I was referred to as “Arasick” as I complained about Arashi working their way into my life to the extent that they have. While I can’t really deny it, somewhat appropriately, the next Arashi album for me to work through is ARASHIC.
My original blurb of BS grew to become its own post, so off to the album we go. Sorry if you were looking for more text to slog through. I’ll give you a hailstorm of words another time. Something that I did come to think about over the course of listening to this album, though – a number of songs that I would normally loathe became more tolerable. Is this part of my Ara-sickness, because I let them grow on me with the repeated listens as I typed up this post, or is it just because I’m currently in the throes of infatuation? (Hey, looks like I found another post topic. I’ll be working on that while you continue through this post, then.)
o1/ WISH: The theme song to the first installment of Matsumoto Jun’s so-popular-it-makes-my-head-hurt drama Hana Yori Dango, this single was originally released in November, which makes the liberal abuse of stereotypical winter pop song effects and sleigh bells more reasonable.
But it becomes a lot less reasonable when you consider that it’s an opener for an album that was released in July. Fortunately, I happen to be listening to it during the season (and the mall I go to when I want to focus on whatever I’m doing in a fairly relaxing atmosphere had the holiday decorations up already), so it’s not as off-putting as it would be if I listened to it during another season. It’s an okay song that draws a lot of parallels to classic holiday songs, so nothing special to say about the vocals here.
o2/ ランナウェイ・トレイン [RUNAWAY TRAIN]: Ha, ha, ha. I was slowly growing to tolerate Sho’s rapping, and then this song came on. It’s a more fitting pop-rock opener to the album, and Sho’s rap lyrics (“Arashi’s back again”) fit that, even… but consider the fact that he sounds maniacal for most of his rap parts here until he starts to half-sing at about 2:18. I realize he’s probably trying to fit mood along with the dominant low guitar chords that go on when he does rap, but that laughing just doesn’t help. Other than the rap, though, it’s a motivational song that gets its message across despite lacking energy during the stanzas.
o3/ Raise Your Hands: Okay, here’s our prerequisite sexy song. Even the music asks for it to be seen as such, with a slinky nightlife feel. Because I listened to the Time album first, I keep drawing comparisons to WAVE, and it does have a general similar air. Loud outbursts (“RAISE! YOUR! HANDS!”) that thread throughout the song and make the chorus kind of annoying – though Nino’s background “Hey now” bits save the latter. The opening rap was somewhat interesting, until Sho continued “in da air like this?” and then it became overkill. He somewhat redeemed himself later, but I would still be ready to skip past this song into the next one if I wanted to listen to his rapping. This will grow on me, I predict (actually, it’s already started), but until then, there are other Arashi songs I prefer.
o4/ きっと大丈夫 [Kitto Daijoubu]: Wow, just like this they get rid of the single tracks off the album. That was… fast. Anyways, Arashi gets the good people to work for them – such as Shinnosuke of SOUL’d OUT, who came up with the music for this song (and some others I liked on Time). Arashi also gets the well-known people to like their songs (Hamasaki Ayumi with Happiness, Hirai Ken and Eiji Wentz with this song) and them (any number of famous people), and so they get some free publicity too. Looking at it like that, their popularity becomes easier to comprehend.
That’s a good thing, because this song has possibly the gayest video to come up in J-Pop yet (no matter whether you think gay defines homosexual or happiness), and everyone should partake of it. The track itself is a surprising mishmash of attitudes that becomes very addictive. You have the seductive rap from Sho, the too-cheerful chorus, the stanzas that suggest a hint of rock-style strength, the bridges with their childish vocal melody, and then the light-hearted solo lines right before the drawn out “wow” before Sho’s final rap section. And somehow, it all works.
o5/ Ready to Fly: Okay, I had to take a break before continuing onto this song so I wouldn’t be as biased. This brings back the late-night jazzy atmosphere, and gives us a simple vocal melody to ease us back into the album after the insanity of the last track. The choral hook (“Ready To Fly, Ready To Fly, To You”) is catchy, and slightly familiar (but clearly I can’t place it yet). The most striking point of the song is how the first half becomes “Ohno Satoshi with
Super Monkeys Arashi”, and the rest of the boys only sing in a group. But he doesn’t seem to be breaking out anytime soon, this album was released last year, and it’s not as though it’s a completely solo track, so we’ll leave Arashi alone on that point.
o6/ キャラメル・ソング [CARAMEL SONG]: So it’s about time we got a ballad, and here we are. Nino gets most of the solo lines this time – and after hearing Niji, I applaud this choice, especially because he’s got a lighter voice when he sings softly that perfectly suits this easygoing slow-pop piece. It opens with the sound of children playing, and for the most part sticks with a light tinkling melody and slow acoustic guitar chords. But starting from the second bridge, it gradually sneaks in the horns, bells, and electric guitars that add a grand air to the song without being too obnoxious.
o7/ COOL & SOUL: This took me a while to get to. I’m actually typing this blurb last, out of the songs on this album. But it was amongst the first songs I listened to from this album, and I’m still not sure how to go about it.
You know of nobodyknows+? (Of course you don’t, that’s why they’re the group nobody knows. Okay, shoot me later.) This is basically them, done boyband style. The music (a blend of strings and piano-zipping in hip-hop beats), style of speed-rapping, the vocal differences (Nino sounds unbelievably similar to one of the nobodyknows+ MCs – but even without that, there are five different voices rapping); if I didn’t know better (and if there wasn’t that constant and slightly annoying “A-RA-SHI COOL/A-RA-SHI SOUL” in the chorus), I’d say this was a nobodyknows+ song. Arashi pulls it off – you either grow to hate this, or love it (I like nobodyknows+, so no prizes for guessing which). Nino continues to impress me vocally (as does Aiba here), and Sho’s rap lyrics are rather interesting.
I have two problems with this song though. One – the use of the “hip, hop, the hippie the hippie dibby hip hop hop and you don’t stop” line and its vocal melody. Or well, something similar. (Sho’s interpretation involves “da hi bi da hi bi” and makes my head hurt.) Overused, just like “Somebody, everybody SCREAM/SAWAGE.” Has that become a rule of thumb for hip-hop groups? It’s not horrible, I’m just sick of the line. Two – Sho. Speaking in English. “Um, the story goes back to the second album, which is called album second” – the first time I listened to this song, he didn’t get past the word “to” before I realized he was speaking in English and burst out in laughter. In public. (I mentioned I focus on doing album reviews in a mall, right?) Okay, yeah, he’s supposedly fluent in English. I don’t care. Just… no. That line just made this whole song a lot less serious. Luckily both parts show up around the same area and right in between is a quieter rap segment that bounces between audio channels with a jazzy piano melody that really sounds good, so I overlook it. Most of the time.
o8/ 旅立ちの朝 [Tabidachi no Asa]: Somewhat ironically, I started preparing for this post right after listening to, and declaring I didn’t like AAA‘s Akireru Kurai Wagamama na Jiyuu for its music. I still don’t. Like that song, that is. And I didn’t like this at first, because it has the same stereotypical opening as all those American ballads on the “Lite FM” channels I mentioned. Exact same, even. Vocal melody’s similar as well, and while the chorus seems to be sampled from a different track than what this reminds me of, the entire thing screams classic American slow pop with its jazz and piano. And it leaves me confused, because I don’t mind this song. Arashi doesn’t have the greatest vocals – in fact, Sho’s rougher voice and Jun’s nasality make them suffer here – and the music makes me literally twitch. But I don’t mind it and I don’t know why. (I can say, though, if I happen upon another boyband song with the same theme, I will punch something.)
o9/ I Want Somebody: This is clearly the Jun-centric song. Once I figured that out, then I worked on distinguishing it with a category separate from the last of his solos I’d heard – Yabai-Yabai-Yabai. For one thing, it’s not annoying pop, but draws on 80’s rock with a nice guitar solo injected in there, too. For another, Jun’s nasality doesn’t distract. Sure, Ohno makes a clear vocal appearance, but the lead for this track is undeniably Jun, and it appeals without being obnoxious. Actually, it comes off as Jun’s 80’s version of Cry for you, and we should know how much I liked that song.
10/ Secret Eyes: Aiba leads this song. And am I ever glad that it’s not a solo track, because he’s audibly straining on a number of lines. Actually, I don’t even know how to describe this track. Lots of showboat horns, falsetto abuse, Aiba raps with Sho (and made me laugh out loud), and yeah. Not an absolutely horrible song, but far from being a good track on the album. (Again, this brings back the question – am I letting this slide though it grates against my ears because I like Arashi?)
11/ 超²ありがとう [Chou² Arigatou]: Supposedly, Sho is the leader of this song. It’s rather hard to tell, because the vocals seem evenly spread out in relation to how their songs usually go (just Sho has taken over where Ohno would usually go). It’s another song I don’t quite know how to describe, just full of cheese (The “Tell all the world” hook seems to be backed with a gospel choir) with a saxophone section. And it just doesn’t work with Sho’s voice – with the exception of his “Hey atama kite okoru mae ni sonna koto wasurechae” line, he just hurt to hear. I would take his rapping to this song, anyday.
12/ CARNIVAL NIGHT part 2: This is apparently “part 2” because there was a song previously written by the same composer titled “CARNIVAL NIGHT”, though that song was not sung by Arashi. I have absolutely no words for the ridiculous confusion this brought while I went back through all records of Arashi’s discography for a song titled “CARNIVAL NIGHT” and found nothing. And were it not for the fact that this track turns out to be awesome and fun, and stops just short of outright obnoxious, I would fly to Japan just to hunt down that composer and shoot him. YOU KILL “REVIEWERS” LIKE ME, YOU HEAR?
Luckily for him, the song is, as I said, fun, with a catchy beat. Appropriately, it fits the Carnival theme, whether you’re talking a night street fair or something like the carnivals of Rio de Janeiro. Arashi goes at this with exactly the right attitude and energy, the background vocals during the bridge (especially where they yell out the letters spelling “Carnival”) and chorus add an extra dimension of a group fun atmosphere, and the music is surprisingly layered despite the synth emphasis. Were it not for the headache the title caused me, this would’ve made up completely for the aural headache of the last track. As it is, it redeems it a lot. (The rest was fixed by heading back to Kitto Daijoubu and CARAMEL SONG.)
13/ シルバーリング [SILVER RING]: The fadeout of the last track leads us into the piano and string opening of the final track. From the vocal melody (and occasional jazz influences found in between lines) to the sudden inclusion of electric guitar chords and heavy drumbeat punctuated with cymbals and even the lyrics, this bears all the hallmarks of the “Lite FM” style I so love to hate, and yet Arashi has made it their own song. I still don’t like it much. If they performed this at a concert I was attending I’d probably slam in the earbuds and start the MP3 Player. But it’s a tempering ending to the album that does its job – do you realize how painful it is for me to admit this? – even if it’s bland compared to the last track.
14/ LOVE PARADE: As always, there is a bonus track for the poor suckers who are stuck with the regular edition of the album. Oh, but wait, I can’t watch Region-2 DVDs on my laptop and at this point I only know two of the five performances offered up on the DVD included on the limited-edition version anyways.
Even without that rationalization, I would buy the regular edition of the album to get this song, because Arashi and big band are a good collaboration. Ohno’s in his element here, but the rest of the guys deliver their lines well, and the high notes don’t come off as irritation. Also, frankly, the mental image of them in full-out suits with top hats and canes dancing showboat-style is amusing me.
I like this album, really I do. Unfortunately, because most of the songs rely on brass or some classic American music element, the tracks (with a few notable exceptions) mostly blended into my mind. I’m going to have to give it a few more listens before I can mentally distinguish songs the way I can do for the Time album, but the Ara-sickness has clearly not faded yet. What’s that? The next album for me to work through has solo songs too? Oh no.