The Paradox Live franchise kicks off a new chapter with new teams, renewed ambitions, and a whole lot of love for hip-hop’s subgenres.
Title: Paradox Live Opening Show-Road to Legend- Label: Avex Release date: 30/03/2022 Genre: Hip-Hop
1 - Road to Legend [Buraikan] 2 - Takin' Over [cozmez] 3 - For my Stella [VISTY] 4 - Do as I say [AMPRULE] 5 - Break Outta Here [1Nm8] 6 - STRONGER [Goku Luck] 7 - W△vin' FL△g [BAE] 8 - Ride Out [The Cat's Whiskers] 9 - TURN IT UP!!!!!! -悪漢SOUL FEVER- [Akkan Yatsura]
1 - Voice Drama Part “cozmez & 武雷管 -Final Battle-” 2 - Voice Drama Part “Opening Show -Road to Legend-”
1 - Voice Drama Part "VISTY" 2 - Voice Drama Part "AMPRULE" 3 - Voice Drama Part "1Nm8" 4 - Voice Drama Part "獄Luck"
Track by track analysis (only disc 1 reviewed):
1 – Road to Legend
Buraikan kicks off with “Road to Legend”, song that changes things around a little bit to the rough, 90s inspired hip-hop team.
Starting the song with its chorus is bold, not as common today, so it arrived as unexpected however what follows is something I absolutely love. The groovy bassline, the funky piano stabs, and the whole beat channel those groovy old-school vibes that hip-hop nowadays lacks.
I feel like the verses are stronger in this song than the chorus – a bit too washy and generic in comparison -, having a good edge, sounding tasteful in their emulation of 90s hip-hop sound, and bringing in awesome little details into the mix – those guitar hits in the background are delightful.
On the vocal end, Junichi Suwabe really doesn’t spare anyone and goes even lower than on “BURAIKAN is Back” which, if you thought it was impossible… well, just wait until you listen to his performance. And Kensho Ono is an absolute beast, displaying a complete comfort in his flow, being able to speed up and slow down in split seconds, always sounding insanely charismatic.
As a whole, “Road to Legend” fails a little bit the mark for me due to its generic chorus but other than that, you’ve got plenty of awesome things to enjoy.
2 – Takin’ Over
Big synth stabs paint the soundscape for cozmez’s “Takin’ Over”.
And what follows after those stabs? One of the hardest-hitting beats in the Paradox Live franchise.
A bassy, slow-paced trap beat plays on top of a distorted bassline and bassy synth lead. In the background, glitchy, almost dreamy synths add an edge and imposing vibe to this song that will take you back for a couple of seconds.
The chorus is absolutely addictive. You’ll find yourself rapping along to it even within its first chorus which is a good testament to how much of an earworm it is.
Teamwork in cozmez continues to impress me, with Yusuke Kobayashi and Toshiyuki Toyonaga sounding even more in sync than ever. In both their individual and group parts, Kobayashi and Toyonaga sound confident, never miss a beat, and leave a trail of destruction behind them.
Impactful and imposing, cozmez makes a statement for the incoming battle.
3 – For my Stella
VISTY opens hostilities with “For my Stella” song that brings a smooth, bubbly pop sound to the spotlight, kind of similar to that of BAE’s.
The verses are simple, with a clap track and bass drum beat leading the way as a tropical-inspired synth stab adds color to the background.
The chorus is all about its funky sound with an EDM twist, which is a sound that takes direct inspiration from modern K-pop. Do expect a punchy bassline, washy synths, strings stabs, and funky guitar riffs to join, creating an addictive tune.
On the vocal end, I love the balance between the quality of male and female voices. There are a lot of tenors in this lineup, something that works perfectly with Aimi’s crystal clear vocals.
However, I find it curious how Yoshiki Nakajima disappears midway through the song, only to join in the far back in chorus and later on in the bridge, when you have all other members getting more parts. This may be a unique dynamic to the team or just something specific for this song but it definitely felt weird.
All in all, a bubbly pop song with an obvious K-pop-inspired sound that will cater to those already fans of BAE or pop music with a pinch of hip-hop on top.
4 – Do as I say
Dramatic cellos paint the soundscape for “Do as I say”. Slowly, an eerie choir joins in alongside a hard-hitting hi-hat and snare beat.
What follows is an impressive performance on top of pizzicato cellos and dramatic violins. The vibe is regal and imposing. You can feel “importance” and “distance” in the performance.
The verses have a unique dynamic that changes depending on who is rapping. When it is only Marina Inoue, you can expect the soundscape to be intense and stripped down, leaving only the pizzicato hits and beat in the background as she takes the lead with a daunting performance.
And the choir goes dramatic, the beat changes slightly, and the urgency is felt in the strings when it is Ryotaro Okiayu’s turn to rap.
The chorus hits hard. Really hard with Marina Inoue mixing rapping with singing, absolutely bossing this performance. Ryotaro Okiayu provides depth to the performance, complementing his mid-toned vocals with deep vocals.
Wow. AMPRULE really made a statement and honestly, I want to hear more from them.
5 – Break Outta Here
1Nm8 follows up with “Break Outta Here”, a minimalistic hip-hop tune with a big funky piano melody leading the way.
The instrumental is surprisingly clean and simple, however with a groove that is impossible to not love. The verses are dreamy, having a “feel good” vibe to them, with atmospheric synths painting the soundscape in a way that you’ll want to lose yourself in these vibes.
The chorus is insanely addictive however ditching the minimalist for a pop-inspired instrumental that changes the dynamics of the song.
The sound stops being close to the listener and opens up to give way to a vast soundscape, perhaps hinting at that “break from the facility” that 1Nm8 refers to in the lyrics.
The chemistry between Amatsuki, Ryo Kitamura, and Shoya Chiba is electrifying.
Amatsuki has a really sweet voice that works really well in rap and clean singing, Ryo Kitamura has a raspy edge to his vocals that works well for rapping and adds a unique deep twist to the team’s vocals.
And Shoya Chiba arrives performing in a different range than his usual (slightly higher than usual), having a dual role in 1Nm8, singing most of the clean parts for the group but also adding his touch in the rapping with a dedicated part for him. Good to see R&B making its entrance through Chiba’s vocals, adding a smooth, melodic twist to this performance.
Addictive and with a minimalism that was lacking in the Paradox Live franchise, 1Nm8 arrives to give a breath of fresh air with its loungy hip-hop sound while showcasing a groovy mix of singing and rapping on top of insane chemistry.
6 – STRONGER
Goku Luck arrives with a rap-rock sound with “STRONGER”, song all about power and intimidation.
The guitar riffs and an 808 driven beat take over, creating an aggressive sound that stays with you. The verses are groovy, leaving a lot of space in the soundscape for Goku Luck’s members to come at you with an intense set of performances.
In the pre-chorus, the instrumental quiets down quite a bit, making way for Shinnosuke Tachibana’s clean singing parts that are in a weird border between the “good” and “bad” kinds of danger.
When it comes to the chorus, I feel like it fails to be catchy or impactful, especially due to its dynamic of a couple of lines -> team chants -> Shinnosuke Tachibana’s auto-tuned singing. It works fairly well on a first listen not so much when you’re already listening to it for the 6th time within the same 3:46 minute song.
Now, when it comes to the rapping there are a couple of interesting things to point out.
First off, this was the very first time I’ve listened to Makoto Furukawa and Chiaki Kobayashi rapping, and let me tell you, they are absolute beasts.
Furukawa surprises with a natural, deep rap flow and charisma while Kobayashi has a cheeky, almost joking demeanor. There’s sarcasm in his performance but what impressed me the most was how natural and smooth his rap flow sounds.
Shogo Batori is a complete novelty for me – first time hearing his voice, to begin with – but he packs quite the punch as a rapper, adding a rough twist to Goku Luck’s performance.
“STRONGER” does have that vibe, intimidating the listener with a hard-hitting rap-rock sound that arrives to rival that aggressive sound of Akkan Yatsura.
7 – W△vin’ FL△g
BAE arrives “W△vin’ FL△g” with pride, making a stance on their road to legend.
The team ditches its bubbly pop sound in the verses, embracing a hard-hitting trap-driven sound with glitchy synths and orchestral stabs that will certainly stand out to you on a first listen.
The song builds up and drops into the chorus in a pretty clean way, giving way for a loud hi-hat triplets-driven sound with a bassy beat and big synth stabs in the background.
The chorus is really strong with an impressive balance between 96neko’s clean singing, and Gakuto Kajiwara and Ayumu Murase’s fierce rapping. The verses however fell a bit short for me, especially after a streak of insanely powerful songs.
Still a good song but far from being on the same level of quality as BAE’s previously released songs.
8 – Ride Out
Take your “Ride Out” and let’s go on a drive because The Cat’s Whiskers is back with a groovy song perfect for a ride on the highway.
One thing that will instantly stand out to you is that the team is not bringing jazz this time around nor any breakbeat but a groovy, funk-inspired tune which is a first for them.
The verses have a dreamy vibe with those distant, heavily processed guitar melodies looping (as well as used as stabs) on top of a simple bassy beat. However, the “goodness” arrives with the chorus.
Good vibes take over when that punchy bassline joins in the instrumental in the chorus, complementing the vocals. Now, the vocals may be a hit or miss for some listeners.
For me, the auto-tuned vocals in the chorus are definitely a miss but the rapping in the verses continue to be good. Enjoying all those heavily processed vocals in the chorus will be down to how much are you willing to listen to auto-tuned vocals.
A trademark laidback vibe and a lot of potential to be a catchy tune leave me wishing this song had had a different direction vocally.
9 – TURN IT UP!!!!!! -悪漢SOUL FEVER-
And the Paradox Live franchise wraps up “Road to Legend” with Akkan Yatsura‘s “TURN IT UP!!!!!! – Akkan Yatsura SOUL FEVER –“.
Now, this is a song that goes all out with a tropical sound and what seems to, at first, a softer performance on top which arrives as a surprise.
The verses ride on top of a bouncy tropical-inspired beat with not much in the background, making sure your attention is all on Akkan Yatsura’s performance.
Although the verses are pretty strong, the chorus will throw you off for how jolly it is, lacking a bit of that edge that is characteristically Akkan Yatsura’s.
Still, as weird as it may sound, it ends up working fairly well. By the time the second chorus arrives, it’ll already sound fairly natural.
On the vocal end, although all members have a good balance between aggressive rapping – with the occasionally laidback rap part -, I feel like Tasuku Hatanaka and Shima really went off in this performance. They really went for it and both end up standing out in this performance.
The Paradox Live franchise kicks off a new chapter with the addition of 4 new teams that arrive to shake things up.
All teams have a unique, distinctive sound between them, all exploring different sub-genres of hip-hop that are often forgotten or not explored because they are not “popular” – for example, rap-rock.
There are plenty of good ideas in this CD, awesome performances – some of those surprising – and a lot of potential for all new teams VS a renowned ambition and sound for the “original” teams.
After listening to this CD, I’m quite fond of AMPURE’s “Do as I say” and 1Nm8’s “Break Outta Here”, songs that stood out for their unique instrumentals, not to mention performances that exceeded my expectations.
I love loungy music and feel that laidback hip-hop with minimalistic electronica and R&B is simply the perfect mix that few explore. 1Nm8 has that sound. Safe to say that I didn’t even need more than the first piano run to know that I’d love it.
The dynamic between its members, the versatility, and the range covered is quite impressive, which leads me to hope that the team continues to push for this type of sound and performance in future entries in their Road to Legend.
AMPRULE is a pure menace in sound form yet I love it.
I wasn’t expecting their sound to be so simple yet so regal-like. That was certainly a nice surprise. Finding that their sound is quite dark and there’s emptiness deep down is something that strikes me as interesting to explore in upcoming songs.
However the biggest surprise in AMPRULE’s “Do as I say” was Marina Inoue’s performance.
That she is a force to be reckoned with as a performer – and voice actress – goes without saying but this performance is simply jaw-dropping.
She never missed a beat, relentlessly attacking the listener, telling their place, and showing her power and influence. It is the kind of performance that is striking even if you like it is a bit – if not a lot – disrespectful at its core.
And for a 1st ever experience rapping, Ryotaro Okiayu did fairly well, however lacking a bit of confidence in his delivery. This is something that will definitely improve in future performances.
Now, I’m quite aware that most people were really looking forward to the next song I’m going to talk about and I can understand why.
All-out bubbly, bright, hopeful, and refreshing sound, VISTY’s “For my Stella” is the type of song that would never click with me however it managed to click a tiny bit.
There’s a lot of groove in the instrumental, there are clear funk influences that make the song slightly more enjoyable for me.
Well, if like me you’re not a big fan of bubbly music, much less bubbly pop music, then “For my Stella” is going to be a tough listen. An open mind may make it so that you can enjoy it a bit but still, this is a song that targets a very specific type of music fan, not everyone.
I was hoping as well that the lines’ distribution was equal for all members but it seems that Yoshiki Nakajima barely got any lines. On the other hand, Tetsuei Sumiya shines with a smooth melodic performance.
Goku Luck kicked off “STRONGER” really well but that chorus is messy.
The team arrives with a cool rap-rock sound led by Makoto Furukawa’s imposing, surprisingly powerful rap flow and carries itself in an imposing way up until the chorus.
Now, there’s something about their dynamic that really on the vocal end that completely threw me off.
Shinnosuke Tachibana’s singing sounds out of place and Chiaki Kobayashi is barely present in this song, at least, with very few individual parts. The lines’ distribution is something easily sorted out by the next song release, but the singing + chanting dynamic? Not so much, especially if it is not a feature but the team’s “identity”.
I have a feeling Tachibana wanted to go for an “alluring” style of singing but it ended up being in that weird border between “alluring” and “violent” and ended up not being one or the other. It gives way to weird vocals that are present from the pre-chorus to the chorus itself.
I can see potential in Goku Luck and thoroughly welcome rap-rock – a fusion music genre many have forgotten (and that those born in the 00s don’t even know about) and is known for its aggressive edge.
As a first impression and due to what is a messy, empty chorus, “STRONGER” isn’t that impactful of a song, and certainly not memorable within this CD.
Buraikan, BAE, The Cat’s Whiskers, and Akkan Yatsura all arrived with a slightly tweaked sound, they all have songs with good moments – either on the vocals or instrumentals – but as a whole were subpar in comparison to previously released songs.
cozmez went off with “Takin’ Over”, carrying over from their set of intense, sharp hip-hop tunes, now cranking up that intensity to make a point before the upcoming battle. This was the only team that didn’t change – or tweak – its sound for this CD.
All in all, the Paradox Live franchise welcomes 4 new teams with a lot of potential – there are some hiccups as well but those are expected right at the start –, 4 “veterans” that are tweaking their sound while still retaining the core sound everyone loves and, of course, Buraikan that brings back those good old 90s hip-hop vibes with their songs.
The future is bright for this franchise and I can’t honestly wait for the next CDs to release and hear how much each team has improved.
Paradox Live is a mixed media project that has hip-hop music as its selling point.
The project is developed by Avex and G Crest and features 9 teams:
- BAE consists of Gakuto Kajiwara, Ayumu Murase and 96Neko
- The Cat’s Whiskers consists of Ryota Takeuchi, Yu Hayashi, Natsuki Hanae, and Junta Terashima
- cozmez consists of Yusuke Kobayashi and Toshiyuki Toyonaga
- 悪漢奴等 (Akkan Yatsura) consists of Takayuki Kondo, Shima, Shunichi Toki, Tasuku Hatanaka and Shogo Yano
- 武雷管 (Buraikan) consists of Kensho Ono and Junichi Suwabe
- VISTY consists of Yoshiki Nakajima, Kashitaro Ito, Ami, Tetsuei Sumiya
- AMPRULE consists of Marina Inoue and Ryotaro Okiayu
- 1Nm8 consists of Amatsuki, Ryo Kitamura, Shoya Chiba
- 獄LUCK (Goku Luck) consists of Makoto Furukawa, Shogo Batori, Shinnosuke Tachibana, Chiaki Kobayashi
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“Paradox Live Opening Show-Road to Legend-“ is available for streaming on Spotify.
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