With no new single releases on the horizon for now, we decided that we would go back to the beginning and kick off our coverage of old singles by writing about Poppin’Party’s very first single on the 5-year anniversary of its release: Yes! BanG_Dream!, and its coupling track, Poppin’ Shuffle!
Both tracks were composed by Noriyasu Agematsu and arranged by Ryutaro Fujinaga, with lyrics by Kou Nakamura.
Dorian: “Yes! BanG_Dream!” has the somewhat unenviable task of introducing to the world not just Poppin’Party as a band, but the BanG Dream! franchise as a whole. It accomplishes this fairly well! It’s got a bouncy exuberant tone that accurately reflects the franchise’s overall vibe, and there’s some genuinely lovely guitar work from Tae Hanazono (Sae Otsuka) — I love the arpeggiated accompaniment to the verse, and the solo is solid. That said, I’ve never been a fan of the style of shout-singing that the band uses to bring in the chorus, and the song overall does suffer a bit when compared to PoPiPa’s later work, particularly given the absence of a keyboard part. At the time of recording, Arisa Ichigaya’s actress Ayasa Itou was not quite ready to perform live on piano, so the song was written without keys. It’s a little unfair to judge it in comparison to songs that had not yet been written when it was released, but in later PoPiPa work the keyboard often does a lot to shape the arrangement’s feel, and the absence here does leave the song seeming a little hollowed out in comparison. A couple of years after the single release, the band included an acoustic version on their first LP, and it’s interesting to compare the two and imagine what the keys might have sounded like on the full release.
Madi: As Dorian noted, these songs were written/recorded before Arisa was ready to play the keyboard live, so in lieu of a keyboard part, she plays the tambourine as pictured in the album art—with its real-life counterpart, of course—and often introduces herself as both Poppin’Party’s keyboardist and tambourinist in the real-life live shows. Ultimately, the tambourine does not add a whole lot to the track overall (the keyboard arrangement in the acoustic versions is much more interesting), but it is a cute touch. Overall, Yes! Bang_Dream! is a strong opening single: Aimi establishes her character voice as Kasumi Toyama right off the bat, and it features the fun, upbeat drums and colorful guitars we’ve come to know and love about Poppin’Party’s music. It’s since been eclipsed by their evolving discography, but it’s a nostalgic hit to come back to.
Dorian: If “Yes! BanG_Dream!” introduced the franchise, “Poppin’ Shuffle” does the same for Poppin’Party as a band. And it, like them, is a lot of fun. It’s not wildly complex musically, but that straight-ahead 4/4 rhythm, the handclaps, and those scalar melodies and walking bass give it a HUGE amount of momentum. It’s a toe-tapper in the most classic sense, sweeping you up in its forward motion. The cherry on top is the instrumental breakdown—drum solos are incredibly rare in the franchise, so Saaya Yamabuki (Ayaka Ohashi) getting to cut loose for a moment is a treat, and it’s great to hear the bass and guitar answer her in turn. Like Yes! BanG_Dream!, Poppin’ Shuffle has no keys part, but here the song feels much more complete without it.
Madi: Poppin’Shuffle is one of my favorite songs from the early Poppin’Party catalogue, and five years and (oh boy) fifteen singles later, I think it still holds up. It just has tremendous forward energy, and it’s a neat crystallization of the early quintessential PoPiPa vibe (which is why I think it was the perfect song for their home-made music video from season 3 of the anime). It is a truly dance-worthy bop, and that sick drum solo is a rare treat. The spotlight on bass and drums are like the icing on the cake for Poppin’Shuffle, and I would love to hear more of that in PoPiPa’s future work. The tambourine adds even less here than in Yes! BanG_Dream!, but that’s OK. We want Arisa to feel included.