[Review] Bullet Train invoke m-flo on “Stand Up” that stands out

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about a new Bullet Train track. To be honest, their music just hasn’t been the same since vocalist Koichi left. That’s no dig on the group’s remaining vocal Takashi, who has really kept their sound afloat. But, there’s just so much more you can do with two vocalists that you can’t replicate with one. With this in mind, new single “Stand Up” is smart to get the group’s dancers involved in its goofy hip-hop verses.

Like much of their music over the past year, “Stand Up” is a big, energetic burst of pop. I’m enamored with the instrumental, which is built upon bright stabs of synth, percolating percussion and a funky bassline. It’s got great heft to it, delivering a punchy groove that feels perfect for the spring and summer seasons. I could do without the unnecessary dubstep breakdown, but at least it’s not another moody trap-rap momentum killer! On the other hand, I could listen to the track’s last thirty seconds forever. That retro electro squiggle is a thing of beauty.

Rap has been a relatively rare facet of Bullet Train’s music, but I think it’s a great idea to bring the group’s dancers into the mix during the song’s verses. It adds needed vocal diversity and gives poor Takashi a rest, even if a large part of the charm is probably lost on those who don’t speak Japanese. Still, it’s so refreshing to hear this kind of upbeat hip-hop, perched on an unrelenting pop beat that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The chorus of “Stand Up” is also well-matched to the track, powerful and rhythmic and instantly memorable. As usual, the guys are clearly having a blast here. It’s hard not to feed off of that energy.

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IATFB says: If you couldn’t tell already, I title these reviews and I wanted to cover this solely because of how shocking it was to hear something from a boy group resemble a sound I loved so much in m-flo from years back (dance break aside). It wasn’t quite to those same levels, but the fact that it even seemed to clearly take inspiration from it made it a lot of fun with plenty of quality (aim for the moon and what not), making it probably one of my favorite J-pop releases so far in 2020.

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