After a blockbuster debut in January, SixTONES are back with their follow-up single Navigator. Originally scheduled for release at the beginning of June, Navigator takes a hard turn from the stadium balladry of Imitation Rain, in line with the detective anime series it soundtracks. This sound is closer to what I had expected from the group when their debut was first announced, though the track also holds its share of surprises.
You can almost feel the strain of the Johnny’s Entertainment machine trying to “edge” up SixTONES to satiate current international trends, but at its heart Navigator is still a weird little anime song. It’s anchored by an unwieldy chorus melody, full of blunt corners and mile-a-minute refrains underlined by sweeping orchestral elements that have a frantic intensity to them. This energy extends to Navigator’s verses, keeping the listener constantly off-balance. The track opens with tense, horror movie strings before unveiling the full bombast of its clobbering instrumental. It’s a dense brew of competing sounds, and I’m not yet sure if it fully works. But, it certainly holds my attention.
If you were to watch only the music video below, you’d have an entirely different opinion of Navigator. I appreciate that Johnny’s is putting videos on youtube at all, but I’d rather they give us the kind of “short version” samples favored by other agencies. Instead, they’re experimenting with mashed-together hybrids that approximate full music videos but leave important material out. Like other recent uploads from its idol groups, Navigator’s youtube version omits the second verse and chorus entirely. This really upends the flow. The song’s most incongruous moment – that extended rap bridge – is grafted onto the first chorus, which hampered my opinion of Navigator before I heard the song in full. It fits much better in its rightful place toward the song’s finale.
Make no mistake, Navigator is a handful in any format, but it greatly improves with the added minute. I appreciate its sheer audacity, down to the clattering wall-of-noise production and unsettled, spiraling refrains. It doesn’t feel as instantly engaging as Imitation Rain, but that abrasiveness is kind of its charm.
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