Baby girl, you blow my mind. [Coming Century’s Hello-Goodbye]
There’s a common music meme that is ageless. By which I mean it was likely floating around even before the Internet. It’s also very simple. You’ve no doubt heard of it – and even if you somehow haven’t you’ll get the idea right away.
It usually goes like this: What are your [X number] desert island albums? If you were stuck on a deserted island with only a music player, which 1/5/10/whatever number albums would you want to have?
If you somehow still don’t get it, then let’s take it in a different way – what album(s) would you be able to listen to over and over?
While I will always be the first to admit that, hell yes, obviously bias plays a major part in any statement I make… when I tell you that Coming Century‘s second album Hello-Goodbye is second on my personal desert island album list, you should trust me.
“Hold on. Second album? Only second? But… they’re part of V6. Like, the Johnny’s group that’s been around for over 15 years.” You’re skeptical. I understand. I mean, look at all the group songs they have as part of V6’s releases. But, no, this is most certainly their second album (mini-album, more like. They didn’t even get a CD jewel case, just fabric sleeves in carboard.) and at the rate they’ve gone, we may be able to next expect another album in 2016.
Never mind that, though. I tell you Hello-Goodbye (not to be confused with Aiba’s solo song from Arashi’s Dream “A”live) is second on my desert island list, and I mean it. I’m quite obviously a V6 fan, and even more so a Miyake Ken stan, so yes, personal fangirl moments abound. But even if you’re none too fond of the nasal stylings of Go/Ken, this release is a solid piece of pop.
o1/ Hello-Goodbye: The titular first track is a pop-rock piece with a heavy emphasis on guitars, punctuated by bass, mixing in hand claps for variety, and altogether not out of place in the recent Japanese hip-hop trend of combining rap stanzas and a catchy pop everything else. Of course, then you look at the creator credits and see that Spontania and Jeff Miyahara had a hand in this and you totally understand why it works. It is infectious: I’ve listened to it since the music video came out, I sing it at karaoke, I have even cropped the chorus and use it as my ringtone, and I am still not sick of it.
o2/ Black-out: I harbor some suspicion that following Akanishi Jin’s return from America, everyone in Johnny’s wanted an English-only song. I don’t know why. But this is one of those English-only songs. Ignoring the definite accent on the singing of all three members and the occasional Engrish silliness (“God, please make believe the jerky heaven”? The Japanese translation says it’s supposed to be “God, somehow please make me believe in a evil heaven,” but sure, I’m always up for some good dried meats.), this is also a high-energy rock track that may have been better served with some other vocalists, but done some definite justice in the chorus.
o3/ 手のひらのUNIVERSE [Tenohira no UNIVERSE]: I’m a big fan of new-age/ethereal-sounding pieces. BIG big fan. This is not one of those songs. We kick off with various disjointed synth beats and a vocoded Go. You are about to sit through 4 minutes more of the same. The payoff comes in the chorus, where the vocoded high vocals and empty music background actually does create the feel of a vast expanse – like, say, a universe. If you don’t like the opening, though, it’s relatively certain that you’re not going to like the rest of the track.
o4/ Forget it all: Electric beats and an 80’s atmosphere greet you, and you’re completely expecting a disco ball to come down. One should, because we have just entered an un-forgivingly dance song. Appropriately enough, the lyrics tell you, quite literally, to “forget it all and dancin'” – and there is no reason not to forget it all and groove along. Ken gets the most solo parts, Go and Okada are fittingly breathy and smooth respectively when they sing, and the three of them don’t blend quite so well in the choruses… but the singing is not important here. All that’s important is dancing.
o5/ 想いのカケラ [Omoi no KAKERA]: This song starts off the way you’d (or I’d, perhaps) expect Tenohira no UNIVERSE to – light synth notes floating amidst a slow guitar jam. This, my friends, is the obligatory pop ballad. Well, every pop album needs one. Not all of them are good. This one isn’t bad. Granted, the fact that it’s Kamisen and not Tonisen singing this means that Okada leads in the chorus, and Go/Ken need to harmonize for each other. The result is still lovely.
o6/ Precious Song: Our final track on most editions is a summery guitar pop piece that requires a refreshing commercial with sunlight, water being splashed, and people running for a cold drink. I kid you not. This is happy and bouncy. There is a sudden and slightly jarring break from this mood during the bridge when scratching and electric guitars draw out images of skateboarding and hip-hop, and when we emerge it seems like completely different scenery. The chorus assures you this is not so. We are happy. Come be happy with us. And enjoy a nice, cold, refreshing… whatever your cool-down beverage of choice is.
o7/ ファイト [FIGHT]: A bonus track only available on the CD-only version, from the opening guitar strums you know you’re going to be in for a power cheering song. There is a deliberate buildup from stanza to chorus, from sputtering rap into a soft melody and then a headlong rush into the punchy chorus. Perhaps the one problem is that Go gets the solo lines before the final chorus, and his voice comes off as too weak and reedy compared to, say, what Okada would have brought to those lines. But no matter – you’ve already sat through three and a half minutes of this, how much can that have ruined those final 30 seconds?
But wait! This being a Johnny’s-related release, you just know we’re missing some solo songs. Every Johnny’s album has solo songs! (Barring NEWS. Sorry guys, but at this rate I don’t think you’re ever getting those on a CD.) Following the logic, this one has to have solo songs too!
And right you would be – out of the three editions this album was sold in (Johnny’s + avex = moneymaking collaboration of doom), one of them was a 2CD version, where the second CD had a solo song for each member.
Let that settle in your head for a moment. I spent about $30 for 2 discs in cardboard sleeves, one of which has 6 (because this isn’t CD-only) songs and the other only 3. The pictures aren’t even that great quality. (See above.) …again, I tell you: Johnny’s and avex combined are the death of my finances.
o1/ You are my everything: I say solo songs and the sticker on the plastic wrapping of the release says solo songs, but as you’ll hear, the other two members get bit parts in these songs. The first, Morita Go‘s solo, is a sweet love song just as the title proclaims. It’s almost lazy in the way it ambles through the stanzas, but that’s primarily to make as much use of Go’s breathy singing as possible. I tried to imagine another voice singing this song, but somehow it just didn’t have as much of an impact. Even when Okada and Ken pop up about three minutes in for the bridge, it’s mostly for variety. Soft and relaxing.
o2/ 4U: As much as I adore Miyake Ken, I am also known to say that he sounds like a 10 year old. (And looks like an overgrown one.) So at first you hear him in this upbeat and catchy pop and it sounds fitting. Then you realize the lyrics are sort-of sexual and still utterly devoted in a sweet way, and somehow it makes him a bit more grown up. (It will also explain any excited fangirl shrieks when the music pops up.) Go and Okada each get a line in the second set of stanzas, but the song is so fast-paced that they may blow right by you.
Over on tumblr, I’m doing a 30-day song meme in order to turn it into a bit less of a V6 fangirling blog and a bit more of the media-filled companion to my WordPress blogs I originally envisioned it to be. Since the first day was “Your favorite song” and this filled it, I’m not sure how well I’ve succeeded.
o3/ Shall we Love?: Last is, of course Okada Junichi. Don’t be alarmed. If this song bears a resemblance to Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack, that’s because the “take it to the chorus/bridge” clip is indeed the same. Imai Daisuke apparently couldn’t find any better. As you can probably guess, this solo takes the form of electric R&B, and Ken and Go’s appearance takes the form of a “take it to the future” before the final chorus. (It’s actually pretty nice, done in stereo.) Unfortunately, it also doesn’t resonate with me, but it’s interesting to hear Okada doing a recorded solo that’s not a ballad. Now we also know why he doesn’t usually do recorded solos that aren’t ballads.
Johnny’s fans take heart – if you’ve ever hoped for more variety from a Johnny’s group, Hello-Goodbye shows that it can be done. (But especially if you’re Tackey & Tsubasa, V6, or now Kis-My-Ft2.) If you’ve ever wanted to quell the mockery of idol pop, Hello-Goodbye shows that anything you can do, a Johnny’s can possibly do better.
And if you’re not a fan of Johnny’s music, then Hello-Goodbye may be the album with which to start giving them a try. I mean, really, you get to experience both the musical joy and the horrid money loss many fangirls feel on a constant basis. What better starter package than that?