Here ye, here ye, here ye! The CIRCUS is now in town! Come on, come all! After over a year since their major debut with Never going back, MADKID has finally released their first major album as a mainstream dance and vocal group: CIRCUS. I’m really glad that the highly-anticipated album has finally arrived, both digitally and physically! I downloaded the digital version on both Apple Music and Spotify last night 1 and had a chance to delve deeper in the tracks while anticipating for the CD. Lucky for me, as of this writing, it’s still Wednesday, 4/24/19, here in the U.S. West Coast. CD Japan has been kind and generous that the CD was shipped and arrived at my doorstep at the most perfect time.
I only ordered Type A this time, mainly because of the DVD extra. I’ve never been to a MADKID one-man live 2 before, and I’m glad that they’re putting concert footage of these one-man live tours in the DVD extras. This time, the GIANT KILLING live tour is included in the DVD. I’ll watch and review that later when I have time to watch. More info about the contents of CIRCUS is posted here.
Because this is an album review, not a single review like I’ve done with their first singles, this review will be a little different. There may be some semi-autobiography bits throughout this review as there are some stories behind each of the tracks included in CIRCUS, both MADKID’s and my own.
About the Album Title
When I think of a circus, I think of a traveling troupe of performers, showing off and entertaining their audience with their skills and talent while they present themselves in different outfits, faces, and expressions. Each act is unique and exotic, and their aim is to amaze the audience and bring them smiles. Somehow, that’s how I view MADKID altogether as a group: they are a traveling circus troupe, exploring different places, performing and wowing the audience, while at the same time creating and experimenting new acts per show.
CIRCUS is a testament of MADKID’s talent and creativity since the beginning of their lifeline in mainstream J-Pop. Packing up their album with 15 tracks (11 standard track lineup + 4 bonus tracks), CIRCUS has a lot more to offer for the curious ear than their first album from their indie days, the self-titled MADKID.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Throughout the album, about 95% of the tracks were self-written by the group, about 4% from LIN by himself, and 1% from a fellow SJP 3 artist, folk (?) singer-songwriter Yumemi Ikeda for the vocalists-only track Song for You. I’m not saying that this is pure bop just because I’m an Axcel, but I’m sure for the casual pop/rap/hip-hop listener, this album is well worth listening and repeatedly listening over and over again.
#1 – CIRCUS
The song begins with a very familiar circus fanfare that some of us are used to hearing when we go to circus shows. Growing up, I’ve seen about six or seven circus shows when they’re in town. I used to watch the old Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus shows and today, the Cirque du Soleil shows, whenever they come in my hometown or if we end up vacationing in Las Vegas.
The intro, the concept, and even the words from the song lyrics make CIRCUS a perfect track to start the album lineup at Track 01. The song invites you, the curious music lover, to enter their tent, where all the fun and attractions await for your eyes and ears and get yourself amazed at the most impossible becoming possible. To make it more clear, MADKID is beckoning you to check them out, from the music to their vocals and rap to their dances and everything else in between.
#2 – Never going back
The group’s major debut single as a mainstream J-Pop dance and vocal group. Graduating from the indies scene, this is their flagship track that tells the story of how they leveled up in the larger, more competitive mainstream J-pop scene, and how they are not turning back to the moments they first encountered and experiences they surpassed. Also, LIN has a little shoutout to all the haters too.
Naturally, when I first discovered MADKID, it was through this song. 4 It’s not like I haven’t heard any songs similar to this vibe, but there was something about this song that really gets me going, getting pumped up, ready to face obstacles waiting for me on that day. It still is one of my favorite personal anthems whenever I feel defeated at that moment.
#3 – GIANT KILLING
I wrote a review on this song when it was first released as a digital-only single back in November 2018. It’s a lot more in-depth, so please read this post.
#4 – COME
When you hear the words “L-BOY on the fly!” faint in the first few seconds of a song, you already know that this is a 100% LIN joint.
This song, at least after skimming through the lyrics, is yet another invitation to come to join the party MADKID is holding, and just simply get down and dance. In some ways, this is a song that you may hear being bumped in the club and something that you can also bump its bass in your car as well. 5
After listening to this track several times, it seriously grew on me. COME brings out the very essence of MADKID’s signature brand of their musicianship and LIN really outdid himself. He and Yuki really went hard with their raps where the message’s base was leaning more towards “Come along, don’t matter where you came from, don’t matter what you wanna do, you’re welcome.”
COME is like a reminiscent of their very first single from their indie days in 2014, I don’t care, with a bit of a mix of LIN’s tracks from his and Hylen’s Subconscious album, and the heavy roots of Never going back and GIANT KILLING. Highly recommended track to bump in your car.
#5 – FAITH
Originally, I was going to write a lengthy review of FAITH as a single release like RISE, but because it’s not a “major single” so to speak, I decided to wait until this album drops. As you already know, FAITH is the second opening theme to the ongoing anime series The Rising of the Shield Hero. I’ve been watching and “monitoring” comments on both the MVs of these songs and anime fans (yes, anime fans) tend to compare and even debate against each other to see which one of the two (RISE or FAITH) was the better anime opening theme.
My answer to that? Why compare? They’re both by MADKID, right?
I translated the lyrics roughly for both songs, you can find them here. Both songs have very strong, emotional, and thought-provoking messages behind the lyrics written. It even makes even more sense when MADKID also included the English versions of the songs that were used for the English dubbed version of the anime.
When I first heard that MADKID was also doing the second anime opening theme, I knew it was going to be on the same rock concept as RISE. I think that was a smart move because it makes no sense to suddenly change the genre of the anime’s opening themes and that the intensity of the overall plot of the story wouldn’t be as intensive or convincing. While RISE is a cry to stand up above all else after falling down, FAITH challenges one’s mind to break out of the chain they made for themselves and see the light.
So, which one of the two opening themes do you all think is better? It’s all up to you.
#6 – OVERAGAIN
OVERAGAIN is the third B-side/coupling song to their second major single Summer Time. I wrote a review of the single including OVERAGAIN right here.
#7 – Summer Time
The 2nd major single itself! Like with OVERAGAIN, the detailed review is here.
#8 – Stuck on U
The B-side/coupling of Never going back. It was interesting at first when I heard the single because this song is a complete contrast to Never going back. MADKID shows their very tender, sweet, and romantic side and show their character when they woo a girl they’ve laid their eyes on. Stuck on U is also one of my favorite member’s 6 MADKID songs and would often be on his playlist.
#9 – さよなら。。。(Sayonara)
One thing I love about J-Pop artists/groups in general, not just MADKID, is that even though they have their preferred genre, they never really stay in the same genre all the time. Sayonara (Goodbye) is a very heartfelt ballad that can really bring out mixed emotions inside of you. MADKID is getting more known to be the badass hyped up boy band you don’t normally see in J-Pop and (in some cases) K-Pop, but songs like this one, Stuck on U, and anything similar says something else.
This song had that melancholic ballad vibe that’s reminiscent of Faded away, one of their singles released during their indie days. It still is quite solemn and heartfelt overall.
#10 – 出ていってよ (Deteitteyo)
I wrote about this B-side/coupling of RISE on my past RISE review.
On iTunes/Apple Music, even if it’s under the CIRCUS album lineup, it’s still called Goodbye.
#11 – RISE
BONUS TRACKS (4 total)
RISE (English Version)
If you watch The Rising of the Shield Hero English dubbed version, you’ve heard a snippet of this English version as its opening theme. I translated this song roughly on Letters @ AXCEL STYLE, and I’m quite surprised that it’s somewhat close to MADKID’s own English version.
FAITH (English Version)
The same goes with this track. I translated both Shield Hero opening themes because the “masses” (anime fans) have become familiar with MADKID through these songs and would like to know how the lyrics relate to the anime’s story. But it’s also important to note that all of MADKID’s lyrics are semi-autobiographical, meaning the meanings behind the lyrics were all drawn from their own life experiences as a group and the entire mainstream J-Pop scene.
Sing For You
This track was first introduced and performed from their last one-man live tour from 2018, GIANT KILLING. This is the only song from the listing whose lyrics were not written by any of the members. Instead, their fellow agency artist, singer-songwriter Yumemi Ikeda, contributed the lyrics and music, but still arranged by the group.
This is a very mellow and sweet tune featuring the smooth vocals of the three vocalists, YOU-TA, KAZUKI, and SHIN.
While Sing for You featured the vocalists, STAY GOLD features the rappers, LIN and YUKI. Because the rappers are the core songwriters/composers of some 99% of MADKID’s track resume, it’s also natural that this song was also composed by the pair as well.
The tune is like your classic mellow hip-hop joint with each rapper showing off their signature rhyming styles, both contrasting, but still, complement one another.
The DVD Extra
I’ll write a separate review of the GIANT KILLING footage, just like how I plan to write the We Never Going Back footage from the RISE Type A DVD. Please stay tuned.
If you’re a new MADKID fan, CIRCUS serves as an essential album for the beginner. The album showcases all types of genres the group can do and still rock it. If you like what you hear from this album, definitely check out the rest of their tracks not included in the album, as well as their older tracks from their indie scene days.
CIRCUS is now available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play. You can also order the CD(s) from any of these online stores.