Today, ONE OK ROCK issued a rallying cry with their new single “Renegades” and its accompanying music video. Co-written alongside Ed Sheeran, the anthemic track will serve as the theme song for the live-action, manga-adapted film, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, which drops April 23.
No surprise, fans met the news of the Sheeran collaboration with ultimate enthusiasm. It’s hardly the first time these musical titans have transcended genres in support of one another, though. ONE OK ROCK previously toured in support of Sheeran during the 2019 Asian leg of his Divide tour. Later that year, Sheeran joined the band at the Yokohama stop of their Eye Of The Storm tour for live collaborations on their song, “Wherever You Are,” and his own hit, “Shape Of You.”
While such a crossover was unexpected at first, it showcased the unique synergy that exists between these prolific artists. Still, there was no preparing for the exact brand of topical viscerality that they’d achieve together with “Renegades.” Existing at the intersection of gritty alt rock and radio-ready pop, the song stands easily as a rousing anthem for the masses.
Directed by Toshi Atsunori, the music video is equally as far-reaching in its unifying themes. It brings a sort of desolate ambiance to start, depicting a rising rebellion before showcasing a series of individuals in all their gorgeous, eccentric beauty. All the while, interspersed shots show the band playing energetically against a dark, cavernous backdrop.
What’s particularly striking, though, is the lack of a central movement within the rebellion. Rather than putting a single cause front-and-center, they touch on a number of important topics. Members of the rebellion hold signs with messages as varied as “I Can’t Breathe,” “Silence Is Betrayal” and “System Change, Not Climate Change.” It’s a remarkable display in the context of a modern world wherein various, critical challenges are at the forefront. You can stream the video in its entirety below.
On the less public-facing side of their collaborations, ONE OK ROCK and Sheeran also met in the studio during the Divide run in 2019. The band revealed they wrote two songs in five hours, with Sheeran taking the reins on lyrical content. However, the creation of “Renegades” actually occurred in a later session.
In a “Talk And Review” video posted Wednesday, vocalist Taka Moriuchi and guitarist Toru Yamashita talk about spending a month with Sheeran in rural England early last year. In addition to working on the song, they also attended an Ipswich Town F.C. game together. Ultimately, their generalized experience abroad inspired the direction of “Renegades.”
“Since we were able to go to the U.K. and make a song in a completely different environment, I wanted to value what would come out of that experience,” Yamashita explains in the video. “[We] knew that the music or lyrics that we would come up with there could only be found there, so we really treasured that feeling.”
However, the single’s informing influences aren’t entirely limited to those brought by way of the English countryside. It also shares a notable thematic relationship with the title character of the Rurouni Kenshin series.
“The character Kenshin in this movie has his strength, his kindness, his weakness and his loneliness all shown in the past films and his history is completed in this final movie,” Moriuchi says in the video. “The theme of the movie focuses a lot on what he works to achieve beyond his own strength, weakness and all these emotions, and we projected our music to that.”
“Although it is a sad story, there still is a lightness, love and hope that shines from within,” he continues. “I think those aspects really connected with our band. We are also challenging ourselves to new things and we will always encounter hope, happiness, and exhaustion. Rather than the movie itself, I would say that our song is more connected to the character of Kenshin and his story in the final. I think his feelings and our lyrics are connected in a sense.”
You can watch the trailer for the referenced film below. It makes sense that Moriuchi and the band might find such creative relatedness with the character. ONE OK ROCK have been a soundtrack staple for the live-action series since “The Beginning” served as the theme for the first iteration in 2012.
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Fortunately for fans, the band managed to eke out their monumental collaborations with Ed Sheeran just ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, despite the global pause on touring, they still managed to connect with their audience through digital concerts. Pre-recordings of previous shows comprised their first round of streams, which dropped on YouTube. Their Field Of Wonder event, however, took the livestream experience to a whole new level. In an astonishing performance, the band delivered arena-level energy to an empty ZOZO Marine Stadium.
Despite this apparent tenacity, though, the band did encounter their share of setbacks. In fact, it’s possible that we may have heard “Renegades” sooner had it not been for the pandemic.
“In terms of production and going abroad, we haven’t been able to do much,” Yamashita says in the “Talk And Review” video. “For ‘Renegades,’ it was [last year] that we completed it. We felt that we weren’t able to release things that we’d already finished but now things are finally getting into place. We feel like it’s long overdue that we can share this song for everyone to hear.”
“I can really see the stage with this song,” he explains later in the context of its production. “Having a live audience is essential for concerts. Only when a song is performed in front of an audience is a song complete. I can’t wait to experience that.”
What do you think about ONE OK ROCK’s track co-written with Ed Sheeran and the music video for “Renegades?” Let us know in the comments!