With the Tokyo Olympics coming up this year, I expect the J-pop industry to unveil all sorts of material highlighting Japanese culture and cheering their athletes on. The anthemic sounds often produced by Johnny’s Entertainment seem tailor made for this venture, and Sexy Zone’s new album Pop x Step!? does a good job exploring various aspects of the J-pop sound.
With most K-pop acts currently mired in dark, murky sounds, a song like Far East Dance (極東DANCE) is a breath of fresh air. Befitting the Johnny’s style, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But, that’s its charm. The chorus is mammoth, the production is unrelentingly loud, and the performance is dripping with personality. Sexy Zone have one of the smaller configurations of any act in the agency, but their vocals are instantly recognizable. This time around, they give the track an addictive sneer that matches well with the instrumental.
I have always been a huge proponent of guitar in dance tracks, and Far East Dance’s propulsive electro-rock is pure catnip to my taste. I love the fuzzy, filthy nature of the guitar, which supplies the hard-hitting beat with a constant level of distortion. It’s a texture I haven’t heard for ages in pop music, and I’ve missed it dearly. Matching this aggressive instrumental is an equally bold melody, highlighted by an immense sing-along chorus that’s hugely enjoyable. I’m less sold on the second segment of each verse, which feels oddly repetitive and one-note. Luckily, this is immediately followed by a standout pre-chorus that draws the best from the guys’ voices. This is the kind of track that reminds me why I love J-pop so much. In this day and age, Korea could honestly learn a thing or two from just how much fun this group is having.