Review Summary: An album that forever changed the face of Japanese pop, and revolutionized a new, crisp, electro-fronted pop style, which would continue to be popular today.
In the mid-90's, electropop within Japan was starting to come around in full circle. Initially sparked by groups like Yellow Magic Orchestra and P-Model in the late 70's and early 80's, the movement initially followed a much more non-commercial, experimental style, which would give birth to groups like Hikashu and Uchoten a few years later, both of whom manipulated the electropop style with a new wave style, and both of whom enjoyed a loyal underground following. However, as soon as the labels saw commercial potential in the electropop scene, the electropop scene became gradually more commercial in terms of sound, and lost much of its avant-garde roots as it matured. Throughout the 80's, groups like TM Network and Boowy were responsible with launching new wave to a mainstream market in Japan, while the more electropop sound remained in hiding. However, by the early 1990's, groups like Access, TRF and Two-Mix were beginning to bring the electropop sound back to commercial success, but none of those groups... and I repeat NONE OF THOSE GROUPS, launched a more superior electropop reign than Globe. Formed in 1995 by producer-musician icon, Tetsuya Komuro, Globe created a fresh, new style in the J-pop world which combined rave-esqued elements with traditional, everyday 90's J-pop. The sound was unlike anything Japan has ever experienced before, and their first four albums managed to sell a million copies. However, their 1996 self-titled debut album (which is currently their highest-selling album to date, selling 4 million copies) started their journey to becoming J-pop gods (and a goddess). With smooth driving J-pop stylings mixed together with frantic, dance-driven ditties, Globe's self-titled album has the ability to channel the poppy kid in everyone, and showed Japan what the future of J-pop would look like.
The album starts off with "Give You", a soft, piano minute-long introduction, with frontwoman Keiko crooning along the piano track, with an orchestra of vocalists echoing her. The album then officially kicks off with "Feel Like Dance", the group's groundbreaking debut single. With a Eurobeat styled introduction, and raps by the cheesy-entitled member Marc Panther, the song then breaks off into an impressive track full of synthy progressions, penetrable bass and sugary vocalization from Keiko. The track ends up being a hell of an earworm, which will linger among the listener's consciousness for a while. The power dance ballad, "Gonna Be Alright", comes on, which starts off with rising synths, and then blasts off with a frantic keyboard sample, and with Keiko frantically rapping alongside the looped track. The track ends up being an unorthodox gem, with tons of samples thrown all over the place, and Keiko's admirable attempts at pop rapping along the dance-laced uplifting track. "Departures" is one of the group's signature songs, period, and follows the pattern of a soft piano, with sugary pounds of electro-dance pop stomping all over the track. The sheer, heartfelt melody within the track, mixed with a chugging, addictive track makes "Departures" an absolute keeper. "Regret of the Day" is a ridiculously upbeat track which follows slightly in the footsteps of "Gonna Be Alright", only a hell of a more upbeat in terms of sound. The song ends up reflecting briefly to the new wave style of groups like TM Network (whom TK was a member of), and is a bubbly, upbeat piece of Japanese pop. "Joy to the Love", another one of Globe's more popular songs, is a song that inserts R&B influences within the dance-centered album. The emotion within the track (executed wonderfully by Keiko), with the galactic-urban style, makes the track another shiny gem within the wonderful album.
However, the album's finest moment is about to come. "Sweet Pain" experiments with a dramatic collision of electropop and various worldly elements. In the song, keyboards, electric guitars and tightly digitized strings play huge parts in what makes the song grand, and puts the song on a pedestal for being one of the most addictive and whimsical songs to grace the Japanese pop mainstream. The sheer pop appeal and creativity of the track makes it a shoe-in for being the album's absolute finest moment. "Always Together" is the key power ballad of the album, and follows a theatrical sound, rich in synthesized atmosphere and absolute melodic goodness. The track, while not being the most exciting song on the album, is definitely an impressive piece that appropriately demonstrates Globe's ability to access the silky center of the heartstrings of listeners. An interestingly moving, romantic track. "Precious Memories" is another ballad-like track which centers around the diverse vocalization of Keiko, as both high and lows are orchestrated in the track. A nice little interlude in the album, and shows Keiko's ability as a vocalist. "Freedom" comes on to revive the energy of the album, and has a house-like punch to it, with electric guitars guiding the song's direction and sound. The song is sheer pop brilliance, as it manages to play with the genres of funk, house, hip hop and post-disco, all accompanied with a striking electric guitar. A diverse track, and one of the better tracks to slowly close up the album with. The album's last true song, "Music Takes Me Higher", is an addictive piece of dance-pop, accompanied with raps by Marc Panther. Not much to say about the track, other than it follows a simple pattern of straight dance-pop which cluttered the European charts all throughout the 90's (and somewhat overseas, with groups like Ace of Base, Aqua and Vengaboys leading the dance-pop craze in the US charts). Addictive, but not much to it. The album then gently closes off with "Lights Out", a gentle piano track. The song efficiently closes up one of Japan's greatest, commercially and critically, pop albums to date.
In short, Globe's 1996 self-titled debut album revolutionized a whole new approach to Japanese pop, shedding the concept of an "idol" group, in trade of a brand new, futuristic electropop styling. The electropop style which Globe sparked to superstar heights would be existent today, with groups like Perfume, Capsule, and, perhaps the most influenced by Globe's style, Girl Next Door, dominating the charts. Without Globe's humongous, overwhelming success in the mid-late 90's, it can be doubtful that the aforementioned groups would've enjoyed the amount of fame that they're experiencing now. In a nutshell, Globe's debut manages to break the mold of bubblegum, giggly pre-pubescent type of pop, and enters the world of a much more mature, yet still highly acquirable, style. With the type of innovative movement Globe sparked in the world of commercial music, Japan has yet to see another movement and group as radically gripping in modern music like the Globe movement.