Mamoru Miyano‘s Hikari Sasu Hou e is a peculiar single that, at times, does not sound like your typical Miyano release. Fresh concepts and elements tried to add some flair with mixed results.
Title: 光射す方へ Label: KING RECORDS Release date: 22/04/2020 Genre: Pop / Acoustic
1 - 光射す方へ 2 - Follow Me Now 3 - LIFE
Track by track analysis:
1 – 光射す方へ
Hikari Sasu Hou e kicks off with chants and an imposing beat, highlighting the initial inspiring tone for this track. The verses are quiet, with a simple bass-drum beat, strings and minimalistic synths creating the music bed for Mamoru Miyano to tackle on the vocal end.
The song structure however, stands out a bit. The song has a pretty odd pre-chorus that felt, for a split second, like a brief chorus only to continue building up from there and leading to the real thing, a simple, strings-driven chorus.
There’s something about this song that sounds off though. The tension in the instrumental ends up leading to nothing. The chorus does not have impact which is something that really holds back the track from being memorable.
On the vocal end, Miyano yet again mixes singing with rapping, ending up delivering a solid yet uninspired performance. The wide majority of the song is performed with clean vocals, these filled with emotion, whereas rapping makes its way in the bridge.
All in all, Hikari Sasu Hou e is an unusual track for Miyano.
It never gets to explode in emotion and, instead, remains pretty much contained throughout. Its progression is unusual as well but a welcomed fresh element added to this track. This is a song that might work well on a live setting but on record, not so much.
2 – Follow Me Now
This is the kind of song that stands out easily. It is impossible not to be affected by the resounding funky bass line that leads the way in Follow Me Now. With a minimalistic beat and some synths, the song creates a unique soundscape that is not commonly found within male seiyuu music.
While the verses focus on a funky, groovy melodies taking the listener to a fun yet elegant soundscape, its completely empty chorus and the massive focus in the out-of-place deep synths melodies, completely stripped away that initial enjoyment.
Now, where this song really shines is on the vocal end. Props where those are due because Mamoru Miyano absolutely killed it on this track!
Those low notes, the R&B riffing, those pitch vocals in the verses, that falsetto in the build up to the chorus… I could write a thesis on how cool he sounded and how much he got to display his technique beyond what he normally does.
It is interesting that, throughout his performance, only one name came to my mind. If there was someone that aced these kinds of things and did so in such a unique way was Michael Jackson. It is clear that Miyano got some inspiration from Jackson’s singing style to this track, especially noticeable in the ad-libs.
The outstanding vocals ended up being plagued by a chorus devoid of emotion and message, making what could have been a fantastic song… only but an average track.
3 – LIFE
A funky organ melody makes the honors for LIFE. This song is strong on its acoustic sound, making great use of acoustic guitars, slow paced, washy drums, funky guitar riffs and slow, groovy bass line.
The instrumental creates a warm soundscape for the listener to sit back and enjoy. While listening to this song, it is noticeable influences of funk, jazz – in the drums fills added to the track -, and a bit of R&B as well. Those influences make the instrumental of LIFE stand out with its gentle, refined vibe.
On the vocal end, Mamoru Miyano goes all out in an entertaining and emotional performance. His falsetto is as sweet as ever and his mid-tones are confident. If there is a song that Miyano aces time and time again, it’s these kinds of sweet, laidback acoustic tunes. Top marks.
Hikari Sasu Hou e is a frustrating single that had potential to be something more however, no matter how many new elements were thrown at it, it couldn’t have the consistency past Miyano’s releases have.
Buckle up because this will be a long analysis about this release and the direction that Miyano’s career has been taking since 2019.
Looking at LAST DANCE and now at Hikari Sasu Hou e, it is clear that Miyano has been trying to change things around in his sound. 12 years in the game have allowed him to change multiple times the sonority behind his songs, maturing along the way alongside the performer.
The way he has evolved as an artist has almost always brought a lot of quality and fresh ideas – that worked – to his music.
However, the most recent attempts to change or find a new, suitable sound for himself have not panned out well, at least in my understanding.
Hikari Sasu Hou e is, by no means, a great single by Miyano’s standards. It does not improve on what was done in LAST DANCE and it sure doesn’t top the quality in Encore (even with that release being the start of his identity crisis).
While the quality on the vocal end is pretty much the same – Miyano sure knows how to dazzle with is singing skills and continues to do so with masterful results, just listen to his vocals on Follow Me Now -, the instrumentals and vocal direction have been ranging from insanely good to downright disappointing.
An example in this release is the title track, Hikari Sasu Hou e.
The song hints at a rise of tension that will culminate in an impressive vocal display however… nothing happens past teasing the listener into thinking it will happen. Adding to it is a chorus that is lackluster at best which is, one again, something I would not expect coming from the same Miyano that delivered the most addictive and exciting pop tunes in the past decade – i.e. NEW ORDER, SHOUT!, identity.
Of course it is worth noting that Miyano was in charge of the lyrics for this track which might have influenced its direction something that, with his inexperience as a songwriter – a note that almost all his music is outsourced from pro lyricists – shows in this song.
This is part of the learning curve, I believe that if Miyano was more involved in creating his music, this would not have happened when he took over the reigns.
While the song is enjoyable, it ends up leaving a weird aftertaste.
Then we have Follow Me Now, song that has such a western pop touch that is impossible not to notice it. From the Michael Jackson inspired vocal performance – completely unusual of Miyano – to the base melody and synths, everything screams “catered to the international fans”, yet again.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially knowing how Miyano is insanely popular among overseas anime and seiyuu fans -, I believe that that unique charm of his, that his fans fell in love with in his music, is nowhere to be found in this track. While this is a non-issue for most fans of his, for me it just doesn’t feel right.
Add to this the emptiest of choruses you could find and well… even with such an outstanding vocal performance on top of it, there is no saving there. The chorus should hook the listener but going as far as repeating one small sentence over and over is – once again, I do not know what his composers and producers wanted to achieve with this song – lazy.
LIFE however, is the best song in this release. It has a cosy vibe and stays on the same wavelength as previous acoustic tunes he’s released but, at the same time, it is refreshing in its take of the genre.
This shows that less is more. And Miyano could comfortably shine in this setting whereas in the previous two tracks, although he was shining on the vocal end at times, the instrumentals ruined the experience.
Now, if you read this review from top to bottom and not just by picking some parts of it, you might be thinking: well, this is an unusually harsh review.
Yep. Disappointment has taken over after 2 lackluster releases that show what has been going quietly since mid 2019, Miyano’s music has lost its way.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Miyano’s music to bits but these recent releases have serious issues.
We all know, especially if you have been following Mamoru Miyano‘s career since the start or are a diehard fan of his – or, like me, a fan since 2009 early 2010 – that he is capable of much more than this and he sure as hell can dominate in almost every kind of music genre. And we also know that Miyano has found his groove multiple times.
He aced drum & bass, jazz, ballad, rock and even R&B.
With that proven record of success, how come is he still trying to change his sound – and slipping time and time again (with this being noticeable in the drop of sales of his singles, even if he still charts high) – when he could look back on what he’s done before and improve on that to craft music that has his identity?
How come his producing team is completely disregarding a whole decade of success and great music formulas?
Why the obsession with making “trendy” music when Miyano can rock any genre as long as he’s given great lyrics and concepts to follow, regardless if the music genre is trendy or not?
It baffles me that Miyano is singing pretty much at his best right now – he’s undoubtedly in peak form this year – but the instrumentals just can’t keep up.
Too many “trendy” ideas have been thrown at him: first those hints of generic K-pop influences in FIRE (featured in 2019’s Encore), the sudden “let’s stuff rap in whatever song you have” gimmick just because hip-hop is now popular in Japan, the whole generic tropical theme in EXCITING, just to name a few.
Right now it seems that there is no direction for his music.
Let’s go trendy.
Let’s go sexy.
Let’s go mature.
Let’s go serious.
Let’s go cute.
Let’s go hip-hop.
Oh, look, K-pop is popular. Let’s go K-pop.
If you listen to his music chronologically since Encore up until Hikari Sasu Hou e with an unbiased mindset, you’ll see what I meant above. There is no direction right now in his music. And it shows.
If his producers continue to push him to deliberately cater to international fans not following a proper, consistent concept and without chasing trends just for the sake of staying relevant – which is a non-issue for Miyano as he is as relevant as ever -, there is a risk that his music will be watered down in result.
I sure hope this is just one of those identity crisis that all solo artists go through at least once in their careers and not something that will be a trend from now on.
Miyano sure has the talent, skills and proven record that he is a top tier singer among male seiyuu, now, he just needs the themes, concepts and instrumentals to match his quality or, at least, to highlight those instead of clumsily overshadowing all his hardwork on the vocal end. Or just take control of it all. Or change his producing team.
Hikari Sasu Hou e ends up being an average to solid release. If you don’t count the chorus in Follow Me Now you have one of the best performances by Miyano in the last 3 years. LIFE is a pretty good acoustic-pop song that you shouldn’t miss but other than that, this is a pretty forgettable release.
Hikari Sasu Hou e is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.