Kaito’s in Japan this week! So while he’s in his element, I’m taking over J-Pop Sunday. And I’m going to kick off my reign of terror by introducing you all to the band that first made me fall in love with J-music, and that’s UVERworld!
Act Name: UVERworld
Years Active: 2003-present
Notable Singles: “CHANCE!” (2005), D-techno life (2005), Colors Of The Heart (2006), Hakanaku mo Towa no Kanashi (2008), Gold (2010), Baby Born & Go/Kinjito (2011)
Number of members with strange symbols in their name: 1 (TAKUYA∞)
UVERworld are one of the biggest selling rock bands in Japan. They’ve sold over two million records worldwide and they have a name that’s easily pronounced by an ignorant Western tongue. They formed in 2003 in Kutsasu, Shiga under the name Sound Goku Road and originally featured seven members. However, after their first few demos, their number dropped to five and Takuya took up main vocals. Their big break came in 2005 when they got signed by Gr8! Records, the label that also plays host to Orange Range and Yui among others. It was only a matter of time before they burst onto the scene with the album TimeLess. TimeLess is a pop tour de force, with some of the best vocal hooks around and some interesting rapping. There’s some hilarious Engrish lyrics (my favourite being “don’t stop the lovin’” in “ai ta kokoro”) but the guitar is positively insane. On a sheer technical level, UVERworld outrank their closest Western contemporaries by a country mile. And they dress better, as you can see in this live performance of Chance!:
I first found out about them thanks to Japan’s insistence on slamming entirely inappropriate songs onto opening credits for anime. This is a big deal for bands over there; it essentially means you’ve got it made. UVERworld were extremely fortunate to have some of their earliest tracks as opening themes – “D-techno life” became the second opening theme for Bleach. If you don’t know Bleach, just know that it’s absolutely HUGE in the anime world. However, my curiosity was peaked slightly later. For me, Blood+ took on a whole new significance as “Colors Of The Heart” absolutely decimated my musical landscape.
While Kaito is a consummate professional and finds the official videos, my Japanese is far too bad for that so have the opening to Blood+
“Colors Of The Heart” hit number 3 in the Oricon charts, their highest chart position at that point. Following that success, UVERworld’s second album, BUGRIGHT, came out in 2007. Now, while TimeLess is pretty poppy in places, it also has some surprisingly dark turns, taking cues from nu-metal and industrial in places. This element is almost completely gone with BUGRIGHT, instead focusing on high-octane rock extravaganzas, funky acoustic numbers and some gratuitous saxophone. However, none of it feels over the top; it’s still extremely fun, very intricate and perfect for summer festivals. And there’s a few power ballads, Japanese style, thrown in for good measure:
The acoustic version of “Kimi no Suki na Uta” has become far more popular than the original.
UVERworld are pretty prolific. It amazes me how many Japanese bands manage to get out as many albums as they do, especially keeping the quality so high. PROGLUTION (have you noticed a proclivity for caps lock in their albums names yet?) was released in 2008 and was UVERworld’s longest album to date. PROGLUTION showed the band begin to incorporate far more electronic elements into their sound as well as taking back some of the heavier elements from TimeLess. They began experimenting with instrumentals and clearly had a lot of fun. Plus the haircuts got even more fashionable. This wasn’t enough for the band though, and they released a series of singles. One of these, “Gekido” would become the opening theme track for D.Gray-Man, and “Hakanaku mo Towa no Kanashi” (儚くも永久のカナシ?) became UVERworld’s first number one! I can see exactly why, it’s a positively brilliant track.
Broken down houses are always perfect for music videos.
Since PROGLUTION, UVERworld have released FOUR MORE ALBUMS. That’s right. Since 2008, they’ve had an album out every year; most recently, The One. I regretfully didn’t manage to catch up with all of them, but all of the singles have been absolutely gold. And not just the one called “Gold” either – which incidentally was the first 3D music video released in Japan. One thing that I have learnt during the course of this article is that lots of people like to shift the pitch of UVERworld songs up so it sounds like a woman singing. If anyone can enlighten me as to how this trend began, I’ll give you internet cookies. And if nothing else has convinced you as to just how brilliant UVERworld really are, then hopefully this will:
That’s all from me this week! I may well be back for next week’s instalment, not talking about any projects involving TM Revolution. I promise, Kaito!