King & Prince have proven themselves a versatile group, but not in a way that feels unfocused or slapdash. Instead, they’ve been able to dip into several genre pools and develop each as their career has grown. We’ve got the fizzy pop tracks (Cinderella Girl, Koi Furu Tsukiyo ni Kimi Omou), the sleek dance pop bangers (Mazy Night, Naughty Girl) and the swagger-fueled hip-hop songs. Ichiban follows where last year’s Magic Touch left off, moving even further into the genre with standout production and a wildly catchy hook.
I’ve seen some fans lament how Ichiban represents the NCT-ification of King & Prince, and I can see their point. I certainly don’t want Johnny’s to borrow too much from K-pop trends, but I don’t think there’s a real risk of that happening. And regardless of where King & Prince found their inspiration, K-pop acts would be lucky to get a groove this cavernous and irresistible.
Provided by producer/rapper Kreva, Ichiban’s instrumental melds hip-hop beats with traditional Japanese flourishes. The blend works perfectly, with neither element too prominent or too hesitant. This groove has real body to it. It’s not just another case of tinny trap hi-hats thrown over dull percussion. Kreva brought the bass that shakes cars, and his arrangement gives the production plenty of space to shine. The song’s full version boasts multiple instrumental breaks, including a twenty-second interlude after verse one. Ichiban warrants this indulgence. Its descending synth loops are so funky.
Better yet, Ichiban is an idol hip-hop track with an actual chorus! We could argue about how cringy it may be to see Johnny’s idols posing and posturing to these kind of hooks (the song is just goofy enough to allow it), but it’s hard to deny the potency of Ichiban’s chant-sung centerpiece. It’s such fun – boastful but relentlessly melodic. Like last year’s Namae Oshiete, it takes a simple conceit and elevates it with earnestness and panache.
(both of these versions are edited down, but the full song is covered between both of them!)