I watched J-drama Nobuta wo Produce for the first time last month and fell head over heels in love with it. Even since, I’ve been revisiting KAT-TUN’s (consistently fantastic) discography and remembering just how much I adore their music. At their best, they’ve delivered some of the most essential pop tracks of the last fourteen years. Standing alongside a few legendary songs in their catalog is 2009’s Rescue — an utterly perfect dance anthem.
At the time of its release, KAT-TUN were still at their full, six-member configuration. The group has since been halved, but are still churning out the tunes. Their first few years together were met with mammoth success, and remembered fondly by a fiercely loyal fan base. And with songs like this, Don’t U Ever Stop and Real Face, it’s easy to see why.
I believe that many of the best pop tracks share one thing in common: they kick off with their chorus. Though its emphasis has dulled lately, the chorus is a vital part of any decent pop song. And, if a track is confident enough to unveil it right from the start, that’s usually a promising sign.
After a wonderfully ridiculous spoken word intro, Rescue bounds forward with a tease of its mighty refrain. This opens with the vocals of Kamenashi and Akanishi, layered in an echoed siren call directly preceding a monster beat drop. Though high-toned and reedy, these two voices are able to convey such pathos and drama throughout the entire track, modulating slightly with each chorus to achieve different effects.
From here, Rescue pulls back – but only slightly. The verse is tight and compelling, wasting no moment with unnecessary diversions. Like so many of my favorite songs, there’s a sense of constant acceleration. Even when Rescue retreats to softer moments, you never lose the overall plot. Those softer moments only serve to add greater impact to the megawatt chorus.
Rescue bops along quite nicely for three minutes, and at the point where many pop songs would wind down to a conclusion, the track morphs further. A growling rap verse brings us to an extended dance break (over a minute long in the music video, far less in the actual song), where swirling synths intensify and the beat chugs with unbreakable energy. From here, we arrive at one of modern pop’s most underutilized segments – the bridge.
Like Rescue’s introduction, the vocal arrangement cascades with a looping effect that adds incredible tension to the already bounding instrumental. But rather than culminate in the song’s final chorus, the track drops into another sinister groove, spotlighted by member Nakamura’s trademark beat box. Even as a big fan, KAT-TUN’s beatbox breaks can sometimes feel shoehorned in — like a parlor trick. Here, it accentuates the already sticky rhythm, offering yet more to chew on as this bridge/dance break continues to elongate.
Then, in a brilliant use of dynamics, the instrumental fades to little more than waves of synth majesty as the members’ vocals carry us into Rescue’s climactic chorus. When the full weight of the production slams in again, the impact is even greater because of the empty space preceding it. By the end of the song, Rescue has taken you on a full journey, teasing out the strengths of its relatively simple melody in all the ways it can. It zigs and zags this way and that, but never cuts against its core energy or theme. It knows when to pull back and when to wallop you over the head.
And that’s what makes Rescue a Legendary Song.
This song holds a special place in my heart bc it’s actually the first jpop song I ever heard – when I was in fifth grade the jazz 4 class after my jazz 2 class did their recital piece to this song and sometimes my class would watch them perform.
I am jealous of you because:
a) what an INCREDIBLE first J-pop song to hear!
b) A jazz recital to Rescue?!? I wish I could see this. What taste!
the teacher was a bit of a mess to put it lightly
like for my class’s dance half of it was free dance bc she didn’t have time to teach it to us due to having started really late
which would be fine if we were more experienced with improv and stuff but we were young and… weren’t
One of my first Kat-tun songs, I’m glad to see it’s gotten to the legendary status!
Yes! Yes! YES!!
Easily one of my favourite songs ever! Kat-Tun has a number of songs that would easily get a 10 from me but Rescue is easily their crowning achievement. I doubt many songs in 2020 would even consider having either a gargantuan hook, dance break or beatbox breakdown. Let Alone all three!!
Fitting that it gets to be the first Japanese legendary song, it’s right up there with The Chaser for me in terms of legendary status.
Yeah, it’s good. J-pop have always been less the polish, more the ambition and this song fits perfectly in that.
Oh this is a lot of fun! I appreciate that they completely dispense with the idea of synchronized dance and let the backup dancers do the heavy lifting. As FROSTY says “less polish, more ambition”. Kpop too often falls into the “more polish, less ambition” hole. Take for example TVXQ “Rising Sun” whose performance is actually shaggy by contemporary kpop performance standards. Because the guys have charisma and the song is awesome, it makes for a fantastic stage.
The heavy us of backup dancers also means the boys can actually sing, and it makes the song more concert ready for them to wander the stage and not be stuck center stage doing the dance. Then the video version has the extended dance break so they can do their thing then.
I really liked the beat box break. I think it is refreshing. But then again, as this is one of the few times I have heard Kat-tun (I know, shocking), it isn’t old for me. I think I may possibly prefer beat box break to unnecessary rap verse.
Yep, I think we’ve reached a point where more importance is put on polish than good songwriting, particularly when it comes to boy groups. J-pop’s foibles are part of its charm, though you really have to grow into it as a listener.
It’s a solid song, although for me, I think I prefer Real Face, Don’t U Ever Stop or Run For You. I find the hook never quite settles in for me, but I can appreciate its energy.
I hope you cover some more female J-Pop groups too. Although their singles can be mixed bags, Morning Musume and AKB48 have some stellar tunes as well (like Kanashimi Twilight by Momusu).
I hope to do so. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of new J-pop coming out at the moment due to covid. I’ve begun dipping my feet into the girl group side of the industry more and more, but it’s kind of overwhelming. I find the whole AKB48 empire to be particularly intimidating (though I do love No Way Man!). Recently discovered ANGERME and I’m obsessed with Late Bloomer and One By One, One After Another. But then there were a bunch of their songs I didn’t like at all.
Rescue isn’t my favorite KAT-TUN song, but I do admit that it’s one of their most iconic songs ever.
However, with that said, I like this song better when KAT-TUN performs it. It’s one of those songs that usually feature fire and edgy atmosphere overall.
Who is the producer of this incredible piece of art….
This is like…the best song of all time.
I’m so glad you’re in a KAT-TUN mood right now! I’m jealous that you have an amazing band/discography to discover during this uninspiring K-pop month. 🙂
To answer your question, it’s a team of mostly Europeans who crafted this, with some Japanese talent polishing the edges.
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It’s currently my exams so I can’t really listen to the discography right now…
I listened to 30+ songs but forgot most of them because of stress…but the ones I do remember…
Fire and Ice
I also teased myself a bit with “Dead or Alive”…and sh*t, it sounds massive.
I am contorting my shape and I am eager to listen to the full package. After the burden will be released, I’ll start right away by listening to the songs..KAT-TUN might as well turn as my favorite band at the end of this.
It’ll be twice as euphoric as the burden will be released from my back!
But seriously Nick..Thank you so much for this, you had absolutely no reason to go through the trouble of giving me that but you still did. You truly do deserve the title of “surfer joe” and I will forever cherish this collection of legendary music.
Just don’t know what to say without coming off as awkward but still, once again, thank you very much for this!