Dean Fujioka delivers some jams.
18 Jul 2017 - 1:06 PM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2017 - 1:07 PM

Permanent Vacation/Unchained Melody is a solid set of songs from actor, and musician, Dean Fujioka. It’s a brief collection touching on a variety of styles, fine-tuned to be catchy pop in all circumstances. There are four solid songs here. Yet the release doesn’t shed any light on Dean Fujioka, the artist. Across these four songs, he simply inhabits roles, stepping in front of various backdrops and showing off his skills, which are undeniable. Yet he’s just as quickly out of the picture and on to something different, never really pushing forward any cohesive idea of what he is as an artist.

This has been an issue long present in his music. Fujioka’s career as a model and actor stretches back to the early 2000s, but his pop ambitions emerged in 2013 with My Dimension,” a number packed with ambition but ultimately so stuffed as to fail to develop any one idea into something more. Last year’s full-length album Cycle  fared better, albeit still jumping all over the place.

Yet Fujioka’s real breakout moment musically in 2016 came via “History Maker,” the theme song to the hit anime Yuri!!! On Ice.

That appears on Permanent Vacation (in “EP version” form), and highlights everything good and bad about it. In context, “History Maker” is a perfect number for Yuri!!!; It’s elegant pace and dramatic release match with the cartoon itself, and is exactly the sort of intro that gets fans hyped for the episode that follows. But it feels so closely linked to that show that seeing it pop up on Fujioka’s album feels strange (especially because “History Maker” works best as intro, not proper song). This is Fujioka’s release, but it doesn’t feel like his song.

“Permanent Vacation” is the highlight here, a busy electronic number that finds Fujioka delivering one of his strongest vocal performances over a sparse backdrop that eventually turns into an EDM-style drop, complete with 8-bit flourishes that bring to mind Wave Racer. It’s a fun number, especially for those who like hearing pop as filtered through a pinball machine. 

From the skeletal rap-folk of “Unchained Melody” to a Mandarin language version of last year’s “Midnight Messenger,” it’s an enjoyable listen, and a very solid pop release, but it doesn’t shed any light on who Dean Fujioka is as an artist, for now at least.

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