Ronald Reviews: July 2023 (Sakurazaka46’s “Start over” & Naniwa Danshi’s “POPMALL”)

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 Sakurazaka46‘s single “Start over” (467,058 copies sold) and Naniwa Danshi’s “POPMALL” (468,066 copies sold).


Sakurazaka46 – Start over

I really enjoy how complex, how many moving pieces there are to this song! The initial guitar work reminds me of something Kawatani Enon would make, but then 30 seconds later, the song has shifted to two other totally different sounds! The song is full of emotion in a way that I was quite surprised by. I found the bridge to the song to be quite pretty as well. 7.5/10

Naniwa Danshi – POPMALL

1. Poppin’ Hoppin’ Lovin’

I normally don’t like things this cute, but this is really catchy! Like really catchy! It’s been stuck in my head since I first saw the video for this song right before I went to Japan in June. I feel like the Twitter baby listening to it. 8/10


2. Prime Time

Wait, a city pop song?! Very unexpected, but welcome! It has a refreshing feel to it, perfect for summer! 7.5/10


3. ハッピーサプライズ (Happy Surprise)

This is very much what I would expect from Naniwa Danshi. There were some fans that bemoaned the course that Snow Man and SixTONES have taken, saying that they are a bit too modern and have strayed too far from the roots of Johnny’s. They are happy about Naniwa Danshi though, because they are a new generation group that carries on that signature Johnny’s sound of yore. There is room for everyone at the company. While I’m not the biggest fan of this particular song, I realize that it does have a place. 6/10


4. Tutti Frutti

I wasn’t expecting a song called “Tutti Frutti” to basically be a jazzy, old school hip hip song. Quite a surprise! 7/10


5. I know

This one has a city pop feel that reminds me of “Prime Time”, but it’s like they turned it down a notch. 7/10



Here, Naniwa Danshi is going a more “contemporary”, aggressive sound, but honestly, it doesn’t feel that contemporary. It feels like something from last decade. Maybe they are just hopping on that sound before it becomes trendy again? 6.5/10


7. Wanna be yours

Right after “LAI-LA-LA”, and it really solidifies for me that I like Naniwa Danshi doing songs that are rooted in the past. This one is exactly that. It’s inoffensive and nostalgic. 7/10


8. マジック (Magic)

It has a nice nostaglic feel.. 7/10


9. Special Kiss

It’s sweet, but boring. 6/10


10. Tick Tack Heart

I’m not a fan of this one at all. It sounds like the theme song to a children’s mystery TV show.  5/10


11. Super Drivers !!

This one is a bit fun! I like the upbeat, surf vibe of this one. 6.5/10


12. ねぇ (Nee)

This one also sounds like a children’s TV show theme song, but it is a bit better than the last one. 6/10


13. Blue Story

There is some interesting guitar work in the beginning that brings to mind many pop rock songs of yore, but the song then turns into something a bit more typical Johnny’s. I wish it had stuck to its original sound more. 6/10


14. Melody

This really reminds me of one of Arashi’s more mellow songs. 6/10


15. Paradise

There is a stacked drum pattern in this song that keep it from being a typical Johnny’s song. That being said, I don’t like how much of this song is spoken as opposed to sung. I also don’t like chanting and wailing in the chorus. 6.5/10


16. ちゅきちゅきブリザード (Chuki Chuki Blizzard)

I said earlier that Naniwa Danshi should stick to older musical styles instead of newer one, but doing something more modern works here. I also like the incorporation of the India elements into the song. 7/10


Album average: 6.5/10

I didn’t really know what to expect with this release. I was actually pleasantly surprised by a lot of this album. There was a nice mix of sounds, even though they all didn’t appeal to me personally.


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