So love truly, love truly, love truly, lo-oh-ohh!
If you're reading this now, you probably already know that "Love Wonderland" is one of the three coupling tracks to Arashi's newest single GUTS! (set to be officially released on April 30, 2014 but leaks are already out, of course. Ah, fangirl problems, sigh). The A-side, "GUTS!" is a cheerful track built squarely on the theme of "genkiness" and also serves as the theme song to Nino's drama Yowakutemo Katemasu, which I told myself I would watch, but am now probably just going to save for later since I find Riida's to be way more entertaining (because there aren't enough hours in a day to fangirl and keep up with all their activities, too). "Love Wonderland" is the third coupling track, and I personally think it's the best. It's instantly catchy, with an artful retro feel (I can't place a finger on the era, but it sounds like the kind of song you'd dance to in greased-up hairdos and wacky sunglasses), and the boys's voices sound so distinctly like them in all their imperfect glory. I'm also really loving the way the instrumentals crazily twist all over the place but still somehow remain just chic enough to give the song a smooth, polished feel.
So, without further ado...
"Oh baby what's. your. name?"
We start off with a solo guitar riff that's very reminiscent of the 80's, and two bars in, just as our hips are getting into the sway of things, Arashi enters in a filtered crescendo with the hook: "Love truly, love truly, luh-luh-luh-uh-uhve..." This hook is on of the reasons this song is so much fun! It continues for the rest of the intro, and the instrumentals build up behind it: we get a few stylish hits on the drums as they enter on the last "luh-luh-luh-uh-uve" and the rest of the background music just follows in a surge as Arashi's voices repeat the LOVE in their full natural voices. I'm hearing some brass, which really fills up the sound space that was left empty with the guitar riff alone, and what I mentally dub a "party-piano," which seems to hover just below our threshold of hearing until that moment when the voices ebb and we can hear just the one or two chords pinging out at us in the lull. I love the party-piano, guys. I love it! It's just the right amount of airiness that this guitar/brass driven song needs, and it makes my whole body feel light and fluttery. Whoever made this happen: YOU WIN!
Ready for the first verse? MatsuJun's taking us "upside down, round and round" as he and (I think) Riida twirl about hand in hand in the Luurve Wonderland. The instrumentals drop the noisy brass and settle into a more mellow synthetic groove that's got plenty of swerve. My mind's eye totally sees our boys sauntering in between groves of brightly-colored cartoon trees in some funky "California Girls"-like set. Some more voices are added into the groovy melody (Sakuraiba, maybe?), and Ohno breaks off to release a long, lingering "woowwoooooooa" in the background.
Then, almost as if it was a vamped up answering call, Riida sweeps onto the main stage with a winding "Dance in the Wonderland" and we're sliding down a smooth but slightly trippy rabbit hole. Sho bounces us safely onto solid ground with "Kimi to futari skyline debut" in his distinct Sho voice, and the others join in to accentuate him on the second "Fuuu-wari!" which is has a good punch to it and is directly followed by another winding line "Shinpai nante iranai." The layering of these windy, malleable background lines with the bouncier rhythms in the main verse is just incredibly suave. Jun sings something unintelligible over the others, but despite that the sass is still evident. Our youngest baby is sounding good, and yes, I maintain that he must have undergone extensive vocal training. Wouldn't be surprised if he practices everyday, given his perfectionist nature. And then, just as the tail end of that vocal backup is fading away, we get some brass accents as VOCAL POWERHOUSE OHNO SATOSHI COMES BACK IN THE HOUSE TO REV US UP:
"Hey! Shall we dance toniiiiiiiiggghhttt? Yeeeaaaaah!"
Squeallll! I paused the music here, rewound it, and am now really really tempted to break out my rusty programming skills and write code that will loop this segment over and over again. It's the first taste of Riida's finely-controlled vocals in action here, and the orgasmic quality is undeniable. That almost careless (but totally not) Hey, that smooth gliding tonight, that excellent control of pitch and power, oh god, our baby-faced leader is, like I said before, a finely tuned engine that can steer through pitches upon even the lightest cues! It makes me think back to his amazing vocal flutters in "Hit the Floor" and (dare I? dare I? Oh what the hell...) that stunning solo "Semaru shinjitsu~" line he had in "Truth" (oh great, now I'll spend the next hour looping that, which will lead to me watching the PV, which will lead to me sobbing over Maou...T.T). This is Ohno Satoshi bringing us the the chorus in the grooviest way possible.
Swish~ and CHORUS:
Oh baby, what's your name? Zensekai ga dansu floor!
Kansei ga agaru machi ni mai oriru!
Oh baby, what's your name? Kono shunkan subete,
kagayakaseru kimi wa dare?
The party's finally hopping in this Wonderland, people! We hear the brass playing happily, the drums, and the return of the party piano with a couple of fun little notes. It's really something about the quality of the piano sound that somehow makes this whole chorus a little bit more uninhibited than your average bubblegum pop song. The rhythm is also fun and bouncy, and if they do a choreo for this I'd be curious to see what Riida has planned, because this type of song just calls for the idol-boyband type of moves he's so good at coming up with. I go all spazzy for the individual accents on "What's. Your. Name." and then the quick decompression over the zensekai ga dansu floor! It's a Wonderland that never sits still, and Arashi wants us to feel the buoyant world at our backs, take their hands and dance in twirls and hops and slick little turns. It's a song that fits perfectly with the genki aura of GUTS!
|From the GUTS! PV, because there is no PV for this song :(|
The "Love truly, love truly..." hook repeats right after the chorus with full instrumental backing, and I am very taken with the way Arashi's voices lower to sing the hook but still keep the whole atmosphere of the song light and carefree. There's cute little jam-up on the "Now let's get la-la-love wonderland," and even though it's clearly the voices of five grown men we hear, the repetitive rhythm is so adorable that it makes me want to pinch their cheeks as if they were eight-year-old boys.
Verse 2 follows the same format as Verse 1, with that smooth groove pervading throughout and that jaunty overlap of the lazy winding lines with the more frisky ones. They change up the singers, as is their custom, and I have to point out Aiba-chan's cute teddy voice as he sings "Bokura wo ou search light beam." I think my hormone levels just shot through the roof at that, but then again, I'm a clear Aiba bias when it comes to voices that aren't Ohno, so y'all might not feel the same, and I understand. But to me, there is nothing more 萌 than Aiba's sweet, simple voice. Taking over Riida's soaring "Hey, let's dance toniiight! Yeah!" is Sho, and he maneuvers his voice smoothly enough to bring us back to another rep of the chorus.
After the second chorus, we get the clear tinkles of the party piano (yay for being in Wonderland!) and BOOM, it's the bridge and Arashi swiftly drops it low with "la la la la la la la... wonderland!" and the accompanying instrumentals (can't tell if it's a really low bullhorn or a piano; yeah I suck, I know) are no longer just harmonizing; they are actually playing the melody, and going head to head with Arashi's voices, which results in a really funky sort of arpeggio that is accentuated at the lower pitches and sounds like the sound effect of a cartoon character having vertigo. It really made me feel as though Arashi was hurling me into a wacky house of mirrors. Very dynamic line here, and it's Jun's nasal voice that rectifies us back to earth as he goes "Show me the way you move, eh eh eh eh eh!" Were the five eh's necessary? Are you kidding, they were the best part! The first one starts out low and Jun's breath is heard along with it (chotto sexy *blush*) and the subsequent ones build up in tension and climb higher in pitch. And all this time, we also have some delightfully clamorous brass in little bursts to highlight the ascent. It's really sounding more and more like a party! A second run of the "la la la la la... wonderland" tosses us back into our wacky vertigo, and then comes omfg one of the best parts of the song.
"You're beyond my imagination-on -on-on!"
Ohno Satoshi. Killing it. This is Arashi's Leader in action. It's his line, and boy, does he deliver! The instrumentals have cleared for the most part, with just the bare essence of a groove remaining, because you don't pollute a line like this and a voice like this with those raucous horns! Forget the fact that the intonation is all wrong, I completely felt that this was beyond my imagination. His voice just hangs and dangles up in that insanely high range that even I, a woman, have to strain to reach. The echo effect on the last syllable of imagination comes with some sort of shuffly synth effect and it's slick. And for a second I thought that was actually the "sexy" sound effect that occurred whenever Oh-chan (Haru) saw a woman's breasts in the first Pikanchi movie. Because it does kind of sound like a you-know-what, and well... all I can say is: the song's not called "Love Wonderland" for nothing. *grin*
The breezy, stylish guitar riff from the very beginning makes an appearance as we try to recover from that eargasm Ohno's just given us. But Arashi moves at a faster pace than we do, and Riida is still fresh on our minds when Aiba-chan's teddy voice comes out of nowhere to blend seamlessly with the laid back guitars.
"Let me fly. You know why. Oh baby!"
Oh. My. God. What is up with you Tennens in this song?! Are you trying on purpose to eargasm me so hard that I can't even remember I have a brain in my skull? I MUST SEE Aiba's face as he sings this very line. Don't you dare cut to another member during this line, Camera-san!! The way his voice gets all velvety soft and husky as he sings this is unbelievably sensual. Like you know he's putting on his sexy Aiba face and trying to seduce you. But it's also adorable, because it's Aiba, and you can't hear that voice without thinking of that face, and you can't think of that face without wanting to pet him on his shaggy head and pulling his thin body into your embrace *wanders off into dreamy wonderland....* Okay ahem, yes, so anyways, back to the music: cute and sexy Aiba singing this line, and I bet millions of girls have already melted and are willing to let him fly even without knowing why... Yeah, if I heard Aiba Masaki's voice calling me "baby" like that, I'd probably let him do anything, too. The groovy backdrop makes it even more seductive.
We quickly transition into another round of the hook, and then it's Nino's turn at the power vocals. He managed to belt out "Oh let me say, hey! Shall we dance tonight? Yeah!" with reasonable power, and his voice certainly has the range to reach out to that last high note, but I sort of wish that Ohno had sang that. I love Nino's voice for soulful ballads and shamelessly slutty verses (think Gimmick Game and PARADOX) and I highly enjoyed his blasting vocal solo in "Breathless," but I would have preferred a more well-rounded, fuller and less reedy voice to take over this last part of the bridge. *Shrugs* Oh well, it's not a big deal. Nino sounded good, too, but I just believe that Oh-chan would have brought us to a whole new dimension.
And with Nino' soaring vocal arc, we are ushered into another chorus, followed by the hook (which never gets old!). The brass is as playful as ever, and that party piano is there are all the right breaks in the bars to keep the spring in our steps. I'm seriously hoping for a performance of this song sometime soon (is it too much to ask for it at the 5x15 concert that hasn't been announced yet?).
And that's a wrap, guys. Hope you got your daily dose of "genki!" from Arashi here today :)
Disclaimer: I am by no means knowledgeable about music or pop music, so feel free to point out my errors. My ears are definitely not professionally trained (and I sometimes can't even tell one member from another) and I do welcome all your input! So kids, don't use this as reference for your music homework >.-
And sorry about the excessive Aiba fangirling. I should really keep it down in the music posts, but I just can't help it these days... >.<!