I’m back with more J-pop b-sides and singles that never received a full Bias List review. This round-up covers material from October 2020 to January 2021, and I hope you find some treasures to add to your playlist!
SixTONES – S.I.X / Special Order
SixTONES released their first full-length album earlier this month, and it’s quite good. They cover a variety of genres (some more successful than others), but I think they’re at their best when they embrace the theatricality that’s always been a hallmark of Johnny’s Entertainment.
S.I.X and Special Order are my two favorite b-sides. S.I.X has a great chorus and a brassy instrumental that keeps the energy high. Special Order is more experimental, but its killer psy-trance drop is a perfect match for SixTONES’ edgy sound.
7ORDER – Perfect
However, SixTONES weren’t the only Johnny’s-adjacent group to release a great album this month. 7ORDER are former Johnny’s Jrs, now debuting under a different label. Their album One has quite a few great tracks. I happen to be partial to the straightforward EDM/dance pop of Perfect. It feels like a song that could have been released in the early 2010’s.
DAN⇄JYO – Kono Feeling
I featured this group as part of my “top J-pop of 2020” countdown, and if Kono Feeling had been released as a single it would have been there as well. The song is nothing new. In fact, I feel like I’ve heard its chorus before in another track. But, those wistful 80’s synths and co-ed vocals make me imagine Kono Feeling as the climactic track in some imaginary Japanese remake of Dirty Dancing.
Generations – Sunny After The Rain (雨のち晴れ)
Generations have released a number of slower tracks over the past few months, and this one is by far my favorite. I thought about giving it a full review, but in the end just didn’t have too much to write about it. But, Sunny After Rain‘s chorus feels like a big hug. It becomes more amiable and addictive the more you hear it. With that said, it feels like forever since these guys delivered a dance track.
SUPER★DRAGON – Black Box
SUPER★DRAGON’s discography has been the most hit-and-miss of all the Ebidan acts for me. But, they have their share of classic tracks. Black Box isn’t quite there, but I still enjoy it for what it is. This feels very much like Ebidan looking to K-pop for inspiration, and they hit their mark pretty well.
Hey! Say! JUMP – Puppet
This is my favorite track from Hey! Say! JUMP’s December album. Make sure to seek out the full version if you can find it, as this video plays more like a teaser. I just love the house beat, underlined with those bright keys and fused with the guys’ rapid-fire melody. The chorus to this is everything.
Daisuke Ono – Cell “D” (Funky Alien)
Daisuke Ono has been a new discovery for me, and if his music is anything like new album Stargazer, I have a lot of digging to do. This mini album is super solid, drawing from classic pop influences to create a funky pop/rock sound that feels timeless. Funky Alien is one of many highlights — especially those backing vocals in the chorus. Plus, Takuya Watanabe (the composer behind Sexy Zone’s legendary Run) wrote one of its singles: the aptly-titled Dramatic.
Nogizaka46 – I Like Me (僕は僕を好きになる)
I already reviewed my favorite song on Nogizaka46’s new single, but although Wilderness World had a music video, I Like It is the actual “title track” (to borrow a phrase from K-pop). As such, it deserves at least a mention. I quite like this song as well. It’s more in line with what I’d expect to hear from the girls, with a wistful melody and chugging, symphonic instrumental. Like many of their tracks, it kind of sneaks up on you.
Ballistik Boyz – Life Is A Party
I’m not loving the sound of Ballistik Boyz’ new single, but this b-side is very good. I’d love to hear them travel down this funkier route. It’s a sound that Exile Tribe excels at, and I actually think that this would have made for a great summertime single.