Mar. 15th, 2016

addictdesu: (NEWS)
Have you noticed how late I am in posting my reviews? I need to get this off my list so I can start with the newly released album!





Title: ヒカリノシズク/Touch
Artist: NEWS
Release date: January 20, 2016
Tracks: 4

L-R: Regular Edition, Hikari no Shizuku Edition (LE A) and Touch Edition (LE B)


General comments

NEWS' first single of 2016, a double A-side single, is released roughly 2 months after their last single of 2015. The first of the A-sides,Hikari no Shizuku, serves as the theme song for the drama adaptation of Shige's book Kasa wo Motanai Aritachi wa which also includes Shige in the cast! The other A-side, Touch, is used for NEWS' newest product endorsement, Nissen Touch 'n'. At the time of writing this review, we're counting hours to the new album QUARTETTO's release (Edit: upon posting, QUARTETTO is already out), added to the news of a regular show *FINALLY!* that keeps the fandom in a feast for days.

Or for months. Definitely, for months.

So what's the point of these italics--I mean, good news in here? The management is gearing the previously unnoticed NEWS again. In other words: we're unbelievably active just when we thought we're starting to lose our shine. Whatever the long-term plan for us is, we are certain that we're staying because of 1) World Cup 2) *possible* Bra CMs, and 3) Classic sound. This latest single, according to the sources, is headed in the latter direction. Music-wise, it seems NEWS has finally found its niche.

Curiously enough, Hikari ni Shizuku/Touch is a single you'd be careful before listening. Classic sound is no joke; Yonjuushi and its enigma gives a clue that at least one of the songs would give another Rachmaninoff--or whichever classical composer one would think--vibes off. And of course, the more curious matter is the 'Touch' song. Looking at NEWS' discography, touch is the title of their very first album... When there were still 8 members and their musicality wasn't a priority then.Turns out, this single is appreciation-guaranteed! Pulling off the charms in unexpected ways, the single finally fills what has been missing from the group since they became four: a legit ballad, and a legit feel-good song. Steering away from the too energetic and commanding A-sides NEWS has shown since the group's comeback, Hikari no Shizuku/Touch brings the "less is more" style back into play.

Song by song comments

01 ヒカリノシズク (Hikari no Shizuku) is a standard Johnny's pop-rock ballad, that NEWS does not only give justice to, but makes it their own, like only NEWS could sing this song. Even it's supposedly generic. And it's true. The power lies in the distinct vocals.

The instrumentation is quite simple underneath the heavy air of the ballad. For example, the piano uses very basic chords. The strings play a continuous composite melody that repeats itself every section; and the bassline, guitar line and drumline are also predictable. But combine these and it forms a thick stratum of harmonies. What makes this song soar above their past slow tracks is NEWS' vocals matching the air of the instruments--it's so profound that the voices and instruments sound one, inseparable.

As just mentioned, the power lies in the members' vocals. It's not upbeat at all (though in a walking pace) but the dynamics of the voices, from soft to loud, low to high, is a head-turner; neither it is in NEWS' widest of vocal range for a song but it gives that good illusion. The instrumental is subdued, making the track feel very light at some moments, especially in the verses. The soft strings gives the song a soulful touch, pop-rock the genre may be. Somewhat it reminds me of a slower Full Swing with less rock and more pop.

It's supposedly a simple song but the emotion of the vocals really carries it away. Starred by Shige this time, his voice actually fits ballads and though it's not a surprise in the fandom anymore this is like the ultimate proof that he also does well in these kinds of songs. And boy, Tegoshi again gives the edge, especially in the bridge, without doing it overboard. (Fangirl moment: whenever I listen to that part I'm always on the verge of tears!)

02 Touch is a fan and non-fan favorite--that's how fine the song is. It's hands down catchy, owing to the holistic feel-good vibe of the song: the sugary tones of the vocals and the instruments throughout, and the silliness of the melody as heard on the instrumental flourishes. All these while NEWS doesn't even try to sound goofy or whatever. It has an even blend of larkiness (in the sound) and maturity (in the arrangement; and the slightly suggestive lyrics).

I can't figure out what's the key accompaniment used in the song, aside from the soft piano and modest bass. It has such a high prominence--it's the driving force that keeps the song charged and moving! It might be the work of a snyth, but to compare it to a real instrument it seems like a Piccolo Trumpet*. Similar-sounding with the White album track NYARO especially on the intro, the snyth/instrument has its own spotlight, playing a larger role in Touch than the former.

*Piccolo Trumpet = the smallest of the Trumpet family

The melodic lines are a giveaway. The song doesn't have very high nor low notes, yet the intervals are pretty varied, and that gives the playful aura of the track. Also, the 'fan favorite' is probably the falsettos in the chorus, smoothly and even sensually delivered, blended with splashy effects and the continuous fanfare in the background--makes it suitable for both listening and singing alike. Touch is an absolute LSS!

03 星の旅人たち (Hoshi no Tabibito Tachi) sounds like Don't Stop Believing on the intro and is especially developed to make you feel you're in a pop musical. Within the same key yet a lot rhythmic than Touch, the song has a generous amount of different effects, that may not be obvious at first but becomes apparent as it progresses. Its steady beat doesn't necessarily make it a dance song; however, it's the main driver of the track. This is a nice contrast to the previous track because although both are clear-cut pop music the arrangements are entirely different. The former has a free rhythm while this is strictly accented--it makes Hoshi no Tabibito Tachi rather stale, if not for the embellishments that can be heard once in a while. NEWS' vocals are okay; I hear faint echoes as if this was recorded in a concert hall... presumably, this is part of the song's musical play style. Just one thing I am not happy about is the inclusion of (Spanish style?) guitar-plucking parts on the interlude and epilogue. For me it's out of place. Minus that and the song is actually charming, especially if you're fan of upbeat modern musical repertoire.

04 whisper doesn't deserve to be the last of the B-sides because it's close to perfection and is in a genre that fits NEWS best, in my opinion: Jazz. Not the traditional jazz in entirety, though even for a casual listener it obviously belongs to this genre. To be precise, the song sounds close to those of 80's Bebop and Funk. It's similar to Sweet Martini but this is faster, and unlike the more electro base of the other, here the glorious brass dominates the instrumental. Plus it's auto-tune free! I'm actually a fan of autotune so I don't mind if the song has its share, but for a vocally exhausting song, the breaks in whisper are magnificent. The rhythm change, the unpredictable instrumentation, the constant alter in pitches, the crazy dynamics... don't expect it'll sound very intense because it's not rock after all, but for a jazz song this is totally rockin' it.

The odd one among the tracks, it has no trace of JPop at all. It's in a different key signature too (the other three are in Cmajor). I would have wanted this to be a part of NEWS' next album rather than placed last in a single, but since the 'Classic sound' I expected is not to be found, this Ballroom-apt track compensates with its heavy brass use and complicated melodies Pop songs don't usually have. Lastly, the vocals are natural and each of the members' lines and adlibs are flawless! It's a challenging song that NEWS (not just Tegoshi, or not just any member) sings perfectly.

--

I loved Yonjuushi the single and I thought the next single wouldn't get any better than that, but this turned out to be better. I was only disconcerted at the lack of the "Refined classic sound" tag the album is supposed to have; However, the tracks are overwhelmingly good that the theme need not be needed anymore. I’ll bet that instead on the upcoming album.

Single rating: 4.5 out of 5!

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