Although they are lesser known to this side of the world, One Ok Rock are slowly edging their way onto western radio playlists after acquiring a huge fan base in their native Japan. Obtaining support slots for Yellowcard, All Time Low and Sleeping with Sirens as well as collaborating with Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low, 5 Seconds of Summer and Avril Lavigne on their latest album Ambitions, the Japanese 4-piece are starting to establish themselves with a wider audience.
Their sound is rather eclectic, taking inspiration from other ‘pop-punk’ and ‘pop-rock’ bands also championed by Fuelled By Ramen, songs American Girls and I Was King are particularly reminiscent of One Direction and other boybands of that ilk – however there is an ever so slightly rockier edge as found in the songs Bon Voyage and Bombs Away.
Ambitions is undeniable a pop album – and it ticks all the correct boxes with wo-ah choruses, crowds chanting, catchy hooks and the appeal to universal feelings and emotions. Takahiro Moriuchi’s voice is sweet but too clean cut to be deemed rock, there’s nothing wrong with this for it will certainly land them a spot on the radio playlists. There’s no doubt his voice will set hearts swooning as he pours passion into the catchy inoffensive pop songs he and his band members create – as showcased by the very radio friendly Bedroom Warfare.
Although the album consists of catchy pop tunes, where Ambitions falls down is in its repetitive nature where often it is hard to tell the songs apart. One Ok Rock have not found their unique voice yet, but their drive to establish themselves is apparent in their bold move to take on the airwaves of Europe and the U.S. Signing to American label Fuelled By Ramen is bound to set them up for more attention with flashier videos and the universal appeal of recording bilingual albums, which has evidently appealed to the following they have already gathered.
My concern is that, ironically, Ambitions is not ambitious enough. If One Ok Rock want to attract a wider audience, they need to focus on creating their own individual sound and focus less on morphing into their favourite bands. Considering this is their 8th album, there is the possibility that in broadening themselves to western appeal, they are in danger of becoming generic. That’s not to dismiss One Ok Rock’s talent, for they have the potential to create a unique package – they’re just not quite there yet.