I’ve been a fan of Shoji Meguro for as long as I’ve been a Persona fan. His ability to establish mood through his music is a sound to behold. That said, his jazz has never struck me as very engaging: as a jazz fan, his Reincarnation albums felt like bland, hollow shells of what jazz is meant to be — spontaneous, catchy, and filled with emotion.
It feels like Meguro tuned into my thoughts and took my remarks as a challenge. Persona 5’s soundtrack is able to establish its own voice, unique in comparison to its sibling titles, by being an engaging jazz-filled album, all while introducing a new singer to its listeners.
I figured this review would be rather long, but it turns out that this isn’t the case. This is because while every track in Persona 5 is a great listen that will have you grooving with pulsing drums and funky basslines, it never really “gets in the way.” That is to say, it is first and foremost meant to be an accompaniment to the game itself. As a result, the instrumental tracks are a bit more subdued, and there are fewer vocal tracks than in any other modern Persona game.
“The ones that are there end up being the stars of the show. The game’s main theme, “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There” establishes the jazzy themes of the album as a whole right off the bat, while “Life Will Change” ramps things up for an exciting violin and guitar-based track.
The series’ new singer, Lyn, didn’t need much time for me to warm up to her. While I was used to Shihoko Hirata’s pop-based lyrics, Lyn’s soulful voice matches the vocal tracks of this album. “Last Surprise” showcases this feel well, with its crescendo letting Lyn flex her pipes with an addictive chorus. But it’s “Beneath the Mask” that really takes the cake in this regard — the song transports me to a small bar, where I’m sure Lyn is singing her relaxing tunes in the lounge for all to enjoy, her band backing her.
That last point encompasses the album as whole; part of what makes Persona 5’s soundtrack so easy to listen to in the background is that the tracks meld together like an impromptu jazz band jam session. Almost every track hits the four-minute mark without ever getting stale or repetitive, and even the ones that don’t feel alive, given attention to in a way only Shoji Meguro can provide. The core theme of “grooving” is never really lost, even in more intense tracks like the guitar-heavy “Will Power” or the high-octane “Keeper of Lust.” That said, the opener of the album’s second disc, “Tokyo Daylight” manages to keep that jam-session vibe going with Lyn’s lyrical ad-libs, while still harkening back to the synth-based vibes of Persona 3’s soundtrack.
One nagging point I will make is that tracks like “The Whims of Fate” and “Rivers in the Desert,” while instrumentally impressive and addictive as per usual, come with lyrics that aren’t well-enunciated. It is not a deal-breaker by any means, but it can break the immersion singing along with her, only to have to mutter words that are incomprehensible.
The album culminates with “With the Stars and Us.” Like Persona 4’s “Never More” before it, it is performed in Japanese, which I believe works in the song’s favor, allowing Lyn to really let the emotion flow. It’s a seven-minute epic with that traditional soaring Meguro fare, and will more than likely make anyone cry when they hear it after beating the game.
I must admit that this review is rather restrained. It is difficult for me to hold back from heaping praise on all 110 tracks of Persona 5’s soundtrack. Every single one has a purpose and establishes a mood. No song feels out of place, and all work to fit into the themes and leitmotifs of the album as a whole. As someone who was not fond of Meguro’s Reincarnation albums, it is amazing to me to see how much improvement the composer has made when it comes to composing jazz music. Even if Meguro doesn’t strike gold with a genre immediately, he still manages to make improvements and get it right the second time around. I can recommend Persona 5’s Original Soundtrack with complete confidence. If you were a fan of the previous Persona albums, you will feel right at home, and if you’re a newcomer, you are in for a treat.