#1 Song Review: Week of 6/24 – 6/30

Hello Arama Japan readers and welcome to this week’s installment of #1 Song Review! Last week saw Gesu no Kiwami Otome. beat out Bodan Shonen Dan and Superfly to come out on top. Superfly’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: NEWS – Chumu Chumu (not released digitally)

Ronald: This is basically a pop version of a tribal house song. I like tribal house. It reminds me of a gay club from last decade. I was immediately caught by the intro, the melding of heavy drums with Indian elements. It was hard, it was hot, it reminded me of being at a gay club last decade. I wish that the song was more of that and not as poppy as it is. That intro, which is repeated in other parts of the song, is easily my favorite part of the song. I’m waiting for the 00s revival and this part of the song gives me that. I really do like the Indian elements of the song. I found it interesting that the members did that wavering voice technique that I hear in Bollywood music. It was a nice additional nod to India. The verses and the chorus could’ve been better, but overall it was a really fun song. 7/10

Ryusenkai: Coming off the back of a single from that which I actually kind of liked, NEWS’ “Chumu Chumu” feels like a step back in a few ways. Instrumentally the track reminds of some sort of combination between “Indian” influences and a chorus that smacks of what I’d expect off of something more in the anison vein. While I actually don’t dislike all of the arrangement (for example, the acoustic guitar meshes really well with the rest of the song), I do feel as though it kind of comes off as a mish-mash of too many different ideas that I’m not convinced all work together. At least not in a beneficial fashion, anyway. The vocals stand up to scrutiny for the most part, though the breathing in particular could be improved a bit. Lyrically the track just appears to be another tune about excitement and summer love for the most part, excluding the few Subcontinent-related location drops meant to further flavor the song in that sense. When it gets down to it, I think the ultimate downfall of “Chumu Chumu” for me is just how messy the final product seems to be, particularly in terms of its instrumental. It’s not bad, but I’d really been hoping for more after “KAGUYA”. 3.5/10


Recochoku #1: Superfly – Beautiful (not released 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: Hoshino Gen – SUN (Oricon #33 / Recochoku #2)

Ronald: I was really hoping that this song would beat out AKB48’s “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai” in May so that I could review it. AKB48 won out though by about 9000 copies. But Gen recently released his catalog digitally and this shot to #1 so now I can review it. Feel good songs are a specialty of Gen’s, and “SUN” is no exception. It’s bright and cheery like you think it would be given its name. This song is bright and cheery, but not cheesy, which is often the case with songs like this one. It capitalizes on 2 trends that are a growing influence  in Japanese music currently, the 70s and funk. I enjoy these element and I’m glad to see them here. 8/10

Ryusenkai: You know, after this missed getting #1 on Oricon I never thought I’d get the chance to review it here, but things have a funny way of working out sometimes. The reason that I’ve come to really appreciate Hoshino Gen as an artist over the past few years has to do with how he so seamlessly mixes old and new influences in his music. For example, the showtunes tinged “Crazy Crazy” being paired with the slow-burning and dancier “Sakura no Mori” as A-sides on the same single. With “SUN”, Gen brings a 70s sound palette and aesthetic together with some of the catchier aspects of dance music in order to create one of his most replayable songs to date. I’ve played this track a lot this year and even scoured the internet trying to find a download of it a month or so back, so I’m more than familiar with its intricacies. From the burst of static that starts the song off to the back-and-forth interplay between the violins and the bass through most of the chorus, to the nicely placed lines from the electric guitar that punctuate its transitions. Everything has a purpose in “SUN”, down to the old school snapping and clapping during the bridge, and that makes it a carefully planned joy to listen to.

Gen’s voice has a distinct tone to it which is both clear and strong; he projects quite well in particular, however as with some other singers I feel as though the breathing could be controlled a bit better. While I can’t locate a full translation for SUN’s lyrics, I’ll admit that what I can pick up isn’t exactly the most original of stuff; furthermore, the chorus also show up enough throughout the song’s length that it ends up being minorly repetitive. Still, even with those few knocks against it, I’d call “SUN” my pick of the week since it’s just such a pleasant listen musically; the rest of the single holds up just as well really, so if you like what you hear here, do take a listen to that as well. 8.5/10


Ronald’s Rank:

1. iTunes #1: Hoshino Gen – SUN

2. Recochoku #1: Superfly – Beautiful

3. Oricon #1: NEWS – Chumu Chumu


Ryusenkai’s Rank:

1. iTunes #1: Hoshino Gen – SUN

2. Recochoku #1: Superfly – Beautiful

3. Oricon #1: NEWS – Chumu Chumu