“Are You Happy?” – My Thoughts

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Arashi - Are You Happy?

It’s finally out! Arashi’s album for 2016, “Are You Happy?”

I’ve watched the PV and making, and also been listening to the songs for the past few days, so I thought I’ll share my opinion on the album.

Also a shoutout to all those who bought the RE edition of the album! You’ve probably heard it already, but keep that little cardboard strip of paper (aka the obi strip) that comes with your CD! There’s a ‘user code’ in the back that’ll let you access some digital form of gratitude from the 5 boys in November. My guess is that it’s a video message, or a secret talk kind of thing? I don’t think they’ll have time to do something like a secret song. Too time consuming… Well we’ll find out in a few days!

Concert goods! We have a sneak peek at the concert goods through the little slip of paper given together with the concert tickets for the upcoming concert tour.

Pamphlet – 2,220 yen
Poster (6 types) – 800 yen each
Jumbo uchiwa (5 types) – 600 yen each
Clear file (6 types) – 600 yen each
Original photo set (6 types) – 800 yen each
Are You Happy? light – TBD
Shopping Bag – TBD
T-Shirt – 2,800 yeb
Parka – TBD
Arashi FC Pamphlet folder (Are You Happy?) – TBD
Pouch – TBD
Multi-cleaner cloth – TBD
Schedule book/Planner – TBD
Badge set (Venue limited item) – TBD

Kids lane:
Mini uchiwa – 400 yen
Stickers – TBD

Exciting! And there goes my money…. Kinda? I wanna see the photos and the prices first. (TBD = to be determined) Hmm let’s see what I’m interested in… Or maybe I’ll just go down the line.

Pamphlet. Hmm nope. What is in those pamphlets anyway…? I kinda vaguely remember downloading the scans for Japonism, but I didn’t actually go through the scans, not in detail anyway…

Poster – nice… But… I don’t have any space to buy it in my room… And if I’m not gonna use it… no point buying right? That rolled up thing is bound to 1) get crushed during storage 2) get yellow by the time I look at it again…

Jumbo uchiwa – again, I don’t use those

Clear file! I want! If the design is nice that it! I like clear files!!! XD Though I’ll probably limit myself to just Ohno and the group one…

Original photo set – ahhh… I want shop photos… Like just for the sake for owing some real, legit shop photos. But I fear falling into the deep dark pit…

Penlights aren’t my thing, so I’m skipping it as usual. I mean like… What am I gonna use it for anyway? A sad solo concert (as in, solo audience…) waving my penlight in front of my mac? No thanks… I’ll rather buy something that makes me erm… Happy. Still, I’m curious about the price. No set price? Didn’t they always have a standard price for penlights? GOSH JUN WHAT DID YOU PUT IN THE PENLIGHTS THIS TIME???? Curious curious curious!

Shopping bags too… Tote bags basically aren’t my thing. I. Can’t. Use. Them. I hate holding a bag in my hands. And if the strap is long enough to fir your arm through? Let’s just say I’m like Sho. You know… Nadegata…

T-shirt and parka – I’ll be too embarrassed to wear those. And I’ll face it. I’m too fat to even wear a women’s XL t-shirt. No kidding.

FC pamphlet folder…. I atually don’t understand what this is? Like, it’s just another folder? What’s the difference between this and the clear file? Wakaranai *shakes head*. I’ll wait for the photos!

Pouch – again, I don’t use them… I have the one from waku waku like… last year? And I don’t really use it… Maybe if the pouch is of a bigger size but…

Multi-cleaner cloth! Now this is interesting. I think it’s a first? Maybe… I didn’t get interested in concert goods till the last few years. I’m thinking it might be like a microfiber cloth or something… very interesting… but I don’t really use micro-fiber cloth… I just… grab a tissue and squirt ethanol on it… 😛

Planner!!! NOW THIS EXCITES ME. Because hey, planner! Ok. I don’t really use planners. I don’t plan anything out on paper anymore… But my sis does use planners… I would definitely like to get one for her. (Which will end up being two, one for myself as well. And I’ll say ‘I should use this thing’, and end up using it less than 10 times in the whole year) I want to see what’s it like first though. How big is it? How much writing space is there inside? Lines or no lines? If you’re gonna be using your planner (as my sis will be), such stuff would be really important… I was thinking of getting her the cute gudetama/hello kitty/summiko gurashi planners that she would have bought if not for another planner I got for my sis last year… And after sort of screwing up last year (she was like, these are so cute!!! But you gave me a planner already… >< *opps*), I don’t want to like screw up again? I mean. It’s Arashi. But still….? So conflicted about this one.

Badge – nah. No place to keep em 😛

Mini uchiwa – don’t use, don’t buy. Save my poor dying wallet and bank account…

STICKERS!!!! Excitement++++ Cos? Cos… This little kiddy loves collecting stickers and washi tape, and it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t use those stickers either because hey, want a sticker? XD

Ok. That’s all for my long fangirling over concert goods.

On to the album…

Are you Happy? Alvum artAre You Happy? Album Art

Overall, I’m pleased with the album. It exceeded my expectations. By that, I mean that I had a low expectation. With an ‘Are you happy?’ title and a super goofy sounding lead track, I was expecting the album to be filled with overly gaudy, dizzyingly happy songs. Not so. Don’t You Get It was actually an outlier in the album… The overall tone of the album is a more quiet, subdue tone. With the exception of Bad Boy of course. Now that’s a different story… But first we’ll start with the PV, because that was what I started with.

My first opinion of the PV was “Is the audio and visual track out of sync?” Because the lip syncing just looked so fake/weird. I mean, I know they are always lip syncing on PVs, but somehow this time I was so disturbed… I still have no explanation for that perception.

Maybe because I’ve not been in a particularly cheery mood, the front parts of the PV was all ‘meh’ to me. Boring. Not really hilarious. Certainly not making me laugh. I stared blankly as Ohno tossed what looked like a hand held catapult around and watching the dog ignore him. (Just what was he tossing to the dog???)

Then came the wind machine. Plastic sheets and newspapers blowing. Entangling Arashi. Now THAT made me laugh. Just so hilarious, so goofy. I started cracking up, and the rest of the PV became much more enjoyable. The dance parts too… They only started coming later.

Then it ended, with Arashi moving out of the recording studio. “Wow, the studio sure is small,” I thought.

Then the lady with her poodle walks across the set, and the stubborn dog follows. Hmm ok. Then the PV cuts back to Arashi goofing around in front of the camera. Minus the song. With the ‘live’ audio from the recording. The music blasting on the background of the set, back in the studio. Aiba (?) going ‘oiii’ or whatever you make of that sound. A really nice, hilarious ending touch. The PV just got better and better and ended perfectly.

Then, already in a jolly good mood, I watched the making. Right off the bat, you see Arashi fooling around. This is Arashi in their natural state. Arashi at it’s best. And the Arashi I missed sooo very much! (I know it’s my fault for being too busy to watch Arashi, but still….)

It’s like. They were just fooling around all the way. Apart from the dance scene, the rest were all unscripted. Like ‘I want you to walk out, follow the camera’. Or, ‘Ok, here’s your doggie toy. Now play with the dog.’ And so they did. With Jun doing strange dance moves. Aiba doing the Egyptian walk, Ohno making a crapton of funny faces… Sho and Nino… Gah. Everyone’s fooling around and I can’t even keep track of what they are all doing. Too much action! Seriously!

And even in the ‘scripted’ parts they still fooled around. Like when they danced off to the side and off the camera screen. Then for some unknown reason Nino decided to step back in frame and continue dancing. Then on the second recording, Ohno decided to join Nino back on screen and the two did some touchy feely butt dancing together which the other three were laughing their stomaches silly. Honestly, without the making, I wouldn’t even have realised this was unscripted. That they weren’t supposed to do that. And when they were dancing and moving backwards toward the huge letter H on the set… Nino and Sho went so far back they ducked under the H and disappeared behind it… While Aiba banged his hip on the letter and ended up rubbing his hip in pain. And they used it all for the PV, including the hip rubbing action. Thank goodness for the making! Else being the blind person that I am, I wouldn’t have noticed Aiba doing that!

And the super fan parts were simply my favourites. Newspapers and plastic sheets everywhere and on everyone… Including that big sheet of newspaper on Ohno’s face. I totally noticed that in my first PV viewing and went back a few times to see which unfortunate member was smacked in the face by the news. It wasn’t until the making though, that I noticed Ohno getting hit by a stray plastic cup on the stomach and rubbing painfully on it. Ok, I assumed it was the plastic cups, because those are the only items that seemed possible to inflict pain. And it was only cos of the making that I realised that Ohno was actually supposed to do the chest moving dance move. Only that he didn’t move at all courtesy of the strong wind. He merely looked like he was trying to get his jacket off with the help of the wind…

Oh yes, the dog. It’ll be unfair to comment on the entire making but fail to mention Jintan the bull terrier. The owner was saying that it’s avery sturdy breed. And sturdy indeed. If he refuses to budge, he just refuses. And short of picking up the dog and carrying it off set, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can pull hard on the leash, but it’s more likely to make the leash fall off than anything else. (Dog owners, do you really keep your leashes so loose?) And did I mention Jintan is not light? Jun looked like he was gonna fall and/or drop poor Jintan when he tried to carry said doggy off. I was amazed that Jintan and Juntan actually got along pretty well. I propose that the similarity in their names is a possible cause. The other explanation would be that Jintan is just so passive and chill that he simply can’t be bothered…

There’s a lot more in the making/PV to talk about… Like Sho’s attempt at magic and Jun doing the ‘Are you ready’ pose with dumb bells… (I swear those weights look legit!) But there’s just too much to talk about and you really should just watch the whole thing for yourself, if you have not already done so that is.

I went back to watching the PV again and the second time round I enjoyed it so much more. And the lipsyncing awkward feeling faded too. It was still there, but at a much more acceptable level. It was so fun to recall how each particular segment of the PV was made… And I’ll be thinking “Hmm so this is the first version…” “Oh wait there it is! The second take! Oooo they used both!” Other times I’m just amazed and how those funny, totally NG in ‘normal’ circumstances, clips made it into the PV. I beat when Arashi first watched the finished project they’ll be like. “What? OMG that made it in?” *Rolls on the floor dying of laughter*

It’s like… My enjoyment of the PV increased by 100 fold after watching the making. I’ll never look at the PV in the face way again…

If you’ve not watched it yet… I highly recommend the PV – making – PV order. Why not jump into the making directly? Because you should watch the PV first and then see how your opinions towards it after watching the making. And I can assure you that it’ll change.

Ok! On to the album! The songs! I’m gonna skip the four songs from their singles because… Nothing new there right? 😛

So I listened to the songs on Tues night, and had the album on replay all day on Wed… And here’s my take on the songs.

Let’s start with the solos.

Bad Boy – Ohno’s solo. Bad Boy indeed. Bery bad bog. My first impression was “Oh wow electropop. Sounds like Kpop…” I couldn’t stop laughing because I can imagine a goofy Ohno doing strange goofy dance moves in the concert. And trust me, a goofy Ohno isn’t hard to imagine after watching the PV making. I’ve come to conclude that this thing sounds like Psy. And although I like it, it’s quite a noisy electropop and I personally can’t listen to just this song on replay for long. It just gets too noisy. And for those eletropop haters…? Sorry, this song is gonna be a torture. Personally I’m neutral towards eletropop so this song is alright. Part of me wished Ohno sang something more towards his usual style especially with the super strong showing from Nino this year… But a goofy Ohno solo is something new, and such strong eletropop… This Kpop like style… That’s a first for Arashi. Looking forward to see (or read) how he’ll pull this off in the concert.

Mata Kyou to Onaji Asu ga Kuru – Nino’s solo. I liked the song right off the bat. And as I listened to it again and again, I liked it more and more. Definitely my no. 1 song in the album. Nino’s voice really shone here. (Which once again, made me sad that Ohno didn’t show off his voice this time, I mean, he did, but much of it is hidden by the eletropop… Yes, I’m an Ohno fan.) The sudden powerful outbursts. And the pause. It’s like what Ohno did for his solos before… Only that he took those elements, and multiplied it by like… idk, a factor of 10? Even the pause is longer I swear. Some fans have expressed concerns about where he’ll be able to perform this live… Me? I’m just happy listening to the song. The piano and the background is nice and refreshing… And the singing powerful. Bliss.

Baby Blue – Jun’s solo. Jazz jazz jazz. Fits the high class Jun image… And I know some fans really love this song. (Ok, I’m sure there has to be some fan out there that swears by a particular song but…) Unfortunately for me, jazz isn’t really my thing. It’s an nice, easy listen but it doesn’t really stand out… Doesn’t really say anything to me. Sorry Jun. 🙁

Amore – Aiba’s solo. So the song title means ‘love’ in Italian. The song starts off sounding like a ballad. Then the beat skyrockets into something like 80s or 90s disco track. Sounds like something Shounentai would be singing to me. A high energy track with a catchy, groovy tune. Thumbs up.

Sunshine – Sho’s solo. The song isn’t bad really… But somehow I feel like something is missing. Like a soda gone flat or a fruit punch without punch. It’s a cheerful song as the title says, and Sho and this kind of plain cheerful song doesn’t seem to go really well. Something like Fly On Fridays works better. This song reminds me a ton of Aiba’s Friendship, and I think that it would sound much better if Aiba sang this… Sorry Sho… ><

Now on to the supervised songs.

青春ブギ (Seishun Boogie) (Supervised by Aiba Masaki) – I really love this song! Aiba nailed this one. Ok, Aiba, together with the song and lyric writers. Love the drumming in the background. The song is really catchy… And that ultra fast line towards the end (around 3:05)? I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts and I play them at 2.5x speed, and this line is like even FASTER. How did they even do it??? Really love this song, makes me feel like moving to the beat.

DRIVE (Supervised by Matsumoto Jun) – I can juxtapose this song with Jun. Him driving around and looking out at the night Tokyo city skyline from the top of some high building, wearing a black suit and sunglasses, his hair blown back by the wind… (Don’t ask why he’s wearing sunglasses at night.) An easy listen… But perhaps a bit too easy. Doesn’t leave too much of an impression and seems to sound fairly similar to Ups and Downs to my untrained ears. It’s an okay song to me.

Miles away (Supervised by Ohno Satoshi) – Another soothing, easy listening type of song… Hence initially I didn’t really like it. But as I listened, it started growing on me. The member solo singing sounds really good… Ohno made his members shine really well. It’s like you barely hear his own voice, but you could hear everyone else really well. And the song has a sort of quiet strength to it, slowly building up in power. A really great display of everyone’s voice. I think Ohno really took time in considering the parts assignment. I’ve always wondered, how do they decide who sings which part? Or rather, who does the deciding? I’ll hazard a guess that it’s Ohno this time. Who else would know the voice of each Arashi member as well as an Arashi member themself?

To my homies (Supervised by Sakurai Sho) – A song with a nice laid back feel. I can imagine them sitting around and singing this song in Hawaii style with the torches lit around them. Love all the member rapping. You can definitely hear Sho’s influence in this song. The raps of course… And also in the music arrangement. It just reeks Sho all over – those who are familiar with Sho’s creations in his radio show Shobeat will understand I’m sure. Especially the ending… How do you call it? The over-the-telephone voice in the background, it’s what he used all over in Pen no sasu houkou… I like the song and it really makes me miss his Shobeat creations!

WONDER-LOVE (Supervised by Ninomiya Kazunari) – This song. Gosh. Nino totally aced this album. This song is just… wonder love. Just the right touch of electropop (yes, just a light little touch). A funky beat and tune… This song grew on me and just overtook the rest. It’s just so… nice to listen to.

Other songs:
Don’t you get it – I don’t quite get the song, it’s overly gaudy for me… But after watching the PV and making, I think I’m enjoying it more.

Ups and Downs – As mentioned earlier… It sounds like Drive. Also soothing and easy to listen to, but I can’t find any part that leaves an impression… It kind of just blends in with the rest of the songs in the album.

Two to tango – The RE only song. I started out loving parts of the song like the intro… And finding parts of it really weird. After a whole day of listening though, I’m liking it a lot, a lot more. Like, the weird parts don’t feel that weird anymore, and I’m really in love with the background music, especially the intro!

If I had to rank the performance of each member by their solo and supervised song for this album… My rating would be as follows:
1) Nino – he aced both the solo and supervised song… There’s no debate here.
2) Ohno and Aiba. They both did well on the solo and supervised song.
3) Sho and Jun. Okay songs. Didn’t really love them as much as the rest unfortunately.

Final conclusion: The songs in this album are easy to listen to, Arashi has matured in terms of their music, and the PV and making would surely make any grumpy Arashi fan happy. Arashi in their ‘natural state’ at it’s best!

And that’s all for my thoughts on the album! The RE version of the album is available for sale at CDJapan.

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