#1 Song Review: Week of 6/17 – 6/23

Hello Arama Japan readers and welcome to this week’s installment of #1 Song Review! Last week saw Superfly beat out B’z and UNISON SQUARE GARDEN to come out on top. She’s back again this week, along with 2 newcomers. Find out what various staff members thought of the songs that topped the physical and digital charts this week and share your thoughts on them too!

Oricon #1: Bodan Shonen Dan – FOR YOU (not in the Recochoku top 50 / not in the iTunes top 25)

Ronald: I’m going to be completely honest: this is a pretty dull song. The only part that caught my interest was the bassy part around 3:20. If the song was more of that, I would be about it more. That part is the highlight of a song that seemingly goes nowhere. The rapping felt really out of place in this, as did the shouting during the chorus. It was too rough for this song. I normally like contrasts in songs, but this one was just jarring. I get that they’re trying to be soft and romantic in this when they’re normally more hip hop, but this just came off as more on the cheesy side. It’s decent for what it is, but I’ve seen this executed better before. 4/10

Ryusenkai: Going into “FOR YOU” I’d expected a piano ballad of some sort, and while I was definitely right about the ‘ballad’ part, it seems to fall into a bit more lively vein than I predicted. There are some minor dips into some more hip-hop sensibilities during the course of the song, which I’m not sure were entirely necessary, but it’s mostly the vocals that contribute to this ‘lively’ sentiment. The composition itself is actually fairly quiet and at times almost feels like it’s fading into the background, save for this synthy scream-like texture that remains an annoying constant for a significant part of the track’s length I found the singing here to be mostly on-point, though simultaneously I also felt that the kind of flare which I usually associate with singers who produce this kind of material was kind of missing. There was no… climax, I suppose you could say. Lyrically there’s nothing too out of the box or impressive here, but it’s admittedly far from the worst that I’ve come across. I’d call my experience with “FOR YOU” mostly pleasant, though I think that more could have been done with both the arrangement and the delivery; were that the case, I could see myself going back to this song a lot more than I think I will. 4/10


Recochoku #1: Superfly – Beautiful (not release physically / iTunes #4)

Ronald: Same review as last week – Superfly has one of the best voices in Japanese music today. This song does a great job of showing it off. Her voice is full, emotive, and versatile. In the verses, she is a bit softer, but not weak. And you can just feel that this massive chorus is coming, and it does! Her voice rises to the occasion, soaring along with the instrumental. Speaking of the instrumental, this one is an interesting one. I think by now, people know that I like a bit of contrast in my songs. A mix of fast and slow, hard and soft, highs and lows. This song does that. The intro starts of with a simple guitar, before giving a peak of what is to come with that soaring chorus. It then goes back to that softer verses I spoke of earlier. But that chorus! It’s like a big breath of fresh air! It really gives the song a great energy. 7.5/10

Ryusenkai: Same review as last week – I’ve kind of been hoping that I’d get to review a Superfly song for this feature eventually, so it looks like I’ve finally got my wish. “Beautiful” starts as a mellow rock track, a lone guitar ushering us into the song proper, where the arrangement grows and grows, adding piano, drums, synths, and finally a series of soaring violins as the chorus begins. The structure of this song relies very much on the idea of peaks and troughs, the contrast between the stripped down verses and the powerful chorus one of the most intriguing aspects of the composition. Superfly’s vocals are of course excellent, capable of providing both the softer, breathier tone necessary to sell the slower sections of the song as well as the clear and commanding style needed to make the build-up in “Beautiful” truly pay off. Lyrically this is very much a ‘life’ song, which I can appreciate; the words are poignant, if a tad cliche, and some of the imagery present is really quite vivid. While not my favorite Superfly song, “Beautiful” is a track that’s quite solid and that I’ve listened to more than a few times over the past couple of months. During other weeks this easily could have ended up as my favorite, but here it will have to settle for being close. 7.5/10


iTunes #1: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Romance ga Ariamaru (Oricon #9 / Recochoku #2)

Ronald: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. is really becoming a thing. The indie wave is really happening! I’m really happy about it too because they truly are a breath of fresh air in today’s Japanese music scene, and they’re a good introduction to the rest of the indie scene. I was surprised to see this single come so quickly after “Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no.” They actually announced this song before that single even came out. In regards to the actual song, this is a good follow up to “Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no.” There isn’t a drop in standards here. I really like the dual pianos in parts of the song. I also like the interplay between the piano and the guitar in other parts of the song. There’s a funky, yet smooth, groove to the song that I really like my music. The bridge of this song is great because it really let’s Chan Mari’s piano skills shine. It also provides a softer contrast to the rest of the song. Enon’s softer vocals in this part of the song mesh well with the piano. 8/10

Ryusenkai: I was surprised enough to see Gesu manage to make it here once, so I’m overjoyed to see them join us once again. I’m not really sure where to begin with this song, so I suppose I’ll start at the start: I adore the ‘dueling pianos’ idea that a lot of the composition for “Romance ga Ariamaru” appears to be based on, since it works to create an array of sounds which differs a fair amount from the more guitar-driven pieces of their discography. This isn’t to say that Enon’s guitar-work doesn’t make an appearance, but here it’s used at key points rather than as a driving force, instead choosing to let the ‘softer’ instruments fill out the track. The arrangement and playing are, of course, as adroit as ever and serve to showcase just how solid of a performance that this band can deliver; I’d actually have appreciated a bit more of that synth that comes into play after the first chorus though, since it adds a very interesting dimension to the overall mix.

When it comes to the vocals, the easiest way that I can put it is that you’ll either really like Enon’s singing style or you won’t, though I’ve seen people swap from the latter to the former in record time. I find his annunciation and delivery to be pretty solid here, though I think he could disguise his breathing just a tad better. Lyrically is really the only area which I’d really look just a bit askance at “Romance ga Ariamaru”, since while they certainly are interesting in terms of meaning, they do get a bit repetitive as the track goes on (the chorus in particular gets repeated a LOT for such a short song), which I feel could have been mitigated a little more. On the whole though, nice work and a worthy follow-up to “Watashi Igai Watashi Janai no”. This is easily my Pick of the Week, and I heartily recommend that you check out the rest of the single if you like what you hear. 8.5/10


Ronald’s Rank:

1. iTunes #1: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Romance ga Ariamaru

2. Recochoku #1: Superfly – Beautiful

3. Oricon #1: Bodan Shonen Dan – FOR YOU


Ryusenkai’s Rank:

1. iTunes #1: Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Romance ga Ariamaru

2. Recochoku #1: Superfly – Beautiful

3. Oricon #1: Bodan Shonen Dan – FOR YOU