King & Prince’s singles run has pin-balled between extremes, from the fluffy cutesiness of songs like Cinderella Girl and Koi-Wazurai to the edgier Mazy Night and Naughty Girl. This is largely in response to the needs of the drama projects these songs are tied into, but this “grab bag” sense of concepts tends to be a facet of any group debuting under Johnny’s Entertainment – at least during their first few years. It often takes these acts awhile to settle on the sound that fits them best. Personally, I’d argue in support of the sleek Mazy Night style for King & Prince, though that’s not what they made their name on.
New single &LOVE heralds the release of the guys’ second full-length album, and sees them tackling a classic pop sound. It definitely belongs to the lighter side of their discography, and feels like the kind of frothy, slapdash material you’d see covered by overexcited Juniors on an episode of Shounen Club. It’s not particularly weighty or substantial, but if you’re willing to let your guard down and shield your critical eye, you’ll probably have a lot of fun with the track.
To me, &LOVE (like many Johnnys tracks), feels ripped from a movie-musical. There’s a major High School Musical energy about it, from the hand-claps to the bouncy, guitar-assisted beat and brass flourishes. It’s all a little too cheesy at times, but several listens in and that effusive chorus has wormed its way into my brain. I also appreciate the instrumental’s fleshed-out arrangement. Rather than rely on the kind of canned sounds you’d expect from some producer’s sample pack, &LOVE brings in lively boogie piano to give the track a welcome spontaneity. To some, the whole package will feel hopelessly dated. But, that sense of “out of time” nostalgia has always been a cornerstone of Johnny’s Entertainment’s charm.