“Eclipse” is Shouta Aoi‘s newest single release, one that, despite its minor flaws, delivered what is easily the best song on his repertoire and a tough candidate for song of the year.
Title: Eclipse Label: King Records Release date: 09/05/2018 Genre: Pop-Rock/Ballad/Jazz
1 - Eclipse 2 - I am 3 - Distance
Track by track analysis:
1 – Eclipse
Eclipse takes Shouta Aoi to rock territory once again, however this time around not bringing traditional Japanese elements into the mix or adding electronica. Raging guitars, bass-driven drums, acoustic guitars and powerful bass line are the heart of this instrumental. However, even though its verses are exciting and the chorus is powerful and addictive, I have mixed feelings about this instrumental. I can’t help but to instantly identify that Elements Garden have their hand on it and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Bright piano melodies and those same old strings melodies that we find on all songs produced by Elements Garden sure seemed to take away that whole “dark” vibe the instrumental was trying to set. The strings felt particularly out-of-place at all places less the chorus. The piano parts – the bright ones, not the melancholic part in the verses (that one was a great addition) – felt overused and far from sounding new. The guitar solo is forgettable and only the chorus makes a mark in the listener. Other than that, the instrumental felt generic and bland.
The same can’t be said about Aoi‘s vocal performance. His performance not only fits the rock genre but he owns it with every note and flourish he adds to it. This song didn’t demand him to put his higher registry to use, yet he still managed to dazzle us with his falsetto and high notes. 4/5
2 – I am
Dreamy synth pads and distant, melancholic guitar chords set the haunting tone for this heartbreaking power ballad personally written and composed by Shouta Aoi. It’s an haunting song with a chilling, emotional performance that will touch the depths of your heart in a blink of an eye. This song was crafted in a way that acoustic guitars, slow paced snare-y drums, delicate strings and piano melody and longing guitar riffs tightly embrace the listener, comforting you through what promises to be Aoi‘s most powerful song. Had this song been shorter, it wouldn’t have made the impact it did. It was necessary for this song to be 7 minute long – the longest song on his repertoire – to tell this story, convey its message and let it sink in to completely render his listeners to tears. The verses embrace an acoustic sound that slowly builds up to the emotional chorus. The instrumental opens up in the chorus, bringing to the mix electric guitars and putting the focus on the bass line.
Midway through, a clock is ticking in background. While it might actually not be anything more than just a clock ticking, I believe there’s a whole symbology and meaning to it, especially when taking into account these lyrics. Time passes, the clock ticks, and no one speaks. For a minute, the song sinks in. The listeners are left to their own devices, processing all that has happened so far. Then Aoi deals the final blow “No matter how many times I hoped, no matter how many times I screamed/cried for help… I am“. The instrumental plays beautifully with the vocal performance and lyrics. We can tell just by listening to this song that he bared his soul for this performance. Melancholy, sadness, hope, all these emotions are in his stunning performance. Aoi went all out and graced us with a masterpiece of a song. 5/5
3 – Distance
To wrap up this single we have “Distance“, a laidback jazz song that changes gears from the heavy emotional “I am” and the rocking “Eclipse“. A jazzy piano melody introduces us to this relaxing and simple song, reminiscing of SID’s trademark jazz-rock songs. The instrumental counts with rhodes piano melodies, clean snare-y drums, blues-y guitar riffs and a noticeable funky bass line, this one standing out easily as soon as the first verse kicks off. The listener finds Aoi delivering a comfortable and melodic performance, however never forgetting to add those sweet ad-libs of his and R&B riffing to impress the listener. A solid performance and good closing song for this single. 5/5
“Eclipse” had everything to be a perfect release if only the title track hadn’t been that generic and weak in comparison with all other songs on it.
Eclipse had the makings of a great rock song but Elements Garden ultimately ruined it. I understand Aoi working with Elements Garden (EG from now on) for this song because all artists in Japan want their songs to be exciting and catchy as anime opening themes. EG are certainly experts in making these kinds of songs however, as of late, all the songs they produce are exactly the same at their core: bright piano and / or synths plus strings. To worsen things up, their progressions and melodies are always the same (with some slight key changes here and there), making all songs they produce instantly sound alike. There’s nothing fresh about EG working with an artist because that song they’ll work on will not sound new, instead it will be generic. Although EG produced songs can be extremely addictive at first, as of late, they seldom have any replay value. Aoi‘s “Eclipse” suffers a bit from that generic touch that I felt almost ruined the song. “Eclipse” sure has dark lyrics, yet we find bright piano melodies and strings starting from the intro, that alone doesn’t help setting a dark tone for this song. Why go all the way to bring a heavy, fast paced rock sound if, in the end, EG just wanted to shove their trademark strings and piano melodies on it – that sounded out of place -? It makes it sound as if Aoi was putting too much effort into sounding cool, which clearly isn’t. After listening to this single, “Eclipse” is far from memorable.
Everything changed when it was time for “I am“. Shouta Aoi took on songwriting for this song and delivered what I consider to be the most haunting and breathtaking song on his repertoire. The quality suddenly went up to levels I’d never expected from him. It’s true that Aoi has already composed several tracks, all of those impressive songs that have relatable, inspiring lyrics and well crafted instrumentals. However, “I am” goes way beyond that. This song is the very definition of “masterpiece” in my eyes and ears. I believe that whether it’s crying, laughing or getting in a partying mood, if a song touches the depths of your heart, then that song and that performer did their job with flying colors. After listening to this song I can’t help to wish Aoi would compose songs for himself more often than he actually does. He’s a talented songwriter, able to convey emotions to his listeners with ease and leave everyone in tears while at it. “I am” is obviously a personal song but at the same time a song with an underlying, uplifting message: “It’s okay to be yourself, to be different.” Knowing Aoi‘s past of being bullied for his voice and looks, something that thoroughly lowered his self-esteem, this song comes from a special place and will instantly resonate with others that might have faced or face the same situation. Awe inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. This is, easily, a though candidate for “song of the year”.
After having your heart broken with “I am“, Aoi wraps up this single with “Distance“, a jazzy pop tune that is certain to lift up your spirits. Its laidback vibe invites you to have fun, relax and just enjoy the moment, even if the lyrics aren’t necessarily about that. It was the perfect and simplest way to wrap up a single that had a powerful climax incredibly difficult to top with any other song.
As a whole, “Eclipse” is a strong single to enter Aoi‘s repertoire. Unfortunately, there are some issues with the title track that made it impossible for this release to get full marks. Disregarding those flaws, “Eclipse” is a must listen, especially to experience the greatness and genius behind “I am“.
“Eclipse” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN.