“Ruten” ends up being a well-balanced single in which Shugo Nakamura challenges himself vocally, goes through a fun patch, and wraps things up rather quietly.
Title: 流転 Label: Lantis Release date: 26/01/2022 Genre: Acoustic rock/Punk-pop
1 - 流転 2 - Freedom 3 - 待ってる間
Track by track analysis:
1 – 流転
“Ruten” kicks off softly, with a delicate piano melody and acoustic guitar leading the way. Then, a bright piano melody joins in alongside the slow, toms + snare drums, giving off an unexpected picturesque twist to this song.
The build-up to the chorus is smooth and actually quite fast, although it won’t be noticed – unless you’re, intentionally, like me, trying to find when it happens – and the chorus, at least the first one, is rather empty and simple.
Things change around as soon as the song goes for its second verse and chorus. The intensity has cranked up, the instrumental has changed dynamics with the drums always leading the way in adding depth and breaks within the sound – keeping you on your toes -, something I believe makes this song worth more than a couple of listens. The replay value is there because those drums are always doing something different throughout the song.
Actually, now that I am on the topic, “Ruten” sounds like a 3-minute long build-up, reaching the climax in the outro, leaving you wanting more. The song builds up its tension throughout with every chorus repetition sounding more complex and crowded than the last one.
Although the chorus may sound a bit intense at first – even in its simplicity -, with the drums taking center stage while destroying that hi-hat and splash, there is more to this song than what initially meets the eye – or ear.
There is a gentle twist to it in the background provided by the looping piano melody, delicate, dreamy while ensuring the song is more than just its bass driven-sound.
This time around the guitar solo goes on arpeggio, creating a mesmerizing melody that, in a way, sounds the same melody going on in the piano during the verses, or a variation of it.
On vocals, it is interesting to find Shugo Nakamura delivering something slightly different from usual. With the song being a big build-up, his vocals have to carry those emotions, quiet at first, throughout the song, building up the tension as he goes, culminating in the last chorus with plenty of crescendos on top of long notes.
In the verses and 1st chorus, I love how he added an emotional, almost blues-inspired vibrato accent to his performance. While it is minimal, I feel like it adds more depth and color to his performance, while showing that he’s containing those emotions to, later on, unleash those – as he ends up doing.
Strong way to kick off this single.
2 – Freedom
Punk-pop takes the lead for “Freedom”, song that takes pride in its simple, laidback rock sound.
Guitars shred their way through the song alongside the playful, splashy drums and pounding bassline.
Everything about this song screams “youth”, “summer days” and yes, “Freedom”. The intensity and speed in the guitars contrast with the comfortable, groovy mid-tempo of those drums, giving off a playful, careless vibe that further fleshes out the theme in this song.
The chorus is pure fun. It is made to sing along, with guitars blasting, drums going crazy in the snare, and toms, all while Shugo Nakamura comfortably leads the way with a lot of energy.
In the 2nd verse, things quiet down for a bit, giving way for the bass to take the lead, and what a little detail that one is! The bassline punches its way through the instrumental, leading the way for the bassy drums while contrasting with the high-pitched guitar riffs.
The guitar solo is quite simple and overdriven, emulating old-school early 00s punk-rock.
Pure, unfiltered fun in the form of a song that will be, for sure, a fantastic song to play live.
3 – 待ってる間
Wrapping up this single is “Matteru ma”, song that tones things down to give way to a rock ballad setting the stage for Shugo Nakamura’s singing to shine.
Replacing live drums is a sampled R&B beat and in the place of shredding guitars, you find a sweet melody played by an acoustic guitar.
The tone is quite gentle and warm in the verses, slowly and carefully building up the tension for the emotional chorus.
The chorus goes by pretty quickly, you’ll barely notice it, as the tension between verses and chorus is almost the same.
A nice touch in this quiet song comes from the electric guitar solo, subdued and gentle at all times but adding a layer of clarity to an instrumental that may sound a bit too “warm” and without a big soundstage.
Given the tone of the song, the way the tension rises, and how the instrumental progress, I was expecting Nakamura to go for an extremely technical performance and, perhaps add some high notes but, unfortunately, this is a simple ballad even down to its performance.
This time around, Shugo Nakamura decided to go for a rather laidback and gentle single with “Ruten”.
At the core of this single is a strong focus on rock music, approaching it in different ways while still having his acoustic rock roots prominent.
The title track, “Ruten”, is a unique song within Nakamura’s repertoire. While, initially, it seemed to me that it was just a rock song with two different sounding verses, after listening to it closely, the whole song is one big build-up to the outro.
That rise in tension is subtle, I believe not many listeners will actively notice that the song is slowly building up that tension, ending up in a loud, emotional display in that outro.
The fact that this whole concept of the song being one big build-up is quite genius – it’s not something new within seiyuu music though – and rare to find.
Nakamura ended up challenging himself with a song that, effectively, takes a toll on his vocals, requiring him to be at his best, in complete control of his vocals and the tone he needs to achieve that subtle rise in tension throughout the song.
This is a song that, on a first listen, may go unnoticed due to its rather quiet and somber tone right at the start, but it builds up to become the most interesting song in this single.
“Freedom” is that type of song that, if you’re well into your late 20s or older will sound really nostalgic. It channels those old-school 00s skater rock/pop-punk vibes, capturing that sound and feel really well. Within this single, it ends up being a polarizing song – or an oddly upbeat intermission – but on a live setting, I can imagine this being a fan favorite because it is pure fun from start to finish.
And the resident ballad “Matteru Ma” sounded like it could have been a powerful song but ended up being rather “tame” even for a ballad.
The vocals never rise too much on the scale – there is no climax on the vocals and high notes are nowhere to be found -, the instrumental has subtle rises in tension but nothing that will make this ballad connect with you. I feel that, with Nakamura’s vocal prowess, it was kind of disappointing for him to not show more of those and deliver a performance that would shake the listener’s emotions.
Of course, this is not to say that song is bad in any way – it’s quite enjoyable and if you fancy a slow ballad, this is a perfect song to listen to, even to sing along to. But imagine what could have been if Nakamura went on to rise that tension in the bridge or in the outro with flourishes – vibrato or falsetto – or even a long high note to give that satisfaction to the listener of listening to the song’s climax. As it is, “Matteru Ma” never got a climax, ending this single in an odd, disconnected note.
All in all, Shugo Nakamura’s “Ruten” is a balanced single in which he continues to explore his acoustic rock roots while challenging himself with unique composition styles and, on a contrasting note, carefree rock tunes.
“Ruten” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.
“Ruten” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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