Since forming in Tokyo in the early 2010s, ONE OK ROCK has fast expanded the reach of its music, which takes its cues from the 2000s wave of pop-chart punk like Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy. As the venues the band played grew in size over the years, from Japan’s iconic rock festivals to international tours, so did the blistering riffs and rallying hooks that filled its music. The band’s eighth album, Ambitions (2017), introduces a new dimension, presenting ONE OK ROCK not just as a stadium-conquering rock act but also as a sharp, established alt-pop unit. On Ambitions, the members of ONE OK ROCK streamline their songwriting strengths to produce sleek, concise hits. They subtly adapt their arena punk into poppier structures—the hand claps on “Bombs Away” anticipate the huge, headbang-ready riff that drops in the chorus—and simplify their guitar lines and drum beats for a more straightforward attack on “Taking Off.” With some sweetening to its sound, ONE OK ROCK resembles a boy band on the run. The flashy sheen and groovy riffs on “American Girls” align the band in the same class as 5 Seconds of Summer, whose members make a guest appearance on “Take What You Want.” ONE OK ROCK shows off some pop moves without straying far from its punk foundations. “We Are” becomes an anthem by harnessing the energy of the band’s live shows: From its us-against-them lyrics to its explosive rock chorus, the song is designed to unite a crowd of lost souls. Meanwhile, more sentimental tracks like “Hard to Love” display a relatable vulnerability among the rock-star gestures. As the members of ONE OK ROCK polish their songs into exuberant pop hits, they keep the rawness and integrity of their emotions intact.

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