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Happy 2017! Well, we're practically done with the 'New Year' celebrations now; but as this is my first post for the new year I'll be starting with a music review, one I have missed doing so much.

Last year, I skipped writing for 恋を知らない君へ (Koi wo shiranai kimi e) when halfway through my review of the single the text file was corrupted. What a loss, it was an interesting time for NEWS--it was their busiest schedule in their whole career so far! In the middle of bustling activities the music they've released was quite a successor for January's ballad ヒカリノシズク--essentially a ballad single (3/4 of the single are slow songs!), Koi wo is the sound you were silently longing for in NEWS.

But they've built their image around concepts that are apt for the bold... thus, they keep coming back for it. The newest single, EMMA, straightforwardly tells you that they're not done with チャンカパーナ and KAGUYA and チュムチュム’s bombastic sound yet. Putting aside the Classical, the ballads, and the sports tracks, NEWS' real strength in their discography lies in the way they make controversial A-sides coupled with hidden treasures that are the B-sides. EMMA, like the older successful singles, does it again.

►L-R: Limited Edition (LE) A, LE B, and Regular Edition covers◄

General comments

The paragraphs above are considered part of the general comments, but hey, let's make this section more specific. EMMA is the OP for the TV adaptation of 嫌われる勇気 (Kirawareru Yuuki), and in which Shige is one of the main characters. /Thank you Shige for constantly giving NEWS themes songs for singles!/

This is my first time to talk about the jacket covers, the second most controversial bit (yeah, the single is that controversial that we even have a plausible rank). At first glance of the covers they're totally unrelated to NEWS; look in any way and they're still random pieces of material which would've been done better by the fans. Not to be rude, really, but it was the general consensus. Judging a book by its cover is still prevalent; especially that we judge an idol group's jacket covers by the idols' faces, not the face of someone else.

The title EMMA itself was a mystery, and the costumes, choreography and lyrics are controversies. In spite of the discernible similarities with the past singles, EMMA has a unique and striking presentation--bolder than ever, it keeps NEWS on the relevance, but with a more matured viewpoint as all of them will be now in their 30's this year.

What's the most important thing in EMMA? Arguably not the title track. There are always hidden gems found in the B-sides, extra special this time around. Whether to satiate fans with a good throwback or just another way of being innovative, remakes are often anticipated especially if done by the same artist. NEWS did a remake of two of their most popular songs pre-4nin: さくらガール (Sakura Girl) and I · ZA · NA · I · ZU · KI; so yes, it's not really arguable that this is the most important thing in the single.

Still to throw in the already wild blend are the "Snow" songs. Although not religiously, NEWS have Season-themed tracks and for this winter there are two--a very generous move, since usually there is only one Season song per release. That way, I feel like EMMA (the single) isn't actually rushed as opposed to how EMMA (the song) appeared (from the jacket covers to the fact that the PV was shot a little before the new year). Rushed or not, in terms of the quality of the music the single is extensively thought-out. It is approached in a polarizing manner; age-old tricks for the new songs and new quips for the remakes.

Song by song comments

01 EMMA is nothing new, except that it is the ultimate rehash of NEWS' novelty hits--meaning everything is combined in here. チャンカパーナ 3.0? KAGUYA 2.0? Retro twin of MR. WHITE? A Western チュムチュム? A Country 恋のABO? Another バンビーナ (Bambina)? Yes, the song is all of that. Yet the wild mesh the song is founded on may be the very reason EMMA is nonviable, as it sounds like it is just there to follow the working pattern... For the love of nasty, loud titles... For the novelty.

Ironically, novelty songs are the easiest to love. EMMA may have an unoriginal melodic lines and a lazy arrangement, however, it's in line with the working pattern and so it works. The hook is addictive; the repetitive "Emma" has a different rhythm from "Chan-chan-chankapaana" or "Kaguya" and obviously, is the easiest to sing. And if the song itself is as predictable as it gets, the instrumental has quirky flourishes splattered all over, condensed at certain sections.

What are these flourishes? Think of a donut with sprinkles in various colors. Think of whipped cream unevenly yet artfully spread out. EMMA has a hollow structure, but the toppings make up for it. Belonging to a Western/Cowboy-infused genre, it maximizes the use of steel guitar, responsible for the edgy sound you'd mostly hear on the Wild West. Well, EMMA takes its inspiration from that. The swirling motion in KAGUYA's electronic-fused instrumental is found in EMMA's pre-verse instrumental, drawing the distinct similarity. The melodic line in the pre-verse is also reminiscent to that of Touch, only less obvious because of the different genre the latter belongs to. In the first after-chorus, there is a chanting that despite sounding unnecessary, is an unintentional comic relief for the dark theme of the song. Lastly, the back-up's overall prominence immortalizes jukebox hits in this eccentric merge of traditional, retro and American.

Probably due to the "hard-boiled" view that NEWS keeps saying about the song, the way they deliver their lines in this song is a lot more powerful than Chankapaana and KAGUYA (both with higher key signatures, that one would expect the lower-key EMMA won’t sound nearly as powerful, but obviously what happens is the opposite.)

02 Snow Dance contrasts the flaming aggressiveness of EMMA. Not in the calm of a slow ballad, but it being a faster, contemporary track. A Future House** executed in the way of power ballads, the electronic roots of the song is overlooked when focused on the delivery of the vocals. It might not be as bustling as a true power ballad but for a dance song it's radically different.

** Future House = a subgenre of Deep House, in Electronic Music

The song got unanimous votes on [ profile] 4newsfans, and still outside the polls many more fans (including I!) have this as their favorite in the entire single. It's the result of complex melodic lines, revolving dynamics, solid designation of the members' parts--it is a powerful song, despite the genre's soulful Deep House origins and the instrumental's laid-back style. For that, I think Snow Dance is a good demonstration of NEWS' honed musicality.

The member lines/parts are interesting to look at. Koyama and Shige are in charge of ALL the verses, Tegoshi reigns free on the chorus, 'answered' by the other three. Then there's an interlude but no bridge, bringing the final 'answering' in the first lines of the last chorus, to a unison in the last lines. Massu do have sparse parts; however, these are frisk, clear and contain the actual title of the song, "Snow Dance". This method of 'answering' is unique in a sense that instead of making an equal distribution of lines (which NEWS and other groups usually do), each of them gets a fixed section and owns that section. It makes the already catchy track catchier, and the intimacy of its delivery more intimate.

Then there's the dismissive moment. Tegoshi's belting in the choruses is somewhat a blunder than a feat. The bold move of belting an interval of fifths in a high key may prove easy for Tegoshi, but for the song, it comes off as dramatically forced; as this is still an Electronic song it sounds so out of place. Having sung the same lines thrice in the exact same way is overbearing, and in an intensive listen, I honestly want to scrape off his parts. He should replace the belting with headtone (he's also very capable of it) in future performances of this song.

03 さくらガール -Represent NEWS Mix- sounds as good as new, not only because it's the newer version, but also because unfortunately, there are no other changes except for the parts of Yamapi and Ryo replaced by the other members--in their voices that didn't change a lot since the first recording of the song circa 2010. It's almost a carbon-copy of the first one, and you'd wonder what is the 'mix' indicated in the title?

On the upside, I personally appreciate that there's no major alteration on the sound and arrangement. I wasn't a fan of the song until it grew on me through 4-nin live performances and ultimately in this version, so for me it really is as good as new.

04 スノードロップ (Snow Drop) is my idea of a technically appropriate Winter ballad; thus, it is much appropriate than Snow Dance for a winter track. However, it pales in comparison to Snow Dance's elegance, technique, and passionate delivery. The song doesn't have much going on around, either. It gets repetitive near the end, and the key change at the very end is too late to have an impact, musically.

The key signature is at the lower side of the scale; we're so used to hear NEWS singing high-keyed songs, sometimes even too high for KoyaShige and even Massu, that the lowness of the melody pushes it to be the weakest track of the single. The tempo is also uncommonly slow for a syncopated song. Well, this isn't completely new for NEWS. The song Forever (color, 2008) has a similar rhythm, only it was packaged as a RnB song while Snow Drop is Pop; for a pop ballad, it misses the point. It may be attributed for the sad lyrics, even so, this simple slacking of pace affects the whole sound making it less remarkable.

Nevertheless, it is still "technically appropriate" for a winter ballad. Especially Massu's introduction (he sings this part so well it gives the song a good first impression!), the recurring water drop sfx, the use of stringed instruments, the little tension in the chorus, Tegoshi's adlibs in the interlude, and the syncopated beat. The mellow approach finds its place. It is definitely a winter song, a track I'll only listen to at a certain season.

05 I · ZA · NA · I · ZU · KI -Represent NEWS Mix- is the other remake, from touch album back in the 8-nin days of 2005. Like Sakura Girl, there are no major tweaks in the instrumental, only the vocal changes are a lot more noticeable because of the wider time gap between the original and the remake, and the minus-4 member difference surely gives more parts to each of the four members now.

Given the reasons, the track has a fresher spin than the Sakura Girl remake. Yamapi's line in the introduction is taken by Massu and he modifies the former's sexy and stark approach to his signature dynamic (loud then suddenly soft, vice versa) and deep style. Koyama effectively sings his line in the first verse; a little monotonous compared to the other three's dramatic singing, but he has the benefit of having his own technique, bridging Massu's accentuations and Tegoshi's vibratos. It also makes him more in sync with the relaxed motion of the guitar and the bass (remember, Koyama excels in Spanish-style songs!)

The most anticipated in this song has always been Shige, especially the "Kuchizuke wo" phrase. The original was probably deeper, but in this new version his voice is less shaky. He has more hold of his low notes (an improvement that wouldn't be very conspicuous if not for this song being remade) and has a smoother flow as the melody is going higher, and he concludes his part with a subdued husk, also an example of good dynamics.

The most obvious change in the entire track is the huge amount of adlibs by Tegoshi in the last choruses. They're not bad, though they're not outstanding either (in the way that we’re already used to his adlibs in almost every NEWS/Tegomass songs’ live versions); but they do make for a rich listening, and a further proof of Tegoshi’s vocal capabilities. He practically sings ½ of the song, probably to amp up the power this track had in its yesteryear.


This single's overall feel is more than a winter affair. EMMA is summer-hot, Sakura Girl is for spring, I · ZA · NA · I · ZU · KI's autumn sentiments and the 'Snow' songs direct take on winter... With these characteristics, it's almost as complete as an album. And we don't really need to think about a new album because after this single was released, an announcement for a new album came! Let's look forward to NEVERLAND, and I hope I could make a review for it as well.

Single rating: ♪♪♪♪ (Four lovely eighth notes out of 5!)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-01 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Amazing review!!! Totally nailed it.

Re: Snow Dance, i was wonderin' why i didnt like it (unlike the majority). I can't come up with the reason aside from there's something i didn't like it there. And sasuga~ you pointed it out clearly! That Tego's belting in the choruses! Whenever i listen to the song, his belting doesnt give me the usual excited feeling. You know how much of a Tego-centric person i am and i usually love a song most esp if Tego has beautiful lines. And i will admit it shamelessly i always concentrate on his parts. LOL So maybe that's it, his belting makes me a lil bit uncomfortable. Hahaha~

Keep 'em good reviews coming! ❤

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-02 11:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you!

Diba, ate, dibaaa?! The song is great but Tegoshi's parts actually ruined it, biased fans POV aside. Hope he does a better way of singing his lines in the upcoming concert. (As this was also the case of Sirius for me; In the studio ver., Tegoshi was "oversinging" his parts but he did it wonderfully in the concert ♥)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-02 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

True. It may be his personality that he's always trying his best. Bust sometimes he's trying too hard-- acting, fanservice and yeah sometimes singing. I hope he realize he's the most lovable creature when he's being normal and relaxed. Candid Tegoshi is ❤

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-02 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]



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