Album Review: NEWS – WHITE

NEWS-WHITE

NEWS “WHITE”, released on February 28th 2015, is NEW’s most recent album released a year and a half after their previous one. This time they used the theme of “white”, which has always been their “group color”. They also experimented with new sounds and new concepts, such as implementing a short film in the album. It topped the weekly charts, beating Acid Black Cherry.

The Songs

MR.WHITE

This is the title song of their album and also what their short film was based off of. I heard it on Koyama’s radio show K-chan news in the middle of February and I loved it the first time I heard it! This is a different type of sound compared to what NEWS has done in the past, with a “funk” vibe to it. I love the combination of the beat with the horns. The vocals are amazing and the key really suits their voices. When singing on music programs to promote the album, they always sung this song and you could see how confident they were with the concept through their performance.

KAGUYA

KAGUYA was NEWS’s most recent single that was released in January. It has a very “modern meets old” feel to it and is an “epic love song” that showed a more sensual side to NEWS. For a full review of this single, please click here to read my post about it.

NYARO

NYARO was originally released about a year ago, but only as a Bra commercial tie-up song for the brand Walcol. The fans have never heard the full version of this song, so it was great to finally hear it. It’s a very NEWS like “summery” song. It has a country feel to it with fiddle like sounds and country like guitar. Paired with the kind of dance beat in the background, I think it makes a new and interesting combination. The echo of “Nyaro” in the background in the chorus makes it such a fun and catchy song that get’s stuck in your head.

SEVEN COLORS

SEVEN COLORS was the theme song for the 2013 and 2014 FIFA Club World Cup and is personally my favorite of the three soccer songs that they have released. Since both times were in Morroco, it has a dance-electronic beat combined with African drums.  I like the uptempo-ness of the song combined and the variety of sounds.

Weather NEWS

Weather NEWS is probably the most news-like song out of this whole album to me. It’s a call and response song, very much like “4-Fan” was in their 2013 “NEWS” album. The whole concept of having a call and response song is such a fun concept to me and makes me feel involved in the concert and with the other fans as well. For the music, it’s a very simple song with simple lyrics, and it was a very nice surprise to have Shige do the rap part and not Massu, who had seemed to take on the rap parts since Yapami had left the group.

Super Sonic

NEWS normally has one “hard dance” song on their album, and Super Sonic was this album’s dance song. What makes it different than the other dance songs that they have done more of an electronic and dubstep feel to it, which seems to be a theme in Asian pop in general recently. When I first heard it, it sounded reminiscent of an Arashi song from their “Digitialian” album. It’s like a combination of a rock song and a dance song combined together and is probably my favorite dance song of theirs to date.

Black-Jack –Inter- and “BYAKUYA”

I combined these two together because one leads into another. Black Jack is an interlude or kind of intermission into the other part of the album, but more specifically into BYAKUYA. It’s a dubstep type song that you would probably hear in a club and somehow merges well together with the fantasy like sounds in BYAKUYA.

Now speaking of fantasy, BYAKUYA is an all out fantasy song, a cross between a pirate theme song, like out of Pirates of the Caribbean, and something out of Harry Potter or “Nightmare Before Christmas”. If you think about it, it also sounds like something that KAT-TUN would do, an epic song that has lots of “visuals”. There is so much going on in this song that you have to listen to it a few times to really hear everything. The first time I heard this song I felt a combination of “What is this epicness?” and “What did I just listen to?” because there was so much going on.

ONE –for the win-

One -for the win- was the 2014 FIFA World Cup theme song that member Tegoshi was also the main caster for.  This song has a more Latin feel to it, which really surprised me the first time I heard the song. This song is one of the songs that gets stuck in my head so easily because the chorus says all the names of the countries that participated in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

White Love Story

Out of all of the songs on the album, this has to be the song that struck me the most. It is such a light and fluffy love song, but more specifically a wedding song. The lyrics are so sweet and the harmonization combined with the piano and the lyrics make me tear up every time I hear this song. This song personally showed me an evolution in NEWS, a maturity from the typical love song to something that was deeper in a sense. The lyrics talk about a man treasuring a woman so much and wanting to make her happy and protect her from now on. At one point the lyrics say “You are my Heroine”, it might seem sickly sweet to some people, but I think that it’s a beautiful song and a beautiful melody, which makes it on my top songs on this album.

Ai Kotoba 「愛言葉」

Ai Kotoba is the song that NEWS wrote themselves for their 10 Year Anniversary Event. NEWS has gone through a lot in the past 10 years, going from 9-8-6 and then to 4 members, so this was was a song dedicated to the fans and them coming this far as 4 members. It’s a very sweet song with a simple melody, but a deep meaning. It’s  a special song for the members, as well as the fans. When I heard it in the countdown this past year, I was crying so hard.

Solo Songs

Koyama Keiichiro – Romeo 2015 「ロメオ2015」

This was a song that Koyama and former NEWS member Nishikido Ryo did as a duet together in a concert a long time ago and Koyama decided to revamp it as his solo for this tour. It has a latin flair, but it is quite simple if you listen carefully. It is sexy in a subtle way and the vocals aren’t too harsh and it suits Koyama’s voice very nicely.

Masuda Takahisa – Skye Beautiful

The first time I heard this song I didn’t know what to think of it and I didn’t like it that much. I was very confused at the rhythm changes, going from soft and “mysterious” to hard dance club like music. I had to listen a second time before I actually understood the tempo changes and how it all flowed together, and then it became one of my top songs on the album.

Tegoshi Yuya – Anata 「あなた」

Coming from his solo last album/ tour “Lovin U”, this was a bit of a disappointment to me when I first listened to it. It was very simple love ballad compared to the previous two solo songs, really focusing on the voice more than anything. It was quite boring for a while, but once I listened to it a few times and felt the lyrics and the piano, I began to like it more.

Kato Shigeaki – Escort

Escort is my favorite of all of the solo songs this tour, just for the beat of the song combined with the lyrics. Shige wrote the lyrics of the song again this time, and I think he was trying to spin off of his previous solo “Dreamcatcher” with “flowery” lyrics again. I like the piano and “funk” kind of vibe to the song and it flows very nicely, although some of the English lyrics make me giggle every time I listen to it.

Overall impressions

This album was a new direction for NEWS, they experimented with some new styles of music, but you could still very much feel classic “NEWS” throughout. It showed a more mature side of NEWS in a way, an evolution almost. In particular, Byakuya and Black Jack –Intern- and Kaguya were a bit out of the ordinary for NEWS, but it gave them a more mature feel. My favorite songs were White Love Story and NYARO, along with Weather NEWS, which were the most “NEWS” like songs on the album, in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this review! What do you all think of NEWS “White” album? Please let me know what you think in the comments below and press the like button if you enjoyed this post.

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Japanese Movie Review: Ohkura Tadayoshi in “Clover” 「クローバー」

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Photo credit to cinematoday.jp

On November 1st, the movie Clover starring Kanjani8’s Ohkura Tadayoshi and Emi Takei, was released in theaters! Both have starred in many movies and dramas, and have even acted together before!

I have been anticipating this movie for a while and it has been advertised pretty heavily the past few months in theaters and on television in Japan. The reason I have been looking forward to it is because it seemed different from the typical romance movies that have been coming out lately. Recently, it has either been sad love stories or cheezy high school romance stories, but Clover is different.

The storyline takes place in a Hotel, where the main character Suzuki Saya, played by Emi, works in the event planning department Ohkura plays her supervisor, Tsuge Susumu, and the character is very stoic with a poker face and is called “DoS”, which means a sadistic type of personality. Saya really doesn’t like him much because he is quite strict with her at work, but one day Susumu randomly asks Saya out. Everything starts with that and it spirals into a long distance relationship and a love triangle with Saya’s ex-boyfriend, and current crush, from Junior High School, who now happens to be a famous actor. The movie also dives into more adult themes by touching on the topic of work vs. love and how far you would go for work, which is different than the typical high school romance movies that have been around recently.

For the flow of the movie, it felt a bit long for the type of movie that it was (just under 2.5 hours long with previews at the beginning) but it was very detailed in the story and giving background information when needed and lots of character development. You can really see the change in Ohkura’s character as the movie progresses. Ohkura himself is a pretty decent actor, though not my favorite actor in Johnny’s or in general. I thought he was best during the romance scenes when he was being sweet. Emi on the other hand I thought nailed her role perfectly in this movie with all of the emotions that show through in her character.

I thought the music suited the movie amazingly well! It featured re-mixed versions of “Someday my Price Will Come” and “When you Wish Upon a Star” sung by JUJU, as well as the theme song “CloveR” by Kanjani8. This song was crafted very well to fit with the theme of the movie and a great coupling song, one of the best I think along with 「ここしかない景色」Koko shikanai Keshiki for Nishikido Ryo’s Movie 「県庁おもてなし課」”The Hospitality Department”.

If you would like a nice romance movie that has a decent story line and also adult romantic aspects to it, I would highly recommend Clover!

Review: NEWS – LIVE Album

General Overview

LIVE is the 4th full length album from the Jpop group NEWS. It was released in September of 2010 and is NEWS’s most recent album released to date. It contains 15 songs on the Regular Edition, 13 songs on the Limited Edition, and features NEWS’s singles “Sakura Girl” and “Koi no ABO”, as well as the song “Be Funky” that was used as the ending song for NEWS member Kato Shigeaki’s Drama “Trouble Man”. The title song, “LIVE”, was written by the producer of the hit Japanese group, Greeeen.

Music Content

This album contains only 2 songs that were released as singles. Normally, Johnnys groups release at least 3 singles before they release an album, but this album was an exception to this, in my opinion, because they only released 2 singles during the time period between their “Color” album release in October 2008 until the release of “LIVE” in September 2010. I believe because of this long time period in-between albums, they decided to release an album instead of another single. Since only 3 songs (Koi no ABO, Sakura Girl, and Be Funky) had been previously heard, most of the other songs were original. The exceptions to this were the 2 bonus songs on the Regular Edition: “Forever (unplugged Version)” and “Share”. “Forever” was released on NEWS’s album before this, “Color”, and was re-done a bit to make an “unplugged” version. “Share” was released in a live version as a B-side track on the “Koi no ABO” single and on the “LIVE” album, they made a studio version of it. “Share” was actually written by the members themselves during their “NEWS Winter Diamond Party” 2008-2009 tour.

I thought the album, overall, had a great balance between fun and mature. NEWS is starting to get later into their 20’s and this album reflects their “fresh” and “fun” image, but making it mature at the same time. Some of my favorite songs include “Naiyou no nai tegami” (A letter with no content), “Aki no Sora” (Autumn Sky), “Umareshi kime e” (To you, who was born), and Endless Summer. Its funny, because I normally don’t like slow songs and ALL of these I categorize as being slower. I think the reason I was attracted to the slower songs this time is because I think NEWS’s vocals have improved vastly since the “Color” album. There was about a 2 year gap in-between these 2 albums and I think that attributed to the improved vocals. You might be wondering why I say that, but even though the members didn’t do much work together, they had solo activities that helped them improve their vocals. Masuda and Tegoshi did a lot together as Tegomassu, Yamashita released 2 singles his own, Nishikido worked with his other group,Kanjani8, and it was mentioned that though Kato and Koyama didn’t have direct solo work with music, they were taking voice lessons on the side. These improved vocals can really be heard in the “unplugged”, live band sessions on the DVD that came with the Limited Edition.

As for the flow of the album, I think all the songs go well together and the way they are placed on the album go well together.  I normally don’t pay attention to the album flow because I like to put things on shuffle and then pick out my favorite songs to listen to as well, but I will say that I think there really aren’t any random songs on the album that interrupt the flow.

DVD Content

The Limited Edition of “LIVE” comes with a DVD that has 4 “unplugged”, live band sessions. They perform 4 of their songs: “SNOW EXPRESS”, “Sakura Girl”, “Aki no Sora”, and “SUMMER TIME” and they have a live band backing them up. The theme of these  sessions is the 4 seasons, each song representing one of the seasons.

SNOW EXPRESS: Winter

Sakura Girl: Spring

Aki no Sora: Fall

SUMMER TIME: Summer

These unplugged sessions, I thought, were amazing with the live band behind them and we can really hear their vocals in an intimate setting. The songs chosen are some of my favorite NEWS songs and it was very nice hearing them in a different arrangement. I thought they were really well done because the mood of the session changed with each song, creating a whole new personality for older NEWS songs, like SUMMER TIME and SNOW EXPRESS, and bringing to life some of the newer songs, like Aki no Sora and Sakura Girl.

This DVD also comes with the making of these sessions, which gives a behind the scenes look at the band sessions and their making. NEWS behind the scenes footage is some of my favorite out of all the Johnnys groups I follow and it is always fun to watch them playing around and interacting with each other.

Packaging

The theme of the packaging seems to be newspaper like, with the main colors being black, white, and grey with bursts of color in the LIVE logo and in the accessories the members wear. The photoshoot for the album is very nice with the Regular edition having them in black suits and the Limited Edition with them in white suits, with a pop of each member’s image color. The Limited Edition comes with a bonus photo book with the lyrics on a “newspaper” and the Regular Edition features one picture with each of the members along with the lyrics.

NEWS - LIVE Limited Edition

NEWS - LIVE Regular Edition

Overall Impression

I really enjoyed this album from NEWS and I like almost all of the songs on the album, verses “Color” where I really only liked 3 or so of the songs. That hasn’t happened from a NEWS album for me since the album”Pacific”, which is by far my favorite NEWS album. Live is #2 in terms of album rankings. I look forward to another NEWS album in the near future!