Let’s rewrite THIS story.
Since officially giving myself up to the lovefest that is Arashi on this blog, I’ve done a number of reviews on their releases – a grand total of three, actually, but work with me here. Though I got into Arashi around the release of Happiness, I never actually did a PV/single review here. (Perhaps someday. It’s another one of the fun, busy sort that Johnny’s should really make more of.) And come to think of it, I haven’t reviewed a single new thing of Arashi’s at all. So with the release of Step and Go, what better way to officially mark my somewhat-new fandom obsession of 2008?
Basically, if you didn’t see this coming, you haven’t been reading this blog lately, have you? Though I can’t say I blame you. (In retrospect, I could’ve totally used the title for a post on Hamasaki Ayumi’s MY STORY. Damn.)
I want to throw myself headfirst in joining the mob that is Arashi fandom. Lose all my sensibilities for a moment and extol the virtues (…wait, they cause all fangirls to commit pretty much all 7 sins) of these 5 men. I want so badly to say that this is an amazing song, a great start for Arashi in 2008. I want to squeal and clap and be happily raving and rambling.
What I have to say instead is that Step and Go is a pretty average song – one that, like with the rest of their singles save for SAKURA Sake and Kitto Daijoubu, took a while to grow on me. I heard the song for the first time when I watched the video, and while it wasn’t so bad, it didn’t leave an impression on me. (The video’s a different story. Oh Nino, that cape.
Please don’t play Superman.) I’ve heard it a number of times since, and I’ve grown to like it. (The dance helped a lot.) Memorize it, even – not that it was hard. But first impressions are always some of the most important ones, and this said “I’m boring”. Oops.
It is fun, and funky – and wouldn’t be too out of place at a roller disco. Or whereever HOME MADE KAZOKU’s EVERYBODY NEEDS MUSIC video was filmed. The energy of the hook and the beat becomes infectious, and for the first time, I don’t break out into laughter or groans at Sho’s rapping. (Oh no, have I lost my edge?) It might be because he preludes it with a light sing-song bit that somehow balances out the difference between the upbeat chorus and his power rapping perfectly. Arashi does tend to sound better in the first set of verses where they sing in groups and balance out each others’ vocal flaws (as compared to the second set where they tackle it individually), but they seem to have had fun singing this – especially Ohno with his “yoru wo toorinukete Rolling rolling on” line. I don’t blame him, or them. I have fun singing along too.
Luckily for my throat, squealing isn’t something I can do voluntarily because to reach that high hurts. Clapping and raving only really works after a live performance that I watched personally (so as much as I love the Music Fighter live, it doesn’t cut it), and I ramble anyways. So you guys are spared. As for the song being representative of Arashi kicking off 2008, I put off this post until the single came out (mostly because the PV makes great graphic bases, but mediocre screenshots) so I get two extra songs to touch upon, so let’s take some of the heat off it.
The first, 冬を抱きしめて [Fuyu wo Dakishimete], is yet another winter song (“Embrace Winter”? No, thank you. Too cold.) that doesn’t sound winter-y at all. Well, except for the opening seconds. Johnny’s went all out with the multiple versions again and if you bought the limited edition, you got the video and making-of documentary and all those other visual moving eye-candy clip. If you bought the regular edition, you got this song, and the two related instrumentals. In fact, it sounds very upbeat and spring-like, to the point where the pep can get off-putting. I suppose it says something that my favorite parts of the song are the little refrain-ish bits after the opening chorus round and the gospel-sounding piano-with-handclap beats that backs Ohno’s singing. They pulled the same “group then solo” splitting of verses here, but since everyone’s singing in such an cheerful manner, it distracts from any vocal problems. And actually, that cheer’s rubbing off a little too raw. You try taking out the trash in a T-shirt while listening to this for the purposes of this post. I’ll be switching to No End Summer instead.
The second only reaches the
damnedlucky souls who belong to Arashi’s official fanclub or those who went the extra mile to secure it. (No, I didn’t. But I want it.) If you’re a member, you had a chance to order a special version of the single that came in a box with a bunch of goods (pen, planner, and some day organizer thing). Appropriately, it was called the Special Cuic (Cubic) Box to celebrate their 9th anniversary as a group (see how late I got into the game?). Yes, I would want it just for the shiny box. It looks like it came out of some future-based video game. The single that came inside of it shipped with COOL&SOUL for DOME’07 – the studio version of the COOL&SOUL that they performed in Tokyo Dome following their Arashi Around Asia tour. The music’s pretty much the same, as are the lyrics up until Sho has his little monologue. “Um… this song dropped in 2007. // samaji sawage masa ni Arashi // misetsukarya mata tamashii y’know, listen up” (I could be wrong on the Japanese, but at least there’s no more “album second”.) The bouncing rap section has had some changes, and most significantly, the rest of Arashi throws in an extra rap and line and then joins in on the “HIP POP da hi bi da hi bi to da HIP na POP star”. (My brain cries, “WHY did they keep that?”) It’s a nice switch up from the original track, but if you didn’t like it back in 2006, there’s no reason to say you’ll like this slightly revamped one.
Along with the three versions of the single comes three covers. The one you see above is the regular edition, the limited edition places Ohno and Nino in front, and the Special Cubic Box version which is my favorite, having all five members standing behind the bold white title text (as compared to the in-action poses for the in store versions) and all looking decent – even Nino with his silly cape. Perhaps in keeping with the songs and especially the PV, they’re simple but colorful, bright and quick to catch the eye. Though I continue to lament the stylists’ choices for Nino – at least the outfits for the performances look much better.
As for it being a great start to 2008 for Arashi… we’ll see. At the very least, Step and Go emphasizes the sort of image and music Arashi projects, even if it’s not exactly a “brand new story” for them. All their other activities (the 5 Dome tour, Ohno’s art exhibition, and the new primetime show, Himitsu no Arashi-chan) are more representative of that “great start”, really. But I don’t see this one release causing me to drop my latest fandom, and on the bright side, all the songs have been ridiculously easy for me to pick up. For now, though, I’m going to continue heading back into the past instead. (Iza, Now! – here I come.)