Review | Kent Ito “Hanabi”

Kent Ito arrives with a stylish and mature sound – following the steps of his debut digital single “Mayonaka no Love” – in his 1st EP, “Hanabi”.

Regular
Title: 華灯 (Hanabi)
Release date: 15/02/2023
Label: A-Sketch/Astro Voice
Genre: Citypop/R&B

Tracklist:

1 - sugar
2 - 陽だまり
3 - AMBER
4 - 真夜中のラブ

Track by track analysis:

1 – sugar

Kent Ito opens the curtains to this EP with “Sugar”, song that has a smooth piano-led sound that feels really good.

The intro makes way to funky guitar riffs, a simple beat, and a simple bassline, all playing on top of washy atmospheric synths. Slowly, tension rises and leads you to the sweet and dreamy chorus.

The verses are laidback, riding on a comfortable mid-tempo led by the simple beat and bass combo. But when that third chorus arrives, you will be caught by surprise.

It completely breaks all the expectations you may have about a song’s composition, delivering something completely different. Kent Ito’s vocals are ethereal, going for those beautiful high notes, and riffing on top of it all.

It is unfair how addictive this song’s vibe is. Is it time to hit that “replay” button? I believe so. What an opening!

2 – 陽だまり (Hidamari)

The gears change for “Hidamari”, song that embraces a simple, semi-acoustic sound in order to deliver a beautiful R&B-inspired performance.

Acoustic guitars slowly make their way on top of the delicate piano music bed for this track. One by one, the drums and bassline join in and when you notice, you’re already well into the hopeful chorus.

This is a chorus that has completely different from the verses. The tension is there, the drums and guitars are finally free and loud, giving the feeling of taking the running with no destination as you pierce through the wind.

If that wasn’t enough for you to feel hyped up and happy, then arrives the outro with vocals that will make you want to sing along.

As far as the vocals go, Kent Ito goes all out. The control in his vocals is unreal, grabbing that falsetto and those head voice notes like it’s the easiest thing in the world. The little flourishes, the crescendos in tension, and the way he adds emotion to his performance. Everything is perfect in this song.

3 – AMBER

AMBER” brings mellow citypop vibes to the spotlight, painting a soundscape you won’t want to get away from.

Acoustic guitars give life to this composition with their laidback vibe. Alongside them come the fancy synths – reminiscent of citypop’s synth work – and rhodes piano melodies. Wrapping it all up neatly is the simple beat and punchy bassline.

And let me tell you, this is a stunning bassline.

The bassline is groovy and slow-paced, taking its sweet time to take you by the hand to the stylish chorus. As the curtains open, you are in the middle of a beautiful and warm soundscape that is all about good vibes and passion.

If you shift your focus to the vocals, you will find one of the sweetest and, at the same time, most technical performances Kent Ito has delivered so far as a solo artist. In the verses, Ito is gentle, smoothly gliding through the acoustic instrumental. 

He then brings some flair to his performance with a simple vibrato and crescendos. When the chorus arrives, he brings a delicate falsetto as the cherry on top of his performance.

When “AMBER” wraps up, you’ll be left wanting more of it. More of the performance. More of those dreamy vibes.

4 – 真夜中のラブ

[AS PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED] Funky guitar riffs light up the stage for “Mayonaka no Love”. It doesn’t take long for you to notice that the soundscape in front of you is that of the 80s. Neon lights, good times, simpler, punchier bass-driven music.

For those paying close attention to the rhythm and key of the song, the punchy bassline first joins the track off tempo and off key before clashing with the instrumental and thus harmonizing with it. After that, it is pure bliss.

The verses are dreamy with the rhodes piano complementing Kent Ito’s vocals in the best way you can imagine. This results in a soft, gentle performance that is full of passion, grabbing your attention right from the start.

The chorus is catchy as hell. As soon as that bassline starts grooving to the rest of the instrumental, you know you are in for a treat. Funky guitar riffs join in, and the piano adds a dash of gentleness to the track. And Kent Ito’s vocals are addictive. By the time the 2nd chorus kicks in, you’ll be singing along to this track.

The intermission – between the first chorus and 2nd verse – is unreal. For those fans of a good bassline, this part is pure bliss. Bouncy, the slap bass adds an addictive groove that will make you dance almost immediately.

The bridge is also unreal. A contrabass and piano battle each other in such a tasteful way, having the warmth of the bass contrasting with the fickle nature of the bright piano melodies.

In the outro, vinyl scratches and 80s poly synths neatly wrap up this trip down memory lane.

Let’s talk about the vocal progression in the chorus. It is a delight to listen to those punchy vocals, heavily punctuated to match the bassline. Then, Kent Ito does an absolute masterclass by delivering his smooth mid-tones with a subtle raspy twist, hits, and bits of falsetto and vibrato. 

Kent Ito is a ridiculously talented singer and songwriter and finally has gotten the chance to showcase what he is all about without being tied to “2D music project A” or “anime B”.

It is time to unleash the awesome artist he is and from what “Mayonaka no Love” has delivered, I can safely say that I’m looking forward to more. Much more from Kent Ito.

“Mayonaka no Love” is an elegant debut single with a mature sound, a tasteful 80s aesthetic, and a fancy performance on top that will make you want more. If you have yet to listen to this song, stop for 3 minutes and surrender yourself to the feel-good vibes behind Kent Ito’s music.


Final considerations

Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” arrives to share with us all top quality citypop music with awesome vibes. I swear this is the first time a seiyuu artist releases music this dreamy and stylish at the same time in such a consistent way.

You are taken to neon-lit soundscapes time and time again. 

With each song it feels like you are watching far in the horizon those lights flickering, the sun setting, the waves washing ashore. You just sit back and relax as you take in everything happening around you.

The music is passionate, intimate, and mature while being quite tasteful throughout.

Ito’s music feels cozy and warm at all times while being really serious about its quality and performances. It is the perfect balance between a quality singer wanting to create music that not only is unique and stylish but that also entertains his fans in unexpected ways.

Funk and soul play a big role in his music. 

They are the foundation of his citypop sound but also enable him to pivot to rock and jazz if he ever wants. His music has limitless possibilities and that excites me, as I try to anticipate what he will release next.

“Sugar” opens the stage for a dreamy, feel good song and honestly, it ends up perfectly setting the tone for this EP. I wanted more, much more of those freeing vibes in the chorus. 

“Hidamari” brings the first dashes of R&B music to Kent Ito’s solo career. The performance is incredibly sweet and laidback.

Things shift around a bit when “AMBER” arrives, bringing an elegant downtempo citypop sound that I honestly didn’t want it to end. For me, this song could loop forever in the background. It is laidback, and it has a layer or two of nostalgia but it is so full of passion that you can’t really take your attention off of it.

“Mayonaka no Love” doesn’t need an introduction. It is such an amazing debut song, making a strong, stylish statement about Kent Ito’s sound and approach to his music.

The song sounded perfect as a standalone but in this EP it is also at home.

Now, it is worth mentioning that “Hidamari” and “AMBER” are the first solo tracks written and composed by Kent Ito. If their quality is anything to go by, fans can expect upcoming releases to be as stylish and laidback as these songs are.

This was something that worried me when Kent Ito made his solo debut with “Mayonaka no Love”: he was not composing his music when he is, actually, best known for being an awesome composer.

So to see – and hear – his compositions in this EP and notice just how good they sound and how well they fit into his overall vibe right now as a solo artist simultaneously puts a smile on my face and makes those worries go away.

While it is awesome to listen to songs that fit Ito’s style yet are composed by other composers, it’s always special to listen to the artist’s view and approach to what their sound should be like. And as of now, Kent Ito has a perfect balance between his acoustic rock roots and the stylish brand of citypop he has going on in most of his songs.

There is nostalgia but also a happy, warm feeling coming off from his music, and that, I believe, makes him quite unique in the seiyuu artist’s landscape.

All in all, Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” is a strong contender for single of the year, and “AMBER” is already one of the best songs released in 2023.


Hanabi” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


“Hanabi” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support Kent Ito by streaming via official outlets.

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Vanessa Silva
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder, content creator, and music reviewer. Basically, the only person managing everything at The Hand That Feeds HQ. Stumbling upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" in 2011 was the start of this journey. If music is thought-provoking or deep, you may find her writing almost essays (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). She's the producer and host of the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

sugar
陽だまり (Hidamari)
AMBER
真夜中のラブ (Mayonaka no Love)

SUMMARY

Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” arrives to share with us all top quality citypop music with awesome vibes. Ito’s music feels cozy and warm at all times while being really serious about its quality and performances. It is the perfect balance between a quality singer wanting to create music that not only is unique and stylish but that also entertains his fans in unexpected ways. There is nostalgia but also a happy, warm feeling coming off from his music, and that, I believe, makes him quite unique in the seiyuu artist’s landscape. The quality of the instrumentals is high - now with Ito in charge of composition for some of the songs -, and Kent Ito's vocals are so sweet and smooth to the ears. You will find yourself wanting to hear more and more. All in all, Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” is a strong contender for album of the year, arriving with a stylish sound to sweep everyone off their feet.

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Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” arrives to share with us all top quality citypop music with awesome vibes. Ito’s music feels cozy and warm at all times while being really serious about its quality and performances. It is the perfect balance between a quality singer wanting to create music that not only is unique and stylish but that also entertains his fans in unexpected ways. There is nostalgia but also a happy, warm feeling coming off from his music, and that, I believe, makes him quite unique in the seiyuu artist’s landscape. The quality of the instrumentals is high - now with Ito in charge of composition for some of the songs -, and Kent Ito's vocals are so sweet and smooth to the ears. You will find yourself wanting to hear more and more. All in all, Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” is a strong contender for album of the year, arriving with a stylish sound to sweep everyone off their feet. Review | Kent Ito "Hanabi"