I love the idea of Japan’s sprawling, dozens-of-members-strong girl groups, but these large configurations make it difficult to find an entry point in the same way I can with smaller groups. Because of this, I often fall behind on releases by the various 46/48 artists. Then every once and awhile, a song like Sakurazaka46’s Dead End comes along and reminds me how potent this approach can be when firing on all cylinders.
Yesterday when writing about ITZY’s Swipe, I touched on the idea of genuine empowerment versus hollow pandering. I want to offer Dead End as a counterexample to Swipe. I also want to note that the idea of “empowerment” shouldn’t be gendered, as if female idols have to prove something their male counterparts don’t. But, it’s a buzzword these days so it’s best to tackle it head on. Though agency motives are all the same when it comes down to the nitty gritty (ie: money), I can’t help but see Dead End as a natural blast of empowering energy rather than a trendy idea of empowerment designed by agency-heads with dollar signs in their eyes.
Beyond Dead End’s authentic sense of purpose, the song itself is just really strong. As expected from the Sakamichi series, it’s overstuffed — bursting at the seams with blasts of brass, rollicking percussion and wordy melodies. But, I dare you not to get swept up in the towering sound presented here. Every element is lively and in your face, pushing the song to grow bigger and more bounding. The combination of brassy bombast, electric guitar and dynamic (almost samba) drumming craft an absolute beast of an instrumental. The melody is more one-note, but that matches Dead End’s single-minded momentum. These girls will surround you, rip your guts out and dance on the entrails. The fact that they make that such a thrilling experience is a testament to the power of their music.