Saishuheiki Kimi” is a digital single by Japanese pop rock band SCANDAL. It was released on November 6 and is the third single of the group under their newly-established band-run music label “her“, after “Masterpiece/Blink” and “Fuzzy“. The lyrics were written by drummer/vocalist Rina Suzuki, and the music was composed by lead guitarist/vocalist Mami Sasazaki.

The song starts with a thirty-five-second-long intro: a very catchy riff in the back and a tasty guitar lick in the front. As soon as the first verse kicks in, we hear Haruna‘s sweet and melodic voice, which directly contrasts the rough sound of the guitars and drums in the background. Her vocals are interestingly layered with auto-tune, something very rarely used by SCANDAL. The pre-chorus is mostly instrumental— a new guitar riff with only one line sung at the end of the it. All instruments pause before this line, making the acapella auto-tuned vocals iconic and memorable. The drums, guitars, and vocals all come to a crescendo in the chorus, where all the momentum built-up is released. The chorus is so catchy and repetitive, you’ll often find yourself humming along to its tune for a few days. The riff that is first used in the intro before the first verse is then reused in the interlude between chorus and the second verse— a practice not commonly seen in this genre. At the start of the bridge, Rina performs a drum solo with dreamy vocals in the background, producing an angelic vibe, reminiscent of utopia. Towards the end, the band incorporates synths that slowly fade out to create an illusion of a false ending. Then, the chorus picks up again. Just when you thought SCANDAL wouldn’t be able to surprise you anymore, they did another unexpected move— they used the post-chorus/pre-verse riff again as an outro.

The title, “Saishuheiki Kimi“, roughly translates to “the ultimate weapon is you“. It is also the song’s hook. The lyrics encourage listeners to embrace their individuality. It starts off by comparing life to an inescapable game. In order to escape and destroy the rigid days, individuals must break through their only obstruction— their timid self. The chorus makes use of repetition to reinforce the song’s message— that you only have to be yourself and do things in your own way and at your own pace. The second verse takes on a darker tone, as it talks about the difficulties of each day. When all hope is lost and the tears accumulate, the song tells the listener to just hang on because the day is still worthwhile.

The metaphors used in the lyrics were fascinating as we often hear of life being compared to a game— you win some, you lose some. However, in “Saishuheiki Kimi“, SCANDAL alludes to an “ultimate weapon“, a powerful instrument often found in games to make winning easier. This implies that the secret to life (the game) is your own self (the ultimate weapon), and by discovering and embracing your true self, everything will become simpler. They also use several other words to further reference games— such as “escape“, “enemy“, and “lose“. Although life is a game, individuals cannot choose to avoid it by merely ignoring it. If one refuses to play, the world would keep on moving without them, so the best way to triumph is to just take part in the game. An “enemy” is also mentioned— someone who must be defeated to succeed. It is said that one’s timid self is the enemy, so they must defeat their timid self in order to win in life. Lastly, they talked about never giving up. In a game, no matter how hopeless the situation is, as long as one perseveres and keep on playing, they will eventually emerge victorious in the end.

In accordance with the song’s message, the music video also tries to show each member’s individuality. Aside from the parts where they all perform together, all member have their own scene where only they exist in that space. Rina plays the drums in a garage, Tomomi plays the bass in an apartment unit, Mami plays lead guitar in a billiards parlor, and Haruna roams around singing in her own world. The members are very colorful in the music video, from their hair to their outfits. Even if you weren’t familiar with the group, you would not get confused about who each member is, as they all look very distinct from each other. I particularly loved the use of colours in the music video during the bridge. The colorful smoke in this scene further enhanced the feeling of a utopia, created by the vocals and drums. There were also a lot of close-ups on the members, vividly showed their expressions, which amplified the aesthetics of the music video. Haruna, in particular, really shined here. She was styled prettily, from her short blue hair and bright red lipstick to her oversized jacket. She also showed a lot of interesting expressions and actions to the camera, which highlighted her charm even more.

Although the music video is somewhat plain and simply highlights the members’ charisma, its simplicity allowed me to really focus on the music. The director of the music video stated that he wanted the power of “Saishuheiki Kimi” to sink into the colorful, boorish, and edgy visuals. He wanted to focus on the members and their performances, ensuring that they stood out and were cool. He hoped for people to feel the power of SCANDAL‘s music through the music video. Personally, I thought the director accomplished his goal. Throughout the music video, we saw the members doing whatever they wanted to do, and their individuality was shown by giving each one of them their own scenes.

Overall, the song was very pleasant to listen to. A lot of techniques and styles that weren’t normally used in their other tracks were included here. Many sections were unusual but the band made these sections unforgettable after only a few listens. Nevertheless, the song contains elements that might not appeal to some listeners. For example, the guitars used heavy distortion which might not be appreciated by others. Despite being someone who is not a fan of hard rock or metal, however, I liked how the distortion blended with the track. Another element that might turn people off is the auto-tuned vocals. Although I don’t like how unnatural the vocals sounded, I thought it was used in an artistic and stylistic way for this track. The members also conveyed their message of individuality through their instruments. Haruna seamlessly utilizes the auto-tuned vocals to make her voice sound unique, without sounding annoying. However, this is done intermittently, to leave a feeling of yearning in listeners. Mami had a total of three different riffs, which were all equally as enthralling. The main riff was used three times, but it never sounded overused. All instances of it felt natural. Although drums are rarely noticed, Rina had a lot of moments where you couldn’t help but appreciate her brilliant skills- especially during the main riff, the pre-chorus, the chorus, and the bridge. Even though it was hard to detect the bass with an untrained ear and due to the heavy distortion, it was always present and served as the secret ingredient that completed and perfected the sound. Tomomi did not have any solo, but her significance was no less than the others as, without her, the song would be disjointed.

Artistic Creativity: 8.5/10
Vocal Quality: 10/10
Music: 9/10