J-POP / REVIEWS

[Review][Single] FT Island – “Distance”

I’m just going to kick things off by saying that as of right now I am far more in favor of pop-rock boy band FT Island‘s Japanese material to their Korean stuff, and I say that with all the sincerity in my heart, because I really love these guys.

FT Island are one of the few Kpop artists who’ve been continuously active in Japan for the last few+ years and it’s been interesting hearing how their music has developed along the way. Venturing to Japan (or any market other than your own) brings its challenges, a big one being the reinterpretation phase of molding an artist’s own sound to fit the Japanese market at large. FT Island have been toying with this forev’s and it has finally started to feel like they’ve come to grips with a perfectly comfortable J-pop flavor that sounds just right for them overseas and that also echos their Korean style so it resonates with all their Primadonnas back home.

Last month, FT Island dropped their newest Japanese single, “Distance” and as I was listening to it, one good way I came to describe it was as a satisfying sequel to their magnificent 2009 release, “Raining“.

In many ways, “Distance” and “Raining” are pretty much the same song. Both have an underlying piano melody, a colorful string section and front-man Lee Hongki and bassist Lee Jae jin divvying up the vocal leads. Even the middle eight in both songs are questionably similar, but where these songs differ is in their tone. There’s a certain calmness to “Raining” that I don’t quite get from “Distance”. In “Distance”, the phrases are filled with plenty more drive and tension that give it a sense of melodrama, which, if you don’t know, is one word that goes swimmingly well with FT Island.

I’d say FT Island were at their most angst-y a few years ago, with songs like “Bad Woman” and “Girls Don’t Know” sucking the living daylights out of their poor little souls. However, their display of emotion (as with any boy band) has always seemed to trigger a deep connection to their audience, myself included – not to mention FT Island have been tapping into that very same angst for so many years, that they’ve pretty much become pros at it. Even these days, when they’re visibly less in the dumps than before, FT Island still manage to give their songs a well dosage of drama because that’s just what they do. And what they like.

“Distance” is one of FT Island’s latest works that isn’t necessarily mind-blowing, yet feels like it has gone back to its roots more than anything. The composition feels familiar, yet FT Island’s delivery is mature, sophisticated and genuine. It comes across as a song that was completely thought out by (or for) FT Island and nobody else. It’s everything I would want these guys to feed into their Korean material, because it sounds like themselves and the FT Island I remember loving to begin with. I’m hoping they do the say back home very soon.

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5 thoughts on “[Review][Single] FT Island – “Distance”

  1. Yay…I requested for this song to be reviewed…thanks! I mostly agree with you, I think FT Island’s Japanese releases are usually better than their Korean ones but rather than the angst, I think it’s because they get more freedom to play what they want the way they want (many of the members write the music and lyrics for some of their japanese stuff) and most importantly they can play live.

    • Very good points! Knowing that idols venture into the Japanese market with very different strategies intrigues me, especially when they’re allowed a lot more creative freedom than in Korea. It’s an odd truth, but it obviously reaps the rewards eventually.

      • To be honest, I think FT Island’s management did a fantastic thing sending them to Japan in their early years and not just as part of the kpop wave, because it has made them mature so much more as musicians. A lot of ppl disagree because it lost them their tremendous popularity which they had when they debuted but if they had stayed in Korea, then I don’t think they would have had the motivation to grow as much and perhaps would have been happy to be stuck in that “Idol band” mindset . Going to Japan for FT Island (and CN Blue as well I guess) holds a lot more significance in terms of their development as musicians then it does for other Kpop artists in my opinion, mainly because it was necessary for them to experience the band culture where it is nurtured properly (which doesn’t seem to be the case in mainstream music in Korea unfortunately) for them to truly appreciate and understand it (not that I’m a music expert or anything). I think they still have the potential to grow a lot more though, so it would be interesting to see the turn their music makes when they go to other countries where bands are mainstream like USA or UK (come to UK FT Island…..pleeeeeease!). Anyway, this is just my opinion…..sorry for the extra looong essay!

  2. They are releasing their korean Rock-Ballad Mini Album in early Feb2012. Hope it doesn’t disapoint us.

    Btw McRoth, CN Blue and FTIsland will be performing a join concert at Nokia Theatre, LA on 9 March. Hope you can attend and give us good review. Cheers!! :)

  3. Pingback: Month In KPOP – January « McRoth's Residence

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