amazing as it seemed or if it was just the contrast with Kame's solo that made it stand out. After listening to it again, I’ve decided that it has the same quality even when listened to alone. However, I don’t think it’s the best – that long “you~” in the chorus feels unnecessary. Also, the title makes me think of Arashi – not KT. But it’s cute and happy and I like it.


    11. 儚い指先
    I think this is my favourite group song! Holy~ this is so cute it’s hilarious. “YOU JUST TALKED TO ME” – this had me in stitches and I was scolded for “fangirling out loud”. Are they twelve again? But, in honesty, it doesn’t seem to fit KT’s image, does it? Sans Ueda’s (上田竜也) current naughty schoolboy hairstyle, that is. I love this so much but wouldn't the lyrics have better suited a younger group like Sexy Zone?


    12. ~again
    As with Kame, I wasn’t sure whether or not to get excited about this song when I first heard the title. I thought it would be slower – but this is gorgeous. He has such a soft, sweet voice and this type of song perfectly suits it. He nailed it again.


    13. CHANGE UR WORLD
    Single 4 of 5: Every time I listen to this song I love it more and more – but I’ve already listened to it over 1,800 times. This song is exciting and I love the lyrics. This was a fantastic comeback after the confirmation of Akanishi’s departure: this is the song that showed the fans that KAT-TUN is more than capable of holding their own as five. And, if I’m being honest, after seeing what they can do without him I don’t miss his presence in the group.


    14. DANGEROUS CAT ~MAKE ME WET~
    Is that a dog barking? Fuck Akanishi and Yamashita; JOHNNY – you’ve a potential international star here! Okay, if this did happen Koki (田中聖) would probably be a one-hit wonder. But this is the type of music I can see fans of current American/British pop music listening to. The first thirty seconds are silly but after that I can really get into it. And, of course, the lyrics are funny. Like its predecessor, I imagine this being accompanied by a pseudo-sexy and epically cringe-worthy performance. DVD please?


    15. 歩道橋
    I think I just fell in love with their voices all over again. I had a good feeling about this from the opening. It has this same aura about it that Gareth Gate's music has, but it’s not even the same genre or style. When I listen to Gates it’s as if I have to drop everything so I can focus on the music and nothing else. This song feels the same. And I love that. KAT-TUN, between this and the 90s boy bands I feel like you’re on a mission to steal the qualities of other artists and beat them at their own game – and you’re succeeding.


    16. WHITE
    Single 5 of 5: This song instantly won marks for being released on my 19th birthday. However, it’s a bit of a mess. Everything feels thrown together and even though I really like it I can see the faults. It seems to lack direction. But it’s cute and optimistic, the chorus and rap often get stuck in my head and I’m incapable of listening to it without picturing them smiling. I love it. However, I don’t really think it was A-side material. It’s B-side, PERFECT, would have been a better choice. Would PERFECT have been a good addition on this album in WHITE’s place? Unlike with BIRTH/STAR RIDER, I’m voting 100% yes.


    17. SOLDIER
    Wow. That opening was different – I was still in a happy WHITE place and this just tore me right out of it. I really like this, but I don’t think it did any favours coming at the end of the album.


    18. CHAIN OF LOVE
    This song doesn’t appear on my physical copy of the CD. I only have the LE right now so this must be an RE song. The opening is pretty! Within twenty seconds of this starting I decided I already liked it more than SOLDIER – and this impression isn’t shaken when they start singing. It’s not exactly a well-polished song but I feel that this is part of it's charm. This is definitely a better finish to the album than SOLDIER – this must be the RE’s selling point. It's too bad they didn’t make it obvious and label it as a separate track it - that would have been a much more intelligent way to market the CD.




    OVERALL. SINGLES
    The singles from this album – CHANGE UR WORLD, ULTIMATE WHEELS, WHITE, RUN FOR YOU & BIRTH – were all outstanding but I think WHITE would have been better as either a B-side or simply an album track. I also didn’t understand the WHITE PV one bit! I believe that RUN FOR YOU had the most interesting PV while ULTIMATE WHEELS was the most symbolic. However, if we are to include the LOCK ON PV then I think that it wiped them all out. As for STAR RIDER (BIRTH LE 2), I love it but it’s not quite up there on the same level.



    OVERALL. GROUP
    Take out the singles and there are eight new group songs on this album (including the hidden track). They are: LOCK ON, ONE DAY, あの日のように, SMILE FOR YOU, 儚い指先, 歩道橋, SOLDIER and CHAIN OF LOVE. LOCK ON earns the top marks and could have done well as a single (maybe in place of WHITE) but I think the two songs that caught my attention most were 儚い指先 and 歩道橋. ONE DAY, あの日のように and CHAIN OF LOVE were upbeat and catchy and I love them. However, SMILE FOR YOU and SOLDIER just didn’t grab me in the same way the others song do. After several listens, yes, but on the first they didn’t entice me at all.




    OVERALL. SOLO
    I really wish they would include more solos as B-sides to singles – they blow me away every time with how amazing they sound individually. The person who stood out most to me in his solo this time around, and quite possibly sang my favourite song on the entire album, was Junno. (If you know me well then you probably thought I was going to say Ueda!) FINALE is everything a song should be – it covers so many different styles without any of them feeling out of place. His voice was perfect, the lyrics touching and overall this is just an amazing track. Koki, please step aside sometimes and let him rap in group songs! Maru’s STEP BY STEP, Ueda’s ~again and Koki’s DANGEROUS CAT ~MAKE ME WET~ all rank highly (even above many of the new group songs) on my mental list but Kame’s ずっと really didn’t impress me.




    Honestly, if I had to say what my favourite songs are on this album I would be picking at least 8~10 of them. This is the first album where they have genuinely been five; unlike with cartoon KAT-TUN II you and NO MORE PAIИ, where former member Akanishi still made contributions despite not appearing on the cover images. For this reason I don’t think I can fairly compare CHAIN to their previous albums. In my eyes, CHAIN and its five singles have marked the official beginning to a new era of KAT-TUN. And if you like this album, then please continue to follow them as they move forward. If KAT-TUN have showed us anything, it’s that they are always improving and outdoing themselves.


    Agree? Disagree?


    Tina.
  • ☂ Soundtrack to 2010 (JPOP)

    Dic 27 2010, 14:43

    No doubt 2010 has been a fantastic year for music. Well, at least for the bands and genres I follow. I'm the obsessive type when it comes to songs → yeah, not the people, the actual music. Don't you all hate the accusations that every major fan of foreign group X = 12 year old teenybopper just trying to jump on some internet fad because they can't fit in at school?

    So, the following tracks are those that I've been over-playing and humming along to all year, much to the annoyance of everyone except my best friend. However, at one point I'm sure even she was ready to put a sock in my mouth. ;)

    Artists are alphabetical (by surname) so if you're just here to see a particular one then just scroll down. :)

    Yeah, if you're expecting a variety of Japanese music you're going to be heartbroken. This year all my love went to the bands from Johnny's & Associates.

    J i n A k a n i s h i
    north and south just hear his mouth. ♫


    I'm not going to deny that 赤西仁 upset a lot of people this year. Personally, I think his departure from KAT-TUN is a good thing, but if you disagree then that's fine. This post isn't here for me to just shove my view about this particular issue down your throat - I'll do that in the shout boxes. ;]

    Akanishi has let us hear a lot of new songs this year for the first time, but I think at the very top of the pile has to be none other than Yellow Gold. The chorus to this song gets stuck in my head constantly and I adore it so much. If he doesn't release a recorded version of this in 2011 then I'm sending my kitten to go and eat one of his hats.

    However, if you'll let me rewind back a little bit (doesn't February feel so long ago now?) I actually consider A PAGE to be one song that completely tops every other solo -- with the exception of care -- he's ever done. I've listened to this song a couple of hundred times this year and find it incredibly motivational. If it weren't for this song I wouldn't have considered getting my lazy ass off the couch I spent a year glued to and enrolling in college.

    A r a s h i
    movin' now, movin' now. ♫


    I think are on drugs. How else would they have been able to put out so many releases this year? They're money-making machines and they're being worked to the bone.

    Their recent string of (pop) ballads have been driving me a bit nuts this year. Their songs are beautiful but, really, I prefer music more like サクラ咲ケ and truth. But if you're so hooked on this stream of love songs then feel free to just say, "Shut up, Tina."

    I've found Troublemaker, To be free and Løve Rainbow all to be incredibly addictive this year, but the real hidden earworm has to be an album track: マダ上ヲ. I adore this song so much. The verses aren't fabulous but the chorus makes it so much better.

    However, I'm still clinging onto their 2009 songs. 2010 has been good but not great enough to pull me away from my love of 時計じかけのアンブレラ and スーパーフレッシュ - they're both still at the very top of my favourites list.

    K A T - T U N
    it's love. your love. love yourself. ♫


    Although KAT-TUN is my favourite band now it took me a while to get into them. When I first heard Real Face#1 and SIGNAL I couldn't stand their music. But after hearing Kamenashi singing with two older men in 「野ブタ。をプロデュース」 (and, just for the record, I hated his part in that show's theme song, too) I decided to give them another shot. Once I got over disliking his voice I realised the rest of them all sounded pretty good. Except Taguchi. But I like his voice now too. :P

    Now, gosh, where do I start? I'm not going to go all super-happy-hyper fangirl on you, because that's just not my style, but I will say all of their singles this year have been fantastic. I know some people weren't impressed with Going! but it's easily one of my favourite songs this year... if you scrap Kamenashi from it, that is. Oh, come on - don't give me that look. You all know he can do much better than that.

    I'm not sure if I would consider it my top favourite but my play count begs to differ. Their latest single release, CHANGE UR WORLD, is simply amazing and I've listened to it over 1000 times this year (I'm aware it was only released last month...) - and that doesn't include plays on YouTube and CD. I love it so much, in fact, that I've actually gone and ordered the only edition of the single I don't already have. The B-sides are all spectacular too.

    And I don't want to spend too much more time on KAT-TUN -- I could easily spend all day talking about their music - even more if you want to discuss DVDs, PVs, costumes, hair... okay, I'll stop now -- but with over 400 plays each this year, I feel NEVER x OVER ~「-」 IS YOUR PART~ and N.M.P. both deserve a mention. Not only is the latter the title track of their latest album but it's just incredible. The PV is almost as good as the song itself - and that's a fuckin' brilliant PV. ♥

    N E W S
    get a funky life. ♫


    News have stepped up a bit in terms of releases since 2009. The flow last year was slow but 2010 has been a lot better. They released an album and two singles - both of which I loved.

    I'm managed to listen to Fighting Man over 400 times since it's release last month, but the real song that caught my attention this year was さくらガール. This song is brilliant, I've listened to it just over 700 times this year and I'm still not tired of it. I often listen to it when I'm reading, it's soft enough not be distracting but pretty enough not to be boring.

    J u n M a t s u mo t o
    i'll set you free. ♫


    I'll admit it: Matsujun's hot. His voice isn't as fabulous but he's got a nice face. Shame what he's done about his hair and style recently but oh well. I've been a fan of 松本潤 since before getting into Arashi.

    But his solo track, Come back to me, on Arashi's latest album, 僕の見ている風景, instantly became one of my favourite songs of 2010. It's a cute pop song with a disproportional amount of auto-tune and not so incredible lyrics - but his voice completely suits it. I think it topped every other member's solo (strange, considering I tend to lean more towards Sakurai and Ninomiya when it comes to solo songs) on the CD.

    J u n n o s u k e Ta g u c h i
    are you ready for girls? ♫


    Woah. Just woah. Since when was 田口淳之介 capable of pulling off sexy? I mean, he physically isn't but he certainly has a good control of his voice.

    LOVE MUSIC was incredible, sure, but the real gem was a B-side on CHANGE UR WORLD: GIRLS. I know he doesn't get all the credit for this song, with Koki Tanaka and Yuichi Nakamaru both making strong contributions (NTT♥), but Taguchi sounds amazing in this.

    T a t s u y a U e d a
    live your life with my command. ♫


    C'mon, if you've visited my profile before then you should have known that his appearance on this list was unavoidable. Plus, anyone could tell you I have a very slight infatuation with his hair. ;)

    上田竜也 has delivered a few solo tracks this year, but the one I've found myself obsessed with is his solo on NO MORE PAIИ: RABBIT OR WOLF?. This song is fast-paced and touches upon a reoccuring theme I use in all of my creative writing. I've managed to reach more than 900 plays of this song since late June alone this year. I can easily sit and listen to this song for hours while I'm writing -- as shown in this LJ post - any chance any NaNoNauts are reading this? Come to NaNoWriYe! -- and it's also useful for when I just need to sit down and focus on anything. I love it. ♥



    ---


    Sorry about the lack of variety! I'm not ignorant of other artists and companies, honest, but these are definitely my favourites of the year.

    Want to see what I think this year's best Korean songs are? Check out my other post, ☂ Soundtrack to 2010 (KPOP), to be spammed with more boyband galore.


    Tina.
  • ☂ Soundtrack to 2010 (KPOP)

    Dic 27 2010, 12:52

    No doubt 2010 has been a fantastic year for music. Well, at least for the bands and genres I follow. I'm the obsessive type when it comes to songs → yeah, not the people, the actual music. Don't you all hate the accusations that every major fan of foreign group X = 12 year old teenybopper just trying to jump on some internet fad because they can't fit in at school?

    So, the following tracks are those that I've been over-playing and humming along to all year, much to the annoyance of everyone except my best friend. However, at one point I'm sure even she was ready to put a sock in my mouth. ;)

    Artists are alphabetical so if you're just here to see a particular one then just scroll down. :)

    B 2 S T
    nothing better than you. ♫

    B2ST are incredible. The first time I heard Bad Girl I thought they were just going to be another boyband that would quickly fall into the background. Instead this expectation was swapped with the one I had for MBLAQ - another boyband I got into around the same time.

    Earlier this year I was over-playing Shock (not reflected in my plays) but the main one has to be . This song is amazingly catchy even though I found their choreography for "BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT" in the MV to be quite amusing. I know it was supposed to breathing but the expression on one guy's face was hilarious! Afraid I'm not into them enough to be able to name anyone except Yoseob - and that's only because his face creeps me out and people were getting tired of me just referring to him as, "the scary blond guy in B2ST". Beautiful is also a cute track that gets stuck in my head occasionally, but not to the same extent as 숨.

    B i g B a n g
    now here she comes; she wants some of my lollipop. ♫


    One of my top five favourite bands is definitely Big Bang (they're somewhere between 2-5 because I can't make up my mind) and this year again they've delivered well. So maybe we didn't get that album but they still released some good music.

    There were two tracks this year that I had playing on repeat, amassing over five hundred plays between them: BEAUTIFUL HANGOVER and it's B-side, SOMEBODY TO LUV. If I have to pick one then the latter most definitely wins. These songs are both incredible. It's a totally different style of music to what they usually do, but they've still managed to stick to their roots with some brilliant raps. The way G-Dragon and T.O.P bounce off of each other is something I've always found incredible and High High is no exception to this (which, sadly, is not in this list). Before these songs I also completely ignored D-Lite's existence (often forgetting his name) - but his voice is remarkable. Why did it take me so long to notice?

    S E 7 E N
    you know we're better together. ♫


    The first Korean song I ever heard was Se7en's 와줘 Part 2 - but I didn't know his name, the song title, his face, what language he was singing in or anything. Just the song.

    It's his recent releases that have made me take an interest in him again. Digital Bounce (feat T.O.P) and Better Together are two tracks I completely adore (although this isn't reflected in the plays as I only just received the CD) and have listened to countless times on YouTube.

    S H I N e e
    loverholic, robotronic. ♫


    SHINee are another group I wasn't too fond of at first, thinking them just to be another boyband trying to claim their 15 minutes of fame. But, damn, once they released Ring Ding Dong I was hooked (not reflected in play count). ♥

    However, the song drove me crazy in 2010 had to be Lucifer. The 380 plays I have for this song doesn't match up to the real play count - is that embarrassing? I adore this song. Within ten seconds (literally) of the first listen I knew I would be incredible - but I didn't expect it to be just so WOW(OWOW). My love for Taemin's hair the group skyrocketed after this. Hello, too, was a total earworm. I didn't think anything would be able to beat Taemin's hair, and I was right follow up LUCIFER - and on the first listen I wasn't totally convinced. But around the same time I was hooked on B2ST's 숨 I would play this song and Hello on a constant loop both in my room and when on the train to visit my parents.

    T a e Y a n g
    i'm tired of being alone. sick of being single. ♫


    May I be predictable for a moment? Until Where U At the only reason I even acknowledged 태양 was because we share a birthday: May 18th. But still there was one song this year that tempted me into buying his Solar:

    I Need A Girl (feat. G-Dragon) is such a pretty song. Honestly, despite my 30k+ G-Dragon plays I didn't even realise he was featured in the song until he appeared on-screen in the MV. But TaeYang has really started to impress me with his solo work. But the second song I'd have to put on this list is actually an album track: 니가 잠든 후에 (feat. Swings): his voice is beautiful here and although it's not a particularly romantic song there's definitely an emotional quality to it.

    T . O . P
    official pimp T.O.P. ♫


    Not much I can really say about T.O.P. Although I like his raps I'm wasn't too fond of his actual singing voice at first, with the exception of Haru Haru. But his music has definitely grown on me although I'm still not much of a fan of his older solos. However, Turn It Up is such a fantastic song. It's also great for keeping you awake when you need to pull an all-nighter to get an essay done. ;]

    2 N E 1
    annyeong, goodbye, adios. ♫


    I'm not a huge fan of female vocals, but I've loved 2NE1 since a couple of months after they released I Don't Care. However, Bom's voice still grates on my ears. How'd she learn to sing so high? My interest in this group has shot up so much recently that I've actually taken the time to, y'know, learn their names. Often I'll listen to a band, and I'll know their names and faces but not be able to match them up correctly. It's not that I can't tell them apart I just don't care enough to learn.

    I've still not gotten over how incredible the English version of Can't Nobody is. This sort of in-your-face attitude is how every female artist should be - well, at least if they want my attention. I'm no feminist but I hate the cute, wimpy girl appeal so many people fall for. It's fantastic in physical appearance but dreadful in the music. Can't Nobody seriously blew me away and persuaded me into seeing their music as serious determination rather than just another song declaring, "we're the best". It was believable.

    On top of this I also found GO AWAY pretty hypnotic. I don't care much for the chorus but the verses are amazing. It's a more sensitive song than Can't Nobody, but CL's (oh, come on - I can't be the only one who sees the other three as just backing singers in this track) their way of approaching it makes it feel so much stronger.

    - - -


    Want to see what I think this year's best Johnny's Japanese songs are? Check out my other post, ☂ Soundtrack to 2010 (JPOP), to be spammed with more boyband galore.


    Tina.
  • ☂ 嵐: Johnny's Overworked Money-Makers

    Ott 22 2010, 17:09

    Johnny's Overworked Money-Makers

    2010 has been one heck of a year for boy band quintet Arashi (). This year alone they have: released five number one singles; sold over a million copies of their ninth album; starred in a total of seven dramas between them; released their first double platinum concert DVD; and now their sixth single of 2010, Hatenai Sora果てない空」, is on the way! If that is not enough for one year, leader Ohno Satoshi (大野智) also released his second solo single, Yukai Tsukai Kaibutsu- kunユカイツーカイ怪物くん」, in July and talented actor Kazunari Ninomiya (二宮和也) has recently starred in a film set in the 18th century, Ohoku 「大奥」, which came out in cinemas on October 1st. On top of this the top idols came together to endorse the Nintendo game Wii Party.

    Despite their soaring popularity and outstanding sales over this year the fans are beginning to feel over-whelmed and weary by this seemingly endless stream of new releases. Over time it is starting to feel that Johnny Kitagawa's big sellers appear to be little more than machines. They are recycling the typical "Arashi sound" we all know and love and are then mass-producing this music to be distributed with lightening speed. New releases are announced before their previous singles have even hit the shelves: rumours of the beautiful Dear Snow (released October 6 2010) began surfacing even before copies of the cute pop ballad, Løve Rainbow (released September 8 2010), had even made it into the impatient hands of their adoring fans.

    At first this anticipation was thrilling. The trembling excitement would build up rapidly inside of you; you could not wait to tell all your friends that a new Arashi single was on the way. But gradually that giddying sensation begins to diminish, becoming smaller and smaller with each announcement to flood the front page of Johnny's Net. Fingers, fluttering with andrenaline, that would once pound "NEW ARASHI SINGLE: Troublemaker - IN STORES MARCH 3RD 2010!!!" into the computer with keyboard-breaking intensity now calmly type, "Yet another Arashi single: Hatenai Sora - November 10th." Where is the intoxicating excitement that usually accompanies a new release? The attention Hatenai Sora is receiving is nothing compared to that of their juniors, News, upcoming single Fighting Man (November 3 2010).

    I'm no Arashi basher; I adore them. Their music currently occupies more space than any other band on my CD rack and right at this moment I'm listening to their third compilation CD: All the BEST! 1999-2009. But I will admit that I am not the first to notice that the diversity in their music appears to be affected by their consistent output.

    It does not feel as if Arashi are delivering anything new. Their thirty-first single, To be free, is a gorgeous, uplifting pop ballad. On its own it is charming, enticing almost, to a point that it almost matches up to my love of the band's twenty-third single, Kaze no Mukō e風の向こうへ」. However, this song was succeeded by another pop ballad: Løve Rainbow. Løve Rainbow is very different from To be free, but it also draws on elements of some their slightly older songs. The first time I listened to it I was instantly reminded of tracks like Love so sweet and One Love. Sugary sweet, optimistic pop ballads like these are the type of songs that most fans instantly associate with the group. This isn't necessarily a bad thing considering that they are very strong in the genre. But when Løve Rainbow was succeeded this month by yet another (albeit much slower) ballad, Dear Snow, this is where things began to feel a bit monotonous. Dear Snow is a beautiful song in which Ninomiya and Ohno take the reigns. The vocals are pure and gentle, still sounding very much like the Arashi we know and love. So what's the problem?

    Arashi are talented singers and performers. They have proved this time and time again and I feel they are capable of more than their recent singles have shown us. Some of their 2009 releases -- such as the b-sides to My Girlマイガール」: Tokei Jikake no Umbrella時計じかけのアンブレラ」and Super Freshスーパーフレッシュ」-- showed us that Arashi still are capable of the diversity that kept their careers alight throughout the 21st century. It feels slightly awkward to be able to say, "Do you remember...?" in reference to a song released in 2010, but it is scary how far away those songs now feel. So, do you remember songs like Troublemaker and Monster that came out in the first half of this year? Just like the b-sides to My Girl these songs were upbeat and unique. Along with songs from their ninth studio album, Boku no Miteiru Fūkei僕の見ている風景」 (released August 2010), these recent releases have shown us that, no, Arashi have not reached their limit on creativity. They have the power to improve but they are just not using it.

    It might sound this way but I am not placing the blame directly on Arashi themselves. Their releases are dictated by Kitagawa's minions. They sing and dance obediently, like puppets, lighting up the stage with their remarkable presence. The music industry is a business: they do as they are told to get by and then they reap the rewards from it. It is understandable: it is their job. However, the people in charge have not been doing them any favours with their past few singles. I am not saying that reproducing the sort of sound we have already come to associate with Arashi is a bad thing; in fact, I feel it plays a key role in what keeps us attached to the band. But I also believe it is diversity that keeps us coming back for more. Arashi are not limited to just one genre: they have proven they have the ability to bring in other styles of music and spice up the mix. I am sure all of us fans would appreciate it if the big men up top would utilise the idol's different styles more carefully, to give us more variety in releases to reflect the range of songs they have demonstrated in the past. In March 2005 the rock-infuenced Sakura Sakeサクラ咲ケ」 was released ; this was then followed up in November 2006 by the happy pop song WISH; and finally this was succeeded in May 2006 with the fast-paced Kitto Daijōbu(きっと大丈夫」.

    Did you notice the dates of those songs? Arashi used to release music every six months, not every (other) month. To keep the fans coming back for more it is useful to keep us waiting. It is a tactic: make us a little impatient and soon we will begin snooping around for rumours on upcoming releases. When a single is announced right after we have just received one then we have not been given time to become tired of it yet. When Everything was released in July 2009 I was delighted to later hear that My Girl would come out in November of the same year. July to November is four months. Between July and November of 2010 Arashi have released (or, are releasing) twice as many singles: To be free, Love Rainbow, Dear Snow and Hatenai Sora.

    To be treated to so many releases is fun at first but it quickly becomes tiresome. Especially when there is a lack of variety between the singles then the music all begins to blur into one another, making them harder to distinguish. Come on, Johnny & co, it is time to make an effort! Fangirls may eat out of the palm of the company's hand but surely it is time to give us something new and exciting? The group is more than capable but it feels as if they are being restrained. Yes, we are used to a typical sound from Arashi but that does not mean they should be limited to it. Branching out and exploring will help them to become even more popular than they already are. Perhaps with more effort from the company they might even amass enough attention to make it across the oceans of the world to find them full international recognition. It is plausible, is it not?

    Spanning across eleven years, Arashi have found themselves delivering: nine albums; nine concert DVDs; thirty-three singles (not including Hatenai Sora); and have been credited for countless television and film appearances. Arashi, without a doubt, deserve their idol titles. However, Johnny's little money-makers will be able to grow and go so much further given the chance. Once they begin to break up this trend of pop ballads with stronger songs again, like truth and Crazy Moon ~キミ・ハ・ムテキ~, and get back into a habit of treating us every now and then rather than spoiling us endlessly, then I can see the enthusiasm we have for their music returning in no time.


    Tina.
  • ☂ Akanishi leaving KAT-TUN [17th July]

    Lug 17 2010, 22:07

    So, it came out.

    He is leaving. Jin Akanishi (赤西仁) is leaving KAT-TUN.

    As of yesterday this is what all the sources say. Forget the rumours in the papers that flew around before now, because all this was just speculation. They were stories conjured by the press to scare us and to purposefully cause commotion. Reporters wanted you to think of the worst possible scenarios; they really wanted you to believe Akanishi was leaving. Was there any proof of this? No, of course not. The papers just wanted to capture your attention.

    But now people are saying even Kitagawa himself has confirmed this. Just this Friday, in fact: July 16th 2010. What were you doing then?



    Are you surprised?
    I am definitely not.


    I am not saying I wanted him to leave, nor am I saying I feared he would. In fact, I believed after his tour in America he would go home and start working again with KAT-TUN. I am an optimist, so this was the outcome I had my bets on. But I am just saying it comes as no shock that he has decided to close this chapter of his life.

    Akanishi did not really seem happy where he was. It was clear what his ambitions were: he wanted to make it big in the USA. He made no secret of the fact, especially when he accepted the chance to hold the L.A. concerts. Then of course he was offered the tour, which he also accepted. This was his dream, and for him to have been given these opportunities must have felt amazing.

    With KAT-TUN taking on their next big step with the WORLD BIG TOUR, it must have been a difficult decision to make: to stand by the people he has performed alongside for almost a decade, or to venture out on his own and give these new opportunities a chance? Surely it was something he gave a lot of thought. Honestly, if he had turned down the offer to go after what he obviously wanted then it would have been stupid. No doubt he would have regretted it and been left there to wonder, 'What if...?'

    A solo career is evidently what he wants. If he is prepared to give up his place in KAT-TUN to pursue it, then he is serious about what he wants to do. He has spent nine years with this group and along the way has built up a reputation alongside them. To give this up to focus on his dreams is a clear sign of his sincerity. For taking a risk this great he has definitely earned my respect.

    He has hundreds of thousands of fans. No doubt some of them cried at the news. Wait, I know they did. They have said so, and this is okay. But we have got to remember that it is not like he has died or is leaving music forever. He is going to continue to do his best and try to make it in the USA. If this is his dream, is it not selfish of us to ask him to stay with KAT-TUN? Let us not try to hold him back. We cannot do anything about this, and even we could, would we not just feel guilty for leaving him in a position where he is not one hundred perfect happy?

    It is okay to be sad about it. After all, not everyone copes well with change. But KAT-TUN is still KAT-TUN. They can continue on as they are and still thrive in the limelight. They are not going to go away just because Akanishi has decided to leave. They are not going to drop the 'A' from their name; they are not going to gain a new member and they are certainly not going to forget about him. Akanishi is irreplaceable within KAT-TUN, but this does not mean they cannot function as five. They most certainly can. NO MORE PAIИ proved this.

    Likewise, Akanishi has the talent and passion to hold his own and fly solo. Can he succeed? Well, he can do his best, and I am sure everyone will continue to support him. To stubbornly decide to hate him because of his withdrawal from the group is childish. This is what he wants, and he is going to go after it with all his might. If we are fans then we will continue to support his decisions even if he we do not always agree with them. If he thinks this is the best road for him to take then let us encourage him all we can.

    Akanishi can cope as a lone soldier. KAT-TUN can survive as five.
    Six soldiers will continue marching on. Maybe not in unison, but they are not going to give up just because it is time for someone to part ways. They have stuck together this far over the years and they have grown up enough to be able to overcome these new obstacles like adults. This is what they are, after all.

    It is going to be tough to see six become five. It is going to take a while to adjust to "KA" meaning Kazuya Kamenashi. But if they can work through these new changes then us fans can manage too. Maybe at the moment things seem dark and upsetting, but the sun will come back out to play and everyone will be laughing again.

    It is difficult, but if they can cope then we can too. So let us support all six of them through these new changes. As Akanishi embarks on his next career move KAT-TUN will continue to evolve their music and image. No one is going away, and no one is being left alone. As long as the fans continue to follow Akanishi he will never be entirely alone. He will not forget about KAT-TUN, and they will not forget about him. The fans will not forget either.

    So do not pout or protest. Akanishi is doing what he genuinely wants to, and I will not be surprised to see him succeed with his goal. As for Kamenashi, Taguchi, Tanaka, Ueda and Nakamaru: they will carry on as before and become stronger as a group. Akanishi may have played a strong role within the group, but they do not need to cling to him to remain popular. Their combined effort will keep them afloat and I am sure with the fans support they will be happy to continue as they are.

    An eventual ending is inevitable. But for now, let us be optimistic and encourage all of them to do their best. In the immediate future KAT-TUN are not going anywhere, so do not fret. They will carry on as they always have. Let us enjoy it.

    So please, put a smile on your face for them. You will see that the six will continue to shine brightly as they are. United or divided, they can shine. They are talented, devoted and enthusiastic, and whatever they choose to do in the future is something we must accept and respect. No immaturity and stubbornness, but do not forget that tears are okay. If you feel like crying then do not hold back, but do not forget to smile once you are finished, all right?


    Remember, what you worry about will be all right!

    Tina.
  • ☂「Going!」Review

    Mag 14 2010, 22:59

    KAT-TUN's 12th single, Going!, was released two days ago on Wednesday, May 12th 2010. According to the Oricon Charts, first day sales hit 99,770 units. This falls short of their previous release's -- Love yourself ~君が嫌いな君が好き~ -- sales of 157,788 by a dramatic 58,018. Even with lower first day sales than usual they're still likely to take number one on the Oricon Charts for the week starting May 24th 2010.

    Nothing less to be expected from KAT-TUN, right?

    So what's with the drop in sales in comparison to their previous releases?

    Maybe this is just a silent protest from the fans. Akanishi's temporary absence from the band (to perform concerts in the USA) seems to have caused an uproar, and I wonder if this is the fans way of responding to the decision for Akanishi to pursue a solo career alongside his KAT-TUN work? Or maybe there are people who're just waiting to see if "Going!" will be included in the upcoming 5th album's track-listing before purchasing the single. Either way, until the word is uttered from Johnny people need to stop fearing the worst in this situation. Just like before, Akanishi will return and six soldiers will continue marching on. ♪

    From the remaining five members there have been three editions of "Going!" released; all with slightly differing track-listings and cover art.


    “Going!” LE1 features two tracks and a DVD of the promotional video and making of the title track. The b-side on this is a pop song titled SMILE. On LE2, solos by Tanaka and Nakamaru have been included, titled, I DON’T MISS U and, Answer. Finally, the b-side on the RE is a rock track titled FALL DOWN. If you’re easily offended, don’t try to look this one up on streaming websites like Youtube unless you wish to be presented with many videos of Kamenashi falling off the stage.

    Review. Going!,

    The title track, Going! starts off with a bang. The English intro, "Going! Yeah! Just Going! Yeah! Right now we are going!" will either make you laugh or have you just sat there thinking, "What the hell?" In my case it was the latter. But after listening to the song all the way through you'll understand why their voices carried such intense enthusiasm right from the kick-off.

    I love how this can be interpreted. Considering that this is their second single release overall without Akanishi, I get the message that this means they can go on without him; that his temporary absence from the group isn't a bad thing, and they're not going to let a little hiccup in schedules hold them back from achieving their own dreams too.

    After this intro the music kicks in with Kamenashi proclaiming, "Everybody, Going For Dream! 同じ夢を", and this is where we find that "Going!" has followed the trend started with the previous single -- Love yourself ~君が嫌いな君が好き~ and it's b-side, THE D-MOTION -- by relying on the auto-tune to achieve the sounds they want. I know a number of people were disappointed with the way their voices were distorted in their previous single, so for anyone who was hoping that this single would carry KAT-TUN's former rock-ish feel, they must have been a little anxious at this moment.

    If, like myself, you were afraid that Kamenashi would be pushed into the centre more with Akanishi currently away, then you'd also be paranoid as to what is to come next.

    新しい明日を 目指す We Go Now
    変わりそうな Shinin' My Life
    駆けだして 初めて 見える未来は
    胸を揺らす Groovy Vibe


    The song continues with Nakamaru starting off the first verse. His voice sounds higher with the auto-tune, and if you're not fond of KAT-TUN's recent sound then this is where things get a bit shaky. But if you're open to new styles, then you'll find the easy transition between Nakamaru and Ueda's lines incredibly smooth and pleasant. But maybe it was only me who actually missed Tanaka's rough voice when he takes on the third line of the verse. It took me a moment to realise it was even him singing. The auto-tune takes that unique depth out of his voice, and I feel that it is that roughness that usually makes his voice stand out from the others. However, when Taguchi comes in his voice is incredible. Admittedly, apart from in his solo, WIND, I'm guilty of often over-looking Taguchi's vocal talent. I feel he's often overshadowed by the range of some of the others member's voices. But his voice completely suits this type of go-happy, motivational song and it makes him shine even more brightly.

    Every step, Overstep 自分信じて
    Anytime, anywhere 高く
    Every step, Overstep 明日を変える涙で
    Get your dream!


    The next few lines alternate between them all singing, and solo lines by Kamenashi and Nakamaru. With auto-tune, I must admit that I preferred Nakamaru's one word over Kamenashi's lines. Am I the only one who thinks he sounds just a tiny bit too high-pitched when his voice is altered like this?

    力の限り 走る君が 世界の壁を壊してく
    道は 果てしない夢に続く
    始まりは一歩 踏み出そう Let’s goin'!


    The chorus here is lovely, but I feel it's missing something. No, not Akanishi. But I feel it lacks depth -and that's the only flaw with auto-tune. The emotion in their voices seem to just melt away when altered like this. It's pleasant enough to hear, but I don't feel it's very strong.

    煌めきと溜め息 代わる代わるに 
    まだ見ぬ夢をみる
    仲間たち 巻き込んで 自由なままで
    空響かす Oh My Beat


    The second verse follows the same pattern as the first: Nakamaru → Ueda → Tanaka → Taguchi, and I feel that this arrangement works very well. I think in this verse Tanaka's voice sounds deeper here, and I prefer it to the first verse. But the highlight for me is definitely Nakamaru here. His voice usually has a smooth, gentle quality to it, and even with the auto-tune that same feel remains.

    Every step, Overstep 風に乗る My Faith
    Anytime, anywhere 胸に
    Every step, Overstep 誰も知らない孤独を
    Shout it Loud!


    At this point I'm still unimpressed with the sound of Kamenashi's voice. Usually it's his voice that sticks out most for me when I listen to KAT-TUN, and his solos are incredible (okay, with exception of 愛しているから - that song is about five minutes too long if you ask me), but he definitely doesn't sound his best here. Ueda's a bit pitchy here too, but because the line is short it is pleasant enough to listen to.

    Goin' We're Goin' Just Goin' Right Now We're Goin'

    明日を信じて 世界に飛び乗れ
    Your Dream 解き放て Goin' Goin'


    After repeating the chorus Kamenashi comes in again, and at this point I'm actually enjoying the sound of his voice. More because of what he's saying, mind, than how it sounds. Though first time I heard it I found it bit weird, but after 250-odd plays in three days it's grown on me. Following this is Nakamaru and Ueda, and once again I'm impressed with how sweetly their voices go together. This is the high-light of the song for me.

    Goin' Goin' Go 努力した君と挫折日々が無情の様で "Noooo!"
    Goin' Goin' Go 立ち止まる 意味を探してた日々は向こうの方へ "Goooo!"
    Goin' Goin' Go 苦労と両隣負けたって昨日は今日で Change
    Goin' Goin' Go Goin' Goin' Go 強引だっていい


    However, no KAT-TUN song is complete without the JOKER planting his stamp in the credits. I usually adore Tanaka's raps, and this is no exception. The fact that it follows on instantly from where Nakamaru left off just makes it x10 better. For me, what sells it is the repetition of "Goin' Goin' Go." It's just impossible to ignore it.

    Everybody say "Oh-Oh!"
    Come On "Oh-Oh!"
    Everybody say "Oh-Oh!"
    Oh!
    飛び乗ろう その風に


    If, like myself, you listened to this on Music Station before hearing the recorded version then this just sounds plain weird! I wonder if this bit would have been best left out in the recorded version? It just feels so empty without the audience's responses to their calls. But it's growing on me rapidly.

    They repeat the chorus again after this, and by this point I find myself growing tired of it. The lyrics are lovely, yes, but it's weak compared to the strength of the verses and the rap.

    Everybody, Goin' For Dream!
    一人じゃない Your Dream

    Going!


    The song finishes with Kamenashi, and once again I've gone from really enjoying his lines to finding them merely tolerable.

    I mentioned earlier that I originally feared that Kamenashi would get too much of the focus in this song before I heard it. Obviously, this isn't the case: but I still feel that the way he both opens and ends the song and is the only person excluded from the verses still makes him stand out from the others. However, I don't think he's standing out in a positive manner. Auto-tune does nothing for his voice, and honestly I'm just glad he wasn't in the verses for fear of spoiling them.

    As for the others, I definitely feel that Ueda and Nakamaru were carrying this song. I didn't think that Ueda's voice would suit this type of song, and if it had been his solo I could see it going badly. But coupled with Nakamaru the two of them sound amazing following on from one another. Heck, they even made Kamenashi sound worse when they alternated lines with him.

    Tanaka's voice suffers with the auto-tune, I find. But without it his voice might have seemed completely out of place in this song. He still sounds great, but I do miss the depth his voice tends to carry without it. I feel that it's the hoarseness of his voice that makes him stand out from the other members. Luckily a bit more of that edge crept into his rap. If it had been edited too much then it would have just been a total disaster.

    Finally, I believe Taguchi deserved more lines in this. His image and stage personality are so well suited to this type of song it's overwhelming, yet he only gets two solo lines? I did say that I often overlook him, but I definitely feel that a song like this could have done better had he been given more lines.



    B-side LE1. SMILE,

    On it's own this is a very gentle pop song, and it's nice to listen to. But when it follows up a song as upbeat as, "Going!" it feels like it's lacking something. However, the pure quality of their voices is a breath of fresh air from songs that have been altered as much as the title track. I'm not entirely in love with this song, and it seems to be quite forgettable. However, I do like it. I'm also pleased that Kamenashi and Tanaka sound a lot better in this, too.



    B-side LE2. I don't miss U,

    I am in love with this song, completely. I remember hearing a small portion of this on the Live Break the Records Road Documentary and instantly wishing there was a recorded version, so I was over the moon at hearing about this solo being included as a b-side. The opening, as expected from Tanaka, is loud, blunt and gripping.

    B-side LE2. Answer,

    Nakamaru’s solos have never been my favourites. It’s not that I dislike them, I just feel that him being placed in a group was an excellent decision in his career. But this song is the first of his that actually makes me sit back and go, “Wow.” His voice is so gentle here, and the high notes at the end of each line towards the end are just so gorgeous. It ends making me think, “Oh, it’s over now?” It’s definitely one I could sit to and listen to on repeat. But at the same time, his voice is so beautiful here that I feel as if I would fall asleep listening to it if there wasn’t something to break up the sound.



    B-side RE. FALL DOWN,

    Fast, in your face, and it carries that rock edge that sets KAT-TUN apart from the other JE groups. This song made me think of RHODESIA when I first heard it. I’m not saying that they sound alike, but it just has that sort of feel to me. By I do adore “RHODESIA”, so perhaps that’s a good thing? I think this is the song that is going to give fans the reassurance that yes, they’re changing but at the same time they’re not planning to lose what makes them unique. But, honestly, the phrasing of, “Stand up ya middle finger right?” makes me laugh. But language always can cause problems, so I won’t cause a fuss. Especially with a line as amazingly awesome as, “Yo only God can judge me ya know?” in there. It really makes me think.

    Overall, as a whole, I honestly adore this single. I didn’t think that they would be able to top Love yourself ~君が嫌いな君が好き~and clearly, judging by sales, a lot of people agree with this notion – but I genuinely believe that they have. The b-sides on these definitely make it worth listening to, and I’ll definitely be clinging to Tanaka and Nakamaru’s solos until everyone around me is sick of hearing them, hehe~

    Do you agree or disagree? Don’t hesitate to tell me what you think of both this review and of “Going!” itself either here or over on The Umbrella Reviews.


    Tina.