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Pirate Anthem → Karaoke Anthem?

While I came out of the first je_nyc meet-up feeling seemingly half-dead, I did get a bunch of things to ponder about.

For example, how a bunch of girls, ranging from their mid-teens to early twenties, with different tastes in Johnny’s groups, all managed to find one thing in common.

NEWS‘ only single of 2006, サヤエンドウ [SAYAENDOU].

To be fair, their only single was also a double A-side, 裸足のシンデレラボーイ [Hadashi no CINDERELLA BOY] being the other featured track. But it lacks the same command SAYAENDOU does over listeners. (By the way, though I’m using the Hadashi-side cover, don’t expect anything on that song in this post.)

We sang that song probably 6 times that afternoon. We were there for 6 hours. And while every other song had only some of the group participating, SAYAENDOU was the one song that everyone joined in on. That everyone had apparently heard, no ifs-ands-or-buts. (Though given the recent rash of NEWS performances, and especially of that particular song in combination with Hoshi wo Mezashite, I can’t say anything.)

I have a friend who dislikes Johnny’s and what they stand for – but not only does she gladly sing SAYAENDOU, she even went to the Lavca site to search for it when the karaoke place didn’t list the song in their books.

Upon first listen, it’s not hard to see how the song is catchy. The music is riddled with percussion instruments, setting a variety of beats using everything from what sounds like the gigantic bass drums you’d hear in a marching band to a set of timpani drums. Actually, it’s the latter that really helps the track, varying between fun and tropical, contrasting against the powerful feel of the music and combined vocals, and even getting a standout section before the final bridge. There are also brass horns and a basic synth melody lying underneath it all, but for a song that relies on a beats as much as this on, it’s a surprisingly great pop song that doesn’t even near the area of hip-hop.

The chorus is clearly what catches everyone in to this song. With a simple but easy hook of “Bravo! Bravo!” backed by what sounds like all the men in Johnny’s and a catchy dance beat threaded throughout, this is boyband pop at its best. The boys (all 6 of them) harmonize well enough with each other, and the crowd of voices emphasize the atmosphere of a happy mess, the sort that you just want to join in on.

Where the song might have a chance to fail is everywhere else, but only if you’re the most discriminating critic. It starts out, interludes, and closes with a powerful call of “WOW-OW WOW-OW”, and lets the NEWS members go at will in between. The stanzas and bridges are clearly meant for playing dramatic buildup to the chorus, and so they handle the lines individually – also allowing us to hear their individual vocal capabilities. I give the arrangers credit for letting what is apparently the three best vocals in the group handle the bridges, and the boys themselves overcome any possible failings and deliver surprisingly appropriate vocals, running the gamut from wistful to threatening.

The song is meant to be cheerful, adventurous, and fun, as the theme song to the 7th ONE PIECE movie, which is one of the major reasons it grew onto me. The lyrics are certainly different from the usual boyband fare, with references to ONE PIECE running abound. Between the music and group vocals, it accomplishes its goal easily.

But why this particular NEWS song? TEPPEN, Stand Up, and even Hadashi no CINDERELLA BOY have a similar fun group atmosphere. However, they certainly wouldn’t last as long, or survive as many runs without getting tiring. (Groans were already surfacing the second time TEPPEN came up on the machine, never mind sixth.) My personal opinion thanks the music for this – despite the general melody coming out like any other boyband song, the instruments and arrangement of the music is a fresher sound coming from the monotone Japanese pop market.

Both music videos for this song feature animation in some way. The first music video, released to promote the single, was an official AMV, fully comprised of clips from the 7th ONE PIECE movie. Most NEWS fans were disappointed – being a ONE PIECE fan, I enjoyed it. Then when they made a comeback earlier this year, a second music video was released, this one with cute Flash-style animations of the NEWS members interspersed with clips of them performing the song live at a concert prior to their hiatus. Both animations add a different image (exciting and cute respectively) to the song, which increases its appeal, especially if they’re being played as the words scroll across the screen.

But in the end, it really comes down to how much you let yourself get into the music. And this is one song where it’s not hard to do.

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