Here’s another one…
Included in the limited-edition release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night in both US and Japanese regions (the “Disco Fever” edition in North America), the full 2-disc soundtrack was an easy find at first. These days, the price of the full LE set has risen, but not to an astronomical degree. At least, not yet. For those looking in the secondhand market, I wish you well in looking for this album. And look you ought!
Persona 4 Dancing All Night (abbreviated P4D) serves as a follow-up story to Persona 4, and it operates as a fairly linear visual novel with rhythm game sequences as the game’s main challenge. And, considering just how catchy the Persona series music can be, it was a safe bet on Atlus’ part to make this game. So much so that, before this review was published, Atlus followed P4D up with a combo package of P3D and P5D. Everybody dance!
I want to go personal with this review. I played this game at time of release (a solid four years ago) and started working on this soundtrack review … six months ago, maybe? And it has taken me this long to process my many thoughts and feelings about this fantastic soundtrack into a simple statement. That statement goes something like this:
A younger me, an insecure me, would have called this album “a guilty pleasure.” But great dance music isn’t something to feel guilty about. This album is simply, purely, pleasurable.
How P4D came to be this way is a long story, especially when you look at that heavy list of arrangers. Let’s start by making some general statements about the game’s BGM, found from track 18 of disc 1 to the end of the album. These arrangements are almost exclusively the work of Ryota Kozuka, with some contributions from Atsushi Kitajoh, both of whom are in-house Atlus sound staff, and both of whom are excellent.
The BGM serves to carry along the surprisingly lengthy “visual novel” portion of the game. Many tracks are remixes from the original Persona 4, sure. There are some new compositions, like “Love Meets Bond Festival” and “Artificial Smile, Crocodile Tears.” This is a story about individuals and groups, and striking the balance of having an identity that is all your own and finding a way to work with others/ enjoying that company. There are no Social Links, though. In this game, the P4 gang has to teach a new group how it all works.
They teach them on the dance floor, by the way.
Which is what brings me to the real star of the show. On the first disc, called the “NEW MASTERS” disc, we are treated to two new vocal tunes and 13 incredible remixes. Let’s start by looking at that opening theme, “Dance!” In the first four measures, we hear the classic piano riff from the P4 opening theme “Pursuing My True Self.” Then, Lotus Juice cuts in with a smooth statement, “here’s another one,” and bam, we’re in entirely new territory. I adore this song even if, in that territory, the piano riff gets reused consistently post-chorus. It’s a glamorous disco track with everything I love about the Persona soundscape.
In the two arrangements of “Pursuing My True Self” that follow (Kozuka’s arrangement on track 2 and Shinichi Osawa’s arrangement on track 12), that iconic piano riff has been fully removed. Kozuka actually does two arrangements for the main dance numbers … this and an arrangement for the P4 Golden opening “Shadow World.” Kozuka takes a somewhat “vanilla” approach to his remixes, likely at the recommendation of the creative leads, as the other arrangements for these two songs are entirely different creatures. Kozuka’s work is great, but it won’t blow your mind.
What will blow your mind… well, first of all, there’s the pedigree of arrangers on the list. We have Akira Yamaoka, composer for the Silent Hill series, throwing down a dubstep-laden version of “Time To Make History.” We have Norihiko Hibino, prolific composer and one half of the GENTLE LOVE duo, arranging and performing saxophone on an incredible arrangement of “Heaven.” Aside — this is honestly my favorite arrangement on the entire album, and it is the very first time I feel comfortable calling music “sexy.” I’m serious. I did a thorough search of all my music reviews on RPGFan and elsewhere, and I have never once described a song or soundtrack as sexy. But Hibino’s arrangement of “Heaven” deserves it. Not in a gross way, not even in an indulgent or lustful way. Just … sleek, beautiful, thoughtful, somehow planned and spontaneous at the same time. That is sexy.
I mentioned Shinichi Osawa previously. For those who are unfamiliar, he is considered a “mainstream” electronic dance musician and has a huge fanbase all his own. His version of “Pursuing My True Self” is incredibly smart, and surprisingly sparse. He cuts over half of the vocal sections; the verses are basically gone. The thick instrumentation is often cut back to drum and bass. But the song builds. Twice in the song, during the chorus, there’s this part where Osawa adds this pounding piano chord in the right hand (treble range), hitting every 8th note. This piano is then slowly shifted from acoustic to electric, then to a pure synth sound as a wave of other sounds build behind the vocals, and then BAM! The bass drops. “Get up, get up, it’s gonna get real!” The new ways he uses the vocals as their own instrument, as small cuts into a nearly original piece with a completely reworked chord progression, is pure genius. This one is in my top three.
Unfortunately, not everything is enjoyable. While still an intelligent arrangement in its own right, the work of DE DE MOUSE tends to frustrate me. His “shadow swing mix” for “Shadow World” has this fast-paced tone poem happening on a very bright, very loud piano. Traditional harmonies are thrown out the window, with consonant and dissonant harmonies occurring back-to-back, too quickly for the ear to enjoy it. If you think 20th century orchestral composition is the greatest thing ever made, you might enjoy what DE DE MOUSE did. I admit bias: the mouse-man himself did major damage to the reputation of the Secret of Mana PS4 remake, especially since his arrangements were frontloaded in the game, probably turning most people off to the new versions. I just have a hard time enjoying his work. There is no question that his ambitious “Shadow World” remix is a technical feat, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And, to make the point abundantly clear, I don’t like it.
Mixed in with these other remixes, names that are slightly less well known also offer some great work. The Banvox version of “Best Friends” is a true-to-form, four-on-the-floor dance track. If I owned a club, I’d feel comfortable spinning this one. The same can be said for Yuu Miyake’s layered, power-packed remix of “NOW I KNOW.” And of course, the main man himself Lotus Juice throws his hat into the mix with extended lyrical segments in his version of “Backside Of The TV.” That one is a must-hear as well.
What I’m trying to say is that the real star music — music designed for the rhythm game portion of P4D — is just as good as the P4 OST. In some ways, it’s even better because it’s new and it’s not derivative. It actually adds value to the Persona music collection. Not all arrangements can boast the same.
One last thing I’ll note: as a bonus track on disc two, you can find a live recording of “Reach Out To The Truth” with credits going to PERSONA MUSIC BAND. Shoji Meguro even does a guitar solo in the middle of it. The energy is intense, and it fits nicely with the themes and concepts behind P4D, which has a lot to do with the energy of live performance and audience reaction. Thanks, Atlus!
I’ll be diving deep into P3D and P5D sometime soon. But P4D has carried me for a long time, with music that fits with many events and occasions in my life. I have struggled to put my thoughts into words, and this is the best I can do. If you haven’t played the game, play it (but only after playing P4!). And get that limited edition secondhand, if you can find it, because you’re going to want that soundtrack alongside the game. And NOW [you] KNOW!!!
There are crazy hazards ahead yet
I don’t really fear them as I should
Not that now I have unshakable faith that inside of me
My smile is shining bright…
Just because now I know