Debut songs from Johnny’s groups are a big deal. They’re often tied to a popular drama, performed everywhere to the point of being inescapable, and they quickly become a beloved and oft-referenced part of a group’s history. But ever since Travis Japan set up shop in the States to train and compete in numerous competitions (including America’s Got Talent), their trajectory has been different. Yes, they’re debuting. That’s a huge accomplishment after a decade of paying their dues as a junior group. But the way the agency has handled this debut has ruffled some longtime fans.
Named after famous choreography Travis Payne, the guys already have plenty of junior-era songs under their belt (I’m partial to this theatrical banger). But rather than come out swinging with an album or physical single like most Johnny’s groups, the agency has opted for a global digital debut of Just Dance. Out of all their available acts, I’m surprised they’ve pitched Travis Japan toward an international audience. That’s not a judgment on the quality or appeal of the group. I just hate to see them thrown into the global market before having a chance to secure their place in the agency’s home market.
Whatever the case, Just Dance is not a typical Johnny’s debut track. For one, it’s performed entirely in English. And rather than build upon the legacy of past groups, it feels like an obvious response to the success of BTS’s Dynamite and Butter. Responses rarely result in anything but diminished returns.
I include this long prelude as a way to explain my mixed reaction to Just Dance. I’ve already watched too many K-pop groups flatten their idiosyncrasies to reach the widest possible audience. I don’t wish to see that sad story repeated with the notoriously quirky Johnny’s & Associates as its main character.
When it comes to the song itself, I’m of two minds. The verses are off-putting, with trite lyrics and awkward delivery. I’ll come around to them through sheer determination, but they give that “fake fun” feel of a song like Permission To Dance. They’re trying too hard and the strain is evident. On the other hand, Just Dance’s chorus is a major earworm. Yes, the hook is cheesy and sounds like a jingle you’d hear on TV. But, Johnny’s has made a good portion of their name on that very template so it doesn’t feel too inauthentic. I love the brassy instrumental response to this refrain. In fact, the production is strong all around. There’s nothing original about its retro sound, but it’s well-delivered.
As a Johnny’s debut, Travis Japan certainly deserve better. I imagine a future where the agency quickly abandons this “global” concept and promotes the guys in Japan the way they do the rest of their acts. Invested fans will seek out their music wherever it’s released, allowing the group to do what they do best rather than go as broad as possible.
8.5?! How?! Mid 7’s at best for me.
Its so leaden. Heavy and sluggish. Let’s put it this way: my usual trick of clicking the youtube speed setting up requires sliding it up a full click to 1.25x. Try it! Its like a completely different song. It makes me wonder if they mis-mastered it, like if the old school tape deck was running out of juice and wound down.
At its existing speed, after the initial beats I was expecting a full funk song like, say, the Chic classic “Good Times” – copied at bottom – which has a similar bpm just so much more verve. Instead we have a song that tells us to dance without making us want to, yanno, dance. Instant 1 point deduction.
(The Alice “Dance On” from the other day does not get the point deduction, because I could actually imagine it on the Just Dance app on the old Wii with my niece dancing to it. She’s 9 years old, she would love it.)
It’s my heavy Johnny’s bias and history with the group, I fear. I’ll admit to that!
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When are you going to do a 100 Best J-Pop Songs of All-Time list? I absolutely love your 100 Best K-Pop Songs list, it introduced me to so many great tunes that weren’t on my radar before.
I really should! That’s a big undertaking, but maybe sometime in the future!
once again, i beg kpop and jpop companies to not be as bare-bones as possible when moving to the english-speaking market, and actually make songs that keep the quirks that made their previous works so good in the first place
anyway, this song is alright, that hook’s probably gonna get annoying after a few listens. a 7.75 at best (8, 8, 7, 8)
I know these guys from their YouTube content (the Junior channel, by the way, I discovered through this blog!), and so while I know as Juniors they probably had a couple of original songs here and there I’m completely unfamiliar with what their musical styles/influences/strengths could be. I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed with this debut song, however. This basically feels like a cut-and-paste of Permission to Dance, and the same thing that struck me about that song – how is it that a feel-good song encouraging someone to groove can come across as lacking that actual spark and soul which would make me want to groove more? – is present here as well. [Ironically the kick drum line reminded me of Dynamite, which contrary to popular opinion on this blog I actually really like – that key change does wonders for the song]
I don’t know, I like these guys from the variety content I’ve seen and I think they have charm, but that didn’t really come across in this song or music video. They all look great but I don’t get a grasp of them individually or as a group aside from them being a bunch of cute guys smiling around. Even the goofing-around scenes didn’t feel as natural as they could have (was that one shot a reference to the golden suit that Nakamura wears in some of their variety though lol). Maybe it’s a factor of the song being entirely in English and shot in a setting that felt a little generic. And for a group where their dance synchronisation was often brought up as a talking point, this choreo didn’t really stand out?
This wasn’t a bad debut by any means, but considering how long these guys have apparently been around as a group I wish it was more explosive. Their debut journey is only just beginning though, so I’m looking forward to more.
This Song is 100% American and so is the MV. And I have to say I don’t like that. If the only way for Jpop to get big outside of Japan is to stop being Jpop then I rather have it remain unpopular
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A frequent lament of Jpop and Kpop.