There were just Two many puns for One.
Yes, I know, I’m behind schedule on the Arashi album reviews. (I wasn’t even aware that I had a schedule.) But if there’s anything that the guys at Rockstar Games have taught us, it’s that there’s got to be better ammo out there to use against me. What is this you’re hitting me with, a suction cup foam dart? C’mon, you guys can do better than tha- ow. A shotshell? Okay, fine, you win.
Next stop on our ever-descending journey into Arashi music – no, you can’t get off while the train is moving, sir, please stay in your seat until we come to a full stop, and have we mentioned that the engineers love cries of personal torture? – is their One album, and the first to contain solos from the 5 members.
Solos from groups leave me feeling very confused, actually, because I love them – I love being able to hear the individual members’ capabilities – and at the same time feel like they’re sort of filler tracks for any group consisting of more than three people that doesn’t normally include solo songs on their releases. (So 3-nin dream’s Process slips by, as does BeForU because Konami – who was still in charge during BeForU II – just liked to whore out Riyu and Noria.) Perhaps the only reason I accepted the presence of solo tracks for SweetS on 5 elementS and Arashi on Time was because there were two discs of songs. Folder5’s HYPER GROOVE PARTY had its solo songs blended in with the rest by nature of being a giant Mega-mix with 30 “tracks”. That were around a minute each. 5 songs don’t really add or subtract much in that case. But here, it’s just one disc.
On top of that, there was only one single off this album, because the other two were shuffled onto the best-of collection (5×5) released before it. It’s not an especially strong single, either. The incentive to buy this album is mostly coming from the presence of solo tracks, which hints strongly at this just being a money-making thing, where J-STORM couldn’t wait to send fans off on another Arashi trip that also conveniently resulted in them getting their own trip. Presumably to some nice warm exotic island. (But I like that single, it’s the first Arashi song I liked, so shuddup, accept it, and move on. At least, that’s what I’m telling my brain.)
By the way, it should be noted that as far as album covers for this one went, I prefer the limited one. Why? Nino looks hot there. I mean, sure, here on the regular one they all look decent in their individual polaroids (except Ohno and Jun, who suffer from bad lighting and look a bit stoned – wait, for Ohno the latter’s normal); and on the limited one Aiba and Jun don’t have good angles (and Ohno still looks stoned). But Nino’s completely rocking the emo pretty boy look on the limited cover and that picture literally made my jaw drop. Oh, and Sho… is just being Sho. You know, goofy pretty boy with useless muscles. They’re all over East Asia.
o1/ Overture: The rap. THE RAAAAAAAP. Arashi, nobodyknows+ you are not. For one thing, nearly everyone knows you guys. To give this track its credit (also because I really don’t hate Arashi rapping all that much, I just want to laugh), this is sort of the predecessor to COOL & SOUL (not to overlook La tormenta, but that’s a category (and multiple genres) all its own), and I liked COOL & SOUL… I also liked the opening lazy yawn from Sho. But then came the gospel hints and the “IT’S OKAY, IT’S ALRIGHT//WE GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME” chant and I think it’s time to skip.
o2/ 夏の名前 [Natsu no Namae]: This song lies. It starts out with a pretty easy piano melody – suddenly in bursts the strings sounding like they belong in one of Pachelbel’s compositions, then comes a dramatic series of piano chords backing Ohno, and then it attacks you with a “We’ve obviously been pop all along, foo'” melody and everybody joins in. So I’m sort of ashamed to say that despite the variety of tempos and the presence of actual instruments (which Sho’s rap works surprisingly well with), this is pretty generic. Might be because it was from 2005, and that was two years ago, but, yeah. I still like it. I go “If this is what Ohno sounded like two years ago, I’m screwed for the rest of Arashi’s career” everytime Ohno sings solo in this track. And this is just the first actual song on the album too.
o3/ ROMANCE: Okay, as I go back through the Arashi albums, I must wonder. Is there ALWAYS one of these songs? The jazzy late night talk show music thing, I mean. We’ve gone through WAVE and Raise Your Hands on this blog already, and it’s always the same general theme, same general topic, even same general position on the album. This has hints of the upbeat synth melody used in CARNIVAL NIGHT Part 2, and I like the vocal bounceoff used during the stanzas, but there’s really not all that much to differentiate between the aforementioned two songs. This does seems to be Arashi’s genre, though, because as always, they do pretty well with this.
o4/ Lai-Lai-Lai: “How do I describe this?” is the first thing that comes to mind. There’s a genre, but it won’t flow off my fingers. So what you need to know – it’s a pretty fast track with the bulk of the music being chaotic Latin-influenced piano and punctuating horns. Arashi cuts into each other during the stanza lines, but generally maintain the perfect amount of energy that keeps this song fun. I love this song until the hip-hop decides to swerve itself in with a Spanish guitar melody. (The guitar’s fine, it’s the hip-hop that leaves a bad taste.) Luckily, after the guitar we’re returned to our regularly scheduled broadcast. It’s a tension-raiser, whether or not they’re in concert, and it’s a song I’d really like to see performed live.
o5/ Days: Surprisingly, this will be the only slow song on the album. (There are ballads and downtempo tracks coming up, but they’re all pretty decently paced.) If it weren’t the length of a full track, I’d think it was some sort of interlude, because halfway through the song it sounds like it’s about to end with the vocalizations. Instead, it just moves onto the second set of stanzas. This is another track with the hallmarks of Lite.FM that I dislike, but they disguise themselves as dramatic stage atmosphere mixed into the piano tune. The entire thing could be sung as part of some stage show, with twinkling lights for stars and Arashi sitting on steps in tuxedos with coattails. And for all the imagery I generate over this song, it’s only okay – but that’s because I usually don’t like slow songs and this is pretty unremarkable.
o6/ 素晴らしき世界 [Subarashiki Sekai]: I walked into this song with an unfair bias. Despite joining the Aibakaland forums to get a feel for the fandom, I lurk and read a lot more than I post. In one particular topic, this was oft mentioned as a fan favorite. Well, hello. Now I expect it to either be very good or very disappointing. It starts out with a light acoustic melody and then… in comes the rock? Surprisingly, Arashi’s vocals retain a tone more appropriate for a mellow song despite the constant buildup in the song from acoustic base to electric crescendos. And it all works. Sho’s rap section is the most fitting part, but the other four boys don’t sound bad themselves. So, yes, I like it. Perhaps over time it shall grow to be a personal favorite of mine as well.
o7/ サクラ咲ケ [SAKURA Sake]: My first Arashi song (unless, someone forbid, they squirmed one in before I watched that episode of CDTV), I liked it before I got into the group, and I probably always will even when the novelty of a new fandom wears off. (You’d think it have worn off already, I’ve spent the past few months being all sparkly-eyed over Arashi, after all.) The classic feel-good pop-rock song with lots of guitars, a very upbeat atmosphere that invites jumping and fist pumping, and a catchy chorus. The rap was a bit odd at first, but hey, I’ve mastered it, I’m happy. (This was “Kimi’s qualifications for liking a song, brought to you by the letters A, M, N, O, and S.”)
o8/ Rain: And so starts the solos. From Ohno Satoshi, we have a stereotypical Western boyband song. Yes, there are those sorts of genre definitions. American boybands bring more R&B into their music, Japanese boybands are all about the happy and the fake rap. As evidenced by Arashi. It’s a lucky thing that I love this track, especially after my liking for the last one, or the solos would start on a pretty sour note. (Must be why they always start with Ohno.) So. R&B-ish ballad with little rising string accents to make it especially pretty, English in the choruses, Captain sings and dances as smooth as always because the live performance is lovely (and that pelvic thrust during the chorus makes my inner girl squeal *ahem*), and I think I just ruined the other solos for me. I am rather amused to hear the puff of air during the “hibiku” in the first line, though. Looks like something got through the filter.
o9/ いつかのSummer [Itsuka no Summer]: Aiba Masaki, from what I’ve heard, seems to get the most variety for his solos. In 2007, he got something that Yamamoto Ryohei could sing. In 2006, he had… well, we pretend 2006’s showboating disaster didn’t happen. In 2002, he attempted rock (and did much better when he was on the sax). For 2005 – this album – he got the happy island theme. The horns and jazz touches that pop up so often in Arashi songs also made an appearance here, but the overall idea is clearly “island”/”reggae”. (Also, what’s with the summer on this album?) Aiba mostly sings in a sort of monotone, but he also pulls out some of the lowest notes I’ve heard from him yet. I don’t quite know how else to describe this song, other than it being very Aiba-ppoi. Er, -ish. It’s not a vocal masterpiece, but it suits his upbeat image and that’s good enough.
10/ W/ME: Hey, look, it’s Matsumoto Jun. (This is my sister’s cue to go “ewww” and flee the room so I can type the rest of this post in peace.) Like his most recent solo, Yabai-Yabai-Yabai, this has a dance beat. Unlike Yabaix3, this is unquestionably? Unforgivably? Whatever un—-ably it is, it’s 80’s. I sort of expect Michael Jackson to sing this – wait, Jun’s a fan of his? I’m officially scared. Jun’s vocals alternate between trying a sexy song-whisper and whiny choral outbursts, and he doesn’t have the adequate vocal control for either because his nasal tone stands out a lot. Jackson would, of course, easily do a much better job. Shame, because I liked both I Want Somebody and Yabai-Yabai-Yabai. At least it means they learned what to do with him to make him sound passable.
11/ 秘密 [Himitsu]: Shh. J-STORM lies. The song’s title is actually 機密 [Kimitsu], because Ninomiya Kazunari dedicated it to me. …Yeah, right. He didn’t even write the song. And I’m not quite sure how much the me of 2005 would’ve liked it anyways. (2005 was the year of heavy rock + piano for me.) It’s a very carefree piano-based song that could’ve easily been sung by both Jun and Aiba. (Read: Does not demand excellent vocal capability.) In fact, Nino’s vocals seem a bit displaced against the music, which makes more of an impact than he does. That doesn’t mean it’s really bad, it means I’m spoiled by his ballads. Which are infinitely better. Unfortunately, thanks to the live, I also have the impression that this is a really girly song because the dance is just so… cutesy. And so the fact that Nino, who’s worked his way up to my number 2, is doing something so girly in contrast to the manliness that Sho, who has so far been my number 1, has generally tried to present himself as (and failed) sort of kills. With laughter.
12/ 夢でいいから [Yume de Ii kara]: “Oh, I see you… everyday in my dreams. And I just wanna say,” that Sakurai Sho‘s English will never fail to make me laugh. Harder than his rap does. I had the (mis?)fortune to watch his performance of the rock ANTI-ANTI, and so I think I’ve just developed an automatic bias against all his other solos. This one’s a lounging track that mixes hazy light singing with a less-roughly voiced rap, and the two form an interesting contrast. Sho has the singing capability to push an earnest tone into his voice, which is what makes his voice work everytime he has this sort of song. I especially like the way he suddenly draws out the end of the second-to-last chorus. All the same, ANTI-ANTI please.
13/ Yes? No?: This was a shock. That’s not a bad thing, I loved this song the instant the opening notes of electronika played. But boyband does not usually near trance/techno in a non-remix song, not in the least, and to hear it worked in made me like this song so much. It’s not really dominating, just the usual rising effects worked in amidst Arashi’s standard pop-rock melody. And admittedly, their voices don’t sound all that great with the electronika, especially Sho’s rap. But it adds a lot more to the song’s atmosphere, it all grows on the listener if you’re partial to electronika, and I’m a sucker for anything in that genre, so I love this song.
14/ 風見鶏 [Kazamidori]: The regular edition of the album ends with this mellow track. I call it mellow because between the slow vocal tempo, the fact that there’s not a single solo line to be heard in the song (Arashi sings as a group the entire time), and the constant presence of a Chinatown-esque melody in the music all adds up for what becomes a fairly lazy atmosphere. It’s a nice track that doesn’t bore or become too generic, and Arashi blends especially well here.
To be honest, doing this post was… interesting. Normally I sit down, force myself to listen to an album/single without other distractions so I can make good note of what goes on in the music, and write what comes to mind. And it works, even if the end result is a lot of shifting first impressions.
For some reason, I was really reluctant to listen to One. Whether it’s because I’ve grown to love every single track on Time but only liked half of ARASHIC (and thus subconciously worrying that each subsequent album would have less songs that appealed), or because I was bombarding myself with too much Arashi at once (variety shows, concerts, magazine shoots/articles, dramas), or maybe even because I was still resisting my sudden dive into Arashi fanhood… it doesn’t matter now. Despite being over two (soon to be three) years old, this is a pretty good pop album with only a few marring skips that can possibly be blamed more on my reverse chronological handling of Arashi’s discography rather than the tracks themselves. I also now have 5 clear reasons to hunt down a limited version of the ARASHIC album, though I may end up getting both – and same for this particular album as well. Either way, it’s clear I’m going to suffer financially.
And having said that… now I’m reluctant to head into the next One.