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.