I wish I would’ve been more diligent about writing reviews for Kis-My-Ft2’s 2016-19 material, because most of my words since then have been critical and don’t capture my love for the group. After that incredible era, I feel like their music has been in a bit of a slump through no fault of their own. They’re just not getting the strongest material from the agency. I want nothing more than a Kisumai resurgence that brings renewed focus to their sound. They’re still my favorite Johnny’s group, and probably my favorite J-pop group in general.
New single Fear doesn’t quite live up to their best material, but its rock-infused style is more welcome than the generic fare they’ve been churning out of late. The disturbing music video is a huge shift in concept, complimenting a song that has darker, more mature undertones. This isn’t the “put on a sequined outfit and romp around” style often synonymous with Johnnys acts. Instead, the instrumental and performance are stark and affecting.
With that said, I would have switched up the vocal arrangement. Kitayama and Fujigaya are best suited toward this angsty style, and should have kicked off the track. As much as I adore Tamamori (he’s my favorite J-idol, after all!), his singing isn’t as emotive as his acting and his unadorned vocal makes for a jarring introduction. But, I guess that bareness resonates with the song.
Fear is buoyed by its incredible chorus. The guys sing in unison as the beat drops and orchestral elements join the guitar-driven production. This hook gets under your skin the more you hear it, and powers Fear toward a cathartic finale. It makes for a rousing centerpiece to Kis-My-Ft2’s strongest single since 2019’s Edge Of Days.
As someone not heavily invested in Kisumai (I never check out their variety), I think this song is one of their best since Hug & Walk. It is dark and brooding, but works surprisingly well, with a classy aggressiveness I expect from the best Kat-Tun releases.
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I already said that I love this song in my comment under KAT-TUN’s song a few days ago. LOL! But I agree they haven’t sounded this good since edge of days.
It’s funny how Tama starting the song off was what I noticed first too. Even as they give him and other members more singing parts over the years, Kitayama still mostly start off their songs while Fujigaya sing the chorus, so this was definitely different. I do think, though, that it’s deliberate to give a jarring effect (as you said). In fact, they built up the excitement as they go from the weaker singers (Tama, Nika), to the stronger ones (Sen, Miya) until they reach the chorus with their strongest singers (Kita, Gaya) – I’m not counting Yokoo as he hardly ever get lines.
Most importantly though, the visuals are just so on point! This really makes me curious and want to watch Kitayama’s dorama. Are you watching it? The synopsis sounds interesting.
P.S. Doesn’t this remind you of Because I Love You?
Nick, Re: your comment on another thread about video concept. Yes, simple concept well done wins here.
I don’t always have the time to look over the Jpop releases as they hide their goodies away on alt platforms, but iirc the Sexy Zone videos also are high concept, well executed. There was the one in the under-construction church or concert hall with the organ still in box, and the one on a simple stage set with the simple optical illusion effects going on.
Some of the AKB48 ones actually on youtube are also eye catching – here is “No way man”, and it is stylish as hell. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMb0BLDlOwo
I really appreciate that Jpop isn’t so severe with the dance as Kpop. The Kissmyft and Sexy Zone sometimes completely dispense with the dance; the girl Jpop dances are usually delightfully shaggy. But in Kpop, the expectation is a “powerful” dance in perfect unison, and I don’t think it makes Kpop necessarily better than other pop around the world. Dance is the Kpop’s affectation and preoccupation, to its detriment.
I’ve been playing this on repeat. So good. And that Kitayama hyperlink pulls me in. What did you think of that song? I feel like the MV, song, acting and all came together to deliver some ironic and unsettling feel.
I loved that Kitayama solo! Sadly, I wasn’t a fan of the other members’ solos that were part of this project. But, I think this cool alt-pop sound is a great fit for Kitayama and really accentuates the cool parts of his vocal tone.
I might be a little bit obsessed with the solo. When the second verse(?) comes in at 1:37…it makes me feel things. LOL I just might start digging further into Kisumai.
Do you have Kisumai/Johnny’s recommendations similar to these?
Kitayama hyperlink/solo (sorry I don’t know how to call it)
Change Ur World
Ooh, I think I know the exact vibe you’re going for with those examples.
I looked through my library and here were a few Johnnys songs I thought might appeal to you. I’m sure there are tons more in this vein, but this is what stuck out on a quick glance. Let me know if you end up listening to/liking any of them!
Arashi – Mikan, Truth
Hey! Say! Jump – Fantastic Time, I Am
Johnny’s West – Akatsuki
KAT-TUN – Ask Yourself, One Day, Keep The Faith, Race Goes On, Rescue, White
Kis-My-Ft2 – Edge Of Days, Don’t Wanna Die (just because it’s another Kitayama solo), Brand New Season, R.A.C.E, Break The Chains
News – Wonder, Dead End
Sexy Zone – Da Vinci
SixTONES – Boku ga Boku janai Mitaida, New Era
Snow Man – Stories
V6 – Orange
Thank you so much! How could I forget Truth??? It’s my favorite Arashi song! Suggesting that means you totally got what I was looking for lol. Will check all of these out!
Oh and if you have any suggestions on how to best describe the vibe that I was going for…kindly share, would greatly appreciate it! So I know what keyword search terms to use next time lol.
Words that come to mind, but might not be helpful for searching:
swirling, cyclical melody
soft synth tones
I already know and love some of these! Truth, I Am, Rescue–all GREAT songs.
I also realized that HSJ’s Last Mermaid and KAT-TUN’s Emerald also have the somewhat haunting melody I’m looking for.
Will get back to the KAT-TUN songs and the ones I couldn’t find. For now, some quick thoughts:
1. The chorus of Fantastic Time, Akatsuki, Mikan, and Break the Chains. YES. Some show-stopping stuff there. I love these four.
2. I can see why you suggested New Era and Stories. Probably because of Change Ur World, hee.
3. V6 – Orange somehow reminds me of Regret, one of my favorite New Order songs. (Actually, one of my favorite songs, period.) At some parts, Mikan also sounded a bit like Gary Moore – Over The Hills And Far Away, another favorite. Do these comparisons make sense or am I just hearing things in a strange way lol.
4. I couldn’t stop laughing at Don’t Wanna Die. It felt out of place here. BUT it seems I am falling into a Kitayama hole, so this is much appreciated.
I can’t pick a favorite right now, but I loved most of what I heard! Thank you so much, Nick. Also appreciate the keywords/descriptions you shared.