KAT-TUN are currently celebrating their 15th anniversary, and I hope that means we’ll be hearing a lot from them. It’s been nearly two years since their last album, and because the Kame x Yamapi project was scrapped last year, we haven’t even heard any solo music in the interim. KAT-TUN were one of my entry points into J-pop, so they hold a special place in my heart. Even so, I feel like their group work has lacked a bit of focus ever since their big return in 2018.
In contrast to its title, new single Roar is actually quite reserved. It has a sprightly tempo, but the instrumental never charges forward in the way we’re used to from KAT-TUN’s singles. Instead, it has an airy – almost jazzy – appeal. While this makes for pleasant listening, it’s hardly the galvanizing sound I crave.
A tentative, piano-led introduction soon gives way to sweeping strings. The production pulls back again for the verses, which offer shifting levels of intensity and tempo before the pre-chorus brings us to a groovier place. The chorus has an insistent drive — not unlike Sexy Zone’s incredible Run, actually. The big difference between the songs lies in the performance and instrumental. There’s a crackle of energy to both, but Roar’s sound palette is much lighter. Couple this with KAT-TUN’s voices, which are already on the higher-toned end of the spectrum, and you get a song that feels oddly weightless. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and once you know what you’re getting Roar reveals more of its charms. But, I can’t help but wish for a track with a little more bite.