04 January 2015

Hey! Say! JUMP - smart RE 1st press album review

Artist: Hey! Say! JUMP
Title: smart
Release date:  18 JUN 2014
Type: album
Version: 1st press

Packaging: Basic CD case for a two disc release. The booklet is rather basic as well. The pages with the lyrics though do have full body shots of the members on them, but they are rather small. Outside of that each members has a solo shot in the booklet and that is it.

To take a moment to mention cover outfits, Arioka Daiki and Takaki Yuya have hideous suits, Yamada Ryosuke and Okamoto Keito have terrible shirts and Nakajima Yuto's tie is quite questionable. Everything else falls into various shades of good and okay.


(Disc 1)

1. ~Prelude of smart~
This is the first instrumental piece on the album. I typically do not care for opening instrumentals and this one is no different. It does not really showcase what to expect of the album and really just feels like filler.

The album starts strong with FOREVER, a dance pop song that honestly makes me think more of Kis-My-Ft2 than Hey! Say! JUMP, as the former has been doing songs like this basically since their debut. But I like the song as it has a good beat and a nice epic sound to it. Definitely a good song to start things off with.

3. Ready Go
Of course all the build up from the first two tracks comes to a crashing halt with this song. It starts promising enough with a mysterious sound to it but then it dives right into a rather generic pop song. I guess there is some sounds that makes it sound like a bit of a throw back to older idol songs but it is such a drastic change for the previous song and the chorus is so generic it fails to be catchy. By the time I finished listening to the next track I had already completely forgotten how this went.

4. Come On A My House
While Ready Go made no sense to have after FOREVER it works well to precede Come On A My House. While this is also a energetic pop song it at least has a catchy chorus to make it memorable. Which I would hope since it is a single track. While I do like the track it does little to fit the more "mature" feel of the album that was promised, though that was already ruined by the song preceding it.

5. 切なさ、ひきかえに (Setsuna sa, Hikikae ni)
One of the stand out album tracks of the album and is a bit slower than the previous songs. This is the song that should have followed FOREVER, with a sound that sounds closer to the dance pop/Kisumai of that song. It has hints of R&B mixed in which is a nice touch that makes it stand out and elevates it to one of the better tracks of the album.

6. Candle
Of course with tracks like Candle it is not too hard for the stand out tracks on the album to do so. There is nothing really wrong with Candle outside of the fact that it is boring. It is paint by numbers ballad that brings nothing that was not been done a hundred times over with a pop ballad before.

7. パステル (Pastel)
Pastel must have been placed after Candle to wake anyone who fell asleep listening to that. Otherwise I cannot figure out why such a poppy song is following a ballad. It is just another example of what a mess this album is when it comes to have any kind of flow. Outside of that the song is okay. Like I mentioned it is poppy though never gets too cute as Ready Go or Come On A My House. But like Ready Go I find it rather forgettable, though between the two tracks I would say that Pastel is the stronger of the two.

8. ゆーと叩いてみた。(Yuuto)
The other instrumental track on the album and it is what the title says, Yuto playing the drums. And it actually works to give the album some flow as it leads into the next track quite well. A pity the first half of the album could not be so well planned out.

9. コンパスローズ (Compass Rose)
Another one of the better songs on the album, and this one sounds very HSJ. It fits the band songs that their albums tend to have, like DASH!! and Hurry Up! In fact like those songs this one has a quick driving beat that runs through it to give it a lot of energy. While the rap section does not seem to fit very well in the song it is so short that it is not too jarring or messes with the overall flow of the song.

10. Ride With Me
One of the single tracks which means another song that sounds good. It sounds a bit like a natural transition from the single tracks they did for their previous album but not so much with it following a song like Compass Rose. Honestly the song is not much to my taste though it is catchy and does fit what the group seemed to be moving towards with their style.

11. Come Back...?
Back to the dance pop with this song that is not a bad follow up from Ride With Me though it throws you off at first by starting softly with a piano before the rest of the instrumental kicks in. Both seem to have the same amount of energy with their beats overall and both have strong rap parts. Not a bad song and it fits in well between the two songs preceding and following it.

While I would consider this one of the better songs of the album I do not think it suits the voices of some of the members very well. Hikaru, Chinen and Yabu all have voices that tend to sound whiny and this song seems to bring that out with them. And while it is a dance pop song it feels more like a HSJ songs.

13. はじまりのメロディ (Hajimari no Melody)
Enjoying that dance pop music, well get ready for that to end as Hajimari no Melody is a straight out ballad that kills that flow. It is at least the better ballad of the album but I cannot help but think that whoever arranged the tracks on this album noticed it was near the end and figured it needed to end with one.

14. AinoArika
I already reviewed the song when I reviewed the single and my thoughts about it have not changed. Though I think that perhaps if it was switched with Hajimari no Melody it would be a better song to follow RELOAD as at least it has some energy to it.

(Disc 2)

1. My World
One of my favorite album tracks on the album. In fact it seems like a crime to have this be one of the songs that is only available on the first press edition of the album. So much energy to a strong pop song with horns/brass instruments thrown in to great effect. Seriously, this is the kind of song I expect from HSJ.

2. ともだちだよ (Tomodachi yo)
While I do not care for this song I do not completely dislike it. A nice mid-tempo pop song that sounds cheery and a bit of a throw back sound to make it stand out. It does seem to be a bit on the cutesy side as well but at least it is catchy.

3. Yes! - 怪盗y-ELLOW-voice (Kaitou y-ELLOW-voice)
This sub-unit consists of Yamada Ryosuke, Yaotome Hikaru and Takaki Yuya and their song is easily my favorite. And not just because Takaki is in the unit. The song has the energy I like and pulls off being cool without trying too hard. I do not care how whiny Hikaru's voice can sound in parts but Takaki and Yamada sound good in this.

4. Super Super Night - ナイトスタイルピーポー (Night Style People)
Chinen Yuri, Nakajima Yuto and Yabu Kota is a combination of voices that would usually have me cringing, not so much for Yuto though. Yet this song is actually quite enjoyable and I am not annoyed by anyone's voice in it. So thank you to the one that gave this unit a song that was in Chinen and Yabu's more tolerable ranges.

5. Oh! アイドル! (Oh! Idol!) -愛追I隊 (Aioitai)
With Arioka Daiki, Okamoto Keito and Inoo Kei in a unit there is little surprise they went with with something that leaned heavily on being fun and cute. That and vocally simple as while the tones are not so bad with these members it still has some of the weakest vocals of the group. But since they keep it simple it is not that obvious

Overall: While I may not feel as disappointed with the album as I was when I first listened to it, I am still not ready to get back to following HSJ once more. Especially since this is still a mess of an album. It needed to have the tracks rearranged so they could flow into each other at least, or at least not be nearly as jarring as it switches from genre to genre. And having someone who understands that ballad does not mean "bore you to death music" would have helped as well. This is also the version of the album I would recommend getting as the second disc easily has some of the best songs on it.

This album makes it look like HSJ is having an identity crisis, which is not too surprising as they no longer are the only group with members in their age range. In fact they have many other groups to compete with for that but seem to be the ones having trouble to find a sound to be tied to them. And it is not like they did not have one before, but for whatever reason they decided to ditch it and go for songs that make them look more like imitations than originals.

I am still disappointed that this album that was touted to be a more "mature" album than the group had done before really did not seem to be too far away from their previous album, JUMP WORLD. Songs like Ready Go, COAMH and Pastel just ruin any added maturity the group was going for. Instead they just add to the sense of an identity crisis for the group as they try to figure out how to break away from being the cute group.

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