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三浦大知 (Daichi Miura), 球体 (Kyu-tai), 2018

Kiyoshi Matsuo, the R&B expert and renowned producer, once said that Japanese people prefer a genuine singer to an all-rounder. Eiichi Ohtaki, the legendary singer and songwriter, also pointed out that Japanese people tend to value singing too much. In Japan, it can be said that an ideal singer must sing emotionally without moving so the audience can absorb into the voice.

However, Daichi Miura’s distinguished performance would change such unconscious bias among Japanese people. He’s undoubtedly the most acclaimed pop act in Japan now, and his latest full-length 球体 gained so much attention that some critics and listeners concidered the album as the best release in 2018.

Working with the long-time collaborator Nao’ymt, Miura explored how far he could go as both a dancer and a singer (球体 was originally a staged performance by himself). Nao’ymt’s music for this project was a very eclectic mix of EDM, ambient R&B, and Japanese traditional instruments. “飛行船 (Hikousen)” is a good example. The future bass-inspired beat features 尺八 (shakuhachi, bamboo flute) in its drop. It’s both danceable and a bit exotic although the entire feeling is very modern.

But what made this album special was Nao’ymt’s songwriting. Deliberately rhymed Japanese poetry with heavily syncopated and complicated rhythm sounds like nothing else. Moreover, Miura’s outstanding vocalization and delivery give some luxurious texture to it. In the chorus part of “綴化 (Tekka)”, he effortlessly sings a series of percussive, tricky melodies with his virtuosity. I was quite impressed when I listened to it for the first time.

Miura’s career covers over 20 years since his debut in 1997. He originally debuted as a lead singer of children’s performance group Folder and had some hits with them. After he left the group because of his voice condition, he took a long hiatus and then debuted again as a solo singer (the song linked below is his first single). It was in 2005. His career may have been rather difficult than you think of, but he’s worked so hard that even he was invited to sing at the Emperor Akihito’s 30th-anniversary ceremony in early 2019.

Even considering all of that, 球体 and the year 2018 will be remembered as his creative breakthrough, as his later singles including “Be Myself” and “Blizzard” (Yes, the main theme song of the blockbuster anime, Dragon Ball: Broly) proved.

Published in English Review