Despite my undying love for the Japanese music industry and their consistently exciting slate of releases, I’m honestly surprised that this is the first j-pop track I’ve written about all year. It’s not that I haven’t liked any j-pop singles this year (I have) but I think this was the first song to actually keep me waiting on my toes for the full version to release. And thankfully, despite some minor hiccups, Naniwa Danshi’s first comeback, The Answer, is a complete triumph.
Fresh off the heels of their debut with the bubbly Ubu Love, many had expected the boys to comeback with a similar blast of upbeat pop confection. But The Answer flips the script completely, harnessing the haunting atmosphere of past Johnny’s hits to craft a track that reaches for the heavens with a “dark” tone that knows not to forgo an anthemic hook. from a And though this shift in sound may come as jarring for some, its darker approach makes sense given that it acts the new soundtrack for the iconic Kindaichi series. A common trait shared by most Japanese release.
It’s not an inherently unique sounding track nor is it the strongest we’ve ever seen this style be executed but the beauty of Johnny’s is that they have no real understanding of the word ‘restraint’ when it comes to dance tracks. I could get an infinite number of these dramatic dance tracks thrown at me and I would never get tired of them. And while Naniwa Danshi’s collection of vocalists may not be as great of a fit to this sound as they are to more buoyant efforts, they really put their all into the track. Vocalist Kazuya Ohashi stands out especially, supplying us with a killer high note during the tracks climax which really sends the track off on a soaring high. And while there are some jarring vocal moments, especially during the first post chorus, the dramatic arrangement always makes sure to keep you hooked.
The verses are heavily reminiscent of Arashi’s Monster pulsing forward on a creepy instrumental that maintains the tempo whilst lending The Answer an eerie sense of playful dread. And though the pre-chorus throws an interesting curveball, it’s nothing compared to the mammoth of a chorus which, in true Johnny’s style, resounds like a choir of hundreds. I adore the sheer intensity centrepieces like this radiate and The Answer makes sure to couple its grandiosity with a stunner of a melody that feels both epic yet vaguely melancholic. It’s a specific approach that makes me adore Japanese music and the exact reason why I love The Answer so much more than the groups debut.
Final Rating: 9 / 10