Last week, one of the groups from the illustrious 48 family released their new single, predictably crushing all their opponents in sales numbers by hundreds of thousands of copies with “Bokura no Eureka.” Is the single really worth buying all ten or more copies that most of the wota were buying to get the numbers that high? Let’s investigate.
Bokura no Eureka:
“Bokura no Eureka” is a fairly standard song for the last few years of output from the 48 family’s music, but has a few small defining factors that make it stand out from many other 48 releases for me, though they’re not traits that will pop out to everyone who gives it a listen. The arrangement is fairly standard idol fare, with lots of synth instruments and usual sounds throughout, but some of the other qualities of the song help to overcome the sameness of the arrangement.
The song starts with a pretty standard-sounding idol intro with some strings, guitar, and percussion arrangement for a few measures before getting to the verse. One of the factors that stands out the most on this song (and some of NMB’s other releases as well) is that the vocal arrangements of the verse are very focused on 1-3 girls at a time, whereas the vast majority of 48 releases feature their trademark choir-style vocals with about 10-30 girls singing all at once for a majority of the song. The approach used here lets certain girls’ voices be clearly heard and lets the individual timbre and charm of the different girls’ voices stand out without being drowned behind 20 other voices to the point of sounding processed and fake.
The guitar-heavy instrumentation in the verse accompanies the somewhat somber composition very well, and when putting the focused, fairly emotional vocal performance on top of it, it all weaves very well in a way that much of 48’s music does not. The verse arrangement also decreases the instruments’ volume, so as to let the vocals shine more prominently, making for a solid start to the song.
The familiar idol music pre-chorus section starts to have a few more girls’ vocals thrown into the mix, but still not reaching the usual crowd-vocal level of many 48 releases. This pre-chorus is a pretty usual lead-in to the chorus, where the tempo also kicks up a bit and we get our usual layered vocal section that we expect from similar releases.
There’s not a whole lot that’s noteworthy about the remainder of the song besides that it retains a not-entirely upbeat tone throughout, having a slightly somber, emotional feel throughout that doesn’t just rely on sugary happiness the whole time. This is refreshing compared to some of their other releases (like Nagiichi or Kitagawa Kenji) and takes us back to a sound similar to “Oh My God,” albeit with a more diverse arrangement and stronger vocal performances.
This song was definitely a surprise to me and quickly surpassed most other 48 singles from the last year because of the few factors mentioned that cater to the kind of listener I am. I’ve heard a lot of fans dismissing this single as “more of the same” from 48, but I beg to differ, based on some of the more fine details in the production of the song. Now we’ll talk about the B-sides from the various versions of the single.
Todokanasoude Todoku Mono (Main B-side):
This is a much more lively song than “Bokura,” starting off with a short snippet of the strong, hard-hitting chorus, and quickly rushing into a very high-pitched, rapid-fire guitar lead with very strong rock-driven rhythm section to back it up. The guitar lead is one of my favorite parts of the song here, and it makes a return visit for the later post-chorus sections as well as the main guitar solo later on, and it gives a metal-like sound to these sections where it is featured, despite the lack of heavy distortion or other identifying traits of metal music.
The whole song has a surprisingly high tempo for a 48 song and a lively, upbeat composition, in contrast with the less-than-enthusiastic composition in “Bokura no Eureka.” The verses and pre-choruses follow the same general patterns without a whole lot of change to the tone or overall sound, but this is definitely a good thing, in this case. This is definitely worth a listen and is one of the higher-caliber rock songs from the 48 family in a while. The song was used as the theme song for NMB’s own comedy show “Geinin! 2,” and has a fittingly fun sound to go with the show.
Okuba (Shiroigumi, Type-A):
“Okuba” is an organic-sounding acoustic ballad featuring mostly acoustic guitars and piano. The arrangement is gorgeous and pretty authentic-sounding, and one of the most pleasing parts is the vocal performances, since the Shiroigumi team features some of the better singers that NMB48 has to offer.
For example, Yamamoto Sayaka’s gorgeous, vibrato-filled voice is featured often in the song, including the opening line as well as a few other shared lines throughout, a great solo in the second pre-chorus, and the main vocal during the bridge of the song.
The bridge is a pretty unique, lavish break in the song, heavily featuring a classic Hammond organ lead accompanied by the guitars and piano, as well as a lead-in back to the chorus featuring Yamamoto’s previously-mentioned impressive vocals.
This is the type of song that Shiroigumi often gets on NMB releases, and this is something I can’t complain about at all, since it gives more variety to what sounds they can successfully execute, which also contributes to the overall quality of their discography as far as I’m concerned.
Yaban na Soft Cream (Akagumi, Type-B):
This song is a decent listen, but doesn’t do anything terribly special. It sounds very reminiscent of some of the other 48 songs in the past that mimic an American 1960’s pop sound, much like AKB48’s “Ice no Kuchizuke” and a few other entries from their discography (and go figure, the song is about ice cream as well.) It has a standard, jumpy beat throughout the entire song with a strong strings and brass arrangement above the usual pop band arrangement.
The vocals are purposely recorded to be fairly juvenile and cutesy, even bordering on whiny, but never quite manages to get annoying. The composition is pretty standard for this style, but still fun to listen to. If you enjoy this kind of throwback sound in your idol pop, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.
Hinadan Deha Boku no Miryoku Ha Ikinainda (Type-C):
This song is also structured with a throwback sound, this time to an American 1950’s rock n’roll sound, which many idols have adopted over the years. Heavy on piano, xylophones, and a standard mid-tempo rock n’roll beat, the song keeps this theme throughout, with a sugary, cute, swaying chorus that is as predictable as it is surprisingly entertaining to listen to.
Again, the song doesn’t do a lot to break any idol conventions and plays it very safe with typical group-vocal sounds and has exactly the kind of composition you’d expect from an idol song with that 50’s influence, but since this is one of my favorite music styles, I can’t really complain.
Also of note, the PV has an adorable nod to Akimoto’s 1980’s idol concept, Onyanko Club, with the entire video being themed like their old TV show from that era, where they would perform their songs and have their usual idol variety activities. Any fans of 80’s idol pop will get a huge nostalgia kick from this!
Sayanee (Theater Version):
“Sayanee” is a pretty commonly arranged, slow idol ballad song, with lots of acoustic instruments and mostly choir-type singing, and the instruments actually sound quite impressive for a 48 production. The composition is somewhat noteworthy, in that it isn’t entirely typical of a ballad composition, and almost sounds like a slowed-down version of a more upbeat idol song. Not necessarily in tone or overall feeling it depicts, but just has a lot of tropes that writers put into your everyday idol song.
I find it amusing they themed and named the song after the group’s most popular member (Yamamoto Sayaka,) but producer Akimoto Yasushi claims she deserves the praise, as she’s done a lot for the group’s success and it’s members. A cute song, but with a very slow tempo and nothing for most idol fans to nod their head to or dance along with.
This is overall a very solid release from a 48 artist, and one that surprised me quite a bit, given their recent track record. For those idol listeners who have liked most of the recent 48 output, this may not be for you, but most listeners looking for a little diversity in the idol sound without straying too far from the norm or pushing any kind of boundaries, you should give this a listen.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Bokura no Eureka (Type A)
Bokura no Eureka (Type B)
Bokura no Eureka (Type C)