Shouta Aoi “UNLIMITED” (Review)

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Shouta Aoi‘s first album “UNLIMITED” is finally out. With almost a whole bundle of new tracks and some of the fans’ favorite single tracks, this is certainly an album that won’t bore you.

Regular edition

Single: UNLIMITED
Label: Broccoli/b-green
Release date: 22/04/15 
Genre: J-Pop

Tracklist:

01. UNLIMITED
02. Virginal
03. 秘密のクチヅケ
04. 空は透明な誓い
05. SETSUNA DROP
06. spilt memories
07. HEAVEN!
08. タッチ ツー テイク トリコ
09. TRUE HEARTS
10. NO WEAK⇔YES WEEK
11. 天使の祈り
12. Melodia

Track by track analysis:

01. UNLIMITED

UNLIMITED is a dance-pop track reminding us of the good old T.M.Revolution‘s sound. The electronica elements provided by the synths and synthetic drums alongside with the guitars make this instrumental only – worth checking out. Regarding the vocals, Shouta keeps his signature highs in check with hits and bits of flawless vibrato dropped in the track. A flawless vocal performance in one of the strongest title tracks Shouta has released so far. Addictive from start to finish. 5/5

02. Virginal

Virginal” shows Shouta’s voice at it’s best. Starting off slowly and sweetly the song progresses to a dancefloor anthem as soon as we reach the chorus. Vocal wise the work is of the best quality, if there’s one thing out of many that Shouta is good at is at singing, the highs, the lows, he catches everything making the vocal track shine. Regarding the instrumental we get the typical up-tempo pop song with some mix between dubstep and the synths / piano leading the main pop track. An interesting mixture. 4/5

03. 秘密のクチヅケ

Kicking off with a lovely piano, Himitsu no Kuchizduke is a track that’ll immediately grab your attention with it’s impressive instrumental consisting of the main engine – the piano – plus a highly noticeable bass, electric guitars, unstoppable drums – a mix of instruments that will make you want to dance from the very first second. But attention! It’s not a dance track. It’s just a highly addictive track that shows a different side to Shouta‘s music, a more pop-rock edge that was missing in the previous releases. The vocal performance is of top tier class. The range that Shouta has developed and improved in these past few years still impresses after all these years. 4.5/5

04. 空は透明な誓い

Those angelic highs that we’re so used to listen to are back at full force in the intro to this track. Among the delicate shamisen, acoustic guitars and strings, 空は透明な誓い keeps things simple distancing itself from the danceable pop provided by UNLIMITED. While it’s a simpler track, it’s by far one of the strongest on this album – the instrumental is beautifully gentle and refined and the vocal performance goes in the same way, or better, overshadows the instrumental piece, especially in the outro where the high notes are just to die for and the special Spanish guitar touch really enriched the track. 5/5

05. SETSUNA DROP

The melancholic piano introduces us to Setsuna Drop. This track just takes things to an extra level that 空は透明な誓い didn’t take us to. Between the melodic vocals mostly focused on Shouta‘s higher notes and vibrato, and the impressive instrumental provided by the soft background synths, synthetic drums and the electric guitar – all the right quantities to not overwhelm the listener -, we can’t say more than praises to this track. The arrangement is over-the-top amazing and the lyrics alongside the top tier vocal execution provided by Shouta really impressed on this track. 5/5

06. spilt memories

Taking things towards a more alternative side, “spilt memories” starts off nice and slow with some minimal synths pads building up properly towards a mid-tempo, gentle chorus where not only Shouta‘s vocals reach angelic heights but also the instrumental mesmerizes us, but not because it introduces us heavy dance elements in the chorus, like you’d expect of a track hinting towards a more dance path like this one. The arrangement is done in an interesting way, it deviates from the typical ballad or slow tempo pop track, but it also doesn’t explode in the chorus as a fast tempo dance track. It’s just simple and sweet, an overall addictive. 5/5

07. HEAVEN!

HEAVEN! kicks off strongly resorting to a rock instrumental with heavy guitar riffs, an addictive bassline and unstoppable drums. With an instrumental piece as full of energy as this one we’re in for a good ride. The instrumental alone is a gem in this album, adding the vocals to this only turned this track into one of the “must listen” tracks contained in this album. Energetic, entertaining and, in the end, a fantastic change in Shouta‘s sound. 5/5

08. タッチ ツー テイク トリコ

Keeping up with the rock trend タッチ ツー テイク トリコ shows us a brighter rock sound, more playful and cheery than any of the other pop-rock tracks in this release. Adding up to the guitars, bass and the drums comes also the melodic piano – all of this creating a more alternative rock sound. On the vocal side, Shouta blows us away with his vocal prowess. His high notes are the main dish in whatever song you listen from him but in this track, those are really golden. 4.5/5

09. TRUE HEARTS

A fantastic way to kick off this track with Shouta‘s angelic highs that doesn’t disappoint at all. That intro goes towards a mellower vibe, a slow beginning leading to a burst of energy provided by the synths and drums. TRUE HEARTS is a track made for the dancefloor with its addictive bassline and synths. The instrumental piece is clearly electronic pop oriented with little to no guitar work on it until we reach the outro where the guitar has its time to shine but only again we put every single instrument away and set the stage for Shouta‘s mesmerizing vocals leading up to yet another chorus. Solid pop track winking at the listener to set his foot on the dancefloor. 4/5

10. NO WEAK⇔YES WEEK

Completely different from anything we’ve heard before, NO WEAK⇔YES WEEK presents us Shouta in a peculiar way. Resorting to auto-tuned vocals and mid-tempo dance elements this track might sound cute and entertaining but is the major letdown in such a strong album. Nothing much can be said about this track besides the fact that this clearly resemble those vocaloid artists you find on Nico Nico (and Shouta was, once, one of those vocaloid artists), but the overall quality of the song really doesn’t make Shouta shine at all. 3/5

11. 天使の祈り

With a sweet acoustic beginning, this emotional ballad really puts Shouta in his element. Fearsome, pristine high notes alongside an incredibly melodic instrumental mainly provided by the Spanish acoustic guitar, the piano and the strings, really blew us away. Incredibly simple and incredibly beautiful. The solo this time is provided not by the guitars or bass as it is usual, instead it takes things towards a more refined, delicate way and a violin leads the way towards the last chorus. Do we need more words to describe this one? 5/5

12. Melodia

And to complete this trip we find “Melodia“, a track especially penned by Shouta. With the main engine in track being the piano, this emotional mid-tempo sweet track impresses us until you reach the mark of 1:35min, after that perfect build up the track adds drums, strings, guitars and bass. Shouta shows us how great of a lyricist he is, penning an incredible story and composing the track – a heartfelt gift to his fans – and what a way to complete this album. Stellar performance in a stellar instrumental. 5/5

Final rating:4 stars

UNLIMITED is, without a doubt a great first album. Shouta showed us all his trump cards throughout these 12 chapters. Between the powerful vibrato and mesmerizing, barely possible high notes that were reached, we’ve got our hands – and ears – filled. Ranging between the dance-pop that has marked Shouta‘s career since his debut – as SHOUTA AOI -, and the newly added pop-rock from 秘密のクチヅケ and HEAVEN! or even the ballads – 天使の祈り and Melodia – that are Shouta‘s strongest suit – we can’t say that Shouta‘s voice isn’t suitable for only one music genre. Versatility, alongside natural talent and the brains of ELEMENTS GARDEN (Uta no prince-sama/ Miyano Mamoru / Hoshi Soichiro) led to this incredibly catchy and entertaining album.

UNLIMITED is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

This review features some contents already reviewed on THTF HQ:
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