Every year around this time, I plunge back into the world of j-pop and catch up on some of the things I’ve missed. March tends to be pretty sparse when it comes to k-pop comebacks, so it’s nice to have something “new” to listen to. This March, I’ve been taking a deep dive into the artists of Johnny’s Entertainment. I’m already very familiar with the discographies of News, Kat-Tun and Kis-My-Ft2, and fairly well-versed with senior artists Arashi and V6. But in 2018 I’ve completely fallen for some of the agency’s younger acts like Hey! Say! JUMP and Sexy Zone.
Sexy Zone is a group I’ve been aware of for some time, but that ridiculous group name turned me off from pursuing their music. The guys debuted very young (which makes the name all that more baffling), but have reinvented their sound as they’ve gotten older. For j-pop and k-pop fans alike, their latest album XYZ=repainting is a total treat. The group has gradually moved into a more soulful, retro style that has culminated in the addicting Unforgettable Flower (忘れられない花).
Unforgettable Flower blends 70’s and 80’s influences to create a sultry mid-tempo pop track with just enough funk to give it a bit of kick. Its instrumental presents a brilliantly staccato mix of surging electric guitar and percussive synths that become even more heightened during the breakdown just before the song’s guitar-fueled bridge. To compete with this knockout production, the group offers their most assured and mature performance yet. Flower‘s understated tone plays particularly well with member Kikuchi’s lower range, but all five vocalists seem intent on putting the “sexy” into their name. And more than any other song in their discography, it actually feels authentic.