It’s not often you hear a new single that stretches on for nearly six minutes. Such is the age of streaming, and the time restraints necessary to craft a hit on platforms like Spotify. But although Official HIGE DANdism (Official髭男dism) have become the kings of streams in Japan, the Japanese market itself is still dominated by more old-fashioned forms of music consumption. Either way, I’m delighted that Higedan’s new single Laughter is so long. I wouldn’t cut a single moment.
Over the past year, Official HIGE DANdism has become an absolute sensation in Japan, and for good reason. I’m completely smitten with the band, and particularly frontman Satoshi Fujihara vocals. He’s such an incredibly expressive performer, imbuing each note with pathos and emotion and nuance, even as he’s belting to the rafters. And… belt he does. Where most bands might build toward a single climax within a song, each line of a Higedan track feels climactic. The band’s unique songwriting style favors long, stretched out melodies that compliment the power in Fujihara’s voice. Their music often elicits a combination of goosebumps and tears from me, and that’s not something I say often.
On first listen, Laughter might feel overly long or even meandering, but Higedan tracks reward gradual builds and explosive payoffs. The track’s classic rock instrumental contributes to its sense of momentum. Fujihara’s piano isn’t as prominent in the mix as usual, supplemented by an orchestral heft that lends Laughter a widescreen, grand appeal. The surging guitar and dramatic stomps of percussion add to the cathartic feel of the song, which builds to a head after its second chorus — right when most tracks would be drawing to their conclusion. Its bridge is an explosive moment of sheer audacity. I was on a walk the first time I listened to Laughter, and this segment literally stopped me in my tracks. The choir, the sustained power note, the overwhelming intensity of it all. Maybe it’s due to all the stress in our world right now, but Laughter completely owned me, reducing my usual resting bitch face to an embarrassing puddle of emotions.
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