Gosh, all this technopop and idol pop I've been reviewing lately, it's really given me a craving for some good ol' fashioned rock. Or pop rock. Or idol rock. I'm willing to compromise.
Well, I haven't reviewed Scandal in awhile, so it's about time I took a look at what they've been up to lately! Which is apparently releasing a single that I should have reviewed a month ago. Oh well, I had exams to finish and projects to complete. I did want to review Departure, their latest single, because I know I've got a few Scandal fans who read my blog. And I haven't reviewed any of their material since they released Standard back in November. I know that they released Count Zero/Runners High with TM Revolution, and I'd planned on reviewing that. I really did, until school stuff got in the way and I just kind of... forgot about that single. Oh well, my abridged opinion of Runners High is that it's a pretty decent song. There you go, moving on to Departure! So as the first official single after Standard, how does it kick off Scandal's newest era? Let's find out!
There are three different covers for Departure, and they're all collages. One edition has bigger picture of Haruna and Mami in one collage, and Tomomi and Rina in the other. I think they're really nicely done. The pictures are just simple shots of the girls posing and doing various activities, but there's something very soothing about it. I think the covers make them look very grown-up. I mean, compare their earlier single/album covers with the one now. The girls of Scandal are no longer in high school; they're grown adults, and these covers showcase a more adult image that really makes you see how much time has gone by since the days of Doll and Shoujo S. Where was I? Ah, right, the covers. Yeah, they look really pretty, and I'm happy with them. But if there's one thing music has taught me, it's that you never judge a song by its cover art. So let's depart from talking about the covers for Departure.
I cannot remember this song. Or at least I couldn't remember it when I started writing this review. And I'd listened to this song several times so I could write about it. I've had to play Departure about 10-20 times to finally remember how it sounded. And yeah, that alone should explain that Departure is not an interesting song. I mean, it kind of nice-sounding, but there are lots of nice-sounding songs that don't sound this lifeless and dull. Actually... okay, this is gonna sound crazy, but do you know what Departure reminds me most of? A Passpo song. A boring Passpo song like Growing Up or Truly. I'm serious, you could have switched the vocals of Scandal with the ones of Passpo, and it wouldn't sound out of place at all. I know I'm sounding harsh, but there's just not a distinctive sound to Departure. Which isn't always a bad thing, but I've heard this song in several other Scandal songs, Passpo songs, and pop rock songs in general. Departure is like... bran flakes. Bran flakes won't hurt you or kill you, but they do absolutely nothing for you other than prevent you from starving. Reviewing this song is like asking me to review bran flakes. I don't have anything that bad to say about Departure, but there's nothing of substance for me to review. I don't mean to sound so harsh, because I want to like this song. I do! But what is there to like that I can't find in better Scandal songs?
There is a PV for Departure, but like several of their other PVs, it's just a nicely edited live performance with the audio playing over it. There isn't much to say about it. The one thing that did throw me off when watching the PV for the first time was seeing the violinists playing in the background. I mean, did anyone else hear violins in the song? I don't have an ear trained to picking out certain sounds, but I didn't hear any violins. Maybe they were told to play pianissimo? But the violinists did make me think that maybe what could have helped Departure would have been a more orchestral sound. In its current state, Departure is a generic, vaguely nice-sounding pop-rock song. However, with some strings? Or even a piano? I just think some kind of orchestral instrumentation could have really improved the song and given it a more distinct sound. But they didn't, and Departure leaves little to no impression with me. I don't want to sound so harsh, but Scandal can do better. Now that I think about it more though, I really would like to hear Scandal tackle a more orchestra-based song. I know it would be against their whole "band" image, but it wouldn't kill them to try it for one song, would it?
I gotta give Departure two-and-half apples. It's an average Scandal song and a really average song in general. I guess if you're a die-hard Scandal fan, you'll like this song? Personally, I've heard better from Scandal, and honestly, I'm already starting to forget how Departure sounded...
So fun fact, Rainy was used in the Japanese soundtrack for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones or as it was titled n Japan, Shadow Hunter. It's okay if you have no idea what movie I'm talking about, it was a very forgettable movie adapted from an equally forgettable book. Luckily, Rainy is not as forgettable as Departure. It definitely has a stronger opening, with a pretty sick guitar riff. It reminds me a bit of Shunkan Sentimental although not as loud. I think that Rainy could have benefitted from being a bit louder though. I mean, when I play Shunkan Sentimental, it just bursts in with such an explosive instrumental. Rainy tries to do the same thing, but then the song tones down after that opening and the vocals kick in. And then it just stays at that same level of energy into the chorus. Which isn't bad, this song isn't terrible at all. Again, it has a more memorable sound than Departure. And I think it works pretty well as a movie theme. It's a shame though that it's the theme used for such a quickly-forgotten movie. Seriously, the only thing I took away from City of Bones was that Johann Sebastian Bach was a shadowhunter. I'm not kidding, master Baroque composer Bach was a shadowhunter, pass it on.
Similar with Departure, I want to like Rainy. Mainly because it is a better song than Departure, and I do like that it has a harder sound. I think Scandal has some great pop-rock songs, but I like when they venture more toward straight up rock like in Queens are trumps, Scandal Nanaka Buttobase, Roppongi Shinjuu, and Shunkan Sentimental. And Rainy does serve as a contrast to the smoother, more laid back sound of Departure. But I feel like again, Rainy could have been a more hardcore song. Maybe with louder guitars, harsher vocals, a shot of energy. Seriously, Rainy sounds so simultaneously energetic and unenergetic, I'm not sure which one it sounds more like. It's like Haruna sounds so... distant when singing the song. I don't know how to explain it. Rainy ends up sounding mostly like a watered-down Shunkan Sentimental. It's softer, less abrasive, and ultimately doesn't leave as much of an impact. But I don't think it's absolutely forgettable! The chorus holds up pretty well, and again, the opening instrumental does leave a pretty great impression when you first hear it. But as the song goes on though, Rainy kind of loses momentum and goes from being a potentially great song to a frustratingly decent song. I think I'll just stick with Shunkan Sentimental.
I'll give Rainy 3.5 apples. A notch above being simply okay, but not quite enough to be considered a 4-apple song. At least not in to my ears. If I had to pick between Departure and Rainy though, I definitely think Rainy would have worked better as the A-side. Maybe they could have had a music video showing the members of Scandal fighting demons!
You know, there are many days when I really don't know what my stance on Scandal is. The inner Zone fan in me keeps me coming back to their music, but when singles like Departure come along, I do kind of feel my interest waning in them. But then they come along with a good B-side or even a great album song. Still, the last A-side that I really really loved from Scandal was Love Survive, and that was way back in 2011. Their singles after that have ranged from decent to forgettable, but nothing has really grabbed me. And Departure certainly isn't breaking that trend. I kind of thought that Departure might grow on me if I gave it some time, but no, it's still... average. A dull and average pop-rock song whose only distinction is that it sounds like a dull and average Passpo song. I want to like this song, because there are J-pop songs out there that are so much worse than Departure. Hello Kitty is much worse than Departure. I know that's technically not a J-pop song, I just thought I'd remind everyone that Hello Kitty is a terrible song. But anyways, while Departure isn't terrible, it's just so very forgettable. Again, if you're a huge Scandal fan, then maybe you'll like this more than I do. Maybe there's some hidden innovation in the instrumental of the song, I don't know.
Rainy fares a bit better than Departure, but the B-side doesn't make me climb to the roof of my house and proclaim that it "saves" the single or anything like that. I mean, it's a decent song to listen to and definitely sticks in your head more than Departure. And again, Rainy and Departure do thankfully sound different from each other. I'd rather listen to two okay-ish songs that sound different than two okay-ish songs that sound exactly the same. I think my biggest problem with Departure is that despite the title, there is nothing new here. Scandal is treading old ground with both the songs on this single. Departure is them defaulting to a calmer sound that sacrifices any originality, and Rainy is the poor man's Shunkan Sentimental. Both songs aren't terrible, but together on one single, they don't offer much to the table. If I were going to introduces someone to Scandal, it wouldn't be with either one of these songs. Neither song on Departure showcases Scandal at their best, and that's a darn shame but so be it. But I know that Scandal can do better. Hell, they have done better. Oh well, Scandal's releasing another single in July. Maybe that'll be more promising than Departure.
I guess I'll give Departure 3 apples. I mean, I'm gonna have to tackle AKB48's Labrador Retriever at some point during this month, so in comparison, Departure is better than that. A lot of songs are, but that's a discussion for another review. Departure is a listenable single, but that's not pretty much it. Unless you're a huge fan of Scandal, then everything on this single is just nice on the ears and that's it. As a casual fan, I'll hold out for something better than Departure though.