Fireminer contacted me not too long ago and asked me if I had ever written about the group J Soul Brothers in any of their incarnations. My answer was no...until tonight. I've known about the song-and-dance group since the currently 7-strong membership known as Sandaime J Soul Brothers（三代目J Soul Brothers ）has appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen several times.
Not being a fan, I only knew that their great ancestor was the song-and-dance group from the early 1990s, ZOO which was famous for the beloved "Choo Choo Train" back in 1991. However, things got a little hazy for me in terms of how we got from ZOO to Sandaime J Soul Brothers. Well, looking at the Wikipedia article for the history of J Soul Brothers, when Hiro, an original member of ZOO, wanted to create his own group following the disbandment of the progenitor group, J Soul Brothers was born with their debut single coming out in 1999. But then vocalist Sasa decided to leave the group in 2001 with the remaining members deciding to rename themselves as EXILE (ahh, so that's how EXILE came to be). Several years later in 2007, EXILE held an audition to recruit members for a second generation of J Soul Brothers, known as Nidaime J Soul Brothers（二代目J Soul Brothers）, but a couple of years after that, they got absorbed into EXILE. Finally, in 2010, another audition begat the third generation known as Sandaime J Soul Brothers, officially known as Sandaime J Soul Brothers from EXILE TRIBE.
Whoosh! Wouldn't it have been nice to have a flow chart for the above? The fans already know this like the backs of their hands, but this was just for my edification and storage into my head. In the "Choo Choo Train" article, I rather compared this song-and-dance franchise to the various wings of X-Men. Perhaps Sandaime J Soul Brothers could be J-Pop's equivalent of Generation X? Discuss.
Anyways, Fireminer had recommended an early song from the first generation titled "Main Street" but all I could find was a very rough video of Hiro and the guys performing in concert. The sound was just a little too difficult to hear so I decided to explore further afield.
Well, with the Tokyo Olympics now just two years away, I came across this single "Welcome to TOKYO" created by the husband and wife team of michico and T. Kura. This was their 20th single under the Sandaime incarnation released in November 2016. And the music has come a long way since "Choo Choo Train". I've read that the songs now also dabble a fair bit into EDM which would work for the Brothers since dancing is half of their raison d'etre.
I can honestly say that "Welcome to TOKYO" won't replace the funky and epic "TOWN" by Minako Yoshida（吉田美奈子）or even YMO's signature "Technopolis" in my heart when it comes to megalopolitan-based numbers, but I gotta say that the music video is indeed glorious. It's like "Miami Vice" arriving in Tokyo Bay with some kids with major attitude. Plus, that funkadelic subway should be opened for tours!
It didn't take long for "Welcome to TOKYO" to hit the top of the pops...or nearly the top. It peaked at No. 2 and speedily became the 37th-ranked single for 2016 after only 7 weeks of release near the middle of November. It also went Platinum and got Sandaime their 5th consecutive invitation to the 2016 Kohaku Utagassen.
To be frank, I think the DJ T.HIROYUKI Tribal Remix above is a version that I like better. Considering that Sandaime J Soul Brothers is not only a singing group but also a visual presence, it wouldn't surprise me if they also got an invitation to the Opening Ceremonies for Tokyo 2020.
"Welcome to TOKYO" is also a track on the group's 2nd BEST compilation "THE JSB WORLD" from March 2017 that hit No. 1 and became the 6th-ranked album for the year.
For the record, the current lineup for Sandaime J Soul Brothers from EXILE TRIBE is NAOTO, Naoki Kobayashi（小林直己）, ELLY, Kenjiro Yamashita（山下健二郎）, Takanori Iwata（岩田剛典）, Ryuji Imaichi（今市隆二）, and Hiroomi Tosaka（登坂広臣）.