The End of the Trilogy.
AAA‘s going to disband.
The loves of my life… oh, wait, you’re not buying it, are you?
Okay, fine. AAA’s third album, AROUND, was released this past Wednesday, finishing off the series of albums based on their group name – ATTACK, ALL, and AROUND. Less than a year ago, fans were particularly concerned that with the release of this album, the group would disband. You’re done with the name, where to go next? Start piling on the letters?
Of course, less than a year ago, we also believed avex was sticking with the January 1st album release date trend. We also didn’t think Yukari was going to go. We certainly didn’t have any idea that AAA would show up at Otakon. (Okay, so perhaps the Otakon staff knew that.) See where that got us?
So! We’ve learned. No more speculation. Just. Listening. To pure pop… poppiness.
I actually started out sort of confused about this album. The previews of the new songs came out – and all I heard was bad things. (But see, clearly I’ve learned to stop listening to previews as well, especially if the quickness with which Red Soul grew on me was any indication.) I smiled, nodded, and said “Hey, I have a few months to get used to the music before my copy arrives.”
Then the full songs were made available for hearing… and so did the mixed messages about them. “Amazing.” “Terrible.” “BEST SONG IN THE HISTORY OF BEST SONGS.” (That one’s a direct quote, caps and all. Because it amused me.) “Unsatisfying.”
So I did what any sane person would do – not listen to them until I had to write this post. That’s not what you would do? Especially if you’re a fan? Well then, you must be insane. What? Are you calling my mental faculties and reasoning capabilities lacking, sir? Why yes, I do take offense to that! Have at thee! (The rest of you, do ignore this imaginary duel of honor and continue reading for my opinions on the album.)
o1/ Getチュー! [Get CHU!]: They chose to open the album with the sugar song. (Please see the PV review or the single review to find out why I call it the sugar song.) And while I suppose it’s energetic in its way, all upbeat and peppy and cute and daring you to
be more be the same with its upbeat pop-rock music punctuated by brass and the choruses led by Misako, I do wish they’d opened the album with a different single. Like… SUNSHINE. I guess they decided to at least keep the theme of opening with the first single released off the album.
Of course, I may just happen to be biased with the song because the choruses are sung in a pitch higher than my own, so I have a problem when singing it as compared to most AAA songs. Not saying anything, just maybe.
o2/ SUNSHINE: AAA’s first actual summer song off their first actual for-summer single is also fun, in a lazy sort of way. Just listening to the music by itself emphasizes that, and while avex likes to use brass to punctuate AAA songs, it only really reflects in the choruses. The rap is lighthearted and almost sing-song in nature, the singing floats along the music, and the whole atmosphere it evokes is a day of playing and laziness. Just listening to this makes me miss the drenching heat and academic freedom of summer.
Then again, I could be heavily biased towards this song, due to certain memories associated with it. And the fact that it’s just plain fun to sing.
o3/ SHEの事実 [SHE no Jijitsu]: What’s the opposite of sugar? Salt? Pepper? We’ll call this pepper. The pepper to Get CHU!‘s sugar, this song brings out the rock (salt? Okay, I’ll stop with the bad jokes) in AAA even more. Shame they couldn’t completely look the part. At least they managed to sound the part, as Urata turns out to work really well with rock songs. And they worked in vocals from Yukari and Chiaki surprisingly well, alongside Misako’s pouty self.
Okay, this time I admit it. My appreciation for this song has gone up more since the single review because I sang it with some friends.
o4/ 出逢いのチカラII [Deai no CHIKARA II]: The first of the new songs on the album is also the prerequisite member duet. Apparently we’re not getting a Nissy/Hidaka thing, because this is a continuation of the Nissy/Misako duet from the first album, ATTACK. It’s upbeat winter-sounding pop again, but it’s not as catchy or romantic as the first and comes off as pop done for the sake of doing it. They still kept the alternating vocals format that made it so much fun to listen, but it just doesn’t click with me.
This sequel will still be a fun song to sing, because of the passion both vocalists do put into the song, and the sharp way it segues from the bridge into the chorus. And the bright side – Urata’s totally doing backup vocals for Nissy during the chorus. Yes, that matters. Especially since I realized after Otakon that it would’ve been amusing to ask Urata to sing the original Deai no CHIKARA with me. Okay, moving on now.
o5/ 唇からロマンチカ [Kuchibiru kara ROMANTICA]: What did I say this was in the single review? Oh yes, the troubles of the adult world. And it adopted a more “adult” sound and look for AAA to go with it. It’s smoky, brassy, sexy, and like a true woman, Misako delivers the best performance vocally. But if you were expecting Nissy, who excels in pop, and Urata, who excels in rock, to do sexy better than the female vocalist, you’d be severely disappointed.
And this could be another one of the songs that I like better after having sung it. Just saying. Not that it’s saying much because I’ve sung along to and sung pretty much every AAA song.
o6/ Red Soul: Oh yes. The new single. Which I’ll get around to in its own post. But we’ve gone over how fast it grew on me in the video review. The missing minute doesn’t add anything new, but it doesn’t make the song any worse, either. With its high energy, dark vocals, and infectious beat, this is one I’m definitely looking forward to singing – ignoring Hidaka’s rapping as always. I mean, yes, he has a way with his voice that adds to the song’s atmosphere, but you know. I’m always left wondering exactly WHAT the boy is rapping.
o7/ Paradise Paradise: A confession. It took me a day before I could bring myself to move past the above song to listen to this one. Whether it’s because every word I’ve heard on it nears the “WTF is this?” sentiment, because Red Soul is truly that good, or because I reached the halfway point and found my attention beginning to wane is something I’ll leave up to you.
At any rate, this song is a bit jarring at first. The opening garbled mumbling, then the sudden attack of trombones and other brass instruments, the repeated secret agent-influenced backing riff, the vocal filters, the sudden jolt into the chorus with a piercing “ParaDISE ParaDISE” from Misako, and just the general overall composition seems like a mess. If Kuchibiru kara ROMANTICA was brass done right, this is brass gone wrong.
But this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a song like this, and if you happen to be an old school Crystal Kay fan, same for you. The overall thing is very similar to her song Shadows of Desire, between the opening, the jump into a dramatic secret agent-influenced track with filtered vocals, and the spoken bits during what would normally be an instrumental. It makes you wonder if Tanaka Nao, the arranger, was influenced by it in any way. But yes, I rather liked that song and this song has grown on me as a result of that. And yes, I’m having fun singing along to the stanzas.
o8/ 花火 [Hanabi]: The girls-only song of the album was also a summer song, found on the Natsumono single. Two months later, it’s still a lovely piece, light and easy-going with the bulk of the melody provided by Chiaki and Misako though the instrumentation is a lovely piece all by itself. This remains a song that couldn’t have been done with Yukari, and one of the few things that I do appreciate with her having left.
As far as singing goes though… I don’t like this. The choruses are a pitch too high. But so was KIMONO JET GIRL and that didn’t stop me from trying, so we’ll see how that goes.
o9/ No End Summer: The boys-only song is also clearly a summer song, and again, on the Natsumono single. Two months later, it is still good ol’ fun AAA pop, with its upbeat island/tropical atmosphere and Hidaka’s reggae-styled rap and the hip-hop instrumental with a rather fun dance and… okay, I’m repeating the review. But yes, all 5 boys get worked in, Urata’s high notes in the chorus aren’t quite appealing, and the descending vocal melody of the bridges add variety in an otherwise rising song.
This song is actually pretty addictive to sing thanks to the opening. Unfortunately, the first two sets of stanzas has Nissy and Urata reaching some pretty low notes. But again, nothing I won’t try! Especially since I’ve mastered Hidaka’s rap part.
10/ Body Talker: This is actually the last song I’m listening to on this album. It starts out jazzy, and goes upbeat without actually losing the jazz. It made me think of sure danse and Kuchibiru kara ROMANTICA (Gee, I reference that a lot, don’t I?) with its nightclub style, and the Kirei na Sora remix with its opening slow beats. And the brass makes it seem as though it would be right at home in some gambling city. Las Vegas, Macau, doesn’t matter. (Atlantic City doesn’t even count anymore.) It was okay because the stanzas were appropriately soft and Urata opened the song and the bridges weren’t all that bad though Misako sang as though the atmosphere from the stanzas were completely thrown away. (She made up for it with the final bridge.)
And then the chorus. Oh dear. Then it became just unabashedly cheesy. I really would like to sing this song too. But I don’t know if I can ever sing “Body get your love!!//Power get your love!!” without breaking up into fits.
11/ That’s Right: If its opposing A-side, Kuchibiru kara ROMANTICA, was adult troubles and brassy AAA; this song is teenage rebellion and rock AAA done well. Or so I wrote in the single review back then. It still applies, especially because both Urata and Nissy, who lead this song with unapologetic attitude, work well with the mood the music asks of them. And even that 3-second pause before Misako’s solo bit doesn’t annoy me anymore. And I think I have this song to thank for how well they do with Red Soul‘s musical atmosphere.
But I do hate how hard it is to sing the “Ah-ah” parts without coming off as whiny. I think the only reason AAA gets away with it is because they’re practically playing backup to Urata’s wails of agony. The rest of the song is fun to sing, make no doubt. Though I do get odd looks as I lip-sync it on the bus stop.
12/ 最後のコトバ [Saigo no KOTOBA]: The last song on the album (both old and new) is also the first of the new songs to be leaked out thanks to its presence in the mini-movie included with the CD+DVD version of this album, Kagi no Aru Basho. It opens slower than any other AAA slow song has done so far, with a piano opening and snaps providing the beat as Urata and Nissy lead us into the vocals. And then we get into that where they basically bounce off each others vocals, and the song makes me melt. The boys lead the song, and of course, I’m especially biased because they’re the boys of AAA.
Actually, if there’s a problem with the song, it’s that Chiaki and Misako don’t make much of an appearance unless it’s harmonies, or Misako’s one solo line before the last bunch of choruses. Whether it’s because they decided the girls had enough lines, between Hanabi and Misako leading a bunch of songs on the album already, or because this song just sounded better with the lower register of the males. (I certainly don’t think any avex staff were paying attention when I told Shuuta I wanted him to sing more, at least.
But it will still be a fun song to sing, and it’s a nice ending to the album, if a bit of a drastic genre change after the rock of That’s Right.
Overall, the album’s not quite deserving of the horrible things being said. Sure, the new songs aren’t all that great, but they’re not so bad either. (With the exception of Body Talker – I don’t know if my ears will forgive me that one.) The fact is, though, that the majority of the album is composed of singles and the singles are good. So never mind just the new songs (unless you bought all the singles. More than once.), it’s a decent thing from AAA that also has them trying to appeal to a less not-completely-pop crowd while still bringing pop to the table. And who doesn’t like
soda pop? (Don’t answer that – you don’t want to end up like my good dueling companion over there.)