Miyu Irino‘s long awaited comeback after a two-year hiatus is finally here. FREEDOM raises the bar while exploring new territory.
Title: FREEDOM Label: Kiramune Release date: 20/06/2018 Genre: Tropical house/Disco
1．FREEDOM 2．IF YOU WANNA 3．NOT SPECIAL
Track by track analysis:
FREEDOM slowly introduces the listener to the magic of its minimalistic summer soundscape. The instrumental is highly influenced by downtempo electronica and tropical house, influences that are noticeable in the emphasis that was put on its groovy bass line, steel drums and the fancy crossover between marimba and sitar’s melodies in the intro. Atmospheric synths give an “airy” feel to this song, taking the FREEDOM concept a step further. There are no major rises in tension or aggressive build ups or high-tension drops that are generally found in pop or electronica, this song exudes a “feel good” vibe that is achieved by letting everything run slowly and smoothly. The instrumental alone is pleasant to the ears and its minimalistic sound is relaxing.
Now, onto the vocals. Miyu Irino is back after a two year hiatus but it seems – especially after this performance – that he wasn’t away from the music industry at all. His technique and quality continues to impress. He knows how to convey the feelings and concepts in the lyrics and makes his performances shine with his R&B-ish vocals, sweet ad-libs and those high notes and falsetto that have, time after time, impressed critics and fans alike. This is an effortlessly flawless performance. 5/5
2．IF YOU WANNA
70’s disco and funk make an impressive entrance in this single. IF YOU WANNA shows influences of Chic, Bee Gees, Jackson 5, Boney M. and other disco music greats. The beat is addictive and simple, putting the focus on warm snare sounds, funky rhythm guitar licks, groovy bass lines, old school synths and classy rhodes piano melodies. You’ll easily find yourself groovin’ to this catchy and playful instrumental.
Irino performing disco music isn’t something we’re used to yet – even if he’s tried it before with ENTER THE NEW WORLD! (2016) -, it felt so right as soon as he tackled the first lines. Among the male seiyuu debuted as solo artists, it’s impossible to find a more suitable voice for this music genre as Irino‘s. His soul and R&B imbued vocals and the way in which he performed this song made his performance sound so comfortable and natural, not only fitting perfectly with the groovy instrumental but also adding another layer of enjoyment to this song. This might go unnoticed to some people but Irino – that already had a solid English pronunciation before the hiatus in 2016 – now has a spotless English pronunciation. While it doesn’t necessarily determine that a performance is good or not, l consider it to enhance the listener’s experience while avoiding the often distracting slurring or mispronunciation of English words that is found in J-Pop music. IF YOU WANNA is a terrific throwback tune that is just what it is, fun, simple and to the point. 5/5
The single wraps up in the same tone as it opened. NOT SPECIAL brings to the table a minimalistic take on tropical house, once again betting on downtempo beats, simple synth leads and pads to create an ethereal and distinct soundscape. Distant funky and wah-wah guitar licks, progressive synths and tribal percussion complete this laidback tune. There are some influences of ska in this instrumental, noticeable in the guitar licks early on in the verses, yet tropical house, even if in its minimalistic essence, is the music genre in which we’d categorize this song. Just like on the title track, this instrumental doesn’t really stray away from its relaxing and quiet nature. While in most cases this would make this song rather dull, Irino makes sure that doesn’t happen with his performance.
His clear, sweet mid-toned vocals flow smoothly with this airy instrumental and his trademark falsetto is mesmerizing in the chorus. He made sure to perform this song in a way that the listener won’t help but to connect with the lyrics and its message. NOT SPECIAL wraps up this single on a positive note. 5/5
Two years have passed since Miyu Irino had last released music. Expectations for his comeback were high, especially after the impressive album that was DARE TO DREAM.
Rock and jazz were replaced with fancy, minimalistic instrumentalization with influences that include ska, disco, tropical house, ambient music and R&B.
One thing that is noticeable after a clean listen is that this is rock solid consistent. FREEDOM, IF YOU WANNA and NOT SPECIAL fit with each other like puzzle pieces. Starting from the themes in the lyrics – growing, experiencing new things, have new encounters, discover your worth, etc – to the the vibes in all three songs, you notice a continuity between them. The single, in general, leans towards a minimalistic sound, FREEDOM and NOT SPECIAL are great examples of that, incorporating tropical house but not making it sound obnoxious for the listener. Both songs introduced a relaxing dimension in this single. On the other side, the single features a dark horse – IF YOU WANNA – however, even if this is the fanciest of all 3 songs, featuring a rich and funky instrumental, this song doesn’t stray too far from the single’s overall feel and concept.
Additionally, as much as this single tries to turn a new page in his career, it feels like a continuation to DARE TO DREAM. If you don’t remember that album (please re-listen to it, if you haven’t, please check it), following a streak of laidback tunes, the album ends with the funk/disco tune ENTER THE NEW WORLD!. Now, this single might not start on the same note but it shares the same vibe, especially when both releases seem to be related to Miyu‘s overseas adventure in 2016 – 2017. While DARE TO DREAM might be about the fears, expectations of the unknown, FREEDOM seems to be the aftermath of it all, the lessons learnt, the new experiences, nostalgia in some way. It ties up what seems to have been an important chapter in Miyu‘s personal growth and career.
Miyu returned better than ever on the vocal end. His vocals are the cleanest and smoothest ever. He’s added an R&B and soul touch to every single performance in this single and did it effortlessly. As per usual, he knows how to tackle concepts and lyrics and convey the emotions on it to the listener. His voice reaches and impacts the listener. His vocals are polished and so is his English pronunciation. This last one is actually the one thing that stands out the most in his performances. He had a solid – but far from perfect – pronunciation back in the day. For this single, however, his pronunciation was clean. In return, the interplay between Japanese and English lyrics was done seamlessly, making the overall experience much more enjoyable in the end. Also his falsetto continues to impress, even if we already know what to expect when he’s on the mic.
All in all, he showed with this release that he has further matured as an artist and performer and he won’t stop there.
It is a rarity to find a single as consistent as this one. FREEDOM is a single that sums up Miyu‘s growth in the past 2 years and celebrates + explores it through three unique tunes. A contender for single of the year.
“FREEDOM” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.