On the first day of 2022, The First Take, a YouTube channel that gets Japanese musicians to perform their hits in one go, posted a video of J-pop act SixTones performing their track, “Imitation Rain.” It’s an elegant, stripped-down orchestral version of the rock ballad that marked the group’s debut on Jan. 22, 2020.

Jan. 22, 2020 ... what’s significant about that date? Ah, yes, six days earlier, Japan saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19. As we now know, a pandemic can really put a spanner in the works of your group’s national debut — even when you have a powerhouse like Johnny & Associates backing you.

Two years on and, while we’re still worrying about COVID variants, we also have that First Take version of “Imitation Rain” — from a group that came of age during a pandemic via a platform that took on increased levels of importance in the same period.