NiziU are part of a new brand of J-pop idol groups who look and sound a lot like K-pop. This is by design, as they – along with peers like JO1 and INI – are backed by Korean stakeholders. As a J-idol fan myself, their growing success worries me – particularly when the music feels like unused demos from the K-pop industry. But, these groups can also deliver fantastic material. After all, JO1’s Born To Be Wild was my favorite song of 2021.
I haven’t been enamored with NiziU’s discography thus far. The saccharine style of their songs just isn’t for me. But, new digital single ASOBO is a welcome surprise. It’s no less sugary than past material, but the melodies and performance are quite enjoyable. The energy in the verses is toned down in an effective way, taking time to develop a catchy introduction before the hook rushes in. The girls’ voices are layered for the effusive pre-chorus and they sound fantastic. This moment stands as an anthemic exclamation point for the entire song, clearing the air before we plunge into ASOBO’s beat-drop hook.
Beat drops are rarely satisfying anymore, but I appreciate ASOBO’s willingness to try something a bit different. The catchy marimba percussion from the verses blossoms into a full-on festival, letting brass and percussion do the talking. It’s a bit jarring the first time through, but when this instrumental fuses with the layered “ASOBO” hook, the song is great fun. It’s a little early to be thinking about the summer, but ASOBO feel destined to join the upbeat, ‘driving to the beach’ playlist.