The debut songs of Johnny’s groups are a big deal. Often tied to popular drama, enacted everywhere to the point of inevitability, they quickly become a beloved and often-referenced part of a group’s history. But since Travis Japan settled in the US to train and compete in numerous competitions (including america’s got talent), his trajectory has been different. Yes, they are debuting. He is a enormous achievement after a decade of paying their dues as a junior group. But the way the agency has handled this debut has confused some longtime fans.
Named after famed choreographer Travis Payne, the boys already have plenty of songs from the Junior era under their belt (I’m a fan of this theatrical hit). But instead of releasing a physical album or single like most of Johnny’s groups, the agency has opted for a global digital debut of Just dance. Of all their available tracks, I’m surprised they beat Travis Japan in front of an international audience. It is not an evaluation of the quality or attractiveness of the group. I just hate to see them released to the global market before they have a chance to secure their place in the local agency market.
It does not matter that, Just dance It’s not your typical Johnny debut track. First of all, it is conducted exclusively in English. And instead of building on the legacy of previous groups, it feels like an obvious response to the success of BTS. Dynamite Y Butter. Responses rarely result in anything more than diminished returns.
I include this long preamble as a way of explaining my mixed reaction Just dance. I’ve already seen too many K-pop groups flatten their idiosyncrasies to reach the widest possible audience. I don’t want that sad story to repeat itself with the notoriously corrupt Johnny’s & Associates as the protagonist.
When it comes to the song itself, I have two opinions. The verses are off-putting, with trite lyrics and awkward delivery. I’ll reach out to them out of sheer determination, but they give the “fake fun” feel of a song like permission to dance. They are trying too hard and the tension is obvious. On the other hand, Just danceThe chorus of is a big worm. Yeah, the hook is cheesy and sounds like a jingle you’d hear on TV. But Johnny’s has made a big chunk of his name on that particular template, so it doesn’t seem too fake. I love the raucous instrumental response of this chorus. In fact, production is strong everywhere. There’s nothing original about its retro sound, but it’s well executed.
As Johnny’s debut, Travis Japan certainly deserves better. I envision a future where the agency quickly abandons this “global” concept and promotes the boys in Japan like they do the rest of their acts. Committed fans will seek out their music wherever it is released, allowing the group to do what they do best rather than go as wide as possible.