Exile Tribe’s Fantastics have been jumping from strength to strength these past few years. So many J-pop and K-pop groups embrace retro sounds, but it’s not always a perfect match. Fantastics feel designed for the aesthetic, and that continues with the upbeat city pop of Santa Monica Lollipop (サンタモニカ・ロリポップ).
This song is a bit more restrained than most of Fantastics’ singles, but the guys inject plenty of energy into a genre that can sometimes lack a sense of sonic diversity. Though it’s been co-opted by other music markets (looking at you, K-pop!), city pop originated in Japan and is more diverse than current iterations may have you believe. Santa Monica Lollipop borrows the basic elements and melds them to a breezy pop tune. The melody is brisk and catchy, circling around a swift refrain sprinkled throughout the verses and chorus. Taken together, the song and video have a summery appeal, making this release feel a little odd in the dead of winter. But, the shot of sunshine is appreciated.
Minus the bombast of tracks like Stop For Nothing and Drive Me Crazy, Santa Monica Lollipop feels more like a “groove” song. To use a popular cliché: “it’s a vibe.” But, Fantastics nail the specifics of this sound. Sota and Yusei’s dueling vocals make a great match for this laidback energy, delivering their lines with verve and personality. And though Santa Monica Lollipop may never build toward any momentous highs, I have a feeling it will be sticking around my playlist for a while.