Ronald Reviews: February 2023 (King & Prince’s “Life goes on / We are young” & Stray Kids’ “THE SOUND”)
Welcome to this month’s “Ronald Reviews”! Each month, I will review the top song and album of the previous month per Oricon. If Billboard Japan releases a monthly chart eventually, I will do that as well. Think of this as a way to learn about the top releases of the month, or to enjoy them again if you’ve already heard them. That being said, let’s get into this month’s chart toppers!
This month, I will review King & Prince‘s final single with five members, “Life goes on / We are young” (1,032,487 copies sold), and Stray Kids‘ debut Japanese album, “THE SOUND” (377,551 copies sold).
King & Prince – Life goes on
I’m genuinely going to missing King & Prince 2.0, but not this song. In the past few years, the group has really shown that they can do sounds that are different than what is expected of Johnny’s groups (that’s what drew me to them and inspired me to somehow interview them two years ago), so for them to essentially end this chapter like this is quite disappointing. I get wanting to end King & Prince 2.0 on a happy, forward looking note with a genki song like this, but this is just a bit too simplistic. The whistling… The chorus… It sounds like something from elementary school! I don’t normally talk about music videos or anything but the sound of the actual music, but with this one I have to. The choreography of just waving arms from side to side mirrors the song in its oversimplistic manner, with Ren, who is not a dancer, as the center, to just drive home how oversimplistic this is. Is this what King & Prince 3.0 going to be when it’s just him and Kaito, the best dancer in the group? I just wish that the group had given us something powerful and memorable as they end this chapter. I will say that I do like Kishi’s vocals on this. Shame that we don’t know if he’ll ever use them again after May. 5/10
King & Prince – We are young
If “Life goes on” is the happy song about King & Prince 2.0 ending, “We are young” is the opposite. It’s actually quite depressing. It’s definitely a graduation song. And while graduations are happy, they are also sad. An emotional transition, which is what this group is going through. I honestly would have been fine with just this being the A-side. 7.5/10
Single average: 6.25/10
I feel like putting these two song together was an error. “Life goes on” is simply not impactful enough to be on the final King & Prince 2.0 single!
Stray Kids – THE SOUND
I have never listened to Stray Kids before, so this is an experiment for me. One of the issues I’ve had with KPop for the past few years is how noisy it is. This group doesn’t appear to be an exception. In fact, this song exemplifies why I stopped listening to KPop years ago. Noisy music. Too much rapping. It’s like I’m being beat over the head. If I wanted to listen to Korean rap, I would seek that out. That’s not what I came to KPop for, so to see so much of the industry, especially male acts, go in that direction, was disheartening and led to me dropping KPop. At the very beginning of the song, there is a rap that I thought was in Korean at first, but it’s actually a mixture of Japanese and English. I wish they had not done this, or crafted it differently at least, because it’s a bit jarring that it is two langugages together, but sounds like a third. Yes, I understand that they are Korean, but I don’t really have this problem with KPop acts sing in Japanese. 3/10
2. Battle Ground
I don’t like this rock sound. It sounds quite dated. I could understand if there were people trying to do a rap rock revival, but it’s not really a trend. I get the point of using rock to try to be aggressive as the song’s title suggests, but that’s also a cliche. I would like it they had done something new, or at least kept it more hip hop as far as production. 4/10
3. Lost Me
Finally something that doesn’t feel like I’m being sonically attacked! It’s a nice enough song. 6/10
This is surprisingly good! It’s bit more downtempo and moody compared to the rest of album, giving a sexy, nighttime R&B feel. 7/10
Again, another nice enough song. I do like the strings. They add a softness to the sound isn’t on much of this album. 6.5/10
6. CASE 143 -Japanese ver.-
This is quite good! I really enough the different vocal styles and tempo changes here. There are so many things going in this song, from R&B to a little Latin moment, but they fit together into a cohesive package. 7.5/10
7. CHILL -Japanese ver.-
Unlike the title suggests, this song is not “chill.” But that’s a good thing! It does have a bit more of laid back feel than most of this release, but it’s not exactly chill. It really reminds me of R&B songs from the 90s / 00s. I really like the build right and pause right before the chorus. And the raps here actually don’t feel out of place or have that disconnect as far as language that I was experiencing earlier on. 8/10
This song is ok. It’s a just kinda there. 6.5/10
9. Thunderous -Japanese ver.-
I really just want this album to end. The noisy production… The shouting… 5.5
This is a nice closer. Something softer compared to the rest of the album. 6.5/10
Album average: 6.05/10
This was a real struggle to get through. The high moments don’t quite make up for the low moments. Would I seek any of these songs out on my own to listen to again? No.