Kenichi Suzumura “Naked Man” (Review)

suzumura

NAKED MAN” is Kenichi Suzumura‘s return to the music business. This mini-album takes a completely different route, embracing a vintage rock style that is taylored for an older audience – or for those youths that enjoy the good old 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

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Title: NAKED MAN
Label: Lantis
Release date: 25/01/2017
Genre: J-Rock/Jazz

Tracklist:

1
NAKED MAN
2
SLEEPY MONSTERS
3
LIFE IS LIKE IT
4
夕暮れタイムトラベル
5
HOME SWEET HOME

Track by track analysis:

1 – NAKED MAN

Suzumura went all retro for this song. “NAKED MAN” goes back to the 70’s classic rock sound with the oldschool harmonica leading the way. This is the first time he showcased such a transformation – visually and creatively. Fans will be surprised to find such a song in his repertoire, especially after releasing so many ballads and modern pop-rock tunes. Going back in time might sound like a cool thing to do nowadays but if it isn’t done properly, it could be a flop. Interesting enough, he actually embraced the genre and the mood from that time correctly. But if there’s something that really annoys almost everyone is the harmonica. It’s an implicit thing in the music business: harmonicas, bag pipes, accordion and banjos are music instruments that aren’t usually people pleasers. Only when mixed in a certain way will they sound well, other than that people get annoyed by it. We kind of suffered through the harmonica intro. Thankfully the rest of the song saves the day with its playful drums and vintage guitar riffs.

A side note: the music video is as trippy as this song, making this whole time machine experience work to its best. 4/5

2 – SLEEPY MONSTERS

SLEEPY MONSTERS” mixes jazz with disco into a danceable, classy tune that is meant to be played in lounges. The rhodes piano is one of the major additions to this song as well as the funky slap bass and brass. In this mix between the 70’s and 80’s we can’t help but to dance along the splashy beat and melodic vocal performance. Without a doubt you’ll be drawn to this song as soon as it kicks off. The lyrics, the instrumental and Suzumura‘s stellar vocal performance make this song one of the best in this mini-album. 5/5

3 – LIFE IS LIKE IT

Brass leads the way in yet another classic tune. This time we’re going for a 60’s jazz tune with a lot of energy flowing. The bassy drums and funky bass give depth to “LIFE IS LIKE IT” whereas the brass brings another bit playfulness to the table. The up-tempo instrumental is taylored for dancing. Regarding the vocal performance we find a Suzumura completely adapted to a different way of singing – rawer and more upbeat than usual. This song only lacks a bit of flavor in the verses, other than that it would have been a complete experience for us. 4/5

4 – 夕暮れタイムトラベル 

Yuugure Time Travel brings back the rhodes piano to cast a seductive aura on this track. In this loungy mix of R&B and jazz, we’re impressed by the instrumental. Everything about this instrumental is top tier – the casual brass, the reverberating bass helping out with the laidback mood, the funky wah-wah guitar, even the backing vocals that enrich this piece; there’s nothing missing in this flawless laidback and alluring tune. Suzumura‘s vocal performance is stellar on this one, not only showcasing his trademark solid mid-tones but also venturing to falsetto territory more than a couple of times. Undoubtely this mini-album’s highlight. 5/5

5 – HOME SWEET HOME

With a touch of country/folk music, “HOME SWEET HOME” is an acoustic track that lends help from the strings and the mid-tempo, splashy drums to create a rustic melody. This isn’t the best song out of this mini-album – that’s for sure -, still it has a certain melancholic feel to it that makes you want to listen to the song from start to finish. The vocal performance is as expected – fit to the music genre and, as a matter of fact, sounding better than we could have expected. 4/5

Final rating:4.5 stars

Suzumura went for an extreme makeover with this single. Not only he changed his looks considerably but everything about his music sounds different, way too different to be immediately spot on as his music. This mini-album is by no means an easy listen. If you’re not into jazz and classic rock, this will prove to not be that enjoyable. But if you’re open to growth and don’t mind listening to the greatness that is associated with jazz then tunes like “SLEEPY MONSTERS” and “LIFE IS LIKE IT” will be your jam in no time.

If you’re up for a good time then “Yuugure Time Travel” will be on repeat for the next few hours for you. It’s quite possibly Suzumura‘s best attempt at R&B with a pinch of jazz, showcasing yet another side to the multi-talented singer.

What is there to point out about the vocal performance? Basically nothing. Suzumura was up to his standards, delivering all the songs with his usual quality. We were even gifted with his stunning flasetto in one of his songs, leaving us rather impressed. Only if something had gone totally wrong would we have a bad vocal performance on this mini-album (thankfully that hasn’t happen yet).

Suzumura achieved something unique with this release, being the first seiyuu to release a 100% retro fueled mini-album. Venturing for a genre as eclectic and rich as this one, proves to be a difficult task for most people and could flop easily if not done right. He managed to figure it out and it worked well – not perfectly, but well enough -, it felt like we selected a best of the 70’s vinyl and put on the turntable to enjoy while confortably sat on the sofa. It’s laidback in some instances, it’s fierce in others, it even goes all country on us, it really brought the essence of those times to the present time.

This mini-album is certain to take you on a trip to the past, a trip you won’t regret.

NAKED MAN” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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Author: midorin

The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Currently based in Macau SAR. Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" was the catalyst to completely dedicate herself to writing about male seiyuu music.