J-pop powerhouse AKB48 shared their first new single of 2018 earlier today, and it has some pep to it. Titled “Ja-Ba-Ja,” it finds the biggie-sized outfit singing and dancing over a horn arrangement that adds some welcome force to their style. Watch the video below.
So let’s tackle the title right away — what exactly does “Ja-Ba-Ja” mean? Based on some research (admittedly, done while brewing up morning coffee), it appears to mean nothing. Member Anna Iriyama tweeted that AKB themselves “coined” the word, before failing to elaborate on anything else about it. Japanese idol blog Scramble Egg, meanwhile, says she went on to say it specifically has no meaning. Sorry fans of old cartoon character Jabberjaw, your hopes of a revival have just been dashed.
Think of “Ja-Ba-Ja” as one of those nonsense phrases, simply meant to serve as motivation to have a good time. The verses of the group’s 51st single focus on the nerves one has before letting go, while the chorus finds the protagonist...well, giving themselves over to a good time with help from those three syllables.
Ultimately, it just sounds good over all of that brass, which is the real highlight of the number. AKB’s whole vocal approach is to have a lot of voices sing at once, an effect that can be off-putting in quieter moments. But the horns just go off here, and it helps make the impact of the outfit’s singing all the better.
The brass band touch also contributes to the theme of “Ja-Ba-Ja’s” video, which is “school festival.” Though, to be fair, a big chunk of AKB48’s videography takes place in school, so it isn’t that unique of a concept. Far more attention grabbing is the idol group’s colorful outfits, and maybe something that the media (or maybe AKB’s press release) dubs the “Ja-Ba-Ja dance.” It weaves in nicely with the outfit’s history of trying to start dance crazes, but even if it doesn’t take off, center Nana Okada can rest easy knowing she pulls the moves off pretty well.
The song officially goes on sale March 14.
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