The final entry in the IDOLMASTER SideM WORLD TRE@SURE series strays away from its theme to deliver an electro-pop tune with lack of a “Japan” feel.
Title: THE IDOLM@STER SideM WORLD TRE@SURE 13 Label: Lantis Release date: 01/04/2020 Genre: Electro-Pop
1 - Welcome to Japan！ 2 - MEET THE WORLD!(JAPAN Ver.) 3 - Welcome to Japan！ (Off Vocal)
Track by track analysis:
1 – Welcome to Japan!
Welcome to Japan! presents us with a slow paced, modern, electronic dance beat in with upbeat synths as accents.
On top of that electronic instrumental are the traditional Japanese elements. Delicate shamisen and shakuhachi melodies, taiko drums and the generic gong – this one is not specific to Japan – add the well needed traditional touch to this electronic tune.
The bridge features a sweet shakuhachi solo that albeit brief, gives such a great touch to this track. Still, if you listen closely to this song, this is far from being a representation of traditional Japanese music but more a representation of generic modern J-pop, which contrasts with the whole theme – even with the single’s cover.
Vocally, there isn’t much to be said as the Japan team is well balanced, at times too balanced to the point that it is difficult to tell apart each member in the chorus.
Individual parts were tackled with consistency but when it came to working as one in the chorus, it was when we all get to see their power and emotion got up a notch, making this song incredibly enjoyable to listen to.
A bit of inconsistency grasping and developing the concept make this falter.
2 – MEET THE WORLD!(JAPAN Ver.)
Built around a playful piano melody and groovy bass line, MEET THE WORLD! takes pride in its upbeat and danceable sound.
Atmospheric synths, strings and simple bass-driven drums add the finishing touches to this instrumental, creating an addictive and, at the same time, inspiring sound.
Paying close attention to this song, it actually sounds like a throwback 80’s pop tune – mainly due to its piano melody.
When it comes to the vocal performance, the Japan team gives a solid performance.
The vocals count with two high toned singers – Fumiyoshi Shioya and Sho Nogami – and two lower toned singers – Yuichiro Umehara and Takuya Masumoto -, which helps the group balance out their performance with ease. To add to this, their performance is filled with energy, matching the song’s upbeat and fun instrumental while not falling too much behind some of the best takes on this song. Solid display.
THE IDOLM@STER SideM WORLD TRE@SURE 13 wraps up the WORLD TRE@SURE series in a rather satisfying way.
Welcome to Japan! is a great electronic pop song. It is fun. It is danceable. But it is far from being a song that represents Japan.
Adding a shakuhachi or a shamisen to a song is something that has been done plenty of times and, while these are obviously traditional Japanese elements, in little they contribute to create a “true” representation of Japan when the focus is all on the electronica that is overshadowing them.
These are only wishful thinking right now but if the franchise wanted to capture or at least represent Japan well – especially if they went with the whole samurai/shinobi theme on the cover -, they should have either went all out in the instrumental, embracing their emotional and slow paced traditional music or went all out vocally, by performing in Enka style.
None happened here.
Just adding some shamisen in the intro, then barely getting to listen to it in the chorus. Adding some shakuhachi in the chorus and then a really brief solo in the bridge. Adding some gong in the background – gong is not a Japanese instrument and it would faster represent China than it would Japan – and then the taiko drums… They are really in the background, however almost inaudible at times.
But the focus was on the electronica.
While I understand that this is made to attract youngsters – fans of pop and not too keen on traditional music -, there are so many good examples of artists that went the traditional route while still having electronica, being able to balance things out in a way that their songs were traditional and modern at the same time (a good example would be Miyano Mamoru’s Identity), thus appealing to fans of all ages. It is not something impossible to achieve.
A bit like what happened with India’s team, Welcome to Japan! failed to capture the theme “Japan” and instead went the generic route of embracing electro-pop and throw in some sprinkles of traditional instruments to see if it worked. Well, the song is good and really entertaining, but it is far from having captured its theme/concept: representing Japan.
MEET THE WORLD! was a simpler outing for this team, with them being able to shine on top of an instrumental already loved by many fans.
Their balance on the vocal end, counting with a solid lineup of Yuichiro Umehara, Takuya Masumoto, Sho Nogami and Fumiyoshi Shioya, made them not show any flaws. They covered well for each other and, ultimately, delivered a solid performance that I can see myself going for the replay button more than a couple of times.
All in all, Japan team’s vocal performances were rock solid. The only thing lacking in THE IDOLM@STER SideM WORLD TRE@SURE 13 was a better grasp and materialization of the “Japan” theme.
THE IDOLM@STER SideM WORLD TRE@SURE 13 is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.