“Prince Rep. Selection” is X.I.P.‘s first Best Of release. Between iconic hits and some mellower tunes, it’s impossible not to grin at this group’s outstanding growth. Just like like their peers 3 Majesty, X.I.P. made us realize once again why so many people continue to fall in love with them.
Title: Prince Rep. Selection Label: Universal Music Release date: 22/02/2017 Genre: J-Pop
CHEAT DANCER (不破剣人センターver.)
Power Move (伊達京也センターver.)
Burning with U (神崎透センターver.)
Sincere Love (伊達京也センターver.)
Just do it! (不破剣人センターver.)
GAME (神崎透センター Special Live ver.) (Bonus Track)
Track by track analysis:
1 – Cheat dancer
This dance tune kicks off with an impressive guitar solo and a powerful synth lead. “Cheat Dancer” is one of X.I.P.’s most famous songs, quite possible a close one their major hit “E->motion”. Guitar riffs add an edge to the strong, alluring instrumental piece. If the instrumental wasn’t enough to grab your attention, Toriumi was the original center for this song as the tone fit well with his smooth vocals. With Hino in the spotlight things change around a little bit, enough to give it an extra boost of power at the same as Eguchi and Toriumi glue everything together in this solid performance. 5/5
2 – E->motion
The fans’ favorite “E->motion” is here with a bang. Guitar riffs mix with synths and assertive drums as we’re melted by Hino’s seductive low vocals. As a center, Hino was a force to be reckon with. This time around we have Eguchi taking the front seat for this song. Having heard all versions of this song (including Toriumi‘s take on it), I ave to say that Hino‘s rendition is still the strongest and most appealing with Toriumi‘s being a close second. Eguchi certainly has good vocals but he can’t come close in power and delivery as Hino did. Still it was a solid performance to an already classic. 5/5
3 – Power move
“Power move” changes things around a little bit, leaving behind the strong guitar riffs and power synth leads. So, what do we here? Funky bassline, playful piano melody and mid-tempo synthetic drums that scream 80’s pop tune no matter where you look to. With a quieter approach, this group manages to showcase a completely different side to their sound. Contrary to the original version this time around we don’t have Eguchi taking the spotlight, instead it’s Toriumi‘s time to grab that chance and he did it flawlessly. In the original version Eguchi sounded a bit off and with this formation it actually pans out well. Once again, this unit doesn’t disappoint. 4.5/5
4 – Burning with you
Raging guitars return for this dangerous song. Once again X.I.P. go all out with their suggestive lyrics and this instrumental conveys that well. We’ve talked about guitars but we can’t forget about the synths and the drums that add some sprinkles of “band” sound to this unit. But knowing this unit there needs to be something synths to move this song forward. We get just that but it isn’t enough to put you off, so don’t worry. Burning with excitement the vocals are one again solid. We only have a bit of a complaint with the chorus – that sounds a bit forced or awkward vocally and instrumentally. 4/5
5 – Game
Forget synths, forget dance driven songs, completely forget synth lines. “Game” is a jazzy pop-rock song that prioritizes good classic instruments over hyped ones. The jazzy piano melody blends with the fast-paced, ride-driven drums, funky slap bass (has an awesome part during the bridge) and the seductive Hino‘s vocals replace Eguchi‘s as the center. Playful as well as sexy, “Game” is one of those songs that will refuse to leave your mind any sooner. If you ever wondered how X.I.P. would sound as a rock band this song will satiate all your curiosity: they sound amazing. 4.5/5
6 – Deja-vu
“Deja-vu” is an exotic tune lead by synths in which Kyoya (Kousuke Toriumi) is the lead. With bongos, acoustic guitars, strings and minimal synths, this song has a mild latin feel about it that might spark your interest. Toriumi’s gentle vocals have a special touch to it, sounding alluring at times. With an unusual instrumental piece, we could swear that this was going to be a top song but “Deja-vu” has a small issue. Eguchi tends to go a bit higher and close to being off key in some parts, bringing the vocal performance down just a little bit. It might not sound odd for most people but listening to this sound while paying complete attention to it we couldn’t help but to notice that he was far from being close to either Hino or Toriumi’s keys during the whole song. It’s a minor flaw but we really can’t overlook it. 4/5
7 – Sincere love
More jazzy pop is welcomed and “Sincere Love” doesn’t forget to add more of that to this release. The piano is the major engine for this playful instrumental, instrumental piece that counts with brass and the contrabass as well as the traditional hi-hat driven drums that we often find on jazz songs. Following the piano melody, all vocal performances are on top of their game. You know how we criticized Eguchi’s performance on the previous track? Well, on this one he sounds on top of his game (really smooth in his approach), in fact, everyone does. In case you haven’t noticed as you listen to the song, the center for this one is Toriumi as well. Put together the instrumental and the vocal performance and you get a performance close to perfect. 4.5/5
8 – Just do it!
Once again Kento’s (Satoshi Hino) song is the odd ball in this release. Fueled by a powerful instrumental thanks to the mid-tempo splashy drums, melodic guitar riffs and mesmerizing bassline, “Just do it!” is a bundle of power with a lot of character, a good representation of his character’s personality. This alternative rock tune still features some background synths to glue all the pieces together neatly. 4.5/5
9 – Higher ground
One of the best songs on this release, “Higher Ground” is yet another track in which the mix between rock and electronica is well present and better yet, executed to perfection. What we get in energy from the synths, we get in equal measures power from the ranging guitar riffs and we couldn’t be more satisfied with this song. This song really played well with each of the members’ own strengths – Hino sounds otherworldly good, Toriumi is so sleek for this song and Eguchi managed to put his low toned vocals to good use. The instrumental is flawless, we bet our website on just how good the instrumental is. Just listen to the chorus! Just thinking about it again made me go back and replay the song. The chorus is one of the most exciting and well-made choruses we’ve heard on pop-rock song. Hino’s “Higher Ground” pronunciation is simply… Please play close attention to it if you manage to survive. 5/5
10 – GAME
[Given that the changes on this song are minimal, we’ll refrain from reviewing this song yet again.]
Comparing them with their fellow group 3 Majesty is an odd feat. X.I.P. are the complete opposite. Strong songs, most of them dance driven, featuring sometimes alluring and/or risky lyrics, making everything about this group scream “thirsty sexy guys that are out to get you”. With that being said, X.I.P. aren’t here to play around, at least not with their music. They are powerful from the get-go, be it with the instrumentals or the robust vocals.
Due to the members’ versatility, the unit almost never encounters vocal problems. Eguchi is a vocal chameleon, having solid high tones as well as lower ones when his register is by default the mid-tones. Hino has a vocal prowess that allows him to have total control over his low vocals – although he’s said before that those are hard to handle on a live context – as well as potent mid-tones. On the other side, Toriumi is smooth as silk with his mid-tones and can belt with relatively ease some of the higher notes – although X.I.P.’s songs usually don’t require that much belting. Then, what do we have in the end?
When someone that excels in low tones is the center, suddenly the backing vocals are on a higher key; on other occasions when there’s someone whose vocals are usually higher, the background vocals are lower than you could have expected. This happens much thanks to Eguchi’s versatility that allows him to fit with almost any singer in any kind of song without sounding awkward. Few people tend to realize the work that is being done in the background when you’re listening to the center singer, so we hope that, by point this out, people realize how much is done and just how valuable Eguchi is for this (and other units he’s part of) since he does all the stretching for his group/band members. Not on the same level but with equal adaptability is both Toriumi and Hino, that have developed an interesting chemistry themselves.
Their tradition of being consistent over a release was still respected so there’s really no complaints about this, instead we encourage everyone to take a listen to this album as most songs that might be know to you, were revamped with alternate centers, shifting formula just enough to make new things stand out on their own.
“Prince Rep. Selection” is available for preorder on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.