JOSHUA’s “FLOWERS” is an emotional rollercoaster of an album with Nobunaga Shimazaki delivering a set of heartwrenching performances.
Title: FLOWERS Label: Rejet Release date: 24/02/2021 Genre: Pop-rock/Jazz-funk/Ballad
1 - FLOWERS 2 - 優しいオイル 3 - 浅い夜に耽る。 4 - あなたへと。 5 - 最終電車 6 - アーティストナイト 7 - そばにいて 8 - Dear… 9 - アメィジング 10 - SECRET♥DRAMA（Dummyhead mic drama track）
Track by track analysis:
1 – FLOWERS
“FLOWERS” kicks off this album in a fun, upbeat fashion. The drums have a comfortable mid-tempo, the piano melodies breathe life into this song while giving it a refreshing, happy vibe.
A bouncy bassline plays in the background, adding depth to the drums. In the chorus, guitars jump to the spotlight, with the melodies fleshing out the bright and upbeat tone of this song.
On the vocal end, Nobunaga Shimazaki delivers a stunning performance, showcasing a lot of consistency with his gentle mid-tones vocals as well as confidence as he tackled those ethereal falsetto portions.
2 – 優しいオイル
A delicate and simple piano melody is in the spotlight for “Yasashi Oil”.
The first half of the 1st verse is quiet, with the piano serving as an accompaniment to Shimazaki’s voice however, for the second half of it, slow-paced drums, an introspective bassline, and guitars join in.
These build up the tension for the emotional chorus in which JOSHUA’s feelings pour out as guitars scream and piano melodies envelop you in a gentle embrace.
Shimazaki’s performance is gentle and passionate, making this ballad shine – even among JOSHUA’s various outstanding ballads -, making it a highlight in this album.
3 – 浅い夜に耽る。
“Asai yoru ni fukeru.” brings forth an elegant jazz-funk sound with pop lyrics sprinkled on top.
The verses ride on top of loungy piano melodies, funky guitar riffs and snary drums as the bassline and brass paint the soundscape in a beautiful hue.
The chorus carries that over and fleshes out this song into a late summer tune with a feel-good vibe exuding from its guitar riffs.
To top it all off, this song counts with a fancy piano solo in the bridge, something that, for me, adds the final touches to what is one of the best songs in this album.
Shimazaki’s gentle mid-toned vocals tackle this song with a lot of confidence, bring the fun and class of jazz-funk to you.
4 – あなたへと。
“Anata e to” takes on the power ballad approach and it does so in an impressive way.
A melancholic piano melody opens the curtain for this song, slowly welcoming dramatic melodies to the spotlight, melodies that Nobunaga Shimazaki paints with a lot of hope and love on top.
You can feel the longing in this performance as Shimazaki absolutely throws it out of the park to deliver one of the best performances in the Dear Vocalist franchise. His high notes are solemn and carry a sadness through that legato and later, ethereal head voice notes in the pre-chorus.
When the time comes for the chorus, you’ll already be pretty shaken emotionally with his rendition of this song.
In the background, acoustic guitars and drums join in, adding depth to the song and further embellishing this song. In the bridge, the drama tones down slightly with strings and piano preparing you for the full-out power ballad section that follows.
Electric guitars join in and deal the final emotional blow to it as Shimazaki’s vocals long for you.
5 – 最終電車
“Saishu densha” kicks off in a fast-paced rock fashion. Electric guitars, synths, and a powerful snare-driven beat set the intense tone for this track.
The chorus is explosive, bring out a skater-punk vibe that makes this song plenty of fun to listen to.
Although most people won’t be paying attention to it when listening to this song, the drums work is off the charts. There are plenty of tempo changes to it, complementing the guitar and groovy bass performances.
The guitar solo is melodic however, it doesn’t last long as the synths creep their way into the spotlight. I felt like those were a bit out-of-place in this track.
On the vocal end, Shimazaki goes all out on speed and intensity to match the song and excited lyrics.
6 – アーティストナイト
Melancholic guitar chords welcome you to the fanfare in the electro-rock tune “Artist Night”.
The verses feature crunchy guitar riffs, a danceable beat, and minimalistic synths in the background. The chorus is massive, with an addictive yet simplistic in its approach to electro-rock. The focus passes more through the lead synths in this section, in a way balancing with the rock-centric verses.
Shimazaki is one with this song, feeding off the energy in the instrumental in order to deliver an energetic performance in which his mid-tones shine.
7 – そばにいて
“Soba ni ite” tones things down in this release, embracing a quieter and funkier sound. The laidback pop-funk tune shines with its bright piano melodies, and bouncy bassline in the verses.
The funky vibes in this track make it quite the danceable track even if the lyrics are not on the same wavelength.
The chorus changes things around and guitars join in to add an edge to the instrumental, however, those are far back for the most part aside from the main guitar riff that is the introduction to each verse.
Nobunaga Shimazaki had his vocals doing all kinds of things for this song. He was constantly changing the tempo, going melodic in his mid-tones, in the pitch vocals going for his trademark crystal clear high notes.
8 – Dear…
This is the first ballad released by Joshua and it’s a sweet one. The listener can feel the warmth in the snary drums and acoustic guitar melodies and longing in the piano melody enriching the instrumental.
The verses are quiet and acoustic oriented, counting with a simple mix of piano, acoustic guitar licks, drums and bass.
Tension rises in the pre-chorus and the chorus introduces us to rhythm electric guitars with emotional chord progressions shining in that section. Contrary to what would be expected from a rock ballad, there’s no major guitar solo in this song.
Vocally, Shimazaki impresses with an emotional performance. Rather than showcasing his range, this song demanded that the singer knew how to convey the feelings in the lyrics, make those hit the listener, and match the emotional instrumental.
After listening to his performance, it’s safe to say that Shimazaki sure knows what he’s doing, as he managed to deliver an emotional performance that, at times, left us in awe (a big highlight is his progression in the pre-chorus).
9 – アメィジング
The song kicks off with a skate-punk vibe, going in the opposite of all other vocalists in this series that performed dance/electronica imbued songs for this series.
“Amazing” counts with a relatively simple and straightforward instrumental – typical of skate-punk -, that brings to the spotlight fast guitar riffs, catchy hooks, a driving bassline, and simple, snary drums. The instrumental is playful and filled with energy exuding, at the same time, a laidback vibe that makes this song an enjoyable listen.
Nobunaga Shimazaki‘s performance is upbeat, matching the instrumental’s energy. But there’s more to it than just his energy.
Shimazaki showcased his skills with a couple of glimpses of his stable falsetto and overall solid performance.
Overall, the song seems to lack the impact that other of his songs had, still this is an entertaining song with a performance worth checking out.
JOSHUA spreads his own brand of pop-rock with funk and electronica influences in the mix with the 1st full-length album “FLOWERS”.
Since his debut in the franchise – in 2017, to replace Ciel – this has been a character that brings good vibes and upbeat tunes to the table as faster as he goes for somber or emotional ballads.
Out of the new songs, “Asai yoru ni fukeru.” and “Yasashi Oil” are the ones that stand out the most for their mature, laidback jazzy sound and emotional lyrics and tone, respectively. “FLOWERS” is a fun song with quite the peppy twist to it, something that will put a smile on your face.
If you check this album and go over JOSHUA’s songs, you’ll notice that, he’s quite the sentimental character, with the abundance of ballads illustrating that with quite some ease. “Anata e to”, “Dear…” and “Asai yoru ni fukeru.” will be certain to play around with your feelings.
There’s a happy-go-lucky vibe in songs such as “Amazing”, “Artist Night” and “Saishu Densha” for a good balance of your emotions.
Then you have the middle ground, the fun yet emotional songs and that’s where “Soba ni ite” falls. The jazz-funk vibes there as well as really pleasant to the ears and a nice downtime between intense changes in feelings throughout the album.
As far as vocal performances go, Nobunaga Shimazaki knows how to deliver. His mid-tones are insanely consistent, he has good control over head voice, falsetto, and long notes, he can add flourishes and adapt to multiple tempo changes within a song.
He’s quite underrated within the franchise itself however, in my books, he’s one of the most consistent singers and has a rich emotional range that makes him shine during ballads.
All in all, JOSHUA’s “FLOWERS” is an emotional rollercoaster of an album. With that many changes in tone and emotions, it ends up being a ride that, by the end, will have you with a big smile on your face.
FLOWERS is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.