Over the course of the past few months, Hey! Say! JUMP have become the most musically interesting Johnny’s group. Having been a fan for a while now, this a surprising – and gratifying – transformation. I mean, these are the guys who go around Japan in ridiculous white jumpsuits solving people’s problems. This is the nasally pop group that gave us Magic Power and Come On A My House. Their evolution into stately, experimental idol music is a testament to what acts can do if they’re allowed to grow and thrive over a nearly fifteen-year career.
Last Mermaid catches them at their most quintessentially J-pop, delivering the kind of slow-burn anthemic melody that stretches across multiple melodic refrains. I admire their willingness to commit to material like this. Given the size of their fan base, Hey! Say! JUMP could easily pivot to some trendy trap nonsense and call it a day. But, they continue to craft big pop showtunes, the likes of which no idol act would touch outside of Japan. I find that kind of badass, in its own strange way.
Last Mermaid is flashy and dramatic, powered by layers of strings, bombastic rock guitar and a flourish of jazz piano in the second verse. The track also throws in some splashy disco backing vocals and a killer, climactic saxophone solo – you know, just in case everything else felt too subtle.
But as with any Hey! Say! JUMP track worth its salt, Last Mermaid hinges on its surging chorus. It’s common for J-pop hooks to feel overlong at first, stretched into multiple melodic segments that build upon each other. But, this makes for a refreshing contrast to the one-liner centerpieces common in most other music markets. I’m especially partial to this chorus’s second half, which unveils a gorgeous refrain that rises and falls just like the waves this mythical “last mermaid” might ride. It’s stirring stuff, as long as you’re willing to embrace a gaudy sense of musical cheese. As for me? I practically thrive on it!
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