Nobuhiko Okamoto – Parading (Review)

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Reaching the middle of the summer Nobuhiko Okamoto‘s newest mini-album “Parading” is finally out. The 27 year old seiyuu is back with new music after March’s single release titled Shunkan Beat. This is an unorthodox mini-album, a mini-album that promised a lot but failed altogether to deliver something really meaningful, still it can be entertaining at times. 

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Single: Parading
Label: Kiramune
Genre: J-Pop
Release Date: 13/08/2014

Tracklist:

1
SHOW☆TIME
2
瞬間BEAT
3
Hello, Ms Sunshine
4
Master BadMoon
5
のんびり行こうぜ!
6
DREAMLAND NEVEREND

Track by track analysis:

1 – SHOW☆TIME
Kicking off in a grandiose, fair-like way, SHOW☆TIME gives a Broadway-ish feel just from the instrumental piece. The trumpets, harp, piano and the gospel choir in the background and the simple song construction make this track a first time to Nobuhiko Okamoto and his fans. It’s still pop but with a different taste to it, in the end not being bad at all, an overall surprise in this single. Not the best of tracks but still it’s a proper introduction to the mini-album to the listener. It’s safe to say that Nobuhiko is slowly but steadily, sounding better than when he started his solo artist career. 3.5/5
2 – 瞬間BEAT
Shunkan Beat was this year’s first release back in March. This is a full throttle pop track with an interesting twist to it. The track’s construction revolves around a couple of key parts that might not seem like they fit this puzzle that  is Shunkan Beat. A slow part giving way for Nobuhiko to show his improved vocal skills, a mid-tempo, electronic bit in the pre-chorus with a ska vibe and then the highly electronic pop chorus. A lot of tempo changes and rhythms but with a vocal performance easily matched up to all those changes. Nobuhiko sounds good despite the fact that he’s not the best of singers in the music business. Still a solid entertaining track. 4/5

3 – Hello, Ms Sunshine
Starting off in the slowest way, Hello, Ms Sunshine is a mid-tempo track resorting to heavy synth work. It’s clearly a summer track with hits and bits of the funk genre. The drums, clap track and synths set this summery atmosphere. This isn’t one of those heavy electronic pop tracks completely designed for the dancefloor but that latin feel given by the instrumental piece will really make you want to hit the dancefloor in no time. Entertaining, energetic with a solid vocal performance delivered by Nobuhiko. 4/5
4 – Master BadMoon
Master BadMoon goes towards a completely different route than the previous tracks. It’s pop-rock, a breath of fresh air in this single and yet another side of Nobuhiko‘s music is shown in here. The rock triad is here: guitars, bass and drums lead this track’s instrumental and they sound pretty good. But, besides all those good things, there’s something that completely fails to impress. Yes, it’s true that the best part of this track is, without a doubt, the powerful chorus, but the biggest problem lies within the pre-chorus and how fast the track goes downhill as soon as the track kicks off in such a promising way and then turns out to be a big amalgam of ideas that, altogether, failed to deliver something meaningful. 3.5/5
5 – のんびり行こうぜ!
A slow paced track to break once again the pace in this mini-album. The acoustic guitars lead the way in the instrumental piece alongside the jazzy drums, the bass, trumpets and the harmonic. のんびり行こうぜ! doesn’t resort to synths or electronic hits and bits and stays raw, an excellent way to show another side to Nobu’s music in this laidback track. Nobuhiko‘s vocals stay simple but deliver a consistent, gentle performance. A good surprise in this mini-album. 4/5
6 – DREAMLAND NEVEREND
To close the album we’re presented with DREAMLAND NEVEREND, a track that goes all out with the piano from start to finish, a nice change in a mini-album lacking in piano usage. This is without a doubt the best track in this mini-album and why? It’s simple but builds up slowly and steadily without sounding awkward. The instrumental reminds us a bit of Elements Garden work with Uta no Prince Sama’s tracks, the piano is the foundation for this track, the strings give the track the deserved grandiosity and the synths are not that heavy, only featured to tie loose ends and making the final result, the best track in Nobuhiko‘s repertoire. On the vocal end of this track we have Nobuhiko managing to catching highs and not sounding off key even once, a commendable vocal performance from start to finish. 5/5

Final rating: 4 stars

A lot of ideas. Some of them good, some of them pretty bad. But that happens with a lot of releases even for the “big league” artists. Talking about this album objectively we have to point out that a lot of experimentation was made in here but there’s something that really will strike a nerve, especially for those that follow the Kiramune artists: lately it’s been almost mandatory that dubstep track or resorting way too much to dubstep elements to “embellish” the track. Conclusion: almost every release made by Kiramune artists this year sounds the same (exception for Trignal that released what might be one of the albums of the year), the tracklist structure resorting to one electronic track, one rock, another laidback/jazzy track and a ballad is being spotted way too many times in their releases this year which almost makes it difficult to set the releases apart,  sometimes the only difference between them being really who’s behind the mic which in reality is not a nice thing to do to the artist. But as always, that aspect is put in the background because what sadly really makes the record sales skyrocket are the looks and the promotion behind it and not really the music in itself and what makes the artist unique when in comparison with their fellow label artists or the rival ones.

Looking at the mini-album as a whole, Parading is interesting but as good as it might sound in some tracks there’s the equivalent in not so good tracks to balance this release. A release close to mediocre with three relatively solid tracks and one impeccable piece. The rest seems boring in comparison with these tracks. The highlight in this mini-album lies in DREAMLAND NEVEREND, that has one of the best vocal performances delivered by Nobuhiko in these past few years. All in all, this album errs because it failed to deliver a steady assembly of tracks instead delivering a volatile set. 

Parading is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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