The first time I heard that Arashi’s new album is called “The Digitalian”, I quickly checked my trusted best friend Oxford Dictionary. The term still has not made its entry (who knows, this year?) though it’s obvious where the word was derived from. Next, I Googled how digital music sounds like and I was directed to an entry about Japanese musician Tetsuya Komuro aka TK, the keyboardist of TM Network, who “coined” the word. I’m familiar with TM Network because Bananaman’s Yuki Himura performed “Get Wild” on Shiyagare with Arashi some time back and I love that song.
TK also produced “The Digitalian is Eating Breakfast” albums so out of curiosity I gave them a listen, trying to figure out how Arashi’s next album will sound like. And I liked it.
“Digitalian is Eating Breakfast” Samplers:
But I have to admit that like many others, I was scared of the word “digitalian” and how Arashi might end up sounding, well, K-pop. So listening to how TK’s music sounded like, and thinking if this was going to be the basis and inspiration, it won’t be so bad. Just before the release of the lead track Zero-G’s first teaser, Arashi said the new album will still sound like them. Digital, electronic dance music (EDM) or however way you call it, I wouldn’t have a problem as long as it will have that Arashi sound. Besides, it’s a good thing they’re experimenting with different sounds and concepts.
I don’t really listen to K-pop so I can’t make a fair comparison but my fears disappeared by the time they released a longer sampler of Zero-G. It sounds Arashi except of course that they put a lot of electronic elements there. By the time I listened to the full album, I have to say it’s not what I expected. And that’s both bad and good.
Digital + Vegetarian = The Digitalian
The Love album is a tough act to follow. Love swept me off my feet from the first listen. Before that, Popcorn too. The thing with concept or thematic albums, you have to be consistent. But I don’t get that sense in The Digitalian, never mind Sho’s explanation on how he came up with the concept (Digital + Vegetarian). GUTS! sounds so out of place, for one, not that they could not include it and the other singles they released this year. Of course I don’t expect all the songs to be EDM, syncopated or electronic-sounding and it’s a good thing because it does offer something for everyone, especially those who are not keen on electronica. I have seen some tweets comparing Tell Me Why to 1D and One Step to BSB. Well at least if this is a “vegetarian” offering, it’s a bowl of mixed vegetables.
I used to think that I had very specific preference when it comes to music. But now I can’t even remember what music I preferred pre-Arashi. Genre? What genre? Arashi has broken all that and gotten me into all sorts of music from A.Ra.Shi to P-A-R-A-D-O-X to Zero-G and everything in between. Of course they have certain songs I don’t like and surprisingly, in this album, it’s not the ones that sound overly digital at all.
So. Do you Dig Italian?
Despite falling short of expectations (I must have listened to Tetsuya Komuro a lot), I am slowly falling for the album. I guess the trick is to listen to it over and over again, not to get used to the sound, but to actually discover the music. Bittersweet (which, among the three singles in this album, fits the digitalian concept most) is the perfect example on how love can slowly develop; it doesn’t have to be love at first sight–or listen–all the time.
My favorite tracks (not including singles Bittersweet, GUTS! and Daremo Shiranai) are One Step, Take Off!!!!! (did I count the exclamation points correctly?) and Zero-G. My favorite solos are Nino’s (very Christmassy), Sho’s (@jhingnigami said she expects a choir, Whoopi Goldberg and nuns to come out for the chorus during the live) and Jun’s. Well, Aiba’s too. I think Riida’s solo is not just my type of beat. Let’s just say I like most of the songs but it’s taking a longer time to really get the groove of Wonderful and Trap. But I’m getting there.
Many have also noted that Hope in the Darkness is V.2 of Cosmos (Popcorn) though it’s also the Ai Wo Utaou (Love) for me in this album. And that Asterisk (another favorite) is V.2 of Intergalactic. Take Off!!!!! in fact has that distinct Arashi-composed sound similar to Energy Song and Fight Song. And what I find lovely about Arashi is they sometimes pick bits and pieces from their previous songs like in Confusion (Love) that had A-Ra-Shi notes in it.
As fans, of course we don’t have to like everything that our idols come up with. I’m not a blind fan (nor am I deaf even if I mishear Sho saying “c’mon stupid guys now” instead of “c’mon sing together now” in One Step) but I would always throw my support behind the artists I like knowing the effort they put into the work, whether music, TV show or film.
Arashi comes up with only one album each year and that has been a lucky thing considering not all artists are able to release an album or do a tour yearly. I also feel their gratitude when they point this out every time. That is why I always look forward to their releases and I’m happy that they are growing with their music, experimenting and even writing their songs. When before only Nino and Sho wrote lyrics, in this album, Jun also partly wrote his solo. I’d like them to have more ownership of their music as they move forward to their 16th year and beyond.
Jun said that arriving and leaving through a helicopter in their Hawaii concerts was a symbolism of them stopping by and continuing on their journey. In Take Off!!!!!, Sho said this is just the beginning of a new chapter and in many ways, The Digitalian does represent that.
Now, I’m really curious about how they’re going to do the live of this tour. Will they enter through a spaceship? Or Sho will open it with…
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.”
Come in now
Come in now, baby
It’s a runway that leads to the past and future…
Let’s go through many skies together
We believe in you
Believe and go beyond those shining five rings
So, MY FELLOW ARASHIANS, do you dig Italian?
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