Slightly unFRIENDly on the ears.
Let me put off the dream a bit further for more members of pop groups gone solo for a bit. After a decently successful first solo single and album, 橘慶太 [Tachibana Keita] has left w-inds. behind for a second go with this single, FRIEND!
Nothing against the boy, I promise you. It’s just that I’ve actually yet to listen to his solo single/album combo despite having given his latest single/album combo with w-inds. a thorough listen. I’ll get around to it… someday.
Lately though, I haven’t been too fond of Keita’s voice. I don’t know why. I absolutely loved it back in 2003, and I can’t deny having the opportunity to hear him grow and mature has been a treat.
But this particular song sort of grates on my ears. Well, not the stanzas. The stanzas sound good, though he sounds like he’s always trying to reach higher notes than he should be doing. The bridge is okay too, despite his raising volume. But the chorus is just too much. Keita’s voice was not made for wailing. Especially not lines like “OH! FRIEND//MY FRIEEEEEEEEEEEEEND”. There are other ways to inject power into your voice, Tachibana. As it is, the chorus comes across as a bad attempt at karaoke-ing the song. Which really shouldn’t happen, since it’s an original song.
I mean, yes, I give Keita some credit for sounding as good as he does without the help of synthesizers – but he’s also got to know where to stop. It’s a bit sad to admit that the instrumental’s a much better listen than the actual song.
The first of the B-sides, 桜想ふ [Sakura Soufu], is slower and a better listen as far as Keita’s vocals go, even when he wails out the ending of the choruses. I was pleasantly surprised to hear his vocals rising and falling so smoothly. The piano has a bigger part in the song, but the guitar still claims its spot like in every one of his solo songs so far.
少年 [Shounen], the second B-side, is exactly what I’m looking for in Keita’s solo works. With more of a rock sound while never completely losing the acoustic guitar, some variety in tempo, and a much better demonstration of his vocal control, he sounds grown-up without being boring. It doesn’t have quite the quality of an A-side, but I definitely expect this song on his next solo album, assuming I listen to that.
So far Keita’s solo efforts have been doing decently on the Oricon charts – but what I really want to hear him singing with less acoustic pieces. I don’t care what, I just want some variety like with Shounen. There are far too many acoustic singers – piano or guitar – on the Japanese market right now. Unfortunately, it seems the only way I’ll get that is listening to him back with his
pretty-boy props fellow boyband compatriots in w-inds., Ryohei and Ryuichi.