Review Summary: Don't call it a comeback: the mega Japanese pop group break out of mediocrity, and make one of their most solid records since "Su".1 of 1 thought this review was well written
In history, very few pop groups are as long-running and historical as Japan's SMAP. While America had their boyband fads in the 90's and early 2000's (one might think of NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, earlier listeners might think of Menudo or New Kids on the Block). However, when the boyband fad tried to make a comeback, as well as some of the older groups, the response has been mediocre at best (far from the boyband craze in the 80's/90's/early 2000's), SMAP managed to remain highly relevant and are pushing highly impressive sales today. Love them or hate them, the group have been making Oricon toppers since their debut, and are among the most successful pop groups in history. However, the success may have gone to their heads a bit, since their last three albums have been either atrocious or mediocre, lacking material and ending up to be stale beyond belief. However, after a two year break, 2002's "Drink! SMAP!" proved to be one of their most satisfying released to date, and is full of feelgood tunes, without the boring and lagging sensation.
The album starts off with "Theme of 015", with children chanting the band's name, before kicking off into an energetic electro-dance track. A pretty good intro, however, being at a duration of 4-and-a-half minutes, it is a bit of an overkill. The album then officially starts off with "Go Now!", which is a R&B track, laced with electropop influences, that shows the members crooning frantically over the bubbly rhythm. A pretty bizarre track, but still a superb track at that. The album then goes off into "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana", which is one of SMAP's signature tracks. The track has a highly upbeat feel, with Celtic influences to match. This track alone brings the quality of the album sky-high, and is one of the most creative examples of mainstream pop in the last ten or so years. Although the lyrics may be nothing that special (the track talks about originality and being yourself), the main execution of the track makes it special. An outstanding track, with no wonder on how it got to be one of SMAP's most well known singles. The next track, "Jikan yo Tomare", is a solo track performed by Goro Inagaki, and is a silky-smooth R&B track, with progressive pop overtones and is another superb track for the highly effective album. "Over Flow" is another urban type track, however, with all of the damn-near perfect tracks thus far, it kind of buries the potential of "Over Flow" a bit. However, the track is still good, but not as good as the previous four tracks. The piano sample is a nice honorable mention as well.
The next track, "Zutto Zutto", is a solo upbeat pop track, performed by Takuya Kimura, which has a very nice melodious kick to it. The acoustic elements in the track make it a unique sunny solo track, by one of the most creative members of SMAP. The next track, "Jive", is one of the more stale tracks on the album, that has a disco-ish style, which failed other albums such ". However, since the album only has "Jive" with a disco-ish style, it's not that bad, especially since "People Song" comes on right after "Jive". "People Song" has a strong funk-driven beat, equipped with blaring trumpets and saxes. A song that saves the album from devastation. "Shiawase no Hate ni" is a track that slows the album down once more, with smooth crooning from the members over a nice, caressing rhythm. "It Can't Be" is a solo track from one of the head members of SMAP, Shingo Katori, is a surprisingly experimental track, which has R&B stabs all over the place, with power pop and rock-ish stabs as well, with slurred English lyrics from Shingo. A pretty bizarre and unique track that helps the album out tremendously. The next track, "Freebird" (with no relation at all Lynyrd Skynyrd), is another bubbly and upbeat R&B track by the SMAP boys, centered around an independent and upbeat sound. A very good track, and works good as a lead-in for the final track, "Five Respect", which is a six-minute crunchy electro track, and is another shocker for the seemingly mellow and R&B influenced album. The vocals are intense, and guitars are shredding all over the place in the track. A terrific and exciting closer for such a rewarding album.
In short, the only thing keeping "Drink! SMAP!" from being a straight classic is its length (almost an hour long). However, despite the overly-extended duration of the album, it is arguably one of their greatest accomplishments as a group. "Drink! SMAP!" has a unique pop sound to it, which breaks away from the boring and rather stale formula of their last three albums (for Christ's sake, don't even get near the "Amigo" album), and follows a unique and dynamic style, reminiscent to the "Su" album in many ways. All of these elements make "Drink! SMAP" one of the strongest albums in Japanese pop history.