All My Love

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Japanese pop has a fascination with boy bands (many of which are starting to age, but retaining their fan base), and a fascination with teen and preteen girl bands. There aren't too many teen boy bands around. Enter Korea's SS501 with formulaic ballads and there's a sudden bout of success waiting to happen. Indeed, All My Love (titled entirely in English, sung in Japanese, and performed by Koreans) quickly found its way onto the Oricon charts upon its release in May 2009. The sound from the boys is particularly tame, crooning with thin voices and harmonizing lightly with one another. When they pump the energy up a bit, the sound is that of a stage piece: clearer dance beats, cartoon-based sound effects, pauses for posing. There's a contemporary element to the music, hyper-produced and gentrified as it is. At the same time, some of the melodic structures hearken to J-Pop of times past. Despite the obvious energy and the production values, it seems that the quintet is phoning it in more often than not. There's pop value in the work, but those looking for some good J-Pop boy bands would do better to listen to some of the "elders" of the movement -- SMAP, Arashi, possibly Tohoshinki (also a Korean crossover, just like SS501). SS501's got some potential, but this album isn't there yet. They need more time to mature in their abilities before they can offer new sounds to their listeners.