It’s worth a second try.
I’ve mentioned from a few times before on this blog that I’m a member of Sekai no Melody. (6th Generation, Kristallen, represent!) If clicking the link isn’t good enough for you, Sekai no Melody is an internet singing organization, mostly influenced by the music of anime and Hello!Project, and comprised of girls from around the world. Some people join and promptly forget they’ve joined, others eventually “graduate”, and yet others stick around for crazy Internet hijinks.
I know I’ve definitely mentioned how odd it is for me to be in that particular group as my interest in anime has faded away, my interest in Hello!Project is nil, and frankly, my vocal range and most songs they do don’t quite match. And the songs I could absolutely do don’t often come up. Luckily, I recently got to start my own subproject focusing on the J-Pop niche I can handle, boyband songs.
Not-so-luckily, I’d forgotten how large the boyband industry still is in East Asia. And so, accepting that limiting boybands to “Johnny’s, wFL, and the technicality I squeezed AAA in on” is just as bad as saying all J-Pop begins and ends with Hamasaki Ayumi or Gackt, I figured I’d give another of the 5-member boybands a try. Hello, 東方神起. Dong Bang Shin Ki/Gi, Tohoshinki, TVXQ!, whatever the hell your name is. Nice to meet you. Whenever you decide to invade into the mental area reserved for fangirling, try not to completely oust the other two five-men pop groups, okay?
Granted, I don’t know who’s who, what’s what, and since they’re Korean it may take a while longer for me to figure out where to start, much less for any sort of fangirling to start. (Then again, they have an advantage. They don’t have a Matsumoto Jun.) But after listening to the Runaway/My Girfriend single, I may not have to care about any of that.
This single is the second in a series titled TRICK showcasing the individual members’ vocal abilities. Each single has two tracks, one solo song and another that features the soloist as lead vocals out of the five members. Whether this is an attempt at boosting popularity using old tricks (Koda Kumi’s 12 singles in 12 weeks) by rhythm zone or blatant fanservice, I wouldn’t be able to say – but it certainly serves as an easy segue into the group.
Runaway showcases Yoochun, also referred to as Micky. I have to admit, right from the opening beats, I was hooked. It’s similar in many ways to AAA’s Crash, with dramatic techno beats setting up the atmosphere and then leading into a rock-influenced dance track. (Thankfully, it doesn’t include a misplaced rap.) The chorus is blatantly repetitive, with who is presumably Yoochun harshly singing “Try again” over and over, but the stanzas and verses form a nice mix of angry attitude and smooth passion and the song overall is a nice package. There is just one annoyingly nasal vocal in the bridge before the final choruses that really grates, but the line that immediately follows it along with a distant chorus removes any potential displeasure with the song.
My Girlfriend again features Yoochun – it’s his solo song, in fact. It’s in all English, and he handles it aptly enough despite how nitpicky I want to get over his pronounciation at points. Though really, if he didn’t, I’d have to question how much of his background was fabricated by SM, considering he lived in Virginia for some time. A mellow R&B track with flirty vocals and smooth vocalizations, it’s a nice contrast to the punch of the first song. Yoochun clearly shows that he’s not the nasal voice that jumped out from Runaway, and his own capabilities when it comes to strength and emotional vocal displays. I might actually melt if someone sang this to me, except for one part. I’m not too fond of the monologue rap injected in the first half of the song, but it’s always good for a laugh. “My love is bigger than the gingerbread man’s vitality” what now, Yoochun?
Normally, accents in Japanese don’t bother me – I’m not a native Japanese speaker, nor am I fluent, and usually I can’t really judge them either; but for some reason, the accents of these guys nag at me. They’ve got overall good vocals though (no, I can’t differentiate between who’s who), and I like the music, so I can overlook that. However, I also have the nagging feeling that this will be one of those groups whose sound I enjoy without caring about the people – and that does sort of take away half the purpose of a boyband. Whether that says that DBSK/THSK/TVXQ!/WHATEVER ALREADY is succeeding in their “mature singers” image that they’ve been pushing in Japan, or that I’m just way too biased towards Japanese boys… might require another try. (And there starts the chorus of Runaway in my mental jukebox again.) At least I’ll be looking forward to it.