There are times that a bubbly pop song or a headbanging rock tune just don’t cut it. You are tired or going through a lot in your life and the best way to let your emotions out is while listening to a soothing, lullabyish yet heartbreaking ballad.
Or perhaps you listen to ballads just because you enjoy the genre and how minimalistic and well thought the instrumentalization in those is. Regardless of what are your reasons to listen to ballads, truth is, everyone has their favorite one.
For this entry we have chosen the ballads that stood out the most during this decade. Truth be told there is no shortage of great ballads performed by male seiyuu and 2D groups, however these are the 10 that impacted us the most in this past decade.
These ballads captured our hearts, at times made us look back and reflect on our life. These are songs meant to be listened to get away from the work or school/college white noise. This list is subjective so we want to read in the comments what are your favorite ballads – performed by male seiyuu and 2D groups – that you consider the best in this decade.
Once again, this list feature the songs by chronological order. No ranking was made on those.
GRANRODEO 背徳の鼓動 (Haitoku no kodo)
Released in 2011 as part of GRANRODEO‘s Supernova, 背徳の鼓動 (Haitoku no kodo or, in English, Immoral Heartbeat) was the first ever song from the band that made us stop and gather our emotions. The solemn piano intro, the distant strings, the slow paced bass and drums, the distorted guitar riffs exude a pain, a longing that hit us. The pain in this ballad rises and takes the listener to the somber chorus in an already wrenched state. The solo in the outro sends chills down our spine, the sorrow sinking in after KISHOW’s emotional performance, carefully making the story in the lyrics come to life and instantly being all the more relatable, deals us the final blow every time we listen to it.
8 years later and is still the most impactful and tragic ballad from a band that excels in the performance of pretty much any music genre but most particularly, ballads.
ELEKITER ROUND 0 – Summer Snow
ELEKITER ROUND 0 might be on a long hiatus but early on in this decade they were one of the most active and exciting units in the seiyuu industry. The duo comprised of Shinnosuke Tachibana and Satoshi Hino released their fair share of ballads but it is Summer Snow that still impacts us the most.
Summer Snow is not the traditional ballad that goes for solemn melodies, it does explore those ballad elements through the lyrics and the interpretation of those by the duo. The song added R&B and Latin touches that, together with the slow paced instrumental and the emotional performance, sound nostalgic and whenever we return to this song it is as if we are taken back to 2012. Sweet take on the ballad genre, even if still heartbreaking.
Marginal #4 もう涙を隠さないで (Mou namida o Kakusanaide)
Marginal #4 were one of the most exciting 2D units early on this decade, kicking it off with a stellar debut in 2013 that was followed by a myriad of great pop-rock releases for this talented quartet. When it came to ballads, the group made sure to feature at least one per release, giving us plenty of material for this feature.
Looking back,もう涙を隠さないで (Mou namida o Kakusanaide), song included on StarCluster, the group’s first Best Of album released in 2014, is their best ballad to date. The song might sound uneventful in the first minutes, following a slow paced semi-acoustic sound at a longing pacing but it picks up mid-way and hits right back at our feelings with the group’s harmonies and the delicate piano melody that lullabies the listener.
Daisuke Ono “Orion no Yoru”
Daisuke Ono has evolved a lot as a singer and performer in the past decade. This evolution was particularly noticeable when, in 2016, OnoD penned Orion no Yoru, lullabyish ballad that caught us out of nowhere.
The song creates a unique soundscape, big in scale but with nothing more than the listener in it. It is lonely and heartbreaking as those strings melodies envelop the listener and the acoustic guitars and slow paced drums lullaby the listener to take care of their worries.
This song still stands out as OnoD’s best ballad to date, result of maturing as an artist as well as his sensibility as a lyricist. The listener gradually finds light in the middle of the dark place that this instrumental takes us into.
OSIRIS “Heavenly Breeze”
OSIRIS is one of the bands that managed to release a wide variety of rock tunes with a touch of visual key visuals that were as eye catching as ear catching.
Heavenly Breeze is one of those songs that instantly came to our mind when the theme “Best Ballads of the decade” was put on the table. This heartbreaking ballad with a delicate yet powerful performance by the outstanding Masanori Kobayashi impressed us in 2017 and continues to do so, especially as fans still long for more music from this exciting rock band.
Kobayashi’s high notes and crescendo with falsetto in the chorus still send chills down our spine. The verses’ minimalistic instrumentalization focused primarily in an acoustic sound, makes up for a cosy soundscape but it is the harpsichord that gives it a weird touch, as if something is off in the song itself – the instrumental and the performance in a sort of way contradict each other. This is one of those performances and songs that we will always hold high in our consideration. A heavenly performance.
Shouta Aoi “I am”
Shouta Aoi managed to release a behemoth of a song (over 7 minutes long) with his single Eclipse in 2018.
I am is a song that comes from a person that was hurt, badly wounded, but found a way to heal and leave the pain behind and facing a new tomorrow with a smile on the face. You are who you are, never doubt yourself no matter what others say. Be yourself. While this is the natural progression of the song and it ends on a hopeful note, its somber, distant and disconnected instrumental and Aoi‘s haunting performance leave far more unanswered questions and will make you reflect more than expected of a ballad. This is a song that will make you shed tears.
This was one of the hardest reviews to make in 2018 due to the emotional charge in this song and how Aoi conveyed all the feelings (in his penned lyrics) described above. The long slider guitar solo is used as an allegory to evolution, being positive and overcoming an issue but it was ultimately our demise as tears poured down while it played. If there was an award for most powerful ballad ever, this song would take the crown.
Soma Saito “C”
Nobody does haunting and creepy ballads as well as Soma Saito does.
C, song included on the pop-rocker’s 2018 single, Date, finds its way to this feature due to how odd and contradictory as a ballad it is. C is not your textbook ballad. There are no strings, no atmospheric synths or longing piano melodies. Just an acoustic guitar leading the way and the most minimalistic instrumentalization as backup after the first verse.
The way the song was composed sure signals that this is a ballad but the lyrics and the instrumental are far from being simple or making any sense on a first listen as both are contradictory. The soothing, lullabyish tone of the song is distorted by the dark lyrics on top of it. This is one of those songs that, somehow, get in your head and haunt you in a way that you need another listen of it to understand what happened. Why is this a ballad but does not sound like one? Genius double-entendre lyrics and a simple yet crafty instrumental made it a must to add this song to the feature.
2018 was a really good year for ballad lovers – at the same time hell as it can get emotionally draining at times to listen to those. Early in the year, MEZZO released the astounding single, Ame. This was more than an anime insert song. Droplets of rain serve as a backdrop for this emotional, R&B-ish ballad that features powerful harmonies, R&B riffing, ad-libs by the duo as the instrumental does the rest to deal a blow in our emotions. Every time we listen to this song we are taken to a breathtakingly beautiful soundscape in which rain muffles our feelings. This is, up until now the best ballad of the group and one of the highlights of the decade.
Mamoru Miyano “How Close You Are”
In 2018, Mamoru Miyano released what is currently his best ballad. How Close You Are‘s dynamic instrumentalization and somber tone that envelop the listener (best recommended listening to this track with high quality headphones), bringing forth acoustic guitars, deep hitting drums, a slow, deep bass line and melodic guitar riffs that, alongside Miyano’s emotional performance, deal a bittersweet blow.
OLDCODEX “painting of sorrow”
Longing for someone, parting with someone, the suffering it entails. OLDCODEX released the heart wrenching painting of sorrow in their 2019 single, Take On Fever.
The distant fade-in in the intro, the melancholic guitar riffs, the way the song progresses, getting increasingly emotional while tackling Ta_2‘s emotions, how we can feel the world crumble on our feet with this song make it a worthy entry in this feature. Much alike Shouta Aoi’s I am, painting of sorrow is the kind of song that will instantly connect with you and put you in tears. The backstory to this song, the composed – yet conflicted – way in which Ta_2 performs this track not only make this the best ballad on the band’s repertoire but also one of the best ballads of the decade.
Organized by release date, here is our final of the Best Ballads of the Decade (2010-2019):
- 2011| GRANRODEO – 背徳の鼓動
- 2012| ELEKITER ROUND 0 – Summer Snow
- 2014| Marginal #4 – もう涙を隠さないで
- 2016| Daisuke Ono “Orion no Yoru”
- 2017| OSIRIS “Heavenly Breeze”
- 2018| Shouta Aoi “I am”
- 2018| Soma Saito “C”
- 2018| MEZZO “Ame”
- 2018| Mamoru Miyano “HOW CLOSE YOU ARE”
- 2019| OLDCODEX “painting of sorrow”
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