With shake-ups at the agency and an influx of new debuts, Johnny’s Entertainment seems to be in an era of flux. Some changes have been very welcome (SNS accounts! MVs on YouTube!), making it feel like the agency is finally reaching out to global fans. But, we’ve been down this road with K-pop. Outreach threatens to turn into pandering and can result in music that feels more generic. When it comes to Johnny’s, I don’t think we have to worry too much about this. For one, they have a greater sense of agency history that heavily relies on touchstones specific to Japan. And, the Japanese music market is far less export-based than Korea’s.
Still, it’s been interesting watching some of their veteran acts experiment with genre and style. In the case of KAT-TUN, We Just Go Hard sees them embracing rap music. Given who’s left in the group, I wouldn’t have expected this to work at all. But, the guys have drafted veteran talent in the form of rapper AK-69, who co-wrote the track and features in its second verse. This lends Hard some credibility, but it’s the balance between KAT-TUN and AK-69 that makes it most successful.
Though their music has endured various iterations, KAT-TUN have always drawn heavily from rock. That style is infused here, from the stomping introductory chant to the moody pre-chorus. Rock and rap have been comfortable bedfellows for decades, and the blend works especially well here. We Just Go Hard unfurls several catchy hooks, which should guarantee mainstream appeal. Its chorus is memorable from first listen, while that aforementioned chant makes for a great bookend. The song also brings back Nakamaru’s iconic beatbox, infusing Hard’s modern influences with old-school KAT-TUN charm.