My Girl is one of those singles I bought out of loyalty. I didn't think (and still don't think) that the A-side マイガール is anything all that special, but this is one of those instances when loyalty pays off, because both the B-sides (which I had not heard prior to purchasing) blew the socks off my feet and to this day still remain among the top-played on my iTunes tally. Tokei Jikake no Umbrella (時計じかけのアンブレラ) is one of those impassioned songs that do everything you could ever want a song to do: it punches, it seduces, it sways, it lifts, and as a bonus it has some tough-ass Sakurap tossed in, too. But since my friend nekobot01 has already written her very professional review on it (linked above in text), I will now divert your attentions to the other no less sensational B-side: Super Fresh!
What can one say about Super Fresh after four years of loving it?
It never gets old. Believe me. Some songs come and go, and you can only tolerate them for a set amount of plays before they lose their flavor, and you have to forget them before you can enjoy them again. BUT such a song, Super Fresh is not. I could set it as my morning alarm clock and I'm pretty sure I'd find myself bopping along happily to its beat at whatever ungodly hour I get up at 365 days a year no fail. No lie.
Super Fresh just has this quality to it, a carefree sway in its melody, a playful riff on the steady drumbeat, an unprocessed innocence in Arashi's voices, that all make it such a relatable song. In one word, I'd probably call it "youthful" because it's just abounding with the sort of simple positivity that is so characteristic of those wide-eyed teenagers stepping out into the real world (with Arashi at their backs cheering them on, of course).
So let's countdown 3-2-1!
Boom boom boom boom. Bem bem bem bem. Bum bum bum bum.... and heeeere we go!
|Jun loves this song! He's sure having fun performing |
Super Fresh at 2012's Popcorn concert!
The synth backdrop disappears, leaving only the pounding four-four as the five join voices in:
"Pi-su sign, ID wa Supaa Fureshu..."
Oh you're all super fresh, m'boys. There's a playful wooden bongo riff (it's subtle, but listen for it!) right when they sing "Aaaa-rata na scene..." that drives my tension through the roof every time. A swooshing noise wraps up the end of this verse (which was just brimming with happy tension), and we're spirited away to the chorus in a gust of minty freshness.
"Saaa ikou yo!..." (You know, for the longest time, I misheard it as 'Saikou no...' lol but that's beside the point). There's some steady action on the kick and hat here, with a smooth warm string background flowing just under the voices and drumbeat to give the chorus some richer sound dimensions. Throw in a few muffled trumpet blares to punctuate the cheeriness between lyrics and you get just the right injection of whimsy in a tempered musical tapestry that begs to be sunk into like a relaxing ofuro.
The chorus trails off, and we welcome back the languid guitar strums, humming and just unknowingly beginning to feel our heads bob to the merry beat... The strings are stretching out those long notes in cadences that gradually move up and down soothingly. Arashi wants us to relax and wait for them to coo us back into the youthful genki-ness that this song is all about. There's a pause-beat, a tight little clap-clap and then the whoosh lands us in the middle of Aiba/Jun heaven (their vocal mix is ❤❤) as they take us out for a little vocal cruising in this strange little interjected verse: "Kyo no motto 'yuubi hold on'..." Ohno enters the mix with someone (Nino perhaps? since the harmony sounds high) backing him. I actually don't think this type of song is the best for showcasing Ohno's incredible vocals, since he has a natural tension in his voice that is at odds with the generally carefree tone of the song (especially here in this verse where the synth piano is playing breezy chord breakdowns), so he ends up sounding a little strained. Ah well, each Arashi member has his own strengths when it comes to music, and the good thing is that even if Leader is not optimized for this song, Arashi's diversity means that someone else is. And here, I'd say that someone is Sho. I have mentioned my opinion on his less than stellar singing range and vocal quality in previous posts, but when he stays in a range he's comfortable with, he can pull off that laid back tone effortlessly. The magnetism in his rapping voice is there, but it's softened somehow and he ends up sounding exactly like the happy-go-lucky kind of guy that this song is obviously meant to make us all turn into. There's totally a reason he was selected to be the opening voice here, you know ;P
Nino continues the verse after Sho, and he's also sounding pretty good here. One can just imagine his eyes slightly squinted as he does a jaunty salute and croons to us. Our Neen is definitely dropping his voice to the lower end of his range for this song, and when he does that, he just sounds like he's simmering with tension... while being awesomely nonchalant, if you get what I mean. It's difficult to explain. Suffice it to say that I find Nino to be surprisingly sexy in this innocent sounding song :P
Arashi then sing the "Maybe... tteiu ka kyo wa, hibi ni kansha o suru toki..." lines, alternating solos Ohno - Jun - Sho - Aiba and finally Nino against a background with all but a curious clappy version of the four four beat removed. Then the layering, oh the vocal layering! Nino hardly even stops for breath after the "suru toki" before the others join him in a monotonically rapid "itsumo soba ni wa music..." and the beat is amped up to accentuate the layering.
All the wonderful synths, the drawn out string cadences (and I swear I can even hear a little bit of an electric guitar at some point), come back as Arashi pushes on into the bridge, which is one galloping tongue-twister (I'm surprised Riida could manage, haha! #Shiyagare memories):
"Kurikaesu kimochi arigatou
Tachidomari ki ni nari loose control
Koe ni naranai koe I miss you so
Kyou wa toriaezu hashagu yo
Like the rest of the verses and chorus, each line has more or less the same melody and rhythm, but the music stays interesting because of 1) the rhythmic hook of having a string of successive fast notes followed by a dangling long note in the second to last beat of each bar and 2) the subtle changes in vocal layering that shifts the emphasis from member to member in each line. The layering is particularly squeal worthy and for some reason, even when another member is dominant, one can always hear Nino's harmonics especially distinctly in this section. He's so cute, giving it his reedy all in that high-range harmony, I just want to give him a hug listening to it.
We're ushered into the chorus with another big whoosh, and I'm loving the little filtered "Countdown 3-2-1" from Sho at the end of one line. It brings back that punch of being on the beat. As the final chorus winds down, we're treated to a BONUS TRUMPET EPILOGUE! Ahhh... clearly, Sho and Jun are not the only ones who love their brass. The cuteness, the light-heartedness, the happy-go-luckiness... ahhhhhh!!!
We end with the strings gliding to a halting synthetic whoosh.
Now please perform this song again? One live performance is too little for a song of this calibre :) Pretty pretty please? *nudges MatsuJun as he plans the next Live*
Trivia about this song:
~ MatsuJun says he liked it in Arashi's Secret Talk on the Ura Mania CD. He really wanted to perform it live, but it just never worked out. (here's say_it_again's translation of the talk if you're interested) Of course, we all know that in 2012, Arashi did finally get the chance to perform Super Fresh at their Popcorn Live Tour, so Jun's dream was fulfilled at last :-) He did look like he had a lot of fun during that performance.
~ Riida has also said in an interview (translated by yun_miyake here) that this is the song he would suggest for making one relax. He also did the choreography for the Popcorn performance of it.
One last note: I am not in any way a professional at sound mixing/engineering or music theory or really anything related to music. Just a fangirl airing her thoughts after a particular song gives her too many feels for her heart to contain. So please kindly point out any mistakes I make in terminology. I won't offended as long as you're constructive.