Yuma Uchida matures as an artist in “Equal”, album filled with highlights, plenty of jaw-dropping performances, and a lot of quality.
Title: Equal Label: KING AMUSEMENT CREATIVE (KING RECORDS) Release date: 22/09/2021 Genre: R&B/Pop/Rock/Ballad
1 - You & I 2 - equal 3 - Comin' Back 4 - Image 5 - DNA 6 - Mirror 7 - SHAKE！SHAKE！SHAKE！ 8 - Wonderful World 9 - Over 10 - Rainbow 11 - BRIGHT SIGN 12 - I'm not complete 13 - 向かうべき場所へ
Track by track analysis:
1 – You & I
Yuma Uchida once again kicks off an album in acappella fashion, showcasing his range and technique.
The instrumental slowly picks up its pacing, introducing playful melodies that paint a summery soundscape. What an intro!
2 – equal
Funky guitar riffs, a groovy bassline, a laidback, 90s pop-inspired beat, and atmospheric synths paint a warm, dreamy soundscape.
The song has funky verses, an exciting rap-filled bit in the pre-chorus… and that chorus? Old-school pop goodness right there. Have I already mentioned the bassline? Wow.
“equal” has an addictive chorus in which all background elements wash away, giving a smooth vibe to this track.
And Yuma Uchida’s performance will make you swoon right off the bat as he goes for his trademark smooth R&B riffing mixed with clean singing formula that is an absolute winner for him.
3 – Comin’ Back
[As previously reviewed] Strings, dreamy synths, and ethereal piano melodies paint the wide soundscape in which “Comin’ Back” stretches its wings. The instrumental for this track counts with a lot of different elements for various music genres.
There are the rock elements in those muffled guitar riffs in the background alongside the deep live drums in the chorus.
Then you have the electronica side of the song, with the verses counting with a dubstep-influenced beat and synths painting the soundscape. The buildup to the guitar solo in the bridge is led by electronica, making quite the interesting mix.
The chorus is where you can find the rock elements in full bloom, packing quite the punch on top of its heavily bass-driven sound.
Another interesting detail in this song is the strings playing in the background, adding a bit of clarity to the instrumental that is bassy to its core.
On the vocal end, Yuma Uchida delivers a performance that mixes rap with clean singing in the verses and, when reaching the chorus, he amps up his power output, delivering a riveting performance carrying a lot of power while having a gentleness in his tone.
4 – Image
[As previously reviewed] Washy synths fade in, introducing the listener to a mid-tempo, soothing R&B beat and summery, atmospheric synths. The build-up in “Image” is slow-paced but is so worth the wait to the addictive chorus.
A deep bassline paints the background as washy synths go on full blast in the smooth chorus.
The 2nd verse picks up the pace only slightly, yet enough for that change to be noticeable.
With a quieter take on R&B and EDM, Image puts the spotlight on Yuma Uchida’s vocals alone, never stealing the spotlight from him.
The bridge counts with a beautiful piano melody taking the spotlight, further highlighting Yuma Uchida’s powerful and emotional vocals.
Really enjoyed what Yuma Uchida did in his performance. He’s totally in control of everything in his performance and exudes a hypnotizing charisma that, alongside this intense and catchy song, made me want to replay it again and again.
Interesting approach to Uchida’s sound topped by a sweet, charismatic performance.
5 – DNA
The tone is still danceable with the arrival of “DNA”.
The verses are made for the dancefloor, with a big focus on bass elements from the bassline to the synths and beat. Washy synths introduce us to a high-tension chorus in which Yuma Uchida goes off on vocals.
From rap – a brief part – to clean singing with a lot of power, he yanks the spotlight to him and his charisma does the rest.
This is a really addictive song with a simple chorus that I believe will be massive in a live setting. For those that love your electronica with glitchy breaks, this song does provide that and more.
There’s a slight influence of Eurobeat in this instrumental that gives it a party feeling. What an energy booster this track is.
6 – Mirror
Funky guitars, elegant trumpets, and a crunchy bassline paint a beautiful, warm summer soundscape as the drums set a comfortable pacing. The verses are a bundle of fun and class, with jazz and funk playing a big role in how fresh “Mirror” sounds.
The chorus is overflowing with good vibes as Yuma Uchida delivers a smooth performance resorting to his gentle mid-tones, adds a bit of falsetto, and plays around with the tempo.
This is the kind of song that will transport you to a soundscape and believe me, you won’t want to return from it.
[As previously reviewed] Yuma Uchida kicks off this single with the funky and upbeat “SHAKE! SHAKE! SHAKE!”. This song counts with quite the fun sound, bringing brass, deep groovy bass lines, and funky guitar riffs to the spotlight.
The verses are incredibly funky, with the bass line being a driving force.
The chorus gets a coating of disco and funk, with strings enhancing the funky groove going on with the guitars, bass, drums, and brass.
“SHAKE! SHAKE! SHAKE!” counts with an unusual bridge in which brass and bass go at it delivering quite the entertaining section.
When it comes to the vocal performances, Yuma Uchida went for a peppy performance that isn’t as demanding as previous performances of his.
There’s a youthful touch to his performance and his energy never drops throughout.
I would have loved if the vocals had a bit more flair to them because, in comparison with the instrumental, those sounded surprisingly flat – Uchida is a powerhouse on vocals but here his power and technique are nowhere to be found.
8 – Wonderful World
R&B takes center stage for “Wonderful World”, bringing back those late 00s J-pop vibes back.
The intro is incredibly nostalgic because of that but the song evolves to the point that it introduces a hard-hitting bass-centric beat, smooth bassline, delicate piano melodies, and atmospheric synths that add a lot of color to this “Wonderful World”.
The verses do have some melancholy to them, noticeable in those longing, low melodies in the piano.
However, things change and Yuma Uchida puts a smile on your face with a bright, hopeful chorus and stellar performance overflowing with clean long notes, fast transitions, and a lot of flair in the rap parts.
9 – Over
[As previously reviewed] Exciting guitar riffs lead the way for this upbeat rock tune. “Over” then adds slow-paced, bassy drums, a thunderous bass line into the mix. This simplicity, in the instrumental, especially in a leading track, is rather rare in Uchida’s repertoire however, not only does it fit his voice, but it also doesn’t sound out-of-place.
The bass line shines in this track, reverberating in the ears, taking all attention to its groove while the rest of the band deliver cool melodies to create this exciting rock tune. Bonus points to the guitar solo and fancy drums fill in the bridge.
On the vocal end, “Over” is not a song that requires much flair. All Yuma Uchida does – and is more than enough – is deliver a raw, emotion-packed performance rooted in his mid-tones.
Catchy chorus, tasteful progression, and a big focus on groove are the greeting cards for this track.
10 – Rainbow
[As previously reviewed] An acoustic guitar and slow-paced drums create a warm, whole band sound for Rainbow. The track is big on its bass sound, with it driving the song, making for a groovy background to Yuma Uchida’s sweet, belting vocals.
The piano melody is bright but exaggeratedly so which only contributes for this song to stand out even in its quiet fashion. This instrumental says it all, this is a feel-good song.
On the vocal end, Uchida delivers a unique delicate performance, as if he is lullabying the listener or whispering, something that is much due to how much falsetto he is using in his performance.
His mid-tones are sweet, contributing to the song’s warm vibe. Oddly satisfying song with a gentle performance that showcases Uchida’s skills on the vocal end.
11 – BRIGHT SIGN
And another rock track joins in this album. “BRIGHT SIGN” brings a youthful sound to “Equal”.
Guitar riffs are carefree, the drums plenty of fun, and the bassline is a driving force for this track, complementing Yuma Uchida’s vocals.
The verses carry themselves in a comfortable tempo and the band has a pretty contained performance however, the chorus introduces a lot of power and intensity as the drums open up the curtains with fast splashy rhythms, with the guitars joining in the fun.
For those suckers for a good guitar solo – I sure am – this song does have a genuinely good – albeit short – one.
This is a type of song that fits really well with Yuma Uchida’s vocals as that aggressiveness from the guitars and the intensity of the drums serve as a good contrast to his voice tone.
When you notice, you’ll be screaming the lyrics in this song on top of your lungs.
12 – I’m not complete
“I’m not complete” adds a well-needed ballad to this album. The tone is solemn as the piano slowly trails its way. Staccato string swells glue this song together and adds drama to this song.
Yuma Uchida lullabies his way through the first verse however wait a bit because there’s a surprise.
The song explodes in tension into a powerful, slow-paced ballad with screaming guitars and intense drums. And in the background? A choir in gospel style.
And if that wasn’t enough, Uchida brings those high, crystal-clear high notes in head voice just… That’s it.
“I’m not complete” is this album’s best song. Spine-chillingly beautiful. Yuma Uchida’s best song to date.
13 – 向かうべき場所へ
“Mukaubeki basho e” changes gears and embraces an upbeat R&B pop sound that comes full circle, wrapping up this album in style.
The verses are relatively quiet, with minimalistic piano + marimba melodies playing far in the background as a tropical-inspired beat accompanies Yuma Uchida.
The pre-chorus introduces a rap section that brings with it delicate strings, always making sure that you get a balanced, warm feeling from the track.
The chorus is simple with drums hitting the background in a rhythmic fashion instead of a straightforward beat.
Uchida delivers a performance filled with R&B riffing, falsetto, and head voice, and in the brief part that was available, his rap was clean and the flow was groovy.
“Equal” goes well in line with the stellar “HORIZON”.
A collection of high-quality songs creates wonderful stories to dive into and soundscapes in which you can lose yourself.
For fans of Yuma Uchida’s R&B pop sound, this album is an absolute treat. There’s plenty of R&B songs to bask in, enjoy the good vibes, vibe to the groovy basslines and appreciate the quality on the vocal end with outstanding performances by Uchida.
As a sign of him maturing as an artist, you’ll hear more funk in this album than you could hear in his first album. That conferred a mature vibe to his performances and he more than delivered a set of elegant performances to match.
“Equal” is filled with highlights.
While all tracks are wonderful on their own, I’ve easily can point out tracks that I’ll be listening to nonstop for god knows how long. “equal”, “Wonderful World”, “I’m not complete” and “Mirror” shone the most for me as I absolutely love the nods to 90s and 00s pop and R&B music in all these tracks.
“I’m not complete” is a full-fledged emotional R&B ballad that could have been sung in the 90s. The passion in Uchida’s performance, the choir, the progression, or even the lyrics, will have your emotions completely messed up. This is a beautiful track that fully deserves your attention.
The good old “Rainbow”, “Over”, “Comin’ Back” and “Image” are still as awesome as when those were released. And although previously released, “SHAKE! SHAKE! SHAKE!” still doesn’t click with me, not even in this album, but it does fit the tone of the album so no worries about immersion breaking or the sort. It’s just that the song doesn’t click with me.
There’s also rock for you to enjoy. “Over” is the obvious choice but you also have “BRIGHT SIGN” adding a bit of fun and a youthful, carefree vibe to this album.
“Equal” is a strong candidate for album of the year. Quality instrumentals, Yuma Uchida constantly pushing his performances to a completely new level time and time again. Plenty of emotions, lots of good vibes, and elegant tracks.
This is a near-flawless album.
Equal is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.