What Time is it?
Some things get better with the passage of time. Wine, cheese, music. And fandoms.
So I’ve been waiting until my Arashi fandom was securely developed before choosing to delve into their latest album, Time. It is one thing to like a group because of its music, it is something else to like their music once you like the group. (For example, I like MiniMoni – Yaguchi-era – but can’t stand the pink and cutesy of their songs. In contrast, I like HINOI TEAM’s music, but I’ve yet to find myself really liking the group for who they are.)
So my distaste of Matsumoto Jun has waned slightly, but all the members of the group have risen at least some distance in my books (Okay, so Ohno/Nino/Aiba shot up so quickly it’s ridiculous.) so it doesn’t count for much. His face still pisses me off and I laugh every time a kid does something to him in Mago Mago Arashi. And as I told Raid – this review would take me longer than NEWS’ pacific (despite the fact that I started this post before that one) just because I had to tolerate Jun. (By the way, Raid’s started his own fanblog
because I’m awesome and he wants to imitate me and the amount of stuff he buys is insane. So go check it out because without him this post wouldn’t be here. Go. Go go go go GO.)
Um. Moving on. I’m too lazy to dig up the flame extinguisher this time. Go away, flaming fangirls. Flame off for you today.
o1/ Oh Yeah!: The opening track – and right from the start you can tell it’s going to be a soaring one. The way the vocals grow into the chorus makes this a fun listen – the slow wakeup of the stanzas, the surge of speed in the bridge, and then the energetic chorus. It’s a very cheering song that has me perking up, and I especially like the guitar at the beginning and end of the track.
o2/ Love so sweet: Arashi’s first single of 2007 is also one of the songs for the second installment of way-too-popular drama Hana Yori Dango. It’s very easy on the ears with its mid-tempo pace, piano led back, and softer vocal melodies. It also sounds like it belongs near the end of the album, but eh, I didn’t arrange this album. It’s not a bad song, but it seems rather tame after the strong first track.
o3/ WAVE: The jazz. Make it stop. Okay, so it’s not bad and the jazz doesn’t literally dominate the song. What it does is provide the entrance for the song and then take over any part without sung vocals. Because yes, Sho decides to throw in some rap. The constant outburst of “WAVE!” may get annoying, but for the most part, it’s a good song that would perfectly fit in with any late night talk show. I really like the chorus immediately after the rap, where Aiba, Nino, and Jun each solo a line while Sho echoes Nino and Ohno delivers vocal outbursts of “WAVE!” before return to the regular chorus.
o4/ We can make it!: I guess you could call this the song that started it all. Not my first Arashi song, but it did send me on that downhill snowball. The theme song to Matsumoto Jun’s Bambino!, and like with most boyband songs, an encouraging upbeat generic pop track in every way. Sho throws in a song-rap, more song than rap, and I have memorized how Ohno’s vocalizations throughout the ending chorus goes. The benefits of having covered a song with friends, yes. So even amongst the many songs Arashi has, this will always have a special place in my heart.
o5/ Firefly: …and the album just took an abrupt turn. I’m very biased and basing this on a limited sample, but this sounds very much like a Korean boyband song with slightly less vocal power. That is by no means a bad thing, that just means it’s an R&B song that goes heavy on the bass and some dramatic instrumentation. I really like this song, actually, from the first second of the opening piano to the final second. You’d think Aiba and Nino’s vocals wouldn’t sound so good with this sort of music, but the arrangers managed to circumvent that by having them sing with other people when they did sing. Sho throws in rap, but it works perfectly well; his husky rapping voice against the rising and falling piano chords is an interestingly good combination.
o6/ 太陽の世界 [Taiyou no Sekai]: I’m beginning to think that there’s no specific way the songs on the album have been arranged, and they’re all just thrown onto the disc. On one hand, you could say there is no monotony of too similar sounding songs. On the other hand, we have some pretty drastic genre changes, even for boyband pop.
The 6th track on the album is disco flavored. And Sho’s opening rap has me snickering at 1:18AM. Once the fuzz filter comes off, his rapping really goes well with the beat and sets the atmosphere as much as the music does, but with it on, he’s apparently crowd-raiser MCing and it just sets me off. I actually haven’t heard previous single Lucky Man enough to be really saying anything, but this song does make me think of it in some way – happy disco-flavored pop that seems perfect for Arashi with a fun beat that has me swaying to the music. (But Sho, I don’t think your rapping’s having the full intended effect on me. I’m going to die of laughter here and I’m a sucker for Japanese rap no matter how badly done. Oh man.)
o7/ Carry on: Hey, more genre-skipping. A guitar-led power ballad with some synth melodies and varied drums that I can’t identify. It’s a pretty strong track that’s still encouraging (C’mon, just look at the title and tell me it’s not going to be a “go ahead, do your best” type of song. Yes, I totally pulled that line from a NEWS song.), but it’s mostly notable for not only showcasing the members’ vocals individually, and having them sound just as good as they do when they’re together. We probably thank the musical arrangement – it’s both lovely to listen to and enhances the singing rather nicely.
o8/ ROCK YOU: I… really liked the last four tracks. Loved, even. I guess there had to be one of these to even it out. Ignore the “rock” in the title, this is a bouncy pop track with ragtime piano threading throughout. The piano makes it really nice, actually, and the first stanza with just Ohno’s singing and the light piano melody is sweet; but not only is this too bouncy for my tastes, there’s Sho rap. What if I don’t want to clap my hands, Sho, what then? One of those feel good songs that works best when you’re already feeling good or NEED to feel good. At this moment, I’m clearly neither. (I guess it doesn’t help that it’s 1:44AM and my mind is still loving Firefly and Carry on.)
o9/ Cry for you: Hurray, we’re back to the darker-sounding tracks! That doesn’t mean this song is like Firefly or Carry on – Cry for you is rock and proud of it, and Arashi does the same. Aiba and Nino are funnily adept with this genre; you’d think it’d be Sho and Jun, who do decently, but not as good as I’d somehow heard it in my mind. Though the rap fits again, and no insistence that I clap, thank you very much Sho. I really like Sho’s low “kimi dake ni” bits interjected between Ohno’s “Cry for you” after the second chorus, but the entire song burns with an attitude and passion that’s really nice to hear coming from a boyband who pulled off the prior track.
10/ Love Situation: Okay, I first wrote a blurb for this after 2AM. In there I admitted I liked this song and blamed it on the late hour. Then I went to bed, woke up the next morning, and came back to it. And deleted it. Because I’m pretty awake and I still like it. Not at first, the piano and brass mixed in with hip-hop beats is a bit too generic and the stanzas didn’t appeal to me, but the chorus is fun, and it’s the chorus that won me over. It skips along with the beat, and I really love the final pre-chorus bit where they sing lines stuff individually. Jun’s voice first begins to annoy me here, though, with his “waraenai Love Situation” line.
11/ 風 [Kaze]: Another track with lots of piano, it’s upbeat and relaxing all at once. I’m really not sure how else to describe it. I can say, though, that they managed to make a lovely musical piece into boyband pop and there’s a nagging feeling that I’d rather hear this from someone like Shimatani Hitomi. Sho also apparently likes to reuse melodies and rhythms, because I could swear the one he uses for his rap here is way too similar to the one in Itsumademo from the Love so sweet single. Actually, the entire track is like a toned-down version of Itsumademo.
12/ Be with you: Okay, piano seems to be the theme of the day. This one’s a gentle love ballad with solo lines for everyone. And not everyone does the solo lines well, but it’s something I’ll overlook because the group lines are fine, Ohno shines enough to cover for them all, and the music is pretty.
13/ LIFE: A pop track with lots of buildup that would also make a great graduation song. It starts off light, with some acoustic guitar strumming setting the mood, and the vocals slowly grow into the louder chorus. This is one of the few songs where I don’t like Ohno’s vocals (in the first bridge), but surprisingly I’m fine with everyone else – even Sho’s rap. The music is rather fitting of the title – for some reason it has me thinking of growing plants and the life cycle a kid learns in science class back in elementary/primary school. Don’t ask, just know that I approve.
14/ アオゾラペダル [AOZORA PEDAL]: Wow, this song is old. Okay, summer 2006 isn’t that old, but forgive my lack of time concepts. The theme song to the live-action Hachimitsu to CLOVER (also known as Honey & Clover) movie, in which Sho starred and… hold on a sec, I just realized Arashi was invading my interests long before I succumbed to them. I was the one who got piro (my Arashi-loving friend, if you’ll recall) into Honey & Clover back in 2005. And she continued to like it right through the movie release and… oh no. Someone shoot me.
On the song itself (while you all search for that elephant gun). Thanks to the magical skills of Suga Shikao (who wrote this song), we have a relaxing song that has all 5 boys sounding good. It’s pop, but not generic; it’s very Suga Shikao-ish, with guitars and lots of actual instruments put together to form a laid-back sound, even with the presence of a giant bell and a concert bass drum. A lovely ending to the album.
15/ Everybody前進 [Everybody Zenshin]: If you bought the regular edition of the album, this was a bonus track that you got on its one disc. While my personal opinion is that the limited edition would be much more worth it, this track is a lot of fun too. This is the kind of song that you expect to be played as a cheer song during sports games, even the lyrics. Throw in an 80’s dance beat, and you have a song that is exactly what Arashi’s about. Feel-good dance with a “you can do it!” message.
Along with the 14 tracks on the album, if you bought the limited edition of the album you got a second disc with all five members singing a song solo. By the way, I did this part of the review first, not that it’s important but an interesting contextual note.
o1/ Song for me: The second disc opens with a song from Arashi’s near-unarguably best vocalist, Ohno Satoshi, and it’s a slow-tempo dance track. That may seem like an oxymoron, but really. The music is minimal, with a dance beat that jumps in from the bridges on and the atmosphere and pace set by the building strings – and Ohno’s singing, too. I liked this the instant I heard it, and then I decided to look up the live. (One of the good things about reviewing a pop album long past its release.) Hello, Captain. That was amazing. It doesn’t matter that I know people (okay, a person) who can dance and freestyle like that with ease; I’m still wowed. This is my current JE song love – don’t even think of trying to separate us. The first of our many kids (that is, me singing this song) is on the way. I actually spent longer being stuck on this song than trying to get over Jun being in the album.
o2/ Friendship: We continue with Aiba Masaki, who pops out with well, a relaxing pop song that features an R&B beat. The music sounds a lot like what Ryohei’s been putting out; it’s the vocal melody that makes this song pop. Aiba’s got a reedy voice that doesn’t really agree with me, but it fits with this track for some fun mindless pop. This is the sort of song that gives you mental images of bouncing or flying, and considering this is Aiba, it rather fits.
o3/ 虹 [Niji]: My original assessment of Ninomiya Kazunari‘s voice was – hold on, let me look it up, section 6 – oh yes, 12-year-old. Well then, turns out he’s a 12-year-old with a pretty good voice as long as it suits him. It’s a piano ballad with some light percussion and he handles it perfectly. This had my jaw dropping, and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’m going to have to pick up this version of the album for this song alone, though that’s not to say I don’t like some of the other solos. It’s okay that it’s sold out everywhere like with most limited Johnny’s stuff… I have my sources. The buying will be set in motion.
o4/ Can’t Let You Go: Performed by Sakurai Sho, which apparently isn’t hard to tell because the song opens with rap. I like him, but he still can’t rap. Good sense of beat and rhythm, but I want to laugh every time I hear him rap. His singing voice really isn’t bad, but it’s not going to win him any awards anytime soon, just swooning fangirls. This song is almost cutesy, using strings and piano to create a light-hearted mood that begs to be played during a stroll, and Sho contributes to it perfectly even with his slightly rough voice. Except the rap comes in and the song tries to be taken seriously during then and I really just can’t do it. I tried, I swear.
o5/ Yabai-Yabai-Yabai: This is not just the Matsumoto Jun hate speaking. This is the stupidest song title I have seen in a while. There is silly, and then there is begging to be mocked. The Jun hate laughs at it and attempts to avoid listening to this song until we decide that this review just really wouldn’t be complete without it. Shame, because the song annoys me right from the start with an echo of “Yabai” and it’s upbeat pop chorus; and then continues to abuse the echo effects. I still sort of like Jun’s voice – he manages to make his nasality work for him, and normally nasality and I don’t get along – but the song is almost too upbeat between the disco melody and the skipping beat. It’s a feel-good song, and it does its job best when the listener wants to feel good – and when I was feeling rather down, this did cheer me up. But otherwise, it’s like an overly sugary cereal: only for those who like it.
Fandoms aren’t the only things that improve with time – singing voices and performing abilities do too. Time’s been a great album to dip my toes in the Arashi pool with, but as it’s also their latest… well, I guess I’ll go back one by one and slowly get used to their changing voices (and laugh at their younger images), though my love for the darker songs on this album is a bit telling as to how I’ll do with that adventure. For now, though, I believe I’ve found my first Arashi purchase. If you’ll excuse me, I need to hit up eBay.