Though I’ve enjoyed Hey! Say! JUMP’s music for years now, I was still surprised by how much I loved last October’s Parade album. It felt like Johnny’s Entertainment at its best – widescreen, ambitious and infectiously joyful. With a roster of vocalists that I will politely call “nasally,” JUMP have never been a group to rely on bravura performances. Rather, the focus has always been on overstuffed, addictive and even experimental bubblegum pop. The songs are the centerpiece here, and new single I Am certainly has a lot going for it.
I Am comes paired with double A-side Muah Muah, which is a much more lighthearted, throwaway track. But, I’m interested in the pop majesty on display here. Right from the beginning, I Am is the kind of propulsive anthem so reliably churned out by Johnnys groups. After a brief twinkle of keys, the full brunt of the instrumental hits. It’s like stepping into a wind tunnel, hair blown back by the sheer force of the production. If I had my way, the mixing would have been a little less muddled, with greater focus given to each individual instrument, but I’m absolutely here for the drama of it all.
I Am’s verses are more restrained, offering a lilting melody over sprightly, guitar-laced percussion. This builds to a beautiful pre-chorus that injects a bit of melancholy to the track. And, most importantly, it all climaxes in a mammoth, megawatt chorus. This refrain is nicely developed, sung in unison and buttressed by a whirlwind of backing vocals. The second verse sacrifices a bit of I Am’s momentum, but I love how the violin gains more prominence as the song goes on. And as expected of a Johnnys track, the whole thing concludes with an all-hands-on-deck musical call to arms. For those of us who enjoy this approach, it’s quite satisfying.
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