addictdesu: (NEWS)
[personal profile] addictdesu
I realized there's a reason why I do my reviews late, aside from the fact that I'm the best procrastinator you'll ever know! (LOL).

I like comparisons. I like to find a common ground between the things I perceive, and I like to note the differences. I like to know which is better than the other, or which are on the same level; or how things turned out in the past and I use that as a basis for the present. Even if it takes time, it is through comparison and contrasting that I believe I could write my reviews effectively and in detail. In other words, these reviews aren't founded on first impressions alone. I wish I could write by my first impressions though, as most (if not all), reviewers do!

This is my first serious NEWS album review. I didn't make one for last year's WHITE because... I kept putting it off. xD

Title: QUARTETTO
Artist: NEWS
Release date: March 9, 2016
Tracks: 16 (12 + 4 solos)

►L-R: Limited Edition and Regular Edition covers◄
General comments

QUARTETTO is an album I was too excited to write my first impressions about. (Now you know why I explained myself above!). It's an album that blew me right away, that I hadn't even finished listening to it and I already commented about how it could make former NEWS fans regret leaving the fandom. It had such a huge impact; surely, it's NEWS' release. Every NEWS release is literally mind-blowing for me (duh, Paana!). Of course I could hear what I don't like from the first listen, but I can't impart these properly in the height of excitement. It is only through a longer period of listening that I could make a fair judgment.

Listening to it for weeks (edit: months!) now, I won't take the statement back--QUARTETTO is good and it'll make former NEWS fans regret leaving the fandom. Better than the disheveled WHITE album, QUARTETTO is solid and easy on the ears. For these reasons:



Familiarity. It helped that three singles were released before QUARTETTO. Less new tracks, but doesn't need compensation because of the singles B-sides. This album housed the three recent singles, plus a few new songs, and the compulsory solos. It created a balance between the new and the old--in a way, it's like a "best of" album.
Playing safe. In this context, playing safe is not bad. WHITE was known for its variety but the over-diverse album only made one or two tracks stood out and the rest became forgettable. Here, some tracks have similar vibes with others. It is less experimented, but at least it helps giving the album a solid image. Which is exactly what it needs.
The 'boys next door' are back! When I was a new to the fandom (and I already loved reading blogs) I read a post about what makes NEWS different from other JE groups. The blogger said her friend couldn't appreciate NEWS because the group is simple, doesn't have gimmicks, and no permanent image to help them stand out--while these reasons indeed make NEWS an underrated group, the blogger justified it's because NEWS are the 'boys next door' in Johnny's... which I believe, bias aside, is true. NEWS have the image of the sometimes nice sometimes silly but always pretty boys in the neighborhood. I can't even expound this without diverging from this review LOL. Anyway, when they became four that image got sort of dissolved. Until this album happened.
Clear objective. I gave up on the Classic sound because it is probably only specified to Yonjuushi and the subsequent releases would have little to zero traces of Classical music. QUARTETTO is an intriguing concept, at the same time the message is very clear. The album follows a series of "4" themed songs and that they're still cementing their image of a four member group. I personally find this appealing; it gives a heightened awareness of the ongoing momentum and new opportunities NEWS experience as four. Have you even realized that the name "NEWS" is turning 14 this year and 4nin is almost in its 5th year? It does not feel old, because 4nin is making 4nin new over and over again.

And these are the negatives, the stuff that could have been polished, etc (placed subjectively, just to be objective):

Playing safe. I am contradicting myself here. To put it in another context: The new tracks are on the safe side, which is good for the whole album. But it is far too safe, which is sad for most of these new tracks, which compositions always follow the pop example of Touch. In the end, it is the singles that are likely to retain and the others will be pushed to the far side. While it's always the case for album tracks, it would probably help if there's more variety. The point is, the right blend of familiarity and diversity makes anything perfect; the album is more on the familiar side and lacks the latter.
Lacking in 'Quartet' material. What's striking about WHITE album is the occurrence of the word "White" in many of the songs. In QUARTETTO, I'm expecting NEWS to step up their game by utilizing one of their strengths--harmonization--since Tegomass are among the best in Johnny's. The title suggests that, too. But we get very little of this (albeit very important), and like it's always been, majority of the tracks have predictable member parts.
• The solos are nothing but ordinary... this is the biggest disappointment I have in the package. The only consolation is it helped solidify the album, but it would've been more competent if the solos weren't the usual. I do admit I like the new solos better than WHITE album solos, though.


Song by song comments

01 Theme of QUARTETTO, or the instrumental-only overture, follows some rules from the Classical era. It's in Binary form, in which the first part differs greatly from the second, but the second is actually just a development of the first part. It can also be considered as a "Theme" in Theme and Variations form; or in the modern music sense it contains different sections comprising all the other parts of the whole piece. In the simplest terms, it is a remix, a medley of all the songs in the album. It is its sole purpose--an introductory medley, yet the way all the songs are thrown in a rhythmic blender is very hip-hop, an unexpected move for NEWS. It also introduces the use of body percussion, and looping machine that makes music production impressive. I think this album aims to show the technical aspect of music to fans.

02 QUARTETTO, the actual song, is EDM (electronic dance music) all the way (quite surprising for the title, isn't it? But not that surprising, consideringTheme of QUARTETTO introduces this sound). It has the ingredients of an electronic genre: Fast rhythm, standard Eight note-beats, autotune, and of course the electronic humming of the bassline. The twist is, it has a prominent string accompaninent so that it sounds fairly classical. The contrast makes it catchy--even though there's no proven correlation, the arching violins works with the structured, synthetic beat.

The best part of the song is the most unprecedented one: the Koyashige blending where Shige sings the upper harmony! Too bad it's just one line. Well, the whole song lasts for only 2 minutes but it's okay; otherwise, it would turn out dull.

In a poll at [livejournal.com profile] 4newsfans, it shocked me that many voters have this track as their favorite. With its techno base, short span, and monotonous nature, maybe it is the consistency from start to finish that makes listeners appreciate it. And again, the contrast between the classical violins and buzzing bassline, if listened to closely, is actually breathtaking.



03 ANTHEM see Yonjuushi single review

04 シリウス (Sirius) is the theme song for Wing's Miss Slender bra commercial, the third of bra commercials NEWS sang for. Honestly, as much as I love the song, I don't think it fits a bra advertisement.

Like QUARTETTO and Yonjuushi's 3rd track 永遠 (Eien), Tegoshi starts the song before the inset of the accompaniment. This style works in NEWS, given that Tegoshi's voice gives these songs an immediate command, whether emotionally (in Eien) or powerfully (in QUARTETTO). In Sirius, which is supposed to be a feel-good, refreshing track, the power is too strong but is later evened on the verses. Yet the choruses are too strong and too high for the quartet's unison; if a strong beat is added it would sound close to their soccer songs! Nevertheless, this is my favorite track in the album. Its melody has a hopeful bent (I love hopeful-sounding songs), and a positive, soaring feel.

05 Touch see HnS/Touch single review

06 NEWSKOOL is an interesting piece. The group's investment in word play, secret codes in lyrics, and other clever stuff is exhibited once again--this time, in an uber-playful song analogous to KAGUYA's TRAVeLiNG (oh but I dreaded that song ><). NEWSKOOL is obviously a portmanteau for 'NEWS' and 'cool' but it's also important to see that its tune resembles those of old school 80's/90's novelty songs, and the word "old school" is sung many times, therefore we can connect the title to "new school" (even though such term doesn't exist)--or NEWS making old school new again. *Yes I know l'm overanalyzing :p* There are other clever lyrics to watch out for.

I personally love the melody. Unlike TRAVeLiNG where the low notes sound trying hard and the parts incoherent, the natural range in this song makes it comfortable to listen to, and nice to sing along with. The funk and hiphop influence (that's why late 80's to early 90's) gives a cool sound and comic relief. The members each give their own enthusiasm, making it almost a freestyle track. You can easily identify Koyama, Massu and Shige's rap breaks, giving a strong sense of individuality. And as usual Tegoshi doesn't have rap, but in a light song as this there's no need to demand that.

Trying to look from a non-fan perspective I still can't say it's corny... for me, it's funnily cool!

07 四銃士 see Yonjuushi review

08 Wonder represents the serious, 'dark' side of the album, akin to the heaviness of WHITE's BYAKUYA and intensity of NEWS album's Dance in the Dark (DITD). I must say however, that Wonder is the least pristine-sounding of the three, primarily for instrumental reasons. DITD has roots on Europop and BYAKUYA in Classical, thus using elements not common in NEWS' repertoire; while Wonder is Rock--despite the inclusion of a somber piano part, the song is techno-rock for the most part. Still, it's a great addition to the album. The tempo alone makes it memorable, and the abundance of English words and phrases (note: "We are Fantastic 4") levels it up.

The general vibe of the track is similar with other dark songs from other Johnny's groups. Now NEWS uses Tempo change to derive from the common styles. But then, tempo change is also common for songs of this type. Borrowing odd chord progressions from BYAKUYA, Wonder's metallic instrumental trails from the spooky, mysterious sound of the former. Both songs are in the same key, by the way.

Lastly, just when I thought it would take a long time to hear Tegoshi belt notes higher than C5 again, he does a C#5 in this one. Ah, wonderful.

09 ライブ (Life) completes this album. It's another 'NEWS' song by NEWS. It couldn't be without the stereotype, right? Midtempo pop-rock, genki and inspirational, Life is not the lively kind but a little chill sound-wise, possibly romantic, tending to the light rock brand of boy bands (not boybands). It does have a catchy and memorable tune that makes for easy listening and easy singing.

10 チュムチュム see Chumu chumu single review

11 Departure intrigued me the most, knowing QUARTETTO will continue the inclusion of BYAKUYA-type songs. The title seriously made me think of afterlife and the like. To my dismay, the BYAKUYA-type track is Wonder, and Departure is a completely different song related to dreams/wishes and skies. Now you get where 'departure' is coming from. And at least it makes sense.

The song is cute. Not a pretty-faced kind of cuteness, but a childlike cute. It reminds me of Tegomass' 夢旅人 (Yume Tabibito) on the verses, みんながいる世界を一つに愛は元Give&Takeしましょう (a.k.a. that song with the longest title in Johnny's) on the chorus, and QUARTETTO itself on the bridge. It also resembles Touch, only a lot faster and energetic. Even so, there's no remakable thing about this track, and it's not surprising that it only serves as a filler between Chumuchumu and the final group track.

12 ヒカリノシズク (Hikari no Shizuku) see HnS/Touch review

Members' solo songs comments

This is my first time reviewing solos! For the record, I wanted to make this portion longer than the rest of the album, but I thought that that would add up to the already 2-month delay. I'll do my best to balance the length and the content~

13 LIS'N / 増田貴久
Massu has a consistent repute when it comes to his solos. He really excels in the Dance/Hip-Hop genre, not just because he's a good singer and rapper but because his songs have eccentricities that only he could express well. LIS'N, for this matter, is as bizarre as the melodic technopop Skye Beautiful, but here he goes for the extra mile: doing a rap song, instead of a song with rap. (Fangirl reaction: I LOVE IT!). This is his solo with the most rap parts so far, and along with the rapping is a lot of English words, phrases and sentences. In general, the song might not pull heartstrings because it's not melody-rich, but I am personally impressed that Massu continues to hone his rap skills. No, the thing to actually watch out for is his English. As I stated the song is eccentric and the Engrish plays a large part in this. It also adds to the attraction that the song literally says he writes you in his lyrics, so listen 'coz you're his melody. (*insert wink here*)

14 愛のエレジー / 小山慶一郎
Spanish-type songs is what Koyama seems to settle with, as very obvious in 愛のエレジー (Ai no Elegy). In my opinion, the genre doesn't fit him as much as he thinks it does, and after ロメオ 2015 (Romeo 2015) his newest song doesn't show improvement and is more or less a drag. Strangely however, if I have to choose between the former and the latter I'd choose the latter. I like it better for some reasons, such as its short guitar intro sounds like a continuation from LIS'N's guitar ending--the connection between the two tracks is perfect. Also, the instrumental bridge has traditional/oriental instruments. That's a pleasant surprise, even if brief! Vocal-wise, aside from loving the way he says "Elegy", I think Koyama's voice suits RnB best (refer to Beautiful Rain) so I do hope he abandon the Spanish style soon and go for Rhythm 'n Blues.

15 星の王子様 / 加藤シゲアキ
This song is nice. Based on the well-loved book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, everything in the track does give a storytelling vibe. I won't make a detailed comparison since I've forgotten much of what the book is about, hence I'm humbly sticking to the music aspect. It's vaguely similar to Dreamcatcher in genre (RnB? Blues alone?), tempo, and melodic direction--at some points they sound the same, or probably because both songs have an ethereal quality; intentionally or not, they both sound like a lullaby. But 星の王子様 (The Little Prince) has the edge despite being more mellow. It has less high notes; Shige is good in falsetto yet he doesn't use it here, which is a good thing for the song to retain its simplicity. Acoustic guitars are an add-on, meaning the instrument doesn't really stand out until stripping off the synths and other instruments. When this happens, the song has a potential to be an acoustic piece.

Among Shige solos, this is the closest to ballads we can get. Technically, this is a ballad. How much of a ballad? That's up for the listener's interpretation though.

16 Encore / 手越祐
And here comes the real ballad. Following the blueprint of あまた (Anata), except for the obvious "they do not have the same tune!," there's not much of a difference. And yet this is my favorite QUARTETTO solo, and my overall favorite Tegoshi solo so far... it's mostly from my personal affinity for the melody.

The whole song doesn't have a lot going on. It relies on simple piano and muted guitar, and a slow-dance beat that is actually in an entirely different direction from the slow-march rhythm of Anata. The cliched melody works well; it's in a easy vocal range for listening and singing alike, and the intervals between notes aren't as forced as those in the former track and in 2013's album Lovin' U. Because of this, the sound of the song has a natural draw. I also think the intro plays an extensive role. Tegoshi is known for doing adlibs in NEWS' songs, yet his own solos do not have these (with the exception of the live perfs) and this makes his songs sound metered, however melodious they are. Encore isn't really a breakthrough but the smooth adlibs in the intro flows through the song's entirety.


NEWS knows how to sound refreshing at the right time, in spite of being almost 13 years in the business, and this showed in QUARTETTO. My hopes for the next album: 'refreshing' in the sense of trying concepts, genres and techniques that'd be deemed surprising in Johnny's. Actually, NEWS is already doing this through couple of releases including this one, but a full-blown surprise would be better in my opinion. QUARTETTO is a good album nonetheless; it's a very transparent material enjoyed by new and old fans alike.

Album rating: ♪♪♪♪ (4 eighth notes out of 5!)
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