But since I can't be that patient, I went ahead and listened to the new Arashi album, Beautiful World. I've been listening to it non-stop for the last couple of days, and I've sort of been walking on a cloud. Yes, walking on a cloud. Like the real nerd that I am, I found myself completely absorbed with the task of reviewing it. I was probably a little too enthusiastic and thus ended up writing a lot, but hey, any excuse to listen to more Arashi, yes? Although, I say "review" loosely, don't expect musical theory or anything like that. It's just our five boys, after all. :D
The fuse called regret
It'll reach faraway in the sky
Leave everything from now up to us
In front of all of you, we won't lie
Are we going to rock this?
Not to be confused with the awesome Time song, ROCK YOU. But Rock This is a pretty great opening song for an album, all things considered. On first listen, it made more of an impression to me than Moving On (movin' on?) did in BNMF, and considering how I ended up loving it after seeing performed during the tour, this song clearly has potential. I like it when they go “are we gonna rock this?” Also, 5-member rap! Yay! Of course, it sounds a little awkward but hey, Attack this! Was also a little awkward but it worked out fine. Not one of my favorite tracks, but pretty darn listenable.
Mada Minu Sekai E
We don't need a reason
In these hands is something that's definite
There's a place we'll get to someday
My hesitation will disappear, so start running
I'll go to a world I haven't seen yet
To the top, come with me
The boozy beats in this song, especially in the beginning, are pretty intense for an Arashi track, and I’m not complaining! It sounds updated and now-ish, and I love that it’s a dance track! Of course, I don't have to talk about the PV and the inherent awesomeness of it all, the 90s feel and Aiba and Ohno's hair etc--except for the stylist's decision to put Ohno in that ruffle top for the black and white outfits. I mean, seriously, you didn't think we'd notice? It's not awesome tacky like Nino's skirt pants ensemble (he's 28 and he looks so damn great in those skirt pants WTF), the ruffle shirt's just plain tacky, gag reflex galore. Good thing Ohno's so gorgeous it almost doesn't matter. My favorite part's "to the top, to the top, to the top, come with me" then "to the top, I promise you." So epic and sexy, somehow. Also, I liked the choreo for that part, the clapping/hopping part lol. What can I say, I'm easily pleased; that, or Arashi hasn't been dancing enough. I'm still a bit iffy with auto-tuned Sakurap, but I do admit that it fits this song. They need more songs like this! TO THE TOP TO THE TOP COME WITH ME!
When I touch you, sparkles erupt, phrases of seven colors
Feeling the heat strongly from our gently intertwined fingers
With what kind of face and what kind of voice will I tell you?
I’ve always had warm fuzzy feelings for this song, because of Natsu Niji, which I loved (yes, I’m aware I’m of the minority.) It reminds me of the awkward yet determined Taiga, Jun’s character in the drama, and the cute pinkie-swear turned kiss with Takeuchi Yuko’s character. I never skip this song, I like the driving, sparkling, positive Arashi-ness of it. It's a great addition to their blatantly romantic song repertoire like WISH, Love So Sweet and One Love (which are all coincidentally songs for the fluffiness that was Jun's HYD.) I have nothing but love for Love Rainbow. Also, I just have to say this: it makes for a great morning shower song! Seriously! I feel like up and going every time I listen to it, it just puts me in an amazing mood. I recommend memorizing the lyrics, if you already haven't. It's a blast to sing along to. I always have to restrain myself from
We were definitely born so that you and I would meet here
When it seems the tears will overflow, I'll always take them in
The twinkling of the stars and the whisper of the wind
You are living while feeling them, my heart
Just Ohno’s languid opening “yeah” makes this song worth a few repeats. Pretty! Would it be unfair of me to wish that Ohno was the only one singing this song? But yeah. It's pleasant, but I find it a little forgettable. This song would have greatly benefited from a strategically-paced, good old Sakurap, which might have shaken up things a bit, because the beat and the singing gets a little too repetitive. I might change my mind if they perform it for the tour. Live/concert Arashi always changes my mind about what I perceive to be mediocre songs prior to watching them perform it live. It's kind of evil, actually. Or maybe they're really just great performers that way. (Although nothing can change my mind about truly shitty songs like Circus haha)
Shake It! (Jun solo)
Shake it, body, tonight, you're the number 1 shiny girl
If you say it in a super funky style, it's gorgeous
Dance, dance, from the top of your head
Bounce, bounce, mmm, to the bottom of your feet
Shake it, shake it, shake it, the body
Shake what? The body. Yes, the body. I mean, if I was the lyricist, it would make more sense for the lyrics to be “Shake it shake it, shake it, YOUR body” right? But no, it’s “shake it shake it, shake it, THE body.” It makes me snicker so much, but you know what, it’s perfectly fine the way it is. I can already imagine Jun shaking “THE” body on stage for his concert performance of this song—and you can bet that I’d be enjoying it while, well, shaking my body as well. Because as shameful as it is, Jun’s upbeat solos really make me feel like dancing (Yabai-Yabai-Yabai and Come Back To Me), and this is no exception. I find my butt wiggling and my head bopping on their own, seriously. It’s so fun and perfect and just, I don’t even care anymore, I’ll tell the whole world, I just really love Jun’s froggy voice so damn much! This song is no Come Back To Me (which has been my ringtone for a year, thanks all its catchy, auto-tuned, electro-beat dotted, lulzy perfection), but is certainly still fun as heck. My selfish fangirl heart is yearning for a PV for this, an equally geeky and cool dance video. Nobody does geeky and cool like Jun does. I am so looking forward to what kind of production he'll embark on for his concert performance of this song. There are no half-measures with Jun when it comes to showmanship and entertainment factor. I await the awesomeness that will surely be this song's live performance!
Niji no kakera ~ no rain, no rainbow ~
A gentle wind whispered to me and suddenly, my heart was shaken
If such feeling can be gathered, certainly the world will change
No matter the scene, so long as you are here
This song just reeks of classic Arashi, and that’s a great thing for a song to, well, reek of. Even just on my first listen, I could tell that it would become one of my personal stand-out tracks in this album because it has the characteristics of my favorite kind of Arashi song: mid-tempo, has that light, gentle, bittersweet feel to it, then a driving chorus that all go nicely hand in hand with uplifting lyrics. Think Paretto, Kaze, Thank You For My Days, Subarashi Sekai, Ima Ai Wo Katarou, Natsu no Owari ni Omou Koto, and Te Tsunagoo (which are among my absolute favorites.) Definitely classic Arashi, except perhaps for the medieval-ish court jester bagpipe flute part (yes I’m oh so astute with associations.) I love the “that’s for sure” and “oh oh” parts, the "smile, smile, smile!" part, and also Jun's tiny falsetto moment; it’s so silly, but to me this song is so “young” Arashi and makes me feel oddly nostalgic. The calming and uplifiting tone of this song puts my heart at ease and that shall be soon evidenced by the epic play count it will amass in my iTunes. Such a beautiful Arashi-ish Arashi song! Definitely an album highlight, and easily underscores the album title, Beautiful World. "We are fragments of a rainbow, that's for sure" - that you are, Arashi, that you are. :-)
If you wish it, I'll offer you myself
Entrust me with all the sadness that befalls you
So that we can welcome the spring, we hold each other close
If we melt away, we won't need anything
Dear Snow aka the snoozefest single for that shitty Nino movie, or so I used to say. I don't even have a copy of this song prior to this album, digital or not. I admit though, that after a few listens it has an emotional pull to it. Packs a wallop, in a somber way. It sort of reminds me of Maboroshi, and Koe from Dream A-live, even if Koe's a little bit more restrained in its instrumentation. Nino's vulnerable singing here stands out (asides from Ohno's, which is expected) and his parts are pretty much my favorite part of the song. Anyway, I quite liked Dear Snow when Arashi performed it in their concert, but it's not something I'll have a compulsion to listen to a lot. It's kind of a downer, yes? I love the lyrics, though.
Hung up on (Ohno solo)
Don't tell me why
Struggling wholeheartedly in the middle of a fog, I'm out of breath
That's right, I should revive myself on your gentle love
After all, I'm a common boy
Where Ohno got the idea that he's a "common boy", IDK. Anyway, it's an uptempo song from Ohno this time, not unlike Rain or Top Secret, but it's probably the most insistent, beat-wise, especially towards the chorus. It's refreshing to get an upbeat song from him after the slow and sad Take Me Faraway and Shizuka na Yoru ni (and no, that Kaibutsu-kun ditty doesn't count as a proper Ohno song, even if it is upbeat.) I had such high expectations for the supposed Sakurap, but it's barely there that it's almost subliminal, lol. Also, a little way into the middle, the beat begins to suspiciously sound like a complete rip-off from Justin Timberlake's song, Lovestoned, but it's probably where Ohno will insert a little sexy, dancing part in the concert so I can't find it in myself to complain. Just imagining the performance of this song for the live--the dancing, the sexy voice, and Ohno's concert gameface--is already making me have premature, obviously non-menopausal hot flashes. But yeah, this is not at all my favorite Ohno song, not by a far cry; I just have this feeling that this could have sounded way better. Like, fewer English words would've been nice. Also, it's not Ohno's voice (because hello, flawlessness) but I have a pickle with how the song was produced. Perhaps, his vocal range doesn't quite fit this song. Pity. Don't get me wrong, it's far from sounding horrible, I'm still gonna listen to it a lot, but it just makes me think, "no, that's not it." "Janakute," as Aiba would say. Not so hung up on this one, Leader, sorry. :-( I'm still a little bit shocked that I'm not all "OMIGOD ASLDKJFLAJFALKFAJS;;" at an Ohno solo; it's the first time I've felt this way and it kind of makes me sad. :| Anyway. Still looking forward to the performance, definitely!
We can't be stopped, we're not interested in waking up from our dreams
Don't be silent, hurry and come here
Come on, clap hands
Share the joy
The song they recorded during the camping part in the SCENE Dome DVD! That's probably the only reason why this song is so distinctive and easy to recall. I don't hate it, but it gets a little repetitive for my taste. I like the chorus though, and how their voices were mixed with the natural echoes during their recording. There are hints of funk in it, somewhat; I don't know, it just bores me, I can't even be articulate about it. Joy is somewhat saved by the (definitely too short) Sakurap. I might grow to like this song a few more listens down the road, but for now... meh. I can see them having fun singing this on the tour, though.
Doko ni Demo Aru Uta (Nino solo)
When I realized I was alone, I was scared
That's when your voice came, so gentle it hurt
If I cry, then you'll say, "You're a crybaby"
When I tried to say, "You are too," I relaxed and laughed
I will be the first to admit that Niji didn't do anything for me. I know it's a fangirl favorite, but it was just...okay for me. (As some of you might know, I'm not the biggest Nino fan. But I'm getting there, haha.) Despite that, I've always thought that Nino's songwriting skills are note-worthy and this solo is proof of that. The simple guitar and piano at the start combined with Nino's self-conscious (and heart-grabbing) crooning definitely already got my attention; but when the orchestra (strings, etc) slowly comes in then it slowly undulates into a delicate exposition then before you know it, the beat momentously kicks in--I was gone. GONE. There is something frustratingly powerful with Nino's singing in this solo and the lyrics he wrote. My favorite part is when he sings persuasively, along with the pounding beat and the rushing strings, "Like always, messing around and arguing/ Don't say it's nostalgic right now/ Tightly hold onto the 'now' that's there," then the beat and the strings cut off, there's a slight pause, then it's suddenly just the piano and Nino almost whispering, "Look, breath in and out, you're living." FUCKING MAJOR. MAJOR! This is hands down the best solo of this album, and deservingly so. Nino, you always find ways to surprise me. And by surprise, I mean, literally taking my breath away and making my arm hair stand up because it's just so overwhelming. Bravo on a beautiful song. I'll worry later about how the fuck he'll sing this live. He doesn't exactly have the best vocal control, especially live, yeah? But I will not take away from his moment of glory, because really, this song is amazing.
I have one wish, I don't wish on a star, but pray softly to you
Because that is a miracle that only your smile can make happen
However many times, we're giving it our all to quietly pray now
That's right, to get to you
I love this track, especially the subtle strings and the tinkling piano in the background: it really fits the feel of the lyrics, which aptly do recall wishes. Also, their solo parts here are pleasing to the ears because it's smack in the middle of their vocal range. I adore the part where they sing "sou, kimi e todoke, tooku no sora, negai de tsunagatte iku you ni," because it tapers off so nicely. Despite the strings and piano in this song, it still ties in nicely with the rest of the album as it still has techno beats interwoven within it as well, in a way that doesn't clash. I can already see how they'll performed this song in their upcoming tour! It would be a nice fit for the usual downtempo parts of their concerts.
Because you are here, I won't get lost
Let's overcome those long nights
Now, in this hand I hold my hopes, searching for the truth
A story no one knows is starting
Because you are here, I won't get lost
I won't cry until that day
When I first listened to this song when it was released as a single, all I could think was, "THIS. YES. THIS." It wasn't so long ago, but it was that time last year/early this year when everyone was starved for a quality single after all the rather blah singles Arashi was releasing. When this came along, it was like, YAY, FINALLY~! It's energetic and uptempo, but not quite cheerful; it has a more of a determined, cool feel. My favorite part is when Aiba goes "sutowori hamijaru" haha. I keep on repeating that part. But yeah, Aiba sounds awesome here, in general. All in all, a great song. I might have laughed a bit at the high "ahhh's" that they try to pass of as Nino whenever they performed this song lol. Also, this song also has an awesome PV that I have screencapped to pieces.
Janakute (Aiba solo)
(Then why?) "I want to have a good time with you again"
(Then why?) "Going driving would be nice"
(Then why?) "Let's always stay friends"
(That's not it) "There's a girl you like？"
(That's not it) "By the way, why don't you have a girlfriend?"
That's not it, it's your fault
Sooner or later, please notice it
This is so cute and funky. The lyrics are so cute. I mean, seriously, fictional girl that Aiba's referring to in the song: Y U NO GET WITH AIBA?! Y U DUMB AS BRICKS? Although I have to admit that the image of Aiba being forever just "the friend" fits, hilariously enough. I have an immense love for Aiba's solos (it's his voice, it's just so unique and my ears really love it, for some reason), and this song is pretty high up on the list, just because the beat is adorable and the lyrics are just so "Aiba, why so cute?" I'm not gonna lie though, I miss his bright, summery songs like Hello Goodbye, Friendship, and Itsuka no Summer. I'd also love for Aiba to sing something like Yasashikutte Sukoshi Baka again in the future, his lightly raspy voice lends well to rock songs, methinks. But no complaints for his current solo! It'd be great if in the concert, he'd have a light choreo for this, something with a narrative, like, he'd have a female backdancer so that there would be a "story" within the performance, through the choreo. Aiba would all be frustrated and "trying his best". That would be so cute!
Through the night, to the light, to the morning light
To the place we'll meet again
Overcome the unknown, no matter the night
This track is so catchy—even my brothers who balk at any Arashi song find themselves singing the chorus “through the night to the light to the morning light!” They now feel like punching me for giving them that LSS because I’ve been playing this song over and over at home, in the car, etc. But aside from having a catchy techno chorus, the whole song structure is actually very satisfying. I like the slow parts where it kind of segues into a reggae beat, it’s surprising at first listen but it fits the song really nicely. I can see everyone jumping to this and waving their arms for the concert. Also, my knees kind of turn into putty at Ohno’s high “whoas”. Never gets old.
To be free
We started running even though we were thirsty
Because we realized we wouldn't let our hearts be deceived
Without enhancing anything, just as we are
Simply going where the wind takes us, to be free
I don't have a particular connection with this song, but I like it enough not to skip it (sometimes.) When it got released as a single I wasn't excited about it or moved by it, it was, for lack of a better word, okay. It has that empowering let's go feel to it. I'm not particularly inspired by it, so, umm, yeah, let's leave it at that. It's a nice track to segue into from Morning Light; that, I have to say. It "prepares" the listener for the transition from the crazed beat of Morning Light to the relative restraint of Sho's solo, which comes up next.
Kono Mama Motto (Sho solo)
The sense of monochrome beginning to change color
A poem on a paper that's begun to lose its meaning
Tomorrow is wonderful
Only for the two of us (Baby, please stay gold)
A flower of love (Baby, I love you)
Easily one of my favorite solos from this album and seriously, I’m more shocked than anyone. When the sax kicked in, I winced from the cheesiness. I was like, WTF, SHO. I’ve never particularly liked Sho’s solos before (I’m actually a bit guilty of skipping over them a lot, possibly except Hip Pop Boogie) but this song, oh god. Despite the sax (or whatever horn instrument that was), it was love at first full listen; it’s such a feel-good song. Here's the thing: I’ve always found Sho’s singing voice lacking warmth, or roundness, I don’t know what the proper term for it is—I like his voice enough, it’s just that it lacks a certain oomph that my ears look for. I mean, take Aiba, he doesn’t boast of a particularly wide vocal range, but he has that “roundness” to his singing voice that my ears find pleasant. But in this song, Sho’s singing voice just shines. He still sounds a little bit "thin", perhaps the high parts are a little out of his vocal range, but it's pleasant nonetheless. (Trick: it sounds better on bass-intensive earphones like, say, an Audio-Technica, but that's just me nitpicking haha.) Kono Mama Motto is every inch the sweet, romantic song, (Sho’s liberal use of the word “love” in the lyrics should clue you in even if you don’t speak a word of Japanese) and perhaps that’s why it’s so refreshing to my ears: I love Sho singing such a gentle, non-sexually threatening song. I was just so traumatized by T.A.B.O.O., lol. Also, the Sakurap is just right—not autotuned, and it fits the tempo of the song, although the transition from the singing part might be a tad jarring. Anyway, “I, I love you my boo” makes me smile so bad, I’m such a geek. I'd love it more if the trashed the sax parts!
The unreachable stars are twinkling,
Wishing to touch them, I softly asked them a question
If hope is restored to my heart, I'll just chase after them
"An endless sky is there", just now a confident voice could be heard
Shall we change that we can't fly and go?
Plainly-speaking, well, I love this song. It's melody and the accompanying message fit so well with Nino's drama, Freeter, Ie wo Kau, that when I was watching that drama, when a particularly moving and/or sad episode ended and I felt close to tears, when the song came on, I actually would then cry like a baby. If there's one word to describe the whole feel and message of the song, it would be "hopeful". There's just something affecting and well, almost powerful about it. When Arashi sung it as part of their message immediately after the Tohoku earthquake early this year, I found myself falling into pieces. The song carried with it even more emotional weight than before, and now, whenever I listen to it, I'm always moved. Perhaps that might also be attributed to the fact that it starts in a very mellow, almost tentative fashion (especially with the lyrics, "Everyday is smeared with mud, but it's too late to be worrying about that now/ It's so surprising that it's awkward, but I have a dream my heart is sworn to,") and as the song progresses, it steadily acquires momentum up to the point that it segues beautifully into its emotional climax. You'll know it when you hear it. Also, Arashi's performance of this song in their SCENE Tour Dome DVD during the second encore was just... *sigh* They sing it really well live, and you can see that the boys are, in varying levels, also quite emotionally invested in this song. It's the way they sing it, and their body language; they sing it with their all.
Your fake attitude that you're pretending to be okay is strange
In the hand you tightly squeezed mine back with was love
Like we'll jump out, like we'll fly
Let's shine no matter how far, and pass through the seasons
Definitely a stand-out, just from the initial beats, and the opening lyrics: "Ready, steady, go, let's sing a song, can you hear the harmony?" I always sing along, don't you? I bet you do. It also happens to sound very Arashi, a song that wouldn't be out of place in any of their albums. I love that it's not over-produced (which some Arashi songs tend to suffer from), and the melody is easy to remember. The song is upbeat without being too saccharine, and I love that it's completely without gimmicky beats. Aiba sounds adorable here too.
In conclusion? A world with Arashi is beautiful indeed.
HAHA. But seriously, I felt the whole album to be more cohesive than BNMF; there is a clear idea of what it should sound like. In this case, the songs in Beautiful World were obviously produced to be techno-ish without alienating the fanbase by straying too far from the proven formula. The solos and the previously released singles aren't all strictly "techno", but they fit in seamlessly with the other songs. What I especially like about this album is the order of the songs. I might not necessarily love all the tracks, but for me, the order that they're presented in maximizes the listening pleasure; the tracks lead smoothly onto the next.
BNMF was a little more mature in its feel and intent, you can hear the clean break and divide from Dream A-live, which sort of sounds like a diluted, if slightly less-effective, Time. Last year, Arashi wanted to progress into a more mature sound, which resulted to BNMF. Beautiful World certainly feeds off from that intent, but there's more assurance in this album than there was in the last. Although BNMF was a strong, directional album in its own right, Beautiful World clearly surpasses it by effortlessly mixing up the new and the old. In the new album, one can definitely identify the "new" aspects to Arashi's sound (think Mada Minu Sekai E, I can't imagine it in Time, it's just so now: it's the sound of feel of Arashi in 2011) as well as the old, familiar strains of the Arashi that we love and that we're familiar with. It's a perfect balance.
I think that when they cobbled together the album, Arashi really took into consideration their current status in the music scene, and Japanese entertainment in general; but more than that, they framed Beautiful World through the prism that is Arashi being Arashi (that is, perfectly influential and everywhere in Japan right now) and addressing the event that has literally shook Japan to the core: the Great Tohoku Earthquake. By naming their album Beautiful World and by sticking to that theme through the songs, they are sending a hopeful message to their countrymen who were especially ravaged by the disaster. I don't mean to be overly sentimental, but I'm betting my right arm that the earthquake was a big motivation for the creative direction of this album, if not the main driving force. Jun said it himself, he couldn't stop thinking about what happened. Very idol-specific intentions of "making other people smile" permeate this album like a disease, more than usual. A good disease.
I won't go out and declare that this is my favorite Arashi album of all time (that remains to be seen through repeat listens), but I'd say it's pretty darn close. To me, it's like a musical snapshot of Arashi that's comfortably in their peak, enjoying and taking responsibility for all that it entails. And when it comes down to it, I really do enjoy listening to this album. It's indeed a beautiful world! Pity it has a sucky cover art for both versions!
What are your guys take on the album's theme? Your favorite song? I'd love to hear from you.
That's it for now, my fingers are tired from typing. Ignore the grammatical errors and typos, my eyes are just so shot now, I'll correct them tomorrow.
PS: All the translated lyrics are by the incredibly eloquent yarukizero
Have an adorable Aiba gif! I'm so glad he's fine and healthy again. :-)