Monday, June 17th, 2019

King Gnu – Hakujitsu

“Tokyo new mixture style,” they say…


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Ryo Miyauchi: The grizzled King Gnu looked like the odd one out when they played Music Station back in April, not only in appearance — they shared the room with AKB48 and JYJ’s Jaejoong — but when they played a new track in between acts booked to play Heisei’s classics. The biggest hook for what M-Ste touted as the program’s last Heisei broadcast was Noriyuki Makihara performing “Sekaini Hitotsudake No Hana” — one of the era’s best-selling singles, which he wrote for the era’s biggest boy band, SMAP. “Who?” may as well had been a valid question on audience’s minds and yet getting King Gnu to perform their new hit “Hakujitsu” was the perfect choice as a hint to what to expect as Heisei recedes into view. The band not only sounds like today’s rock wearing some retro-funk sensibilities, it also got its spot on TV in the most current way: through gaining big traction in streaming charts. Singer Daiki Tsuneta squeezes every bit of pain out of his words of heartbreak, intensely longing to wipe out every memory for a clean slate. When he sings those lyrics of starting anew on live TV, it also slyly echoes this feeling of an arrival of a new guard.
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Julian Axelrod: My only previous exposure to King Gnu was the thrilling, frantic “Sorrows,” so maybe I’m the sucker for finding this boy band “Stereo Hearts” redux disappointing. Points for versatility, I guess.
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Tim de Reuse: From charming enthusiasm into infectious energy into second-act exhaustion into one of the most tonally disorienting climaxes I’ve heard in something selling itself as “pop.” Desperately in need of a quiet bridge where our ears get a chance to figure out what key we’re supposed to be in.
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Alfred Soto: I admire its determination to shift among three inconclusive and tentative musical sections — maybe it’s three? It’s hard to tell. Not a pleasant listen, though.
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Kalani Leblanc: “Hakujitsu”‘s YouTube views and placement on the Oricon chart would suggest something with more flair or un je ne sais quoi. I didn’t think something could be dramatic while boring till now. This is nothing I’d take time out of my day to listen to, but would gladly reenact every dramatic vocal switch and heightening in a karaoke performance. 
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Iris Xie: “Sometimes I do not realize the crime I committed/until I hurt or lose someone/before I knew it” opens a splendid song that makes full use of King Gnu’s dynamism to flow through different attitudes towards one’s coping with sadness about an ended relationship. I love how the quieter parts transition back and into each other, and how the arrangement moves through all the different stages of that grief and contemplation about the mistakes and responsibility one has in an ended relationship, fluidly dialing the emotion up and down to match each of the states. I also appreciate how the textures of their singing voices contrast, one thin and delicate, and another one warmer and huskier. It’s such a detailed and full-bodied song in its warmth and vulnerability, but the lyrics really tie everything together and shift between melancholy about meeting one’s former relationship and contemplation about the mechanics of one’s existential continuation. The brighter and more defiant instrumentation matches the verses, while the more contemplative parts communicate the sadness. What stands out to me is the imagery used throughout the song, specifically the line: “You cannot go back to old days anymore/even if you envy/You must start walking for tomorrow/even if it snows hard.” In contrast with Hatchie’s “Stay With Me,” which is submerged in interiority, “Hakujitsu” concerns the emotion of one who is hurting, but hanging on tighter to coping mechanisms that would bring them back to this world, as an attempt to recover from a hopeless situation. It is an excellent example of how to portray these multiple, cyclical states without being overstuffed or gaudy. 
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Joshua Minsoo Kim: For a song about regretful mistakes and wanting second chances, “Hakujitsu” is wise to let its stream of consciousness lyrics find a partner in such restless instrumentation. The vocal melodies ultimately drive the song, forcing you to hear out Daiki Tsuneta as he pours out his heart. His voice wavers between anxiety-ridden and achingly beautiful, but the clarity of his emotions is never once lost on the listener.
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