My Favorite J-pop: Official HIGE DANdism – Pretender

Official Hige Dandism - PretenderWith such a busy slate of K-pop releases, I don’t always have a chance to rave about some of my favorite J-pop. This week, I’ll be giving an overview of some of my favorite acts and songs. Hopefully you’ll find a new obsession to add to your playlist!

Why I Love Pretender (and you should too)

When considering the past five years in J-pop, Pretender feels foundational — at least where piano-led, emotional stomper ballads are concerned. And yes, that’s a genre title I just made up! The song’s chart performance would support that theory, shooting Official HIGE DANdism to super stardom as one of Japan’s biggest bands. Yet, I neglected to write about the song during its release in 2019. I’m making up for that now.

This track (and its accompanying album) became a huge pandemic-era hit for me. Its emotional catharsis was a welcome energy during a time of such unease. From the opening riffs to the series of perfectly-formed crescendos, the song construction and delivery already feel like the stuff of legends. Satoshi Fujihara’s vocals are impossibly expressive, effectively conveyed story and nuance even if you don’t understand a lick of Japanese. It all comes to a head during a singalong chorus reminiscent in energy (if not sound) of classic rock tracks like Tiny Dancer.

Pretender unfurls with the sentiment of a power ballad, but it’s too brisk and percussive to be classified that way. It’s such a brilliant blend of elements, crafted to shoot straight to your heart.

I enjoyed this! Where should I go next?

The band has many other popular songs and they’re not difficult to find. Queue up the transcendent Laughter to spur similar feelings as Pretender. For something more upbeat, make sure to check out I Love…, Shukumei or Yesterday. Though not one of their massive singles, Vintage was the first song I ever loved from the band so it also has a special place in my heart.

Hooks 10
 Production 10
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10

Grade: A+


10 thoughts on “My Favorite J-pop: Official HIGE DANdism – Pretender

  1. I haven’t commented on any of these yet even though I’ve been loving the feature but I just had to here.

    Similarly, I didn’t really get into Higedan until the pandemic and when I did, I became obsessed. Yesterday, laughter, pretender, I love…, became such personal songs to me, carried by Fujihara’s beautifully emotive vocals. His voice soundtracked so much of my 2020 but ever since then, I rarely returned to the groups work.

    But the moment I pressed play on Pretender again, it was like a floodgate opened up. I was right back there. Gazing out the window at the pouring rain disassociating from my online class and tuning out the faint hum of the covid news report in the background. All while Higedan unfurled the beauty of Pretender through my headphones. The sparkling synths, instantly recognisable riff and ofcourse those airy vocals. It was utterly magical.

    And while it may have only been 3 years since its release I’m pretty sure Traveler and its surrounding releases have become one of the most musically significant pillars of my life. As someone who has been somewhat out of it recently, this really revitalised me and made me remember just how transcendent music can really be.

    Like a big, warm, musical hug just when you need it most.

    (sorry for the essay, just kind of brain dumped ahaha)


  2. btw here is doyoung from ncts cover of this song……the guy was BORN to do songs like this (though tbf he did rearrange the song as a straight up piano ballad)


  3. these kind of full of melody, power ballad bangers in jpop (i.e., marigold by aimyon, another masterpiece) are an absolute bliss to listen to, definitely deserving that 10/10

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d always prefer Laughter, but this is a solid introduction to Higedan’s golden era. I haven’t been feeling their music too much post-Anarchy, but it is always amazing to go back and hear what they can do. What timeline are we in that one of the world’s best musical acts is named “Official Manly Mustache”?


  5. Personally while I enjoy Pretender, I’ve always found myself listening to b-side Bad For Me more. I find I can remember Bad For Me’s chorus better 😅, I don’t know why.


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