Shouta Aoi “DDD” (Review)

shouta aoi
©King Records

Shouta Aoi is back with a new single. “DDD” is his newest addition to his repertoire, a single that puts him on a completely new level. Polished vocals, improved instrumentals and a completely different approach to its composition left us beyond impressed. With a matured sound, Aoi is now a force to be reckon with.

Regular edition
Single: DDD
Label: King Records 
Release date: 19/10/2016
Genre: J-Pop


02.north star
03.Endless Song

Track by track analysis:

01. DDD

From time to time, there are artists that perfectly emulate their inspirations or their countries’ pop icons. Shouta Aoi kicks off this single with an addictive mix of electronica, pop and rock, in a T.M.Revolution fashion. It’s undeniable that TMR was the major inpiration for this track. The instrumental piece is trademark TMR. What we didn’t expect was Aoi to fit so well within this original formula that has been going on for years and solidified TMR as a Japanese pop icon (not to forget his rock career). So what can we expect of DDD? A song with thunderous guitar riffs mixed with just the perfect ratio of electronica provided by the synths. Don’t be afraid to check out this song, because synths aren’t necessarily on the front row, the focus tends to lie on either the guitars or drums. The synthetic drums bring so much to the table, making the song unpredictable in terms of tempo. It will either be slower and provide a dubstepish break in the song, go full out in an up tempo fashion, or simply tread things consistently in the verses showcasing a steady mid-tempo. There’s so much going on the background that it’s impossible to point out everything. DDD is a polished dance tune that puts Aoi in a more comfortable registry, not requiring that much trips to the high note department, only attacking it with occasional bouts of falsetto to raise the tension in the chorus. DDD is what a polished dance tune really is, a song with such a rich instrumental and that doesn’t follow the current dance pop trends in Japan. 5/5

02. north star

north star is a song in which Aoi has had his hands all over. Lyrics, composition and of course, performance, this song is a perfect rendition of what Aoi‘s style has morphed into. Following the title track’s sound, we’re presented with heavy guitar riffs, mid-tempo synths, a powerful bassline and synthetic drums, setting this song for a faster pace than the previous track (overall). The formula although the same, doesn’t sound anything like the previous track. It goes more towards the futuristic electronica side of his sound rather than the powerful image we got from “DDD“. Pristine vocals glue together all elements on this song. Aoi‘s over-the-top ethereal high notes and falsetto make their comeback for this song, leaving us in awe. Another impressive tune keeping up with the momentum. 5/5

03. Endless Song

And to complete this release we’re presented with the ethereal, soothing “Endless Song“, track that goes well over the fence, mixing traditional japanese singing techniques (it has a slight touch or approach really close to how enka singers perform) with modern ones. This song’s vocals are no joke. The backing vocals are haunting, and together with the strings and piano melody, it’s impossible not to be mesmerized by them. The guitars add a different touch to this track but don’t take the front stage as it belongs to the impressive vocal work performed on this song. For those of you who might not know: this track is the theme song for the theater production “Smile Mermaid“. Vocally, this song is stunning and incredibly difficult to tackle. The registry required for this song lies basically in the high note department, but as we could have expected, for Aoi this sort of registry is just like his home, something natural that comes out incredibly easily and beautifully whatever the occasion. 5/5

Final rating:5 stars

From this single alone, we noticed that Aoi is evolving at a scary rate. From his days of pretty pop when he was under Broccoli to his now matured self under King Records, Aoi has managed to evolve so much, looking and sounding completely different (and we’re not even taking into account his days as SHOUTA.).

And, of course, this comparison is inevitable. Shouta Aoi‘s sound is now pretty close to that of T.M.Revolution. That trendsetting mix of electronica, pop and rock fits him like a glove.

With complete control over his vocals (which can be heard in “Endless Song“), and a vocal tone so rich and colorful that fits easily with any genre, Aoi is slowly, but steadily rising up to be a top vocal talent in Japan, one that can rival almost every pop act currently in Japan.

On our side we can only ascertain that Aoi has been experimenting, not only for his growth but also to show his fans what he can actually do. In these past two years much has been changing about his sound, and even on the composition and lyric departments he’s been more active as of late. Shouta Aoi has grown into a powerful pop artist, a versatile performer with a keen sense for delivering addictive dance tunes (the kind that you won’t be sick of after two listens). This single went beyond any expectations with had for him hence the perfect score he’s getting from us. Consistency, experimentalism, perfectionism, all of these three elements were the basis to make “DDD“, Aoi‘s best single to date.

Constantly surpassing our expectations, Shouta Aoi is definitelly a name to be on the lookout for in 2017.

DDD” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

Author: Vanessa Silva (midorin)

The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Metalhead. Gamer. Based in Cascais, Portugal. Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" was the catalyst to start writing about male seiyuu music.