Review

Album Review: News – Quartetto

News quartettoFrom time to time, it’s just not enough to write about individual singles. In the case of jpop group News’ Quartetto, I wanted to take a deep dive into several tracks. And, given the fact that I’ve already reviewed most of the album’s singles, it just made sense to take a look at the entire thing.

Japanese albums usually work more like American ones, culling multiple singles in one place. I prefer to keep those songs as part of their respective single releases in my personal music library, which makes Quartetto an eleven track release rather than the actual sixteen songs present in the deluxe version. Either way, it stands as the strongest album News has given us in years. Jpop albums aren’t always as accessible online as their kpop counterparts, but do whatever you can to check this one out. It’s a great introduction to the group, and to jpop as a whole.

01. THEME OF QUARTETTO – Strangely enough, this extended intro was released as the album’s new “single,” even though it’s not really a song at all. Instead, we get an interesting hodgepodge of “found object” percussion, tap dance, and melodic cues from the album’s singles. It’s a creative burst of energy that perfectly sets up the Quartetto‘s musical themes.

02. QUARTETTO – For the first actual song, and title track, Quartetto bursts out of the gate with a grand refrain, orchestral production and a chugging beat. The song feels oddly short at just over two and a half minutes, but its unflagging energy provides a potent opening for the album.

03. ANTHEM – First released on their Yonjuushi single, Anthem recalls the group’s multiple sports-themed tracks. It feels designed for a stadium, with sing-along hooks and a sky-high sound. Its production is a little on the generic side compared to other tracks on the album, but it’s hard to deny the strength of that chorus.

04. SIRIUS – This is one of the tracks I desperately wanted to write about. It may be my favorite song I’ve heard this year. It’s a gargantuan-sounding, melodically rich pop song with the type of soaring chorus I go nuts over. I’ll praise Tegoshi’s vocals again later, but he really does carry this song, especially those big notes when the music drops out before the chorus and instrumental refrain. Sirius‘s production deftly incorporates piano, guitar and synth for an incredibly dense, nearly-overpowering sound. This should have been a single.

05. TOUCH – Full review here.

06. NEWSKOOL – This is such a pleasant diversion in sound for the group. Experimenting with a funky, 80’s-style hip hop template, it’s definitely not the “cool” or “hard” style of rap we’re used to today, but that’s a great thing and really suits the group’s fun image. The best part is the Sugarhill Gang-inspired breakdown.

07. YONJUUSHI (THE FOUR MUSKETEERS) – Full review here.

08. WONDER – This is the second track that I knew I needed to write about. It takes a much more rock-driven approach, and in this way actually out-KAT-TUNs most of the recent material by KAT-TUN. It also features the absolute best, most blisteringly awesome high note I’ve heard in quite some time at the three minute mark and again towards the end. Seriously, Tegoshi’s voice can truly be jaw-dropping. It’s an aggressive, non-stop burst of high energy.

09. LIFE – One of my favorite News songs is Full Swing from their 2013 album, and Life echoes that track’s more rock-driven, anthemic form to a tee. It’s not quite as strong or emotional, but it’s still very effective in its own right. I love the accents of acoustic guitar and driving production during the chorus.

10. CHUMU CHUMU – I placed this song on my top 50 of last year, and am still taken by its goofy, Bollywood-inspired charm. It does feel slightly out of place on this more mature sounding album, but it remains one of the group’s strongest, most addictive singles.

11. DEPARTURE – Instrumentally, this track has the feel of an upbeat concert closer, with a propulsive melody and a ridiculously catchy chorus. A late album highlight, for sure.

12. HIKARI NO SHIZUKU (DROP OF LIGHT) – Full review here.

13. LIS’N (Masuda solo) – For me, solos are always the weakest part of News’ albums, as they’re a group that is vocally much stronger when they’re together. Still, Lis’n is the best of the bunch. Masuda’s songs are always a little cartoony and weird, and this blend of hip-hop and dance is no exception.

14. ELEGY OF LOVE (Koyama solo) – A semi-acoustic, vaguely Latin pop song. I like Koyama a lot, but his voice alone doesn’t do much for me. The song is nice, but nothing special.

15. THE LITTLE PRINCE (Shige solo) – The smooth verses make great use of Shige’s deeper tone, but the hook feels a little safe and basic. Not bad, though.

16. ENCORE (Tegoshi solo) – Of all the members, Tegoshi carries a solo song the best, but he’s not given a particularly interesting ballad to work with here. His considerable talent is better utilized throughout the rest of the album. It’s perfectly serviceable, but I kind of hoped for a rock track.

 Hooks  9
 Production  10
 Longevity 10
 Bias  10
 RATING  9.75

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