[Review] GENERATIONS modernize nostalgic sounds on “Hirahira”

Like Japan’s leading purveyor of male idol acts, Johnny’s Entertainment, the groups of Exile Tribe have their own individual quirks but largely adhere to a proven house style. GENERATIONS are the agency’s most quintessential boy band, complete with a princely, straight-out-of-an-anime character in vocalist Katayose Ryota. They’ve been churning out music for over seven years now, making them veterans when stacked alongside the agency’s newer groups. But as new single “Hirahira” proves, veterans can still have a lot of fun.

Forgoing their usual electronic backbone, “Hirahira” takes its cues from old boogie music, enlisting rhythmic guitar for an updated take on rockabilly. It’s not at all what I would have expected from the guys, but the track manages to sound fresh and current despite drawing upon so many nostalgic influences. The freewheeling energy is a good match for GENERATIONS, and allows them to inject plenty of personality into their performance.

Beat-and-bass driven tracks like this demand an equally rhythmic melody, and “Hirahira” does a great job powering each moment with brisk, catchy hooks. There’s a playfulness to the rollicking verses, built upon by a punchy chorus that bolsters the energy with added guitar and chant-along vocals. I love the organ that runs throughout the instrumental, especially when it takes center stage for the song’s bridge. This isn’t a production touch we hear often in idol music, but it roots “Hirahira” in a bygone pop history. Interestingly, these nods to decades past draw more strongly from the great American songbook than anything distinctly Japanese. At the very least, this makes “Hirahira” an intensely enjoyable tribute. But even without its classic approach, I think the song is upbeat and addictive enough to stand on its own.

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