With 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 Kis-My-Ft2 (and you should too)
You knew we weren’t going to reach the end of this J-pop feature without visiting Kis-My-Ft2, right?? I mean, I wrote about every one of their singles earlier in the year. They’re my favorite J-idol group and I’ve kinda made it my mission to spread the word. Music aside, the members hold a special place in my heart. I find their interplay more entertaining than almost any other act. To see what I mean, seek out any and all subbed content you can find. But most importantly, their music just matches my taste to a tee. Even the songs that wouldn’t normally be my thing just… work.
Beyond a fantastic singles run (which I’ll revisit in this post) Kis-My-Ft2’s discography is flush with excellent b-sides. In fact, oftentimes they’re stronger than the lead tracks! There are way more standouts than I can feature here, but I’ve beefed up the b-sides section to ten instead of five for this post.
What about other Johnny’s groups?
Trust me, I would love to do one of these features for groups like KAT-TUN, News, Hey! Say! JUMP or Sexy Zone. But unfortunately, it’s near-impossible to find embeddable videos to include in a way that’s user-friendly. Maybe one day, when the agency decides to make these songs more accessible, I’ll be able to rave about some of my favorite music ever.
My Top Five Singles
5. Explode (2017)
Explode does exactly what its title states, building from a stirring series of melodies to a galvanizing chorus that’s an absolute rush. (full review)
4. Tonight (2017)
When it comes to sound and energy, Tonight is very much a companion piece to Explode. But over the years, I’ve come around to this one being my preferred pomp-rocker from the guys. (full review)
3. We Never Give Up (2011)
This takes me right back to my favorite schlocky “you can do it!” anthemic rock of the 80’s. The hooks are lethal. (full review)
2. Yes! I Scream (2016)
It’s not often you hear a carnival-like marching song promoted as a single. Yes! I Scream is sunshine in a bottle, buoyed by joyous synth and pinwheeling melodies. (full review)
1. Gravity (2016)
Though I haven’t made it official, Gravity could very well be my favorite J-pop song of all-time. It’s a headrush of musical euphoria, brilliant from beginning to end. (full review)
My Top Five B-sides
5. Brand New Season (2013 – though it’s a pre-debut song)
That acapella intro braces you for the powerful melodies to come as spiraling sweeps of strings add ornamentation to the mighty chorus.
9. On Your Mark (2015)
It’s all about the finale to each chorus, where the vocal ascends and electric guitar rushes in for the perfect blend. So anthemic.
8. Liar World (2019)
Kis-My-Ft2 are at their best when playing around with classic rock tropes, and Liar World is a compelling late-career example of this sound.
7. Dancing Star (2012)
This is every overwrought element of the 80’s merged to the hyper-maximalist EDM pop of the early 2010’s. In other words, it’s heaven.
6. Strawberry Dance (2013)
If ever there was a song designed for prancing through the springtime, this would be it. That funk synth is so light on its feet.
5. Break The Chains (2018)
The ridiculous bluster that opens this track always kills me. But, the guys deliver on this promise. Break The Chains is a mammoth pop rocker, driven by icy synth and surprisingly potent rap.
4. Dream On (2017)
Rousing, anthemic, emotional. The crashing guitar and chorused vocals are sheer perfection. This one gets me every time. It’s the brand of pop/rock bombast I live for.
3. Summer Breeze (2016)
This is one of those stealth tracks that’s crept its way up my list over the years. It’s perfect summer driving music and a staple of the season. The perfect EDM banger with a whopper of a chorus.
2. Ima wa Mada Toku hateshinai Yume mo (2017)
I already wrote a ridiculously long review of this track. It’s really special — so cinematic and stirring. I’m in love with the nuances of its melody, especially as we enter that soaring chorus.
1. Freeze (2018)
This song! The combination of Kis-My-Ft2 and Miyavi is one of those fan dreams you never think will actually come true. And when it does, the result is even better than you imagined.
I mean… that guitar riff! My fandom pretty much reached its peak when they performed this with Miyavi himself on Shonen Club Premium. And… lucky you because I found the video online for your viewing pleasure!
Tonight and Gravity are forever my favorite Kisumai singles. I’m kinda disappointed in their recent songs though; it’s almost like Johnny’s has given up on promoting the group musically. Fortunately, individual members are still getting a lot of work and promotions. Tama is starring in dramas after dramas; even Miyata is getting regular MC positions.
Talking about other Johnny’s groups though, I’m still reeling from the shock and randomness of the KINPURI news…..I actually don’t think I’ll recover from this one anytime soon…..Johnny’s is losing THE Hirano Sho…unbelieavable!