Review Summary: Meguro's Magnum Opus
As far as video game composers go, Shoji Meguro is one who is largely overlooked in comparison to other acclaimed stalwarts like Yoko Shimomura, Nobuo Uematsu, and Jesper Kyd. Despite this, I'd argue that Meguro is the most experimental and creatively diverse composer out there in the video game music industry today. Since his introduction back in 1996 with Revelations: Persona, Shoji's contributions to the Persona series have continuously amplified in quality. From his dark ambient beginnings in Persona 1, to his Hip-Hop styled beats in Persona 3, and finally to his more Pop-oriented songs in Persona 4; Shoji was poised to reach the pinnacle of his career and he found it in Persona 5.
Persona 5's soundtrack is a mish-mash of Baroque Pop, Industrial, Electronic, Percussion, and Acid Jazz. Utilizing an extreme combination of instruments ranging from violins to snare drums, Shoji has allowed his Jazz influence to ooze into every pore of the soundtrack; an aspect that synchronizes well with the games picaresque style. Of course one of the defining aspects of the soundtrack is the vocals by Japanese artist Lyn Inaizumi, who adds a soft "jazzy" ripple in her vocals that flow with the rhythm of the instruments; this allowing the entire track to become one defining feature as opposed to every piece of the song being its own entity entirely.
At every track you can feel the energy erupting out the tracks. This is especially true with it's more Industrial Metal tracks like Blooming Villain
, a track with extreme distortion synths followed by symphonic guitars and hefty percussion. Yet it isn't always about energy, like the video game, the songs are specifically tailored to match their level counterparts. Sometimes this calls for a more atmospheric tone. From eerie synths and creeping drums; the ambient tracks can be just as potent and affecting as their more aggressive counterparts. One defining feature of all of the tracks is primarily in it's Jazz roots, with multiple tracks utilizing pianos, soft keyboards, violas, and the occasional saxophone every now and again. A good example of this is Beneath the Mask
, which uses soft instruments and vocals to give a calming and casual atmosphere to the player. These tracks work perfectly within the settings of the game, from Sojiro's cafe to the numerous places within the metaverse.
While Shoji's previous works were amazing on their own, it is this soundtrack specifically that Shoji himself will be remembered for. It's blatant celebratory aesthetic and suave tone and rhythm make this soundtrack one of the greatest soundtracks in the history of video gaming. Each track is given ample attention with almost no out of place tunes and so much heart and soul is put into their composition that the depth to the entire soundtrack itself is staggering.
The greatest thing about this soundtrack is that you don't even need the game to enjoy this. This is an album that can be enjoyed in any setting, from cafes, to libraries, to the outdoors; this is a soundtrack about the adventure that is our life. Just as the player deals with his own problems in game while balancing school, romance, and drama; we as humans deal with these issues as well. When you think about it, this isn't just a soundtrack to a video game. This is a soundtrack to the daily life; a life where you get out of bed, go to work, come back and eat dinner, and then sleep for the next day. This life can be taxing and even stressful, but it can also be a beautiful adventure. If you have absolutely no idea what this means, I encourage you to listen to this soundtrack while doing something you consider mundane. If you do, you just might come to realize the joys in the activity you didn't realize were there. That is this soundtrack's greatest achievement.