“Sakura no Ki ni Narou”: A Pleasant Surprise

Ever since “River”, I’ve been nervous for what the next AKB single may bring; not necessarily expecting each single to top the prior, but to simply put out a release that I could be excited about.

2010 delivered in spades, pushing the bar with every single, with the exception of “Chance no Junban”, which was likely their “wind-down” single to cap off the year.  When it was announced that the 20th single would be another song akin to last year’s “Sakura no Shiori”, it became clear that Akimoto was on the verge of creating an annual tradition of making graduation songs.  It’s a market virtually untapped(at this scale) by any other idol group, and it would work tremendously to their advantage to do this while Japan is still in their heightened state of awareness about AKB48.

But like any single, I had my doubts.  To be honest, first impressions mean nothing to me, as the only song from 2010 that I loved immediately was “Beginner”.  “Heavy Rotation” took several days of listening before I warmed up to it, and “Ponytail to Shushu” took even longer.  “Sakura no Shiori” was a song I liked when it came out because it was something new and showed a different side of AKB.  But how would “Sakura no Ki ni Narou” be fresh and interesting?

The 30 second previews I heard of the “Sakura no Ki ni Narou” told me nothing besides that it was another slow, mellow single.  But upon watching and hearing the single and PV, I was pleasantly surprised.  It is a slow, ballad-like song, but it’s not mellow at all; the composition is actually impressively strong.  I would say it’s at least as powerful as “Sakura no Shiori”.  “Sakura no Shiori” utilizes the bold simplicity of a traditional choir, whereas “Sakura no Ki ni Narou” is more contemporary and more complex.  If I could compare this to any previously released AKB song, it would have to be the “Beginner” b-side song, “Kimi ni Tsuite”, which was a breath of fresh air (HAHA GET IT?  “MINT”?  BREATH OF FRESH AIR?!).  Many lines are distributed among groups of 2-3 members, and there are even solo lines, something that earlier singles had, but have been lacking as of late.  These are welcome additions, and gives a different feeling than their other releases from King Records.

While the song is good, the PV is what made me love it. I think it’s a great complimentary piece to the single.  It makes itself readily available for criticism since it only features six members for the majority of the video, but I think it was necessary for this PV.  First of all, this is probably the most narrative-driven music video I’ve seen from AKB, if not from idol music in general; to include every member in the PV would dilute the focus and impact that it currently has.

There have been plenty of lightly-narrative PVs before like “Oogoe Diamond”, “Iiwake Maybe”, and “Sakura no Hanabitarachi 2008”, but this music video is more akin to “Baby! Baby! Baby!”, “Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou”, and the original “Beginner” PV, which have a narrative, but take the interpretive and symbolic approach to telling the story instead of a straight-forward one.  I believe it’s much more impactful for the viewer to fill in the blanks than to be given all the details; by doing so, it lets the viewer participate and engage with the story instead of being a passive viewer.  And while the aforementioned PVs are generally touchy and risque in nature, “Sakura no Ki ni Narou” introduces no such controversy.

I won’t talk much about the content in the PV itself, other than that many fans are speculating that this music video is a companion-piece, if not a direct continuation of the story in the “10-nen Zakura” PV.  That alone makes it totally unique from the rest of their videography, and provides a strong and promising start to the year.

I woke up this morning with this song playing in my head, and I’ve been humming it ever since.  A good sign for any single.

‘Sakura no Ki ni Narou’
Releases February 16th, 2011


About Dae Lee

-Dae, aka Mizu -Writer, broadcaster, and podcaster on New School Kaidan

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