SixTONES have taken the J-pop world by storm this year, and much of that is due to their ability to subvert expectations. Yes, they still brandish the elaborate costuming that’s become a hallmark of Johnny’s Entertainment acts, but their music has pushed toward a more international direction. I’m of two minds about this. I love their embrace of rock influences (it reminds me of old KAT-TUN), but many of their b-sides are beginning to feel more like Western pop than the anything-goes spender I often associate with Johnny’s acts.
None of New Era’s coupling songs really appeal to me, but the main dish is pretty potent. Like their previous singles, New Era draws heavily from rock music, which is still a thriving genre within Japan. In fact, I think this is SixTONES’ most straightforward rock song yet. And as a soundtrack for anime Hanyō no Yashahime, this approach makes sense.
Unsurprisingly, New Era’s best moments come when the guitars are turned up to eleven. The surging chorus is a real treat, driven by an aggressive propulsion. The opening verse continues this energy. Parts come across as something T.M.Revolution might have delivered in the late 00’s. Vocalist Taiga Kyomoto has a similarly rich tone perfectly suited to big anime tracks like this. I only wish that New Era didn’t feel the need to upend its second verse with an ill-fitting production switch. I think Juri Tanaka is a great rapper, and somewhat distinct within the Johnny’s staple of talent. But, this segment feels out of place in a song like New Era, upending momentum rather than offering a dynamic diversion. Thankfully, the rest of the track brings enough bombast to compensate.