1-2-3-4-5-6, it’s Ocean-sized NEWS!
NEWS‘ second album, pacific, was finally released. I get to say finally because they’ve been releasing pretty sporadically, and it’s been two years since the last album. This may be normal for other artists, but NEWS is a Johnny’s boyband – their sole purpose is to milk money. (Don’t deny it. I know you want to. For the sake of denying.)
For some reason, I’ve seen posts talking about this album as having a surprising variety of genres. But it’s pretty normal for a pop album. The boys (do I still get to call them boys? They’re all older than me, and I’m a ripe old age of 20. Let’s not think about what that makes you readers who are older than me) have improved vocally, and the songs generally do showcase their capabilities, but there’s the same amount of variety as in their first album touch. It’s just executed more skillfully. But I guess that’s what separates me from the shrieking fans who are going to throw flames at me for calling their beloved idols not special. Speaking of which… let me go dig up that flame extinguisher. It’s a boyband post, after all.
o1/ 愛のマタドール [Ai no MATADOR]: Hi. This is the obligatory sex song. There’s a new rule requiring all Johnny’s albums to have at least one song with the capability to be interpreted sexually, and apparently we’re jumping headfirst into it. (I don’t actually know if such an obligation exists, but it would explain a lot of things. Like Domoto Koichi’s solo album mirror, if you had read let it beat!. My head still hurts from that one.)
As you can probably judge from the title, the song abuses the stereotypical Spanish influences. Castanets and Spanish guitar riffs run rampant, though the presence of the stereotypical European melody (you know, the melody you often hear associated with France or Italy) lying in the background is amuses me for reasons I can’t quite explain. If you listen to Shimatani Hitomi, the bridge will probably sound familiar – it’s the exact same vocal melody she uses for the chorus of PASIO. Despite that and the fact that the song sounds like it belongs in the middle of the album, it’s a pretty powerful opener, grabbing you into the album right from the start and all the boys sounding good. (And I’m sure there’s more than one fangirl who’d like to be “grabbed” as described in the lyrics.)
o2/ サヤエンドウ [SAYAENDOU]: Oh, this song never gets old. Off their one and only single of 2006, and also the theme song to the seventh ONE PIECE movie (I do like linking the boys to ONE PIECE, yes.), I wrote an entire post’s worth about this one song alone here. I refuse to replicate it, but I still love it.
o3/ TEPPEN: Their last single before the hiatus that knocked out Uchi (that is, in 2005), this pop-rock cheer-type song still had both of the demoted boys (Kusano Hironori and Uchi Hiroki) singing in the single version, so it was re-recorded for this album. It ends up, not only did they replace the vocalists for those lines, they rearranged bits of the vocal distribution, and it sounds odd to my ears, so used to hearing the single version. Also, I rather liked Kusano. So. Not too fond of the new version.
o4/ Change the World: At the beginning of summer, rumors flew about claiming NEWS would have a new single release in August, and that it would be this song. Turns out that the release was the Never Ending Wonderful Story (NEWS, of course) DVD instead, but we still get the song. I’m rather glad this didn’t make a single, too – it wouldn’t be a very good single track. It starts out with edgy rock and rap stanzas, and then suddenly jumps into a pop bridge that leads into a pretty catchy and uplifting chorus. The transition is almost nonexistent and takes a while to get used to, but it works. The problem isn’t with the music, though. The first set of rap stanzas, done by Ryo and Yamapi, just really make me want to laugh. Save it for Koyama and Shige (who take the second set of stanzas), boys, they’ve had plenty of practice.
o5/ 君想フ夜 [Kimi OmoFU Yoru]: People I’ve talked to really like this song. Clearly, they’ve never heard Domoto Koichi’s Tsukiyo no Monogatari. (No prizes for guessing where my obvious bias lies.) The arrangement of the music is ridiculously similar – R&B with touches from Japanese instruments – the vocal melody of the chorus is reminiscent of Koichi’s track (though NEWS goes higher where Koichi heads down), and both songs have “Yoru” in the title. (Okay, that last one was a slight superficial stretch.) NEWS’ version isn’t bad – Massu’s voice works oddly well where Japanese instruments are concerned, regardless of what they are – but it keeps begging for comparison to the KinKi senpai, and he wins hands-down.
o6/ アリバイ [ALIBI]: One reason why NEWS and I aren’t as close as we could possibly be is their albums. Y’see, they have this tendency to have songs on their albums where not all the members are singing – and it isn’t identified ANYWHERE in the booklets or the website. This leads me to play guessing games, trying to recognize voices and figure out who is singing when and where and figure out who is missing, if any. (This was even crazier when they released touch with 8 members and for the longest while I just wouldn’t listen to it out of a need to direct spite.) This is important, because when I first listened to this song, I mistook Koyama’s voice for Massu’s. They really do sound alike thanks to that nasal hint in both their voices – Koyama’s just a bit lower. But no, this is a KoyaShige duet – which makes the references to Massu (Masuda Takahisa) and Tegoshi in the lyrics all the more amusing.
Okay, onto the actual song. I don’t like it much. I hate this music – 80’s slinky synth that belongs in a roller disco and I have problems to work out, and they haven’t been fixed yet. May never be, actually. Shige’s low, soft voice sounds amazingly good with this sort of music, though.
o7/ code: Nishikido’s Ryo solo song; and one of only two solos that were sung in the concert recorded on the NEWS DVD that made it to the album. While I really have nothing against solo songs for groups being included in albums, please put them on a separate disc like with SweetS’ 5 Elements (Two discs; the one with the new songs had the solos, but there was another one at least) or Arashi’s limited edition of Time if there’s more than two vocalists in the group. It seems less like filler tracks thrown in to save production costs (less voices to edit), even if it costs more, and allows for more solo songs. (Which would be good, I rather liked Koyama’s LOVE ADDICTION, Shige’s KAKAO, and Massu’s Pumpkin.)
I’m going off-track again. Um, let’s see. I didn’t really like it when he performed it live on the NEWS DVD, but I rather like the album version. Probably because his voice doesn’t have as much of the whiny tinge to it. (Yay for the magic of computer sound editors!) It’s rock and he does decently, though the instrumental portion seems to have been sampled from Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris. It’s not a bad song, as long as you don’t let the ridiculous “YEAH-YEAH”s get to you. (They’re actually a lot better than when he sang live. Trust me on this.) There’s a reason for them, explained here, but it still annoys me.
o8/ チラリズム [CHIRARIZUMU]: Another KoyaShige duet, this is fun pop with rock and brass touches and the duo at their best. Probably because they’re having fun with it. The lyrics are amusing (and again, the sex is out there), and the bounced vocals add an extra element of fun. If you think I’m abusing the word fun, you’re probably right. But that’s because for boybands, this song defines fun. Right down to the live performance where they mirror each other’s actions. Adorable and fun. Can’t go wrong.
o9/ 愛なんて [Ai Nante]: The song everyone loves. A piano opening, then rock, and Tegoshi, Shige, and Ryo sing this wonderfully. The compositions and vocal buildup are done solidly – with vocal dominator Tegoshi being given the parts that need to touch and Shige and Ryo dealing the sad but rough attitude that makes the guitar-filled second half sound together. There is not a bad word I can say about this ballad. Okay, one. Tegoshi’s high notes may not appeal to everyone. I think it fits.
10/ なんとかなるさ [Nantoka naru sa]: Of course, the other half of NEWS goes to the other song. That would be Massu (who leads this one, since Tegomass didn’t get a song on the album), Yamapi, and Koyama, for those of you counting. It’s easygoing, fitting the title, making full use of the relaxing island beat. It’s a good way to start winding down the album – especially after the dramatic powerhouse act the last track pulled off – though I found the abrupt switch into the ending seconds (which draws comparisons to the slow opening) a bit odd.
11/ ゴメンネ ジュリエット [GOMEN NE JULIET]: Unsurprisingly, the second solo song on the album belongs to Yamashita Tomohisa. Slightly surprisingly, it was written by Yamapi himself. I say surprisingly because the instrumentation is gorgeous. (Okay, so it was arranged by someone else. Shush and listen to the pretty song.) Lots of strings, really light and soft on the ears despite being a relatively fast paced pop song. Even the rap is made better with the strings. It’s a shame that Yamapi’s vocals aren’t as smooth or clear to handle this as well as it could have be done, but he does well enough and the music makes up for everything.
12/ 裸足のシンデレラボーイ [Hadashi no CINDERELLA BOY]: This was released in 2006, as a double A-side single with SAYENDOU. So I’ve been listening to it for that long and there’s still one thing I don’t quite get about this song – other than the lyrics, what part of it is “Barefoot Cinderella Boy”? The music is pop-rock at its strongest, encouraging, and most powerful incarnation. But the lyrics are from the point of view of someone who’s been discouraged way too many times. There’s absolutely no Cinderella story for this guy, and it’s almost crazy how sad he is. But it is supposed to be a feel-good song, and it does its job if you just completely ignore the lyrics.
13/ 星をめざして [Hoshi wo Mezashite]: It’s times like these when I sort of wish let it beat! was still around – because I’m incredibly lazy and wish I could link back to the write-up I did on the PV. This is NEWS’ comeback single from earlier this year – and we can definitely call this the comeback. No more scandals, right boys? Right? It’s very uplifting pop-rock that’s meant to be encouraging, though generic, and rather fits the idea of comeback – both lyrics (dying once and then coming back again?) and musically (it starts out low, then rises and keeps it there). There’s not much more I can say about this. It’s been around for over half a year now, folks, and if you’re reading this you’ve probably already heard it.
14/ 真冬のナガレボシ [Mafuyu no NAGAREBOSHI]: If you’d bought the limited edition of the album, you got a shiny photobook that was designed to seem like a scrapbook of the members. But if you bought the regular edition of the album, you got the following two tracks. Either way, you got something the other edition didn’t have, and so Johnny’s Quest to get fans to buy both editions while pacifying (pun unintended) fans who only managed to get the regular edition was relatively successful.
As you can probably tell by the title (Midwinter’s Shooting Stars), it’s a winter song, though not a new one – Tegoshi performed this back at the end of 2005 and NEWS (with Kusano) did so in early 2006. Because I’ve had a bit much of the stereotypical winter songs, it’s nice that the usual winter effects haven’t been abused. They’re still there, synth melodies and twinkles and all, but if you didn’t know the meaning, it’s generic enough to be a regular pop song for any season.
15/ その笑顔 僕に見せて [Sono Egao Boku ni Misete]: Hello, acapella. The last track is just over a minute long and a duet between Yamapi and Ryo. They did the same thing with Yume no Kazu Dake Ai ga Umareru on the touch album, and it was popular enough to land itself as a full-length B-side with music on the TEPPEN single, but this isn’t as great. (I don’t care what the fangirls say.) Ryo and Yamapi’s voices like to fight for vocal dominance instead of blending, and the second half of the track is their battleground. It’s not completely horrible, but it could be better, too.
I’m not quite sure this was worth the wait. The songs are all pretty good, and grew on me rather quickly, but it’s sort of what I’ve come to expect from boybands. Still, it was rather relaxing to just listen to this while people-watching, jotting notes, and drinking iced tea. It’s a feel-good album and it does its job. NEXT!